On Sunday Lionel Messi’s return to the lineup was marred by a 4-3 defeat at the hands of Real Betis. A recurring theme this year, Barcelona’s back line was attacked by wave after wave of Betis attacks. Gerard Pique and Clement Lenglet looked like an inexperienced pairing, with both suffering in a horrible defeat. With the offense firing, but not at 100%, Barcelona’s three goals weren’t enough.
Another week, another controversy regarding Barcelona’s young attacking players. After a strong midweek performance after coming on as a substitute and scoring a goal against Inter, Malcom was finally chosen to start a game by Ernesto Valverde. Malcom’s brightest moments came early on, specifically when he teed up a beautiful cross from the left wing for Lionel Messi. Messi sent it wide, but Malcom had started the game exactly the way he wanted. After that, Barcelona’s defense let in two quick goals and the forwards were playing from behind, Malcom’s influence was felt less and less by the minute.
Ultimately, Malcom was sacrificed for Munir early in the second half. While his performance left much to be desired, the young Brazilian might be approaching the most critical part of the current campaign. In news this week, Ousmane Dembele has again showed the immaturity that plagued his campaign last year. With missed trainings, constant tardiness, and a seemingly lackadaisical attitude regarding the current campaign, Valverde has put his foot down again. This time, Dembele was sent to the stands and not in the lineup and Malcom was trusted to make a difference. He wasn’t obsolete, but his contribution was negligible.
Moving forward though, Malcom can believe in several things. Firstly, the Brazilian has been the utmost professional since coming over from Bordeaux over the summer. No negative news has surrounded him, even when he hasn’t been playing. On the other hand, Dembele seems to have a negative swirl around him every week. Secondly, with a string of games now, Malcom can begin to build his confidence again and truly start to integrate into a forward line that can use the speed, elusiveness, and finishing skills he possesses.
Moving forward, Malcom can prove decisive and provide Barcelona with goals, assists, and an attacking flair that most Blaugranes find necessary. In order to have his impact felt though, Valverde and the back line have to figure out their defensive frailties. Since the start of the season, Pique has looked unlike himself and Umtiti’s absence has been felt more than ever. If the defense can start looking like itself again, a player like Malcom can begin to make a greater impact in games that are winnable. Visca Barca.