With a sense of excitement in the air, Barcelona began their 22/23 campaign at long last, achieving a mere point, but showing signs of development. All that’s left is to turn promises into points.
In spite of reactionary sentiments following the full-time whistle, exaggerations won’t cut it; undermining Barcelona’s performance primarily because of their non-existent final touch is unwarranted. It would be fair to deem this as a good showing versus a wonderfully structured side in Rayo Vallecano, who came out victorious twice against us last season for a reason.
But this isn’t last season’s Barcelona and understandably aspirations must be set high. Vallecano, though, must be credited for how effectively they managed this game, imposing themselves in a brief yet impactful period. Lack of proficiency up front was replaced by resilience at the back and compactness between lines, showing composure of the highest order.
With Barça, their biggest issue still lingers excessive verticality. Pedri and Busquets obviously provide Pausa to a great degree, but less time is spent moving the ball in the interior zones and an overreliance on transitions leaves Barca vulnerable. Pedri’s substitution as he went off and Busquets’ red card were detrimental, although Busi was rather mediocre after proceedings.
Fielding Araújo at right-back is another point of concern when his strengths are severely limited here and flaws in build-ups amplified, even though he had a decent first half. The need for better fullbacks is certainly present. Koundé will definitely be an upgrade in this position too.
Alternatively, there was an undeniable improvement from the last game vs Rayo. Barça had loads of encouraging moments to open the visitors up as movements up front were well timed and worthy of goals.
The second half saw Fati replace Raphinha, who had a better profile to offer on the left flank and had a sharp showing. Although Raphinha and Dembélé’s dynamism achieve slick interchanges, an attacker of space complements Dembélé and Lewandowski better. Dembouz had one of his most frustrating games with loose touches and rusty take-ons, while Lewandowski’s finishing wasn’t quite up to the mark.
De Jong’s inclusion after proceedings highlighted his best attributes as the Dutchman was phenomenally progressing from deep, and carrying the ball astutely.
Only time will tell if rumors of Pedri and Dembélé sustaining injuries are squashed; Pedri is once again one of the biggest assets in this team and the Catalans simply just cannot afford to lose him.
Apart from rushing plays, this was actually a dominant display for most parts. Patience is all that’s required.
Ter Stegen: 8/10
A comfortable performance for the German with only 2 shots on target from Vallecano. However, out of a couple of shots, he had to face, Ter Stegen remained unfazed as he earned a clean sheet. Ter Stegen also looked confident in his build-ups.
Ronald Araújo: 6/10
A solid first half was marred with a loss in composure after proceedings. Araújo is at his best centrally and thus his flaws in distribution were highlighted on the right-hand side. Aerially and in 1v1s, the Uruguayan was reliable as ever, though.
Andreas Christensen: 7.5/10
Christensen’s shrewdness in build-ups aided Barça’s first phase significantly as his ability to play out from the back and escape pressure contributed to Barça’s quick transitions. He also won all his ground (4/4) and aerial duels (1/1).
Eric García: 7/10
Much like his partner in crime, Garcia was an asset when it came to distribution, arguably overshadowing Christensen. However, he struggled a tad when it came to winning his duels and was caught out on a couple of occasions.
Jordi Alba: 6/10
Alba’s runs in behind constantly kept Vallecano guessing, but defensively he struggled and eventually came off.
The La Masia sensation offered excellent pressing, but was excessively rushing his plays and lacked a sense of pausa.
Sergio Busquets: 7/10
Despite an incredible first-half performance, Busquets looked like a headless chicken after proceedings and eventually conceded needles yet deserved red card.
Most of Barca’s best plays come through Pedri and he was a crucial component when it came to controlling Barcelona’s verticality. A late substitution severely made his lack of presence felt.
The Brazilian combined well with his partners up front and was a huge asset pressing, but looked rusty in his take-ons.
Minimal service reduced opportunities for Lewandowski to rattle the back of the net, but the Pole’s movement was promising and he linked play well.
The Frenchman’s dribbling looked off, his service was largely underwhelming and a sense of hesitancy in his plays hampered Dembélé’s performance.