Barcelona manager Luis Enrique led his team to the treble in his first at the Camp Nou, equalling the achievements of one Pep Guardiola.
The former Roma boss had a slow start to life at the helm and even had a reported fall-out with star-man Lionel Messi and was said to be on the verge of getting the sack after a 1-0 defeat to Real Sociedad in January.
However the 45-year-old turned things around and delivered the ultimate success in Berlin against Juventus in the Champions League final.
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He may have matched the success of the Bayern Munich boss but the stats now show that the former Celta Vigo manager was better at his job than the man he once replaced as captain at the Camp Nou and also manager of Barca B.
Over the duration of the season, Enrique witnessed his team win 50 of their 60 games compared to just 42 from 62 in Guardiola’s first season. The current Blaugrana boss also saw his boys score 175 times compared to 158 in 2009 and also conceded just 38 goals compared to 55 back then.
Messi, Thierry Henry and Samuel Eto’o scored a then club record 100 goals for the Bayern manager but now Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez scored a Spanish record of 122 goals over the duration of the season.
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More controlled under Pep
Under Guardiola, the Catalans changed the landscape of world football with their ‘tiki-taka’ style, starving the opposition of possession while running them into the ground.
Their style was a lot more controlled, measured and calculated as Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi (called the Holy Trinity) ran rings around their opponents. It was a new style of Total Football as Guardiola’s Barcelona toyed with some of the best players and teams in the world.
However, even though their style was pleasing on the eyes, many had become a bit bored at times with their passing and ball retention tactics.
Fans on the edge of their seats
Under Enrique, football fans across the globe cannot seem to get enough and always seemed to be on the edge of their seats. It is a joy to behold witnessing the guile, craft and imagination of Messi, Neymar and Iniesta.
However the athleticism, power and late burst into the penalty area by Ivan Rakitic also added a new dimension to their play. The Croatian is a gifted player technically but his willingness to work tirelessly from box to box combined with his imagination makes him invaluable to Enrique’s style.
This new Barcelona played with more pace, creativity and imagination. Enrique plays with a more expansive style, pushing players forward in numbers and allowing his players more freedom to express themselves on the pitch. The likes of Dani Alves, Jordi Alba and Rakitic seems to have the licence to push forward at will and with that it leave gaps at the back that Sergio Busquets has got to fill.
It is with this reason where the fans are always on the edge of their seats. With Barcelona expected to every game, it surely gets excited when the opposition is getting good opportunities in and around their penalty area. Enrique is an adventurous manager and therefore this allows his team to give the opposition a chance. Getting opportunities against the much-fancied Catalans gives the opposition confidence hence, they are willing to through players forward allowing the games to become end-to-end encounters.
Of course with the players in Barcelona’s final third it plays into their hands but most importantly it gives the fans fantastic entertainment and many leave the stadiums and their TV sets feeling they’ve had their money’s worth. Witnessing Messi and co hit the back of the net is brilliant but it is even more thrilling to see Marc-Andre ter Stagen and Claudio Bravo making excellent saves while Gerard Pique and co put their bodies on the line to prevent the opposition from scoring.
Their goal-scoring tally speaks volumes to their expansive style when compared to that under Guardiola. They also conceded less goals but that may support the notion that ‘the best form of defending is attacking.’ Enrique has signed a new deal that will keep him at the Camp Nou and will be aiming to become the first manager to win back-to-back Champions League.
He should have the same squad available due to their transfer ban until January 2016 but with Messi and co in scintillating form anything is possible at the moment.