Since losing their La Liga opener in August, Barcelona have endured a turbulent season. With a mixed bag of impressive victories and humiliating defeats, life at the Camp Nou has not been plain sailing for the likes of Antoine Griezmann, Frenkie de Jong, and Junior Firpo - the Blaugranes’ summer signings. Let’s take a look at just how these three fresh arrivals have fared in the early weeks of their debut season at their new club.
A key player for Atletico Madrid and a World Cup winner with France, it’s no wonder Barca were willing to fork out a hefty €120 million to sign Griezmann. Having appeared in 11 of Barca’s La Liga matches so far, Griezmann has scored four goals and bagged three assists.
Griezmann has not been the goal-scoring machine that we were expecting, nor is his partnership with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez as solid as it should be by now. Nevertheless, the Frenchman has made contributions to the team in other ways. Sure, he may have taken a while to integrate into the Barca set-up (and is still in the process of doing so), but he has exhibited a high work-rate, attacking with intent as well as tracking back in support of his defensive team-mates, proving to be an all-around decent team player in the process.
While his time at Barca has been underwhelming, what’s also important to note is the magnitude of a move to such an elite club - no matter what club you arrive from, gelling with the Blaugranes’ squad will always be an uphill battle. The club’s expectations will be higher, and fans’ criticism will most certainly be harsher.
Griezmann has not been at his best in a Barca jersey but patience is needed as he grows into his new role.
Frenkie de Jong
De Jong burst onto the scene last season as a key player in Ajax’s run to the Champions League semi final - wherein the Eredivisie champions eliminated Real Madrid and Juventus in the process. Barca instantly took interest in the Dutch youngster, seeing a promising holding midfielder who showed the talent needed to one day succeed Sergio Busquets as the club’s primary defensive midfielder. With an initial €75 million fee, the Blaugranes beat out a number of competitors to lure De Jong to the Camp Nou.
Prior to his move to Barca, De Jong had already established his reputation as a man of many talents. He can act as a deep-lying midfielder with the vision to pick out a pass in tight areas, lure in opponents as a means of creating space for team-mates, position himself effectively, and charge forward in support of his attackers. In addition to his defensive-midfield duties, De Jong is also a great dribbler of the ball - he completed 54 out of 58 dribbles in the Eredivisie last season.
While not all of the Blaugranes’ results with Frenkie in the team have been outstanding so far, he is proving himself to be the defensive midfielder that Barca required going into the future. His fitness and stamina are a revelation, having appeared in every Blaugranes’ fixture prior to the international break. He has also successfully completed a phenomenal 92.3% of passes in La Liga and 90% of passes in the Champions League this season.
While the Dutchman has had his critics, his energy and determination on the field cannot be denied, and the youngster looks to have a very bright future at the club.
Having signed from Real Betis after an impactful season, Firpo has provided Barca with a new sense of depth in defense. With the talented 23-year-old now at Barca’s disposal, the Blaugranes no longer have to rely solely on Jordi Alba to fill the role of left-back. Unfortunately, Firpo has been severely underutilized, with Nelson Semedo having been questionably selected for the role of left-back during Alba’s absence through injury.
Despite his lack of game time, Firpo has been consistent during his five La Liga appearances. With a rate of only 0.2 dribbles getting past him per La Liga game, Firpo has the best record out of all Barca full-backs in this department. Alba, Semedo, and Roberto have had rates of 0.3, 0.3, and 0.5 respectively. In terms of tackles per game, Firpo has managed an impressive rate of 1.6 per game, with only Semedo doing better with 2. Finally, Firpo has tied with both Alba and Roberto in terms of interceptions with a rate per game of 1.2. Semedo’s rate is only 0.8.
The above stats combined with Firpo’s pace and tenacity when jockeying for possession are clear reason to give the youngster more game time. One can only hope that he doesn’t follow the likes of other wasted talents such as Malcom out the door.
Overall, all three of these signings should manage to craft a prosperous career at the Blaugranes. It will be down to their determination as well as the club’s patience and willingness to select them to ensure that their potentials are realized.