“We want to be in control of the match. Always. That’s our intention, to hurt the opponent. It’s obvious that we need the ball, and we want it. From there on, we must make as little errors as possible.”
In theory to control enables a barrier to threats. A barrier to threats in this context refers to Enrique’s focused approach to using the ball to minimise the threat of the opponent. However, as we saw in the ‘Clasico’ finding the balance between retaining possession and playing quick, direct football remains unfounded by Enrique – ‘errors’ as he referred to inevitably will occur as long as this conundrum continues
Luis Enrique could have been forgiven for impersonating Mr.Guardiola in his pre-match conference before Barcelona’s 3-1 slaughtering at the hands of Ancelotti’s Real Madrid side in El-Clasico. Guardiola’s way has long been associated with the famed ‘tika-taka’ approach. Although in Enrique we have a man from the same school of thought, yet looking to stamp his own blueprint on the club he valiantly represented for 8 years (1996-2004).
Domestic affairs has seen our attention switch to Ferguson’s latest admission (found in his autobiography – updated version) of being completely ignorant to West Ham supporters cries for their fabled footballing ideologies to be implemented at the Boleyn Ground. The ‘West Ham’ way.
Of course, comparing West Ham to Barcelona appears a bizarre analogy. But look closely enough and it will resonate with you, peradventure as it has done with Enrique himself, that Barcelona are facing a battle between ideologies leaving the current system deeply inhabited in ‘no mans land’ with an escape to solitude seeming infused by impediment.
From Old to New
‘Transition’ is a term used far to loosely by journalists to add weight to their narrative agenda. In Enrique’s context transition from old to new provides a engrossing factor in the battle to find his ‘way’. ‘El Clasico’ presented Enrique as a man to leaning towards reaction-based initiative, nonetheless affected by romanticism of past regimes. Here in lies the problem faced by Enrique.
La Liga had passed so far without any real hitch. However, the grudge-match at the Bernabeu introduced Enrique to his first real test of the league campaign to date. When forced to make his decision on whether Xavi warranted a place at the expense of Rakitic we saw Enrique conform to Barcelona’s trophy-lidden era (some would say has passed) over his ‘promise’ to adhere to his own footballing ideologies.
Xavi’s inclusion hinted solely at romanticism on Enrique’s part. Experience, understandably, is a pivotal aspect of ‘controlling’ the game. Be as that may be, Xavi’s decreased mobility compared to Rakitic’s dynamic drive from midfield highlighted Enrique’s self-conscious battle from old stability to ‘new’ risk.
However, the game at the Bernabeu saw Enrique’s decision come back to cause him palpable pain. Xavi’s inclusion, in front of it has to be said a less than fully fit Busquets, compounded Barcelona to be penetrated from deep by Kroos and Modric who from the off looked at ease when dealing with Xavi’s ‘controlled’ approach. Rakitic, as illustrated by his games starting in Xavi’s role, has instilled a direct style of play more akin to Enrique’s tactical needs. So why did ‘El Clasico’ lead Enrique to abandon his ideology for his Barcelona side to fit in Xavi? Speculation can only lead so far, but Enrique played it safe, when making ‘as little errors as possible’ was maybe part an parcel the pragmatism he was brought in to remove.
To say the transition from old to new, in terms of personnel, is a defining factor that will directly affect ‘Enrique’s way’ cannot be understated. The time for reliance on the old-guard needs to draw to a close and the players Enrique hand picked to start his revolution at the Camp Nou have to be brought to the front. Only then will we see truly the desired impact Enrique envisaged when taking over this summer. Enrique’s Way has hit a temporary wall. Time will be his healer, yet only his decisions across the season will decide whether Enrique’s way will become the ‘Barcelona way’.