The Champions League is back with us and there are, as usual, a dozen stories worth discussing, but, also as usual, I only have time for one of them. There's Dani Alves vs Arsenal's right wing coupled with the Brazilian's current contract negotiations; Iniesta should feature against Arsenal this time around, which will make it more a game of skill and wizardry than Keita and his lung-busting style would; Arsenal's defence vs Barça's attack and Barça's defence vs Arsenal's attack; Puyol is missing, but Abidal has been a solid replacement and Busquets could fill in too.
But none of those have the same ring to them that focusing on a single player and his capabilities does. This one is lightning fast, has amazing control, and his tactical positioning routinely puts him in position for easy combination play and tap ins. Naturally I'm talking about Pedro. In a line-up including Villa, Messi, Xavi, Iniesta, and Pique, it's easy for Pedro to be forgotten, despite the recent number of articles talking about how he's forgotten.
There's something about the chicharrero, though, that makes him so invisible despite his obvious success and personal glories. He scored in 6 competitions in a single year, including the winning (and only) goal in the UEFA Super Cup against Shakhtar Donetsk in overtime. He has 1 more goal than David Villa in all competitions this season (19 vs 18) and has scored 42 in the last 2 seasons.
Tom Adams wrote in his Soccernet preview that "to pretend that anyone but Messi will be the centre of attention would be perverse" and while I agree to an extent, Pedro appears to thrive precisely because that is everyone's attitude. He's happy, from the outside at least, to score his goals and help the team while remaining in the shadow of his more famous compañeros. There are few endorsement deals and none that I've seen in my international abode, but there are trophies and there are plaudits from "those who know."
Anyone Guardiola describes as indispensable to a side such as this must be good. One wouldn't think Arsenal's approach would include ignoring the little winger, but his role as a destabilizer is perhaps the most underappreciated part of his game. He is constantly in motion, harrying defenders and creating space. His boundless energy transformed the weekend's match with Sporting Gijon from possible home win to the rojiblancos holding on for dear life. That they did is more a testament to Sporting's colossal cojones than to any failure on Barça's part, though some obviously do not agree.
Today's match, kicking off in just over an hour and a half, should be fabulous and I, for one, will be watching Pedro to be intimately involved in everything that happens on Arsenal's half of the field and a fair bit of it in Barça's half.
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