Barcelona are down but not out. The recent Champions league mauling at the hands of Bayern Munich calls for a major shake up at Camp Nou, hand ere are a few ways to do it.
Barcelona were on the wrong end of a 7-0 aggregate drubbing compliments of Bayern Munich that will live long, long in memory. The doom speakers have already diagnosed and predicted the end of Barcelona. However, they are sorely mistaken. Yes Barcelona were outplayed, outfought, outclassed, outrun and every other generic adjective description done to them.
They were found out and exposed which had been a long time coming, but saying they have fallen from grace permanently would be totally mis-guided. They always rise, great teams do, and Barcelona are one of them. However it’s going to take an almost full-scale shake up at Camp Nou.
First off, they need to sign a quick, strong, ball-playing defender. Borussia Dortmund’s Mats Hummels would be seamless for Barca. He has already been linked with the club in the past and for obvious reasons. More than anything else, this should be Vilanova’s top priority.
The Blaugrana defence has been in shambles for the entire season and Gerard Pique is in need of a world-class partner at the back. Hummels has proven himself as one of the world’s best while also possessing important Barcelona traits such as the ability to pass and push forward. Hummels is a true defender from within him, much like their iconic captain Carles Puyol. Hummels would also be a long-term partner for Pique since he is only 24-years-old, bring much needed solidity, discipline and steel to the defence.
Victor Valdes is on the brink of exiting the club and there really isn’t a much more suitable replacement for him then Valencia’s Vincent Guaita. The Valencia man has been arguably the best keeper' in all of Spain this season. He can play the ball off the back, is experienced and can be a leader from the back. He is also a much better shot-stopper than Valdes and would be a more realistic target than Manchester United’s David de Gea.
Tito Vilanova also needs to either loan out some of his young stars or promote them. Otherwise he risks losing some potential breakout first-teamer's through poaching. Martin Montoya, Gerrard Deloufeu, Rafinha, Isaac Cuenca and Sergi Roberto are among the current crop of La Masia graduates of whom a decision must be made.
There is reported interest from Liverpool, Inter Milan and Manchester City aiming in that direction and the club need to ensure they do not have another Cesc Fabregas situation where they end up paying another club for talent that they groomed.
Martin Montoya has already displayed his abilities for both club and country and is the natural successor to Dani Alves. The same can be said about Deloufeu. The winger has only shown flashes of his undoubted potential and will certainly benefit from more playing time. Cuenca had already accumulated first team appearances under Pep Guardiola but that stopped upon his departure. That needs to change, same as Tello’s, Thiago’s and Bartra’s situations.
Another thing that Barcelona absolutely must not do is to do way with Alex Song. He may not have had the best of starts for the Blaugrana but his value in versatility cannot be overstated. He is physically stronger and more imposing than Sergio Busquets, though less polished on the ball, and has proved to be more than capable of backing up Busquets. He is Barca’s new Seydou Keita.
Then we come to the enigma that is Alexis Sanchez. A signing that has never looked Barcelona esque from the very beginning. A good player he is, but a Barcelona player, upto now atleast, he has not been. He lacks the ball-playing, tiki-taka gene that is needed to play for Barca. H e has quick feet, pace but just has not found the rhythm nor understanding with his fellow team-mates. Selling him would be a bold decision, but keeping him would be a gamble.
David Villa’s situation is even more precarious. He is world-class no question about that but has not really reached the dizzying heights of his first season at Camp Nou. He seems to have lost a yard of pace since the injury he suffered at the club world cup but the skill and class is still there. He has a better understanding with the other players compared to Sanchez but his age will not let him be as effective as he was in the past. I think it would be mutually beneficial for both parties to let him stay for at-least half the season then make a decision on him in January’s transfer window. Ideally he could make way for Neymar, freshness in the attack.
Lastly for Tito and Co., albeit most importantly, would be the Lionel Messi mis-management. He is arguably the world’s best player, he wants to play every game, even against La Liga minnows, he is the single most tackled and fouled Barcelona player followed by Iniesta, this should be enough not to play him in every game. Messi is a human, not a robot. His body has coped pretty impressively over the years, thanks to his strict fitness regimen, with injuries, but the effects are showing. When they needed him to be firing on all cylinders the most this season, against Bayern Munich, he was not fit. He was a pedestrian in the first leg, had no influence whatsoever. Tito rested him for the return leg, no one saw that coming, and although they lost by a more or less similar margin, there was a bit more freshness upfront. That is what Vilanova needs to be doing more often, resting Lionel Messi when he is not really needed and saving him for the big matches.
This will keep opponent’s guessing, provide opportunities for personnel and formation tweaking and best of all, keep Barcelona’s superman available when they need him to save them.
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