Report: To say Javier Mascherano struggled early in the season in an understatement. He didn't know where he was supposed to be on the pitch, he was out of position when forming the famous "tiki-taka" triangles, he even had trouble completing a simple pass. Javier's tackling was still as good as ever, but everything else was less than desirable.
Mascherano's first game with Blaugrana was a forgettable one as he was constantly outplayed by the lowly Hércules. The bad performance resulted in very little playing time for El Jefecito who was left with late substitutions and rare starts. When the injuries started to pile up on the defensive side of the ball Sergio Busquets was forced to join Gerard Pique in the heart of the backline which resulted in more opportunities for Javier in the midfield. He made the most of them.
Mascherano improved with every minute played and it was clear that signing him in the summer was a brilliant move. However, the defining moment of the Argentinian's season came because of the uninspiring play by Pique and Busquets behind him.
With the decimated defensive corps Guardiola decided to move Mascherano to the centre-half position in place of Busquets who rejoined the midfield. Mascherano never in his career played defense, but the qualities that made him an exceptional defensive midfielder translated well to the last line.
Despite playing at an unfamiliar position Javier made very few mistakes and played at a very high lever. He even made a Champions League saving tackle on Nicklas Bendtner who could have scored the winning goal for Arsenal had Javier not made the last ditch clearance. The ultimate reward for the season came in London when Mascherano was able to start in the Final, again in defense, but unlike four years ago with Liverpool he was able to lift the prestigious trophy.
Moment of the season: Javier was never a man who made many highlight reels and this year was no different. He played a quiet but effective game. The most important play Mascherano during the season was the aforementioned diving tackle to separate the ball from Bendter who had a golden opportunity to send Arsenal through to the next round of the Champions League.
Barcelona vs. Arsenal - Mascherano Ovasionado (via barrioA7)
|Started on the bench||23
|Shots on goal||5
Record with Javier Mascherano in the starting lineup: 25-7-3
2011/12 Outlook: Javier will go into his sophomore Barcelona season without a starting spot on the team. He will be Busquets' backup at holding midfielder, but he might also see playing time in the defense. If the injury bug strikes to the backline again Mascherano will be able make a smooth transition. With the experience gained in his first season in Catalonia Javier should expect a more smooth season.
Next up: Sergio Busquets
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