In all the Barça B matches of late, there has been one commonality. Neither one of Riqui Puig or Ansu Fati have been called to appear. Instead, they’ve stuck to the vacation schedule of the main team.
This is a very good sign. A vote of confidence in the youngsters. Quique Setién and co seemed to have decided that the duo belong with the seniors, and for good reason. The two have looked good in nearly every appearance, and have hardly put a foot wrong. In an ageing side, the two have often seemed like a breath of fresh energy, serving as stark contrasts to the lethargy of the veterans. No can, in all honesty, say that the opportunity is undeserved.
That said, what does this mean for the next season? Are Puig and Ansu guaranteed starters, or will they serve as perennial squad members? The latter is more likely, especially with the return of major players. Given the return of Ousmane Dembélé and Antoine Griezmann, it is possible that Puig becomes the more frequently featuring of the two, even with the addition of Miralem Pjanić.
Barça’s midfield woes have been very well documented, and no other midfielder at the club bar Puig can offer a solution. In a way, his profile is a necessity at the club. No other player can act as that hybrid advanced interior, bridging gaps out wide and adding central verticality. Puig’s ability to attack space and appear in the right place at the right time is just not matched by any other midfielder. Most of the other profiles at Barça are those of deeper playmakers. Unless there is some heavy recruitment in the coming months, it seems unlikely that Setién will be able to bridge those gaps in any other way.
Ansu’s situation is slightly different. The return of Ousmane Dembélé could mean that Ansu may be rotated, although the two offer different things. Ansu is more of an inside forward/striker hybrid while Dembélé resembles a traditional winger. The usage of either, therefore, could depend on the game scenario and opposition.
That said, one thing is for sure. Both of them are going to play an integral role within the Barça squad. For all the furore about this season, at least it served as an introduction to La Liga for these two. That’s a major positive. Even Bartomeu and Company cannot stop that. You can’t stop it. Destiny arrives all the same