A bright future for Barça?

As Barça move into the last three months of the season, I thought it might be an idea to make the most of having no midweek game to take a look at our current situation and hopefully start a bit of debate. We ended 2011 with a splendid victory at the Bernabeu before being crowned World Champions in Japan. Since then we have reached the Copa del Rey final, beating Madrid again on the way, and we have taken a big step towards a Champions League quarter final place. However, the negative side, of course, is that we are now ten points behind Madrid in La Liga after dropping points at Espanyol, Villarreal and Osasuna. After three and a half years of blaugrana dominance should we accept that we can’t win every time, or are there things we could be doing to improve things? Basically I’d like to know if you are all happy, and if not: what is the problem?

I’d also like to take a look towards next season. The club have made it known that Marc Bartrá, Marc Muniesa, Martin Montoya and Johnathan dos Santos will all be given first team contracts which means if we are to keep the policy of a small first team squad we will have to get rid of some players to make room. There is also the need to buy new players with the main focus being to get either Jordi Alba or Gareth Bale to strengthen our left side. Even if we only make one signing, with the addition of the youngsters we are going to have about 26 players, and that’s not including the other promising youngsters such as Tello, Sergi Roberto, Deulofeu or Rafinha. Surely we will have to sell and we may see a surprise or two in the list of players for sale. I imagine most fans will think of players like Adriano, Keita or Fontás if we really have to sell somebody though given their form this season we may see the club decide to try and sell one or more of Piqué, Pedro or Villa. Of course, we still don’t know the future of Pep Guardiola, and if in the end he does decide to call it a day at Barça then the new coach may want to make an even bigger clear out.

The form of Pedro and Piqué may be one of the downsides of this season so far but there are plenty of positives. New signings Alexis Sanchez and Cesc Fabregas have both adapted well to their new circumstances, and while they could both be a bit more consistent they have both offered vital contributions in important games. Of the youngsters Thiago Alcantara stands out as the player with the biggest future though the rise of Isaac Cuenca and Cristian Tello has been an added bonus. While we have had our share of injury problems with Afellay, Villa and Fontás worst hit, we can be happy Leo Messi seems to have put his early-career injury problems behind him, Cesc Fabregas is lasting better than most seasons at Arsenal, while Carles Puyol has just played eight successive games which is the first time our injury-plagued captain has managed such a run for over three years.

The success of the club is always balanced against how well Real Madrid are doing. At other times in our recent history being ten points behind our sworn enemy would have been unbearable and many fans would be calling for the head of the coach. Perhaps the fact that that isn’t happening and nobody is talking about a crisis is a sign of the healthy state we are really in. However, things change quickly in football and we may be in a different state at the end of the season. I think many fans feel they can live with seeing Madrid win La Liga as long as Barça win the Champions League. If only winning the Champions League were so easy. The feeling may be different if it is Madrid who claim European glory in May. It is strange to look at the latest CL results as there really doesn’t seem to be any other team apart from Madrid who could cause us problems. Unless there is a big upset along the way it would appear that the two giants of Spanish football are destined to meet again in this competition. I for one would welcome another meeting though it would very probably make or break the season for both clubs and could also play a big part in influencing the decisions of Guardiola and Mourinho as to whether to continue next season or not. The ten-point gap hurts, if Madrid win the Champions League it will hurt even more. However, despite the occasional drop in form from the team, I think we should be happy with how things are run on a footballing level. The team plays the sort of football we want to see, with the philosophy on attack, possession, teamwork, entertainment and on giving a chance to the many youngsters produced by our brilliant academy as the means to achieve success. I believe it is the right way to do things and I’m sure this team still has plenty more to offer us.

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8 Responses to A bright future for Barça?

  1. barcacentralroger says:

    Lovely post Nic and a good moment for an appraisal. I think you hit the nail on the head regarding views on the season – it’s the Champions League that will matter. I think we won’t recover the league, and we have to recognise that the King’s Cup is definitely not in the bag against a good Athletico team, so we may end up the season trophy-less, but yes, in order to support the perception (fans and the wider footballing world) that this is one of the truly great club sides (and perhaps the best ever), to lose the league this season we must achieve the historic accomplishment to be the first side to retain the Champions League.

