The 2019/20 La Liga campaign isn’t going to go down as a vintage one as far as Barcelona are concerned.
After the worst start to a season in 25 years, things have gone from bad to worse for the Catalans, and, were it not for Ivan Rakitic’s 71st-minute strike against Athletic Club, they would be looking at Real Madrid having to drop points in two of their remaining matches to give them hope of retaining the title.
Given the way in which Zinedine Zidane’s side are playing at present, that’s a tall order.
Though he may not be the greatest tactician, what Zidane does have is nous. His ability to pick the right players at the right time is uncanny, and Quique Setien could learn a lot from that. Ditto Ernesto Valverde before him.
The problem for Barca, and perhaps it stems from board level, appears to be an over-reliance on the elder statesmen in the side.
It’s almost as if the club are frightened to bench their biggest earners for fear of an inevitable backlash, however, what they’re actually doing is making an even bigger rod for their own backs.
Setien must surely see the energy and verve that both Ansu Fati and Riqui Puig bring to the team each time they play. In Puig’s case, he changed the entire complexion of the game when he came on against Athletic.
Fati almost had another goal to his name, striking the base of the post late on, and was lively for the minutes he managed on the pitch.
And yet, for all of their exuberance and lack of fear when playing, they just can’t catch a break with the club hierarchy.
Cursory minutes here and there have long since ceased to be acceptable.
There comes a time when there’s no doubting if a player is ready to make the step up from youth level to first-team, and Barca have those two players champing at the bit to prove their worth.
Given that the advantage is with Real in the title race, and players such as Luis Suarez are only going to tire even more quickly as the games come thick and fast between now and the end of the season, it’s time to stop making excuses.
There shouldn’t be any more allowances made for those who are not performing to the best. Puig and Fati deserve their chance now. Give it to them.