On to the Next One (Part 1)

Fresh off the heels off a highly inconsistent season, one where we went from being massacred in Paris, to pulling off the unimaginable; from being decimated by Juve to winning a Clasico in the Bernabeu at the last moment. it became increasingly clear that though FC Barcelona still has one of the best XIs in world football, that issues arose whenever we as a team had to look past that XI and bring in squad players.  Whenever our major players were off the game, whether due to coaching issues or injuries, we suffered. As a team that always seeks to fight on all three fronts, this is frankly inexcusable.

The administration of Rosell and Bartomeu has underachieved considering the foundation and the talent pool available to them, a point ironed out here. For some perspective, as a player, Lionel Messi has won 4 Champions League titles. 3 of these came before his 24th Birthday, under the Laporta regime, and only 1 has come since the administration switched. Coincidence? More perspective for your money, in 2013, Barca set a (then) record for their 6th consecutive appearance in the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League. Since then? In 4 seasons, the only time the team got past the quarter (!) finals, was in 2015 when we won the treble.

It is becoming increasingly clear that this board lacks a proper sporting model and any chance the club had of making this time our dynasty,  has been lost. Meanwhile, our arch rivals Real Madrid have found a sustainable football model, complete with stability to bolster their ridiculous individual quality. The roles have changed. Several of our issues have arisen due to the board (and coach’s) insistence on purchasing players from outside when there were several Masia-born options capable of doing the same job. This results in an extended period of adjustment for the purchased players, affecting how well they rotate.

However, all is not lost. It is my belief with a few key signings (and some timely departures) that Barca can return to competing (and winning) Europe’s most prestigious competition. Whatever happens, this summer is our most crucial since 2014 and it is paramount that the board gets it right.

Disclaimer: These views are subjective and would still be highly dependent on how our new coach Ernesto Valverde decides to employ his team.

Goalkeeper: Stable

In Ter Stegen, Barca easily has one of the best young keepers in the game today and definitely the best with his feet as is required by our style of play. This season shows he is still able to grow, and in particular from January, he’s been one of our best performers. In Cilessen, we have a more than capable deputy, arguably too good at times to be a #2. With Masip (finally) being released from his contract, these two will do well to protect our net.

Defence: Slightly unsettled

At centre back, we have a secure partnership for the next 3-4 years in Pique-Umtiti. And a capable third CB in Mascherano if he decides to stay on. Mathieu needs to be sold, he was bought as a stop gap defender, one who was experienced who knew the league, he has since stayed one season too long. The next step would be to establish a young CB to take over when Masch and then Pique slow down. Promoting Marlon seems the logical choice but since when does the board make obvious decisions? At Left back, we’re also secure, though I maintain the Digne buy could have been saved by merely promoting Grimaldo who is doing well at Benfica (another poor board decision). The issue is at RB.

SUGGESTED MOVES

  1. SELL MATHIEU AND VERMAELEN (remember him?). This board often keeps players past their ‘best sell by’ date, leading to scenarios where it’s almost impossible to find homes for players we don’t need anymore. Time has come to be ruthless.
  2. Promote Marlon
  3.  If Mascherano leaves, a young CB such as Mauricio Lemos from Las Palmas or Davinson Sanchez from Ajax seem to be the technically gifted CBs that we should be looking into. Their age allows for the purchase to be an investment with possible resell value in needed.
  4. Yerry Mina, a young Colombian starlet was signed by FC Barcelona to join us in 2018. Rumours currently suggest the team could choose to bring him in from this season. Robert may have his flaws, but snatching up young CBs isn’t one of them.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v53uJV7t36U
     


    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u8s1BUhgyu4
    Let’s make this abundantly clear: several of Barca’s issues since the end of the 2015/2016 season were due to an imbalanced right flank

Ever since the influence midfield was minimized by our outgoing coach to increase transitions to the front 3, Leo Messi has had to come deeper and deeper in order to be a protagonist with the ball leaving our right wing vacant. This issue was marginalized through the great work of Dani Alves who was often a RB/RW/RM hybrid, depending on where the ball was. Alves’ presence was so substantial that Rakitic could sit back in the RB slot while Alves created from the midfield and wing. However, Alves’ departure exacerbated this issue. Lucho may have accounted for the loss of Xavi by increasing Alves’ influence but once Alves was gone, the play never changed. Sergi Roberto did decently at RB, well enough for a converted midfielder, but he could never attack that wing like Alves did and Rakitic’s struggles with creativity and being pressed stood out like a nail without Alves behind him. But I digress:-

Barca need a starting right back. When Vidal (finally) started getting sufficient time, he showed the attacking intent that Alves showed. Suddenly the right side was revitalized with his blend of creativity and pace. Vidal is a winger by trade- the main reason he wasn’t getting to play was his struggles in transitioning to defence, he just doesn’t have that defensive instinct. On the other hand, Valverde has been noted to improve his new team’s defensive organization so maybe he’d be exactly what the doctor prescribed. It is my belief however that we should purchase a starting RB. One who associates well in attack and is comfortable in defence.

SUGGESTED MOVE:

1. Promote Palencia from Barca B.

2. Purchase a RB who can associate. From players I’ve seen, Fabinho from Monaco would be a beauty of a transfer but Monaco won’t stand to lose so many of their stars at once.

3. Shift Roberto back to midfield (use at RB in case of emergency

RUMOURS

1. Semedo, Benfica RB is being floated around.

(lol, so many welcome to FC Barcelona videos, our fan-base is too quick)

2.. Knowing this board, they’ll just end up signing Bellerin, a classic PL right back with limited associative play, full with physicality and pace…because that’s what we need right?

(not my favourite player, but have to be fair right?) Hoping if he’s signed, he surprises me.

Stay tuned for part 2 where I tackle our midfield (the big one!) and attack issues.

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