Real Sociedad vs. Barcelona: 6 Things We Learned
Barcelona were back at the Anoeta just 10 days since their last visit. The fixture against Real Sociedad was no less important than the Copa del Rey semi-final ties, given Barca's preference to remain at the summit of La Liga.
Surely Jagoba Arrasate would adopt much more positive tactics against the Blaugrana than that which he utilised on the semi-finals?
On those occasions, La Real were extremely disappointing in an attacking sense and never looked likely to win either game.
This game would give him the perfect opportunity to get one over on Tata Martino and disrupt Barca's charge to the league title in the process.
Let's take a look at six things we learned from the match.
Much More Positive from Jagoba Arrasate
Jagoba Arrasate’s tactics were markedly different from the last couple of games between the sides.
So much so that the casual observer might be forgiven for thinking it was an entirely different side to the one Arrasate put out in the two cup ties.
A much more positive 3-4-3 formation saw La Real applying pressure to the Barca back line from the very beginning.
With play that was tight, compact and purposeful, it forced the Blaugrana into a number of errors throughout.
It was a joy to watch—unless you were a Barca fan.
Barca's Continuing Vulnerability in Defence
One player prepared to attack the ball against four statues. Simple, basic defending.
Unfortunately, that was also something that was beyond Gerard Pique in the 40th minute.
Had Carlos Vela not been so wasteful, Barca would then have fallen behind for the second time in the match.
Victor Valdes is another to thank his lucky stars after Mikel Gonzales headed over when it would've been easier to score.
It was only a matter of time before the Barca goal would be breached, and so it proved. But where on earth were the defence for La Real's second and third goals?
And the passage of play in the 80th minute was frankly too embarrassing for further comment.
Lionel Messi, Third-Highest Goalscorer Ever in La Liga
His 229th goal in the league was typical Messi.
Seemingly no space within which to work, Messi found time to control the ball before immediately dispatching the ball low and hard into the bottom corner.
One Rotation Too Many from Tata
Tata Martino may well look angry and with very good reason. But he has no one to blame but himself.
Six changes from the team he selected to play against Manchester City on Tuesday, including Alex Song in a deeper midfield role and Sergio Busquets further forward, was always going to be a recipe for disaster.
Barca were out-fought and out-thought. At times, they were played off the park.
His rotations have generally served him well throughout the season, but Tata should be big enough to admit he got it badly wrong tonight.
The Excellence of Antoine Griezmann
Antoinne Griezmann can be very satisfied with his night's work.
One player does not make a team, of course, but when Griezmann does the business, invariably La Real are on song.
So it proved again tonight, with the young Frenchman instrumental in his sides victory.
His finish for Sociedad's second goal was sublime, and his pass for their third out of this world. Yet his match shouldn't be defined by those two moments alone.
His on point link-up play and propensity for hard work carried Sociedad's attacking threat to Barca, and a man of the match award should not be denied him.
Quiet Night at the Office for Neymar
The young Brazilian showed the odd flash of his capabilities during the game
However, this wasn't a vintage performance from Neymar.
In his first start alongside Lionel Messi since Nov. 10 of last year, a lack of match sharpness was evident.
When he did free himself of the shackles, he was invariably crowded out and found it difficult to stamp his natural game on proceedings.