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La Real shackled by Pique’s mastery of the defensive art

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Point at Anoeta is down to the centre-back

Real Sociedad v FC Barcelona - La Liga Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

Physically, and metaphorically speaking, Gerard Pique was head and shoulders above every other player on the Reale Arena pitch on Saturday afternoon.

Though he wasn’t wearing the armband on this occasion, it was a captain’s performance by the centre-back.

When all around him lost their heads at times, he was the epitome of cool.

Calm yet authoritative, Pique held the back four together throughout what was always going to be a tough test, and he was justifiably angry at the death when denied a blatant spot-kick.

He’d already had a ball cleared off the line earlier in the game, his header seemingly destined to nestle in the back of the net.

And he was no better than when he was leading the battle in the defensive trenches against the twin Scandinavian threat of Isak and Odegaard, the latter of whom continues to impress.

This really was a defensive performance par excellence from Pique, who was once derided as being something of a clown alongside Carles Puyol’s more straight-laced old-school style exponent.

When a foot in was needed, it was the Catalan throwing himself to the ground to provide the block. Any aerial threats were similarly repelled.

It felt like watching an artist at work. For far too long now, attackers and goal scorers always hog the plaudits when their teams win. This well-earned point had Pique’s name written all over it.

Yes, the two Barca goals were well crafted and expertly taken, but without that performance at the back, they would’ve meant nothing.

With Jordi Alba and subsequently Nelson Semedo only just back on the road to recovery, the game in San Sebastian was always going to need Pique to be at his brilliant best because, clearly, La Real were (and are) a force to be reckoned with at home.

The fact that they managed to have 19 shots against the Blaugranes speaks volumes as to their attacking intensity, particularly at home, however, only five on target is testament, again, to Pique’s excellence.

If the club haven’t already, they really need to be thinking ahead as to who is going to replace such a colossus in the back four.

Todibo would appear to be the wisest of choices amongst culers, but a reticence to play him in any of the bigger games would suggest that the club are not convinced at this point.

In any event, El Clasico is upon us, and if Barca want to take three points from their biggest fixture of the campaign, Pique needs to produce the goods again.