Barca sign off with defeat
Barcelona signed off what has been yet another chaotic campaign with a disappointing defeat to Villarreal. The hosts had nothing to play for, and it showed, while Villarreal did and took all three points to secure a Europa Conference League spot.
It’s a first ever win for Unai Emery at the Camp Nou and continues Barcelona’s unimpressive home form this season. The Camp Nou used to be a fortress but the Catalans have lost seven times in all competitions in front of their own supporters in 2021-22.
The overall record reads 13 wins, 5 draws and 7 defeats from 25 games in all competitions and is one of many things that needs to be rectified if Xavi’s side are to go on and win titles next season.
First halves have also been a problem in 2021-22, as Opta have highlighted.
4 - Barcelona find themselves trailing at the break for the fouth time in #LaLiga all season, their worst tally in a single season in the competition since 2003/04 (four too). Reset#FCB ❤ #barcelonavillarreal pic.twitter.com/OFELt9eCoJ— OptaJose (@OptaJose) May 22, 2022
Barcelona end the season in second place, a commendable achievement given the problems the club have encountered this year, on 73 points. Yet that’s still a massive 13 points behind Real Madrid and the club’s lowest league total for 14 years.
The future does still look bright under Xavi, particularly with his squad packed full of exciting young talent. However, a key summer now awaits the Catalan giants who have plenty of work to do if they are to seriously challenge next season.
What to do with Dani Alves?
Barcelona have plenty of big decisions to make on players now, including 39-year-old Dani Alves at right-back. The Brazilian has helped breathe life back into Barca since returning but there is no doubt the legs are going and he can’t be a guaranteed starter next season.
Alves spoke again about his desire to stay at Barcelona after the match but admitted he’s not sure yet if his second stint will be extended.
“I don’t know if it will be my last game. I live in the present,” he said. “My desire is to continue because I can keep helping the club, but it does not depend on me, I have aspirations and will keep fighting.”
There’s no doubt that Barca is a better place when Dani Alves is around and surely a spot can be found for him somewhere at the club. However, if the Brazilian is still determined to play regularly between now and the World Cup he may have to look for a new home.
Dembele’s last game for Barca?
Xavi left Ousmane Dembele on the bench for the second match in a row on Sunday night in what may well have been the Frenchman’s final competitive game for the Catalans after five injury-interrupted years at the Camp Nou.
The coach opted for Adama Traore (more on him later) instead and only turned to Dembele for the final 33 minutes at the Camp Nou. The Frenchman managed one shot off-target and several crosses in his brief time on the pitch in what was just his 150th outing.
Bizarrely, Barcelona congratulated Dembele on his achievement with a post on Twitter consisting of a cartoon of the Frenchman playing video games (a curious nod to previous claims about a lack of professionalism) and then rapidly deleted the post.
Dembele has 33 assists and 32 goals in those 150 games and ends the current campaign top of the assists charts in La Liga on 13, one more than Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema but in far fewer games.
The saga surrounding his future will now continue with the latest speculation suggesting he will leave on a free transfer when his contract expires next month and his most likely destination is Paris Saint-Germain.
Pedraza thrives at the Camp Nou
One player who certainly caught the eye on Sunday was Villarreal left-back Alfonso Pedraza who may just have impressed the hosts too. Pedraza’s already been linked with a Camp Nou move this season as the Catalans go in search of a new left-back.
The 26-year-old opened the scoring for the Yellow Submarine with a great run and finish past Marc-Andre ter Stegen on 41 minutes. Pedraza is certainly a man in form with three goals and an assist in his has last three outings.
Left-back looks to be one of Barca’s priorities this summer as the club try to find a player who can provide competition and back-up to 33-year-old Jordi Alba. Pedraza is one of a host of defenders who have been linked with a move, although Chelsea’s Marcos Alonso seems to be top of the list for now.
Sad end for Adama Traore
Barcelona are also expected to strengthen the attack with on-loan forwards Adama Traore and Luuk de Jong set to return to their parent clubs at the end of the season. Adama was handed a rare start on Sunday but endured a sad end to his spell back at the club.
The winger was frequently forced to cover for Alves at right-back and couldn’t stop Pedraza from scoring the first. Adama then inadvertently managed to gift the ball to Gomez for the second after initially doing well to get back and defend.
It was pretty much Adama’s last contribution in a Barcelona shirt as he was then substituted just before the hour mark. It’s very unlikely we’ll see him in a Barca shirt again with the club not expected to stump up the €30 million needed to activate the purchase option in his deal.
Adama’s move did raise a few eyebrows but his love for the club is obvious. He even started pretty well, with four assists in his first five games, before fizzling out and spending the final weeks of the campaign largely on the bench.