Barcelona lost twice in a week to eternal bitter rivals Real Madrid. In a period of three weeks they have lost three of their last four games.
The world has gone “critically” crazy and phrases like, “Barcelona in a crisis” and “the end of an era”, have filled the airwaves.
Lionel Messi has not been his usual self and he has been so critically abused by critics that it is reaching a point of shame. He is reportedly playing with a fever and this has diminished his form. What Is the ‘Real’ problem with Barcelona?
USUAL SEASON DIP IN FORM?
At the top level no team goes a season without some dip in form at one point or the other. This “form loss” is why, no matter how good a team is, they try to amass a big point difference from their closest rivals as a cushion for when this usual dilemma occurs.
Prior to the AC Milan Champions League encounter on 20 February 2013, Barcelona had lost just one game in seven months, scoring at will and playing some breathtaking football. In between, Messi set a new world scoring record.
That they have lost now three games out of four and are having lesser fortunes is quite normal in some sense. They are probably facing their own fair share of the “form loss”.
THE GUARDIOLA FACTOR?
When Barcelona literally dominated world soccer in a space of four years, winning 13 trophies under Guardiola, they were perfect (if that exists in football). They pressurised the opponent when they were not in possession of the ball, were in constant movement with the ball. It was impossible to play them. They humiliated Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid by a whopping 5-0 in a legendary, disciplined performance like never seen before.
When you watch Barcelona playing, that complete play is no longer there. The meticulous, disciplined play has been on a decline since the season started and, though they were winning, it was no longer so sovereign as it was and it seems like it has hit its bottom line now.
COACH TITO VILANOVA’S DEADLY ILLNESS AND ABSENCE
On 19 December 2012, four months ago, Barcelona’s coach and Gladiola’s replacement had a relapse of his cancer illness and, ever since, Barcelona have not really had a “real coach” on the bench. They have managed to keep winning till lately but, honestly, no matter how good a group of players are without a coach to take ‘live’ decisions and effect changes that are necessary, you will eventually crumble and that is what is happening now.
Barcelona’s players are extraordinary players but they are also human beings and they are definitely feeling for their acutely ill coach, most especially now that he has been flown to the USA for more treatments.
Those who, out of jealousy, criticise and mock them should be ashamed of themselves
LACK OF TEAM DISCIPLINE
Watching Barcelona lose 2-1 against a depleted Real Madrid team you could only notice the now inherent indiscipline in the team like you did not see under Guardiola. Both goals conceded were clearly due to individual negligence of duties and, unlike before, the Barcelona players were the ones looking for fights and arguments.
Valdes, the goalkeeper, picked up a red card after the referee blew the final whistle, for insults and criticisms directed at the referee?
INCESSANT CONTRACT NEGOTIATIONS
In the recent weeks all we have heard out of Barcelona have been contract negotiations by the players and even Valdes is refusing to sign and is poised to leave the club by 2014. Messi, Iniesta and Xavi have all been engaging in long contract talks that have served as distractions to the club’s sporting objectives and focus.
NEED FOR NEW BLOOD
It is no secret anymore that Guardiola fell out with several players before his departure in trying to avoid a situation like this. He had asked the club for an exit pass to players like Gerard Pique, Cesc Fabregas, Dani Alves and David Villa because he felt a need for new blood to renew the hunger for victory and fight complacency. It seems like his vision was spot on.
CHANGE IN TACTICS
Barcelona had a very peculiar and effective way of attacking and opening up defense to score under Guardiola but it has gone out the window it seems.
They played a possession game, spread out wide and used the full breadth of the pitch to attack. Now they are more focused in going through the middle and teams just pack it up and stop them, easier than before. With them not using or not capable of shooting from long distance, they have become predictable and are now short of pace.
Several players caress the ball longer than in the past and unlike before, when one or two touches and high tempo passing were the ‘motto’ (except for Messi and Iniesta), now several players want to play the Messi role and, with less mobility, they struggle and fumble.
With Messi and Barcelona struggling, Cristiano Ronaldo has made his statement clear, that he is ready to exploit this drop in form to lay claim to being the rightful best player on the planet. Ronaldo has been in scintillating form for recent weeks.
His goal at the NOU CAMP set the tone for Madrid’s victory and elimination of Barcelona from the Copa Del Rey. He is in form at the moment and he wants the world to know it.
In all fairness, we should be supportive of this Barcelona team due to the illness and the tragedy that their coach, TITO VILANOVA, is going through. I am convinced that this team is too good to just fade away.
I feel it is not Real Madrid that has gotten better but Barcelona that have dropped in form. I do not see any team in the world doing better, judging by the circumstances they have to work with. They have not said their last word, believe me!