This article is part of Football FanCast’s Off the Bench series, which places in-game managerial decisions and squad selections under FFC’s microscope.
Barcelona continued their bad streak of games against Slavia Prague a couple of days back when they were held to a goalless draw at the Camp Nou. That game also saw Jordi Alba subbed off due to an injury, and even though he was signed for exactly this kind of situation, Junior Firpo was nowhere to be seen.
By all standards, the midweek Champions League clash against the Czech side was nothing the Blaugrana faithful expected it to be.
After a rather surprising and disappointing 3-1 defeat to Levante in La Liga the weekend before, this was Barcelona’s chance of retribution and a statement victory.
Watch Spanish Football Live Streams With StreamFootball.tv Below
In the end, they did make a statement but it was a rather bad one instead.
But what’s even more worrying is Ernesto Valverde’s baffling approach with the club’s new signing, Firpo, who was left in the stands when the team needed him the most.
And it wasn’t the first time this happened, either.
Back when Firpo was signed from Real Betis in the summer, one thing was clear – he would come as a replacement for Alba in the long run and someone who can offer the Spaniard some much-needed rest throughout the season.
Saying that he would immediately usurp his place in the starting line-up would be crazy but not many expected the 23-year-old left-back to be completely shunned out of the squad.
So far, Firpo has only four games across all competitions under his belt, tallying 234 minutes in total and being left out of the squad five times already.
He also spent three full games on the bench and three out with an injury.
Watch Lionel Messi and Gareth Bale answer the internet’s weirdest questions in the video below…
And in the game against Slavia, Alba suffered a relapse in his injury that forced him out and Firpo, who was bought precisely for that kind of a situation, was out in the stands, just like he was in the previous two games.
It seems that Valverde would rather slot Nelson Semedo, his right-back, over to the left than play his natural left-back when the situation calls for it.
In the game against Levante, Alba was rested and spent the game on the bench, but instead of giving Firpo a shot, Roberto was thrown on in the right-back position while Semedo deputised on the left.
The same thing happened the game before that, against Real Valladolid – Alba was subbed off but instead of the 23-year-old former Real Betis man getting some minutes, the Spaniard was replaced by Roberto again while Firpo was in the stands.
This baffling approach by Valverde could indicate that he is either not satisfied with the club’s new signing or that he never even wanted him in the first place.
After all, Firpo has hardly had any game time to speak of so making a verdict on his ability doesn’t seem justified.
This starts making even more sense when we factor in that this is highly reminiscent of Malcom’s situation – a player who left for Russia barely a year after he had joined Barcelona, and with almost no minutes to speak of at all.
For some reason or the other, he was rarely picked, spending most of his time in Catalonia either in the stands or on the bench, never actually getting a proper chance to show his abilities.
The same thing is happening to Firpo as Valverde decides against playing him even when the man he’s supposed to be replacing is not available or simply being subbed off.
By all means, it’s a rather baffling approach by the Ant and it could signal a big issue in the squad and their transfer policy as a whole.