Football Features

“Ansu Fati is the truth” – Winners and Losers as 10-man Barcelona crush Celta in the rain

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 22:59, 1 October 2020 | Updated: 9:47, 30 March 2021

After a stormy night of football, 10-man Barcelona beat Celta Vigo 0-3 at Balaidos.

The win gives Barcelona a solid two wins out of two and also their first victory away to Celta for six years. Who were the winners and losers?

Winner: Ansu Fati

After a show-stopping performance against Villarreal, Ansu Fati showed us why his stratospheric rise isn’t going to stop any time soon. A brace at home against a pliable Villarreal is one thing, but to repeat that against hard-battling Celta away from home in the wind and rain? That’s very impressive.

And Ansu Fati is nothing if not very impressive. This time his moment came after just 11 minutes when he received a pass from Coutinho and moved his body so that he could take one touch with his left foot to burst away from his marker and then smash the ball in at the near-post with the outside of his right foot. It was in before the goalie could even react.

It was an absolutely majestic goal that had Ansu looking like some mad combination of Samuel Eto’o, Romario and Luis Suárez. And when you’re reminding people of three of the four greatest strikers in Barcelona’s history, you must be doing something right.

The rest of his performance was superb (including a team-high 4 take-ons completed) but the ruthlessness with which this 17-year-old took his goal was incredible. They didn’t give him the number 9 shirt because they’ve probably got bigger things in mind for him. Ansu Fati is the truth and he seems destined to lead Barcelona from the front for many, many years.

Loser: Clement Lenglet

Clement Lenglet has fast established himself as a top quality centre-back since joining Barcelona and his passing from the back was crucial to Barcelona’s opening win against Villarreal. He’s obviously a quality defender, but tonight at Balaidos he had a rough night.

Obviously he’s never been a player blessed with pace, but he’s positionally intelligent enough to overcome that problem by always being in the right place. Not tonight, however. He was twice caught out by Celta’s pace and quick movement, once picking up a blatant yellow card and another time a very harsh second yellow as the referee adjudged that his raised arm was worth a second yellow.

It was a harsh decision and Lenglet can feel hard done by, but the biggest reason it makes him a loser is that in his stead Ronald Araujo came in and played well and the Uruguayan will likely keep his place for the weekend’s big clash against Sevilla as Lenglet serves a suspension. And Araujo has the one thing Lenglet doesn’t: pace. Pace that makes him a more complimentary partner for Gerard Piqué than the Frenchman, and thus a major threat to Lenglet’s role as a starter.

Winner: Coutinho

Coutinho was alright against Villarreal. He played well but it was nothing special. His performance against Sevilla, however? Very much something special. The Brazilian finally showed the kind of quality, flair and confidence in a Barcelona shirt that no one has since since 2018.

Passes, dribbles, drawing fouls and linking with team-mates… Coutinho was doing it all. His passing exchanges with Messi and his use of space were on a completely different level. For the first time in a long time Coutinho looked like he belonged. If he can keep this level of performance up, or get even better, then Barcelona will suddenly have a world-class player on their hands.

Loser: Antoine Griezmann

Someone had to come off when Lenglet got sent off, and that unfortunate soul was Antoine Griezmann. The Frenchman simply cannot catch a break right now. First he was promised a central role under Ronald Koeman, but then Leo Messi decided to stay at the club so Griezmann has once again been shunted to the wing. It’s not a defensive role as it was under Valverde, but defending is still what he does best in a Barcelona shirt because he’s playing out of position. Whenever he gets the ball you can just see his brain whirring away, thinking about what to do, rather than just doing it instinctively as everyone else manages to.

His heavy touch to kill a superb attack in the first-half summed him up almost as much as the fact that he didn’t even look surprised at being the one to get hauled off. You’d have thought his defensive work would have made him essential with 10 men on the field, but no, Barcelona arguably played more good football without Griezmann on the field, which is just horrendously damning.

Winner: Ronald Koeman

Two games, two wins, seven scored and none conceded. A first victory in Balaidos for six years despite playing over half the match with 10 men after a harsh red card. Project Koeman is going pretty well so far, despite the Dutch manager’s questionable choice of pre-season footwear and his rough treatment of Riqui Puig.

Despite an underwhelming pre-season, once the real football started Koeman’s side have upped the intensity and played with composure, class and confidence. After three seasons of (mostly successful) drudgery under Ernesto Valverde and Quique Setién, where it was stilted, disjointed and relying on the magic from Leo Messi, Luis Suárez or Ousmane Dembélé – things are bright and fun again. The team is playing cohesively, they are all pressing intensely and the ball is moving quickly.

There’s a long way to go, obviously, but so far so good for Ronald Koeman.

Winner: Frenkie de Jong

Perhaps the most emblematic symbol of Koeman’s Barcelona has been Frenkie de Jong. He struggled heavily in his debut season, misused by both of his managers, De Jong needed his manager to give him the kind of importance and focus his skill demands.

Koeman did that and the midfielder rewarded his compatriot and coach with a second spectacular performance, perhaps his best ever performance in a Barcelona shirt. The Dutchman regained possession a team-high 10 times and then used the ball so efficiently (completing 92.6% of his 54 passes).

But he didn’t just sit at the base, with Busquets anchoring Frenkie drove forward repeatedly, gliding through the lines of Celta’s defence and carrying the ball into advanced areas. At one point he produced a stunning outside of the foot cross for Antoine Griezmann only for the Frenchman to mess up the touch and deny him an assist.

But still, Frenkie de Jong was absolutely mesmeric against Celta and you expect there is much more to come from the Dutch midfielder who seems set on reminding everyone why he was regarded as one of the very best midfielders in the world before making his dream move to the Camp Nou.