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Dani Alves: A Bygone Threat?

The Barcelona stars of Guardiola’s time that produced wonders are slowly showing signs of time catching up to them. One such star is Barcelona’s right back, Dani Alves, who, as Wasi Manazir here points out, is proving to be less of a threat that he once was.

Dani Alves Enrique

One of the most significant outlets in attack for Pep Guardiola’s all-conquering Barcelona side that dominated Europe was through the marauding runs down the right flank in the form of a certain untiring Dani Alves. Seemingly habitual, he would make his runs and supply Lionel Messi with exquisite balls for goal scoring opportunities.

Signed in the summer of 2008 – 09 season from Sevilla after spending six years in Andalusia, Alves became an integral part of the Catalan club. So good was he with the job assigned to him that he became one of the first names on Guardiola’s team sheets. Operating at right back, it was evident even for the most casual of football watchers that right back was just a place holder for him, he spent majority of his time in the opposition half playing one-twos with either Xavi or Messi, creating those delectable triangles that left plenty of defenders flat footed. Two prime facets about the Brazilian’s off the ball game were of the highest order: high incredible pace that gave him the ability to recover in case of an opposition counter and his tirelessness, often seen with that spring in his step, be it the first minute of the game or last.

Alves’ constant tendency to venture forward effectively has placed him higher than Xavi and Iniesta in terms of providing assists to Messi during the four years under Guardiola. Statistics show that since joining Barcelona, Alves leads the assists charts with 37 to his credit, give ahead of Xavi and seven clear of Iniesta.

While stats speak strong of his past, Alves seems to have lost his way off late. The anguish felt when one sees the number 22 is preparing himself for a cross is surpassed only by the one felt from the cross that follows. For the past two seasons, Alves has slowly crept into the shadow of his former self. His fading effectiveness combined with Luis Enrique’s now almost diabolical refusal to start Montoya has produced the opportunity for opposition players to take a moment’s time and catch their breath when Alves is seen with the ball. It’s only a matter of time before another failed cross would gift them back possession.

Let’s break this down in terms of his crossing his season. In this seasons, opener against Elche, he managed to hurl in two crosses that failed to be of any use. The first picture below is that of his crosses and the second shows the chances he created.

Image 1 for Alves

Here’s the same graphic from the Vallecano game:

And the same graphic from the all-important el Clásico:

All graphical illustrations via Squawka.

The pattern is familiarly depressing.

The lack of creative play on either flank combined with an ageing, out of form, out of position, and out of ideas midfield has laid the burden of creating and scoring goals solely on the front trio.

In the 6-0 home win over Granada, the third goal saw Xavi send a diagonal ball to Alves who was waiting on the edge of the box on the right flank. His one touch pass found Messi who slotted it home for his second of the night. The sequence of play was a reminiscent of the style and sequence of play under Guardiola. Unfortunately, Alves has been able to produce only one other assist in the league so for in the 3-0 victory over Eibar.

So what options does Enrique have to solve this issue? The Barcelona manager could delegate offensive duties to Jordi Alba on the other flank and ask Alves to hang back and provide stability. The other option would be to give a chance to Martin Montoya, a La Lasia product seems to be endlessly bench warming. Montoya has shown promise in the limited chances he has had at the Catalan club and if anything, he seems to be more secure in defending in comparison to Alves.

Perhaps the former Roma manager lives on the hope that one of these days, the Alves we once knew stands up to perform well again. Until then, Barcelona fans will have to gnash their teeth and throw their remote in anger, at the sight of yet another Dani Alves cross.

Images via

Written by Wasi Manazir

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