Paulinho, Denis Suarez & Nelson Semedo deliver to give Barcelona options

The squad may not be as thin as first thought

After a chaotic summer that left Barcelona feeling relatively low going into the new campaign, it’s fair to stay the club have so far surpassed expectations.

Most notably Barcelona’s new additions have been in blistering form and have helped propel the team to an amazing start. Since the two losses to Real Madrid in the Supercopa de Espana, Barcelona have won six matches in a row, scoring 20 goals and conceding only three.

While there are several contributing factors for this start, none more important than Lionel Messi, the players surrounding the Argentine must be given credit as well.

The most controversial signing of the summer was of course Paulinho. But in addition to scoring the winner against Getafe, Paulinho started the game against Eibar yesterday and posted some impressive statistics – as shown by Squawka:

Paulinho’s towering header was reminiscent of a particular Carlos Puyol header and showcased something missing from the squad in previous seasons, a strong, physical presence.

In addition to his goal, Paulinho played several key passes freeing up players, and set up one of Messi’s goals. His little dummy in the build-up to Denis Suarez’s goal was also pretty special.

While two games against weaker competition such as Getafe and Eibar cannot be reason for too much excitement, if Paulinho continues this form, he will gain the trust of the fans, the manager, and will continue to help the team.

Nelson Semedo has also proven a stunning buy. Similar to Paulinho’s physical comparison with Carles Puyol, Semedo has displayed qualities similar to Dani Alves.

Once again the right-back position again has a marauding player capable of overlaps, key passes, and the necessary quality to make a true difference in games.

While somewhat overlooked, Semedo’s price tag in this delirious market may come to seem like the steal of the transfer window in a couple of years, similar to Ivan Rakitic’s from a couple of seasons ago.

And then there’s Suarez…the first name that comes to mind is Luis, but against Eibar, Denis made a wonderful case for additional minutes in the games to come. Of course he’s not a new signing but this is surely a crucial season for him if he is to have a future at the club.

While Luis Suarez has so far looked lost on the wings in the first few games, Denis opens up several avenues for this team.

Barcelona v Eibar - La Liga
Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

His passing so far has been superior to that of Luis, along with his movement on the wing. With two goals in two games, he seems to plug in naturally there, even though you suspect it’s not his favourite position.

And last, but certainly not least, we have Gerard Deulofeu. Picking up where Dembele left off, Deulofeu produced creativity and skill on the right wing. Yes he was dispossessed several times and yes he sometimes lacked the quality to deliver the final ball, but Deulofeu’s invention should not be underscored.

Hopefully, with more time and confidence, that creativity will be paired with the necessary skill, and Deulofeu can develop into the player we all once thought he could be.

Ultimately, while pundits, fans, and experts all considered Barcelona’s squad depleted and the transfer window a disaster, this group of players is so far proving everyone wrong.

If players on the fringe of the starting XI such as Denis and Paulinho can continue producing, Valverde will have a big selection headache, but one he probably won’t mind having at all.

In order for the team to compete for all trophies, competition for starting spots is a must; and so far in this young season… that competition seems to be prevalent throughout the entire squad. Visca Barca.

Why Barcelona must be careful with Lionel Messi

The World Cup is coming and the burden is growing

Lionel Messi has been the official conductor of the Barcelona orchestra since the great Ronaldinho was sold (or even before may argue) and again on Tuesday night against Juventus he demonstrated his brilliance.

During his time in the first team, Messi has now scored 515 goals and supplied 231 assists in 589 matches (via messi10stats). For his country, Argentina, Messi has scored 58 goals in 120 appearances.

This year though, Messi faces a daunting challenge that could affect his longevity both now and in the future; namely being the leader of both Barcelona and Argentina.

While considered the best player of our generation, and quite possibly of all time, this year poses a significantly more difficult challenge for the great Argentinian forward.

In Barcelona’s previous two treble-winning seasons, the greatness surrounding Messi was apparent: Carles Puyol, Gerard Pique, Andres Iniesta, Xavi, Dani Alves, Sergio Busquets, Neymar, and Luis Suarez to name just a few.

FC Barcelona v Rayo Vallecano de Madrid - La Liga
Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

However, while still surrounded by amazing talent, this year is shaping up to be different for Messi. Even when playing superbly and winning trophies, Messi always had the help of world-class players behind him.

