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Arthur is indispensable for Barcelona right now

The Brazilian was the team’s best performer again

FC Barcelona v Villarreal - La Liga Santander Photo by Rico Brouwer/Soccrates/Getty Images

Arthur has logged only 290 minutes in four appearances so far this season, out of a possible 630. Maybe it’s due to a fitness issue, because it’s hard to believe the Braziian is being left out on merit.

The midfielder scored and was man of the match as Barcelona defeated Villarreal 2-1, but it wasn’t just his golazo, it was his overall game. Arthur circulates the ball, works hard in defense, and has a killer final pass.

He’s building a trio with Frenkie de Jong and Sergio Busquets that will be hard to match in terms of pure ball-playing ability. And he’s already scored two goals this season, second-most on the team after Antoine Griezmann.

He didn’t play a single minute in either of Barcelona’s two losses this season. While it’d be reductive to say that’s why the team lost, there is probably some connection there.

His stamina, or lack thereof, has been the main thing keeping him back after he ventured from Brazil onto the European scene. Perhaps that’s why he’s not playing every week. Some rotation to keep him fresh could be necessary.

But perhaps Ernesto Valverde has to figure out how to distribute his playing time to always have him taking part. Right now he’s leagues ahead of Sergi Roberto, Arturo Vidal, or Ivan Rakitić. Part of it is that Valverde has formatted his team to depend on his midfielders playing more like Arthur or De Jong and less like Roberto or Vidal. Part of it is that Arthur is on the ascendancy and is a rising star, and adapting to Spain more and more.

Maybe Arthur will cool off from his patch of good form, but I suspect he’ll still be an essential player for the rest of the season.

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