A home game against Villarreal gave Barcelona the perfect opportunity to blow away the cobwebs and get over recent disappointments.
Xavi’s boys couldn’t get over the line against Athletic Club in midweek, though they were far from bad on the night.
A late chance for Lamine Yamal could’ve provided the winner in normal time and, subsequently, a whole different narrative.
Instead, the loss, as well as a serious injury to Alex Balde, only strengthened the belief that whilst this side has an abundance of talent, it doesn’t have the cojones to see out games to their advantage.
Against the Yellow Submarine, it happened again.
15 - Teams from Europe's top five leagues to have conceded the most goals in 2024 in all competitions:— OptaJose (@OptaJose) January 27, 2024
FC BARCELONA: 15 goals in 8 games
Sevilla FC: 13 goals in 6 matches
Frosinose: 13 goals in 4 games
For the most part the basics were in place, and though that might be good enough for some, that’s the absolute minimum expected from a Barcelona side.
Lamine Yamal aside, no other player really covered themselves in glory in the opening 45 minutes. Just imagine that for one moment. All your best work is being done by a 16 YEAR OLD!
The urgency and zip that are the hallmarks of any Barca side were missing again, players were going for the same balls, others weren’t on the same wavelength as their colleagues.
Frankly, it was embarrassing.
8 - Barcelona have made eight errors leading to goals this season in all competitions - only Brighton and Hove Albion (10) have made more in 2023/24 among all teams from Europe's big five leagues. Pressure. pic.twitter.com/4S07QcfqIB— OptaJose (@OptaJose) January 27, 2024
And yet, in the space of 11 second-half minutes, the clouds over the Estadi Lluis Companys appeared to have lifted again as the Catalans rampaged into a 3-2 lead.
In that short burst, supporters got a glimpse of what this side can be, and that’s why it’s so frustrating that their pathetic attempts at defending thereafter handed Villarreal the win.
That the 14th placed side in La Liga scored five from just six shots on target and with only 28% possession all game was always going to have repercussions, and so it proved.
Within a couple of hours after the conclusion of the match, Xavi announced that he would be leaving the club at the end of the season.
Though these supposed professional players have allowed their standards to drop far too often this season, the manager has to take the blame for a number of shortcomings too.
Dare we say it… Barca have been ordinary. Visiting teams come to town now expecting to win, and that’s not acceptable.
If the season is to be the write off that many expect at this point, then surely the least anyone can do now is give the absolute maximum to finish in the best way possible.
Lest we forget too that the vast number of youngsters coming off the Masia conveyor belt at the moment - Fort, Fermin, Guiu, Cubarsi et al - is something to celebrate.
I suppose there’s always a silver lining...