ollow me Barca fans down the long corridor and beyond the open passage where we can all have a seat above our two speakers...
This is The Punditry Pit where two anonymous speakers, identified only by color, will represent their own respective views on FC Barcelona related matters ranging anywhere from tactics to players/management to media and public relations.
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"Has Luis Enrique Martinez done enough to unlock the qualities of the attacking trident in Lionel Messi, Neymar Jr and Luis Suarez to progress past Manchester City in the UEFA Champions League?"
We'll run over Manchester City. Yeah, I said it.
Everyone is so scared of the opposition and no one is giving Barcelona enough credit. The only issue Luis Enrique really had was the constant rotation and his dreadful lineups. Even Pro-Barca newspaper, Mundo Deportivo, questioned the erratic nature of Lucho's selections. I'll admit the extent of his rotation policy was a massive problem but he learned from his mistake after the uproar and everything that ensued after the debacle at Anoeta.
With exception to our performance against Malaga, we've been pure magic. Eleven game winning streak says it all. Dermot Ledwith of ESPNFC.com echoed these sentiments stating, "It is no coincidence that this run of form comes since Luis Enrique decided on a settled starting [eleven]."
Among those wins, three have come against Atletico Madrid. A side that not only knocked us out of the Champions League but won La Liga on our ground as we were unable to secure three points. Barca met Atletico on six occasions last season and could never produce more than a draw.
With Luis Enrique - we managed to beat them and do so decisively with our frontline combining beautifully. Former Barca defender Edmilson told Barca TV, "The trident formed by Leo Messi, Neymar, and Luís Suarez is the best trio in Barcelona's history."
If that's not praise I'm not sure what is.
Luis Enrique deserves credit. His idea to put Lionel Messi out wide which would allow Neymar to thrive in his preferred position on the left and Luis Suarez to play as a more typical yet mobile "9" down the middle was genius. We've been missing that element to our gameplay for quite some time now. As always, we rely on Messi but are not solely dependent on in him in Enrique's set up.
They're all potential threats.
The Asturian has my support and he'll get us past Manchester City with MSN leading the charge. No problem. Barca to advance 5-2 on aggregate.
I look at the question and for me it's simple; Luis Enrique didn't get the most out of our attacking trio - Messi did.
A large part of the Barca faithful can agree there was a clear shift after the Sociedad match. You would think after league leader and our fiercest rival, Real Madrid, finally drop points that Luis Enrique would seize the opportunity to field our strongest attacking threats in an effort to close the gap at the top of the table, right?
Instead, he chooses to bench both Messi and Neymar...
How does that make sense? It doesn't.
More concerned with his authority than the good of the club, we drop three crucial points that could be of utmost significance in our chase for the title. I'm not sure about anyone else but after losing last year's La Liga on the final day of the season I would like to believe management would chase every available point with all the weapons at our disposal.
So what changed?
Did Lucho have an epiphany which would see him change the dynamic of our front three or did Lio make a subtle gesture in adding Chelsea F.C. to his Instagram in addition to not showing up for training due to gastroenteritis?
The message wasn't direct but it was loud and clear. Particularly if you take Xavi Hernandez's comment on Catalan television channel BTV into consideration. The Barca captain stated:
"In the football world, when someone says they have a stomach bug, it sounds like an excuse. When you hear someone has gastroenteritis, you immediately think there's more to it than that."
The Barca legend made this statement only a couple days before Messi would use the very same excuse for missing training. Forgive me but I just don't think it's coincidental.
Messi was unhappy. We were unhappy. We hit a crisis point.
On January 7th 2015, President Josep Maria Bartomeu announces that the elections would be brought forward in an attempt to bring "calm to the club." Lionel Messi did all Barca fans a massive favour. The infrastructure of the club has been horrendous at best under this board.
The following day, January 8th 2015, we win 5-0 against Elche and go on to win ten more with Lio at the forefront of our wins and the architect behind the emerging form of MSN. Since the elections were announced Messi has scored 14 times and assisted 8 times with both Neymar and Suarez on the list of beneficiaries.
I like Luis Enrique for how he's added to our dimension of play and because he's a servant of the club but make no mistake the only thing Lucho unlocked was Messi's discontent at the club and the way it's been running for several years now. He seems happier now as a direct result of the possibility of a new board coming into power this summer.
And he's definitely playing like it.
After winning the Champions League in '11 Guardiola was asked about how Barcelona can continue their success and maintain Messi’s excellence. His answer was simple, "Make sure [Messi] is happy".
Facing Manchester City can go either way. It's a toss up, 50/50. In the event we go through it will be because of MSN's own combination of individual brilliance linked by our #10 rather than Luis Enrique's ability to unlock their potential.
That's not meant to be a dig at Lucho. Far from it. Our most decorated manager Pep Guardiola once said:
"I tried to make Messi the best player in the world but he ended up making me the best coach in the world."
Have your say on the poll below and feel free to comment for you might very well be chosen for the next session of The Punditry Pit.
At times you may feel closer to blue and other times red but you'll always remain Blaugranes.
- FC Barcelona News: 23 February 2015; 21 Players Travel to Manchester, Barcelona B Lose to Llagostera
- FC Barcelona Squad Named For UEFA Champions League Tie With Manchester City
- A look at Manchester City
- FC Barcelona News: 22 February 2015; Barcelona Suffer Surprising Defeat to Malaga, Felix Brych to Referee Manchester City Game
- The Dani Alves Dilemma