After all the hue and cry about revolution nothing much happened in Catalonia. Several days have passed since the appointment of Ronald Koeman and the subsequent announcement that Messi is not leaving. Yet all we have seen, in terms of transfers, is the low-key departure of Ivan Rakitić. Yes, Vidal and Suárez are “supposedly” on the way out, but nothing is set in stone. If the past is any sort of precedent, then expect the worst.
In terms of incoming transfers, Barça seem to be moving for Depay and Wijnaldum. Shockingly, Barça have not been linked with a single defender. Not a single one. No full-backs and no centre-backs. It’s been radio silence on that end. As things stand, Semedo, Alba, Roberto and Firpo are the only options out wide. In a team heavily reliant on width from defence, that’s simply not good enough. Semedo and Alba are shell players and lack severely limited skillsets. Roberto, simply put, is just mediocre at everything. Firpo, on the other hand, has shown no sign of progress since his arrival at Barcelona, and has offered nothing except the occasional back pass.
A quick look at Barca’s backline, then, quickly confirms something. Improvement is needed. Bayern have already given the world a premonition of what’s in store. Worse is in store. Yet, there seems to be no interest in improvement from Barca’s end. What could that entail for the next season?
Well, it’s worrying. Semedo and Alba don’t do much in terms of horizontal stretching, and their positional incompetence often leaves the backline entirely exposed in transitions. This was the case time and again last season, and especially on the right hand side. With Messi cutting inwards into central channels, Semedo would attempt to drift forward. Yet, due to his inability to effectively exploit space, he would often end up behind the run of play. To make matters worse, his tracking back was often delayed, and definitely half-hearted. As Messi ages out, you need a proactive holder of width on the right, not someone with a deficient positional IQ.
A possible solution is to use Messi as a False 9/SS through the middle, with a right-winger positioned to hold territory. This could work, however that central drift from wide is a big part of Messi’s game and is what allows him to advance positionally advantageous attacks. Without that, he could potentially look isolated. It all remains to be seen. One thing that is for sure is that investment is needed. But, at the back. Enough of redundant marquee signings. We don’t need another ‘Coutinho’ on our hands do we? If only our wage bill was in order...