Barcelona reversed their fortunes from a 2-1 loss against Chelsea to defeat Vissel Kobe 2-0 as part of their pre-season preparations in Japan.
A beautiful brace from Carles Perez in the second half sealed the deal for the Catalan giants as they rallied to their first friendly win this summer.
Despite emerging victorious, the performance was lacklustre and raised more questions than it answered. The two games from the Rakuten Cup evidenced that there is a lot of work to be done as Ernesto Valverde builds his squad for the new season.
We take a look at some of the talking points from the friendly.
New signings fit like a glove
New signings Antoine Griezmann and Frenkie de Jong have seamlessly fitted into the current structure judging by their performances against Chelsea and Vissel Kobe.
The Frenchman was linking up very well with Nelson Semedo on the right and the Barcelona duo of Riqui Puig and Alex Collado on the left. He took the initiative of building up to the final pass in the absence of Lionel Messi and seemed like a natural being deployed in such a role.
De Jong – contrary to his role against Chelsea – was involved in progressive plays in the No6 position with Sergi Roberto and Monchu Rodriguez falling deep. The Dutchman staged yet another confident show that saw accurate passes, a couple of pin-point through balls and great link-up with his teammates.
Purposeless passing in the limelight again
The major aspect of Barcelona’s game that attracted Valverde a lot of flak was left unaddressed against Vissel Kobe.
The first half was witness to lengthy spells of meaningless possession and purposeless passing. Moments like these are responsible for removing the aesthetic aspect of the game and painting it dull.
The players focused on making plays rather than finishing them off and the lack of progressive play stood out.
In fact, Ivan Rakitic was the only player to come close to scoring and all his shots were taken from distance.
Semedo’s poor decision making when entering the final third halted several attacks and his form is a source of concern.
However, the Catalan side did well to undo this in the second half with De Jong, Malcom and Perez playing a major role.
‘B team’ players outperform seniors
There’s a certain normalcy in B team players outperforming senior players in pre-season games, especially at a club like Barcelona. The youngsters are fuelled by the desire to impress the coach and earn frequent call-ups throughout the season.
But this trend has seemingly reached great heights in recent times and the performance of Collado, Perez stood witness. The latter was dynamic in the first half and created some dangerous situations in the first half. He showed great link-up with Griezmann and Puig, especially in the final third.
Perez was Barcelona’s best player by a mile and both his goals were perfectly taken. With Philippe Coutinho yet to return from his vacation following Brazil’s Copa America triumph, the Spanish winger was allowed the number seven jersey. He went on to stage one of the best performances that the jersey has witnessed over the past season.
Puig had an average game considering his incredibly high standards but he has made a solid case for promotion through both the games in pre-season.
It’s high time Barcelona peered into their talented B team and refrain from blowing up the transfer market.
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