Barcelona, Clubs, Gerard Piqué, Spanish Primera División, Story


ESPN FC’s Alejandro Moreno explains how Barcelona’s defensive frailties are impacting all aspects of their game.

VALENCIA — Gerard Pique told his critics to “come out of their caves and enjoy the sun” as Barcelona’s winless run in the league extended to four games with a 1-1 draw at Valencia on Sunday.

Ezequiel Garay took advantage of some poor defending at Mestalla to give Valencia a first-minute lead, only for Lionel Messi to earn a point for Barca.

Garay’s goal was the ninth Barca have conceded in eight league games this season, which is the same amount they leaked in their first 20 matches last year and more than 10 other teams in La Liga.

“The numbers say it all,” Pique told reporters when asked about Barca’s struggles at the back this season. “When you’re on a run like this, every time the opposition go forward, they score.

“Barcelona have always been a really attacking team but at the back we have to be solid to win games and titles. We have to improve; that’s what we are working on.”

Barca’s draw at Valencia followed draws with Girona and Athletic Bilbao and a loss to Leganes. Their poor run of form has seen them replaced at the top of the table by Sevilla, with just two points now separating the top six in Spain.

Pique, 31, has come in for criticism during Barca’s barren run after making mistakes leading to goals in the games against Girona and Leganes.

“I feel good physically, although it’s true that I made a big error against Leganes,” he admitted. “A lot of people are hoping that things don’t go well for me and when we concede a goal it’s always Pique’s fault — and not just in Madrid.

“As I’m critical of the media, they’re waiting for me [to make mistakes] and want to get me. They can enjoy it [at the moment], the [journalists on] television should come out of their caves and enjoy the sun.

“It’s part of the game. It’s normal being the veteran of the back line and the player that’s on the cover of the paper the most, due to what I do and say, that when things don’t go well I’m singled out. You have to get used to it. The important thing is that the team wins and if we don’t concede then even better.”

While the defending was once again in the spotlight, Barca also struggled to break down Valencia after Messi’s 23rd-minute equaliser.

“I think we were superior and dominated the game in all but one matter: we didn’t create enough clear chances,” midfielder Sergio Busquets added.

“It was difficult to play against [Valencia], who shut up shop so early after going ahead. [Messi’s] goal helped us relax and [we thought] maybe they would open up a bit more, but it wasn’t to be.”

One of the positives of Barca’s performance, for the second game running, was Arthur’s display in midfield.

The Brazilian attempted 142 passes (completing 135 of them), which is a La Liga record for the current season. It’s also the highest number made by an away player in the Spanish league since Xavi Hernandez in 2012 (148 against Levante).

“Arthur is a player who brings the team together, who gives us possession and who doesn’t lose the ball,” coach Ernesto Valverde said in his post-game news conference. “We need that possession.”



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