Football Features

‘Symbolism of losing your soul’ – Five things learned from Osasuna 2-2 Barcelona

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 18:39, 31 August 2019

After an end-to-end contest in the sun, Barcelona and Osasuna played out a 2-2 draw.

Osasuna took the lead but Barcelona came from behind to romp into a second half lead before a late penalty levelled things up. What did we learn?

1. Ansu Fati is the real deal

16-years-old. Ansu Fati came off the bench with the score at 1-0. Barcelona weren’t blooding a youngster when a home game was dead like they did last week against Betis. This was them bringing a kid on to save their side when they were 1-0 down away to a brutal side. Osasuna hadn’t even conceded a goal at home since April, yet they asked Ansu Fati to break that streak.

Well, that’s exactly what he did. The teenager marked his second ever appearance for Barcelona with a superbly guided header, levering the ball into the back of the net like he was a seasoned veteran, not an unproven youngster. He then proceeded to play superbly for the rest of the game too, showing that he is definitely able to handle himself at this level of football. And given his age that is absolutely ridiculous.

With Ousmane Dembélé out injured, could this be the start of Ansu Fati’s early awakening as a senior Barcelona player? On the evidence of this afternoon’s football it absolutely could. Ansu Fati is the real deal.

2. Arthur Arrives

Amid all the hype over Frenkie de Jong and the rapturous praise of Riqui Puig in pre-season, everyone seemed to forget that Arthur even played for Barcelona. The Brazilian was a revelation last season, his first in Europe, and his absence for the first 75 minutes at Anfield is a big, big reason why Barcelona were dumped out of the Champions League last season. He missed the opening weeks of the season because of an extended holiday after a successful summer winning the Copa América with Brazil.

But today, after Ansu’s incredible equaliser, Ernesto Valverde acted decisively and brought Arthur off the bench for Rafinha. Instantly Barcelona were transformed, the ball moved with more zip and purpose than it had prior to the Brazilian’s introduction. Frenkie de Jong looked more comfortable on the right side of midfield and suddenly he and Sergio Busquets had a midfielder on their level to link with. And after playing a poor restricted role last season he showed what he can offer further forward when he scored the go-ahead goal with a delightful bodyswerve and curled finish.

3. Fortress El Sadar falters

Osasuna came into this game having kept a clean sheet in their opening home game of the season. That is impressive enough for a promoted side, but it’s only tip of the iceberg. Osasuna came into today’s game having kept five straight clean sheets, in fact they had conceded just twice at home in 2019, the last time being April.

In fact, before the game against Barcelona they had won 17 games in a row in Pamplona. Seventeen! They hadn’t lost at home since 12th September 2018 – and they still haven’t. Thanks to Roberto Torres’ late penalty they retain their undefeated streak even if they have finally conceded multiple goals in one home game since March 2018. Their record at home is ridiculous and it could see them trouble any side in La Liga.

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4. Barcelona have defensive issues

Barcelona have conceded five goals in three games so far this season. Even if they had won all of those games (instead of just one) that wouldn’t be good enough. And alright three of those goals were absolute worldies that probably wouldn’t happen again if the goalscorers tried again 100 times, but in each instance the scorer was unmarked. You can’t legislate for bangers but you can make it difficult.

So whilst one could point to the absurd lack of involvement for Antoine Griezmann, or the fact that they had 0 shots in the first half, as an example that Barcelona’s problems are in attack – one has to remember that it is an attack missing its key piece in Leo Messi. In defence there is nominally everyone you’d want available yet they still look all at sea. Gerard Piqué has been the best but has made a handful of mistakes as he stretches himself too thin (such as conceding today’s penalty), Jordi Alba has played well too but will always leave spaces.

Nelson Semedo had a solid start but struggled today and got hooked at half-time. The Portuguese can have these games where he looks so utterly lost, and the only way for those to stop is for him to, y’know, not get subbed off at half-time every time he struggles. And then there’s Clement Lenglet, who produced a fine season last year to help prevent disaster in the wake of Samuel Umtiti’s injury – but he’s no more than fine and teams are starting to figure him out. He is vulnerable to pace and is a poor compliment for Gerard Piqué, today he was dropped to the turf by Brandon for Osasuna’s first goal and nowhere to be seen, forcing Piqué’s desperate intervention that led to the second goal.

5. Symbolism of losing your soul

Barcelona have spent most of this summer transfer window pursuing a massive transfer deal for Neymar. It seems like they’re only doing it because they can, as signing a 27-year-old whose foot explodes after his birthday every February seems like a really needless risk for a side that clearly has enough money to, oh, let’s say, sign Mikel Oyarzabal from Real Sociedad if they want to replace Ousmane Dembélé. But then it fits the fact that Barcelona have been accused (mostly by their own fans) of losing their soul.

Anyway, so whilst this weird deal for Neymar rumbles on into the last days of the window, Barcelona are missing players in attack thanks to Leo Messi’s injury. So 21-year-old Carles Perez has found himself starting for the side despite an uneven pre-season. That wasn’t enough against Osasuna, however, so the club turned to 16-year-old Ansu Fati.

Ansu scored the equaliser but who was it that crossed the ball to him? Carles Perez. And when Arthur gave Barcelona the lead, who was it that fed it smartly to the Brazilian? Carles Perez. Whilst the club is trying to put together a financially repugnant package for Neymar the famed La Masia youth academy is quietly still producing players that can and do score goals and secure Barcelona points.

What even is symbolism?

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