Currently, FC Barcelona's front line consists of David Villa, Lionel Messi, and Pedro Rodriguez. This summer they managed to add Alexis Sanchez to their stellar lineup, but is there something missing? Three of those four players are 5'7", and the fourth, David Villa, is 5'9". They all have a high work rate, and, apart from Lionel Messi, all play in a relatively similar fashion. Even though at the beginning of the game Pedro and Villa line up on their respective right and left sides of the field, throughout the game they move around and create problems for the other teams defenders. Fortunately for the defenders, defending Pedro and Villa isn't that different. They play in a very alike way, and neither of them have particularly prominent characteristics such as breathtaking speed or immense amounts of strength which would require a special kind of defender to be dealt with. Unfortunately for Barcelona, their summer signing won't cause any particularly new problems, so it will be more of the same.
Thinking back to the 2008/ 2009 season, Barcelona had four different strikers to choose from: Samuel Eto'o, Thierry Henry, Lionel Messi, and the uprising Pedro Rodriguez. When the three established strikers were named to the starting lineup, they caused an interesting problem for the opposing team's defence. Henry, Eto'o and Messi generally played in the same positions that they started out in for most of the match, left wing, central striker, right wing respectively. The strikers did not move around as much as the present trio does, but when they did, they caused much bigger problems for the defenders. Henry, Eto'o and Messi were, and still are, very different sizes. Along with the physical differences, each superstar had a unique playing style. The defending team had to accommodate for their dissimilarities by assigning a specific defender to each player. If Barcelona had a player the size of Peter Crouch, they would assign the biggest centre back on him in order to restrict his primary attacking threat. For defending purposes, the back four wouldn't be moving in a fluid "total football" motion to track the players. The required defender would be placed on the same side as the attacking player and would limit his contributions to the attack. When the three strikers started to move, and switched sides, this caused huge problems for the defenders. There are two possibilities as a result of this. Firstly the defenders would stay in their positions and would be mismatched for the current striker playing on their side. This would result in a considerable advantage for Barcelona. The other likelihood is that the defenders running would run around and try to switch their positions in a panic, which would result in a similar outcome.
Unfortunately it isn't quite that simple; there is a massive variable that has been left out of the equation, La Masia. FC Barcelona isn't just any team in the world, and in turn, not any striker in the world will succeed at Barca. Most of the current lineup and two out of the three strikers are La Masia graduates, and the other, David Villa, plays for the spanish national team alongside many of the current Barcelona lineup, including Pedro and the four regular central midfielders, Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets, and Fabregas. Because Spain has a very similar playing style, he has been able to adapt with ease to the European champion's system. In order to Barcelona to continue their current trend of success, they can not stop implementing their famous Cruyff inspired possession game. Guardiola and the other decision makers who make the final call on which players are bought and who gets promoted from the B team are generally against the former. They believe that the youth system will produce all necessary replacements for the current XI. Unfortunately for us Cules, the youth system is producing more diminutive, fast paced, and versatile forwards.
Barcelona aren't being ignorant about this, they tried it two seasons ago with Ibrahimovic, and for the first part of the season he was sensational. Through the champions league until they were put up against Mourinho's Milan, he didn't disappoint; most notably his performance against Arsenal in the first leg of the quarter-finals. The tall and strong Swede provided an attacking presence that was unseen in the front line before his arrival. He looked like a fantastic replacement for the aging Eto'o, and the immense sum Guardiola paid for him started to seem justified.In the end he turned out to be a problematic trouble maker, but he proved that players with a different playing style can make up for their lack of Barca DNA with undeniable quality.
Guardiola's smile should be convincing enough
As previously mentioned, Barcelona's key to success is their ability to keep playing in the same way at such a high level. The most important members of this spectacular side are the central midfielders and Messi. Whether it is Xavi and Iniesta accompanying the World Player of the Year, or a more attack minded midfield including the likes of Thiago and Fabregas, La Masia graduates seem to do the trick. Pique helps, and as we've seen, players like Mascherano with no Barcelona ties, other than being on the same national team as Messi, adapt well and learn how to make the quick one touch passes. Even though most of the first team members have graduated from the famous youth academy, that still leaves a few players that haven't. These aren't the players filling the gaps, these are players who contribute substantial amounts to their club. Dani Alves, Adriano, Abidal, Keita, Mascherano, Sanchez, Afellay, Maxwell and Villa have all come from different backgrounds and have had to adapt. David Villa has had a much easier job adapting because he plays with many of the Barcelona XI on the Spanish national team, but the rest of these players have come to this club with little or no ties and have succeeded in making a name for themselves. This leads to two very important points, 1. La Masia is useless at producing left backs, and 2. skilled players can adapt to the system when given the opportunity.
Piqué & Keita & Iniesta Funny reaction 3 in 1 (via abdessamad842)
Who says only La Masia graduates have Barca DNA?
Player versatility is a trait that Guardiola seems to value and look for when he is purchasing or promoting a new player. Having a specialist striker on the team could provide another option for the 75' substitution when Barca find themselves a goal or two down, if he hasn't made a name for himself already. This player shouldn't cost a ridiculous amount of money, Sandro Rossell should look at this as more of an experiment than long term investment. If Barca can find a young player who is cheap and could learn to play alongside some of the greatest talents in the world, they don't have much to lose. In the worst case scenario, Barcelona sell him after a season or two. Either way, big teams in Europe will notice a young striker who has been training with Barcelona for several years if his name comes up on the "for sale" list.
Should Barcelona experiment with their selection of strikers?
Yes (16 votes)
No (10 votes)
Maybe, if they find the right player at the right price (11 votes)
37 total votes