Barcelona have been Europe’s best side for a number of seasons and showcased total football in winning their third consecutive La Liga title and the Champions League crown in 2010-11. With the transfer window well and truly open, the Catalan side have signed Alexis Sanchez from Udinese for €37.5 million and are in negotiations with Arsenal over the return of Cesc Fabregas to Catalunya. The new faces are of top quality, no doubt, but with the dream team already at Pep Guardiola’s beaconing, will the new men get into the team?
Sanchez is fresh from a Copa America campaign with Chile, and the 22-year-old suitably impressed once-more, showing trickery, speed and great ball control to standout as one of the brightest lights in the tournament. Internationally, he Tocopilla born man is used as a second striker alongside Humberto Suazo; he tends to drop deep to pick up the ball, and also offers a ball over the top with his speed. For Udinese, Sanchez found himself in more of a right winger role, with licence to support main striker Antonio Di Natale, but starting from wide.
The European champions play a 4-3-3 formation, with Lionel Messi supported by David Villa and Pedro last season. It looks evident that the new South American signing will be in direct competition with La Masia graduate Pedro for a starting berth, but this is by no means a given. The 24-year-old Spanish international has made a real impact since entering the first team fray in 2008, and scored valuable goals last season, including in the Champions League semi-finals and final. He has recently just signed a new contract at the club with a €150 million buyout, giving you an idea of his worth to Pep Guardiola.
Fabregas has not yet signed for the Blaugrana, but a deal looks set to be completed, as the player wants to leave and Barca are closing in on the Emirates’ club’s asking price. The 24-year-old had a dip in form last term, and if he does return to the side he started his career with, he will have to be at his best to commandeer a place in the side.
In the 4-3-3 system, one holding player (Sergio Busquets) plays in front of the defence, with Xavi and Andres Iniesta playing ahead of him and orchestrating the game. This Spanish international trio have their play down to a fine art, and are the reason that the Catalans boss almost every match they play; they are the fulcrum of the team.
As good as the Arsenal man is, he, nor anyone in world football, is going to take Xavi or Iniesta’s place in the Barcelona starting line-up. When they are fit and available they are automatic selections, and are as important to the Barca team as Lionel Messi. Busquets has more of a battling quality than his two more creative team-mates and the potential new arrival, and protects the Barcelona centre-halves with the utmost diligence.
If Fabregas is to get a start for Barcelona, one would think it would be in place of Busquets, and in a more deep lying role than he is accustomed to at Arsenal. It would also mean that he would be responsible for the winning of the ball and anchoring of the midfield, something he has not been accustomed to doing in England. Does the new man really want to be the one to try to shackle Cristiano Ronaldo? And is he the man to do it?
Such is life; if you want to join the best team in the world, even for almost €40 million, you are not guaranteed a place in the team, as the players who are already in the position you want to play in are worth that and more.