Collaboration of components to blame for Barcelona's fall from grace

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In what has been a greatly indifferent start in a host of Europe's tops leagues, we have witnessed English and Italian champions Chelsea and Juventus completely collapse since the end of last season, with both sides withering away in the bottom half of their respective leagues.

More surprisingly, though, is the loss of form of Barcelona, who blew away all before them during the second half of last season, leading many to draw comparisons with Pep Guardiola's famous world beaters of 2008/09.

This season, however, they have mustered just 15 points from seven games, labouring to two league losses in their past three games, with a sole victory sandwiched in between against minnows Las Palmas, whom they scraped a 2-1 victory over.


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So why aren't they firing on all cylinders like we saw last season?

Copa America hangover

You need look no further than the Premier League to see just how long it has taken some South American stars to regain form. In the opening stages of the season, Argentine Sergio Aguero and Chilean Alexis Sanchez both looked lethargic and lacklustre.

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Fast forward to now, though, and the picture couldn't be more different - Aguero scored an unprecedented five against Newcastle on Saturday, whilst Sanchez scored a spectacular hat-trick and brace against Leicester City and Manchester United in recent weeks.

Considering that all three of Barcelona's front-line - Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar - were in the Copa America this summer, therefore, it comes as no surprise that they have been somewhat blunted in attack thus far.

All three represented nations that made it through the group stages, with Messi's Argentina beaten in the final. Also in the squad are Brazil's Dani Alves and Messi's international team-mate Javier Mascherano - both integral figures to the successes of last season.

Messi injury

It was news that no football fan, bar those who support Real Madrid, wanted to hear - Lionel Messi is out for eight weeks.

Despite Neymar and Suarez being brought in to ease the burden on the four-time Ballon d'Or winner, it is indisputable that Messi is still Barcelona's main outlet. He scored almost half of the 118 goals that the trio score last season and contributed more assists than any of his teammates as well.

To hear he is out for the best part of two months, then, will do nothing to make Barcelona's game plan any easier at all and they will do well to be within touching distance of the top by the time Messi returns.

The fact that Alves, Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta have similarly spent time on the sidelines over the past couple of months also lessened the creativity and balance of the team, meaning results were being ground out for the most part.

Struggling Barcelona B

For at least two decades now, whilst Europe's top clubs have splashed the cash to attract the world's top talent, one club was always guaranteed to first look within their own ranks.

Barcelona's famous La Masia academy is renowned for producing an elite bracket of footballers, and any who don't make it often have successful careers elsewhere.

However, La Masia hasn't had such success in recent years. Only Messi, Gerard Pique, Iniesta and Busquets are regular starters from the academy, whilst the Alcantara brothers - Thiago and Rafael - have shown great promise with the former having been snapped up by Bayern Munich, and not many of the others have developed as expected.

Cristian Tello has gone out on loan for two years in a row now, and the likes of Marc Bartra, Sergi Samper, Martin Montoya, and Munir El Haddadi do not quite seem to be of the same talent as their predecessors.

One shining light for the future may be found in the form of Croatian Alen Halilovic, who is yet to find his feet at the biggest club in the world.

Transfer ban

And last but by no means least, Barcelona's transfer ban means that no new faces show up on the team sheet.

Arda Turan and Alex Vidal were summer acquisitions that cannot play until January, and there is a growing feeling around the camp that the team has gotten a little stale of late.

Come January, things may change, but for now, Barcelona need to pick up the pace if they are to keep up with their Madrid rivals and the rising powers of Sevilla, Valencia, Villareal and, perhaps slightly surprisingly, Celta Vigo.

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