opinions | 2017-01-09
Player Ratings - La Liga Round 17 - Villarreal 1:1 Barcelona
A draw that makes La Liga's top like a distant dream
Marc-Andre ter Stegen (5.5): Barely challenged in the first half but saved what he was expected to. In the second half, it was more of the same. On the goal, I’m not sure he could’ve done much since the ball was so perfectly placed in the corner. Perhaps if being harsh, he shouldn’t have positioned himself so close to the post but talking from experience as a goalkeeper, those sort of shots are a nightmare to deal with.
Sergi Roberto (5.5): Took up good positions but his crosses and decision making should’ve been better, something we’re used to seeing at this point. He’s smart enough to know where and when to run but the end product when he gets the ball must be better. Defensively, he did well for the most part even though Soriano did cause him problems a couple of times in the first half. Here’s hoping he doesn't go down Alba's road from last season because it doesn’t seem likely Lucho will give Vidal a chance in the long run and this could easily slow down his growth.
Gerard Piqué (6): Started off a bit shaky after good pressing from Villarreal but he was comfortable on the ball under pressure for the most part today. Solid in the air and passed the ball well, including a few great long passes. He hardly did anything outstanding defensively, this is due to Villarreal defending deep for the most part and Barça controlling the game, but he did well when needed. Perhaps the only mistake came on Villarreal’s goal when he kept pulling away from Pato giving him more time to set up the goal.
Javier Mascherano (6): Not the best of games for him. His passing wasn’t a problem today but he was constantly losing 50-50 duels. Defensively he was hot and cold, had some shockers especially when getting closed down by a Villarreal player. Saved us a few times with some last ditch tackles. It was vintage Mascherano. Failed two tackles and they weren’t anything minor as on both occasions, Villarreal were 2v2 on our goal. Managed to win all his aerial duels which is really surprising since Villarreal players are far taller than him. On the whole, it was hot and cold match for the Argentine, some good and bad moments. He needs to find that consistency again that he had last season.
Lucas Digne (6.5): Played on a solid level. Got up the pitch a lot, though his final pass didn’t reach Suarez very often they were put into dangerous areas and still managed to create 2 chances. He made a last minute block after havok in the box to save a certain goal. Passed well and not looked shaky defensively. In the second half, he began to get a lot more free space on the left. Villarreal defended more narrowly and Neymar played more inside, this gave him a lot of time on the ball. Still he managed to misplace an easy pass which led to a Villarreal goal. I’ve noticed that he doesn’t seem to be too keen in tracking back quickly when he gets forward. He’ll need to improve this. Subbed off in the 71st minute for Arda. On the whole he played well, but his only mistake today was very costly.
Sergio Busquets (6): Once again started the game really well, Barça were trying to dominate and control the tempo from the first minute and he passed the ball well, always seemed to pick up the right pass early on in the game. Completed 95% of his passes. Later on in the game, he was careless on the ball a couple of times but luckily, Villarreal didn’t punish him. Defensively, he did well but Villarreal were sitting deep for the most part. His form seems to have improved over the last month or so, and here’s hoping he’ll continue getting better.
André Gomes (6): Started as a RCM today and he seemed to play closer to Busquets and Iniesta compared to Rakitić who usually plays near the the touchline. This did help Barça gain control in midfield and he passed the ball well but most of his passes were safe options and Villarreal rarely faced problems, sitting deep for the most part. Defensively, he did well to help Sergi on the right side when needed. Subbed off in a 68th minute. In my opinion, his best games in a Barça shirt so far have come in a CDM position and he is yet to fully adapt to a more advanced role.
Andres Iniesta (7): Much improved compared to the midweek game. Perhaps Villarreal’s less aggressive pressing had a part in this. Passing was solid today though expectedly his passing outside the Villarreal box was less precise as there was less space for him to play into. Regardless of this he managed to create 1/2 chances that we couldn’t put away. His efficiency in defending wasn’t as good but he did it so high up in the Villarreal half that it would’ve been hard to keep the ball nonetheless, he did win it quite a few times. Kept our play ticking, managed to complete most of his take ons. Normally, he looks to play to Messi when he gets the ball but today he used Neymar and Digne’s overlap a lot which did actually cause Villarreal problems. Nice to see that the game against Athletic was only a one off. He’ll be key for us if we are to come back and win the Liga. Let’s hope he can stay fit the rest of the season.
Lionel Messi (8): Once again the best player on the pitch, by some margin. His passing will probably go unnoticed, but he did really well to pass between the Villarreal’s midfield and defence lines but rarely got the ball back when he made the run, sadly. Didn’t seem to occupy the wing position today, played centrally for the most part. Created a lot for his teammates today but couldn’t get into clear cut chances himself, which was frustrating to watch. Hit the post with a wonderful shot from the edge of the box, very unlucky not to score there. Finally, when he did get a chance from a set piece, he took it brilliantly. Sublime free-kick to secure a point for Barça. Definitely deserves more for his performances so far this season, it’s a shame Barça is struggling as a team at the moment.
Luis Suárez (5): Couldn’t seem to do anything right today. Looked very isolated up front, and this has been the case for the last few months. Didn’t time his runs well and ended up being offside quite often which was frustrating to watch. Worked hard and pressed Villarreal’s back 4 as he usually does but never really got into clear cut chances. His performances have been very strange as of late, doesn’t look nearly as good as he did for the majority of 2016 and this will have to change in order for the team to compete for trophies at the end of the season.
Neymar (6): Rather hot and cold today. For parts he played wonderful, other parts it was 2016 all over again. It still baffles me how he missed an easy chance on goal as Messi played him through from a quick FK. Got the ball a lot and at times his dribbling was wonderful, going past 2/3 players but sometimes he got overconfident and constantly tried this rather than playing it simple. Lost possession over 12 times which shouldn’t be happening in a game of this importance. His defensive work was amazing, tracking back many times to help cover Digne, perhaps he could’ve tried to tackle Sansone on the goal but I’m sure it’d have been a penalty so he was wise not to. Managed to create a few chances but on the whole his final third passing lacked today. Needs to be quicker with his decision making, can hold the ball for too long which isn’t good at all. His 2017 performances have shown some good signs but he has a lot to do if he want to reach his 2015 form again.
Denis Suárez: Subbed on for Gomes in the last 25 minutes of the match. He passed the ball well for the most part and found himself in good positions to make a cross a few times, but nothing came out of it. Could’ve done better on one of Barça’s counter attacks near the end of the match when his pass wasn’t good enough and it helped Villarreal recover.
Arda Turan: Came on for Digne with 20 minutes left. The most notable contribution of his was putting a header wide when he was free, honestly you’d expect him to hit the target from where he was. In typical Arda fashion he managed to foul a player even though we had the ball for like 95% of the last 20 minutes. Passing was fine though he didn’t attempt much at all, I have no idea how he managed to create a chance on goal with so little of the ball. Let’s hope he improves because he contributed very little in 20 minutes of play.
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WRITTEN BY: Josip
23 years old, born in Split, Croatia. Football fanatic and a die-hard Barça fan. Currently studying tourism and communication.
WRITTEN BY: Sulaiman
Sulaiman is a Barcelona fan since 2005. He loves discussing anything related to the club. Sulaiman is currently studying Accounting and Finance and has a keen interest in Statistics.