It all started last year, on 27th April, that fateful day no Barca fan will ever forget. It had been a horrible 2 weeks for the Catalan giants, first losing in El Clasico to arch rivals Real Madrid, who eventually went on to win La Liga, and then their shock elimination from the Champions League at the hands of Chelsea. Despite their attacking qualities, it was not enough to break down a much criticised display of resilient defending from their opponents.
Barca only had themselves to blame. The tie should’ve been over after the 1st leg.
Disappointment followed. Their League and Champions League defence was all but over, going home with only the Copa Del Rey to their name.
And to add more salt to their wounds came a stunning blow to all players and fans. Guardiola could not take it any longer. His resignation signified the end of a historical name. 14 titles in 4 seasons at the club are unmatched.
The board thought it would be a good idea to keep the same philosophy of football at the club. Then came Tito Vilanova- Pep’s best and most trusted friend. He was a warrior, battling through cancers and what not. Praised by Pep as a tactical master, much was expected of him at the club and so is he has proved his worth.
However, with Tito now hospitalised, how much longer can Barcelona last without a proper coach? Was it ideal for the Barcelona board to appoint a man with serious health issues in the past? After all, Pep resigned citing fatigue and stress as a key factor to stepping down. So why on earth did they let someone, who had such serious health issues take over as coach? How different would it have been if Marcelo Bielsa was brought in?
In one of Tito’s press conferences, he pointed out the challenge he would have to face if he was to replicate Guardiola’s success. After all, Pep built a side which are now considered worthy European champions and have been compared to the best club teams ever. They are arguably the best team ever and have received accolades and plaudits from the very best the game has seen. Boosting the likes of Xavi, Iniesta, Puyol, Pique, Messi… these guys were destined for greatness!
But who would’ve thought it would be short lived?
So what exactly should’ve been done since the departure of Pep Guardiola
1. Change the tactics
The fact that Barcelona have held on to the same tactics is a sign of their inability to move on from the ‘good old days’
As a Barcelona fan, I love watching eye catching, jaw dropping, and attractive football. This is exactly what Barcelona’s football philosophy the ‘tiki taka’ has offered. As of late, it has also become a medium for success.
But is it time to let go of that brand of attractive football?
The domination they have over their opponents week in week out is surreal, averaging over 60% possession every match. However possession means nothing and as of late, it seems as though possession gives them a sense of security on the pitch, a mentality which desperately needs to be changed NOW!
As Bielsa himself said, ‘What’s the point of passing the ball around the pitch if you’re not penetrating the defence?’ I could not have said it any better myself. The fact that they have been unable to penetrate the oppositions defence with the amount of possession they have is extremely worrying. With the so called ‘death of defending’ and the introduction of synthetic, plastic, technologically enhanced soccer balls and the boots that are on offer, defenders and goalkeepers should be the ones finding it hardest to deal with attackers. And when your team boasts players such as Messi and Iniesta, there is no excuse to not score on a regular basis.
The idea that possession matters most is not viable at this point in time. And as Barcelona has shown us, tactics based on dominating possession may not be of much use anymore.
In their recent performances against AC Milan, Sevilla and Real Madrid, chances have come few and far between, and with such few chances on offer, being able to finish becomes more important.
Not only is the tiki taka less effective when attacking, it also opens up a gaping hole for counter attacks and with Barca’s defence ageing, it really is time to let go of these seemingly useless tactics. The speed which Puyol possesses just cannot match those of Ronaldo and Di Maria, making his job harder at the back. Pique, despite his great defensive attributes, is not known for his speed and both defenders are regularly caught off guard. The idea that Dani Alves and Jordi Alba are playing as attacking wing backs does not help in aiding their defensive woes.
2. Splash the Cash
On paper, Barcelona look to have an invincible team, but there recent displays highlight the need to constantly reinforce the team with the world’s best. This is not to say that they shouldn’t promote ‘B’ team players, but the ability to buy the world’s best offers a quick fix solution to their woes especially in defence.
Barca’s financial problems have been highlighted, but their revenue is increasing every year with more and more fans becoming club members. Controversial sponsorship deals with Qatar Foundation and others should offer financial assistance when needed, and using Nike as a medium for signing the world’s best should act as an encouragement for the board to bring in those signings despite the player’s worth!
3. Get a long term coach
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not having a dig at Tito, but there are limitations as to what he can do and what he has to offer at the club. Although Pep has called him a ‘tactical master’, he isn’t Pep. With serious health issues in the past, and the reappearance of a tumour, he will be unable to do his job to the best of his ability with health issues constantly lingering on his mind. Candidates such as Pellegrini, Bielsa, Klopp… just to name are few should be taken into serious consideration.
Changes need to be implemented if Barcelona is to continue being the world’s best. Let go of Pep, stop relying on Messi, bring in the signings and get a healthy coach who is able to dedicate his heart and soul to the team, that’s exactly what Barcelona need to get back to their best.