Messi, aka Mr Assist, takes credit for Barcelona’s success

Lionel Messi set up goals for Frenkie de Jong, Sergio Busquets and Clement Lenglet as Barca beat Betis 3-2 on Sunday. He now has 11 assists this season, four more than Luis Suarez, Valencia’s Rodrigo and Real Sociedad’s Portu, who have seven each.

This was Messi’s fourth hat-trick of assists.

The Argentina international player did it before against Levante in the cup in 2014, against Getafe in La Liga in 2016 and against Paraguay in the 2015 Copa America for Argentina.

Messi now just needs to find his shooting boots. He’s gone three league games without scoring, also missing the target against Athletic in the Copa del Rey. His last league goal was Jan 19, against Granada.

Quique Setien is very satisfied with the scoreline, having explained that he thinks it’s a crucial victory for Barcelona.

“The reality is that it was very difficult, but we never gave up, not when Betis went in front or at 2-1,” said Setien. He wanted to highlight “what the win and the game are worth. We came from a tough blow in Bilbao, where we were very good and deserved victory, but they knocked us out.”

Setien added that Barca “deserved the win. Without a doubt we can do things better but I’m very happy with the attitude, coming back twice and then holding on to win.”

On his return to the Villamarin, he added: “I left a few months ago and wish Betis the best possible, it was an emotional return. I’m grateful to this club for the chance they gave me, they were two marvellous years. The end was a bit tough but I’m delighted with my time here.”

Setien inspired by Barcelona’s loss to Valencia

Quique Setien’s first three games in charge of Barcelona have not but the desired change and the defeat in Valencia has generated concern.

In very little time, Setien has earned the respect of people at the club (directors, employees, professionals) thanks to his naturalness and closeness. Barça are convinced they have a coach with a lot of integrity who is a really hard worker.

Since Monday, they also know that he is humble and wise. The first thing he said to those closest to him after the Valencia loss was: “I made a mistake.”

Observed errors

Setien believes he made mistakes with the team (the players he picked for the game) and with the tactics. He thought strengthening the midfielder with ball-playing players would give control, but conceded nothing went as planned. Above all in defence when the team did not have the ball.

He tried to change things he thought hadn’t worked under Ernesto Valverde, introducing variants in his first three games, with a three-man defence and a more static Sergi Roberto.

The ex-Real Betis coach has learned his lesson. There will be consequences after Mestalla. In defence… and in midfield, because he’s realising they lack muscle in there.

The ‘9’

However, one problem is not of his making: the lack of a natural striker like Luis Suarez. Lionel Messi cannot do what he does best from the right if they don’t have that central focus. The option of Ansu Fati on the right isn’t convincing at the moment, either.

If Rodrigo is finally signed, and with the return of Ousmane Dembele, he will have more options to make the changes he wants. It is evident that what he’s done so far has not provided the results he was looking for. He says he has learned his lesson. There cannot be any more slip-ups.