Sergi Roberto strikes back
Sergi Roberto has more than his fair share of critics but took over from Pedri on Sunday and needed just 99 seconds to open the scoring against Getafe. Incidentally, it’s the fastest goal Barca have scored under Ronald Koeman in the league.
That’s now two goals and an assist for Barca’s third captain in just 120 minutes of football since being restored to the midfield for the 2021-22 campaign by Koeman. Like it or not, it’s a strong start from Roberto after a dismal campaign last time out.
The 29-year-old does now seem Koeman’s first choice in midfield if any of the Dutchman’s favored trio drop out, although he’ll need to keep an eye out for youngsters Gavi and Nico Gonzalez who are also pushing hard for minutes.
Memphis already Barca’s talisman
Memphis Depay has only played three La Liga games for Barcelona but already seems to have become the club’s talisman following the departure of Lionel Messi.
He started off the season by setting up Barca’s first goal of the new campaign, followed that up with a brilliant equalizer against San Mames and scored another fine winner against Getafe.
Memphis also played the role of chief cheerleader, trying to whip up the crowd at the Camp Nou after his goal had restored Barca’s lead. There’s no doubt supporters have taken to Memphis straightaway and he’s in dreamland after an explosive start to life with the Catalan giants.
Memphis said afterwards, “Not even in my wildest dreams could I imagine my name being chanted at Camp Nou.”
We’re only three games in but Memphis is already staking a claim to be one of the signings of the summer in La Liga.
Barca defense still a soft touch
While Memphis is keeping Barca’s attack firing there are continuing problems further back with the Catalans giants still a soft touch and without a clean sheet after their first three matches.
Koeman had to make changes to his backline with Eric Garcia suspended and Gerard Pique out injured, but once again the defense looked shaky and Sandro Ramirez was allowed to score far too easily.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen was back in goal but seemed poorly positioned for the equalizer, Sergio Busquets was also caught out, while Clement Lenglet still looks like an accident waiting to happen at center-back.
Koeman’s frustration with his defenders was also spotted during a water break in the first half. He was overhead telling his players about Sandro’s goal, “You have to stop that move, three or four players, make a foul if you have to.”
Emerson or Sergino Dest?
Sunday’s match saw Emerson Royal handed his full debut for Barcelona with the Brazilian given a chance to stake a claim for a starting spot ahead of Sergino Dest.
It was a decent performance from the former Real Betis man, with the highlight being a challenge that prevented what looked set to be a certain goal from Carles Alena.
Yet he’ll need to step up defensively if he is to be a regular and also offer a little more going forward. Dest replaced Emerson in the second half and teed up Memphis for what should have been another goal.
There’s been speculation that Tottenham will push for Emerson before the window closes even though the Brazilian seems determined to stay. If he does continue at the club then competition with Dest should hopefully bring out the best in both players.
Gavi and Nico offer hope
There’s no doubt that Sunday’s match was uninspiring fare from Koeman and his team but the one big positive was the arrival of Gavi and Nico Gonzalez late on. Gavi only turned 17 a little over three weeks ago and is the fourth youngest player to debut for the Catalans in La Liga.
• 17-year old Gavi made his debut vs Getafe showing glimpses of his talent.— Barça Buzz (@Barca_Buzz) August 30, 2021
• He completed 12 passes (1 long), won 2 fouls & recovered 3 balls showing his defensive involvement.
• He lost possession at times which will surely improve with time.#FCB
Via: @mundodeportivo pic.twitter.com/eXKaDZeNZg
It was a bright cameo too from the teenager which drew praise from Koeman and his opposite number after the match. Michel told reporters, “Gavi’s entry into the game was very important for Barcelona, they slowed down the pace of the game.”
Koeman was also happy with the youngster, and deserves credit for trusting the two midfielders late on. He said, “They’ve been training with us and have been showing their quality. They came on in a tricky game and that was very important for them to get the confidence and for me. I have no doubt about the young players that we have. They are going to be really good players.”
In fact the only bad news seems to be that Gavi and Nico have now jumped ahead of Riqui Puig in the pecking order at the Camp Nou. Puig still hasn’t played a single minute in 2021-22 and that situation does not look like changing any time soon.