What happened to Barça?

Barça, at the moment, is a mess. What happened?

It’s a complex situation that, despite the need of some to identify a single source, player or coach, defies easy answers. On the surface, Barça is also a high-quality home Champions League display and a loss by its historic rival, who have a very difficult end-of-season run in, away from needing to dust off those parade buses. Yet quite clearly, Barça is a team in difficulty, a state beyond “stuff happens.”

It was lackluster and meek in a loss to Malaga, seeming to fall apart after missing a few excellent scoring chances. Against Juventus it couldn’t do anything right, then got played off the park in the second half against Real Sociedad. The players look a mental mess, playing not to lose rather than to win and sparkle.

Luis Enrique

As its coach says, negative things are on him. The biggest questions are tactics, team structure and adaptability. Whether Luis Enrique is viewed as stubborn or resolute will depend upon worldview. He is no less committed to his view of how the game should be played than Pep Guardiola, yet only one of them is considered stubborn.

But the larger question is what IS Luis Enrique’s “way of playing,” tactical shifts based on opponent notwithstanding. It’s more complex than “get the ball to the horses,” but that is a summation. Let the three best attackers in world football do what they do. Yet when an opponent fully commits to stopping those three — walling off Neymar with two defenders, keeping a body on Suarez and blocking Messi, Barça have no answer.

We have seen the situation come this season, time and again, most recently against Juventus. Dani Alves played Neymar physically, and always had help. This isolated Suarez and reduced Messi to either a creator (amazing pass to Iniesta, for one) or tilting at the windmill of the defense and one of the best keepers in the game. Even at that, Barça had chances, just not enough of them to convert.

What is a plan B? To say that Luis Enrique doesn’t have a tactical plan is facile. But the team does lack a structure, absent a compliant opponent. There are times when the team looks lost, when the players don’t know what to do in the context of their overall approach to an opponent. The keys to beating Barça are out there for anyone to see: control Neymar, flood the midfield and play off the counter. Yet the team doesn’t have an answer. Remember the diagonal rainbows from Messi that found success? Now that opponents have taken that away, what next?

One thing he has tried is a 3-4-3, with some success, based more in the quality of his team than the success of the formation, even as that setup is an effective way to get around some of the tactical difficulties facing Barça. But there is still too much uncertainty, players without a clear mission. Does the system need more time? He doesn’t have more time. Nor does his team.

Player selection has been a consistent difficulty this season, once you consider the few spots that aren’t etched in stone by an incumbent. Neymar, Messi and Suarez are going to start. So will Busquets. But who surrounds them? They can’t play all the time. There is still no viable sub for Busquets, even as the need has been clear for years. There is still no controlling midfielder, even as the need has been clear even before Xavi strolled off to Qatar. Fullbacks? A quality LB has been needed since Abidal sat at a Camp Nou table, wiping away tears. An RB should have been planned for, given the state of Dani Alves and a board hell bent on kicking him in the balls.

Player selection is part of overall transfer philosophy. If you can’t grow it, buy it.

Expectation has been defined at FC Barcelona by a once-in-a-lifetime generation of talent, home-grown geniuses who defined a team and a way of play. But that group was, essentially, an aberration, something unprecedented. La Masia isn’t a magic factory. It’s an academy that, like all the other academies in football, has a small success rate. Think about how many players an academy has, and the demands of top-class football. There are 22 spots on a big-league football team. Consider the odds that the majority of them are filled by players from the academy.

Valdes, Puyol, Pique, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Messi. Not only were those players starters, they were considered best in the world at each of their positions. Valdes is gone, Puyol and Xavi retired, Iniesta is aging. What next?

La Masia

La Masia hasn’t produced a talent worthy of inclusion in Barça’s glittering XI. That’s something that is hard to admit from a world whose view of the academy is still defined by a statistical fluke. But that’s the way it is. There hasn’t been a midfielder seen to come out of La Masia possessed of that “something” since Carles Alena, who is now hanging with the first team. Expect him to take up permanent residence there next season.

Sergi Samper? He can’t start for Granada. Formation, coaching are only excuses to a certain extent. If a player has the talent, that ability is so clear that it defies coaching and formations, as he’s so good the coach finds a way to get him into the XI. Is there a team in football where Iniesta wouldn’t sparkle? The quality of Busquets is clear. You can’t screw up real quality, which isn’t to say Samper isn’t talented. The question is whether he is Oriol Romeu talented, or Busquets sub talented. We will find out this summer.

Grimaldo? He’s playing at Benfica, and has had an injury-plagued season. But even if Luis Enrique and he hadn’t had whatever weird impasse they had, it’s difficult to imagine him sitting Alba, even as his skill set can now, in the hindsight of 20/20, be seen as potentially being more of value than Digne, now that the Frenchman’s performances have tailed off precipitously from their early sparkle.

But who else? Even with Grimaldo and Samper occupying spots with the first team, Barça would still be where it is because of the host of existing problems.

