“Barcelona will be back, though. We play football because we love what we do, and we do it for those who always support us and suffer as much as we do.”
These were the words of Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta after their Champions league elimination in the hands of Chelsea in midweek. It was a week to forget for the Barca faithful as they were eliminated from two competitions in just four days.
They lost their La Liga crown to Real Madrid losing at the Nou Camp in the El Classico and Chelsea compounded their misery in Europe. They have now lost both of their crowns and the question on everybody’s lips is Barcelona’s dominance coming to an end?
Barcelona has been the standard bearer in European football for the past three seasons under Pep Guardiola. They have been dominant in Spain and in Europe in the process winning three league titles, Champions League three times within a space of five years, FIFA Club World Cup two times, Copa Del Rey and two UEFA Super-cup trophies.
But this season they have not reached the high standards they set for themselves. Three straight bad games have set the alarm bells ringing this season and questions have been asked of the squad. The team has been dubbed the best of all times.
Every team has had its golden era. Real Madrid in the late 50’s, Bayern Munich in the early 70’s, Milan in the late 80 and early 90’s and the last four years has been dubbed the Barcelona era. Many reasons could be given for their fall from grace this season, the number one reason is their over reliance on Lionel Messi.
The little Argentine at 24 is already seen as one of the best players to have kicked the round leather game and his comparism to greats like Pele and Maradona at this young age is a testament to his greatness. He has won everything there is to win in club football and only success at the international scene that has eluded him.
This season Barca has been one directional as Messi has scored 70 percent of team goals in this current campaign. He has 63 goals to his name and has been the reason why the Catalans are being regarded as the greatest side ever. If Messi plays well the whole team plays well.
Against Madrid and Chelsea it’s no coincidence that his below par performance resulted in both defeats. He looked fatigued and out of sorts in both games and missed a penalty to sum all a miserable week for the Argentine. Another reason is the loss of David Villa to injury.
David Villa is the only recognised striker in the Barcelona team, Pedro is a winger so is Alexis Sanchez, leaving the whole burden of goal scoring on Messi who have been delivering but a David Villa would have made this easier. A striker should be a priority for Barcelona if they are to dominate Europe again.
Cesc Fabregas started the season brightly finding the back of the net and formed an incredible partnership with Messi but towards the middle of the season he lost form. Maybe his allergy to trophies during his time with Arsenal had something to do with it. He was far below his best in the latter part of the campaign.
The defence has been in shambles, Pique was the definition of inconsistency this season as he struggled with form and injuries, age is catching up with Puyol and cannot be see Mascherano is not a defender while Alves spent more time in midfield more than in defence this season.the loss of Eric Abidal was a big blow to the Catalans.Barcelona needs two central defenders and a left back to shore up the defence.
Barca’s play has been too one directional as they have often been criticised for not having a plan B.Their greatest strength is the ability to hold possession and pass as this has served them effectively in the last four years but the players need to be told that they can shoot the ball from outside.
A plan B is needed if the passing game is not working, against Chelsea and Madrid they had the lion’s share of the possession but could not make it count as at they end of the day history remembers victories and not possessions.
The final blame for the team’s slump this season can be placed at the door step of Coach Pep Guardiola.In both games against Chelsea and Madrid the team lacked inspiration and ideas while luck could be attributed to Chelsea’s victory in the first leg at Stamford Bridge against Madrid in the Nou Camp they were outplayed and lost the tactical battle.
Guardiola bold decision to play three defenders have proved to be a master stroke in some games but it cost him in the games against Chelsea and Madrid.It would have been safer going for the 4-3-3 formation.
The decision to start Tello in the Classico leaving Pedro in the bench was a bad mistake as Pedro is known as the player for the big games even though he has not been consistent this season.His decision to delay the extension of his contract has affected the squad this season as many are of the opinion he wants to move on.
After all is said and done it can be said that Pep Guardiola has built the greastest side ever to play the game.It can be debated that their dominance has come to the end or it can also be said that it was just a blip that they will bounce back next season.
This is the time to show that they are the greatest side in the history of the game. But next season some new faces need to be added to the club to make them more competitive. One thing is for certain, Barcelona will bounce back.