Barca Blaugranes Q & A: The Answers: Part One

David Ramos

With many questions coming in about the upcoming City tie, we've decided to split the answers into two sections. In part one myself, Inder, Arron, Luis and Adam tackle questions regarding the City tie and general tactics.

Preferred line ups and tactics against Man City? from Barcacatalunya

Adam: My tactical preferences are quite different than what I expect. Martino has shown a willingness to experiment, though not to the extent I would like. But there is context to that, of which is a different discussion entirely. Personally, I would consider a 3-5-2 with Bartra, Mascherano, and Pique in a three-man back-line, with Busquets, Xavi, and Iniesta in their normal midfield roles. Alexis and Pedro/Neymar, then, would play as wing-backs, acting almost exclusively as markers on City's wide players, but also as vertical outlets in transition. Cesc and Messi up front.

Basically, this puts all of our best ball-handlers on the pitch for maximum control (the importance of which Tata has commented on), but puts better defensive players on the wings (rather than Cesc/Iniesta) to deter City's proclivity to play down the flanks. If Alba and Iniesta, for instance, are deployed on that left side, I fear Navas and Zabaleta will eat them alive, and this is the best way to compensate, to my view.

Sam: My ideal lineup would be: Valdés, Alba, Piqué, Bartra, Alves, Busquets, Iniesta, Xavi, Fàbregas, Messi, Neymar/Pedro. Reason for including so many midfielders is I think midfield will be key in the game, especially with the physicality of Yaya Touré and Barça need to be dominant there.

Luis: I have always wondered about the 3-5-2, but the main obstacle would be whether the players were comfortable enough and confident enough to actually go with it. It would need to be tried as an experiment first, against weaker opposition probably. So 4-3-3 it is. Martino will hope having high possession (something City is not used to playing against) will limit the goals City get. I also still prefer zonal rather than man-to-man marking on set pieces, that's one change I have not seen as an improvement in Tata's regime.

Why has Tata been seemingly reluctant to play a midfield of Cesc and Iniesta together (assuming Busquets starts at pivote, with Xavi dropping to the bench)? from bamjayapani

Inder: Whether people are willing to admit it or not. Xavi brings stability to our midfield. a combination of Busi,Xavi and Iniesta/Cesc...gives us a DM,CM(with ultra possession holding capability) and ACM(to drive towards goal and lay off for an attacker). Busi, Iniesta, Cesc would work based on the opponent and tactics required. Against City, at the Etihad especially, can leave us extremely vulnerable in midfield with only Busi there to try and stop a counter.

Sam: I'm unsure why Iniesta hasn't seen much game time this season, in the last few games I would rank him as the best Barcelona player but I think Martino is worried that Iniesta and Fàbregas together is too attacking. Like Inder says, Xavi is not necessarily more defensive minded but he works well alongside Busuqets to create a wall between attack and defence. My personal choice would be to include all three with Cesc and Iniesta rotating on the left wing.

Adam: Tata's reluctance to play Cesc and Iniesta together has a rather simple explanation. Neither, good as they are, are the kind of Xavi-type organizing midfielder that Barcelona require in a 4-3-3 set-up. With Thiago's departure, and the board's failure to replace him, this leaves Tata thin at the central midfield position. Busquets can conceivably play this role, but with Song's inadequacy as a 4-3-3 defensive pivot, Tata can't really afford to deploy him as such. This is a very pressing issue, of which the club will have to address in the coming transfer window.

What's your opinion on Tata frequently starting Mascherano over Bartra, with Bartra in seemingly much better form? from bamjayapani

Arron: I'd actually disagree that Bartra has been in better form than Mascherano per se; in the lesser matches against the lower ranked sides in La Liga, I too would like to see Marc given a few more minutes. However, when it comes to the real crunch games, there is no-one I would rather have in our corner than Javier Mascherano. And is Bartra's development really worth risking Mascherano's happiness for? With a new contract, Bartra is tied to us for a few more years, he can afford to bide his time and make the most of his chances when Mascherano naturally slips out of the rotation.

Inder: Mascherano over Bartra can seem strange at times. But it is simply a matter of experience. Bartra was thrown into the deep end vs Bayern last year. Even though he has had a great season and I personally believe he is ready for City (especially cause his height combined with pique's will help us in set pieces - City have tall and physical players in Negredo, Kompany etc), I would understand if Tata used Mascherano. But i also understand why he has been using Mascherano so far, for the reasons stated above. Experience. Bartra is getting minutes against the so called lesser teams and his confidence needs to be built slowly.

