Last night’s 3-0 defeat at the hands of Bayern Munich was Barcelona’s biggest loss at the Camp Nou in over ten years.
They went into the game trailing an increasingly impressive Bayern 4-0, after a first leg drubbing in Munich. It would have been so ‘Barcelona like’ to put in a scintillating display in an effort to reduce the deficit – maybe the Barcelona of old, not this side.
Instead, Bayern’s impenetrable unit kept them at bay once more and exposed Barcelona’s defensive fragilities every time the German side ventured forward.
Barcelona looked bereft of ideas, spark or imagination. Granted they didn’t have their half-fit magician, Messi, but this didn’t look like the Barcelona we are used to seeing. Truth be told, we haven’t seen the Barcelona of seasons past in a little while.
They were somewhat fortunate to scrape through the previous round against an improving PSG outfit and were played to perfection by a somewhat average AC Milan side at the San Siro in the first round of knockout games.
Have teams worked out how to play the Catalan club? Or have Barcelona lost their effervescence, allowing them to become easier to control? Is this the end of an era or could it be the proverbial kick up the backside Barcelona need to maintain their European dominance?
Even in their pomp, Barcelona could never have claimed to be an assured defensive unit. But their intense pressing, high up the pitch, work-rate off the ball and ability to keep possession for almost ridiculous periods masked this flaw and rarely were they put on the rack.
So what has changed for Barcelona?
We all know that their full-backs play as wing-backs and even centre half, Pique, loves to stride out of defence with ball – which to be fair, he’s not half bad at for a ‘defender’ – but this can leave you incredibly open.
When a side loses the previously mentioned characteristics, even just a shade, cracks begin to appear. When a team, who is no longer working tirelessly from the front and is failing to break a side down, a side that work as one complete unit and have players of devastating ability on the counter, it can spell trouble.
Barcelona have lost their intensity and, it could even be said, their previously unwavering self confidence in their philosophy. The loss of this intensity and spark has allowed teams such Bayern and PSG to have confidence in possession when facing Barcelona and attack, exposing the gaps that Barcelona regularly leave.
What Barcelona are in need of is a slight shake up, not a complete re-model. This side still contains, arguably, the best player the world has ever seen in Lionel Messi and world-class talents such as Iniesta and Xavi.
They don’t need to change their philosophy, just adjust it slightly with the addition of a few new faces.
Bayern proved that a successful team is a mixture of characteristics - a mix of technical proficiency, skill, steel and determination and Barcelona could learn a little from their German counterparts.
But don’t write the Spaniards off just yet. In a season, which many are calling the ‘end of an era’ for the side, they will still win their league and a Champions League semi-final.
Even though they were dominated by an exceptional side over two legs, this doesn’t spell the end for Barcelona! Expect the little men, with a few additions, to be back in force next season with a huge point to prove.
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