After another domestic double, FC Barcelona are defending their La Liga and Copa Del Rey crown this season. This time around, they have their sights trained on the Champions League too after being knocked out in the quarterfinals in each of the last three seasons. And with some sharp acquisitions in the summer, the Blaugrana look a formidable side. Here, Fox Sports Asia gives our verdict on the performances of their four new signings so far.
1. ARTHUR MELO: 6/10
Signed from Brazilian outfit Gremio, Arthur was initially dubbed to succeed the legendary Andres Iniesta at the heart of the Barcelona midfield. And after his display against Real Madrid in the FIFA Club World Cup final for Gremio, expectations have risen. There was a feeling in Barcelona that the Catalans had signed a player with immense talent and some serious composure. He gave the fans even more reason to feel hyped about him when he scored on his debut against Tottenham Hotspur albeit in a friendly match.
But six games into the season, Arthur hasn’t quite lived up to the hype. Truth be told, he hasn’t had the opportunity to do so. He’s started just once for Barca in La Liga while three appearances came off the bench. This shows that in Valverde’s book, Ivan Rakitic and Philippe Coutinho are ahead of Arthur. For him to get close to the starting 11, Arthur would have to fend off two players who’ve been nothing short of brilliant in recent times. Therefore, barring any major injury setbacks for others and starts here and there; this might be a long season warming the bench for the 22-year-old.
2. ARTURO VIDAL: 5.5/10
Barcelona shocked the world when they bought Arturo Vidal from Bayern Munich. For just €30 million, Barca secured the services of one of the world’s best box-to-box midfielders. Their already stacked midfield looked even more dangerous. But the consensus among fans and pundit alike was that since Vidal and Sergio Busquets are of almost the same mould, the Chilean may have to compromise in terms of minutes on the pitch.
And that indeed has been the case. Of the six La Liga games, he’s started just one. In four, he came off the bench. In their Champions League opener, Vidal was subbed in again. But it’s the minutes that’s really worrying. Valverde has brought him on during the dying embers of the games, at around or after the 80th-minute mark. Therefore, it’s easy to understand why Vidal hasn’t been able to do anything significant. But this is a long season. Rotations and injuries are almost prerequisites. Therefore, we might be seeing more of him besides Ivan Rakitic and Busquets soon.
3. MALCOM: 5/10
Everything was set for Malcom to travel to Rome and sing for AS Roma during the transfer window. But in a most bizarre turn of events, he was signed up by Barcelona from the clutches of Roma. Not many could understand Barca’s desperation to get Malcom. He is a very good footballer. But with the already potent attack they possess, did they really need him? And now that he’s arrived, would he be getting ample opportunities?
The answer to both the questions is ‘No’. Malcom is yet to make a start for Barca. He has not even featured in five of them mainly due to injuries. But Malcom’s lack of first-team football is a worrying sign for the player. From being the main man at Bordeaux to a fringe role at Barca, the start of life in Catalonia hasn’t been easy for the Brazilian winger.
4. CLEMENT LENGLET: 4.5/10
The towering French centre-back was one of the best performers for Sevilla last season. Due to his composure and a string of consistent performances, Lenglet was one of the most sought-after names in the transfer window last summer. Barca won the race as they secured his services shelling out €36 million. With Gerard Pique and Samuel Umtiti all but sure-shot starters, Lenglet was signed mainly as a backup.
Lenglet has started just once this season. And unfortunately, he was sent off for an elbow on Girona’s Pere Pons. He hasn’t featured in four games. And in the remaining two, he came on as a substitute. Lenglet’s abilities are beyond question. But in a team where the defence is all but set, Lenglet has a massive task on his hands to perform consistently to challenge Pique or Umtiti. But as things stand, he’s set to play second fiddle in their defence.