Football’s a funny old game. After an extremely complicated season in which coach Tito Vilanova’s health problems left the team without its coach for ten weeks Barça completed their 22nd league title this weekend and could still go on to equal Real Madrid’s record of 100 points in a season. Yet, for most of the club’s fans there seems to be a definite lack of a celebratory mood.
It brings back memories of the 97/98 and 98/99 leagues with Louis Van Gaal in charge when many fans also found it difficult to celebrate. On those occasions the title was also won with games to spare which meant everyone had known for months that Barça were going to be champions. The lack of last minute emotion compared to the thrilling leagues won by Johan Cruyff’s dream team in 1992, 1993 and 1994 played its part though there was also the fact that Van Gaal was unpopular with many culés who begrudgingly found it hard to admit that the coach had done a good job.
There is certainly no such disrespect for Vilanova but the lack of a nail-biting finish combined with a definite drop in form in the second half of the season which culminated in the humbling 0-7 Champions League defeat to Bayern Munich, has left a cold feeling to the end of this season. Rather than focusing on the positive sides of the season fans seem more concerned with which players we should be getting rid of. Van Gaal’s famous phrase of ‘siempre negatifa nunca positifa’ might well be applied to the current situation.
This time last year we were wondering how Barça would manage without the influence of our greatest ever coach Pep Guardiola. Vilanova’s team began the season tremendously and went on to complete the best first half of a season with an astonishing 55 points out of a possible 57. The fantastic performance in the 1-3 win at Malaga in January was the tenth consecutive away win which equalled the record set by Guardiola’s team in 2010/11.
However, with Vilanova receiving treatment in New York things began to go awry with defeat at Real Sociedad in the first game of the second half of the season. The defeats to Madrid in the Copa del Rey and then in La Liga followed by the 2-0 defeat to AC Milan in the first leg of the Champions League last 16 left many questions about the quality of the squad and the predictability of the playing style.
The team responded with a glorious night to beat Milan but there is no doubt that as the season progressed the physical, mental and emotional tiredness took its toll. The football has not been as good but considering Vilanova’s problems and some of the bad luck with injuries the achievement of regaining La Liga from José Mourinho’s Real Madrid should be appreciated even more.
Yes, some changes are necessary and I’ll be covering that topic soon. However, as the players parade through the city in celebration today, it is time to salute the champion.