Barcelona manager Ronald Koeman has admitted the squad cannot continue to sit back and rely on Lionel Messi to carry them to victory every week.
Messi was livid during the first half of Wednesday’s 3-0 win over Elche, in which Barcelona were lifeless and limp, and he was seen asking for the rest of his teammates to step up in search of what should have been a routine victory.
He did get a response after the break, scoring twice and watching on as Jordi Alba bagged a third, but Koeman warned his squad that they must do more to try to help Messi on the pitch at all times.
“I was unhappy with the pace of the game, with our slow ball play,” Koeman said (via AS). “And then the defence went way backwards.
“We improved in the second half. We scored three goals and we were able to do more. Everyone has seen that the intensity and rhythm of the ball was lacking. It is normal for Messi to ask for more intensity.”
Koeman was also asked about comments he made in the build-up to the game about the impact of Barcelona‘s older players. The boss criticised his veterans for not leading by example, and he doubled down on that belief after the match.
“When I spoke about the older players, I didn’t mean Leo,” he explained. “There are other veterans, and more people who have to make a difference. Messi has made a difference and has proven to be very, very important to this team.”
While Messi has been his outstanding self recently, many fans have been concerned by just how little some of the other senior players have contributed. The likes of Miralem Pjanic, Sergio Busquets and Samuel Umtiti have all faced criticism, while there remains a belief that Antoine Griezmann still has not justified his £107m price tag.
However, those gaps in the squad have allowed plenty of younger players to shine. Ansu Fati and Francisco Trincao have impressed in attack, Frenkie de Jong has been outstanding in midfield and the defensive duo of Ronald Araujo and Oscar Mingueza have been fantastic all season.
Koeman has never hidden his delight towards the impact of his youngsters, but he knows he needs more from his experienced heads if Barcelona are to claw their way back to the top of the table.