After Neymar was sold, people assumed Barcelona would struggle to replace his offensive contribution. The situation should be even more desperate given Luis Suárez’s irregular form. But Barcelona are atop La Liga. Why? Let’s look at the stats
68% then vs. 63% now
Barcelona’s top three scorers (Neymar, Suárez, and Lionel Messi) accounted for 68% of their goals in La Liga last season. That number is down to 63%, with Suárez and, surprisingly, Paulinho being part of the top 3 scorers. Barcelona’s #2 and #3 scorers have gone from contributing 36.21% of the goals to 27.27%. Despite the loss of Neymar and Suárez’s form, the team has come up with goals. Despite his struggles, Suárez continues to score, and his brace last weekend helped. Meanwhile, Paulinho has provided an unexpected spark. Meanwhile, the likes of Denis Suárez, Paco Alcácer, Sergio Busquets, Sergi Roberto, Gerard Deulofeu, and Gerard Piqué have gotten on the scoresheet already.
31.9% then vs. 36.36% now
Messi’s individual contribution as a percentage has gone up, but his goals per game average is basically the same: from 0.97 then to 1.00. That means Messi is scoring the same, but since the team as a whole is scoring a bit less, he’s shouldering the load a bit more. Their goals per game last season was 3.05, and now it’s 2.75. BUT...
0.97 then vs. 0.33 now
Here’s the biggest one. Ernesto Valverde’s men have only conceded 0.33 goals per game, a huge improvement over last season’s 0.97 goals against per game. Of course, it makes a huge difference that Barcelona are yet to play the toughest teams, such as Valencia (today!) and Real Madrid. But it’s still a startling difference.