Barcelona suffered the first loss of the 2016/17 season on Saturday, losing 2-1 to Deportivo Alavés at Camp Nou in a very strange match, with the Catalans struggling throughout the 90 minutes and playing bad defense to concede two goals and lose at home. Here's a few lessons from a very bad loss:
1 - Hashtag It Happens
Seriously. It happens. This was one of those games, a night where a combination of bad luck, bad play and bad circumstances lead to an ugly result. It happened to every great team in the history of football, and Luis Enrique's side shouldn't be immune to that. The natural instinct is to overreact to what took place on Saturday, but it's just a part of sports. Bad losses will happen, and they did happen in the first two seasons of the Lucho Era, and look how those seasons turn out. Bad games and losses are part of sport. It just happens.
That being said...
2 - Luis Enrique cannot rotate too much
Lucho fell in love with his rotation system when it worked to absolute perfection in his first season, saving the Gala XI for March, April and May, when Barça completely dominated and won both La Liga and the Champions League thanks to a deep, talented squad. Once again he does have a deep, talented group that allows him to make rotations and have strong teams for virtually every game — which was the case on Saturday.
There's just one difference from the 2014-15 rotation system to this one: that squad had Xavi and Pedro, two great players who were totally familiar with the tactics and knew exactly what to do when they played. They are now gone, six players were signed and four of them played against Alavés with very little experience in the Barça system. It's too big of a change. The eleven from Saturday did not know each other or the exact responsibilites they have in each position. With such a big change using so many unexperienced players, you will have guys out of sync and having problems to understand each other on the pitch.
A rotation is not changing starters just for the hell of it. It's using your bench smartly to save your best players' fitness for the more important games while staying strong for the next match. In five or six months, once the new signings are completely settled, you can rest all eleven starters and have a reserve team capable of playing great football. Until then, don't love your rotation too much, Lucho. It'll hurt you.
3 - Mascherano cannot play on the right side
The Little Sheriff is one of the world's best defenders, but Saturday was just another proof that Mascherano just has to play on the left side of central defense. There is such a thing as muscle memory, and there are movements you do on the left side that can't be done on the right, and vice-versa. Just because Mascherano is right-footed it doesn't mean he can play on both sides, and the first goal was a clear sign of someone struggling to position himself in the box and conceding space to the striker (who ironically scored on Masche's left side). Masche is a monster, but only a left-sided one.