In the aftermath of what should’ve been a routine victory at PSV Eindhoven, but that turned into anything but, it’s worth reflecting on Arturo Vidal’s words prior to the match.
The Chilean had said that he wanted “to win, put on a great show and go home feeling relaxed because top spot in the group is assured,” adding “it is very important to go into the second round as one of the group winners because it means we get a better draw.”
Allowing an opponent that were rock bottom of the group 23 shots on goal in the match, nine of which were on target with three more hitting the woodwork, is criminal at this level.
9 - PSV had nine shots on target against Barcelona, the highest tally Barcelona have faced in a game in all competitions since April 2017 (14 v Real Madrid). Valiant. pic.twitter.com/wqYfGvrqgh— OptaJohan (@OptaJohan) November 28, 2018
As far as Vidal is concerned, however, he can be absolved of blame for the most part.
Finally being given minutes by Ernesto Valverde, the midfielder showed what he is capable of, both in an attacking and defensive sense.
He was everywhere.
Had he scored again, it would’ve brought him a third in six matches which, not unlike Paulinho, is a fine return for someone in his position.
Much of the club’s fan base castigate Vidal, as they did with the Brazilian, simply because they’re not the type of players that fit the ideal FCB mould.
Whilst it’s true they’re no Iniesta or Xavi, it’s abundantly clear what both Paulinho brought and Vidal brings to the party.
A steely determination when it’s required, and the need to stamp authority on the game (not literally!) are allied to a decent passing range, a super engine and the willingness to shuttle back and forth as needed.
No one worked harder against PSV, but his contribution will still be overlooked by many.
Lionel Messi said at the start of the campaign that the Champions League was a priority for Barca, but playing how they did in Holland shows that there are a few more steps to climb if lifting the trophy at the Wanda is to be more than a pipe dream.
The No.10 did his bit of course, he always does. Leading from the front, Messi scored his 106th in the competition, more than any other player for one club in the Champions League.
He clearly has the bit between his teeth, as does Vidal, but far too many others left much to be desired on Wednesday night.
Instead of criticising the Chilean for what he can’t do, perhaps it’s time to praise him for what he can.
Arturo Vidal turning into a baller with this here yesterday: pic.twitter.com/KxcUsV1qpV— Marcel (@mizzyceloZ) November 29, 2018
Compare and contrast his effort with that of Ousmane Dembele generally for example. (Yes, I’m aware that the Frenchman had one of his better games on Wednesday!)
Vidal is all in with a winning mentality - and that’s exactly what Barca need to become Kings of Europe once more.