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.