A loss is a loss. 7-0 or 4-3, you're not in the final. But, this loss feels so convincing.
It's the end of an era, apparently, even though it's not. Barca are probably on course to have a better season than last year despite losing the best coach they ever had. If the era ended, it ended a while ago.
Barcelona do not strike the same fear in other teams as they once did. Partially, having Lionel Messi half-fit, if at all, did that, but partially it seems teams do not fear any of the other attackers (with the possible exception of Andres Iniesta) and past that, with a weak defense, every team fancies their chances of scoring at least once.
It's a crisis, except it's not. What a strange season this is shaping up to be.
The question is, should the team bring in just a few new players, invest in depth, sharpen the plan, get fit, get the desire back and try again?
Should the team bring in several new starters, get rid of old concepts, possibly change formations?
This question is loaded. It's loaded because everyone wants drastic change after a loss, but a month later with more reflection, attitudes are different.
Some people suggest that tiki-taka is dead and that Barca should abandon possession football. I really am confused about this. The team everyone is sure is going to be the next juggernaut, Bayern Munich, are the second-best possession team in Europe and are about to have Pep Guardiola as their coach.
It's clear that possession is a good way to beat most teams, though apparently, it's not the best way to beat Barcelona or Bayern Munich. Bayern Munich could adapt to this, Barcelona could not.
No top team seems to be invested in so much emotion as Barcelona. This is of course a great thing for the most part. But does it tinge beliefs? Is Gerard Pique unsellable because he's that good or because he's Gerard Pique? Is Tito Vilanova in charge still because of the emotion or because of the results?
Does the team still put too much trust in Xavi, Carles Puyol, and Pedro Rodriguez for the past as opposed to the present?
I think the answer is maybe so.
Real Madrid, by comparison, are pretty ruthless. Raul Gonzalez is about as iconic a player as you will ever find, the top scorer in the Champions League ever, but the team let him go to Schalke 04 when they figured he wasn't good enough.
And though some were outraged, most Madridistas accepted Diego Lopez as the #1 keeper this season despite the fact that Iker Casillas has been the undisputed starter for years. A captain for club and country, won it all, symbol of the club, displaying a great professional attitude... it doesn't matter. The fans thought some other guy was better that month, and that was that.
There's certainly an upside to that, but there is a downside too, of course. The strategy of promoting from within produced a remarkable, close-knit group that not only won everything but always - in general - retained a positive attitude, at least within the team itself. Do you really want the drama that surrounds the Madrid locker room? The grass is greener, as they say.
Perhaps there is a happy medium between evolution and revolution. Perhaps some players have to leave despite their great emotional connections. Perhaps possession football is the way forward, but it can be tweaked, especially against certain opponents. Perhaps the base formation can remain the same, but a new formation will be used more often.