Luis: Most people prefer Bartra, it has to be said. He has more height, which obviously helps especially against taller teams like City. Mascherano is a great player, and there is logic in playing him at CB in Barca's current system. He is better on the ground than Bartra, also. Ultimately, for Martino, it obviously is about trusting experience.

Should Deulofeu come back next season, or should he spend another season with Everton? If he is to come back, what are the chances that Tello will be sold/loaned out? from FCB4Ever

Inder: I believe Deulofeu should be given another year with Everton (and not another team, just Everton especially under Martinez, while also being told in a plain and simple manner that he has a future for Barça and is being prepared for his role). As for Hello, he has regressed this season,understandable since all our forwards are in great form. But since I believe Deulofeu should be loaned out, I also think Tello should be given another year. I am not a fan of too many changes every summer, especially now with all our forwards doing well.

Sam: I think another year or alone would be good for Deulofeu. Even though Barcelona have made it pretty clear they want him back in the summer, he still isn't one of the first choices in that position. You've got the likes of Neymar, Pedro, Alexis, Tello and even Iniesta ahead of him. If he does return, I'd say that it's likely we'd see one winger leave. Cuenca will almost certainly go and there are questions over Afellay but I'd like to see Tello stay or at worst leave on loan.

Luis: If Deulofeu goes back, I assume Tello is gone. Still, I think Everton and the player are keen on extending the loan, which might benefit Barcelona as a whole. Then Tello may get one final year to prove himself. It'll be interesting if Cuenca or Afellay can make any impression on the rotation this year. It's probably their last chance to do so.

What is your take on Tata as a long term manager? And if you think he is more short term (2 seasons and then gone), who would be your top choices to fill the role? from ThreePar

Sam: At this stage, I can't see Martino staying beyond his current contract. It looks like he has ruffled too many feathers within the Catalan media by trying to adapt Barça's style, whether the board will take that into account or not, I don't know. Graham Hunter spoke of Sandro Rosell's idea of brining in Luiz Felipe Scolari after the summer World Cup but whether that is something the new president is planning we will have to wait and see. I always like a good man manager, someone like Joachim Loew.

Arron: I think this is a really good question actually; Guardiola stayed for four seasons, when really he should have left after the third. Tito only stayed one season for unfortunate reasons, but needed one or two more to really take the team to the places he was trying to reach. Martino has adapted quickly - which hints at a shorter reign, but perhaps not? The reason for his "success" so far hasn't been motivational (i.e. high pressure etc.), just good football. That's sustainable, just as long as he keeps control of the dressing room; maybe we have another Guardiola-length reign upon us?

But if I were to think about a new manager, I would shy away from Klopp and edge towards a homegrown coach, like Luis Enrique or who knows? If bridges can be mended, why not try to entice Pep back to the Camp Nou...

Inder: Long term in almost any Spanish team for a manager is about 3 or 4 years. This is not England, where a coach like Wenger can stay for so many years. That said, I do hope the club renews Tata's contract. 3 or 4 years in total would be good imo. Considering the circumstances, I think he has been brilliant for the team and club from his pressers, to his rotation to his tactics (especially in big games).

What are strategies for defeating a parked bus, particularly when the other team's defense is doing its job well? How can Barça adapt to this barricade to tiki-taka? Do we need new/different players to implement these tactics and strategies? from Timber Dave

Sam: This has seemingly been the golden question for Barcelona over the last few years. We've seen the likes of Chelsea in the Champions League semi-final sit right back with eleven men behind the ball. I don't think there needs to be a complete tactics overhaul, just some minor changes for example with packed defences, Messi is very closely marked. So it would be good to see a Messi like movement from some of the wide players. Also sometimes it is just about being lucky so maybe a few more long range efforts which with a bit of luck would end up in the back of the net.

Luis: I think playing one striker, with Messi behind, could be very helpful. It does not have to be a slow hulk of a player, just someone who can help lead the line. Pique, Alexis, Cesc, or  David Villa (when he was around) would do in a pinch, but a player trained that way year-round would be better. It's probably not heard about much, but before taking the head coaching job at Barca, Pep Guardiola wrote a long column with glowing praise of Peter Crouch. There's room for a big man in tiki-taka.

