This summer Barcelona sold David Villa whom they bought for £34.2 million three seasons ago from Valencia to Atletico Madrid for up to £4.4m (if certain conditions are met). This was mainly because he was not getting regular first-team football and Barcelona had signed Brazilian prodigy, Neymar for a hefty transfer fee.
On Wednesday, Villa put in a brilliant performance that he capped off by scoring a superb goal that he was involved in the build up. This fantastic display should not be used as a focal point for a knee jerk reaction about the striker, nonetheless, it has to be acknowledged that Barcelona’s plan B for a Messi injury is none other than Cesc Fabregas.
Admittedly, it can be argued that Neymar or Alexis Sanchez can play the centre forward role but the Barcelona system does not use a traditional striker, they use the 'false 9' position.
This position demands very specific techniques (passing and shooting mainly) from the player occupying it and even though quality players can attempt a performance in that role, very few actually thrive in it.
Bearing in mind that a midfielder is your sole back up plan, it has to be an incredibly risky tactic for the season. After the departure of Thiago Alcantara to Bayern Munich, Barcelona currently has a very thin squad that may prove to be insufficient for a whole season.
David Villa offered an alternative to Barcelona last season especially when they were facing tough UEFA Champions League opponents like AC Milan or PSG. Now, they don’t have any other player that can operate as a pure striker, this could be extremely detrimental when they face a negative side.
In the first leg of the Super Cup, Neymar and Fabregas came off the bench and the former was able to come up with the equaliser. However, for the next game, if both Neymar and Fabregas feature in the starting 11 as result of Messi’s injury.
Should they encounter a stalemate, the forwards on the bench (most likely Tello and Alexis Sanchez) won’t be able to offer any different approach from a tactical point of view.
The role that Villa played for Barcelona last season should not be underestimated, the ability to bring a varied attacking approach to a great team like Barcelona is something that ought to be valued.
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