F.C. Barcelona lost its first game of the season yesterday at Camp Nou to an unlikely opponent, Deportivo Alavés, who are ninth in La Liga after a ten year hiatus from the top league in Spanish soccer.
F.C. Barcelona were not playing with their usual starting XI, head coach Luis Enrique decided to give several regular first team players a break following the international break.
Following the loss Enrique took blame for the loss but also made a good point during his post game press conference.
“It’s an ugly result for us against a great opponent, who we have to praise because they were organized. They had conceded just one goal in their first two matches. As a positive thought it’s time we remembered all the titles this team has won over the last few years,” said Enrique during his post game press conference.
“Everybody thinks about us winning everything again, but the reality is not like that. Football is a difficult sport and it’s time everybody appreciates that,” said Enrique. “We will keep going and improving and we will go for titles, but it’s worth thinking about all the things this team has done for all these years.”
The loss is by no means good no matter how you look at it, but being the start of the season and placings not really relevant until the end of the year, it’s nothing to make a mountain out of a mole hill of.
One thing is clear, the defense is shaky. There is of course, taking into account the resting of the first team players, especially on defense. Javier Mascherano was the only first team starter on defense as Jordi Alba and Gerard Piqué were among the players given a break by Enrique and he paid for it with the first loss of the season
Mascherano was out of sorts and Aleix Vidal, who got the start at the right fullback was consistently beaten. Although the fact that it is the beginning of the season is important, it’s not an excuse for bad defense.
The team made a lot of signings this offseason bringing in a couple new defenders to shore up an already shaky defense from last season that is replacing Dani Alves and looking for more depth consistency.
Enrique made a point of saying he has 22 players on the team, not just the starting XI. All of the players, especially at a top level team like F.C. Barcelona, need to be able to contribute when called upon.
The other takeaway tied into all of the team needing to be able to contribute comes on the other end of the pitch.
The only goal that F.C. Barcelona managed to score was off of a beautiful header by Jérémy Mathieu on a corner. The goal was great, but if the only player that scored in 90 minutes of play was a center back, regardless of when the likes of Andrés Iniesta, Lionel Messi and Luis Suárez came on to the field, that’s an issue.
The bright side is that Paco Alcácer, one of their offseason signings from Valencia to give one of the dubbed “MSN” trio a break every once in a while, is getting time to get that on field chemistry with his new teammates. Practice can only do so much, real game time experience is the best way to have a player adapt to a new system and teammates.
Another positive, or negative depending on how you see it, of the loss was the starting of Jasper Cillessen in the place of the injured Marc-André ter Stergen. Cilliessen let in two goals that he didn’t have a chance of stopping, but that could attributed it to a lack of help from his defense.
In any case it’s another example of Alcácer, Cillessen won’t get a ton of starts now that ter Stergen has claimed the starting job from Claudio Bravo, but any playing time in La Liga will be good for whenever else he will have to see minutes this season. Every bit of game speed experience helps.