With Xavi and Iniesta leading the golden years of Spanish football from 2008-2012, Messi had two midfield maestros that made life significantly easier.

When he scored 91 goals in 2012, some credit was given to the midfield at Barcelona for making it easier and the abundance of attacking talent in the Argentinian squad.

That season was also Pep Guardiola’s last year and the main criticism from that team was the beginning of Messidependencia an over-reliance on Messi and his genius.

Reinforcements were needed to ease this burden, which led to the purchases of both Neymar and Suarez. This year, without the consistent brilliance of Iniesta, Xavi, and even Neymar, the burden is on Messi again.

Not only is he expected to score goals, but also to set up play for Suarez, Dembele, and in general, the entire team in the final third. However, as seen during Guardiola’s final season, an over-reliance on Messi is detrimental to the entire squad.

FC Barcelona v RCD Espanyol  - Liga BBVA
Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

The total footballing system created by Johan Cruyff was not made to be orchestrated by one person, but instead to allow the best qualities of all players to be shown.

Relying on Messi’s magic each game can lead to a lack of invention for other position players and consequently lead to the double/triple teaming of Messi.

This sort of predicament leads to more challenges, minutes, and ultimately more frustration for Messi in the Barcelona team.

There are problems too for Messi with Argentina and this past international break is indicative of the problems he could face at Barcelona with over reliance.

In their World Cup qualifier against Venezuela that ended 1-1, Messi orchestrated every chance Argentina had.

There wasn’t a significant threat on the field other than Messi himself and Venezuela were able to focus their defensive strategy on containing the maestro, not the entire team.

Due to this, Argentina were only able to score once and lacked invention throughout the entire pitch except for the diminutive winger.

Brazil Global Tour - Brazil v Argentina
Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

In essence, Messi is facing a season where he has to be the lone focal point for both club and country. Even by his standards, that is daunting and something that can be exhausting.

It is up to both managers and especially Ernesto Valverde to realize that Messi, while still magical, also cannot take too large of a burden.

In order for him to be most effective in the latter stages of the year, when the games matter the most, Messi’s freshness is key.

Implementing tactics and strategy to relieve Messi of having all the burden in creating chances can better the chances of Barcelona competing in all three competitions to their culmination.

Barcelona run through Messi, if he’s going full speed and is well rested, so is Barcelona.

Ernesto Valverde has Barcelona & Messi hungry for success

The new coach has got off to a flawless start

Perhaps most of us were too quick to judge this summer. The loss of Neymar became synonymous with the squandered opportunity of staying competitive against Europe’s elite clubs.

Yesterday, we learned something about this Barcelona team, something that should excite fans and strike fear into opposing clubs. Yesterday it became clear that in addition to the quality possessed, this Barcelona squad also have the desire and motivation necessary for a triumphant campaign.

A large percentage of the successful start to the season must be given to the players, but praise must also be given to the new manager, Ernesto Valverde.

In terms of desire, it can be summed up in one particular moment during the Juventus game. Around the 85th minute of the game, Juventus left-back Alex Sandro picked up the ball with acres of space in front of him.

As he moved forward though, Barcelona’s maestro, Lionel Messi produced a lung-busting sprint to place pressure on Sandro and discontinued the Juventus move.

FC Barcelona v Juventus - UEFA Champions League
Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images

The score was 3-0 and the game was won. Messi could have simply stayed in his position and allowed Juventus a possible consolation goal, but the team’s mentality is different from the previous two years and that is down to Valverde.

Implementing tactics and ensuring match fitness of players are critical parts of being a successful manager. Valverde has proven capable of both these tasks so far into the season, but has also added a spark of motivation into the squad that hasn’t been seen since the treble winning season.

Barcelona so far this year has demonstrated that the high press is back, and back with a vengeance. Countless times the Juventus backline was forced to kick the ball away, including goalkeeper, Gianluigi Buffon.

The front three of Messi, Luis Suarez, and Ousmane Dembele were constantly pressing and supporting their full-backs when dispossessed. The midfield, including ageing wonder Iniesta were in non-stop sprints when Barcelona was without the ball.

