FC Barcelona just played half their league fixtures and it’s been a great season so far for us Cules. FC Barcelona are still competing in all 3 competitions and have an 18 point lead over their arch rivals, Real Madrid and are 11 points clear atop of the league standings from second place Atlético Madrid after accumulating 55 points from 19 matches, a new Spanish league record. The only negative was losing out on the Supercopa. So with half of the season already in the record books, it’s time to hand out the midseason awards and grades.
MVP: MESSI – It’s a no brainer, 38 goals from 29 matches. Messi has started this season on fire. He scored 50 league goals last season and has surpassed half of that total already with 28. Barring any injury, the sky is the limit for Messi as he keeps doing what he loves to do; win.
Best Goal: This was a tough one. We have seen some great goals so far this season such as Adriano’s strike against Valencia, Iniesta’s blast against Levante, David Villa’s last gasp goal in the dying seconds against Sevilla, Xavi’s rocket from outside the box against Granada and Messi’s free kicks against Real Madrid. However, I thought Adriano’s goal against Atlético Madrid was the best goal out of them all. He made it look easy by the way he got away from his markers and then unleashed a ferocious shot from outside the box that struck the bar and bounced in for the goal. It will take a special goal to top that.
Best Assist: This was an easier choice. The teamwork between David Villa and Iniesta in the buildup for the go ahead goal against Celta Vigo was art in motion. From Villa’s back heel pass initiated what would turn out to be a beautiful goal after Iniesta glided into the box where he sucked in defenders before somehow passing the ball back to Villa for him to score.
Best Transfer: Jordi Alba. Some would say Jordi Alba’s transfer may go down as one of the best moves in club history because of his low transfer cost. However, his arrival has been so good that people seem to forget about Dani Alves as the club’s most explosive fullback. Jordi has fit in perfectly without any adjustment period and already looks like someone who has been on this team for years.
Best Youngster: Montoya. This season has been one where Barça players haven’t been hit by the injury bug like last season. Thus, not many Barça B players or newly promoted players have gotten minutes to shine. However, one player though has made a good impression this season and that player is Montoya. He has filled in for Dani Alves superbly on two different occasions against Real Madrid. One can only imagine how high his stock would have risen if his shot had went in and didn’t strike the bar against Real Madrid. I believe it’s a matter of time before we start hearing rumors that the club is looking to offload Dani Alves because they have faith in Montoya to replace him.
Most Improved: Cesc. I was very harsh on Cesc last season. He was my choice for Most Disappointing Player award last season for his invisible act in the second half of that season. He seemed to be carrying on that form early this season too but he finally snapped out of his funk and he’s been a great fit either as a left winger, false 9, or in the midfield. Hopefully he can stay injury free and keep up the good work.
Best Game: 5-4 win victory against Deportivo. Some would say Barça’s 4-0 win against Espanyol was their best of the season but, as good as the first half was, the second half was less memorable. On the other hand, that 5-4 victory against Deportivo was madness. Barça rushed to a 3-0 lead before seeing their lead shrink down to 3-2. Messi then extended their lead to 4-2 but not before Deportivo drew one back. Messi claimed his hat trick when he scored the 5th goal but it was a nervy final 11 minutes after a Jordi Alba own goal made it a 5-4 game. Barça held on and these types of victories away played a big role in why they are the league leaders and showed the good and bad that this team had to offer. Since that game, Barça have only conceded two goals or more just once in the league.
Most Disappointing Player: Alexis. Victor Valdés and Mascherano had a poor start to the season with their sloppy play in the Supercopa and Pedro had his share of scoring slump. However, Alexis’s second season with the club has been a disaster. We cannot expect him to score once every temperate seasons. I appreciate that he runs hard and works hard for the team but he is not scoring up front and that is becoming more difficult to stomach when he squanders golden scoring chances. He has to pick it up or else he is going to be looking for a new team next season. The fans showing their discontent in yesterday’s Copa encounter against Malaga was a warning sign not for the player, but for the club too.
Goal Keepers: B. That Supercopa performance dropped it down one grade. Valdes had an iffy start but is getting better while Pinto is the same old Pinto who has his moments.
Defenders: B-. Night and Day when Puyol and Pique are back and when they are not. Why Real Madrid didn’t punish Barça when they faced them at the Camp Nou back in October without those two in the starting lineup is beyond me. Barça have benefitted from Jordi Alba’s smooth transition from Valencia player to Barça player while Adriano has been playing superbly whenever he has had to step in either as a full back or center back. Mascherano has had his moments but some would attribute it to playing alongside Song, who is not cut out for the center back position, and a young and upcoming Bartra. Dani Alves remains the X factor in which you’re not sure if he’s lost a step or motivation. Barça currently have conceded the third fewest goals in La Liga behind Malaga and Atlético Madrid.
Midfielders: A. Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets have been superb this season and Cesc getting back into the grove is even better. Song has shown flashes of Yaya-esque potential but minutes will be hard for him to come by. Thiago is back and his absence has been deeply missed.
Forwards: C. Take away Messi and the forwards core have been disappointing. Villa has been fine in his few minutes but Pedro and Alexis have been in a long scoring slump. Tello has been fine but ultimately, this team is in a lot of trouble if Messi is ever ruled out of action for a long time. These guys have got to improve the second half of the season or those Neymar rumors are only going to increase.
Coaching: A+. Tito Vilanova has done a superb job. His first season has been a smooth ride so far as his club set a new record for most points halfway through the season. Sure, there were minor hiccups of losing out the Supercopa and the Celtic loss. Other than that, he has managed the bring the best out of Cesc again and keep the ship steady while fighting that dangerous medical ailment that we hope he can overcome for his and his family’s sake. Keep up the good work Tito.
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