Barça B has taken an approach of acquiring talents that might be good enough to make the first team, akin to transplanting a mature tree from a nursery to a backyard. When people ask why Barça doesn’t take chances on talent like lesser teams, B is where they do it. No time for that on the first team. Marlon, who should get a look at CB this summer, is potentially a definining player for that path. Much of the future talent coming from the B team is still undefined. Nili and Palencia, both RBs, are potential answers to questions that will be asked this summer. Same for Marlon, and Alena. But to lay any part of the team’s malaise at the feet of La Masia just isn’t entirely accurate. It’s impossible to predict how a kid is going to develop. So the club has to buy players.

Transfers, then

Many people consider playing for Barça as some sort of druid ritual, arcane methods swathed in layers of mystery. Barça is a hard team to play for because of its structure and approach to the game, but it’s still football. Transfers need assimilation to the speed of play, the attacking structure and worldview. Some do it faster than others. Barça has had consecutive busy transfer summers, with a bunch of new bodies coming in every off season, people who need to work their way in. There is danger in that, even as transfers excite. Recall that Luis Enrique said, at the start of the season, that he had the most talented team that he has ever had. Seems so long ago now.

If injuries happen, as they have this season, a transfer philosophy becomes complicated. Barça has had remarkable luck with injuries overall this season, even as key players haven’t been able to stay fit. Iniesta has been knocked a lot. But not inconsequentially, Rafinha has been every bit as infirm as Iniesta, and he’s one of the obvious substitutes. When he isn’t fit, the team has to rely on a new transfer, Andre Gomes, who has become a head case of a level not seen since Bojan Krkic.

Gomes hasn’t played the same position for consecutive matches. Left, right, center, holding. But he has to play because who else is there? Turan has also been infirm this season. How reasonable is it to expect a new transfer, even an expensive one, to slot right into the team? That said, it isn’t unreasonable for the team to have had planning so that new transfers don’t have to assimilate immediately. It wasn’t a surprise that Xavi was old and ready to retire, yet the club seemed shocked by it. Iniesta is old, but what next? Right now, nothing.

Transfers are part of planning. Rakitic was a planned transfer, a player who fit a need. Arda Turan fit a need, even if he didn’t slot in right away. Same with Aleix Vidal. Paco Alcacer is a player who also fit a need, a sub for Luis Suarez in some situations, but it was always expected that he would take time to slot in. Play him to give that time. The Alcacer that we have seen his last two outings was there, sitting on the bench, waiting for time.

Vidal is another key injury. He had a spot as the right-sided catalyst, and was rounding into effective form. The 3-4-3 was tailor made for his skill set. Then an injury came, he was done for the season and it was back to Sergi Roberto, a player ill-suited for an effective 3-4-3. Rotten luck is a factor for Barça that few are considering as a function of where the team is, in their quest to lay blame at the feet of a coach or a particular player. It isn’t all the fault of Luis Enrique, or Andre Gomes, even as both are part of the issue.

But it’s not unfair to suggest that the club should have had better planning. Real Madrid is an example of real depth. Few in football would choose their XI over that of Barça when everyone is fit. But when they aren’t, or when they have to rotate, they call on Isco or Asensio. The former won a match for them. Luis Enrique looks down a bench and doesn’t see any answers, partly because of transfer decisions and planning. Planning is supposed to be the bridge that helps a team manage bad luck. People pissed and moaned when Guardiola stuffed Busquets into the XI, and now look. Planning is courage, and managing risk.

Some transfers are a sure thing, such as Samuel Umtiti. But most of them require care and feeding, and a coach committed to working them into a functioning team. That hasn’t happened this year, and with the pressure of not being able to drop any points in Liga, the rotation got short. Gomes plays so much because there aren’t any other real options, given that Rafinha has been broken and Turan also frequently injured. A coach has to be lucky and brave.

Barça is in both transition and turmoil, albeit the latter quality of a type most teams in world football would take. Champions League quarters, second in league, in finals of league cup. But when people say that results aren’t everything, this is what is meant. It isn’t pouting about the team not playing the right way, even as some reduce it to that. It’s that there isn’t a clear, definable future, coupled the results of poor long-term planning.

Individual brilliance is something scoffed at. It shouldn’t be. But it has been saving the team and papering over the cracks, even as its tactical structure is based on player quality, like every team in football. Messi has saved countless matches. Neymar saved Barça’s Champions League. But the team isn’t in good shape. So what next?

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In my fantasy life, I’m a Barca-crazed contributor over at Barcelona Football Blog. In my real life, I’m a full-time journalist at the Chicago Tribune, based in Chicago, Illinois.

40 Comments

  1. Víctor
    April 16, 2017

    I’d add Pedro to that “golden generation”, he may not be the number # 1 at his position, but he is one of the best out there.

    As for the team in itself, it is facing several setbacks, obviously, but I wouldn’t say that this quite a mess… not yet… my guess is that the main reason behind some of those bad performances in this year is physical fitness. Players that get too much time on the field and try their best that eventually get tired and play sub-par games.

    The injuries doesn’t help either, obviously.

    The other part, which is a worrying one is that, indeed, Rio Ferdinand seems to be on-spot: seems that nobody in the team wants to do defensive duties. Lack of discipline or something. The entire team needs to realize that, as offensive and attack-minded Barca’s idea is, we need to have a decent defense at least. You can get away with great results against lesser teams while ignoring your defense… not so against top-quality teams like Juve and PSG. That kind of teams will get a few scoring chances and opportunities, even if they are cornered in their own half.

