FC Barcelona may have lost La Liga on Saturday night as El Blaugrana was beat and beat good with a 3-1 loss to Real Sociedad.
The Best: Real Sociedad
Let me first congratulate Real Sociedad and all of their great fans on the win. They were clearly the better team on the night, dominated the Barça defense, and deserved the win. Congrats!
The Worst: FC Barcelona as a whole, Tata Martino's tactics
I don't know how a team that had just shut out the best offense in the Barclays Premier League in Manchester City can fall flat on their face against a tough Real Sociedad side. Unreal. Alex Song was awful, Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta's passes were off, and so on. Lionel Messi was not bad, but thanks to the La Real pressure, he never got going. Neymar seemed to be off all night, thanks to a knock he received early in the game. Perhaps Neymar was a bit hurt, but if he was, he should have alerted the FCB bench to be subbed off.
The Barcelona defense had one of its worst performances this season. Marc Bartra was not as sharp as he has been all season. Martin Montoya was off, as was Adriano. Gerard Pique had a terrible game, and I'll get into his play a bit later.
What We Learned?: One way or another, this loss will be the turning point for FC Barcelona this season.
One thing that worries me is that Tata has still not figure out his team's rotation yet. After the game, Tata admitted he made a mistake with the starting lineup and the substitutes. I like Tata, but it's late February and he's still making mistakes with the lineup & subs. Not good, Tata. I know it's easier said than done, but still, I think it's safe to say it's a bit worrisome that Tata is still learning on the Barça job when it comes to picking a starting XI to match up against the opponent-a familiar opponent for that matter. As beIN Sports USA's Andres Cordero said via Twitter, "Martino discovered his best XI (against City), then used a line-up without 5 of them in the most difficult away game left on the league schedule (minus at Real Madrid in March)". Poor mistake, Tata. Hope this is the end of the mistakes with the lineup in La Liga.
After the loss, I went on to Twitter and said this:
"This #Barça season feels like 2007-08 all over again. Like 07-08, FCB may finish 3rd, & like 07-08, major changes may be coming this summer."
I don't know how some fans could misinterpreted this tweet. I didn't nor am I trying to say that this current FCB team is exactly like the 07-08 team that lacked discipline and were in disarray off the pitch. What I meant is that this 2013-14 FC Barcelona squad reminds me of the 07-08 squad in that they may finish in third place, which would bring significant changes to the team. That's all.
My other concern is that Tata's message and motivation is not getting through to some of these players. Like in 07-08, perhaps some of the players are a bit too comfortable, and a change is needed. And I'm not talking about the manager.
After the game, Gerard Pique made, in my opinion, a dumb comment: "Things didn't work out today. It's not worrying, these things happen. Now we have a week to prepare for the next game."
I'm sorry, but that is an idiotic comment. Of course things didn't work out. But to say "it's not worrying" and that "these this happen" is not acceptable. Pique seemed to just take it all a bit too much in stride. I'm not asking Pique or any of the Barça player to cry and/or panic, but what I'd like to see is a bit more heart and passion in a loss. Be angry, Gerard! Give us something! At least say, "These things happen, but they are not acceptable." At least that tells us that you are not just letting the loss go. At least lie to us, Gerard. Xavi's angry and frustrated expression from the bench was more passionate than any of the other Barça players' quotes, comments or expression. Xavi has passion; some of the other players, maybe not as much.
Pique's post-game comments are just one of the reasons this team needs to make moves this summer, perhaps with him going away. Is it just me, or does it feel like Mr. Shakira has gotten too comfortable at FC Barcelona? He's been consistently inconsistent, and I've reached my boiling point. I'm not blaming the loss to Real Sociedad solely on him, or Alex Song, or even on Tata Martino because it was a team loss. But Gerard Pique is the player that makes me think this FC Barcelona team may have players that are a bit too comfortable and a bit uninterested, and a change is needed.
The defense is in need of a massive facelift at CB, as we all know. Carles Puyol is a legend, but the Capi is probably done. I like Javier Mascherano, and I see him staying. But I wouldn't be surprised if he left though, as he will have offers from Napoli and others. Marc Bartra is one of the cornerstones of the Barça defense for the future. But I don't think I want Gerard Pique on this team for next season. He's just not cutting it anymore.
There are some that say Pedro, Cristian Tello, and Dani Alves need to be let go as well. I don't agree with seeing Alves go, but I must admit that part of me wouldn't mind seeing Pedro and Tello being sold. Tello has been good at times, but inconsistent most of the time. Everyone loves Pedro, as do I, but there reaches a point when perhaps looking to change things up isn't a bad idea. A new, hungry-to-prove-himself forward to go along with Neymar and Alexis could be a good thing. Alex Song is probably off to a team that will give him more playing time next season.
Hopefully not, but if FC Barcelona finishes third in La Liga, just like in 07-08, it may be curtains for Tata Martino as it was for Frank Rijkaard. The pressure that the FC Barcelona manager job brings is tremendous, and the FCB board will not accept finishing third. I'm not saying it's fair nor am I desiring that Tata be let go, I'm just saying what will more than likely happen if Barça finishes third. Let's hope not.
If Barcelona finishes third, changes will come. And perhaps it will all end up for the best. Like in 07-08, the team was in need of some changes, and it ended up being for the best. Victor Valdes will be heading out this summer, and this team, the fans, and I will miss him tremendously. A new goalkeeper will come onto the squad, more than likely Marc-Andre ter Stegen. Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu will rightfully be pressured to sign a CB and perhaps a CF.
I love FC Barcelona, but I must be fair as well. I can't always praise them, and not criticize them. The loss to La Real may be the turning point for El Blaugrana. It's either going to mark when they turned it around, or it's going to mark when the Liga title was lost, and it would mark when the need for change started to become more evident.
Xoel's Final World
From the ecstasy of beating Manchester City on Tuesday night, to the agony of losing against Real Sociedad on Saturday, FC Barcelona has had a roller coaster of a week.
Time to regroup, refocus, and get a win at home against Almeria.
There's plenty of Liga left, but now FC Barcelona will have to rely on other teams, as well as essentially go perfect, to have a shot of winning the title.
I still believe, but it will be very tough.
Xoel, The Voice of FC Barcelona