Spurs masterclass suggests Barca have found the man to fill Xavi’s role

first_img 2 21 anys, 1a titularitat en Champions, el mític Wembley….on molts jugadors s’haguéssin fet petits, ell s’ha fet gran! Recital d’Arthur!!!!@arthurhromelo #FCBlive pic.twitter.com/7TNe9iisJc— Àlex Delmàs (@alexdelmas10) October 3, 2018 2 Delmàs wasn’t the only one to notice. Barcelona paper Sport concluded that Arthur had “sent a message” to Valverde with his game. He had “graduated” as a Barcelona starter on Wednesday, their big rival in Catalonia, Mundo Deportivo judged. Even Rio Ferdinand joined in, making the comparisons with you-know-who, that will only grow stronger in the coming weeks.Valverde has a decision to make, but his dilemma is a positive one. The pressure to start Arthur in Barcelona’s next game will be significant, yet judging on the mastery of passing football the player showed in Europe this week, it is a luxury to have him available. Lacking control as of late, conceding cheap goals and unable to close out league games, Barcelona are looking for their first win in four matchdays at the Mestalla this Sunday. A ground where anything could happen. It looks like they have the man for the occasion. Arthur gets away from Eric Dier during Barcelona’s win over Tottenham Arthur joined Barcelona from Gremio for around 31 million euros In the long term those first steps are particularly huge, and on a stage as big as the Camp Nou, faltering in the early phases can break a player. Wembley, an equally sacred stage, did not appear to phase him. Instead, Arthur thrived, and that bodes well. He has had to be patient in awaiting the big opportunity: Ernesto Valverde decided not to use the midfielder in four out of seven matchdays in La Liga so far, and against Girona in his only league start he was sacrificed early in the second half with Barça down to ten men.A lack of match sharpness against Spurs would not have been a huge surprise therefore, and against a team that press the way Tottenham do, that can be costly. Valverde must have seen something in training to finally throw his weight behind the number eight, and it certainly paid off for the coach. As Catalan football analyst Àlex Delmàs summed up on Twitter, “his first start in the Champions League, on the legendary Wembley stage where many players would have looked small, he looked like a giant. An Arthur masterclass”. It’s one of football’s oldest and most tiresome clichés. How many times have we heard the “player x” could be the next “player y” line? Considering the latter always tends to be a footballing legend, and the former a youngster showing promise and trying to make their mark, it’s an unfair dichotomy that rarely if ever pays off.Arthur Melo – the 22-year-old Brazilian who produced a passing masterclass for Barcelona against Tottenham at Wembley in his first Champions League start this week – will not be the next Xavi. Despite the abundance of headlines telling you so. The Catalan legend is irreplaceable: if even Sergio Busquets can’t work the magic needed to become a direct clone of his old teammate, no one can. What the youngster’s showing against Spurs made patently clear however is that Arthur can be the man to finally fill the Xavi role that has been a gaping vacancy since the former number six departed the Camp Nou in 2015. Happy to receive the ball regardless of where he was on the pitch or, more importantly, how much pressure he was under, the new signing almost without fail treated it with care and delivered a pass that improved the situation for his teammates.That’s an attitude Xavi would be proud of. It’s exactly the kind of quality Xavi has himself pointed out when commenting on his hopes for the player. “He has Barça DNA,” the former Blaugrana captain said in the summer. “I have no doubt that he has the qualities to be a big player for Barcelona. He ticks all the boxes. Thereafter it depends on a lot of variables, his first games, his confidence…”last_img read more