Barcelona: Why David Villa Is in Danger of Losing First-Team Place

Kieran Sobels@@palabrasBarcaFeatured ColumnistApril 17, 2013

David Villa's improved form in 2013 has helped him to regain a starting berth in Barcelona's first-choice team, but has he done enough to hold onto that role in the future?

Preferred to the likes of Alexis Sanchez and Cesc Fabregas in recent key matches against AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain, "El Guaje" is currently seen as Tito Vilanova's best option to partner Lionel Messi and Pedro up front.

However, Villa's age and his decreasing influence in general play could see the Catalans searching for new, younger alternatives.

Age: a factor to consider

At 31, Villa's best years are behind him. That is not to say that he is too old to be a striker, nor that he has nothing to contribute to Barca anymore. However, it means that his age must be considered when Tito Vilanova's staff plan for the future.

Further, his eight-month leg break was a serious injury, and he has never quite recovered his old, spritely step since. Is he still capable of a 20-goal-season?

David Villa has built a career not only on superb finishing, but hard work. For Barcelona, this hard work off the ball was invaluable in the double-winning team of 2010-2011.

Most Barca fans still look back on the "MVP" (Messi, Villa and Pedro) attack as facilitating some of Pep Guardiola's very best football.

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While Messi provided the magic, the off-ball movement from both Pedro and Villa out wide was also incredibly influential. 

Unfortunately statistics fail to account for off-ball movement, but it is one vital element lacking in Villa's play since his return to action. Particularly when played out wide.

Contribution to build-up play

Scoring has never been a problem for the Spanish international and that is one guarantee he brings to his side.

Despite coming off the bench for a large portion of his appearances, Villa's numbers are impressive. His 14 goals in all competitions have come at a rate of a goal for every 125 minutes.

However, in recent games Villa has gone missing from general play. When he is not scoring,  he is not doing much at all.

In his last three Champions League games "El Guaje" has averaged just 27 touches and only 16 passes per game. Numbers inferior even to Victor Valdes.

Of course it is important to consider his positional instructions, which seem to have him working in areas which see less of the ball than Pedro does on the opposite flank.

Similarly, his goal against AC Milan and his timely assist for Pedro against PSG show that Villa is still capable of providing important contributions in big games.

However, Barcelona could look for an inside-forward who brings more to their build-up play.

Younger alternatives

Cristian Tello showed exactly what he has to offer on the weekend against Zaragoza with a fine brace to complement his display of speed, trickery and fine dribbling.

While Villa is scoring goals, another player up in the final third who can beat a man and create space for his teammates may be exactly what Tito Vilanova wants.

Thus, there is little wonder why the Catalans continue to obsessively pursue the Brazilian Neymar.

The Santos star's agent reportedly confirmed Barcelona's interest this week and claimed his client would "put and end... to over-dependence on Messi" this week on Radio Globo, via

Still valuable

While David Villa still has something to offer at Barcelona, there are a number of reasons why the Blaugrana would look at alternatives for next year.

Despite his telling contributions at times this season, his general involvement in Barca's intricate system has left something to be desired. Simply put, Barcelona need more from their forwards who partner Messi.

Considering the Spanish international's age, there is a good chance Barca fans will see a fresher face starting in most games next season.

All statistics courtesy of and

Do you think Villa will retain his position in Barca's starting lineup? What role can he continue to play at Barca? Who should replace him?

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