Football Features

“Luis Suárez is gonna go down swinging” – Winners and Losers as nine-man Barca smash Sevilla

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 22:29, 6 October 2019

In an exciting night at the Camp Nou, nine-man Barcelona smashed Sevilla 4-0.

The result was one-sided but the match was anything but. What did we learn?

Winner: Luis Suárez

Luis Suárez has scored six goals this season and with the exception of his strike against Granada he’s taken maybe a total of 10-15 steps in the process of scoring those goals. Suárez was once the best striker in the world and that’s a title he can retain if he’s not asked to do anything but score goals, because the Uruguayan can’t really run anymore, and his passing has suffered too, but when it comes to shooting? Forget about it.

Suárez is still lights out with the shot.

Against Sevilla for 25 minutes it seemed like Barça were waiting and praying for him to score an absolute worldie, and with 27 minutes gone that’s exactly what he did. Nelson Semedo dinked a cross in perfectly and Suárez, improbably, impossibly, whipped his body around and smashed the ball into the back of the net with an overhead kick.

After that he floundered around doing a couple of half-decent things for the rest of the match but never looked like he’d be part of any game-changing attack for Barcelona. But that didn’t matter, because his goal completely changed the game. It gave Barcelona a lead they didn’t deserve and completely sucked the life out of Sevilla.

That’s why Suárez is still around at Barcelona even if the side would be more cohesive with, say, Antoine Griezmann playing no. 9; Suárez is still there because there’s very few players on the planet that can pull a world-class finish out of absolutely nothing quite like he can. The last thing a boxer loses is his punch, and you can be absolutely sure that Suárez is gonna go down swinging.

Loser: Luuk de Jong

Luuk de Jong had a really strange night at the Camp Nou. In terms of movement, use of the ball, link-play – you’d be hard-pressed to argue that he wasn’t the best striker on the night. De Jong’s movement in particular was sublime; the Barça defenders couldn’t keep track of him (especially the young Jean-Clair Todibo) and he kept popping up for goalscoring opportunities.

The thing is, he kept on missing them. No one had more shots than De Jong’s five, yet only one of them actually hit the target. These included some staggering misses from close range that, had he managed to find the target, would surely have left Marc-André Ter Stegen helpless (the German pulled off a great save to deny De Jong just minutes into the game, thereafter he wasn’t troubled).

De Jong lasted 65 minutes before being withdrawn for Chicharito. He has still yet to score for his new club, and on the evidence of tonight that scoreless streak will probably continue.

Winner: Ernesto Valverde

Ernesto Valverde gambled that the siege system he deployed to claw back Inter in the Champions League would work from the start in La Liga against Sevilla. It did not, at all, and Sevilla should have been three up within 25 minutes. The Andalucians were playing the better football and looked more cohesive than the Blaugrana who, without the inherent drama and focusing power of a Champions League comeback, were stuttering all over the place.

But then Suárez, arguably the best player on the pitch up to that point, scored. Then Arturo Vidal, who was also playing poorly, doubled that lead. Then Ousmane Dembélé, who Valverde selected over Griezmann, made it three. Suddenly Barça were dripping with confidence and Suárez, Vidal and even Nelson Semedo began playing well. The second half in particular saw the Blaugrana really look sharp and full of ideas as Sevilla tired.

This was a huge gamble for Valverde, but it’s a gamble that paid off. Has he found a magical formula to play well? Not really, but he picked up a huge win to move back to within two points of league leaders Real Madrid despite his Barcelona starting the season as poorly as anyone ever has. He’s got 12 unique goalscorers on the campaign so far and hasn’t overly relied on, or even had available for selection, the best player in the world Leo Messi. That’s impressive from Valverde, however you slice it.

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Loser: Antoine Griezmann

Through no fault of his own, Griezmann has had a rough start to his Barcelona career. Truth is, when played as a no. 9 he’s actually done a really good job. He looks mobile, bright, and able to score goals. Of course he’s barely played as a no. 9, spending most of his time playing at left-wing. And that’s not a mobile, goalscoring left-winger as he was for Real Sociedad. No, Griezmann has been playing orthodox left-wing like he’s Dembélé or something.

Naturally, Griezmann has struggled in this role. He’s not blisteringly quick enough to just thrive in whatever role he’s put in and all his movement and interplay means he offers fantastic defensive balance on the left but could contribute almost nothing to attack. So he was dropped for today’s game, and in his absence to two men who played in his positions (Suárez and Dembélé) both scored. And even though Barcelona weren’t at their free-flowing best during the game (in part part Griezmann was absent) the goals will make it so that when people are drawing up their best Barcelona XIs, Griezmann won’t be in it.

Winner: Ousmane Dembélé

With Dembélé injured for the start of the season, 16-year-old Ansu Fati stole headlines with his heroics in attack for the Blaugrana. Ansu is a blazingly quick winger who offers much of the thrust Dembélé does whilst also being much more in-tune with the Barcelona system (having been raised in La Masia all his life).

Dembélé was never going to be happy with that, and with Ansu out injured Dembélé got the start today against Sevilla and he absolutely ripped Sevilla to bits almost every time he touched the ball. Whether he was blitzing them for sheer pace or dancing around them with supreme skill, Dembélé was on a different level tonight. He bagged Barcelona’s third goal of the night with a deft and daring strike, and almost doubled that tally later in the second half.

Loser: Ousmane Dembélé

Of course Dembélé being Dembélé couldn’t just go and have a great performance. He had to temper it with some nonsense. So first, yes, he could have doubled his tally but after a nice bit of off-the-ball movement he mishit his shot so badly that he launched the ball into the stratosphere. Not satisfied with that nonsense, he then really capped his night off by getting a second yellow card for dissent right at the death, reducing Barcelona to nine men (they had been sent down to 10 just seconds before when Ronald Araujo was cruelly sent off).

That means the Frenchman will be suspended for Eibar away, and as he’s out of the French national team squad that means with the international break he now won’t play another game of football until 23 October, over two weeks from now, when the Blaugrana travel to Prague to play Slavia just days before El Clásico.

23 days without football is a long, long time for a player who constantly faces criticism about his ability to look after himself. Will he make it to Prague healthy? Place your bets!

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