At the most expensive stadium in the world, the worst possible pitch for two teams that like to play football somehow didn’t stop Barça and Arsenal from producing an entertaining pre-season friendly.
The Catalan’s first game on their US tour gave Xavi some food for thought for the upcoming games ahead of the new league season, and here’s a look at three talking points from the match.
Dest fluffs his lines again and Barca’s defensive issues resurface
After being handed a start by Xavi, Sergino Dest had the perfect opportunity to stake his claim for the new season.
Barça are in desperate need of a decent right-back that can operate the channel well, and be available to support the attack whilst providing the highest levels of defensive cover.
On the night Dest did neither and whilst this isn’t likely to be his only chance to impress, on this showing he’s unlikely to make an impact on Xavi’s starting XI.
His poor positioning for Arsenal’s second goal is symptomatic of the headache that the coach has in trying to ensure Dest reaches the levels required.
Sergiño Dest in the first half against Arsenal:— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) July 27, 2023
- 4 passes
- 0/3 duels won
- 0 tackles
- 0 interceptions pic.twitter.com/denxEyL0Uh
He wasn’t the only defender to have an off night though.
Marcos Alonso demonstrated once more that he should be nowhere near this Barça side. If Alejandro Balde were to be injured, you’d be fearful of stationing Alonso in his stead.
Andreas Christensen’s error for Arsenal’s first was regrettable, and the back line looked disjointed at times against an effervescent Gunners outfit who were much further ahead in their pre-season preparations - and it showed.
Barça lost the battle… but won the war
It makes a change for Barça to give as good as they get in a physical sense.
Often lauded for great inter-play and their pretty passing carousels, the blaugranes have been guilty in the past of rolling over against opponents that employ the darker arts.
Arsenal aren’t generally renowned for being overly physical either, however, Mikel Arteta’s side were certainly happy to mix it in the SoFi Stadium.
This Barça won’t be bullied though, and it’s no wonder that crunching challenges from Andreas Christensen and Ronald Araujo in the first half were cheered almost as enthusiastically as the goals.
More of the same in the second half saw Sergi Roberto up end Leandro Trossard, much to the annoyance of the Arsenal bench.
It does go against the Barça DNA but when other ways of winning are needed, it’s good to see that this XI can change things up as required.
Ez peasy for Abde
Seeing Ez Abde skin William Saliba to help set up the opening goal for Barça was one of the highlights of the match.
As he showed so often on loan for Osasuna during 2022/23, this is a player with no fear.
Just give him the ball when he has space to run into and watch him go.
He does need polishing yes, and he faded as the half wore on, but there’s a player in there all right, and one that can terrorise La Liga’s defences if given half the chance.