    Still… call me delusional, but I do think that Barcelona has a fair chance to turn the tie around and get on the CL semifinal. Not gonna be easy, but Juventus didn’t seem to be that great of a team either. Had Barcelona played a little bit better, even a tiny bit, Juventus wouldn’t have gotten that 3-0 lead…

  2. Davour
    April 16, 2017

    Thanks for a good overview! i While it is at times unfair to compare to RM’s depth, considering the cost of many of their subs, t is obvious that the planning has been broken for years. A few failed transfers have made the situation more difficult. But it is baffling how the club fails to address this properly. Obviously, they too, like many of us, are blinded by the quality on display during recent years. The year before the second treble, transfers worked out because they addressed a present need, but didn’t represent long-term. This summer, all the transfers were long-term but none of them bar Umtiti good enough to even challenge for a spot, normally. Why not also buy a proper star? RB or CM (preferably both). Before there was little room when the little giants were still running the show – who could improve that (though a CB was needed even then). But now there is space – need! – for new stars to shine. Ironically, our last serious creative midfielder, Cesc, had the main impact of chasing away Thiago, the only possible star from La Masia since Busquets.

    But it is never too late to change. Buy a starter RB and a starter CM, carefully scouted to suit our style of play, and our first eleven is still magnificent. It frees up SR to fill in wherever needed, which is his big talent. Another quality CB should come along (Lemos!). Alcacer seems to be improving. Rafinha cannot be relied on, but should stay one more season. Munir, Samper and Alena – possibly Deloufeu – and one or two other B-teamers will have a pre-season to show what they can do. Vidal could be back.

    Drop Mathieu, Arda, Mascherano for sure; give Digne, Denis and Gomes a pre-season (unless good offers come). Then we could be back in business. Rakitic is still good enough to be in the squad and play at times (Jim, his disconnection with Gomes might have had to do with him covering RB and RW!), Alba is 50-50, but for me can be kept for continuity.

    Man, picking the new coach sure is an important matter…

  3. luisthebeast
    April 16, 2017

    We have 2 big games this week and the team must play their best game in both.
    There are no excuses.I remember in summer when other big teams made summer tours to USA or Asia,our players stayed in Europe.
    When we made tours fans critisize the club that they care about money and not the team.
    I dont see madrid players to have fitness problem.I see that they run more than ours.
    Lucho made a lot of mistakes but if they cant have our team in top fitness or some players cant run well the summer is close.
    Pique,Rakitic and whoever their name they must fight for the place in starting XI and not have a guaranteed place.
    Except front 3 i would like next season to dont know who the others 8 will be.
    This season we are here fighting thanks to front 3.ALL the others have mediocre season.
    This must change.It s nt bad to try and find a defender better than Pique or a DM better than Busquets.

  4. luisthebeast
    April 16, 2017

    And i dont give a fuck if Pique or Busquets wants Unzue.
    I dont.I want a new coach that dont give a shit about big names in squad.

  5. luisthebeast
    April 16, 2017

    And you can blame midfielders as much as u want but our GK our defenders and our DM must feel SHAME by the way a Top club concede these ridiculous goals from anyone.

  6. Jim
    April 16, 2017

    It has always struck me as strange that at the very moment RM woke up to the fact that it’s not enough to have a great front three and started to build a complete team, we started to move in the opposite direction.

    Luis, I don’t think anyone is excusing the defence but likewise if we had 65% possession and were running the energy out of the opposition they would have less chances to hurt us. If the mids covered properly we wouldn’t have so many free players running at our defence and outnumbering us. At the moment our passing with the exception of Messi hurts and tires out nobody.

    I’m not sure why you exempt the front three from having to play for their place. I’d say all eleven have to and the only time a manager can establish that is right at the start so I hope whoever it is does just that. At the he same time we need a bit of continuity so that we don’t have the current shambles of nobody seemingly knowing where they should be when we lose the ball because we’ve changed three of the back four from the previous game.

    Davour, I take your point about his workload but we can’t get a passing game going when one of our mids is too busy with other tasks to get involved with the other. Why is he still covering RB and if he was, why was he not there when we needed him in defence ? To me, we are basically tossing away two defenders by insisting our FBs stay so wide and high. I really don’t see what we get out of it these days that makes it worth losing cheap goals.

    Luis,

    • Davour
      April 17, 2017

      Yes, I did not mean to say it was the right tactics, just to respond to your query as to why he didn’t “interact” with Gomes! I agree that a Barca mid should not primarily be a filler, but should be at the heart of the game.

  7. Jim
    April 16, 2017

    Meant to say a good account of our situation, Kxevin. I’d love to know the conversation around the purchases last summer. I’m guessing LE had complete control over them and that in the end has cost him. I’m just surprised we didn’t say to Xavi way back at the end of Tata’s reign to cast his eye over a suitable replacement.

    Not sure where Alena’s name has come from. I think I’ve seen him play for about ten minutes. It’s maybe a little early to put him into the public glare where you need to be up to it from the start but if the league is over after the Clasico we can certainly use the time wisely.

