After yesterday’s loss, I haven’t really been in the mood for anything. It’s capped off a week that started off well, but got progressively worse and has culminated in some bad news, followed by some dire results for every football team I support, or vaguely take an interest in. Usually I can take solace in sport, but this week has made it difficult. So, let’s start at the beginning, and with the victory over AC Milan. Bostjan was fortunate enough to be one of 4700 travelling fans, take a look at his report before progressing any further, as it is vital that we take his word as gospel for the next paragraph or so.
The prevailing thought about yesterday’s game was contrast. It was evident on the pitch (more on that later), but compared to Wednesday’s thrill-ride, this match was the quintessential example of footballing contrast. Beating AC Milan 3-2 is an achievement, and to do that at the San Siro certainly adds another level of satisfaction. On Wednesday we witnessed a Barcelona side ready to fight for the win, but by Saturday night’s kick-off the fight was clearly gone.
Instead, we were left with a shadow of that side that never looked like winning against lowly Getafe. The atmosphere was non-existent, even when Getafe scored it was deathly quiet. There was next to no travelling support as per usual, and thankfully there was no public feud involving an ex-player threatening to overshadow the match itself. Continuing with this theme, it was clear that Barcelona are a different beast altogether when they are away from home in the Champions League compared to away in La Liga. Therein lies the problem, but it is difficult to pinpoint exactly what that problem is. Here are my best guesses:
Barcelona have won everything there is to offer, and then some. The last three and a bit years under Pep Guardiola have heralded nothing but success for the Blaugrana, and some expected that they would find it hard to motivate themselves to continue this near perfect streak. Turns out, they might be right, but why is that the case? Surely Pep would see that the players are struggling and focus them on the matches ahead? Unless of course, he is struggling for motivation as well...
Pep always said that he would work for the club as long as he thought they were still listening to his ideas and were motivated for the task at hand. I tend to think this is the "easy" way out when describing the problems afflicting Barcelona as it is clear to me that this is not always the case. For example, at what stage of the Supercopa were Barcelona disinterested? Was this during the victory or what? How about the game in the San Siro? With nothing to play for, why would Barcelona strive for the victory? To label motivation as the problem would in my opinion be a little naive.
No doubt about it FC Barcelona are in a spot of bad form. I hesitate to think of a time when losing to Getafe was indicated good form anyway, so by my reckoning, things aren’t looking rosy. However, is this merely a spot of bad form, or is this going to be the norm for Barcelona? Will dropping points become more common? This same question also applies to the players:
Is David Villa just this bad, or is he struggling for confidence? What about Pedro, is he ever going to get back to scoring form? Moreover, will Lionel Messi start scoring freely away from the Camp Nou? All of these are questions waiting to be answered, but as of right now, we cannot predict the future, and it will lead to some difficult decisions for Pep Guardiola. When will he call time on Villa’s role in the side and who will replace him? Lastly, is Dani Alves right to call this a mere "phase"? I will leave the answers for you to decide.
3. The Carles Puyol effect
No doubt I should have used the other spelling of effect, or maybe I have got it right for once! Either way, this week has cemented Puyol’s place in the first choice XI. Six of the nine league defeats handed out to Barcelona with Guardiola in charge have one similarity: the absence of Carles Puyol. Is it any wonder why I and many others continue to sing his praises? He was faultless against Milan, and I maintain that he would have defended that corner against Getafe.
Gerard Pique is worse off without him, the left-back position is weaker when Abidal is forced to cover in the centre, and I think Alves prefers to have Puyol alongside him. The captain is the perfect enabler, as Alves can bomb forward on the right without having to fear of the consequences as Puyol can cover for him. Pique can venture forward; spraying passes every which way, as Puyol can cover him too. Valdes can stay in goal for crosses, as Puyol will head them clear. When Puyol starts, it is almost a universally accepted fact that they do not lose. Do not underestimate his influence on the side, and just pray he can stay injury free for the remainder of the season.
What do you think is the problem with Barcelona at this given point in time? I wanna read some alternate problems and possibly solutions below!