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Five talking points from Barcelona 3-1 Valencia

An important three points for the Catalans

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

Great start to a big week

Barcelona took on Valencia needing a win after consecutive defeats to Benfica and Atletico Madrid and to kickstart a tough week that also brings key games against Dynamo Kiev and Real Madrid.

The hosts made the worst possible start by conceding early (more on that later) but hit back well to take an important three points that moves the team into seventh and just two points behind Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid.

Despite everything that’s happened, all the injuries, the financial chaos, Lionel Messi’s exit, the general doom and gloom around the club in the early weeks of the season, it’s not such a bad position to be in after eight games played.

Yet although there were a lot of positives (a first start for Ansu, a goal for Coutinho and a debut for Sergio Aguero) it was another less than convincing performance at times, particularly in the second half, but the win will still boost confidence ahead of the visit of the Ukrainian champions.

Barca concede early again

FC Barcelona v Valencia CF - LaLiga Santander Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

One of the negatives from a Barca point of view was the sight of the Catalans conceding an early goal yet again. It’s becoming something of a nasty habit for Ronald Koeman’s side and needs addressing.

Valencia full-back Jose Gaya, who is regularly linked with Barca, needed just five minutes to leather a fierce effort past goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen to give Valencia the lead and leave Barca needing to mount another comeback.

Barca also conceded in the opening minutes this season against both Granada and Benfica, while Atletico and Getafe both managed to score against Koeman’s side before the 23-minute mark.

Given Koeman’s less than convincing in-game management it’s something Barca need to get on top of quickly. The club’s attackers may now be returning to add some much-needed firepower but life would be a lot easier if Barca stopped gifting teams a head start in matches.

Ansu Fati revives Barca

Of course the chances of Barca being able to overturn a one-goal deficit have been boosted by the return of the brilliant Ansu Fati from injury.

Sunday marked the youngster’s first start since November 2020, and the attacker did not disappoint by popping up with a superb equalizing goal to make it 1-1. It was the sort of goal another brilliant Barcelona No. 10 might have scored.

Fati wasn’t done there either. He also won a penalty before half-time which allowed Memphis Depay to thump home a spot-kick and put Barca ahead.

Indeed the Dutchman deserves credit too for his performance. His assist and goal mean he’s now been involved in six goals in his first eight La Liga matches. Not a bad record for the Netherlands international.

The neat connection between Memphis and Ansu for the first goal also bodes well for the future, but it’s the sight of Fati looking almost like he’s never been away that will thrill supporters the most.

Gavi loves a booking

FC Barcelona v Valencia CF - LaLiga Santander Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

Fati isn’t the only teenager exciting fans with Gavi handed another start by Koeman and producing another strong performance for the Catalan giants.

The 17-year-old already looks set to become a regular this season, and his hunger and desire are a joy to watch, but he will need to calm down a little bit.

Sunday saw the teenager pick up just his fourth booking in eight games and if he carries on like that he’ll find himself suspended before long.

According to AS, Gavi has has committed 1.87 fouls per game for Barca, making nine fouls in six games (1.5 on average). If you crunch the numbers even further you find he’s getting a booking for every 3.75 fouls he makes.

Gavi’s youthful exuberance and tenacity is a huge asset to Barca and is something that has been refreshing to see, but he does need to learn to be a little bit smarter, something that will surely come with experience.

Dest on the right wing?

One of the more surprising aspects of Sunday’s performance was Koeman’s teamsheet which took some figuring out until it emerged that Sergino Dest was playing on the right wing ahead of Sergi Roberto.

Dest had been employed at left-back to cover Jordi Alba’s injury before the international break but was handed a more forward role by Koeman against Valencia which was an interesting selection by the Dutchman.

The USMNT star did seem to appreciate the freedom and ended the game with an assist for Coutinho which wrapped the game up late on at the Camp Nou.

Koeman spoke about his decision to push Dest further forward after the game, and his comments suggest we might see the 20-year-old used in that position again.

“In the youth teams at Ajax he always played as a winger,” he said. “He knows that position and did well. It was a good performance from him.”

Koeman does have more options in attack now, which is obviously good news for Barca, and it wil be interesting to see how the Dutchman lines up his team against Dynamo Kiev and Real Madrid.