In a game that we tied with clearly mixed feelings all around, I thought there were many positives with largely future implications. Let's get into it!
I loved seeing some different faces in there. I clearly would have liked to see Nelson Semedo get some time as well as Denis Suarez, however, I wasn’t upset at Paco getting a chance. Lucas Digne at CB was a big surprise, especially with Yerry Mina getting his first start, but we did with what we had. I sometimes like these game, seeing some of our other players get chances does make me happy.
This was also another opportunity to see how Coutinho was settling into the squad.
While Yerry Mina obviously grabbed all the headlines (next…), I honestly thought Digne was an unsung hero this game. He handled himself very well in the CB position, he was in the right position when he needed to be and, used his speed to close ground very nicely. He's clearly not winning any headers, but I very much believe had Mina not put in such a headline-stealing performance, Digne would have been a talking point. It's great to see that if we needed, we can count on him.
Yerry Mina Man of the Match
Man of the match for a lot of people, myself included. I think defensively he is a stout player. He is strong, aware, and can make up ground. It is early but I was very much impressed with his lack of crucial fouls, you would think a man of his size would have gotten at least one.
Where I was most impressed however was with his confidence going forward. Yes, he made some bad passes, tried to force a couple to Paco (Digne covered). However, I saw those passes and thought, wow he is daring. They were accurate (ish), in that they would have gotten there had they not been forced passes. He is also clearly going to be a threat on set pieces, a new dimension to our game that opponents are not used to.
His willingness to put a pass forward reminded me of Umtiti (who is clearly more accurate). I look to a future where the two of them are running the Barca defense and I think they will make a dominant dominant pair.
His was a weird performance for me. Honestly, I felt he was missing for large parts of his time on the field. Apart from the two attempts, I didn't see him control the game like Don Andres does in that same position. Something was clearly off with him in the midfield to start. I'm not saying he's not a good player at all, I am just saying he clearly needs more time. We had all the elements needed to be successful, Jordi and Sergi on the wings, Messi and Suarez up top, Rakitic and Busi in the middle, I do not know what explains his lack of impact.
Coutinho's lack of impact was contrasted by Iniesta's immense impact on the game. When he got on, things calmed down in our midfield. We got more possession and started spreading the ball wide more. I recall saying a couple of weeks ago that the master is still teaching, and this week my question was: is the difference really that large between Iniesta and his eventual replacement?
Only time will tell, we know Coutinho has the ability, maybe Iniesta starts and Coutinho comes off the bench? Either way, I am glad we have Don Andres until the end of time!
Dembele is Back!...kinda
Reading people's reaction to this young man's return was the most confusing part of the week or me. Mostly everyone was no negative like he had been the reason we tied this game the whole time?
First off, yes let's acknowledge that he hit some bad passes. Let's acknowledge he tripped over his own feet a couple of times. But let's also acknowledge that he had a positive impact, ran at defenders, and hit dangerous balls in. He did more than Paco and Coutinho, not that this is a competition between the two. He almost had an assist and overall added danger to that right side.
I think the real issue with his performance was that he's finally listening to the doctors and the older people around him. I saw a young man coming off his second injury to a physical game, not sure of how hard to push himself. After his last injury, he came on and re-injured himself not because someone hit him, or he fell wrong, but because he pushed himself to the limit. You never do that after an injury, that's the best way to get injured. I was glad he had some level of an impact even though he was clearly not going 100%. I'd much rather that than him scoring 2 goals, making an assist or 2 and us losing him for another 2 months.
Get off his back, give him time to get back to full fitness. If you watched the Celta game at all (the game he got re-injured) you will know that when this kid is fully fit, he will be a force for this team with uncapped potential.
We could afford to tie this game. It's not the end of the world. We gave some game time to players who needed it and we got to see some future talents shine. It was a net positive for me this one. Looking forward to seeing the next! As always Forca Barca!