FC Barcelona secured one of the cornerstones of their defensive future this summer with the signing of Jordi Alba. The 23-year-old Catalan returned home from Valencia on June 28 after both clubs reached a transfer fee agreement of €14 million.
Now with Alba in the Barça back line, the defense will certainly improve as well as the offense as Alba love to come up and attack.
Even though I do believe Jordi Alba will be fantastic with FC Barcelona, Alba will have to learn to work with and adjust to his teammates' game. Let's not forget that even though Jordi has a Barcelona-style game, the burden is a bit more on Jordi to adjust to his teammates' style of play.
Remember, Cesc Fabregas—who was going to a "natural fit" with the Barcelona system—started off solid in his first few games at Barcelona last season, but then struggled many times in the offense later in the season.
Don't be shocked if Alba makes a few defensive mistakes early in the season or if it takes a while for him to get in sync with his back line teammates.
Jordi is still the new guy.
Tito Vilanova made signing Jordi Alba his top priority this summer. Now with Alba ready to go, there are a few things Tito can do to get the best out of Jordi for the short and long term.
Alba can also do a few things that will help his play with his new teammates.
Let's take a look at three things both Barcelona and Jordi Alba can do this season to get the best out of each other.
Andres and Jordi
As we all saw in Euro 2012, Jordi Alba seems to work well with FC Barcelona midfielders.
Xavi and Jordi Alba worked together very well at Euro 2012. Xavi was able to find the speedy Alba running past the Italian defenders in the final game, as Xavi placed a perfect through-ball to Jordi who put it past Gianluigi Buffon for the 2-0 lead before halftime.
Jordi and Xavi will need to continue to work on their chemistry as Xavi is the conductor of the Barcelona offense.
Alba had almost immediate chemistry with another Barcelona midfielder, Andres Iniesta. Both had a tremendous European championship tournament and both seemed to know how to work with the other. Now at Barcelona, Iniesta and Alba will look to continue the same formula they had at Euro 2012.
It’s a good thing Jordi and Andres got to work closely at Euro 2012 since Iniesta tends to play more left midfielder. Alba at LB will work to Iniesta on the Barça left side of the pitch for the foreseeable future.
While it will be up to both players to complement one another on the field, the responsibility is on Jordi Alba more than Iniesta since Alba is the new player coming in having to learn how the entire team plays.
Jordi Alba will also have to collaborate with Sergio Busquets as Busi is the mid that works with the back line the most. Let’s not forget Cesc Fabregas, who will certainly get plenty of playing at midfielder to relieve either Iniesta or Xavi throughout the season.
One of the downsides of Jordi Alba going to London to play with the Spanish national team at the Olympics is that Jordi will not be around to work with Barcelona in preseason training and games.
While most will say Jordi Alba—who always played a Barça-style of football—will have an easy time working with the Barcelona midfielders, on-the-pitch chemistry is a continuous job—especially in your first year on a new team. Jordi will need to continuously work on timing and reading what the midfielder is trying to build on offense.
One of the great things to come for FC Barcelona for 2012-13 is the dual-threat they will have at the left and right back spots with Jordi Alba on the left and Dani Alves on the right. Both players are some of the most dynamic defenders in Europe, both players love to come up on offense, and both players are playmakers who can score goals.
But having Alba and Alves in the back line could create an issue, not if, but when both players come up on offense and leave the back line with only two defenders.
Last year, one of the things Barcelona struggled with was defending against the counter-attack. With an injury-plagued Carles Puyol, Eric Abidal out with his health situation, along with injuries to Andreu Fontas and Gerard Pique throughout the season, the Barça back line was thin all season and it cost them severely. Teams were able to counter-attack with not much resistance.
The UEFA Champions League semifinal (both legs) against Chelsea comes to mind.
Jordi Alba has plenty of speed who will certainly be able to get back on defense if he sees a counter-attack happening. But what if both he and Dani Alves are too close up front? The center-backs will be left alone on a two-on-three or two-on-our counter-attack.
This will eventually happen and it could spell disaster.
Tito Vilanova will have to work with both Alba and Alves and ask them to coordinate on who will come up on offense and who will set back. The obvious solution is that either Alba or Alves should go up if the ball is at their side of the field.
But with the way Barça plays, we all know the ball moves at a rapid pace and it just takes two or three short passes to get the ball from east to west and north to south.
It will be more on Jordi and Dani to figure things out once they are on the pitch together. Both will have to trust their instincts while at the same time know when to play it safe and stay back.
Resting Alba will be important.
All Culés can’t wait to see Jordi Alba get onto the pitch at the Camp Nou and play.
But one thing Tito Vilanova must do is know when to rest Alba.
While it may seem like a ridiculous idea to limit Jordi Alba’s playing time, one thing Barça fans don’t want to see is a worn-out Alba by late March or later.
Jordi always goes all-out on the pitch and will not want to be out of any game. Jordi plays both offense and defense, which is great for the team. But all that running takes a toll on his legs.
Yes, Jordi is 23 years old, but we have seen plenty of players burn out in their late 20s due to wear and tear on their legs. We’ve also seen recurring injuries with players that play too much at an early age.
Michael Owen (injuries and burned out) and Ronaldinho (burned out) come to mind.
No one wants to see Jordi Alba burn out in a few years.
Tito will need Alba with plenty of energy left for the spring as La Liga wraps up and the 2013 UEFA Champions League comes to a climax.
Adriano and Javier Mascherano are the two players who would more than likely replace Alba when Jordi needs rest. Games of lesser importance—like a Champions League group stage game that has no impact on the group table, or a Liga or Copa Del Rey game that Barcelona are far superior to the opponent—are the best times to rest Alba.
Some fans—and perhaps Jordi Alba himself—will disagree with resting Alba at times throughout the season, but it’s for the betterment of his bright future.
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