Lionel Messi’s heat map v Real Sociedad shows Barcelona have a problem

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Anoeta, home of Real Sociedad, has been Barcelona’s bogey ground over the past decade.

The Catalan giants have often struggled away in San Sebastian - they even lost against La Real when David Moyes was in charge - and the ‘curse’ looked set to continue when Aritz Elustondo put the hosts 1-0 up on Saturday afternoon.

However, two goals in three second-half minutes from Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele turned the game on its head and secured three precious points for Ernesto Valverde’s side.

The match statistics suggest it was no less than Barcelona deserved. They had 66 per cent possession and nine attempts at goal compared to La Real’s six.

The win means Barça continue their 100 per cent winning start to the season, following previous victories over Alaves, Real Valladolid and Huesca.

However, Barça supporters on social media were far from convinced by the team’s performance and were left scratching their heads with the positions Lionel Messi was taking up on the pitch.

The Argentine legend, who is still widely regarded as the best player on the planet, spent much of the much playing extremely deep.


Messi's heat map v Real Sociedad emerges

In fact, some fans were convinced he was actually playing as the team’s right-back instead of Nelson Semedo.

Messi’s heat map from the game shows that he spent the longest period of the game in the right-back / right-wing area - he barely got into the opposing penalty area.

With Philippe Coutinho and Sergio Busquets on the bench, Barça lacked creativity in midfield and Messi clearly felt forced to drop deeper and deeper in order to make things happen for the visitors.

We’re used to seeing Messi drop deep in games, of course, but Opta stats showed the 31-year-old failed to get a single touch inside the opposition box during the first half.

Another screenshot from the match showed Messi as the deepest Barcelona outfield player on the pitch, with the exception of Gerard Pique.

As one football-analysis Twitter account correctly points out, Messi is now over 30 and cannot be expected to defend and track the opposing full-back on the right-hand side of a 4-3-3 system.

Moreover, why would Valverde want his most dangerous forward playing this role?

Surely the closer he is to goal, the better it is for Barcelona. We’re talking about a player who has scored over 550 goals for the club.

Real Sociedad v FC Barcelona - La Liga

Messi deserves praise for wanting to help out his team, even at the cost of sacrificing himself, but seeing him operating from so deep feels like a waste.

Ernesto Valverde
Ousmane Dembele
Sergio Busquets
Philippe Coutinho
La Liga
Lionel Messi
Luis Suarez
Gerard Pique

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