What do you think of JDS, Oier, Ibi and Cuenca? from BartraFTW

Inder: I think all the players mentioned have to leave the club and the sooner the better. I used to hope that Afellay could prove himself at Barça but he has simply been unlucky with injuries and the moment has passed. I expected big things for Cuenca, but he too was the victim of injuries. Although,reports out of Spain seem to suggest that Tata believes Afellay could still have a role within the team and I would trust his judgement on that.

Adam: Sell them. All of them. As far as I'm concerned, fringe players that provide no immediate or conceivable future contributions should be sold. There is no point in retaining the services of players like Bojan, Jonathan, etc., as they have not shown the appropriate levels of development. In total, we should be able to obtain around 15 million euros or so for these fringe players, of which the club would do well to profit from.

Just wondering what you guys do for a living/what you guys do for fun? from teamshao

Inder: I'm basically into sales. As for fun, well might not be appropriate for the site. There are kids reading and all that ;)

Sam: I'm in my final year of college at the moment and will hopefully be going to study English Language and Spanish in Manchester this September. My "dream job" would to be a sports journalist based in Barcelona. In terms of fun, generally watching sports, going out with friends and studying seems to taking up most of my time. Aside from Barça, I am an Ipswich Town fan and also a New York Giants fan.

Adam: I'm 24, and I work in receiving accounts for a clothing company in Berkeley (right across the bay from San Francisco, for any non-US readers). Originally, I'm from Pennsylvania -- Pittsburgh for most of my life, then Philadelphia for a couple years. If I'm not at work, you can find me at a local pub, or a show around San Francisco/Oakland. Other than that, I live a pretty normal twenty-something lifestyle. No complaints, really.

Arron: I'm into Tax/Consulting at Deloitte, while aside from doing this for fun, I tend to split my free-time between watching old episodes of the Simpsons and enjoying the perks of a job in the city.

Luis: I work on a television show on American TV as a writer and editor. For fun, I write music, watch movies, and play video games.

Do you think next season we should depend more on the youth squad or sign some big names if we're aiming for a treble again? from Barcacatalunya

Adam: Very complicated question. As I've said, Barcelona's lack of depth at the central midfield position is problematic, as it requires a 34 year-old Xavi to play significantly more minutes. With Rafinha's impending return, it will be interesting to see how Tata views his ability to orchestrate from deep, a role he's excelled at Celta Vigo under Luis Enrique. Naturally, Rafinha is a more advanced, attacking player, but has shown a tremendous ability to adapt, and is developing his skill-set in ways I never anticipated. The alternative is to buy a player like Gundogan, who fits this profile impeccably. Arguably, central midfield is the most important position in Barcelona's system. Whether it's a cantera, or a high-profile transfer, the club's solution to the post-Xavi era is something they can't afford to get wrong, as the future of the club largely depends on it.

Inder: History seems to suggest that clubs who have won trebles, have done so with a core group of players who were developed in their youth system. Especially as fans of Barça, we should have no argument there but, we can't expect to develop all 11 players. We will need a GK next year and possibly a replacement for Xavi. I am yet to be convinced we need a CB cause I think Bartra needs to fill that role but Mascherano and Puyol might not have much time with the club so iI wouldn't be against buying a young player (at a low cost).

Arron: Another great question. Ideally, we would go for the former, but there is arguably a need for the latter (we'll see how pressing that need is come May). On the other hand, are there any big names out there available for transfer that would improve our team? Secure a good goalkeeper, trust Bartra with more minutes and bring in another young centre-half (ahem, Balanta?).

What do you think is the best choice centre back and goalkeeper for Barça? from Cule4life

Arron: I've heard there's this great keeper called Victor Valdés...wait, no that won't do...I hope Ter Stegen is the best choice for us, purely because his transfer seems like a Neymar-style inevitability now. But really, there isn't another player quite like Valdés, which makes this situation that much worse.

Luis: My intricate scouting network says Manuel Neuer and Thiago Silva would do the job fine. But since they may be a tad expensive, I think Ter Stegen is a fine choice, while the CB question is unsettled. I think Balanta is good but I have seen him play only a limited number of times so, hard to say.

Sam: In terms of players Barcelona have now, I'd say Valdés, Piqué and Bartra are the best defenders. If Barça could sign anyone, I'd go for a good ball-playing keeper such as Iker Casillas. Also I think a Barcelona defender has to be quick and good with the ball so maybe a Sergio Ramos or Thiago Silva to partner Piqué.

That's all for part one. Remember you can still submit a question here and part two will be released shortly after the deadline.

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