FC Barcelona v Juventus - UEFA Champions League
Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images

It seems as though Valverde has reminded his team that while quality alone can win certain games, the correct attitude and determination allows the team to control every game.

Similar to the team’s first year under Luis Enrique, Barcelona have started the season angry, in the best sense of the word. Winning only a single trophy last year and seeing eternal rivals Real Madrid win the league and the Champions League ensured that the players entered the off-season with a bitter taste of defeat.

Neymar leaving for PSG only added to the bitterness. Instead of sulking though, this team is out to send a message. Avenging the Juventus defeat of last year is now checked off the list.

Moving forward, this team is poised to develop further due to becoming more comfortable with Valverde’s tactics, integrating new players such as Dembele and Semedo, and continuing to play with a collective chip on their shoulder.

FC Barcelona v Juventus - UEFA Champions League
Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

The entire squad deserve to be showered with praise for their performance against Juventus, but let us not forget about Valverde.

After a summer that many thought was disastrous, he has cultivated the players to not only show their quality, but their innate desire to be champions of the league and Europe.

If Valverde can continue to get the most out of his players in terms of effort, the quality will follow, and eventually… so will the trophies. Visca el Barca.

New signings can give Barcelona much-needed boost

Let’s get back to the actual football

Now that the transfer window has closed and the international break is over, Barcelona can get back to doing what they do best – namely playing football.

Saturday brings the visit of Espanyol to Camp Nou and also, hopefully, an eagerly-awaited debut for summer signing Ousmane Dembele.

It has been a difficult summer for many reasons, not least the departure of Neymar, but there are plenty of positives in the new players that have arrived at the club and the business that has been done.

Firstly, the club spent a total of €195.50 million (initially at least) on five players. While the money spent on Paulinho has been criticized largely due to his age, fans must recognize the fact that although he had a failed stint in the Premier League, his performances for the current Brazil squad have been impressive (as can be seen below thanks to Squawka).

He will need confidence and the fans can be extremely helpful in this, but he deserves a chance and let’s hope he can take it and prove all his critics wrong.

All in all, during a transfer window where average players were being sold for extraordinary prices, the fact that Barcelona gained five players with exceptional capabilities and bright futures is impressive (Dembélé, Paulinho, Semedo, Deulofeu, Marlon).

Yes Marlon has already departed on loan but Josep Maria Bartomeu has claimed that is because Valverde “wants him to get game time and come back in the future.”

Deulofeu has already shown flashes of what he can do in the opening two Liga wins, and hopefully there will be plenty more to come as he adjusts to life back at Barcelona.

And then there’s Semedo, a player who has come in to fill the shoes after Dani Alves’ departure. Since the wonderful Brazilian left for Juventus, Barca have struggled to find a player who could fulfil the role of being an excellent defender and fit the attacking mould necessary of a Blaugrana full-back.

Barcelona v Real Betis - La Liga
Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

With Semedo’s arrival, Ernesto Valverde seems to have inherited the rightful heir to the position. Semedo hasn’t played a ball wrong since the beginning of the year and looks like he has the potential to unlock great qualities within the right side of the midfield and front line.

Which brings us to Dembele, who has arrived for a huge fee and big expectations and, rightly or wrongly, will probably have to cope with comparisons to Neymar.

The Frenchman is an exciting talent, no doubt about that, and he will be charged with bringing flair and creativity to the attack, and he’s already made it quite clear he is a big Barcelona fan.

Of course he’s still only 20, so patience will be required, but if Dembele can live up to the potential he has shown thus far in his career, he has a hugely exciting future ahead of him.

Dembélé, Deulofeu, Semedo and Marlon also inject much-needed youth, along with a potential plan for the succession of several older Barcelona players.

FC Barcelona v Chapecoense - Joan Gamper Trophy
Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images

In addition, Barcelona’s summer transfer market left the club in profit. A club of Barca’s stature actually making money during the window is rare, and means further investments could even be made in January.

Ultimately, while the squad suffered with the huge loss of Neymar, it is important to remember this team is still extraordinarily talented and added several key players who could impact the squad this upcoming year.

Only time will tell how this summer will be rated, but at the moment, Barcelona fans can look forward to the season with real optimism, beginning with Espanyol on Saturday.

What will Ousmane Dembele bring to Barcelona?

