Ronald Koeman got his Barcelona tenure off to the perfect start with a 4-0 win against Villarreal at the Camp Nou on Sunday evening.
The Catalans blitzed their visitors in the first period, racing into a surely unassailable lead before the break. Ansu Fati struck twice with two clinical finishes within the first 20 minutes before he also won a penalty that was scored by Lionel Messi. An own goal from Villarreal defender Pau Torres just minutes before the break all-but secured a first La Liga victory for Koeman at the Camp Nou following his appointment in the summer.
Here are three things that we learnt as Barcelona got their season off to the best possible start:
Messi continues to put in work
Heading into Barca’s first match of the season, the sheer amount of headlines surrounding Lionel Messi and his future at the Camp Nou this summer was quite something. There was understandably huge attention on his first competitive appearance for the Blaugrana this season. Supporters needn’t have worried though.
The inspirational Argentine was in as good a form as ever, showing the fleet-footed skill that has seen him become a legendary figure at the club. He topped that performance off with a goal from the penalty spot. Whether another productive season in front of goal or indeed the La Liga crown this campaign is enough to keep him at Barcelona remains to be seen but it goes without saying that it will always be a pleasure to see Messi hit the back of the net with the club.
Fati the perfect successor
Even if the worst comes to the worst at the end of the season and Messi does indeed leave then it looks likely they have another star to have come through La Masia who could pick up the baton. That man is Spanish forward Ansu Fati. The 17-year-old broke through into the first team at the Camp Nou last season, making 25 appearances in all competitions and scoring eight goals. Considering his performance against Villarreal, he certainly looks set to increase those numbers again.
He put in an exhilarating performance throughout the game with two strikes and an assist. His first was a spectacular drive into the top corner of the net from Jordi Alba’s centre, with the second a well-taken finish from Messi’s pass. Fati then had even more influence, winning a penalty which was dispatched by Messi.
If the youngster can continue this level of fantastic performance then he is sure to become a key player in the Barcelona team in the near future.
Inconsistency at Villarreal
Being appointed in the summer following his dismissal at Arsenal, Unai Emery was expected to stabilise Villarreal. After all, the Spanish coach had considerable success in the past with the likes of Valencia and Sevilla. With the Yellow Submarine therefore keen to build on their fifth-placed finish last season, then it looked like an extremely profitable marriage.
That is not the way it’s panned out early in the campaign though, with Villarreal having had an inconsistent start to the 2020/21 season. They have now taken a win, a draw and a loss each, only scoring three goals in their opening three matches.
Whilst there is no reason to panic at this extremely early stage of the season, Emery will hope that his side can find some consistency as the campaign progresses.
FC Barcelona: Neto (7); Alba (7), Lenglet (7), Pique (7), Roberto (6); De Jong (7), Busquets (7) (Pjanic (N/A), 78′); Fati (8) (Dembele (6), 70′), Coutinho (7) (Pedri (6), 70′), Griezmann (6) (Trincao (N/A), 78′), Messi (7).
Villarreal: Asenjo (5); Estupinan (6), Torres (5), Albiol (5), Mario (4); Gomez (5), Coquelin (5), Parejo (5), Chukwueze (5); Alcacer (5), Gerard (6).
Goals: Fati (15′, 19′), Messi (35′ PEN), Torres OG (45′)
Referee: Guillermo Cuadra Fernandez
Yellow Cards: Gerard (83′)
Red Cards: N/A