If there were one main benefit to using a back five, you would expect it to be that you don’t get outnumbered in defence and yet that’s exactly what happened to Real Valladolid as Arturo Vidal retook the lead for Barcelona yesterday.
Vidal had the ball in the opposition half with Valladolid in a decent defensive shape, all five defenders back and in position.
He passed the ball out to Lionel Messi. Federico Barba stepped out of the backline to close him down but didn’t want to get too close and risk getting dribbled past. All three centre-backs were occupied with a Barcelona attacker: Barba stepped out to Messi, Kiko Olivas was tracking Luis Suarez and Joaquin Fernandez turned his body to face Ansu Fati.
After offloading the ball to Messi, Vidal ran forward straight through the centre of the defence. Not followed by a Valladolid midfielder and with all the centre-backs distracted, Vidal went free as a bird. Fernandez noticed Vidal’s run but, as Fernandez had to turn and begin his run backwards, the momentum was all with the Barcelona man, with no one getting close.
Although Anuar Tuhami got across quickly to cover, Messi had enough time to cut inside onto his left foot and pick out a pass over the top for his Chilean teammate, which he stretches to reach and finish past Jordi Masip.