How Barcelona's 'holy cows' have responded to increased criticism

Alba, Busquets and Pique's places in the team have been questioned this month

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Jordi Carné

Barcelona's veterans arrived at Alaves on Sunday under the spotlight. Sergio Busquets, Gerard Pique and Jordi Alba were heavily criticised after the Supercopa and Copa del Rey exits recently. Barça fans are grateful for their commitment and everything they have given to the club, but they are incapable of understanding why the 'holy cows' still have such an important role in the team and continue to play more minutes than anyone else.

In general, Barça's performance in Vitoria was poor. Pedri was the only play to deliver on a night which saw Barça win 1-0 thanks to Frenkie de Jong's late goal. However, the response from Busquets, Pique and Pique to the criticism was positive. All three played 90 minutes and did OK. Captain Busquets ended the game with 105 interventions, 92 passes (with 82 percent success rate), nine duels won and 11 recoveries. The last of them led to De Jong's late goal. On the other hand, he lost the ball 17 times, occasionally in a dangerous area.

Alba, meanwhile, was missed in attack. He didn't get forward as much as usual, although his heatmap shows he played most of the game in Alaves' half, just not getting to the byline. His 112 interventions were not especially important... until the goal. The left-back played a brilliant pass to Ferran Torres, who squared for De Jong to score. When the game ended, after winning eight duels and playing 78 passes, Alba responded in the mixed zone.

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“I feel singled out for many years now,” complained the defender. “It's not the first time it's happened. But I accept the criticism. I knew that when there's a bad game you're always singled out. The criticism is always going to be there. I have accepted that now.

“I had a bad time the other day, not for the criticism but for the Copa exit. If I play well, no one talks about me. If I have a normal game, I'm criticised for not setting up two goals, and if I play badly I am killed. I recognise I did not play well the other day (against Athletic), but no one has gifted me 10 years at Barcelona.”

Finally, Pique is possible the 'holy cow' in the best form. He's nearly 35 and, evidently, not as good as he once was, but against Alaves he did well alongside Ronald Araujo and was good in the air. He appeared in front of goal in the second half, but could not finish after Luuk de Jong had been denied.

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