  8. Mishti
    April 16, 2017

    While watching the Man Utd vs Chelsea game this morning, a bunch of thoughts crossed my mind that has some relevance to the topic at hand. Thought of putting them down here. Beware the long post 🙂

    What happened to Chelsea today? Many would wonder. A seeming jaggernaut of a perfect system, perfect coach, highly motivated players who were running a lead of 13 points at the top of the table only a few weeks ago. Then came an inexplicable home defeat against a relegation threatened side, and now their second defeat in four games. This time around the team looking ragged, demotivated, and bereft of ideas once their two creative sources were effectively shackled. Conte’s subdued presence on the sideline was even more striking, a far cry from his usual hyper-energetic, constanly coaching mode. But it was telling too. He is not a coach whose tactical nous is doubted by football punditry, very much the opposite. He did not jump around trying to make continual adjustments to formations and player positionings, what seems to consitute ‘a coach being a mastermind’ in many observers’ eyes these days. There are now a lot of discussion about how the opposition coach pulled a masterclass in nullifying Conte’s ‘system’. There is a lot of truth to that. But Conte probably realized something more, which is that part of the reason the system was falling flat was because the players playing in that system were not their sharpest self. They showed less desire, less hunger, less ability to think on their own and make quick decisions when things started going wrong. He knew it was not a question of pulling out one player here, and putting in another player there, though he did duly introduce a third playmaker on the pitch, as the tactics taken in abstract might dictate. It didn’t work. The number of shots and number of completed passes inside the opposition penalty box remained the same before and after- at zero, precisely. In a season that had been shaping up as one of the best in club’s history, the team registered their worst offensive performance in ten years. Antonio Conte knew it was not down to system or tactics only. He said almost exactly the same thing LE said after the Turin match. “I failed to prepare my team, transfer to them the right motivation”.

    Whereas on the surface level the system did fail, such a wholesale failure of something that has been successful in the past tells something more to the coach. He learns of course that the inevitable has happened, by virtue of being so staggeringly successful, the ‘system’ has only intensified the rivals’ quest to find a way to counter it, and such is football that the only thing even more inevitable than death and taxes is that any successful football ‘system’ as played by a given group of players will eventually be found out. The principle is simple, you study the players who play the system, and attack their weaknesses, propensities. A back three with more pace, and Marcus Rashford may not be so much of a terror. So, Mourinho did not find a solution to a back three, so much as he found a solution to a back three played by Luiz, Cahill and Co..

    But he also learns something more. About the players and their collective mental states. He learns whether the ‘system’ failed despite the players’ best efforts, or if there were a bigger malaise plaguing the team. May be simple fatigue. In the aftermath of Turin I read somebody’s comment on twitter that if an individual player fails, then you could blame the player, but if everyone fails simultaneously, it must be the coach. One can turn that argument on its head and say, if a few players here and there are performing badly, it is easier for the coach to try and solve it by substitutions, tactical changes. When everyone seems to be off their pace, as a coach you sense a bigger malaise, and that’s a much bigger challenge.

    What does all these have to do with Barca? At the least, it can serve as a point of reference. I am not trying to commit blasphemy by drawing a parallel between Chelsea and Barca in general 😉 Just pointing similar themes, roller coaster rides, same group of players and same system under the same coach seemingly perfect at one moment and inexplicably fragile in another. Such is football.

  9. PPos
    April 16, 2017

    The psychology of football is bewildering sometimes. I have a strong feeling that if we have beaten Malaga away, we wouldn’t have conceded three goals to Juventus. Momentum is such a crucial thing for a winning side. Madrid keep riding the wave of momentum as shown this weekend with their 90th minute win over Sporting Gijon. Chelsea mid-season was a well oiled machine that kept riding that wave of momentum high. It’s crucial moments like last season’s Clasico defeat that can make or break a team. If we had not lost that game, I think we would have gotten past Atletico and probably won the Champions League, so now let’s please pay the favor back and defeat Madrid and derail their season like they did to us last year.

  10. omoh
    April 17, 2017

    KXEVIN
    This right here is the highlight of everything happening to Barca.

    “It’s that there isn’t a clear, definable future, coupled the results of poor long-term planning”.

    A board that cannot pull off a good sponsorship deal for one of the biggest football clubs in the world is sure to have that problem and Barca is still in danger of being in more trouble if that poor businessmen in charge refuse to improve on their game.

    DAVOUR

    Your analysis give a lot of hope If only we had a board that can think.

    Everything said still doesn’t exonerate LE any bit in my opinion. The board may be the problem in a larger context but LE is the immediate cause. We might have some members of the team that are poor overall but no doubt we could still have had a better luck.

    There is always two ways to handle a team. The tactical and the technical. The tactical has to do with the formations and positioning of players but the technical has to do with what players should do within each tactical formation.

    Tactical is playing a 3-4-3 formation, Technical is drilling players to ensure the 3 men in your defence are not attacked at will or put under too much pressure.

    Tactical is Playing 3-5-2 to have a greater control over the game and create chances. Technical it drilling the 2 attackers to put away their Chances instead of wasting them.

