Having acquired the services of Ousmane Dembele, Paulinho and Philippe Coutinho, we can be sure that there wouldn’t be any issues related to squad depth. In fact, we have more than enough players in our locker room and we can divide them into two categories for a better understanding. One group who are itching to get playing time and prove their worth while the other is a group of players who are struggling to keep up with the expectations and quality of Barcelona.
To add more detail, let us look at how many players we have for each position:
Marc Andre Ter Stegen, Jasper Cillessen
Nelson Semedo, Sergi Roberto
Gerard Pique, Samuel Umtiti, Thomas Vermaelen, Yerry Mina & Javier Mascherano
Jordi Alba, Lucas Digne
Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitic, Paulinho, Philippe Coutinho, Andre Gomes, Denis Suarez & Rafinha,
Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Paco Alcacer,
Ousmane Dembele, Gerard Deulofeu, Aleix Vidal
P.S.- I have mentioned Vidal in attack only because Valverde played him in the front three and Sergi Roberto in defense. Definitely not my personal opinion of where they should play.
The squad count comes up to 25 players spread across the defense (9 players), midfield (8 players) and the attack (6 players). Having signed expensive players in order to give more depth, we would have a significant impact on not only our net spending but also our wage budget. So it is high time we start striking deals before we are financially strangled. Now since we have decided to make the squad thinner, the question who leaves and who stays?
Mascherano is bound to leave in a matter of few days as he has reportedly accepted an offer from China and this was the actual reason why we hurried the transfer of Yerry Mina in the current window. The original plan was to allow the Argentine defender to leave by the 2018 summer and then bring Yerry Mina in.
Deulofeu was given enough chances by Valverde and in all fairness, he has let himself down by not utilizing any of them. With the arrival of Coutinho, Deulofeu’s chances of going up the pecking order are looking bleaker as the Brazilian can also be deployed up front alongside Messi & Suarez.
Aleix Vidal clearly has been out of favour and it is safe to say that the Barcelona jersey is too much of a weight on his shoulders. He isn’t defensively sound to play right-back while he doesn’t have the flair going forward as well. The earlier he is allowed to leave the better is for both the club and his career.
If we take the case of Rafinha, his journey at the Camp Nou seems to have gone downhill owing to continuous injuries. In comparison to the other youngsters in our locker room, this is probably the best talent we have in terms of skill, trickery and attacking flair. Rafinha’s best run came under Lucho Enrique last season when he played an important role on the right flank in a 3-4-3 but after his knee surgery, it will be a herculean task for him to fight with the likes of Rakitic, Paulinho, Iniesta & Coutinho for a spot in midfield. As per reports, it is believed that we have accepted a 35 million bid from Inter Milan with a loan to buy option.
It would be a pleasure to have him back in case he has a good run on a loan spell in a top team. But if he gets back to his best, then the team loaning him would most probably exercise the buy option and we would be selling him either way. So a loan without a buy option would be an ideal situation for us to see if we can have him or sell him later on.
This is a tough call but I am going to go with Denis Suarez & Andre Gomes here. From what I have seen this season, there seems to be a pattern with the performances of these two players. As far as the league is concerned, Denis had about 384 minutes this season while Gomes had 339 minutes and the pattern is that both have been preferred for a certain type of game to be given a start. Denis has been preferred in the easier fixtures at home to provide rest to our first choice players and on the other hand, Gomes has been preferred in the tough away games even if it means to have a regular starter on the bench.
But for the Villareal game away from home, this has been the trend with the two players. Gomes has been part of away games against Atletico Madrid, Athletic Bilbao, Real Sociedad & Celta de Vigo (Copa del Rey). Without a doubt, these are the toughest venues in Spain to go and compete. Thus, Gomes needs to be given some credit to have stepped up to the challenge. While Denis has also not played much this season, he has managed to put in decent performances whenever called for. The equalizer against Getafe after coming off the bench is an example.
So it would probably be wise to wait before taking a call on the two as they haven’t show enough promise to become a starter in the near future nor have they been bad enough to sell them without giving a second thought. Hence giving them more time (atleast till the summer) would allow us to assess their performance in the crucial part of the season as they would be needed for the games before and after difficult Champions League fixtures.
There is no doubts about this one, I would go for Jose Arnaiz & Carles Alena. I have been impressed by the sheer confidence that these two have exhibited in the limited chances they got with the first team. In case we are able to get rid of the players we want to sell then promoting these two would be a win-win situation simply because we would be investing in players who have more potential and time in them while more opportunities with the first team will give them the necessary exposure at an early stage of their career. Yes, they do get the occasional Copa del Rey matches in the initial stages of the tournament but promotion would mean that they can have La Liga exposure as well.