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Five talking points from Villarreal 1-3 Barcelona

The Catalans enjoy some good fortune on the road

Villarreal CF v FC Barcelona - La Liga Santander Photo by Eric Alonso/Getty Images

Barca finally win away in La Liga

Barcelona have had to wait until the end of November but have finally managed an away win in La Liga. They also picked up back-to-back wins in the league for the first time in 2021-22 which tells you plenty about how the season has gone so far.

It wasn’t a convincing win by any means but the three points were vital and should provide some much-needed confidence and belief going forwards. Barca now face Real Betis, Osasuna, Elche, and Sevilla before the end of the year.

The victory means Xavi now has two wins and a draw in his first three games in charge and has seen his team score four times and (somehow) concede just once despite offering up plenty of chances. The results are improving but obviously there’s still a long way to go and a lot of issues to fix.

Xavi gets very lucky

There’s no doubt that Barcelona’s victory over Villarreal was pretty fortunate. A wild game at El Madridal saw some very dubious refereeing, Xavi coming up with some curious tactics, the woodwork hit a couple of times, and a little spat between the two managers after the game.

Dani Parejo could easily have been sent off in the opening minutes for a horrible foul on Sergio Busquets, while Villarreal wanted a penalty when Gerard Pique seemed to block Arnaut Danjuma’s shot with his hand. Neither decision was given.

Barca had started off well, with Gavi and Ez Abde both hitting the post, but then simply disappeared. Frenkie de Jong’s goal put the visitors ahead but after Samuel Chukwueze had equalized there only looked like one winner.

Yet somehow Barca stole it at the death. A long punt upfield from Marc-Andre ter Stegen found its way to Memphis Depay who showed remarkable composure to round Rulli, slot the ball home and put Barca 2-1 up.

And there was still time for more drama when Philippe Coutinho scored a penalty to complete the win. Xavi knew Villarreal didn’t deserve to lose and said as much after the final whistle. He’ll also know he needs to learn from this one.

Eric Garcia’s not a right-back

One of the problems with Barca’s set-up was the use of Eric Garcia on the right of the defense. The 20-year-old took over from Oscar Mingueza, who struggled last time out in La Liga, and simply highlighted how he isn’t a right-back either.

Indeed the right flank was an issue for Barca for most of the game and one which Villarreal exploited time after time. Changes looked almost certain at the break and it was a surprise when Xavi opted to keep things as they were.

Garcia had seemingly been tasked with following Moi Gomez everywhere, leaving the right side exposed. The decison also left 19-year-old winger Ez Abde neding to defend against Alfonso Pedraza which seemed to confuse the youngster.

There was also a clumsy moment from Garcia in the second half when he was a little fortunate not to concede a penalty after grappling with Raul Abiol. There wasn’t too much in it but you’ve certainly seen them given.

De Jong ends his La Liga drought

Barca’s first goal came from the boot of Frenkie de Jong who opened his account for the 2021-22 season and also ended his goal drought in La Liga. It’s been 10 months since the Dutchman last found the back of the net in the Spanish top flight.

De Jong won’t score too many easier goals either, althought it was nice to see someone actually following in and being on hand to tap home from close range for once.

There’s been plenty of talk about De Jong recently with suggestions even that Barca might be better off trying to sell the 24-year-old in the summer to try and raise some cash to strengthen the team elsewhere.

Yet this was a lively performance from De Jong who pulled the strings in midfield and should have had an assist in the opening 20 minutes. He teed up Memphis for a glorious chance that the Dutchman rolled wide and also played in Memphis to find Gavi who hit the post.

Confidence boosts for Memphis & Coutinho

Goals have been a problem for Barcelona this season, which is no surprise given the injuries to attackers, but they did manage to find two late strikes from two players who might just have needed them the most.

Memphis had missed a couple of great chances earlier in the game which looked to have sucked the belief out of the forward. Yet he took his goal superbly and admitted after the game his strike was a confidence-booster.

The Dutchman also unselfishly handed over penalty-taking duties to Coutinho who won the spot-kick after coming on as a substitute. He said after the game that the Brazilian had asked to take the kick and he agreed because, “he needed it for his confidence. If he is happy, I am happy.”

Coutinho is yet to start in Xavi’s three games in charge, which seems quite telling, and may not last much longer at the Camp Nou but despatched his penalty confidently which should help him.