    Technical is the backup when tactical fails.

    There’s a difference between telling someone to do something and drilling someone to do something. I think LE has been poor in drilling his ideas into his players. He seems to just throw them unto the pitch with tactical formations alone but without technical formations. When things go south with tactics, the players starts to look clueless because they lack the technicam information that can still keep them in the game.

    • Davour
      April 17, 2017

      I did not meant to exonerate LE regarding transfers. We can assume that he was involved, and for this season it did not work out – as I said, we did not buy a single mid who was good enough to really challenge. My only explanation is that LE thought highly of Gomes and thought he would be good enough to manage a CM spot. He knew Iniesta was declining physically, as evidenced by how LE managed him last year, and he knew Rakitic is no creator in a Barca context. Denis is really mainly a winger, as is Arda. It is quite a gamble to hope for Gomes, perhaps together with an injury prone Rafinha, to fill in for Iniesta – who has been, we must admit, hampered by injuries.

      However, this must simultaneously be understood in a context where the club has failed to plan for the future for some time; combined with the transfer ban, well…

      Jim – good observation on RM/Zidane insight regarding front 3. I’ve written before that they are built like our team used to be – a solid whole, strong mid, with a sometimes sloppy defence! We are certainly top heavy at the moment – hence, Messi must be omnipresent.

  11. omoh
    April 17, 2017

    Don’t get me wrong DAVOUR the LE part was another discussion entirely that’s why I started it on another paragraph. It just happened to come after the reaction to your post.

    I wasn’t refering to you. I was making a general comment about how most people neglect LE’s involvement in the whole issue.

    I just saw one of my post on Twitter dated October 21, 2015. There I twitted to Ben Hayward of goal.com complaining about LE not being a top quality coach. I can’t even remember the games we played during that time. Heck I always knew things could go this bad under LE but the fan in me never allowed me to acknowledge it. Always hoping for the better despite seeing the obvious.

    • Rami
      April 17, 2017

      ” I always knew things could go this bad under LE”

      That’s a melodramatic statement, An underwhelming season after two very successful ones, Is not much in the way things going bad, As much as it an almost inevitable decline,

      Even the “legendary” pep, And his “mythical” team, Which many insist on making their achievement a standard even though they’re clearly an aberrant anomaly in the footballing world, managed 3 very successful seasons before inevitably crumbling and crashing on the fourth, That’s just one more extra season than now, Is that:
      “I always knew things could go this bad under Pep??”

      The thing is, Our standards have reached mythical levels like an ever growing bubble, Because they’re not based and grounded on any realistic standards that i know of,

      • Davour
        April 17, 2017

        Yes, we (or many) have mythical standards since post-Pep, but I think it is also a matter of identity, not just success. Pep managed to establish this notion (helped by some of the best players in history), and like an overworked genius he burned out. LE has been pragmatic, and has certainly had a few useful ideas, but has not managed to communicate any particular “ideology”. Hence the perception that Pep was tired, LE is clueless.

        We’ve had plenty of success of late, with LE, but the identity part, I think that is where we are suffering. Paradise lost.

        • Rami
          April 17, 2017

          Our identity has been the same in the last 29 years, Since cruyff first came and introduced his idea’s of total football, It certainly didn’t start with pep guardiola, Most of the mangers we had over the three decades had their own little versions and tweaks but they all didn’t stray far from cruyff philosophy, Including luis enrique.

          Pep had the most revolutionary version, And the most successful one, Which is he earned has that legendary status.
          But this brings us back to the starting point, Our mythical standards had reached a level, Where not only we want a managers who bring us trophies, But also revolutionize the game, You know, Like pep did!

          • Davour
            April 17, 2017

            I think we agree on this. Many feel LE strayed from THE identity, only adhering to it in words, not actions. Hence, the pragmatics. In contrast, Pep was, as Zlatan has noted, a philosopher…

  12. April 17, 2017

    One of the biggest difficulties, for me, with the state that the club is in now are the people who are almost gleeful in their rush to say, “I told you so!” They seem to take pleasure in the state of the club for the vindication that it yields.

    For me, it sucks to have to write pieces such as the above. I understand that it’s part of a cycle, but it still sucks.

    Defense bothers me less than attack. Barça is always going to let in goals because of how the team plays. It hasn’t let in that many more than previous seasons. But the finishing is down. And you need goals to win. In the treble season, the team had 175/38 for a GD of 137. Held scoreless five times, with more than 30 clean sheets. Next season, 159/42 for a GD of 117. Scored more and shipped more, with 23 clean sheets. Again, held scoreless five times.

    This season to date there is a GD of 93 (143/50), with 19 clean sheets. I’m no math major, but it doesn’t take one to figure out what is going on. Goals are significantly down season to season. The goal differential this season is brutal.

    • Rami
      April 17, 2017

      This clear incremental decrease in goal difference, Suspiciously resemble, An expected incremental decrease in motivation, Desire And some other word i can’t seem to remember, Competency maybe?

      The desire that fueled them to go, That extra inch, That extra seconds, Slowly faded with each passing year.

