We have seen Barça break quite a few records in the last few years. Too many for a poor blogger to keep track of, though I’m not complaining. Two years ago Pep Guardiola’s team set one remarkable record by winning the first ten away league games of the season and I have to admit I never thought I would see that beaten. However, this season under Tito Vilanova the team have performed wonders to make it ten out of ten for the second time in three seasons. So which of those two teams was the best?
In the 2010/11 season Barça won at Racing (0-3), Atlético (1-2), Athletic (1-3), Zaragoza (0-2), Getafe (1-3), Almeria (0-8), Osasuna (0-3), Espanyol (1-5), Deportivo (0-4) and Hercules (0-3), scoring 36 while conceding only four. Leo Messi was already scoring at a rate of more than a goal a game with thirteen from those ten games. The other scorers were Pedro (7), Villa (5), Iniesta (3), Xavi (2), Bojan (2), Piqué (1), Busquets (1), Keita (1) and an own goal from Almeria’s Acasiete. The strongest starting line up was Valdés, Alves, Piqué, Puyol, Abidal, Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta, Pedro, Messi and Villa with strong supporting roles from Keita, Mascherano and Maxwell with Adriano and Bojan the next most used players. The most notable thing about the 2010/11 was the strength of the defence and there can be no doubt in my mind that the big difference then was the presence of Eric Abidal.
This season our run of away wins began with a scrappy 1-2 victory at Osasuna. Since then we have taken all the points at Getafe (1-4), Sevilla (2-3), Deportivo (4-5), Rayo (0-5), Mallorca (2-4), Levante (0-4), Betis (1-2), Valladolid (1-3) and Malaga (1-3). Goals scored 35 (Messi 17, Fabregas 5, Villa, Tello and Xavi 3 each, and one each from Iniesta, Thiago, Adriano and Alba) goals conceded 13. The obvious difference is in the goals conceded and here I emphasize the importance of Abidal. However, one of the most positive things this season has been the signing of Jordi Alba who offers so many more attacking options with his constant charges up the left. The other main change is the inclusion of Cesc Fabregas who has played a very important role this season with goals and assists.
While the goal difference and relative ease of the victories favours the 2010/11 team I think it’s fair to say that this season’s team has faced tougher opponents while also needing to cope with a mini injury crisis in defence when both Piqué and Puyol were out. The 2010/11 run came to an end with a 1-1 draw at Sporting Gijon in February. If the current team go one better by beating Real Sociedad at Anoeta on Saturday we may even begin to ask ourselves if we might be witnessing what we probably all thought impossible: an even better team than Pep Guardiola’s version.