Barcelona won their second La Liga game of the season after overcoming a tough Athletic Bilbao team at the Nuevo San Mamés this past Sunday night. It was an intense game with Athletic applying pressure on the Barcelona defence as the Blaugrana tried to play on the counter. The only goal of the game came after Arda Turan received the ball on the left-hand side and provided a beautiful cross with enough pace for Ivan Rakitic, who headed the ball into the back of the net. Barça had more chances later in the game but failed to capitalize on any of them, with Luis Suárez squandering two very good chances. Atheltic's only main chance was a free-kick by Beñat that went just wide of the post.
One of the players who had an amazing performance in the Basque Country was Arda Turan, who continues his fine form at the left-wing position. Arda had a poor first season with Barcelona due to his inability to play in the first six months thanks to the transfer ban, but has now transformed into a different player this season. He cut his holidays short and joined the squad early in preseason to improve as a player and help the team the best way he could, and that is exactly what he has done so far. After a great preseason, he played a big part in the Spanish Super Cup (two goals + one assist) and already has one goal and one assist in two La Liga matches. With Arda in such form, Luis Enrique has headaches regarding team selection.
And that's where Neymar enters. The Brazilian superstar had a torrid spell towards the end of last season as he failed to connect passes, made needless dribbles and was unable to covert his chances. And due to the absence of Pedro, Rafinha’s injury and Munir’s poor form, Neymar could not be substituted or be given a rest because there was no one available on the bench who could perform at a high level. This is no longer the case this season, as Arda Turan has rediscovered his form and has adapted to the Barça way.
Playing in the left wing has brought the best out of Arda and he now provides a healthy competition for Neymar in that position. Turan creates chances, connects well with his teammates and scores goals, something he was unable to do in central midfield. Considering the fact that he has a different playing style than Neymar, he is now a true alternative on the left wing for the Catalan giants.
Neymar will return to the squad after the international break and I believe that he should be gradually eased into the team instead of blindly selecting him in the starting eleven. I am not saying that Neymar should not be in the starting line up but rather Luis Enrique should pick the player who is at the best shape at the moment, and right now Turan is ahead of the pack. Arda and Neymar competing for the same spot will only make both players better, which is a win-win situation for Barcelona.