    With regards to the CL, having watched the Napoli vs Chelsea and Milan vs Arsenal games, and highlights of a few others, I can’t see any team making life hard for Real aside from us, except maybe a lucky Milan (one of the reasons I was disappointed to see the two Manchester teams go out, each of which I thought we could beat, but who may have provided some opposition to Real). Over two legs, I can see us progressing, but the concern is another one-game decider in the final, as per the King’s Cup next year (don’t get me wrong, on our day, we’re still better; the second leg King’s Cup match last month they played very well against an under form us, however all kinds of things can happen over one leg).

    Okay, enough with the obvious.

    Team changes:
    – I can’t see Pique going; his form hasn’t been great, but he was pegged as a future captain, and he has responded positively to being dropped. We are also short at the back and so I think more likely would be to retain him but place his “starter” position under doubt.
    – I worry for Pedro that he could go. I love the guy and would hope that he would stay, however of the MVP trio he is perhaps the least accomplished and suffers this season in comparison to Sanchez and even Tello and Cuenca have performed better.
    – Villa I dare not speculate on. Not considering his form before Christmas, unless he joins the national team this summer and then proves his full recovery I can’t see us receiving offersof a size worth considering.
    – Sadly for them, I think regardless of injuries Affelay and Fontas may both go.
    – I had thought Keita was going this season as he hasn’t had the playing time, but with Masch not proving as adept in the Busquets role seeming to have fully converted to a CB, and none of the promotions specialising in that position I could see Keita staying to provide cover, close out matches if he was willing. That being said, his willingness to rejoin the national team suggests he hasn’t lost that hunger so I could see him going. The solution to the DM cover role may be to eventually ignore the position altogether, with the three midfielders simply rotating roles, as we have seen in games recently with Thiago, Iniesta, and Cesc playing (not without some confusion, but all towards the “no-position, no-formation” future I proposed a couple of months back!).
    – Adriano’s position I think is entirely dependent on new signings, but as a player doesn’t seem to hate the bench, I’d expect him to stay.
    – I would expect Tello to get a promotion to the first team, but I’m not sure whether he is at that stage in the cycle they employ?

    Entirely new signings:
    – Gareth Bale, I love the idea of signing him as a left back! But realistically, with a contract to 2015, I can’t see us breaking the bank. So no. More realistically Jordi Alba and should Pedro or Villa leave (or progress in the latter’s injury not look so good), then Robin Van Persie (entering into his last year of the contract) or (the endlessly rumour-related) Neymar to come in. With the promotions coming through, I think signing a new central defender is unlikely as that would send entirely the wrong message, unless Pique leaves.

    Overall, I think the squad has suffered from its size, but we recognise that that is the flipside of producing such a cohesive and strong-minded team. Whilst the cantera is lauded, in terms of graduates to the first team, the past two seasons hasn’t actually been that great and only this season have we seen what feels like the next crop coming through (Tello, Cuenca, Montoya). I think this will make a difference going forward. Also, whilst not having Xavi on the pitch every game if his tendonitis prohibits obviously makes us an inferior side, it will continue to allow us to rotate players, incorporate Cesc and Thiago, and prolong Xavi’s career.

    Okay, my two pennies. Nothing too original to say I’m afraid!

  2. Fredegar says:

    Well, I love the idea to use this week to have a bit of a debate over our situation, I was actually looking for such a post, but Nic, frankly, you spoil the show by giving us opinions I for one can’t disagree with on most of the subjects 😉

  3. V. says:

    Reblogged this on New York City – M1 Marketing and Promotion and commented:
    Nice article.

