With Dembélé’s injury, many expect Raphinha now to step up and take the Frenchman’s role entirely. Keeping this in mind, yesterday’s performance from the Brazilian could be disappointing, even though he scored the crucial opening goal. However, that couldn’t be further from the essence of his real contribution to the team’s play.
Unlike Dembélé, who likes to take on defenders 1v1 or even 2 or 3 of them at the same time, beating them with some fancy, spectacular dribbles before leaving them in the dust with his exceptional speed, often also attacking the goal directly, Raphinha, although he possesses similar traits to some extent, is a rather creative player who feeds his teammates with great balls to create chances.
These differences could be seen yesterday against Real Betis as well. We saw Raphinha often drifting into the half-spaces or even the central areas rather than maintaining the width at the touchline, ready to receive there and pick sharp passes to the runners in behind.
For example, the Blaugrana had a howling chance from a similar pattern in the middle of the first half, when the Brazilian, sitting in a central position, found Pedri with a great pass between the defenders, but the Spaniard failed to score the 1v1 against the keeper.
In front of the goal, the Brazilian positioned himself well to score as he found the back of the net twice during the game, sadly, one was disallowed due to offside. Furthermore, his defensive work also deserves plaudits, his discipline and hard work paid off as he won the ball back for the Catalans numerous times. Complex game and the key word is: different.