Lionel Messi’s La Liga start lasted only until half-time but Barcelona were still able to see off Villarreal with a 2-1 victory at Camp Nou on Tuesday night.
The Argentine set up the opener for Antoine Griezmann with a corner in the sixth minute before Arthur doubled the advantage with a fine strike 10 minutes later.
Santi Cazorla produced a stunning effort of his own just before the break but the Catalans were able to hold on for the three points in the second half.
ARTHUR PENS COMPELLING ARGUMENT
Given the high-profile arrival of midfield prodigy Frenkie de Jong, that he would automatically be handed a starting berth makes perfect sense. Why that cost Arthur his place in the line up though remains a mystery.
The Brazilian was exceptional in his first season at Camp Nou last term, even drawing comparisons to Xavi, but found himself riding the bench once the current campaign kicked off.
Having afforded his first league start this season at home to Villarreal, Arthur proceeded to make Ernesto Valverde look a bit silly for limiting his playing time. The playmaker was tidy with his passing and took up the right positions in possession.
He capped a convincing display with a spectacular strike for Barca’s second, doubling his tally for the season. Now, if only Valverde would start with both Arthur and De Jong more often instead of persisting with an utterly vanilla option in Sergi Roberto.
SUAREZ A SHADOW OF HIS FORMER SELF
One of the running themes of Barcelona’s season so far has been the form of an overweight Luis Suarez. Even the most dedicated Barca fan can’t help but wince at the sight of the Uruguayan’s name in the starting line-up.
The former Liverpool star has been in decline over the past couple of seasons but looks totally off the pace this term. Not only does he make for a tame threat in the final third but he’s starting to be a liability as he squanders the limited chances his side are creating at the moment and fails to press from the front with any sort of intensity that would put the opposition under pressure.
Ousmane Dembele worked an opening quite brilliantly early in the second half but Suarez’s scuffed effort from the Frenchman’s square ball rolled harmlessly into the keeper’s hands. De Jong played him through but a heavy touch from the striker meant another chance went begging.
At some point Valverde has to be brave enough to drop the sluggish forward and perhaps deploy Griezmann up front.
Suárez 🆚 Villarreal— Ⓐ (@Barzaboy) September 24, 2019
Accurate passes 22 (78%)
Shots on target 1
Successful dribbles 1
Possession lost 14 💥
Key passes 1
Duels (won) 8 (3) pic.twitter.com/A9nbW6AYTR
Injuries saw Cazorla’s Arsenal career fizzle out but he was an elite midfielder in his prime and at Villarreal he’s starting to get back to his best.
The Spaniard scored his second goal in as many games to mark a special occasion as he reached 300 appearances for the Yellow Submarine.
His return to top level football is an inspiring tale having spent 636 days on the sidelines at Arsenal and being told walking normally again would be a success.
With goals against Real Madrid and Barcelona this season, following on from his impressive campaign last term, it’s no wonder he’s been recalled to the national team.
He was typically elegant in possession at Camp Nou and produced a stunning strike to halve the deficit. What a player.
34-year-old Santi Cazorla still has plenty of magic in his boots with a brilliant strike vs. Barcelona!— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) September 24, 2019
We'll never forget his magical Villarreal unveiling 🔮
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