HOW DID WE MISS VERTONGHEN??
Watching Tottenham vs Chelsea, I couldn't help but realise we lost Jan Vertonghen. The guy is purely world class and could have been a good CB for Barca. Cheaper, faster and more experienced than Hummels. But we Barca fans tend to forget how good our defensive play is. Unlike other teams, Barca's defence is based highly on positioning, ball retention and creativity. When we started the season,
1st leg Supercopa: Barca vs Madrid
Tito's first game against Mourinho was a good representation of this, with Only Masherano and Pique in the CB position, Barca put up an amazing defensive display, making Madrid look very toothless. Madrid had to score from a corner, due to some lethargic play from Barca in the attack. And due to Victor Valdes' calamitous nature, we conceded a very horrible goal.
2nd leg Supercopa: Madrid vs Barca AKA Barca's worst defensive display since Pep
Tito's being a new coach didn't drill pressing for the ball as much as Pep had. Maybe he thought it would be second nature for the team, but Madrid pressed for the ball early on and got counter attacking chances. People are quick to blame the defense, but the defense had to deal with alot of counter attacking eminating from lost possession in the midfield. Madrid basically congested the centre and fought for the ball. But the other problem came from the Full backs, Alba and Adriano! Adriano was out of position half the time while Alba was going upfront most of the time leaving only Mascherano and Pique. But this wasn't as bad as what we would later discover; horrible awareness from the CBs. Tito could be blamed for this but he should also be praised for his Montoya substitution. It really changed the dynamics of the game and mad Barca's new 3 man defense much better than the 4 man defense he had started with.
A closer look at Cristiano's goal from Pique:
Pique tried to dispose off of the ball like he has always done, But Cristiano's flick was just amazing. The biggest problem though(for Madrid) was that CR7's flick ended up going towards the LB position, where there was no one( Alba once again out of position). And so Pique decided to shield a part of the goal instead of continuing to track down CR7. Pique is not as fast as CR7 but it would have made it difficult to score for CR7 as he had to first control the ball and then shoot. But I cannot blame Pique because at the same time, If Valdes had been in top shape, he would have defended his post.
What's the lesson from this?
Tito's Barca needs to consistently show good game awareness in situations where a player is out of position. He is a new coach but I would have expected much better solid awareness especially in defense. Abidal and Puyol will add that aspect with ease when they return but it also tells us something else, about Pep; He was really good at getting into the heads of his players! Never did Barca have such a horrible defensive display under Pep. They were either outsmarted by the opposition or they stayed really good.
So what's my point?
Before even Barca thinks about getting a new CB, we should look for consistency. And at the same time I don't think we need a new CB at the moment. Here's why:
CB position: Puyol, Pique, Mascherano, Song, BATRA, Muniesa.
From the matches I have seen, I am certain that Batra is a great future CB. I am also certain of Mascherano's abilities though I would prefer a taller, faster player. Song IMO would play better in the CB position, he has shown serious defensive capability in the few matches he has played and is faster, more physically capable, and a better passer than any of our current CBs. He needs more drills in the positional awareness so he can have more conviction in his tackles, but I believe he is a much better candidate for CB position than Masch. He would also be a shocker for teams. He is brought in to rest Busi, then he is brought in to rest a CB! It would also provide our naturally gifted Batra a chance at gaining quick experience. Why should we spend money in a market where most of the CBs currently available are going to be sold to us at unfair prices, when have great undeniable talent in Batra?
NOW TO MY OTHER QUALM:
Barca's attack looks very toothless in matches these days. We can argue all day but the fact remains, Barca doesn't score as easily as it used to. Pep's false 9 role for Messi has killed the classic no.9 position. It worked well in 2011 because of Villa and Pedro. The CF role has the least depth of any position
CF players: Villa(Can also perform from Left inside), Messi(can also perform from right inside), Fabregas(really??)
Teams know how to defeat Barca now, all they have to do is to congest the centre(killing off Messi and Xavi), and finish better than Barca, by getting the ball from Messi when he goes back to get some play. This is the most rudimentary way I can explain this. Inter did it, Chelsea did it, and Madrid has been doing it with variable levels of success as Villa and Pedro who are great finishers have made it difficult for them.
It brings me to my next question, Do Barca want to win the sixtuple again or do they want Messi to win the Pichichi?
The false 9 role has made Barca's finishing very very clear. What we need is to use it only in home matches where Messi scores most of his goals and use a Pedro-Villa-Messi front three in away matches where Messi doesn't score as much anymore. He would not play as a winger as the RB would do that, but would play as an inside Right attacker or RF. This is what made Barca so invincible in Pep's 1st season. In fact at Zonal Marking, the false 9 role is attributed to Barca's failure to beat Chelsea convincingly in 2009 as Pep was experimenting with it.
But what we need isn't what Barca seems to want. So Barca has to employ something to enable the false 9 to prosper! And that's where Pep blundered.
THE PEP BLUNDER/ HOW TO KEEP THE FALSE 9:
The false 9 can still work even when teams congest the centre, as long as our RW and LW are serious threats to the team being attacked.
Pep is a really young coach and I cannot compare him to Johan Cryuff at the moment. For me, he, along with Vicente Del Bosque have been the best coaches of the past decade, with Pep edging the old man. Johan had an uncanny ability of smelling talent. Pep seems to know what he needs but not able to identify it. It is reported by some football analysts that Pep was signing trying to sign a player like Suarez when he bought Sanchez. It made sense; a player with great dribbling, good finishing and a serious working rate. But in all honesty, Sanchez isn't an amazing dribbler of Barca's standards, he can perform tricks but cannot dribble. There is a clear distinction between the two, with tricks being a subset of dribbling. Even his execution of tricks is not of Barca's standards. He does pull off good execution of tricks at times though. I also think Barca missed out on Hazard by buying Sanchez. Sanchez is not a good finisher and doesn't have the uncanny ability of being/ looking for goal scoring opportunities.
Players that Barca should have/Can still signed instead of Sanchez:
0. Luis Suarez (should have)
1. Edin Hazard(should have)
2. Aguero (should have)
3. Lucas Moura (Should have)
4. Neymar (Can still)
I spend alot of times looking at dribbling footage and have seen almost all great football dribblers. I can honestly state that the above are in a skill set that would have worked for Barca. Neymar who we are most likely to get, is way too expensive yet cannot dribble better than Lucas Moura. The cost to talent ratio is way too high on him. Lucas Moura could have worked really well on our RW side and enabled Messi to stay in the CF position.
I still cannot believe that with Barca's history of getting amazing talent from outside the club, sticks with Sanchez. I think Barca could find a great player for a bargain. I think trading him in for such a player with some money(either to us or by us basing on how good he is) would be good.
So what do you guys think? Are there any players of edin hazards level of dribbling and skill out there that Barca could buy?