FC Barcelona Team Scout Report
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We have just become witnesses of a terrible phase in FC Barcelona’s recent history. Having dominated the major part of season in La Liga and Champions League, yet it seems they are about to lose everything. All because of Messi not being at the highest level? NO!
Whoever takes a look at the squad of Barcelona and followed each game of them through the last 3 years will discover some major “problems”. We will try to discover the biggest construction sites of that team that should be fixed soon.
To be honest, Luis Enrique does not seem to be very flexible and opponent orientated in his tactics and spirits, at least not at FC Barcelona (he used to be, or seemed to be at Celta Vigo before). Lacking a lot on tactical solutions and alternatives he mostly relies on the personified life insurances such as Messi, Neymar, Luis Suarez and Andres Iniesta. In modern football, where matches become more and more atheltic and minor teams discovered the efficiency of team spirit and sacrificing runs history is repeating with Barcelona side struggling to score versus teams with high disciplined defensive lines.
This is actually the best part of the squad, as Claudio Bravo shows unexpected good performances and having a great “back-up” with Marc-Andre Ter Stegen who was unlucky starting with some minor errors after his transfer to the club.
Nevertheless, Barcelona should keep an eye on this area as Bravo is 33 years old and rumors are becoming bigger and bigger that Ter Stegen will move to Man City soon.
Here we come to a major issue.
Alba – Mascherano – Piqué – Alves – do your remember another defensive line over the past years? We don’t. Funny thing is that this fact should lead to the conclusion that defensive line should be a massive fusion of friends building an impermeable wall!? Wrong!
3.1. Javier Mascherano – Let’s take out Mascherano out of this discussion as he is mostly constant and really indispensable central defender, even that he started his career as defensive midfielder. He is a bank!
Move over to the real problems of Barcelonas defensive side…
3.2. Jordi Alba – the amount of games with disappointing performances became bigger over the past years, at club and national team as well. His main strength, his stamina, used to be one of the “secret weapons” of Barça, when he assisted or even scored goals in the last quarter of the games. Lately his playing style has become more inconspicuous due to some unknown reasons. Additionally the amount of mistakes and bad positioning have increased as well. Maybe it is related to the main reason, that defensive side (moreover on the flanks) must perform more defensive work since Neymar and Luis Suarez arrived to the club and
3.3. Gerard Piqué – common people in Spain say his performances dropped since he married Shakira. Most of you will laugh at this, but think about it. Can you remember his performances at Barcelona in the first 2 years after his move from Manchester? Is this still the same person? Undoubtful that he still has his talents but less and less he brings them onto the pitch. Really disappointing performances on the pitch and unprofessional behavior off the pitch have increased over the last 3 years. What is the reason? One of the reasons must be related to his private life but mostly it might be related to the missing competition within Barcelona squad on his position. There have never been a real 3rd competitor in central defender position. More to this topic will be discussed on Squad Balance issue.
His performances have become totally complacent and his public image became damaged all over Spain. We lost our hope that he will become the Piqué of earlier years but think that it is even possible that his performances will get worse moreover. The club really needs to put some pressure on his “beloved son”.
3.4. Dani Alves – surely he deserves the title of a “clown” that thousand of fans and journalists gave him during the last years. We will not even mention the worst thing he could ever do in his life (making joke on club’s role model Andres Iniesta) – we just call it lèse-majesty!
His performances dropped dramatically. We are pretty sure it is also related to the missing competition within defensive squad of Barça. Additionally one of his better aspects has been always his offensive mentality that he needed to reduce due to the high offensive line of Barça since “MSN”.
3.5. Sergio Busquets – first of all we need to praise him for the last years not only at Barça but also in national team side. He never stops, he is always where it “hurts” – no doubt. The problem is just, that he lacks creativity and vision in comparison to Iniesta or former player Xavi. That is why he is “a real No 6” – and nothing else! This fact is important when considering the general creative part of the squad in terms of transition (from defense to offense).
