Another loss, another dent to the season and Barcelona, who were looking good to clinch a treble for an unprecedented second time in a row, are now on the cusp of imploding. After enjoying a nine-point cushion at the top of the table, Barca are now joint toppers with Atletico Madrid at the top of the table. Even arch-rivals Real Madrid have moved one point behind them. They are knocked out the UEFA Champions League as well. Neymar, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez have lost form. Their defense, which shipped out the least goals last season look like conceding a goal with every passing game.Also Read - Big Blow to PSG as Neymar Ruled Out With an Ankle Injury
Luis Enrique: Also Read - Ballon D'or 2021: Lionel Messi Does Not Deserve, Toni Kroos Reacts to PSG Man Winning it For 7th Time
There is a saying that the coach is only as good as the team. Despite winning a treble last season, a feat that only a select brand of managers have managers have managed to do in the history of the game, Luis Enrique has endured a lot of flak. The former Barca star striker’s alleged dressing room bust-up with Messi was a theme that ran through the course of the season. The truths is that, despite having a glittering array of talent his ranks, the manager still has to bring a certain amount of stability in the side, has to find a system where he can fit Neymar, Messi and Suarez. The onus of building a strong spine in the middle of the park and at the back rests squarely on him. Enrique has done a fine job and the best of teams have collapsed at the end of the season. The blame shouldn’t be the manager’s alone but in football, it is the he who becomes a casualty if the team fares poorly. Also Read - Lionel Messi Feels France Football Should Award Robert Lewandowski 2020 Ballon d’Or, Says He Deserves It
Messi, Neymar and Suarez:
They were crushing teams for fun last season. There were doing that for the early part of this season too. Of course, one can point to various factors when things are not going right. Neymar, Messi and Suarez have collectively lost form this season. Madrid, on the other hand have surged in the table because of Cristiano Ronaldo coming into terrific goalscoring form just at the business end of the season. Barca’s ‘MSN’ have suddenly not become average players; they are one of the finest of their generation. Recently, sides have shown that their threat can be nullified through some basic, route one tactics.
Messi, who plays deeper than the other two is not given any space to run through to the ‘D’. If the opposition have two deep lying midfielders, one tracks Messi’s run and the other ensures that the ball doesn’t reach Neymar or Suarez. The Brazilian and the Uruguayan thrive on playing off the shoulders of the last defender. The defenders — the centre back and the right back — stick to Suarez and Neymar respectively. Real and Atletico executed this to perfection and other teams are following suit.
Midfield and defense:
Without the ball, Barca can always be vulnerable. Andres Iniesta’s standards have slightly slipped this season. He had an match to forget against Atletico at Vicente Calderon. Ivan Rakitic has also disappeared off late. Sergio Busquets provides stability but is hardly a magician a la Iniesta. The backline has remained the same for the last few seasons now. The system that Barca play always allow other teams to catch them on the break.
Barca capitulated in 2013-14, which went down as a trophyless season. The side will be well aware of it and might go on to win the La Liga crown, now that they don’t have any European assignments. The lack of plan B has hurt Barca in the past. The side has been chugging along like a gravy train for the last 20 months or so and fatigue could be catching up with the team. Gone are the days when the Blaugurana had a lot of strength in depth. This is a lesson for the other teams: 10 days can alter the shape of a season and nothing can be taken for granted in the world of football, even you have the best set of players in your ranks.