      Satiety in sport, Is a bit like inhaling carbon monoxide, An odorless, Colorless, And tasteless gas, That seeps into your blood without you ever noticing, Not until the symptoms starts to kick in, The headaches then the shortness of breath.

      A new coach, With new ideas, With the fresh blood of new players, Should kick this body into all gears again.

  13. dl
    April 17, 2017

    This is not, strictly speaking, on topic, but at the same time it is useful to contrast the different fates of RM and barca. I have genuinely enjoyed watching RM play this year, which I am surprised to admit. Zidane took over the squad, and with very few new inputs, turned it into a resilient and adaptable team. Team is the operative word — when barca fails, as it has a lot this year, it is primarily because it loses cohesion and and some kind of cellular communication between the players. Injuries have no doubt been a very large element, but somehow, LE has not been able to elicit consistency out of anything other than the premier XI.

  14. ciaran
    April 17, 2017

    Messi has been masking the problems that have crept into our game for the past 12 months or so. Neymar has been creating the only danger that is systematic of our normal shape.
    In a 4-3-3 like we should be playing, the two wide players should be keeping width, spreading the defense, creating chances and scoring. They should be helping in both offense and defense as well as offering passing options. The striker should be holding up play and creating and taking chances. Our interiors should be controlling tempo, moving defenders around and using the passing lanes created by the front three. The pivote should be linking the defense to the midfield and closing passing lanes in the defensive transition. Our fullbacks should be creating width and numerical superiority in midfield as well as filling spaces in transition. Our defenders should be able to defend and maintain position and shape as well as backing up the midfield.
    Messi is never holding shape any more. He rarely provides cover for the defense. He gets a pass because he’s an alien that is worth bending rules for.
    Neymar is doing what he should for the most part, my main concern is that due to other shortcomings he tries to do way too much.
    Suarez’ hold up play is gone to the dogs because he wants a foul every time someone touches him, that’s if his first touch hasn’t already left him down. He is also missing an amount of chances that no one expected. This time last year he was winning games left right and centre.
    Our interiors aren’t controlling tempo at all, never engaging defenders and due to lack of movement and lack of confidence aren’t using any passing lanes. Our pivote is having to try to close the entire opposition team down as no one else is with any real intent. He is only linking the defense with Messi as he has no midfielders to pass to or is ignoring them. He is also not closing passing lanes as he has to be too far up the pitch closing down players that his teammates should be doing.
    Our fullbacks aren’t good enough. Sergi is infinitely better as a central midfielder and Alba’s deficiencies have been covered up but are less and less so. The defenders other than Pique and Umtiti have forgotten how to defend and there’s been so much tinkering with combinations that there’s no chemistry any more.

    See it’s all very easy.

    I would love to see Gomes in Busquets pivote role more and have Busquets and Iniesta as the two interiors. I think it’s the only way to have any midfield balance for the remainder of the season. Gomes is very well able to recycle possession and keep the ball moving in that position as well as it not being affected by his on the ball confidence issue. Busquets would be able to lead the press without us being completely out of shape and it would give us three midfielders who actually like the ball. The back four and the front three pick themselves but we have got to stop rotating the defense for God’s sake.

  15. lovell
    April 17, 2017

    Enrique is shit!
    The team is playing terrible terrible soccer because the coach is shit !
    Kevin will never see this because he’s always looking at some “bigger” picture.
    Sometimes the answer is right there ,bad play = shit coach .

    • ciaran
      April 17, 2017

      Not to be defending Lucho or Kxevin, neither of whom need it, but coaching doesn’t change the fact that Iniesta and Busquets have been far less effective this season or that individual performances from every single player are worst than previous seasons. Maybe he’s to blame for Aleix getting a season ending injury, or Rafinha for that matter.
      It’s definitely his fault that the board didn’t sign a right back or that the strikers that he wanted to sign said no and he was left with a 3rd or 4th choice.
      Finally it could have to do with regardless of the fact that we’re playing bad football we’ve been on the end of a series of terrible refereeing decisions and bad luck that have put us in a bad situation

      • omoh
        April 18, 2017

        Yes he is not to blame for
        Messi dropping off and relaxing in games (at that he still manages to make the difference because hes that good)
        Suarez being unable to score or provide as much assist as he did in his first season. Even the dropped Neymars goals are not his faults even though we all agree this to be one of neymars best seasons.
        Gomez is constantly in the team despite being so poor.
        Denis Suarez that was holding down a spot in both Villareal and Sevilla teams suddenly looks clueless in barca team.
        Rakitic was largely a spectator on the bench through out the first half of the season while we lost momentum in la liga with Gomez constantly in the team.

        In fact the whole team suddenly doesnt know how to play football again and the coach is free of blames.

        Please remind us again what really is the Job of the coach? Is it only to select the team. who plays and who doesnt then the players do the rest?

        The board might have its own issues but the bulk of it stops a the coach’s door step. Is it until we have a team of galacticos where every position has at least 2 world class players in tip top form that the coach can then perform.

