Over the past five years or so, it hasn’t been very often that I’ve looked at the top left-hand corner of my TV screen to read that Barcelona are losing 7-0 on aggregate. Such a scoreline at the peak of Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona team was unthinkable and being merely drawn against them in the Champions League knock-out stages meant instant elimination. Barcelona wore a cloak of invincibility and the aura that surrounded a match at the Nou Camp choked many teams.
Barcelona don’t carry that same aura anymore and they lost their cloak two seasons ago; this isn’t just something that has happened because of a new manager, it’s been a gradual process that started in Pep Guardiola’s final season. A marked lowering of the standards at Barcelona in Guardiola’s final year convinced him to leave, as the former Barcelona player strongly believed that his methods were starting to lose their effect on the players. It was noted in the media that players such as Gerard Pique and Dani Alves were becoming rather casual with how they conducted themselves, as opposed to how they were earlier in Guardiola’s reign.
Poor signings such as Dmytro Chygryinskiy, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Alexis Sanchez have done little to aid Barcelona’s squad depth and there are plenty more beyond those three names, they’re just the more high-profile transfers to have flopped. Cesc Fabregas is also quickly heading into the category of “flop” at Barcelona. Midfielders-turned-defenders, square pegs in round and holes and poor business in the transfer market has severely cost Barcelona. They’ve signed players they can’t fit in the team, players who simply aren’t good enough for their level and the regular players in the team are shattered due to over-playing.
Despite having been battered all over the pitch in Munich and again last night on their own back garden, it definitely isn’t “the end” for this Barcelona team. Clever investment into squad depth and one or two players signed for the first team and they will back to where they were. Squad depth and the ability to rotate effectively without putting midfielders at centre-back and midfielders as centre-forwards and Barcelona will improve.
That however, is only half of the problem. T’other half is “clever investment.” Is Neymar what Barcelona NEED? No, they have desperate need for him, no matter how good he may be. Barcelona may turn their nose up at the prospect of investing heavily in their defence, but they need it more than anywhere else on the pitch. Jan Vertonghen would be a fantastic signing, as would Mats Hummels and although the two would cost an extreme pile of money, the improvement would be felt almost instantly. Squad variation is also another aspect of clever investment and by that, I mean “plan B” players. I don’t wish to sound typically English, but Barcelona need somebody who can mix it up a bit! They were getting nowhere trying to break Bayern Munich down last night.
Barcelona have a beautiful way of playing, but it’s all that they know. Investment in sensible signings (Vertonghen, NOT Neymar!) and different ideas to their one way and Barcelona will be back, but they need to adjust their thinking before that happens.
Bayern Munich are the best example for smart investment and different approaches. They have diverse, quality players who can adapt to most situations. Bastian Schweinsteiger and Javi Martinez are as happy playing tippy-tappy football as they are throwing a long ball to the wings for Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery. Mario Mandzukic can hold up play, move effectively, join in with “tippy-tappy” and scores a variety of different goals.
I can’t be bothered to write a match report; one because I don’t like doing them anyway and secondly because it would be a waste of time. This tie was over before it started.
London will be swarming with Germans as Wembley plays host to the first ever all-German Champions League Final. The two best teams in Europe at this moment in time playing football on the biggest stage of all. And I can’t bloody wait!!
See you tomorrow!