Time to get excited because this kid is something special

Ousmane Dembele officially begins life as a Barcelona player today as he undertakes his medical and is presented to the world and the club’s Twitter account has already gone into overdrive dubbing it #DembeleDay.

But they are right to get excited and so should we, as Barcelona fans can now look forward to the skills the tricky winger will add to the front line.

At the young age of just 20, Dembélé showcased exactly what he could do in the Bundesliga last year, scoring six goals and creating 63 chances for Borussia Dortmund.

Six goals may not sound a lot, but Opta neatly highlight below just how much potential this boy has.

But it is not just goals that Dembélé will bring, it is assists too, and that is exactly what is needed, particularly following the departure of Neymar.

Replacing the Brazilian is all but impossible but one of the young French star’s main assets last season was his relationship with striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

In fact, Dembélé provided 10 assists for the Dortmund forward last season, as Squawka show, that’s more assists for any team-mate in Europe’s top five leagues. Now just imagine him assisting Lionel Messi and Lionel Suarez. Excited now?

Dembélé is versatile too, although he is right-footed, he is expected to take Neymar’s place on the left wing which will allow him to cut inside and go for goal.

The Frenchman can therefore play on the left of a 4-2-3-1 alongside Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi with Luis Suarez as the sole striker, or on the left on of a 4-3-3 with Suarez and Messi.

Of course being right-footed means he could also play on the opposite flank, with Messi moving to the middle, or Dembélé could even feature as a central striker if needed.

In short, he gives Ernesto Valverde great attacking options, which have seemed in short supply so far this season despite a winning start.

Dembélé’s arrival, also adds a fresh injection of youth and bring some much-needed young legs into the squad.

One of the biggest problems with the current squad has been the issue of age. Those issues have been addressed in defence with the signings of right-back Nelson Semedo this summer and Marlon Santos and Samuel Umtiti last year.

The midfield has also benefited from the return of Denis Suarez and Sergi Roberto’s role in the midfield.

Looking to the future, with Messi and Suarez now both 30 years old, Barcelona needed a foundational young player who they could plan the future around.

While still only 20 years old, Dembélé will surely only improve in the coming years and provide Barcelona with a new superstar who can dominate for the next decade.

Perhaps most crucially, particularly in light of this summer, Dembele has spoken openly about his love for Barcelona and, as the club have shown, the kid even has a Barcelona cover on his phone!

Ultimately, last season Dembélé proved that he had the ability to influence games with his speed, trickery, and unselfishness. But as we move forward, fans have to be careful with their evaluations of the young player.

While Dortmund is a giant European club, the expectations that come with being a Barcelona player are almost unmatched by any other club in the world.

In order for Dembélé to succeed this year, and in the future, confidence is needed and that must be something that fans help him find.

The process of learning the Barcelona style and fitting into a new league and a new country can be difficult, but with the right mentality and preparation, the young French international can prove that the loss of Neymar can be overcome.

Barcelona are better off doing nothing that panic buying this summer

Making hasty decisions at this point is a mistake

As Barcelona have successfully kicked off the new La Liga campaign with a superb showing against Real Betis, the transfer rumors surrounding the club are still the topic dominating most Barcelona fans’ minds.

One day Philippe Coutinho is agreeing to terms and Liverpool are ready to accept a bid, the next day the opposite comes to be true. Here’s a case for what Barcelona should do…absolutely nothing.

Over the past couple of years, there have been several players transferred from clubs for fees that seem impossible, astronomical prices, even for the global sport of football. Narrowing in on two different strategies after selling an instrumental player for a huge price are the examples of Gareth Bale and Paul Pogba.

When Tottenham decided to sell Bale to Real Madrid, the club’s transfer strategy was to take the huge sum of money and reinvest it by trying to acquire several players.

The summer that they sold Bale, Spurs bought seven players: Paulinho, Nacer Chadli, Etienne Capoue, Christian Eriksen, Érik Lamela, Roberto Soldado, and Vlad Chiriches for a total of £103m.

Tottenham Hotspur v Hull City - Premier League
Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images

There was no clear star in that group and the transfer fee for each player being under £26m. From those seven players, only two remain in the first team squad, Eriksen and Lamela.

While Lamela has shown moments of quality, Eriksen is the only player bought in that year who has provided consistent performances and is an integral part of Tottenham’s starting squad.

