Napoli humbled - What do Barcelona need to get back to their best?

Martin Macdonald
Martin Macdonald Updated: 25 Feb 2022 09:36 CET 4 min read
Barcelona v Napoli

Barcelona earned one of their best results of the season so far on Thursday evening, defeating Napoli 4-2 in Italy.

In their first ever Europa League match a week ago, Barca played out a 1-1 draw versus the Italian giants at Camp Nou in the play-off knockout round of the tournament.

The tie was balanced heading into the second leg, but Barcelona eventually won in comprehensive fashion with a 5-3 overall win on aggregate.

Jordi Alba opened the scoring eight minutes in after a blistering run from Adama Traore, while Frenkie de Jong made it two just five minutes later with a lovely, curled effort into the top right corner.

Lorenzo Insigne pulled one back from the penalty spot, but Gerard Pique responded with a finish across the box into the bottom corner.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored his fourth goal in two games in the second half to take the game beyond Napoli, with Mateo Politano scoring a consolation.

Barca, at points, looked like their old selves, even without a talismanic figure like Lionel Messi.

Under Xavi, the club are started to reclaim their tiki-taka identity, and a bleak atmosphere at the club has subsided somewhat.

They are still far away from where they need to be, so what areas should they target for improvement in the summer?

Barcelona's summer recruitment

Goalkeepers

Once considered one of the best goalkeepers around, Marc-Andre ter Stegen has been in poor form for well over 12 months for Barcelona. Against Napoli he was at fault for the first Napoli goal as he rashly came off his line to take down Victor Osimhen inside the box.

If his form doesn't improve, Barca should look for a replacement, but a goalkeeper probably isn't a priority.

Defenders

Barcelona are already in the market for a left-back to provide competition for Jordi Alba and it is likely that Nicolas Tagliafico will be targeted again in the summer after a January move failed to materalise.

A right-back is desired, too, as Dani Alves is 38 while Sergino Dest is yet to find his best form. Xavi was full of praise for the American in a recent win over Valencia, though, so he might emerge as first choice.

At the centre of defence, Barca currently have Gerard Pique, Eric Garcia, Oscar Mingueza, Clement Lenglet, Samuel Umtiti and Ronald Araujo in their ranks. Pique isn't getting any younger, while all the other players tend to run hot and cold. Andreas Christensen is being targeted for a free transfer from Chelsea, with Kalidou Koulibaly of Napoli also an option.

Midfielders

Barcelona are going to have to replace Sergio Busquets at some point, but he remains trusted by Xavi so isn't going anywhere soon. The Spaniard, alongside Pedri, Gavi, Nico and Frenkie de Jong, is part of a talented midfield group. There isn't much need for reinforcements here, though another defensive-minded player is desired.

Sergio Busquets and Frenkie de Jong in a Barcelona LaLiga match.

Franck Kessie of Milan could arrive, again for free.

Attackers

Nobody could have probably predicted how well Traore and Aubameyang would perform in their first month as a Barca player. Aubameyang scored a hat-trick against Valencia and followed that up with the strike versus Napoli.

Traore, meanwhile, is showing the kind of pace and power that can make him a terror for defences.

Ferran Torres is a big money signing and will be a starter more often than not.

Whether or not Xavi asked for a new forward in the summer will likely depend on the future of Ousmane Dembele, who remains poised to leave on a free transfer.

Memphis Depay and Luuk de Jong could move on so will need to be replaced.

Ansu Fati, if he can stay clear of injury, could still be the star of the team.