Barcelona stand on the cusp of another La Liga title. Their dominance in 2018/19 domestically mirrors that of the previous season, with Ernesto Valverde having lost only three league games to date as coach.
As ever during the summer months, each club is looking to improve their squad, so when Barca added Arturo Vidal, Clement Lenglet, Arthur and, at the 11th hour, Malcom, supporters were a little underwhelmed.
They’d heard a lot about Arthur but he wasn’t tested in Europe, Vidal wasn’t a ‘Barca type player,’ Lenglet had been part of the Sevilla side that had just lost 5-0 to the Catalans in the Copa Del Rey final and Malcom was an unknown quantity at the top level.Early indications weren’t encouraging for three of the quartet either.
Vidal had aired his grievance about not enough game time via social media, causing a media storm before he’d even got his feet under the table, Malcom was well out of the picture and Lenglet didn’t look as though he had a hope of breaking up the first-choice centre-back pairing of Gerard Pique and Samuel Umtiti.
Looking back now, it’s hard to believe that so many were so untrusting of the decision by the club to recruit them.
Arthur in particular has been a revelation. His transition into the Barcelona midfield has been seamless, and it’s easy to forget he’s still just 22 years of age and is coming to the end of his first season in European football.
Even Neymar had a settling in period of one season at Barca before he truly exploded into life at the Camp Nou.
Lenglet has been given his chance because of the ongoing knee problems which Umtiti has been suffering from.
What’s made it worse for ‘Big Sam’ is his reluctance to go under the knife and sort the problem out once and for all. A more holistic approach has been used by the defender, and it’s alleged that the club are none too happy with that decision.
That’s as maybe, but his absence has allowed Lenglet to strengthen his own partnership with Pique, and for the most part it’s been rock solid. To the point where many would now place Lenglet as the first choice alongside the elegant Catalan.
Vidal hasn’t changed his style at all, but far from that being a negative, the locals have appreciated his will to win and desire to fight for every ball. For all of the beautiful football that Barca play, sometimes a minder is required and that job suits the Chilean down to the ground.
Which leaves Malcom. The Brazilian hasn’t been played too often, but there’s been no doubting his importance when he has played.
An important goal against Inter in the Champions League, another against Real Madrid in the Copa Del Rey during what was a man of the match performance… as well as a goal and assist in the 4-4 draw against Villarreal. In Barca’s hour of need Malcom delivered.
All in all, the four have remained unsung for the most part, but they’re as important to Barca’s title win as any other squad member.