How to rebuild FC Barcelona

Harsh Sinha Roar Guru

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    Since the introduction of the tiki-taka style of play, developed by Pep Guardiola, FC Barcelona has dominated time of possession against almost all opponents.

    Pep gave football a new, dynamic approach and it was the three anchors of the mighty Catalans who sailed the ship: Messi, Iniesta and Xavi.

    One after another, Barcelona annihilated teams from Spain and Europe and won major titles without many difficulties.

    Messi and his side were considered invincible until the first glimpse of a decline occurred in Italy, when Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan beat Barcelona in the Champions League semi-finals in 2010.

    Barcelona had success next year with great performances against Real Madrid in the semi-finals and Manchester United in the Wembley final.

    However, the 2012-13 season saw Chelsea do something which nobody could have imagined: they parked the bus and utilized counter-attacking opportunities.

    Celtic did the same this season when they defeated Barcelona 2-1 in front of thousands of Scottish fans and just when Barcelona supporters thought that the curse was over, AC Milan delivered the final punch when they came out with a 2-0 win at San Siro.

    Next, Real Madrid came to Camp Nou with immense confidence, wanting to end Barcelona’s Copa Del Rey Glory. Los Blancos eliminated Barcelona from the tournament with an overwhelming score of 3-1.

    Once again, it was a failure of Barcelona tactically.

    Is this the end of FC Barcelona’s era?

    The world now understands that the way to stop them is to be disciplined on defence, and that the only way to score is to rely on counter-attacks and cage Messi.

    So what does Barcelona need to do? They cannot have 12 players on the field, neither can they shoot from 50 yards out. They need to rebuild.

    Internal and External Reconstruction

    Barcelona need to change their style of play and increase the ranks. This can be done both internally and externally.

    The following are three assets which will revive the Spanish giants in Europe.

    1. Wing Attack – Neymar

    Barcelona needs to reinvent their strategy and use the wings which they have traditionally avoided due to their style of play and lack of a formidable winger.

    With high speculations surrounding the arrival of Neymar, Barcelona will be a side with the best of Messi and the best of Ronaldinho.

    Neymar’s position as a winger will be nothing less than the role played by Ronaldinho years ago.

    He can make the full use of wing and allow Messi, Villa and other forwards to find a suitable place in the box, ready to strike.

    Xavi and Iniesta along with Fabregas can continue to pass the ball around the pitch and just when their options seem to exhaust, wing can be the alternative with a sensational playmaker.

    With this, the opposition defenders would lurk out of fear, and cannot mark Messi alone.

    Neymar can equally be as dangerous from the wing and Barcelona will be a team against which every team will need a plan B.

    2. Last Line – Be more disciplined and responsible

    Barcelona has conceded almost in every match this season. With the absence of Abidal and poor form shown by Puyol and Alves, The Catalans need to be more responsible in order to get a clean sheet.

    The critics have chosen Victor Valdes and Javier Mascherano to be the real reason behind Barcelona’s poor defence.

    Other than Alba, nobody has looked to show some mettle and defend from their hearts. Barcelona needs to make serious change in their defensive unit.

    They should spend money in order to find a better guard than Valdes with Neur possibly being the best replacement.

    Barcelona’s senior defender such as Gerard Pique should take over the role of stopping opposition’s forward and Dani Alves should restrict his forward move.

    With Neymar and Alba already utilizing the flanks, Alves should look to play behind and be the man to stop the opposition’s counter-attack. I would suggest Alves and Pique to restrict their movement and allow Alba alone to ship forward.

    3. Lethal Formation

    Finally, Barcelona must change their formation from their 4-3-3 to a 4-5-1.

    Instead of three forwards, Barcelona should give Lionel Messi full privilege to be the lone forward in the playing eleven.

    They should have Fabregas, Xavi, Iniesta, Neymar and Villa or Pedro in the midfield.

    Since Barcelona have greater possession than their opposition, playing a more attacking style of football cum a bit tiki-taka and having a great backing up would allow Tito Vilanova’s side to be ready for a counter-attack.

    Having three forwards and three midfielders will not help the Spanish unit at all as they tend to concede in every counter-attack.

    Barcelona, having lost to Milan, Chelsea, Celtic and Madrid of late, need to consider these serious changes.

    They must spend heavily on Neymar and possibly a new goalkeeper (Neur).

    They must also allow Alves and Pique to change their style of play and overall, Barcelona needs to reduce their tiki-taka because if they don’t there could be more shocking losses in the future.