3.6. Andres Iniesta – are we mistaken to put him into defense ? We think not. An important fact since Xavi’s departure and creation of MSN area at Barça, he took over a much more defensive work on the pitch. A lot of people say he is not as good as in the last years. We say, he is more important than ever before. Being the guy he is he did put his ego to a side and moved one step behind to help more in the transition phases and of course in defensive work of Barça. He is the guy picking the first balls from his goalkeeper mostly, but also trying to recover lost balls and at same time cover the back of the offensive line. Somehow he even manages it to still be a playmaking figure of Barça Eleven. Not to forget, that as captain he is also the role model of the whole club (you could praise him the same way at spanish national team)! Fact is, that you can observe a kind of exhaustion over the last year.
Ivan Rakitic – he started well after his move to Barça but misses constant performances actually. His lack of acceleration forces him to be more attentive to defensive dues of game as he could not cope to run after opponents in comparison to others. That is not a real critic, as he is doing fine mostly but it also leads to less creativity and options in the offensive line when MSN is not working as it should do.
We can reduce the Pros and Cons to just 3 letters: MSN
M = Lionel Messi – We will not go into detail of his positive attributes as we might need an extra server for this 😉 Let’s do not forget that he is a human being, with human body and also a human mind with feelings. Mostly when he is not at the highest level the bright audience does not know the exact reasons. Leo and Barça use to make a big secret out of it. This is really a disaster to his but also to club’s image. It would be much easier to say “he has injury xxx, he must rest 3 weeks” but it seems as both sides will force him to do miracles, even being injured. The game versus Atletico was just one more example. It was not the first time, and unfortunately it will be not the last time. He should rest when he needs to, but we once more assume this is also due to the miserable squad balance. Why Pedro and Alexis Sanchez have been sold by the way?
S = Luis Suarez – see Luis Suarez Scout Report
N = Neymar – a polarizing player, no doubt. We will never criticize his style of play as it is a part of him and everybody should accept it, whether it seems arrogant or not. For example at Zlatan Ibrahimovic people make fun out of it and even compare him with Chuck Norris and put his name into dictionaries. Why so much hate for Neymar then (same question in name of Cristiano Ronaldo)? We can not see a big difference between them.
We even think that he made a great development so far at Barça becoming very effective mostly and even adapting to be part of 3 headed offensive line. We think he put his ego (he used to have in Brasil) aside and assimilate good to european soccer.
Negative is just that he is not 100% there in important matches and uses to “drown” with the team. He should become a leading figure on the pitch, engaging his team mates and if needed even to “replace” the magic of Messi when he is not at the top as he is capable of. Instead you will just observe senseless dribblings and a very quiet character during this type of matches. He must mature a lot in this aspect.
MSN – Despite the latest results we doubt that there will be ever a more effective and glamorous triangle of players in soccer history. We will not use the situation to find a lot of negative things here. Everything has been said in the descriptions of each one of them.
5. Squad Balance
The first excuse that people from Barça will come up with might be the FIFA transfer ban, but come one, did you really not see it coming? You just need to compare the “benches” of the TOP 6 clubs in Spain or of any Champions League opponent. It might be not respectful towards those players, and we are sure one or two might become much important in future, but for now, you will lose every comparison in terms of “bench strength”.
I can see only one competitive bench player: Arda Turan. That is a real danger in many aspects as we can see these days. A misblance in Squad balance leads to a variety of issues:
- amount of games – you can not ask for worldclass performances in an overall of 60-80 games per season per player. Rotation is a foreign word to Barça. Result is also exhaustion of players!
- competition within squad – as you can observe on some players they get kind of complacent and do not keep up their level, concentration and shape. This even seems to lead to misbehavior off the pitch.
- solutions/options/alternatives – when MSN fails there is no real thread in Barça play.
We can make it short here. Great stadium, fabolous city, fans that would die for their club…close to perfection. Additionally through out the world this club enjoys attention of fans and media at a prestigious high level. If you take a look into the youth squads you will quickly come to the conclusion that you will not have any doubts on the future rise of new Messis, Iniestas, Xavis…let’s see what the bright future will bring to us.
Even when this seasons ends in a fiasko, Barça will manage to stay at the TOP3 level in the world. In deed, they need to improve the squad balance immediately, include some rotation and create more options in their pocket of tactics.
Infrastructure and youth development of club
general identification and integrity
lack of solutions towards teams with high defensive discipline
dependency on Leo Messi
create more competition
TOP3 clubs worldwide in all aspects