Barcelona's great preseason suffered a setback on Saturday with a painful, ugly 4-0 loss to Liverpool at Wembley Stadium, with a bunch of bad performances and not a lot of good things. Here's a few takeaways from what we saw in London:
1 - Preseason results don't matter
I'm actually shocked at myself to be writing this topic, but the wave of negativity just because of a preseason loss was too much to ignore. People, this P-R-E-S-E-A-S-O-N. You are allowed to lose, even badly, so long as you're using these games to gain fitness, integrate new signings and establish your style of play and the tactical aspects of your system. There was some negatives from what we saw, and we'll get to that, but to treat this loss as a sign of what's to come the rest of the season is a little crazy. A lot crazy, actually. Insane, really. Just like the wins against Celtic and Leicester didn't mean this team is invincible, a loss to Liverpool doesn't mean this team is horrible. IT'S JUST PRESEASON!!!
2 - The stars are rusty
The international stars, especially the ones that played in the Euros, have had only one week of training at best, and that showed both against Leicester and Liverpool. Sergio Busquets was wasting passes like he was playing with his eyes closed, and Mascherano had to pull off some desperate tackles due to positioning mistakes. Iniesta, Rakitic and Piqué played only a few minutes, but they looked alright. Their fitness will get better with more training and the Joan Gamper/Supercup matches, but it was a little sad to watch them struggle so much physically, especially against a Liverpool side at the peak of their fitness after more than a month of preseason. The debut in La Liga is two weeks away, so there's no worries about Busi, Masche and others being this bad for much longer.
3 - Barça seriously needs a right-back
This was the biggest problem of the match, something that we have seen throughout the three friendlies. The passing errors will sort themselves out, Munir will be Munir until Neymar is back, Arda is just a backup, and Mathieu won't play much, so the real problem will remain at the right-back position. Sergi Roberto is fabulous and good everywhere he plays, but he can't be the only option. "But where's Aleix Vidal?", one might ask. That's actually a very good question, because that guy is bad. Really bad. His 45 minutes against Liverpool were the worst we've seen from his career at Barça, which hasn't been exactly filled with highlights.
He didn't provide any support or width when Barça had the ball, and he was simply obscene defensively. There was a specific play that happened about 217 times in the first half: JAMES FREAKING MILNER would get the ball and pass it to Coutinho, Vidal would rush to Coutinho with absolutely zero chance of tackling him, the full-back would overlap, Coutinho would give the ball back to him, and JAMES FREAKING MILNER would run free on the left side while Vidal looked to a disgusted Luis Enrique on the sideline. Vidal was so bad he was replaced at halftime, and Roberto was solid as always.
I've been an advocate of signing a fourth forward thinking "hey, Vidal might find his game without the shadow of Dani Alves, we might be fine at right-back." Turns out we don't need a fourth forward (Munir is Munir, but he's fine) and a right-back is an obligation. Barça is just too good of a team that they can play without a right-back and win everything, but it's insane that we're going from the greatest full-back in history to Douglas 2.0. Yikes.