Crisis in Barcelona? February Inspired FC Barcelona Ramblings

David Ramos

FC Barcelona have been going through another difficult February which inspired me to take a look at some of the criticisms that have been aimed at the club recently.

Losses are part of the game. If it was so easy and simple to win football games you would have teams winning trebles on a yearly basis. Yet somehow they only seem to happen once in a decade. A sextuple, a word/phenomenon unheard of until five years ago, has happened once in the entire history of football. Once! And we, Culés, were lucky enough to witness it firsthand.

You probably know where I'm going with this by now - you can't win them all. For all we know the Copa del Rey was just the first of two competitions Barça will be knocked out in two weeks. Yesterday's game was pretty much a disaster, but pointing fingers will not solve the problems. The reality is that the team just didn't show up. The same way it didn't show up against AC Milan and for large parts of the game against Sevilla.

The person that has been receiving the most blame for the club's current situation is Jordi Roura. But let's be honest; Roura has been dealt a terrible hand. Taking over a club as an interim head coach, though his official title remains assistant coach, with little to none managing experience. In my eyes he has done a very good job in this situation, despite the hiccups along the way. Could Tito Vilanova have fared any better taking over for Pep Guardiola in their first season together? It's possible, but unlikely because Tito too had little to none managing experience at that point.

Taking over after a coach that had as much success as Pep did is no easy task, but Tito has done a marvelous job. And Roura has done a good job while Tito is away, taking care of the only thing that really matters in life - life itself. So let's enjoy every victory we can get, because it could be so much worse...

Also, let's not forget, this is not Roura's club. This is still Tito's club and he has the final say in every decision that is made. Barça have installed webcams so that Tito can watch training sessions and then relay his orders to the coaching staff via phone. Also, fitness coach Aureli Altimira has often been seen talking on the phone during games, presumably talking to Tito who was giving instructions to the staff. So, putting the blame solely on Roura's shoulders is completely unfair. This bad stretch is as much on the entire coaching staff as it is on the players.

The players, several of them, are going through a season low in form. Lionel Messi has not been himself in the last few games, though, his situation might have been exacerbated lately by a fever that made him miss practice today. Cesc Fabregas has been missing in action for about a month now, while Andres Iniesta hasn't been faring much better. Playing them both on the left side of the (attacking) midfield has caused problems in play build up. Xavi was in terrific form before his injury, but since then he hasn't been able to regain that form.

I could make that same case for several others like Pedro, Alexis Sanchez, even Carles Puyol and Javier Mascherano. The only players seemingly in good form right now are Dani Alves, Sergio Busquets and Gerard Pique.

Which brings us to the training regimen that Barcelona use that includes a dip in form in February. Barcelona have used this regimen since Guardiola took over management of the club. But until this season, Barça managed to get through February relatively unscathed. Why? Some of this has to do with luck, especially in the Champions League. In years past Barça's Round of 16 opponents were: Bayer Leverkusen, Arsenal, Stuttgart, and Lyon - all clubs that play more or less open football.

This season Barcelona were not as lucky as they were drawn with Milan, who despite losing several key players, are still a force to be reckoned with. Some said I was crazy not wanting to face Milan in the Round of 16, because apparently they were an easy hurdle. Well, they're not, as the first leg played at San Siro showed. Milan are a physical side, in certain ways you could compare them to Real Madrid, and in the past few seasons Barça have struggled against teams of that type (see: Chelsea). Combine that with the expected drop in form and you're just asking for a bad result.

Also, in the past Barcelona had several scoring options that could bail out the team when Messi wasn't playing at his best, something this team, this season, does not have. Pedro and Alexis are struggling, and David Villa and Cristian Tello aren't the solution, as much as I would want them to be. Neither of the latter two help much on the defensive side of the ball, where Barcelona are in desperate need of help from midfielders and wingers.

Simply bringing in a new center-back will not solve the defensive crisis Barcelona have found themselves in. Have you asked yourself why does a team that plays the same formation as it did in the past four seasons concede so many more goals this year? If you have, you know this solution isn't as simple as: "replace Puyol with Mats Hummels". Because even if you do that, you still have only two (Hummels and Pique), maybe three (Busquets), players that will be playing defense, which leaves a lot of space for counter attacking sides.

And most of that space is on the flanks where Alves and Jordi Alba leave them wide open because of their attacking responsibilities. However, Alves usually gets help tracking back from one of Pedro or Alexis, while Alba is left all alone, regardless of who is playing further up the pitch, let it be Iniesta, Villa or Tello. Pep didn't have such problems because under his reign as only the right back, Alves, was given attacking duties, while the left back, mostly Eric Abidal, stayed further back which gave Barcelona one more defender it has now. It's a simple numbers game and Barcelona have lived on the edge of that game the entire season. But now, in February, those numbers have caught up and it's showing on the scoreboard.

What the plan to correct those problem is I do not know, but with the club pursuing a hard working attacker (albeit with questionable maturity) and defensive reinforcements, makes me believe the club is aware of the problems. But in the meantime, let's not freak out over every loss. We should count ourselves very lucky that we're living during this Barcelona era and not look for people to throw under the bus (no pun intended).

If somebody had asked me prior to the start of the season if I would be happy with "only" winning the La Liga title I would've without a shadow of a doubt said yes. We, Barcelona fans, have become terribly spoiled since the start of the Pep Guardiola era and it appears whenever we lose a game a large percentage of fans goes into panic mode. Why!? Losses happen and as I've said before they're an integral part of the game. Ask yourself, how many fans of other clubs would take the state our club is in right now over theirs? About 99%?


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