The Messi effect

Barcelona's La Liga title challenge took a blow on Saturday when the Catalan giants suffered a surprise 3-1 defeat at Real Sociedad, allowing Real Madrid to open up a three-point lead at the top of the table.

Last Updated: 26/02/14 at 09:55 Post Comment

Lionel Messi's goal in that loss was his 229th La Liga goal, the third highest total in La Liga history, however Terry Gibson told Revista the Argentina ace is not having his usual impact on games at the moment.

"He was in the peripheral of things in that game and not participating," said Gibson.

"There were a lot of times when the midfield players were looking up to play that penetrative pass to the forwards but he was not moving - he was walking around a lot more than we have seen him do.

"Is he irritated by Neymar? The new manager? The style of play? Is he over his injury? I don't know but he is not the same Messi we have seen over the last few seasons.

"However, saying that, it was his fifth consecutive game where he has scored a goal and I have to be careful not to criticise him too much.

"But I am getting frustrated - I think we should be seeing a more dynamic performance from Messi at the moment."

Team dynamics

Guillem Balague says that Messi may not be running as much as he used to but we should not be focussing on just one player.

"The stats show that he is still scoring - that does not mean he is involved more or less with the game but it does show that he is still giving what the team needs," he said.

"He probably does not run as much as he used too - 8kms now compared to maybe 10kms in the past. But the team does not help him - to focus so much on one player has distracted the attention from the rest of the team.

"The fact is the wide players do not stay wide; the fullbacks do not go forward often and the midfielders do not get into the box as often as they should. There is not much running from Barcelona with or without the ball at the moment."

Graham Hunter agreed: "The shape of the team around Messi has changed and the work rate around him has changed.

"Maybe you could say that Messi could do more to help the team and he could work harder, but that is not what he has trained to be. He has been trained to be the killer, the assassin - the player who make the difference.

"I still think he is doing that and if there is a little more to come and he regains his match fitness, then in two or three games we won't be talking about him - but the problems in the team around him will remain."

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