With the 2016-17 season coming to the half-way point, FC Barcelona find themselves in a familiar but unorthodox situation. The club is through to the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey, in the last 16 stage of the UEFA Champions League and are second on the log in La Liga Santander, 4 points behind current table toppers Real Madrid who have a game in hand. Although the latter is not favourable to the club, it still does not rule out the possibility of ending the season with another La Liga title, because anything can happen in the final 18 games.
Barcelona have done relatively well with the available squad, even though they had to spend two months without the services of an injured Lionel Messi, one month without Andrés Iniesta and the entirety without a recognized right-back. The 5 players who were brought in during the summer had to play their roles effectively, and although they could have done it better, it’s safe to say that they have somewhat helped the team, along with a rejuvenated Arda Turan.
The first player to make a real impact was Samuel Umtiti, who started the season brightly with strong and confident performances. He gradually integrated himself into the team with his early performances and a couple of Barça fans already began calling for him to start games ahead of Javier Mascherano. He had an injury lay-off after that and has since lost his initial form but he could yet improve.
Next in line was Lucas Digne, he brought a different aspect to Barcelona’s style by being more direct than Jordi Alba and contributing less in inter-play. He’s more defensive minded and provides more crosses. Denis Suarez has had a fine season so far. Although he had a slow start, he has settled adequately into the team and has done his job well enough to avoid any real criticism. He links up well with Messi and provides support to the right-back. He creates chances, defends when he needs to and can score beautiful goals too.
Paco Alcacer on the other hand, has had it tough. He has struggled to find any sort of form in front of goal and has hardly been involved in any build-up play. He would find himself isolated in most games and would squander all of his goal-scoring opportunities. Lately however, he has had better performances, especially after scoring his first official goal for Barça in the second leg of the Copa del Rey last 32 clash against third division side Herculés. But his inconsistent performances is understandable because of his lack of appearances. André Gomes however, has no real excuse for his inconsistency. He’s had the second most appearances (14) among the 5 summer signings but is yet to genuinely stand out.
Bought for an alleged sum of €35 million, he has not YET lived up to the fee. He has had mediocre performances so far, with a few good ones, most notably in the Champions League group stage game in the Etihad Stadium against Manchester City. Although he has had to play in different positions throughout the season, it cannot justify his inconsistency halfway through the season. He has the potential, and all he needs is confidence and the backing from the manager. It’s time for him to step up.
So far this season, the 5 summer signings have been fairly decent. They were not expected to excel, but to provide depth to the squad, so that the team would not burn out towards the final stages of the season like they did the previous year. A few of them still need to improve, but they have collectively shown that they have what it takes to represent this iconic club and will continue to do so. With the business end of the season coming up, it is safe to say that Barcelona have a bright group of players that will help carry the team through the finish line.