Never would I have imagined that in the space of one week; I would write two pieces documenting the somewhat surprising and astonishing demise and fall from grace of the best club side in the history of club football. The tag best club side in the history of club football is attributed to Barcelona mainly due to their entertaining style of play and not based on the number of trophies won in the era in question.
In the space of one week; Barcelona have been found out by three teams; two successfully got results (Milan and Real Madrid) with Sevilla running them very close. This brings to the fore the question, are Barcelona in crisis or are they plainly complacent? I will seek to answer this question and point to how Barcelona may have gotten to the position they currently find themselves.
Is the team truly on Auto Run?
I remember listening to a Sports Radio station a couple of weeks ago with the topic being if Barcelona really need a manager/coach to run the affairs of the team. To my greatest surprise a number of callers to the show were quite naive, claiming that they could manager team and be successful (I am sure if Jordi Roura had this notion previously it must have changed in the last one week); that the team did not need a coach as they were currently running in auto run/pilot. I beg to differ on this because in the first instance it is the manager that instills the playing style, philosophy and pattern on the team. It is expected that in situations where the original game plan may not be working he’s to vary, adjust and make changes; shout out instructions that would swing the balance of the match in their favour. A manager’s presence and influence is quite invaluable, little wonder that since Manchester United lost the title in the very last minutes of last season; 70 year old Sir Alex Ferguson hugs onto the technical area to assert his authority and presence on the squad.
Are Barca being Complacent?
If you ask me, frankly i think Barcelona are somewhat complacent especially with the illness of Tito Villanova. I would have expected that an interim appointment would have been made due to his continued illness, but due to the fact that the team is currently 12 points clear at the top of the La Liga table forgetting that tougher games would come their way in the cup competitions as we approach the climax of the season. The appreciable lead in La Liga has given room for the board to be somewhat comfortable whilst bothering on complacency. Sincerely speaking Jordi Roura clearly seems to be out of his depth especially in the last three games; he doesn’t even seem to possess any real control or authority on the sidelines. The Barcelona board should have taken a bold step to either have appointed Eusebio Sacristan (who manages the B team who are currently 5th in the Second Division) or brought back Luis Enrique who had managed the B team previously and even got them to finish in the promotion places; that way you would have some kind of presence in the dug out and not the presence of a DVD compiler or scout (with all due respect Jordi).
Can we consider this a crisis?
No, it cannot be considered a crisis yet; however; if Barcelona lose to Real Madrid on Saturday in La Liga and get knocked out of the Champions League by Milan next week; then we can call it a proper crisis and press the panic button.
Do Barcelona need to re-evolve/ reevaluate?
Barcelona have always been known to play great football; so when Pep Guardiola took over the reins; he decided to make some adjustments and add his imprint to an already well oiled machine. Under the guidance of Pep; Barcelona took the art of pressing to a whole knew level, whereby they suffocated the opposition anytime they were without the ball; pressing high up the pitch and causing the opposition to make mistakes in possession. We will all agree that this takes a huge amount of stamina to accomplish and fitness is very paramount in the implementation of this strategy. In his first two years, he had two different types of strikers Etoo and Ibrahimovic; but that not withstanding this were born goalscorers; however in his pursuit for perfection and total domination; Barcelona became somewhat addicted to the notion of having a team comprising mainly or only midfielders as it had been spoken about by many tacticians that a time will come that a team will seek to control a game so much it will comprise of midfielders only; the great Arrigo Saachi was one of such tactical minds that saw into the future and Pep decided to embrace it (Also read Jonathan Wilson’s book; inverting the pyramid). Hence the use of the false Nine attacking system and the deployment of the likes of Masherano and Busquets to centre back positions; he even toyed with playing a back three at some point all in the hope of attaining perfection.
Under Tito Villanova; some adjustments have been made but most of the ideals have been kept; however Barcelona do not press as much as they used to; i suppose Villanova decided to fine tune this approach; as I wrote earlier it is very tasking and draining; just ask Bielsa’s Athletico Bilbao who played quite similarly and went almost all the way on three fronts making the finals of the Europa League and Copa Del Rey last season only to burn out in the final; just take a look at where they are on the table thus far. Instead of pressing so much; Tito decided to somewhat limit the energy utilized by the team by blocking the spaces
especially as they play in between the lines anyway forming triangles around the opponent with or with out the ball. Teams used to press Barcelona to try to counter their style; however the two last defeats have shown that pressing high may not be the answer but pressing in midfield, snuffing out the spaces and isolating Messi and Iniesta making them drop deep into midfield in search of the ball so much so that Pedro; the only player capable of running behind the defense comes central to try to make diagonal runs only to be fully isolated.
It is time for a reevaluation of the Barcelona Model, they require multiple options and for the love of me I wonder why David Villa and Christian Tello; do not get as much of a look in as they deserve; especially David Villa who can provide that little difference and different option and approach. Its time to rethink the strategy; back to the drawing board for the Catalans.
John Toschak’s words
If you had the privilege to view yesterday’s game via Sky’s coverage; it was quite nice listening to the comments of the ex Real Madrid manager. He made certain comments that actually hit the nail on the head on why Pep made the decision to leave Barcelona; stating the likelihood of complacency and indiscipline setting into the team’s Psychology.
All in all, the next one week would be very crucial in Barcelona’s season and the out come may point to the fact that it is very naive to discount the effect and influence of a manager/coach to a team. I just read this evening, Andreas Iniesta’s comments on the fact that the team currently miss the influence of Tito Villanova on the side line; however, the need for a turn around maintenance of the Barcelona engine cannot be over emphasized.
Tactics IQ Limited