In essence, Tottenham tried replacing one star by buying several players, who could potentially improve the squad. Obviously, this method did not work as only one of the seven players have made a lasting impact and Spurs finished sixth that year.

On the other hand, after selling Paul Pogba, Juventus also brought in seven players that summer… but, spent a large part of the fee on one main striker, Gonzalo Higuain.

The year after selling Pogba, Juventus went on to win Serie A and the Coppa Italia, before finishing runners up in the Champions League. Ultimately, the season was an extreme success and a large part of that can be attributed to Higuain.

Juventus FC v FC Crotone - Serie A
Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

Now, what does Barcelona do after seeing those two separate transfer strategies play out? Their transfer policy seems to be all over the place this summer. On one hand, they seem to be going for one big star, similar to Juventus, with either Coutinho or Ousmane Dembélé.

On the other hand, having already shelled out 40m euros on Paulinho, they are now being consistently linked to Jean Michael Seri, a player who has quality but is not completely proven at the highest level.

Because of this, Barcelona might be wise to sit back and not do anything. While the squad is certainly going to miss Neymar’s creativity, the team’s midfield is still strong in talent and depth (Busquets, Rakitić, Iniesta, Roberto, Gomes, Suarez, and even Paulinho), a defence improved from last year (Semedo’s signing, Umtiti’s growing experience, and Vidal’s return), in addition to a forward line that contains Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.

Barcelona v Real Betis - La Liga
Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

In addition, several youth players are waiting to make their first-team break-through. Is there enough talent to challenge for a treble? Probably not. But, if Barcelona have to learn one thing from previous transfer sagas, it is that it is better to be patient and scout one great player who fits into the system instead of panic buying the best players available at the moment.

Our motto, “Més que un club” signifies that players must be ready to not just play each match for their coach, but for the city.

Not rushing into transfer mistakes is key right now and if that means not signing any more players this summer, we can keep our heads high knowing one thing… with Messi, anything is possible.

How should Barcelona line up against Real Betis?

Valverde has decisions to make ahead of the big kick off

Barcelona take on Real Betis on Sunday with an opportunity to kick off the Liga campaign on the front foot and begin to forget about the Super Cup loss to Madrid.

However, it will also be an emotional evening at Camp Nou, after the tragic and despicable terrorist events that unfolded in Barcelona on Thursday, and both teams will pay tribute to those affected, wearing black armbands and with a minute’s silence to be held.

Barcelona’s players will also not have their names on the back of their kit, just “Barcelona”. Events like these remind us that football is just a game and that in situations like these, no matter what club you support, we must all come together.

As it is the first game of the La Liga season, Barcelona must come prepared with the right mindset and be organized against a Real Betis side that finished 15th in the league last year, but always try their hardest against the biggest clubs.

With some puzzling selections to start off the year, the pressure is on Ernesto Valverde to find a first choice starting XI, capable of providing a beautiful style of football, along with invention all over the pitch.

Barcelona are already facing injury issues going into the new season with Luis Suárez, Rafinha, and Thomas Vermaelen certainly out, while Andres Iniesta and Gerard Piqué are doubtful and Valverde has to figure out all levels of the 4-3-3 formation that will most likely be used.

Attack: Deulofeu, Alcacer and Messi?

On the front line, with the absence of Suárez, Paco Alcácer should be given the opportunity to prove himself. Now in his second season with Barcelona, fans should not forget that Paco is still only 23 and if properly trusted, could gain the confidence of an elite striker at such a young age.

FC Barcelona v Chapecoense - Joan Gamper Trophy
Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images

The expectations of playing for Barcelona can affect any player, which we have seen over the years, but hopefully Alcácer can prove a point and earn his new manager’s trust with a quality showing.

On the right or in the middle, Messi has shown that he will have to carry the squad this year more than ever, and will certainly get the start. But it’s on the left wing, where Valverde has his first selection headache.

Both Denis Suarez and Gerard Deulofeu have showed moments of quality in pre-season games, but now comes the time for a player to impress for 90 minutes. While Denis showed some promise against Madrid, Deulofeu should get the start and another opportunity to display whether or not he is a player of Barcelona quality.

Midfield: Rakitic, Busquest and Gomes?

