|Barça players celebrate a goal against Sevilla in the 2016 Spanish Super Cup|
It would have been a different story if it happened last season, two substitutions – Andres Iniesta and Jeremy Mathieu both coming off injured in the first half without Barça actually feeling its consequence. The depth of the current squad is a plus and will go a long way for the Catalans this season in their quest to win the treble.
Luis Enrique said in a press conference that this current Barça squad is the best he’s had in his entire reign as the manager of the club and there is no doubt that this is a pure fact. The 2016/2017 FC Barcelona squad can now boast of at least two quality names for every position in their 4-3-3 system, something that was unthinkable last season.
Luis Enrique didn’t call up Jordi Alba for the game against Sevilla as the Spanish left back didn’t get the medical green light to feature. He was replaced by Mathieu but the Frenchman picked up a hamstring injury as early as the 25th minute but there was no cause for alarm as there are loads of players on the bench that could fill in, maybe even better than Mathieu and new signing Lucas Digne did just that.
Digne replaced Mathieu and put smiles in the faces of Barça fans with a dazzling performance that led to questions of whether he would displace Alba off the starter role. The interesting part of this is that: had it been Lucas Digne was unavailable for some reasons, new signing Samuel Umtiti can effectively play at left back and Sergi Roberto too, this means Barça have 5 players who can take up just that left back position, it’s a beautiful thing.
Captain Andres Iniesta was also subbed off and Barça fans didn’t handle it well as there will always be panic whenever a player like Iniesta is injured and unavailable. However, Denis, his substitute made the fans forget that Iniesta was injured. The new signing put up a fantastic display, showing great understanding, composure and intelligence and he was crucial to Barça’s opener.
OK, now let’s assume a certain Denis Suarez was not available. There would be problems eh? Not really, the club had Andre Gomes boiling on the bench with the eagerness to feature. That’s how things are for Barça right now. They still have a good squad despite the absence of Neymar and Rafinha who are both taking part in the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Claudio Bravo is set to leave Barça and he will be replaced by Diego Alves (according to reports), this means Barça will still have two world class goalkeepers to choose from with Jordi Masip backing them up. The right back position is the only concern as it is taken over by Sergi Roberto and Vidal, both players are not natural full backs, except for Douglas Pereira who seems to have no place in the team. In central defence comes Gerard Pique, Javier Mascherano, Samuel Umtiti and Jeremy Mathieu with the latter helping Jordi Alba and Lucas Digne on the left back position.
The competition in midfield for the season would be fierce. Sergio Busquets seems to be indispensable in the defensive midfield role while the other central midfield roles would be taken over by the likes of Ivan Rakitic, Denis Suarez, Andre Gomes, Rafinha, Iniesta and Arda Turan, bulk names! Rafinha, Arda and Denis can also help fill in for Messi and Neymar on the wings while Munir or the possible incoming striker can serve as a backup in central attack for Luis Suarez.
Luis Enrique’s statement is justified really. Barça had fixtures clustered during the latter stages of last season and it was clear the players were tired as there were less options. With so many options for this season, Luis Enrique can rotate his squad with the assurance that all players will give their all, fighting for a place. It definitely looks like 2016/2017 would be a great season. We’ll need to wait and see.