        As long as the team keeps winning, people dont have a problem but when the team stops winning the players are to blame. The fact is that the team had been vulnerable since the first season LE started in the dugout but the brilliance of the front three and the genius of the midfield of Xavi and iniesta covered this vulnerability. I have never been convinced of his coaching potentials since his first season cause I saw this coming. It was only a matter of time before teams figure it out.

        Rijkaard (5seasons) lost the dressing room because he was too relax on team discipline.
        Guardiolas (4seasons) Squad players declined and the board refused to give him support to overhaul the team eventually falling out with the board. He still went ahead to end the season with 91 points. Losing to a record breaking Madrid team backed by the Refrees with 100points. Never shipped 3 or 4goals.
        Tito (1season) cant be compared
        Tata Martino (1season) cant be compared
        Luis Enrique (3season) Have the support of the board, Sold off academy prospects and bought poor below par players.

        Yet people still blame the players

  16. Víctor
    April 17, 2017

    UEFA is giving Barcelona about 5~6% of going through semifinals. Of course, that percentage is based on past encounters with the same result.

    Barcelona, however, has shown that they don’t give a shit about winning posibilities and, instead, they choose to go out there and win it. I insist: I think that Barcelona has a fair chance of turning this tie around. Even if this time there isn’t an “early goal” like it happened against PSG.

    • Rami
      April 17, 2017

      The last time around, They gave is 0% chance, And we still pulled through, So 5-6& chance is basically telling we’re definitely going through, don’t bother watching….

      Something that i believe in, Is that if football decided to serve us the crappy end of the football spectrum in Torino, The end where you create many chances and score none, What’s stopping it from serving us the other end?
      Only 4 chances created in the entire match, And all 4 of them get converted into goals.

      Also, Marc has to turn into an octupus and casts a “Luck” spell if we want to go through.

  17. luisthebeast
    April 17, 2017

    We are scoring goals.We are scoring a LOT,we are the team with most goals scored in Europe i guess.
    But the team needs to score 3-4 goals because in defense we are so BAD.
    Many people after Juve said that if Iniesta or Suarez scored it would be 3-3.
    Nope it s nt working like that.

  18. Hamid
    April 17, 2017

    What has been bothering me lately is not the fading prospect of silver this season. It is dismal quality of our play. Throughout the season and regardless of results, we were outplayed and dominated by most opponents. Just see how La Real performed against us in the 4 encounters this year. Theirs was the kind of football Barça used to mesmerize with. We beat them, but they humiliated us with their beautiful and elegant performance. Any true footballer will tell you the difference. The talent deficit and tactical gaps are so obvious that nowadays Atleti is producing better football than Barça. Yes, Simeoni’s Atleti!!!

    On the failed transfer strategy (if there is a strategy), I can’t help but wonder how our bench would look like had LE insisted on keeping Pedro, Mounir and Sandro (backup for MSN), Bartra (Bartra + Umtiti = future), Alves (continuity and experience) and Montoya (learning on the job). Instead, he decides to spend millions on new players who have been unable or have not been allowed to contribute anything significant to the club so far.

    I hope the team advances to the semifinals. I do however feel that, under LE, quality of play and team chemistry have dramatically (and maybe irreversibly) dwindled.

    • omoh
      April 18, 2017

      People wont understand the damage done by Lucho with his change in play pattern until late in the future except we are fortunate to have a coach that wants to rebuild like Pep.

      When Pep came in, the policy was almost the same as now. He changed everything, even the pattern of play of all academy teams were tailored to be similar to that of the first team. This was done to encourage seamless transition of academy players. Now that the team plays a more direct football as against the possession based played by academy teams, it makes it difficult for academy players to break into the first team and learn.

      The board might want something but the coach is in charge of the team and also has a say on the players that come through the academy and the kind of education they get. The board dont decide the pattern the coach plays. Barca has a play pattern, any coach that cannot play it should be shown the door else it will affect the progress of the academy products into the first team like we are seeing under Lucho.

      • Yaredinho
        April 18, 2017

        Who are you to tell if people understand (unless you want everybody to agree with you) or not!? talking from your couch is easy! Just take out your ‘I know, I knew…’ stuffs and tell reasons, as there are many, to criticize Lucho or whoever you think…

  19. Half and Half
    April 17, 2017

    As you say, its a complex problem. We all know that. All the blame shouldn’t be on Lucho, he is just at the forefront as the first team is the public face of Barca. The whole structure is failing, the club (of which the first team is just one part of a whole) is failing.

    At the risk of boring everyone, personally I feel it all leads back to the man at the top. Mr Rosell, and now his proxy in charge. I would love to know who gives him their support and why. It’s on his (oh, sorry, I mean their…..) watch that the foundations have been neglected. The essence and traditions disrespected. Whole structures left to rot. It’s all about making money, and how they can grow the ‘brand’ and win in the quickest and easiest way.

    Everything else just goes from there. Let’s start from the bottom up. The youth set up has been tinkered with to the detriment of it. Long serving staff with a good track record kicked out and in their place often came cronies of the board. The intake of kids got more international (I suspect largely as a marketing/brand gimmick). Pathways up the ladder start to breakdown.

