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Barcelona’s back line buckling under the weight of expectation

Quique Setien has his work cut out improving the defence

FC Barcelona v Club Atletico de Madrid - Supercopa de Espana: Semi Final Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images

Quique Setien said at his official unveiling that he’s enjoyed watching Barcelona over the last few years, but if he’s watched his new team this season he may be wondering how on earth Barcelona are still top of the La Liga table.

When you look around the other top European leagues, it’s plainly obvious why the likes of Liverpool, Inter and PSG are sat atop the tree.

The Blaugranes are stumbling from one disaster to another and it’s as much to do with not being able to keep a clean sheet as anything else. Just eight shut outs in 27 games in all competitions this season.

In recent campaigns, keeping the opposition out has been a source of pride for the defence and goalkeeper.

And yet in 2019/20 in the Spanish top flight, Barca have already conceded 23 goals. So what, I hear you cry. We’re still top.

That’s as maybe, because it’s a sound defence that’s the basis of all championship winning teams.

Real Madrid have conceded just 12 in the same time frame, the same as Atletico Madrid, whilst Sevilla have let in 18.

In the entirety of last season the Catalans only saw their net bulge on 36 occasions, 29 the year before that and 37 in Luis Enrique’s final campaign.

They’ve started off 2020 by conceding two or more in their opening two games for the first time since 1967.

It’s really not that difficult to pinpoint where the problem areas are.

When Gerard Pique is good, he is an absolute colossus, but when he’s having an off day he is atrocious.

Clement Lenglet has been great for the most part alongside his central defensive colleague but he too has suffered far too many losses of concentration.

With Nelson Semedo seemingly on the transfer list, a chopping and changing of the Portuguese and Sergi Roberto in the right-back slot helps neither and, moreover, both haven’t really impressed in that role.

As for Jordi Alba, his lack of a defensive contribution is compensated by his importance to the team in their attacking transitional phases.

Junior Firpo clearly needs more time at the club if he wants to be considered an able deputy to the first-choice left-back.

Looking at that roll call of names, there’s more than enough quality there but the issue is that they’re not showing it often enough.

Two seasons ago, Samuel Umtiti could legitimately be classed as one of the best defenders in the world, but he’s a busted flush now and needs to leave.

That would at least give Jean-Clair Todibo a shot at harnessing the obvious quality that he has and, as a result, allow him to put genuine pressure on Pique to up his game. Yet he appears set to spend the rest of the season away from the Camp Nou on loan.

Setien held a double training session on Tuesday and has called the players back in on Wednesday too which is just as well because Barca’s defence are fast becoming a laughing stock.

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