Tata Martino is convinced that the world player of the year will get back to his best, despite not scoring in four matches for the Spanish giants.
The record-breaking attacker wasn’t on the scoresheet again on Friday as the Spanish giants beat Espanyol 1-0 in the Catalan derby.
And the coach has conceded that his men weren’t at their best at Camp Nou, and has admitted that it is Neymar, not Messi, who is leading the team.
“We didn’t want to give them the counterattack and they only created one proper chance,” he told a press conference.
“We were slow in moving the ball around, and we took too long to arm the attacks. In games like this you will always create chances because your opponents have run so much and they become tired. We were imprecise in the final pass, but we played the game the correct way, winning well against a team that did an impeccable job in defence.
“We looked to move the ball around, play triangle passes, while also playing long passes up the field. I don’t think we lacked intensity when it came to attacking, but we did lack continuity in pressing.
"I don’t know how anyone could think Neymar was bad. His adaptation to the team has been very good. He’s adapted even quicker than anyone thought.
“If before it was good to have Messi, Fábregas , Pedro, Iniesta and Xavi, we're even stronger for having Neymar too. Once every player starts firing on all cyclinders we will have more of a shine to our play.
“I keep saying the same thing, I keep having to do an exclusive analysis of Messi in every game. He is the most important player in a team full of amazing players.
“He plays in his own way and offers us what he offers. If we keep winning, we will see the best of all of our footballers very soon.
“I don’t think he’s worried. In reality, I’ve seen him make the same facial expressions throughout his career. It’s just a coincidence. In the same way it was strange to see him score in 19 consecutive games (last season) it’s also strange he hasn’t scored in three games.
“Of course he would have been delighted to keep scoring two, three or four goals per game. He set the bar so high that now it seems as if there is a problem. But in my opinion, there’s no problem.”
Martino concluded by commenting on goalscorer Alexis Sanchez.
"Being the exceptional footballer he is, he’s capable of creating chances and finishing them off. If there was any doubt with regards to his qualities, they’ve gone now.
“He scored goals and offered the same amount of hard work he always offers, and it’s very welcome.”
image: © tchacky