Nothing better than a festival of goals, and the smiles it brings to the players.
For first place Barcelona, it’s felt like a rarity this season, with the defense stealing the show.
Before we continue, let’s shout them out. These shutouts will never get old as far as I’m concerned.
And yet, Barcelona has indeed scored more goals than any other team in Spain, and Robert Lewandowski leads the Pichichi race with 17 on the season.
For the Pole, it was only a matter of time before his goal scoring form was rediscovered. No better time than against the worst defensive team in La Liga by a mile.
The bigger question marks were surrounding Ansu Fati and Ferran Torres, two forwards who were supposed to make up the nucleus of Barca’s future.
An early injury set Ferran back, who quickly lost his place in the lineup to Ousmane Dembele and Raphinha, and has struggled to make his way back, with Xavi opting to play four midfielders in place of the traditional trident.
Ansu has been healthy all along, but has a lot to prove in order to earn the confidence of his coach.
Raw emotions boiled over this week with his father calling for a move from the Camp Nou if the situation didn’t change. In response, Xavi gave the young Spaniard his chance, and with all eyes watching, and pressure building, Ansu Fati delivered with one of his trademark killer finishes.
Many pundits have suggested that Ansu is done, and will never recover fully from his significant injuries. They give Xavi the benefit of the doubt, assuming that the coach must know something we don’t, given what he sees in training every day.
Until I see Ansu given a consistent run of games, and true backing from the manager, my conclusion is that Xavi simply doesn’t prefer the promising forward. All coaches have their own way of seeing the game, and evaluate players according to their perceived ability to play within the system.
What we saw against Elche was proof, once again, of Ansu’s innate talent and instincts.
Forwards, perhaps more than any other position in football, need consistency in order to build their confidence, and in order to earn trust from their teammates.
Early on, Dembele was the man everyone looked for to create, and so the game ran through him, and he showed what he could do with all the chances.
In the few games he has featured in, Ansu is somewhat ignored, and so when the ball does fall to him, he has had a tendency to do too much, overcomplicating situations that were not the ideal for him anyway.
In the most recent Clasico, I was in the stadium and had a great view of the players warming up. Ferran Torres and Franck Kessie were called over first, and looked eager to enter the game. Ansu was called over last, and his body language suggested he knew the manager was very unlikely to play him, except for maybe a few minutes at the end.
Within two weeks, we heard the anger of his father, who is his closest confidant. With Raphinha injured, this was a rare chance for Ansu, and maybe one of the last he would get this season.
Now there is food for thought for Xavi.
And not just with Ansu, but Ferran Torres too, who also showed his quality with a golazo of his own against Elche.
Neither player has earned their keep at Barcelona, but both have shown they have great potential.
One main difference between them is that Ferran is Xavi’s man, while Ansu never was.
What does that say about the future of the forwards at Barcelona?
If Xavi could choose, it seems clear Ansu is the odd man out, with Dembele, Raphinha, and Ferran in better standing in the pecking order.
But managers usually don’t stick around long, players do. And Ansu is an academy superstar.
Will the club be willing to part ways with him so easily?
Maybe if the price is right. But that could also be said of the other forwards as well.
Something tells me no one will be willing to offer what Ansu is worth, and it’s not likely Barca will be able to recoup their investment on Ferran or Raphinha.
With the lead in the table building domestically, Xavi is blessed with a cushion to experiment.
Why not give Ansu and Ferran a run of games? Throw in Raphinha as well.
We haven’t seen enough to reach any conclusions.
And on Saturday, we learned there is a hunger to fight for their future. But it’s one thing to do it against Elche, and quite another to do it consistently against stronger opponents.
Can Xavi bring out the best in his forwards? And that includes Lewandowski, who we can all agree is capable of much more.
Next season may not be so easy. And there will be raised expectations in other competitions.
Xavi will need reliable goal scorers, and he may not find them on the market this summer.
Let’s find out exactly what we have.
It may require the coach to challenge his own assumptions, and take a chance on players he’s overlooked.