Depending on your school of thought, these preseason friendlies are ‘only’ a warm-up and not too much should be read into them, or they’re a decent test to see how well the team are gelling together etc.
In Japan, during Barcelona’s first games of the 2019/20 preseason, the Catalans looked lethargic and out of sorts, but in truth that’s only to be expected, particularly against a Chelsea side who were further ahead in their preparations.
Fast forward to this week and the double header against Napoli.
Even if timing is still a little off in certain aspects, the team should be functioning with relative ease at this point, gearing up for the start of the campaign.
Not in his Neto!! pic.twitter.com/S8WIPbGdvh— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) August 8, 2019
In midfield, despite the later than normal additions of the South American contingent, there doesn’t appear to be an awful lot wrong, ditto up front. Messrs. Suárez and Griezmann could polish their shooting boots but the accuracy will come, of that there’s no doubt.
The issue that should be troubling Ernesto Valverde is the defence.
But for Neto, the game at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami could well have been lost. Most worrying would seem to be Samuel Umtiti’s lack of pace, which was exposed time and again in 2018/19, before and after his injury sabbatical.
Simple balls in behind, over the top or in between the two centre-backs are not being cut out or blocked off at source, and in some instances the defending has been... well... amateur.
What is Umtiti doing?— Frenkie Chief (@FrenkieStats) August 8, 2019
There’s already a clear reliance on an ageing Gerard Piqué, and whilst he’ll step up once again, Umtiti, Lenglet and Todibo need to bring themselves closer to the level of their colleague if Barça want to celebrate further successes in the coming campaign.
Not signing Matthijs De Ligt has, potentially, become a big problem, but instead of investing the money that was set aside for the Dutchman on another high-quality defensive exponent, the club are intent on pooling all of their resources into a coup for Neymar.
Whilst there isn’t too much doubt that the Brazilian would improve the side should he return, there are more pressing needs elsewhere in the XI.
It's clear that Umtiti's career at Barcelona is done and it has been for months. Protected for the player he WAS not the player he IS.— Beto (@xFCBeto) August 8, 2019
Every great club side needs balance, and at present the scales are tipped firmly on the attacking part of the squad.
Only time will tell whether the neglecting of the defence is something that will bite Barça again at the worst possible moment.