In the midfield, Iniesta’s muscular problem provides Valverde with his second selection headache. Does he start Andre Gomes, a player who underwhelmed last season, against Betis or will new signing Paulinho be given a chance?

Since Paulinho has just arrived and might not be match fit for a La Liga game, Gomes is the more likely option, but after last season, the pressure will be on him to perform even at this early stage.

FC Barcelona v Real Madrid - Supercopa de Espana: 1st Leg
Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images,

On the right side of the midfield, Ivan Rakitić has proved to be an integral part in the Barcelona machine. The Croatian, when trusted, has been one of the most consistent players in Catalonia since signed from Sevilla. Rounding out the midfield, Sergio Busquets should start in the defensive midfield role.

Defence: Ter Stegen: Semedo, Umtiti, Mascherano and Alba

Into the back four, Valverde has been given quality minutes and consistency from Jordi Alba and Samuel Umtiti throughout pre-season and these two players will certainly be in his first eleven.

Pique’s injury means Javier Mascherano will most likely be given some game time and willcertainly be looking to impress. Even though Mascherano is getting older, the former Liverpool man still has one of the best positional minds in the league.

To round out the back four, the right-back position has been the position most discussed by fans and pundits alike. Aleix Vidal was extremely underwhelming against Madrid and Sergi Roberto, looks more likely to be restored to midfield this season.

FC Barcelona v Chapecoense - Joan Gamper Trophy
Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images

Nélson Semedo proved his quality and invention against Real Madrid in the second leg and should be given the opportunity to demonstrate some consistency. His quality is unarguable and the player should be given the chance to develop connections with his team-mates.

It’s been a trying summer for Barca and they go into the game following the Supercopa defeats to Madrid, the loss of Neymar and having been so far frustrated in the transfer market.

However, Sunday’s game gives Barca the chance to go for the win which would raise morale and ensure their Liga campaign gets off on a positive foot. Força Barça!

How should Barca line up against Betis? Let us know your line-ups in the comments below!

Time for action – Barcelona must sign Coutinho & Dembele

Enough is enough – the club must spend big this summer

After the 3-1 defeat at the hands of Real Madrid in the first leg of the Super Cup, one thing was painfully evident, so evident that even Sergio Busquets brought it up after the game: “The team doesn’t need signings because of this result, we need them because you have to renew things.” And he’s right, in order to successfully compete for trophies this year, Barcelona need quality signings, immediately.

This week, Barcelona confirmed the capture of Brazilian midfielder Paulinho for a fee of 40 million euros, making him the fourth most expensive signing in club history. While the midfield is in need of revamp and Paulinho should be given the proper game time before he is judged, his quality of play shown in the Premier League especially, is not at the level of a Barcelona player.

In order to continue the successes of previous years, especially in terms of trophies, stars must be signed to provide competition throughout the squad and ensure that the team is prepared physically and mentally for all competitions.

One player that comes to mind who has the necessary quality and proven history is a different Brazilian midfielder, one that the club has been linked with for several years, Philippe Coutinho.

Coutinho has demonstrated his skill over the last several years playing for Liverpool. With reports saying that the player has handed in a transfer request and Barcelona ready to pay around 100 million euros, Coutinho would be the perfect statement signing.

Liverpool v Middlesbrough - Premier League
Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Fitting Coutinho into the line-up would take some time, whether in the midfield or occupying Neymar’s previous position on the wing, but this is a problem Ernesto Valverde would love to have. The Brazilian has demonstrated that his dribbling and passing are of the necessary quality, and would be an amazing addition into the line-up.

While impressing in his debut against Chapecoense, Gerard Deulofeu looked like a player lost on the pitch against Real Madrid. With no invention, it seemed as though every time he touched the ball he was immediately looking to pass to Messi or Suarez, and never to create for himself.

A possible replacement can be found in the form of Ousmane Dembélé, the 20-year-old Dortmund forward. With transfer rumors swirling and Dembele now suspended after skipping training, Barcelona have been in contact with Dortmund regarding his transfer. Dembele, while still young, would provide greater invention and class on the wing.

AFC Sunderland  v Borussia Dortmund  - Friendly Match
Photo by Deniz Calagan/Getty Images

In addition, Aleix Vidal turned the ball over multiple times in dangerous areas and never produced anything dangerous from the right back position. It might be time for Valverde to place more trust into the other summer signing, Nélson Semedo.

