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Barcelona 2020-21 Season Review: The Defenders

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Same problems on the backline, but hope for the future

Levante v FC Barcelona - La Liga Santander Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

In this season review series, we’re going to look back at the Barcelona squad and reflect on their contributions to the team in 2020-21.

For fun we’re going to give a score of 1-10 based on individual performance, but given the way the season ended, it’s important to acknowledge that the evaluation that truly matters is the one given to the team as a whole.

This season fell well short of the high Barca standards. At the same time, it’s hard to say whether it fell short of expectations given the uncertainty and instability surrounding the club.

We can all agree big change is needed.

No better place to start than with the defenders.

Center-Backs

FC Barcelona v Valencia CF - La Liga Santander Photo by Eric Alonso/Getty Images

Gerard Pique - 6

We always expect a lot of Pique, but he spent most of the season injured, which calls into question how much he can contribute going forward.

At his best, he continues to be a vocal leader on a team that lacks leadership. He also has continued the tradition of being a center-back who can calmly and effectively insert himself into the build-up offensively.

But the game has changed, and it’s faster and more physical than ever. Pique never had this profile, and as he gets older he becomes more vulnerable to getting beaten on counter-attacks and set pieces.

Clement Lenglet - 4

One big problem with Lenglet during his tenure is that too much was asked of him.

He was always supposed to back up Pique and Samuel Umtiti, and instead was converted into the first choice center-back because of his ability to stay healthy, and at least in the beginning, was relatively reliable.

For a second season running, he was over-utilized (out of necessity), and was a liability in important moments.

Being a center-defender on this team is challenging because of the exposure with the high backline, and minimal help from Sergio Busquets.

Lenglet will never be the exceptional defender that Barca needs to compensate for it.

Samuel Umtiti - 5

The sad and curious case of Umtiti is that, even when healthy, he doesn’t look physically capable of defending for 90 minutes at the top level.

This for a defender who made his name by playing with intensity and physicality. His powers have been taken from him, and they’re not coming back.

Barca will be desperate to see him move on and save money on wages.

Ronald Araujo - 7

SD Eibar v FC Barcelona - La Liga Santander Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

There is plenty of hope for the future in the form of Ronald Araujo.

He has the technical ability expected of a Barca defender, but also the strength and speed that’s been missing on the defensive line for years.

He also is the rare Barca defender with the ethos to defend set pieces, and provide a threat in the air offensively.

One question that was raised is his ability to stay healthy. He hasn’t suffered a serious injury, but it’s worrisome how often he pulls up with smaller knocks.

Let’s hope the Uruguayan stays healthy and is able to anchor the defense for years to come.

Oscar Mingueza - 8

Few people knew his name when the season began.

Oscar Mingueza did more with the opportunities given to him this year than anyone else on the roster, save for an extraordinary young center-midfielder from the Canary Islands.

But let’s be clear about what Mingueza is, and what he isn’t.

Mingueza cannot be the first choice center-defender over the course of a full season. We don’t want him turning into another Lenglet by being given a role bigger than he can handle.

He can be an important utility player given his versatility.

Whether it’s in the center, or as a full-back. On a four-man backline, or even as a wing-back if you really need it from time to time, Mingueza is a hard working player who will get the job done.

Full-backs

Valencia CF v FC Barcelona - La Liga Santander Photo by Aitor Alcalde Colomer/Getty Images

Jordi Alba - 7

Of all the veteran players put on notice a year ago, Alba had the best bounce back year.

For all of the faults on the defensive end, he continues to be confident and effective rampaging down the left wing.

He recorded huge goals in the Copa del Rey comeback thriller against Granada, continues to do well setting up goals with precise passes through the box.

Alba’s hard work and determination earned himself a spot on the national team under Luis Enrique, and another year as the left back for Barca.

Sergino Dest - 6

Dest has tons of potential, but he’s going to need the right manager to bring it out of him.

Ronald Koeman put him on a rollercoaster of emotion, and Dest never knew where he stood, or what was expected of him.

The American is at his best when he’s allowed to play free and run at defenders.

Dest has flair, and is fun to watch when he’s empowered to take risks.

Towards the end of the campaign, however, it looked like his confidence was shot, and he was more concerned about not making mistakes.

I’m looking for a bounce back year with a manager who recognizes his strengths and deploys them strategically to give the team a threat down the right wing.

Sergi Roberto - 3

It’s sad to see legends fall from grace.

Sergi Roberto has had iconic moments with the club, but never should have been more than a role player.

Bad judgement and management from the club put him on a pedestal he never deserved.

Hopefully he gets an opportunity to play and rebuild his reputation with a new team. I think he could do well with a change of scenery.

Junior Firpo - 5

Seldom used, but had a few good moments that were never rewarded by Koeman.

In the end, the narrative persists that Junior is not the right fit for Barca.

Other clubs may be interested in seeing what they can get out of him at a bargain price.

Goalkeepers

FC Barcelona v RC Celta - La Liga Santander Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

Marc Andre Ter Stegen - 6

I’m a big fan of Mats.

His job is difficult because statistically he doesn’t take as many shots as other goalies, but when they come they’re usually in very challenging situations.

When Barca lost this season, it was by small margins. Usually because of a defensive mistake that allowed for a goal on the counter attack.

Many times, Ter Stegen was asked to make impossible saves.

Other times, however, he looked indecisive, and was even beaten at the near post.

Surely this was not his best campaign, and we can all expect him to come back better and determined to be the superstar in goal we know he can be.

Neto - 7

Honestly, a pretty strong backup keeper to have.

He did a good job to start the year while Ter Stegen was injured.

Will likely look to move on in search of more minutes, and he’ll probably do very well for himself and the new club that acquires him.