    This continues as we get towards the top and reach the B team. After being restored in the Pep era, standards and the objectives are then quickly lost again as we go through Lucho and then particularly Eusebio and now the present. P{ayers brought in, and those who should be getting the minutes for their development don’t as winning is prioritised over everything else… Except they don’t win and get relegated. Then finally any promising kid is often sold so we can bank money and buy them back if they turn out good, because obviously developing and nurturing a precocious player is too much hard work under this regime…..

    And the first team doesn’t fare any better. Money is now splashed on players with little thought and planning into building a squad. It seems to be done because they think they should and to look busy. If we go on results and trophies won then 99.9% of clubs would give all they have for it. But for many the success has been achieved in a very short term measure and relies somewhat on ‘winging it’ – the team doesn’t play….. well, as a team. Cherished principles such as midfield control are chucked away and its basically give it to the billion dollar front three and hope that their individual quality outguns teams. When that doesn’t work, we are f*cked. Now we have a coach who is a dead man walking, and so I write off the rest of the season and what we get served up, but we need to get back to control, intensity to our play and a work rate that isn’t there currently. That might mean making difficult decisions, but someone needs to have the balls to do it.

    Standards have slipped throughout the club, whether we win lose or draw, and it isn’t in good health. If you want to be like any other club, and just out-spend teams and splurge enough money until we win whilst ignoring principles and traditions, then fine, but its not what I want Barca to be.

    • Half and Half
      April 17, 2017

      I forgot to say, basically until change right at the top happens then I have to faith in what is to come. The right people need to be put in place and structures rebuilt at all levels, but it’s those in charge what needs to be addressed.

  20. Half and Half
    April 17, 2017

    As for the La Masia/transfers bit of the blog post, I don’t really agree that the players haven’t been coming through. They don’t all have to be world class, we saw under Guardiola that young players can come in and supplement the others. If you have a strong system that they are immersed in and know then they can help the squad.

    I compared some of them and gave examples the other day, I wont completely rehash it, but for me you could have a squad now with Montoya, Bartra, Grimaldo, Samper, Munir and Sandro in it (and Rafinha and Roberto – in midfield! – in the mix too). Imagine we didn’t have the needless losses of Thiago, Fabregas and Pedro, three more established players who breathe the club and system. Substitute them for the likes of Douglas, Mathieu, Vermaelen, Digne, Gomes, Arda, Paco and the like and I don’t think the squad is any weaker, is at one with the system, and probably saved money in the process.

    Now it’s drying up bar the odd prospect I agree and for any future coach it is a problem, but their have been options available that have been cast aside who couldn’t have been any worse than some of what we have to put up with currently.

    • omoh
      April 18, 2017

      La Masia has been producing like it has done for a long time. The problem is the difference in the playing tactics of the first team and the formative teams.

      Under past coaches starting from Guardiola, all barca teams from the first team to the Cadet and juvenils were playing the same possession based football and 4-3-3 formation. With all the football teams playing the same pattern, the academy graduates can slot into the first team seamlessly even though they still require an incubating period to adapt.

      Now the First team is playing a very different pattern. How will a young academy graduate fit into a team with a set up entirely different.

  21. Chiu
    April 17, 2017

    everything will be rosy again if we pull the remontada vs Juve and get the 3 point vs RM to hopefully take the liga race till the last matchday. Keep the faith, our team has so so much potential and we have so many game changer players that could win game on their own. the question is just: ” do they want it to give their all?”

    Hoping for a great night in Camp Nou. Visca Barca !

  22. April 18, 2017

    I know that Barca are more than capable of turning the tie around and then beating Madrid at the weekend, the question in my mind, and it is a weird question to ask, is do we really want that? Is that what is best for the team given what we know about the current (severe) deficiencies in the team. Will winning the CL and/or Liga give the board an excuse to take the easy/safe route in selecting a new manager and reinvigorating the team? We know we need changes, both in terms of management, and in terms of players on the pitch. Brave decisions need to be made, and I just feel like this board will not make those decisions unless failure this season forces their hand…. and even then I am not so sure they will. For example, to me Unzue, is a “safe” choice, and while he may be fine, I believe what this team needs is a new direction and not “continuity”, which is what Unzue would bring. I like the idea of Oscar Garcia, but I think that would be too bold a move for this board and I feel like Valverde is the most likely manager if the board decide not to take the safe route.

    Of course, none of this is to say that I will not be cheering the team on tomorrow and screaming like a madman if they manage to pull off yet another comeback, but I just feel deep down like winning the CL/Liga will simply mask the very real problems that the team is facing, which will allow the board to be complacent.

    Only time will tell I guess!

  23. Davour
    April 18, 2017

    On renewing the squad, with an eye towards midfield, thoughts often end up in the lap of Thiago or Verratti, maybe Isco. It seems these players are not realistic targets, at least not currently, and Coutinho, also in the rumour mill, is no proper mid. To you who watch more football than I, alas, am able to do – are there any names that should attract interest? Weigl? Bernardo Silva? There must be more skilled mids out there with a good first touch and passing skills. Just curious, if I would have the time to watch other teams than Barca… any suggestions?

    And Cieran, I like you mid suggestion, though Busquets has rarely looked comfortable as a proper CM. Still, Gomes has looked his best as DM…

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