Barcelona player ratings: Ansu Fati leads Koeman's revolution
Ansu Fati was in irresistible form alongside Leo Messi and Jordi Alba while Coutinho and Griezmann appeared comfortable in the new system.
Ronald Koeman’s Barcelona tenure got off to a winning start against Villarreal on Sunday with Ansu Fati, Leo Messi and a Pau Torres own goal handing the Dutchman a comfortable 4-0 victory at Camp Nou to get the new campaign underway. Here we take a look at how his players performed.
Neto: The Brazilian keeper could hardly have asked for a softer start to the season. Forced into the occasional intervention on the deck, he barely had a save to make until the 88th minute when Take Kubo hit the target from the inside the area.
Sergi Roberto: Never as offensive as Jordi Alba on the left wing, Roberto’s main job in this new Barça system is to run himself into the floor and let his more creative teammates do their thing. However, the imminent arrival of Sergiño Dest may see the workaholic right back relegated to the bench for the time being as Koeman seeks a better balance on both flanks.
Gerard Piqué: Unruffled throughout by what little Villarreal mustered in attack, Piqué kept Gerard Moreno comfortably under wraps and was never troubled by the Spain forward. Quick to cover gaps at the back and expertly reading the game, Piqué was head and shoulders above the Villarreal attack. He seems to have quickly shaken off the 8-2 thrashing by Bayern Munich.
Clément Lenglet: An excellent game from the Frenchman, especially in terms of bringing the ball out from the back. He was also the instigator of both of Ansu’s goals with balls from deep and made several key interceptions. When playing at this level, Koeman has his central defensive partnership shored up for the season.
Jordi Alba: It has been a while since Alba has put on a display this dynamic, charging up and down his flank and linking well with Messi. The Barça left destroyed the Villarreal right with Ansu and Alba running amok with their burgeoning understanding. He teed up his young teammate for the first and almost bagged one himself, drawing a cracking save from Sergio Asenjo with a close-range shot.
Sergio Busquets: Busquets grew into the game after a dreadful start that included five stray passes under no pressure that suggested he was not comfortable at all in the new system. After the break he seemed to settle and was much more assured in midfield as Villarreal strengthened their own with a couple of substitutions to try and counter Barça’s attacking threat.
Frenkie De Jong: The Netherlands international has been one of the main beneficiaries of the arrival of his compatriot and he had a complete game in Camp Nou. Playing at the base of a 4-2-3-1 with the cover afforded by Busquets has given him renewed confidence to take the ball forward and look for those visionary passes that characterized his emergence at Ajax.
Philippe Coutinho: The Brazilian’s return to the side could not have been much more encouraging. Koeman has found a place for Coutinho where he is able to play his natural game and us his versatility and vision to link up the attack. He has the talent to conduct the ball and as he gains the confidence to do so his understanding with Messi and Ansu, for whom he provided an assist, could have a significant impact on Barcelona’s season.
Leo Messi: Messi started out a little disconnected and played no part in the opening two goals but soon enough he was back to his old self and struck up a promising association with Ansu and Coutinho. He was on the score sheet from the spot, even if it wasn’t the best penalty he’s ever hit, and he provoked the fourth with a wicked cross that Pau Torres could only turn into his own net.
Ansu Fati: The youngster seems set to become a star and has been immediately incorporated into Koeman’s starting XI, from where he will be difficult to remove especially if Barcelona do not sign a replacement for Luis Suárez. Playing as a false nine, he scored the opening two goals, won the penalty for Messi to convert and cemented his place as an integral part of Koeman’s new Barcelona vision.
Antoine Griezmann: The Frenchman was not as much of a threat in attack as his colleagues and his runs sometimes go unnoticed. He seems to be disconnected from the rest of the team and sometimes slows down play. He did put in a good defensive shift but if Koeman managed to sign Memphis Depay, his place in the starting XI will be in doubt.
Pedri: The youngster brings something different to the team and could be an interesting addition. He was dynamic in attack and always looking to release Messi.
Ousmane Dembéle: The return of the Frenchman gives Koeman another option but it is difficult to see where he fits into the starting XI.
Miralem Pjanic: A 13-minute cameo for his debut but he showed that he is a very experienced player and will have no problem fulfilling whatever role he is asked to perform.
Francisco Trincão: Almost scored on his Barcelona debut and showed enough courage to nutmeg Estupiñán in his first game for the club, giving a taste of things to come.
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