Let’s get this out of the way first. The pitch at Estadio José Zorrilla was a disgrace. It looked like a minefield. A pitch relayed on Thursday to be played on Saturday evening? It shouldn’t have been allowed to happen. Real Valladolid deserve a severe punishment for it. There were times in the first half I could see Sergi Roberto or Jordi Alba running down the wing and disappearing into the Earth’s core never to be seen again. Both teams are lucky to escape with no serious injuries.
But let’s get to the actual game and the elephant in the room. Luis Suarez. I’m going to fire off this hot take right now. This has to be his last season at FC Barcelona. Luis Suarez is no longer fit for purpose. Quite literally judging by the first two games of the season. FC Barcelona need a new number 9. I admire so much about him when he is firing on all cylinders, the snarling attitude and most of all the fact he is an absolutely deadly finisher. The man knows how to score goals. Last season 25 goals and an impressive 12 assists in La Liga. In Europe, though it’s a completely different story. 1 goal in the Champions League in 12 matches. He hasn’t scored away from home in the competition for 3 years. That’s a problem.
Against Valladolid, it looked like Suarez had been robbed of any semblance of pace, touch and timing. Even in the brief moment he came to life his goal was correctly given offside by the magnificent VAR. Valverde’s single-minded stubbornness to leave him labouring on the pitch for the whole 90 mins just to substitute him in injury time is still completely baffling, as were a few of his decisions on the night. FCB sitting back and playing for a 0-1 win, that negative mindset is deeply concerning.
For all the talk of bringing in Pogba or another CM, it seems so glaring shortsighted to what the real issue is, signing a new number 9. Now I know after the Griezmann (or do we call him LeBron now?) saga maybe we have had our fingers burnt but it has to be a priority. There is enough evidence to suggest Suarez is just a slow starter again, last season he had only scored 3 league goals by the time we had got to November. Valverde, Bartomeu and the board better hope so because FCB are going to be in tremendous trouble if that isn’t the case if Alcacer does move on loan to the Bundesliga, that’s not leaving a lot of backup and after a summer of having the weight of a team on his shoulders that might be too much, even for someone with the experience and who is as mercurial as Lionel Messi.
As for the game itself, I’m not sure there is a lot to be said about the performance. The pitch obviously was a huge factor, as were some of the questionable decisions from the coach tactics wise in the second half substituting Dembele who was one of the only bright spots and the most potent threat on the field for Vidal still sits uneasily. Ousmane Dembele played with such maturity and the understanding he seems to be forging with Sergi Roberto could be as important as the Alba/Messi relationship this season. Sometimes you have to tough out the wins on the battlefield, which is exactly what the José Zorrilla playing surface looked like.