So. Do I really need to say it? No. But I will anyhow:
We are not going to sign a centerback in the summer window
I know, I know … but we NEED one like sprites need a ball and oxygen, right? Right? Let’s natter a bit about this.
To my worldview, albeit a crazy one that is populated by squirrels, bunnies and things that go PING!, I would much rather sign no CB than the wrong CB. What, or rather who is right and who is wrong? Good question. This whole “Barça CB profile” is a magical creature of legend, 14 feet tall with four legs and as many arms as an octopus. It can run a 2-second 100-meter dash and has feet like pillows when a ball comes near them.
Clearly, this profile explains why none of the people currently on the market are of sufficient quality to warrant anything other than a sneer by our board and acquisitions staff. To my view, this smells like a law firm with partners who graduated from state and community colleges, who want to only hire Harvard Law graduates. But let’s remind ourselves about something.
Bartra is a B team promotion.
Puyol started life as an attacker, then a wing back.
Pique left the club, then was purchased for a song (no, not THAT one) from United.
Mascherano, in his own words, “isn’t a cornerback at all.”
So really, maybe the wandering, multifaceted nature at the roots of the roots of our present CB cadre, is the complexity here. The club can’t decide because hell, who knows where CBs come from (unlike babies, it must be noted, as the club’s diaper bill can attest).
Or maybe, just maybe, there are a number of factors at work here that aren’t as cray cray as so many of us suspect.
Yes, Javier Faus said that money won’t be an issue for the right player. As we all know, that right player was Thiago Silva, who isn’t moving, except to scoop up some more dosh from the ermine-lined coffers of PSG. So now what? Luiz? Puyol with bad hair and wanderlust, and Chelsea want 50m for him. Mangala? You tried negotiating with Porto for a third-party player with a starting price of 30m? Just checking. Agger? Expensive, and loyal. Vertongen? We had a chance and declined. There’s probably a reason.
Money spent in a silly way is money wasted. Would Luiz be a bargain at 50m, or a bit of startling madness? Have we entered the “buy a CB at any price,” realm? Not quite.
If we assume that Puyol is going to break leaving training today, our CB grouping is Pique, Bartra and Mascherano. Even if Puyol comes back hale and hearty, our CB options only increase by one, to four. But if you look at a team such as PSG, they are presently boasting Silva, Marquinhos, Sakho, Alex. Four. Most teams are carrying four CBs. So why is our situation so desperate? Let’s look at some potential combinations on the back line, to maybe find an answer there.
Alves, Pique, Puyol, Alba (The Gala back line)
Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Alba (The most likely back line)
Montoya, Bartra, Mascherano, Adriano (The Copa, early CL back line)
Adriano, Pique, Bartra, Alba (The SQUIRREL!! back line)
We have a host of combinations and options from which to choose, without even considering the versatility of our attack meaning that the likes of Adriano and Song can play CB, given what a Barça CB does in the Barça system, as opposed to what a CB does in say, the Manchester City or Chelsea system, which is a very different set of demands, explaining why a DM can indeed play CB for us. He’ll be spending half the match up by the halfway line anyhow, where that player will need DM-like skills.
BUT ALL THOSE GOALS LAST YEAR!
In 2011-12, the termination of anno Guardiolus, the team scored 190 goals and conceded 48. (Copa)
In 2012-13, the team scored 158 and conceded 66, almost 20 more goals. (Liga)
In 2010-11, the team scored 147 goals and gave up 36. (Liga, Champions League)
So in a season where the team set a record in the Liga, winning the title, the team gave up almost 20 more goals. Where did those goals come from? Champions League, Copa, a few nutso Liga matches. The question is do those goals indicate that our defense is poor, and in desperate need of CB help.
For me, no. Those goals do indicate that we were running a very risky system last season, as well as some tactical flaws that were taken advantage of by opponents. But there are two things that we shouldn’t discount, those being the absurd spate of injuries visited upon our club, and the absence of its coach for a significant part of the season, something that derailed the evolution of a system that was really coming into its own in the first, record-setting part of the season.
Now, only a fool would say that this club doesn’t need a CB purchase, preferably two, to provide the depth as well as competitive pressure. What is going to make Pique straighten up and fly right if he has a guaranteed job as the first-choice CB? Valid question. What if Puyol is injured walking to tend his flock? Another good question. Are we crazy to assume, even expect that the same injury bug that bit the club last season will bite it this season? Man, enough with the questions already.
Is there blame to be apportioned? An even better question, as cules hurl invective against our new coach (dude is barely unpacked yet, give him a break), our sporting director, the board, the Camp Nou cleaning staff and lord knows who else. But the simple fact of the matter is that for whatever reason, people who know better than us have determined that none of the available CBs out there are worth the money or risk. Should be be satisfied with that? Well, unless one of us has a spare 50m laying about to donate to the cause, yes, even if we don’t have to like it.
So who IS at fault? Well, the market, for one, and its reshaping by the sugar daddy clubs such as Monaco and PSG. Not only have transfer fees increased, but up front money demands have spiked. Gone are the pay ya some now, more later over x years format. PSG paid 30m up front for Marquinhos. Yes, a team that is trying to pay attention, for whatever reason, to its pennies, isn’t going to be able to have a lot of fun in that market.
Is there a coach at fault? No, and yes. The need for a quality CB has been apparent for years. Guardiola didn’t buy one, Vilanova didn’t buy one, apparently Martino isn’t going to buy one. Should they have stomped their feet and said “I want a CB or I will hold my breath until I turn blue?” Possibly. Though really, only Guardiola had a fair shot at making that happen, and he had a CB sold out from under him.
So what about that damned technical director, then? Sure, he can make suggestions, but the board has to say “Sure. Here’s the money, now make it happen.” Clearly, those days are gone in a whiff of expensive shoe leather and cava. Now, it’s bargain hunting, right profiles and being fine with the players we have.
There are lots of factors influencing our non-purchase of a CB, but I do know this: Only a crazy person would think that the people in charge of this club aren’t doing all that they can to improve it. We natter about players, we bandy names about, but we don’t really KNOW, do we? We can only speculate. We do know that Puyol isn’t a signing. Puyol is an aging, increasingly fragile warrior who will give his all for the club until his body finally breaks for good. We know that we have a new coach with a new system, and high hopes that the return of the press will make our back line less vulnerable.
Beyond that, we don’t know much, except that apparently, according to one media outlet, we aren’t going to buy a CB. The other one is saying that this name or that is still in our orbit. So ultimately, we don’t have a clue.
Oh. There is one more thing that I know: Sandro Rosell and his board, even if they are doing it for their own selfish reasons, aren’t crazy enough to willfully let bad things happen to this club. Will that console me as Puyol sits on the bench with an ice bag on his knee, watching Pique go on mental walkabout? Nope. But I can hope that it will assist me in my struggle to understand decisions that none of us understand.