No sugar-coating, quite simply, Luis Enrique has lost the plot. Initially I hoped he would finish the season strong and boost his legacy. Got that wrong. Instead of launching into a frustrated tirade, I will attempt to address the moments where I was utterly wrong about his tenure.
First off the bat,
I was wrong to think in 2015 that the Socis of the club, the individuals who supposedly have a say in how this club is run, would make the right choice and not re-elect the Rosell (and Bartomeu) administration. In this regime’s tenure, the club has been embroiled in scandal, from the numerous tax issues in the Neymar signing to the Transfer ban for improper conduct in signing youth players. As successful as they have been in the financial aspect of running the club, it has become increasingly obvious that this board struggles to maintain the sporting model, to implement long term plans to achieve sporting success. In 2015, the Socis, blinded by the shiny trinkets that was the treble, forgot the issues that made them call for early elections in the first place, a travesty.
FC Barcelona has achieved great success but on a fundamental level, from top to bottom, this club is badly run. Failure to plan for the departures of key players such as Xavi and Dani Alves and the ageing of Don Andres, has hallmarked this season. This board was re-elected due to the 2015 treble but since then have done nothing to maintain that level of success, instead the club has regressed.
Here comes #2!
I was wrong to assume that Luis Enrique was like most human beings who learned from their mistakes. In 3 years coaching such a big club, Lucho still makes errors you’d expect from an amateur coach. Exhibit A: insisting on playing Jeremy Mathieu at LB. When I first saw the team-sheet, I assumed that Mathieu was starting as a left-sided CB in the 3-4-3 as he did against Atletico in the league (and did well too, I know you don’t agree). Could I have been more wrong? Definitely. He was instead deployed as a LB in a 4-3-3.
For perspective, the first match Mathieu played at LB for FC Barcelona, we lost 3-1 in Luis Enrique’s first Clasico as a coach. Since then? Whenever Mathieu plays at LB, we’ve achieved similar results. The 4-0 loss against Bilbao in the Super Cup immediately comes to mind. The issue is that Lucho doesn’t seem to understand that it’s one thing to put a player in a position due to their physical profile or past, it’s another for them to feel comfortable playing there.
Mathieu at LB naturally drifts towards the centre (you know, as you would expect a CB to do?) and leaves acres of space for a right winger to run through. Furthermore, in an attacking sense, he adds next to nothing as he’s hesitant with the ball at his feet and won’t take on players which is crucial in a 4-3-3 as a fullback. As much as he is flawed as a player, his manager should know better than to put him in that position in the first place. To add to our woes, Mathieu has barely played at LB this season. A dash of brilliance to play him there in a huge away stadium against the Italian champions.
I was wrong to think that Barca was playing in Italy and not France. Déjà vu was the theme of the day. For the second consecutive Champions League tie, Barca seemed to be unaware of the gravity of the situation they were in, coming out of the blocks so groggily that you wondered if they were even at the races to begin with. This has happened too often for it to just be a player or squad issue, the level of preparation from management seems to be minimal, even non-existent at times. Barca simply takes too long to get into a game and Juve, like PSG before them, made it count. The difference being that we conceded a goal less (achievement I know) and that unlike in Paris, we created enough chances to give ourselves a fighting chance. Sadly, the players seemed to want to honour the imperious Buffon with another clean sheet.
If one player has a bad game, that’s on them, if most of the team has a poor game, that’s on the system (or lack thereof). Too many times this season where Barca has looked poor as a unit, lacking the most basic of organizational principles. Our tactical setup is naïve to say the least and the same issues plague us for an entire year now. Managers are employed to play to their squad’s strengths to facilitate success, to create the springboard for players to perform. At this juncture, Lucho has made it harder for a very talented squad to meet its immense potential while making it easier for opposing teams to beat us. May can’t come quick enough.