  4. barcacentralenrique says:

    i cannot express how deeply i feel things are fantastic football wise at fc barcelona, irrespective of what happens this season. (but i say that all on the condition pep leaves). in honestly my biggest grievance is more at the top level where i think a few execs could keep their mouth a bit quiet when it comes to other players and i loath the fact cruyff is being treated like a leaper.

    but footballing wise, please guys. if anyone complains its the most spoilt, myopic, and frankly ignorant thing i can think of. you win and LOSE in sports, success does not continue forever, at least not so sequentially. the last 3 season and really the last 7 or 8 have been filled with the most historic moments, the best football i have ever seen in my life, so why feel sad or disappointed? why throw players under the bus? madrid will win the league, so what? does the world end, do you hang up your barca shirts? no. they could win it this year, and u know what, they will win it again sooner than later. thats the game. i believe more deeply in the club being run properly in terms of philosophy: focus on the cantera, beautiful brand, and always attacking intent.

    squad wise, i dont agree with many changes above at all, in fact none. bale is NOT a left back, he is a left midfielder, which is where he plays at Spurs and where he has made his breakthrough at Spurs. as a left back he isnt that great, he doesnt enjoy it as much, plus he will be overly expensive and not be worth the trouble. alba is nice from what ive seen, but he is tiny and frankly as long as abidal is fit i want to see him continue there. hes earned it until he starts playing poorly consistently, which hasnt happened. i dont want RVP. he is 28, and wow, has had 1 season in like 8 he isnt injured 50% of the time. too risky. plus he is a bit selfish and isnt great at interplay, i just dont see him as a necessity. if anything, we could do with a defender.

    i have no clear idea of who i want to come in to be honest, but i strongly disagree with the suggestions the media have been giving (ie above). how any one can suggest selling pique is honestly truly ridiculous. he is like 24, and 1 or 2 years ago we were lauding him the best center back in the world, rightfully. so now he has a few poor games and you sell him? goodness, if thats how people managed football clubs we’d be stuffed. no need to sell pedro either, my word, one poor season and forget the huge amount of clutch goals he has scored. he wont bring much value in the mkt anyway, there would be no point what so ever. if he regains form and fitness, which we need to give him time, he is still lethal, a cantera boy, gives huge effort, and doesnt complain. thats the perfect squad player. and fontas? why? cause he got injured, so u sell him? how much u gonna get for him? 3 mill? keep him. low wages, good potential, give him a chance man. and adriano? wow. 1 season lads. super utility player. small wages. why? afellay can go, he has never been that great and if we make decent value its nothing lost. i hope nic is playing devil advocate mostly here, cause any of those players being sold has no logical reason what so ever, or economic value.

    if pep stays i think we will see minimal changes, and honestly if there are changes i bet pep wont be too pleased and could make next season his last. he doesnt want people to make moves above his head. we may make a signing or two, but i hope it isnt a marquee huge player. i dont want to look ahead that far.

    i just know this club has come out the doldrums, doldrums i as a cule went through. this is paradise in comparison. as long as pep stays and rosell keeps things in order up top i am happy we stay the same course. small squad, boasted by youngster, and we take anyone on. i dont feel any shame what so ever in losing (which we have barely done lately) to clubs that spend 3 or 4 times more than we do and have no local lads to really look onto, just a bunch of mercenaries who will leave whenever and only play for the money. and i certainly feel no shame losing to that idiot mourinho who spends more money than an arab sheik and plays a negative shit brand of football and encourages violence and brutality on the pitch. i in fact feel bad for people that have to support madrid and lie to themself that they respect him.

    the fact we have players who play for the crest is rare and something people dont realize enough is a huge part of our success.

    people really need to start taking long term views and put things into perspective. aside from the pep drama, which honestly i feel if he goes than who knows what will happen, then there is nothing to complain about.

    • barcacentralroger says:

      Enrique, just to clarify, my comments regarding squad movement was not about what I want to happen, just a speculation on how I could see things happening. And remember, those same execs that are such a pain are often the ones that feel a pressure to prove their worth by bringing in new players. Personally, I wouldn’t want any of our current crop to move on (barring those with supporting roles who quite within their rights may want more playing time). I have concerns about Villa, but not based on his pre-Christmas form but of the impact of the injury on his abilities (ie, after recovery).

