Gerardo “Tata” Martino officially signed a two-year contract this morning before being presented as Barça’s new coach. Martino answered questions from the press and showed himself to be affable and intelligent. He emphasized the need for a high pressing game with plenty of attacking options while maintaining a high defensive line, he also expressed a preference to continue with a 4-3-3 formation. In short, there will be little change to Barça’s general footballing philosophy seen under Rijkaard, Guardiola and Vilanova. He also stated that Cesc Fabregas was very much part of his plans and there was no intention of selling the midfielder to Manchester United (As if anybody thought it might happen!).
This afternoon Martino will fly out to Norway to join the first team squad for the first time. He will not be on the bench for tomorrow’s friendly against Valerenga but will watch the game from the stands while Jordi Roura continues in charge of the team. After the game with Valerenga the team will return to Barcelona and on Monday Martino will take the first training session with the missing Spanish and Brazilian internationals who will return after their holidays.
The most pressing issues now for the club are what to do with the first team coaching staff. Joan Francesc Ferrer “Rubi” may well continue as Martino’s number two but the Argentinian has brought in Elvio Paolorroso as another assistant and Jorge Pautasso as part of the physical preparation team so decisions may need to be taken over the futures of Jordi Roura and Aureli Altimira. Buying a central defender also seems to be one of the most important problems for the club.
Martino will need to prove that his relative inexperience in European football is not a handicap. In the past his teams have sometimes been accused of running out of gas in the final stages of a season and this has been blamed on the high intensity pressing game that he demands. Hopefully he will demonstrate good motivational skills to get the players to work hard for him while it will also be important that he shows confidence in the younger players and uses rotations wisely.
Despite being a relative unknown in Europe the first impressions of our new coach are very good. Given the wealth of talent available in the first team squad there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the team’s future. Welcome Tata! May your reign be long and successful and full of exciting attacking football!