MVP or MAT?

David Ramos - Getty Images

Is Tito Vilanova making the right choice in picking Sánchez and Tello? Or do the experienced Barça veterans Villa and Pedro deserve to be top of the ladder?

With an international break in full flow it seems right that I don't focus on an upcoming match or the Clásico just past but instead on a tactical choice that Tito Vilanova must make.

MVP or MAT? In simple terms: Messi, Villa, Pedro or Messi, Alexis, Tello? During Pep's reign it was clear that MVP was the preferred front three but times have changed since then. Alexis Sánchez has become an important player for the club and Cristian Tello is rapidly developing as one of the most promising prospects Barça have.

On the flip side, Villa and Pedro have both endured injury plagued seasons meaning the two Spanish World Cup winners have slipped down the pecking order.

But is it fair to assume Alexis and Tello are the first choice? The stats paint a different picture.


Games Started
Substitute Appearances
Goals Scored
Assists
David Villa
1
4
3
0
Pedro
5
2
1
2
Alexis Sánchez
4 1
0
1
Cristian Tello
3
2
0
2

Looking at this table it is clear to see that so far this term Villa and Pedro have been the most effective.

David Villa is currently Barcelona's second top scorer behind Messi, despite only starting one game and has also scored some vital goals. Pedro too has gotten off the goal scoring mark and created two other goals along the way.

But for a team like Barcelona it is about much more then goals. A player needs to contribute more so although those stats lay heavily in Pedro and Villa's favour, that will not necessarily make Tito's decision.

For example how well does a player control possession? Is he confident on the ball? Does he keep a cool head? Alexis and Tello are both relatively new to the club, Alexis only joined in the summer of 2011 while Tello is still technically a B-team player, and have yet to fully get to grips with the Barça philosophy.

Both know this. Alexis rated himself 5/10 while Tello was open to the possibility of a summer switch to England but Vilanova decided against it.

Meaning both have room to improve but should Vilanova pick players with room to improve or players who have already reached their best? Villa is 30 now while Pedro is 25 and offer a lot of experience and goals to the side.

The word experience is overused in football. Often meaning "player who has played for a long time" instead of "player who has gained knowledge in the game." Villa and Pedro are certainly part of the latter and have used that experience to Barça's advantage.

If you were to take away both Villa's and Pedro's goals for this season, Barcelona would currently be second in La Liga. Two points behind Atlético Madrid and with a +7 goal ratio compared to Atlético's +12. Those missing goals would also have ended Barcelona's 100% record a week before the Clásico.

While you can't measure Alexis' and Tello's impact in the same way, you can measure it from their performances last season and the criticism of Barça's lack of width. Pep Guardiola favoured Isaac Cuenca over Cristian Tello but Alexis was certainly a starting eleven player last season.

Teams defended deep and were organised, catching on to the Barcelona way of playing, making it almost impossible to break through the middle. Meaning Barcelona needed width and needed their wingers to provide it. Villa was out. Pedro was out. So responsibility fell to Alexis and Cuenca but they just couldn't perform the same way Villa and Pedro could.

Alexis often chose to make a run through the middle, crowding Messi and leaving a large amount of space near the touch line unused. Cuenca stuck to the wing but lacked the killer touch to really be effective. Tello was eventually introduced towards the tail end of the season but lacked match experience and committed some silly mistakes.

All of this cost Barcelona the title.

This year it's different. Villa and Pedro are back. Tello is more experienced and Alexis looks to be improving. The system is also different. Barcelona now have two flying full backs in Jordi Alba and Dani Aves meaning pace on the wings is in abundance. Allowing the wingers to cut in when they please, good news for Villa and Alexis who prefer to cut in then to bomb down the line.

Iniesta and Xavi provide width too making the team not as reliant on Messi as they were last season. The tiki-taka is still there to be seen but there is not such a demand to play through the middle and goals have started appearing from unlikely sources. Adriano's goal against Valencia (a goal I witnessed in person) showed that Barcelona don't always pass the ball into the net.

Alexis and Tello look to be too of the ladder at the moment but I don't think we have seen the last of MVP just yet.

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