END OF AN ERA!
Fc Barcelona maintained their 100% record this season albeit with an unconvincing win against APOEL. They have been known for their style and domination, maintaining possession and dominating opponents. Spellbinding. Spectacular. Humbling. There is no end of superlatives to describe this team at their brilliant best. Over the last couple of years loads of trophies have been added to the glittering Camp Nou trophy cabinet. In 2009 they shattered all record and won every title they competed for making the only team ever to do so. Barcelona became the envy of many coaches and darling to fans all over the world with their tiki taka style of play.
Their success can at times be singled out due to their star names. A team that had names like Lionel Messi, Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, Gerrard Picque, Samuel Etoo and others, you are always confident of victory every time you step on a football pitch. Add to their brilliant and former player turned coach Pep Guardiola, Barcelona was the most complete team ever. He instilled a great philosophy, team culture and skills development.
But there have been a decline in the team’s performance in the last two years or so. Games have been won but unconvincingly, possession; a key tool during the Guardiola era have been lost in some matches. Messi for all his abilities has looked human after all. The defensive problem has partially been solved and the natural successor to Xavi, Thiago Alcantara was allowed to join European rivals Fc Bayern Munich. What went wrong anyway?
Luis Enrique just like the late Tito Villanova and Gerardo Martino has started the season on a positive note. Three games gone and nine points in the bag and no goal conceded. They are even holding six points advantage over rivals Real Madrid. The season might still be early but it will count at the end of the season.
Tata Martino’s rotation system ensured that most key players reached the decisive stage of the season fully fit but, unfortunately, many seemed confused as to what the manager expected of them when it truly mattered. This is the problem Luis Enrique is committing again this season. Barcelona has been lacking a definite first xi so far this season. Everything has been experimental.
In goal Claudio Bravo has been preferred in league matches but keeper Marc Andre Ter Stegen is now back from injury. He too managed to maintain a clean sheet in the team’s Champion League opener against APOEL and it remains to be seen who will be the club’s number one between the posts. The Barcelona coach pointed out: ‘I’ve three goalkeepers and I’ll use them as I think is best. I don’t believe in the cliché that you need a fixed starter.’
In defence Pickue’s partner has been rotational between Adriano, Mascherano, Jeremy Mathiew and the young Marc Barta. A steady campaign will require more discipline and cohesion between the centre backs supported by Jordi Alba and Dani Alves on the flanks.
In midfield it has been business as usual with Sergio Busquets resuming normal duties alongside newcomer Ivan Rakitic and Andres Iniesta. Xavi is not getting younger and has been used as a bit part player but he will add plenty of options for Enrique.
Neymar is back after the injury he sustained on international duty with Brazil and looks likely to support Lionel Messi in attack. Munir has been a revelation and so do Sandro but both lacks the experience to perform at high levels and the former has shown in recent games that he still lacks the ability to make important decisions in the final third. Pedro will not get the chance to maintain his place considering the fact that Luis Suarez return to the fold is barely a month away. Good times ahead at camp Nou; maybe.