  5. barcacentralnic says:

    I agree with the idea of minimal changes and I doubt we will see more than one or two first team buys this summer. But like last summer with Cesc and Alexis they will probably be players that will offer us something different. Bale could occupy the left side pretty much the same way Alves works on the right though I agree he would be expensive but he has qualities you don’t find very often in one player. However, even if we only sign one if we add the promoted players plus Fontas, Afellay and Villa presumably recovered from injury we are going to have an oversized squad. Surely we want the opportunities to continue to go to up-and-coming players and the only way to do that is to offload. It’s easy to say you are against a certain player leaving. The difficult question is who should go.
    Here’s a list of probable first teamers:
    Valdés, Pinto, Alves, Montoya, Bartrá, Puyol, Piqué, Mascherano, Fontás, Muniesa, Adriano, Abidal, Busquets, Keita, Thiago, Xavi, Iniesta, Dos Santos, Fabregas, Cuenca, Pedro, Messi, Alexis, Villa, Afellay, Tello. That’s 26 without signing anybody, Tello may not have a first team contract but I’d say he should get one soon, and then we have Sergi Roberto, Deulofeu, Rafinha etc knocking at the door. I admit to being a bit surprised at the club announcing the promotion of four players when, given the quality of the squad, none of the four look likely to feature too much. Maybe we will just go with a bigger squad but I question the wisdom of that after seeing the success of the small squad. I also wonder if Guardiola and Zubizaretta agree on the policy to take for next season and this could also be a reason Pep hasn’t signed yet.

  6. barcacentralenrique says:

    there is a difference between that “big” squad of 26 and that of madrid or man $ity. montoya, bartra, fontas, muniesa, adriano, keita, cuenca, tello are all perfectly aware of their age and/or role in the squad. there will be no discontent and unhappy players. plus 90% of them are local lads, they are there to play for their club, not for money. makes such a difference. they will be willing to wait and be given their chance, knowing pep will give it to them.

    later in the year we can think about how to get, but shit, if there is no value in the mkt then no reason to just blow money unneeded.

    seriously, i cant see bale fitting in at barca. would be a an expensive mess id say. if him and alves bomb the defensive wings, we will be even more exposed. abidal is a WAY WAY WAY better defender than gale. eric is worldclass at defending, while bale is actually quite poor. at defending. plus he is just a winger, it doesnt suit us. thats a nonsense rumor and i dont ever see it happening.

    pep will hopefully make some undercover move like that of adriano. who in theory was perfect, but ill admit i thought he would do a bit better. he was a force at sevilla, especially his early years. i believe he has become a bit timid not wanting to make mistakes at barca.

    i wasnt taking shots at anyone either, but i really dont feel strongly that if you dont see the 100% believe in the path we have chosen and should continue, there is a understanding or connection missing. we arent a club to just dump and buy whenever. not under the new regime. we respect loyalty and effort. villa may be struggling, and injured, but its not in our mentality to just dump the lad without giving him a fair go at it. its still david villa. that not how the club should operate.

    and the execs jobs i wouldnt say are in jeopardy if they dont sign the right players or sign no players. its not like other clubs where one person owns it and everyone else works for them. this board come in as a team and will leave like a team. if pep tells zubi and rosell that he wants no one huge, they have to respect that, they are not the ones who deal with the proper man management. but really, there is no need to speculate right now.

  7. Omer Ahmad says:

    agreed, no need for Bale at all. The beauty about this Barca team is that every single player on the first team can adapt to playing any position on the field. Case in point being Mascherano playing CB when infact he DM. Alves playing as a winger when infact he is a RB. Abidal playing CB when he’s a LB. Why is anybody suggesting bringing Bale when Barca can get Montoya to adapt to the LB position, and Adriano to cover, and until and unless Abidal is there, there is absolutely no need for a overpriced LB. And letting go off Tello is insanity, and please lets not go out and get another gooner, no disrespect to RVP. Our attack is perfectly balanced and in no need of another aging player. Messi, Pedro, Villa, Alexis, Cuenca, Tello and now Fabergas also contributing to the attack. It would be insane to break this squad up and bring in somebody from outside.

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