The last natural left winger Barcelona has experienced was Neymar Jr. He left for Paris Saint-Germain in 2017, breaking the hearts of many culés, who still feel betrayed by his departure.
Since then, we’ve lacked wingers. Coutinho was never supposed to be a left winger. his natural position being in the midfield-and failed miserably to adapt to the LW position under Valverde’s tenure. A mixed result between playing out of position and lack of confidence due to horrible performances. Dembele was technically the chosen one to fill in the void, however, it never worked out. And for now, it’s been mostly to injuries. Before coming to Barça, the former Dortmund star almost never suffered an injury. But at Barcelona, with a price tag over a 100M, the story was different.
The Frenchman first showed great signs. His attacking style, his dribbling left us amazed, despite his finishing as well as his positional understanding & poor decision making were left to be desired. Despite this, we got his back, before his first injury in 2017. A torn left harmstring meant he’d be away for a long time, as he had to go to Finland to be operated.
Then, he came back, and enjoyed football fairly well, though the criticism was still the same. You’d think he’d now learn to improve, for his raw talent could not be ignored. This wasn’t before another injury. Another another one. And another one, countless came in. He is now out for the whole season as he tore his right harmstring, going back to the same place where he had been operated in 2017.
The Griezmann experiment
As a consequence, the Catalans haven’t had the opportunity to really have wingers. Griezmann arrived last summer, though he isn’t a natural winger. And he is as much of a winger as Messi. The Frenchman didn’t do too well as LW, consequence of poor dribbling skills and lack of tactical adaptation. Moreover, his off the ball movements aren’t too great either.
The Catalan lack a winger. The left winger is the only position to have natural winger, as Messi is the RW on papers, and as said before, we need at least one natural winger, replacement is needed.
After Griezmann’s arrival, it seemed as the problem had not been resolved: Still no natural wingers meaning no width.
The La masia to the rescue
Luckily enough, two youngsters quickly stepped up, one of the rare to get close to promotion under Ernesto Valverde. If Aleña got minutes last season, the midfielder didn’t play much in 19/20 despite his unique profile. Therefore, he left on loan to Real Betis as a consequence.
The first was Ansu Fati. Despite he came from the Juvenil without even playing for Barça B a single time, he had spent time training with the first team. Consequently, he got his first minutes this season, due to injuries that decimated the forwards in the first months of the season, something that hasn’t changed much since then.
And it seems as it was pretty great. Despite starting games at a younger age than 17, Ansu revived our hopes, for his attributes were some we needed. A dribbler able to provide width by staying width, able to provoke 1v1 the Barça way, or at least the only on the left. Of course, he didn’t always play the best games, as seen as his first start in the UCL group stage, where he received. However, he was a wonderful option and still is a good sub, his role has unfortunately increased under Setien.
We don’t have many like him, he had shown to provoke 1v1 despite his opponents might have been 20 years older than himself. He even lately seemed to link up will with Leo, a partner that Leo needed to take some burdens off him.But of course, we can’t rely on a 17 year old the whole time.
Carles Perez is no longer here
The other winger was Carles Perez. He joined the team for pre-season, and did fairly well as a left winger. Despite he prefers to be on the right, which he got to play later as a consequence of Messi’s injury in the beginning of the season. He is more mature than Ansu as he is a few years older, and that’s a good thing. Moreover, his movements off the ball reminded many of Pedro, a winger we have been missing for a while. However people criticized him for being selfish. Although he impressed fairly well, with less media & fans hype than Ansu – he left to AS Roma this season.
Barça probably regret this decision already