Barcelona finished off the UEFA Champions League group stage in style, trouncing Borussia Mönchengladbach and winning 4-0 with a dominant, impressive team performance, finally giving Barça fans a reason to smile after three consecutive draws and many underwhelming games. Here's a few takeaways from what we saw on Tuesday.
Note: The '3 Things' post is back. Sorry for not writing it over the last few weeks, but things were crazy here. Now everything's back to normal, and you can hate my opinions again. Missed you guys!
1 - Andrés Iniesta is love, Andrés Iniesta is life
It's just amazing how everything changes when the captain is on the pitch. His composure, his ability to turn away from defenders without even touching the ball, his vision... Everything is smooth, easy, simple with Iniesta, and that's an easy way to explain why Barça were struggling for the last month or so.
It's not a coincidence the period of poor performances came without him. Remember the Pep Era? Iniesta was there. Remember the best Tito Vilanova days? Iniesta was there. Remember the very brief period when Tata Ball was a joy to watch? Iniesta was there. Remember the Treble under Luis Enrique? Iniesta was there. Remember the 39-game unbeaten streak last season? Iniesta was there. Remember the second half of El Clásico and the game against Gladbach? Iniesta was there.
Sure, the tactics don't seem right sometimes and some players are out of form, but not having the greatest midfielder of all time will affect you. It's that simple. Iniesta embodies greatness in such a way that not having him WILL translate into your level of performances. It's just a fact. Barça will improve now that Iniesta is back. You can count on that. Is it a problem to rely so much on one player to make your midfield work? Maybe, but Barça coaches have been doing it since 2008.
2 - Barça's midfield is showing signs of life
I've already talked about Iniesta and how his return helps the midfield's improvement, but there are other players showing they can contribute in that part of the pitch. André Gomes and Denis Suárez were wonderful against Gladbach, and before someone jumps in and says "It was just Gladbach", remember Denis did not play well against Hércules, a third division team, just a week ago. They were sensational, and Denis has been very good all season. For a guy who cost just 3 million, he could be the biggest bargain ever.
Gomes on the other hand just looks very comfortable as the holding midfielder, doing Busquets' job perfectly. His height, his passing ability and his anticipation make for a very good backup to Busi and he was playing in that position at the start of the season. But with Iniesta's injury he had to move up in midfield, and that affected his performances in a few games. Gomes looked comfortable and composed in a position that is very instrumental to the Barça system, and if Denis continues to improve and Iniesta stays healthy, and if Busquets regains his best form, we're looking at a very good midfield quartet that gives Luis Enrique plenty of options. The signs from El Clásico and the Gladbach game were encouraging, they just need to continue.
3 - Aleix Vidal is... good?
I'm afraid of writing this praise to Aleix because he could fall off a cliff again, but it's undeniable how good he was on Tuesday night. I won't compare him to Dani Alves because it's an insane comparison, but he did Dani's job perfectly against Gladbach. Bombing forward with purpose and well-timed runs, Aleix was simply fantastic. His runs allowed Messi to move into the middle without affecting the width of the team, because Vidal was always wide open on the right side ready to receive a pass. He got an assist as well, just a perfect way to end a perfect night, his best in a Blaugrana shirt. I'm a positive person, so I'll believe Aleix Vidal can finally realize his potential and build upon Tuesday's performance. Even though he has proven me wrong for almost a year.