Semedo showed glimpses of his potential during the International Champions Cup and is deserving of more game time and trust from his manager.

Ultimately, if Busquets is admitting to interviewers after the game that reinforcements are needed, the board must act now.

With no significant recent signings (except Umtiti) making an impact on the squad, players with true class must be acquired to ensure that the next generation for Barcelona can deliver trophies being guided by the greatest of all time, Lionel Messi.

The call to action has been heard by the Barcelona board, now is the time for action.

Deulofeu stakes claim as Barcelona begin life without Neymar

The winger scored one and set up two against Chapecoense

Monday night saw Barcelona take on Chapecoense for the Joan Gamper trophy at Camp Nou. On an emotional night Barca won 5-0, with Gerard Deulofeu impressing, as both teams paid tribute to the heroes and the victims of the air crash which tragically claimed the lives of 71 individuals, 19 of them players.

And in their first game since the shock transfer of Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona showed that the loss of the Brazilian may not be as dramatic as many think. The motto of “mes que un club” and an ability to produce magical displays of football each time on the pitch cannot be understated.

The match also provided an opportunity for Deulofeu to showcase what he can add to the first team, having been brought back this summer on a permanent deal from Everton.

FC Barcelona v Chapecoense - Joan Gamper Trophy
Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images

The La Masia winger has been the subject of intense debate over recent years, and while his attacking qualities have never been in question, his defensive attitude and individual mentality have been.

Against Chape, Deulofeu seemed to address both concerns that many fans and pundits have. Without the ball, he provided defensive coverage to Jordi Alba, and seemed to be in constant movement protecting his left back.

Further forward, and in terms of individual mentality, Deulofeu also showcased his ability to integrate into the team, and more specifically the front line.

His first finish was the product of a fantastic team move, while his patience on the ball carved out the opportunity for Sergio Busquets’ screamer for Barcelona’s second.

FC Barcelona v Chapecoense - Joan Gamper Trophy
Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images

Lionel Messi had cut into the middle and was demanding the ball, but instead of instantly passing, Deulofeu waited, cut back outside and teed up the ball beautifully for Busquets who had acres of space to smash home.

It got even better too, it was Deulofeu’s beautiful cross that found Messi in stride for Barca’s third.

In short, Deulofeu provided Ernesto Valverde with exactly what he would have wanted, and a possible selection headache if the club are able to bring in any of their rumoured transfer targets such as Phillipe Coutinho or Thomas Lemar.

While most fans will obviously miss the genuine quality Neymar has shown over the past couple years, the performance of the front line indicated that even without the Brazilian, any attack containing Messi and Suarez can influence a winger such as Deulofeu to improve. In essence, while Neymar is virtually impossible to replace, the influence of Messi and Suarez on his skills cannot be understated.

It wasn’t all about Deulofeu though, the team’s performance was reminiscent of those seen during Pep Guardiola’s and Luis Enrique’s treble winning seasons. Of course, it was only a friendly, but the entire Barcelona team, led by Messi himself, provided fans and viewers with a sense of hunger.

Whenever the ball was lost, four or five players instantly surrounded the Chapecoense players searching for the ball. As we have seen previously, while possession is still key to the team’s success, the critical factor to our previous successes has been the high press.

When successful in pressing an opponent high up the pitch, several influences derive from it. Most importantly, it allows the ball to be passed into the midfield immediately. Once the opponent gives the ball away, the ball is passed into the possession of one of Barcelona’s front line/midfield and these players are given the ability to charge toward the defense that is now unorganized.

Ultimately, pressing high up the pitch is instrumental to Barcelona’s success because it allows the ball to be placed at the feet of those who can change the game with one kick.

FC Barcelona v Chapecoense - Joan Gamper Trophy
Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images

While Monday’s game was about much more than just football, with Chapecoense still rebuilding after the tragedy, Barcelona proved why one player is never more important than the team.

Hundreds of great players have filtered through Barcelona, but one important constant has remained, the system.

Even without Neymar, Barcelona showed that their system is still capable of producing moments of glory. With Messi leading the front line and all players looking hungry for glory while playing within the system, Barcelona head to the new season in good heart.