Neto’s howler comes at a bad time
Barcelona gifted Alaves the lead on Saturday with a poor error from Neto after a bit of a mix-up with Gerard Pique.
It wasn’t the best pass in the world from the center-back, but there’s no doubt at all that Neto should have done much better than he did.
Instead he dithered which allow Luis Rioja to open the scoring against the run of play and made Barca’s task far harder then it needed to be.
It’s a tough break for Neto who has been excellent so far this season while standing in for Marc-Andre ter Stegen. Yet it could be his last apperance for a while with the German closing in on a return to action.
Griezmann finally off the mark
Antoine Griezmann’s form has come under plenty of scrutiny this season, but the Frenchman is finally off the mark for Barcelona.
It was a decent finish from the Frenchman too to level the scores. He pounced on a loose ball and beat Pacheco with a neat chip over the goalkeeper.
It was a much-needed goal for Griezmann who has looked unsurprisingly short of confidence due to his lack of goals and having been left out of team by Koeman.
Griezmann admitted after the game he’s been guilty of missing chances, along with the rest of the team, and Barca will hope his latest strike can spark an improvement.
Pedri and Pjanic make a difference
Ronald Koeman was so unhappy with his team at half-time that he hauled off Clement Lenglet, Sergio Buquets and Ousmane Dembele, bringing on Miralem Pjanic, Pedri and Francisco Trincao.
Barca certainly improved in the second half, although the man advantage also helped, with Miralem Pjanic looking a far better option than Busquets in the middle of the park for Koeman’s men currently.
Busquets produced another careless performance and it was no surprise to see him benched at half-time. Koeman must surely be tempted to keep him there on current form.
Pedri was also bright and Barca seem to pass the ball so much better when the 17-year-old is on the pitch. All of which gives Koeman plenty to ponder ahead of next week’s games against Dynamo Kiev and Real Betis.
Time to rest Messi?
One of the decisions Koeman needs to make is surely to hand Messi some rest sooner rather than later. The captain has played every single minute for club and country this season and it’s starting to show.
The captain still hasn’t scored from open play in 2020-21, although he seemed to do everything but score against Alaves, and would have nicked it late on if it hadn’t been for a fine save from Pacheco.
Lionel Messi's game by numbers vs. Alaves:— Squawka Football (@Squawka) October 31, 2020
100% aerials won
13 take-ons completed
13 touches in opp. box
5 shots on target
4 chances created
3 fouls won
Someone help him out. pic.twitter.com/Y6ZRslNIZC
Yet Messi’s frustrations were also on show. He was left fuming after a foul near the edge of the box wasn’t given and picked up a yellow card for booting the ball away when he was very close to the referee.
Barca play two more games before the next international break when Messi is due to head off with Argentina again for World Cup qualifiers against Paraguay and Peru. Surely he won’t play all 90 minutes against Kiev and Betis?
Koeman’s right to worry
Koeman admitted after the game that he’s “worried” by Barcelona’s form and he’s right to be concerned. It’s Barcelona’s worst start to the season for almost 20 years, and Koeman knows better than most that this is a result-based business.
There’s also plenty going on behind the scenes since Josep Maria Bartomeu’s resignation, with presidential candidates already talking up their preferred managers.
Barcelona have now not won any of their last four LaLiga games for the first time in over two years.— Squawka Football (@Squawka) October 31, 2020
Another gameweek in the bottom half of the table for Ronald Koeman's Barca. https://t.co/ygkeR2P3xE
For the time being the job remains Koeman’s and he knows his team needs to improve. In truth they were a little unfortunate against Alaves, but their inability to convert chances is starting to become a recurring theme.
There are also questions marks over Koeman too with fans wondering if he’ll ever deviate from his beloved 4-2-3-1 and quite why Riqui Puig can’t even make the squad these days.
The news season is only a few weeks old but, rightly or wrongly, Koeman will be feeling the pressure already after collecting just two points from the last 12 available.