How can Barça improve next season?

atletico 1-2 fc barcelona team photo champions 2013Now that La Liga has been won it is time to look forward to the 2013/14 season and attempt to analyse how Barça can improve. There is no doubt that despite the success in the 2012/13 campaign there were plenty of problems that were exposed in the big games which culminated in the heavy defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League.

Of course there were circumstances that didn’t help such as Tito Vilanova’s illness and the injuries to key players at inopportune moments. However, instead of looking for excuses we would do well to try and recognise our failings, and in my opinion before we start talking about who to buy or who to sell there are two main points that need to be addressed: character and tactics.

There is little doubt in my mind about the talent in our squad, however, talent alone will rarely be enough to succeed in the modern game. It must be accompanied by a steely determination and desire, and in this respect we have been on a downward spiral ever since winning the Champions League in 2011. Pep Guardiola recognised the difficulty to maintain the high standards set as well as his own personal ability to continue motivating the players. Guardiola did a brilliant job but the effort left him tired which is why he felt the need for a year’s rest before returning to a new challenge at Bayern.

The change of having Tito Vilanova in charge seemed to inspire the players in the early months of this season, but since his return from New York the team has failed to show the same freshness. The fact that in these last two months we have been without the inspirational leadership qualities of Carles Puyol has played its part, and with our captain now at 35 years old the club should seriously be thinking about where we can find this inspiration.

It might be easy to call for a new coach but it is not going to happen while Rosell and Zubizaretta remain. They made a firm bet for Vilanova and to change coach now would only serve to undermine their own positions at club. Besides, I believe Vilanova deserves the opportunity for another season though I think it is fair to say he doesn’t transmit the same intensity to the players.

One option I’ve already suggested would be to bring in somebody like Luis Enrique as Vilanova’s assistant. However, this is also highly unlikely unless Vilanova asked for it and it would be very unfair to treat Jordi Roura in such a manner after the difficult role he played in Tito’s absence. So if Vilanova and Roura remain then they should be looking at finding a player who can consistantly inspire his teammates to give that little bit extra.

With Puyol unlikely to be a regular starter the captain’s role is likely to fall to Xavi with the other main leaders being Messi, Iniesta and possibly Piqué. While I have no doubt about the mental toughness of these players I don’t think they possess the same inspirational leadership qualities that have been offered by Puyol as a captain or Guardiola as a coach. So while we are looking for goalkeepers or centre backs we should definitely be trying to sign a player who can bring out the best in those around him.

Besides this there is a need to look at our tactics this season. While it is all very well to play all out attacking football when we are up against weaker opposition, our poor record in the big games this season suggests we should either reconsider the use of two attacking full-backs in these matches or look for another Keita-type player to bolster the midfield. Looking back to Guardiola’s most successful periods we nearly always had the more defensive Eric Abidal at left-back to counter for Alves on the right, while Keita was used in nearly all the important away fixtures. It is possible that Alex Song or Mascherano could be used to play this Keita role but neither were used like this in the entire season. If Vilanova doesn’t see Song or Mascherano as the answer then surely trying to sign a dynamic non-stop midfielder should be on the agenda.

We are reported to have a budget of €50 million to spend plus whatever we can make from sales. However, before we start selling we should be sure that we can find better replacements. Unfortunately it seems Valdés has decided to move on and it will be very tough to find a keeper who can offer the same standards. The other players reported to be most likely to leave seem to be David Villa and Adriano which is a shame but perhaps the right time to let them go. There may be a bit of money to make from selling some youngsters such as Johnathan Dos Santos or some of the loan-out players like Afellay or Fontás, but it seems unlikely we’ll arrive to €100 million unless we offload some bigger names. And we are not going to have much change from that if we are going to sign the likes of Neymar and Thiago Silva plus a goalkeeper.

Other decisions need to be made such as which youngsters should be promoted to the first team. In this respect we should try to avoid the situation seen too often recently with players like Fontás, Muniesa and Dos Santos. The most promising B team prospects Sergi Roberto, Rafinha and Deulofeu need playing time and if they are not going to be given a fair shot in the first team then the best decision would be to loan them out. For all the desire to play homegrown players we must be sure they have the quality to succeed at the top.

That’s about all I can manage today. I’ll leave the debates on Alexis and Fabregas to you guys but basically I see no need for a big clear out. I could go on about the chain of command and who is making the decisions as reports seem to suggest that Rosell, Zubi and Tito all have different priorities but it seems we are stuck with this until the next elections.  So, to sum up, besides the obvious need for a new keeper if Valdés leaves, a centre back and a forward, for me the priority should be to find a player with an infectious personality who can inspire the rest and to find a dynamic Keita-style player to add energy to the midfield. I fear if we don’t add some character to the mix we could be in for a disappointing 2013/14 season.

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8 Responses to How can Barça improve next season?

  1. crabfiles says:

    Barca should learn a lesson from Manchester United. Pujol could be given more time off, in the way that MU have played Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs sparingly to extend their usefulness beyond the age of 35.

  2. crabfiles says:

    And a good goalkeeper is needed? The Peruvian international , Diego Penney, would be a very good compromise for price and performance. He had a season in the Premier League with Burnley, but unfortunately was only required to leave the bench once, when Brian Jensen was injured.

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  4. mjmare says:

    The coaching staff should be looking to preserve and prolong the playing careers of Xavi and Puyol, these 2 players, the legends that they are cannot play all the games, they need to be managed better so as to minimise injury and get them in peak fitness in time for the business end of the season. This would allow other younger players to gain experience and fitness in time to be ready for the business end of the season, players like Bartra and Thiago.

    I agree that we need motivation in the squad, therefore i’d like to see Luis Enrique as assisstent coach, freeing up Tito to work on tactics. I rate Roura to be best suited to video analysis…

    With Valdes leaving my number 1 choice would be Courtois, let’s waive our buy-back agreement on Romeu, to decrease the cost of Courtois, who has adapted well to La Liga. Otherwise Ter Stegen wouldn’t be too bad and seems to be available for less than 10M

    We need the biggest changes in defence, Thiago Silva for all his qualities is getting old, and would be very expensive, having just played 1 season as PSG, who don’t need cash. Therefore i’d rather go for Hummels who has strength and height, Inigo Martinez has been likened to Puyol and Marquinhos (Roma) who looks terrific despite being only 19. Therefore i’d go for either Hummels or Marquinhos and Inigo Martinez.

    Loan out Rafinha, Deulofeu and Roberto to Liga clubs playing in Europe, where they can get regular game time, Loan Muniesa to Ajax. Sell Afellay.

    Neymar wouldn’t be a bad option, he may cost a lot but we will make all that money back through shirt sales and advertising, plus he will score goals and relieve pressure on Messi, If he does flop we can still get a good 25M for him.

    Otherwise we need to sign a forward who has got both strength and height to bully defenders.

  5. Anubhav says:

    They must sign marc andre ter stegen, great goal keaper with great future.
    And at the back inigo martinez or Marquinhos can do the job.
    In mid they must replace fabregas with jack wilsher or gundogan.
    And they have finaly bought Neymar !!!
    they must sell david villa, fabregas, Muniesa, fontas, Afellay and victor valdes.

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