Report: The forgotten man... Isaac Cuenca wasn't on anybody's radar before the season began and had it not been for his amazing season with Sabadell the year before he probably wouldn't even have a place in the B team at the beginning of the 2011/12 season.
For the first month and a half of the season Cuenca was the starting winger for Eusebio Sacristán, and the Barça B team, and in just those six weeks he impressed Pep Guardiola so much that he was invited to train with the first team. With the injuries to the attacking corps Cuenca was given a chance to impress in the big leagues and he took it.
Cuenca brought something new to the team and became an instant hit. He might have gone unnoticed for large portions of the game but when he got the ball you knew you were going to see him successfully cross the ball. I think it's safe to say that nobody else on the team can deliver crosses as accurately and consistently as the young Spaniard can.
Playing on the wing Cuenca also had many defensive duties, duties he performed admirably. His speed allowed him to track opposing full-backs all the way back and he possesses the stamina to return back on the attack as soon as the opponents lost the ball.
Even though he played mostly on the right wing he showed he is capable of playing on both sides of the pitch, however, his crosses are better from the right side. His dribbling ability is quite impressive but his finishing has room for improvement. If his determination in front of the goal doesn't improve Cuenca is still a good back-up option but for him to really succeed as a football player he need to improve in that area.
The team was so impressed by Cuenca that they offered him an improved contract in January that would immediately promote him to the first team - of course Cuenca didn't hesitate to sign it. Cuenca's form dropped drastically soon after which was highly disappointing considering the start of his Barça career, and led to more playing time for fellow youngster Cristian Tello. But all things considered it was a very bright season for Cuenca who worked very hard to get this chance.
Arron Duckling's View: From relative obscurity at Sabadell to starting for Barcelona in a UEFA Champions League semi-final, it was one hell of a season for Cuenca. He must be one of a select few to have made their debut for the B team and won promotion to the first team in the same season, a feat he richly deserved. A little less spectacular than fellow B team wingers Tello and Gerard Deulofeu, Cuenca adds a different dimension to the Blaugrana attack.
Chalk on his boots, a smile on his face, Cuenca was willing to do anything for the team, even if that meant going large periods without a touch of the ball. Just imagine what the outcome would be if a manager told Cristiano Ronaldo to hug the touchline for the entire 90 minutes. With a season under his belt, Cuenca has all the skills to challenge for a first team place, although I would like to see him develop his finishing to pose a goal threat similar to that of Alexis Sanchez, David Villa or Pedro, as without it, he may never establish himself as a regular starter. I would give him a "B" for last season, and one of my favourite moments is a video of him bewildering the team with some skills in training.
Moment of the Season: Cuenca will always remember the first ever goal he scored for Barcelona's first team. He was played through beautifully by Adriano Correia, and Cuenca, playing in just his second league game, made a difficult play look easy. He controlled the ball magnificently and rounded the keeper, Dudu Aouate, with ease which left the youngster with a (relatively) simple finish for his first goal.
|Started on the bench||20|
|Shots on goal||8|
Record with Pedro in the starting lineup: 18-2-0
2012/13 Outlook: Even though he was on the shopping lists of many European teams Barcelona made it clear that Cuenca is not for sale. He will be a backup winger going into the season but after the disappointing end to last season he will once again have to impress the coaches. With several young wingers coming through La Masia lately, specifically Tello and Deulofeu, and the return of Ibrahim Afellay, Cuenca can't afford a slow start or he might lose playing time.
Next Up: Pedro Rodriguez