Barcelona vs. Valladolid: 6 Things We Learned
After a successful Champions League excursion to Celtic in midweek, Tata Martino was looking to continue the feel-good factor with an unprecedented eighth win from the beginning of a La Liga season.
Juan Ignatio Martinez's struggling Valladolid side were looking to pick up a second win of the season to pull themselves away from the lower reaches of the table.
On paper, there looked to be only one outcome. Let's take a look at six things we learned from the 4-1 match.
It says much about how well Juan Ignacio Martinez’s tactics were employed that it took until the 51st minute for Barca to take the lead in this match.
Devoid of six regular starters through injury, the visitors provided more than a match for their more illustrious hosts until Xavi’s fine score.
Valladolid were brave and hunted down the Blaugrana in packs, allowing them little time to settle on the ball.
Their play was compact and tight, especially in the central midfield areas, and Xavi especially found making his trademark short crisp passes difficult.
Too Much Squad Rotation?
Given the result, you would be forgiven for saying that Martino got it exactly right again with his squad choices.
Yet, there's not a game that goes by now where the manager isn't tinkering.
His style is certainly refreshing and may well benefit the players toward the latter stages of the season, but is there a school of thought that a little too much rotation isn't good for the continued equilibrium of this team? That you should always play your best players until a game is put to bed?
Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta and Pedro Rodriguez were the fall guys from Saturday night's starting XI. Will they, and other senior players in this side, accept a "two games on, one game off" scenario?
Barca's fanbase certainly won't be complaining if results continue in such a positive manner.
Too Much Long Ball?
Martino had told us upon the commencement of his employment that he would change things up or down as necessary tactically and wouldn’t be held to a particular style.
Gerard Pique was one player to express his affirmation of the new managers outlook, per Football Espana.
However, the foundations of the Barca of recent years has been built around “tiki-taka” and the long ball game that we are seeing on a much more regular basis is anathema to all that Barcelona hold dear.
Barcelona supporters want to see their side caress the ball, not hoof it 40 yards. It could be argued that a lot of the aimless cross-field balls Saturday night gave Valladolid a perfect opportunity to counter-attack.
The Workaholic Alexis Sanchez
This was Alexis Sanchez’s best game in a Barca shirt for some while.
The Chilean worked his socks off, and his bullet of a first goal was a rich and appropriate reward for his industry.
Sanchez was all action, all game. It was like watching a whirling dervish.
Whilst much of Barca’s play is based upon pass and move football that is easy on the eye, there will always be a place for direct, quick and strong attacking play which Sanchez provided in abundance Saturday night.
He was very unselfish when passing to Neymar for Barca’s fourth, when in truth he should’ve taken the chance to wrap up a hat-trick for himself.
A gold-standard performance.
The High Ball into the Box
We have known about Barcelona’s Achilles' heel of susceptibility to the high ball into the box for some time now.
Despite this, the Blaugrana still suffer from it with alarming regularity, no matter how the defence is populated and with whom.
That Javi Guerra was able to guide the ball into the net under barely any pressure from a simple corner is symptomatic of Barca’s main, and very basic, flaw.
Adriano was easily outmuscled by Valladolid’s front man whilst Gerard Pique and Marc Bartra just stood there watching. It’s simply not good enough at this level.
Eight Wins in a Row
For the eighth time this season, three points were deposited in Barcelona's account.
Their record-breaking winning streak continues, and they are now within sight of Real Madrid's all-time record of nine wins on the spin, which they can conceivably beat with a win in El Clasico in a few weeks.
The consistency in all areas of the pitch is marked. Generally defensively sound, aesthetically pleasing in midfield and often devastating in the attacking third.
Time to raise a glass to Tata Martino's Barcelona vintage.