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    The Crowd Says (19)

    • March 3rd 2013 @ 5:59am
      erasmus tetteh said | March 3rd 2013 @ 5:59am | ! Report

      barcelona must have a good coach like mouhrino and a good keeper like fatao dauda

      • March 4th 2013 @ 3:47am
        Reacher said | March 4th 2013 @ 3:47am | ! Report

        I don’t think that it is down to the keeper. I think that Valdes is adequate. Basically, the defense are letting balls through that shouldn’t be let through, exposing the goal and making Valdes deal with 1 on 1 situations – most of the time the striker will win, that is simply the way it works. As for the Mourinho situation, Barça don’t need him. He is clearly a great coach who could influence any team, but what Barça need is a coach they find inspirational and motivational. Pep was perfect for this – he clearly had a lot of influence and they found him inspiring. Possibly because he played with some of the players, like Xavi, and was obviously a role model for them. He also seemed to have fantastic relationships with crucial players like Messi and Iniesta. Vilanova was a logical choice because he was helping Pep while he was in command – giving him an insight into Pep’s wisdom and his ways. Therefore, although I don’t think he is as good for Barça, I think they find him motivational (maybe even more so given the current situation). Roura is simply out of his depth and is struggling – presumably this position has been thrust upon him – he may not even want it, and right now I am sure he would happily hand it over to anyone. But basically, Barça should have been prepared for Vilanova to have more health problems – Guardiola warned them. They should have had their eyes on another manager just in case he had health problems, or even in case he didn’t perform to the level you want him too – that way all parties are happy. Barcelona know they have a fall-back position if all goes pear-shaped and Vilanova can continue knowing that if his health problems occur again, the team are in safe hands. Mourinho is NOT the answer to every team – or every manager crisis on the planet. But don’t get me wrong – he is a fantastic coach and clearly his players love and respect him.

      • Roar Guru

        April 28th 2013 @ 7:47pm
        Harsh Sinha said | April 28th 2013 @ 7:47pm | ! Report

        If Neymar, Hummels and Pepe Reina comes in. Tito Vilanova won’t find it hard. Barcelona is a top side capable of making ordinary managers look great.

    • March 3rd 2013 @ 8:24am
      Reacher said | March 3rd 2013 @ 8:24am | ! Report

      After the Barcelona matches I have watched over the last few weeks I have reached this conclusion:
      – Firstly, the team needs to stop relying on Messi. The first thing any opposing teams manager is going to say is ‘Man-mark Messi. Cage him and frustrate him.’ because as soon as Messi is taken out of the game Barcelona are almost neutralised. As a result of this, I feel that Messi should be moved to the right wing, where he has options to cross or to cut inside and shoot with his left foot. David Villa (known for his timely runs and clinical finishing) should be the central forward, as he seems to be more able and more effective in situations where Barça is facing a 10-man defense. Tello should be used on the left-wing due to his blistering pace – whenever I have seen him I have been impressed, he is a potential match winner and should be given more playing time… Pedro and Alexis (as much as I hate to say this) have had deeply disappointing seasons – Pedro looks ordinary, desperately running through defenses but either getting muscled off the ball or simply squandering chances. Alexis has simply had a disappointing season – a loan may be an option for them if they don’t want to cell.
      – Secondly, the defense. Where do I start? While I appreciate Barça’s offensive mindset, there is a difference between being offensive and basically committing suicide. Dani Alves roars up the right wing leaving acres of space behind that Puyol and Pique have to cover. Considering that Puyol is struggling to keep up with speedy wingers this doesn’t seem the most sensible option. And let’s face it, Pique is not playing well right now. Jordi Alba seems to me to be the only defender playing with a bit of spirit at the moment – he is up and down the pitch like Dani Alves, but tends to be more aware of the counter attack.
      I also noticed that while world-class defenses like Juventus, are tactically brilliant in defense, the players line themselves up in distinct ‘rows’ of 4; creating a wall that is very hard to penetrate. Barcelona, on the other hand, are all over the place. While watching them play Real the other day I noticed they weren’t lined up, but they were in some kind of ‘zig-zag’ formation – leaving acres of space for intelligent players to run through unnoticed. I feel that Barcelona are too focused on tackling rather than positioning; causing them to rush out and leave space which teams with a bit of brain exploit (it often ends in a goal). They really need to focus on positioning, and the midfield needs to held them out a bit right now because they are struggling badly.
      Another weakness is defending against set pieces. Corners are a real weakness for Barça (I find myself struggling to look at the TV if it is a tight match and Barça concede a corner!) – clearly they need to purchase a tall, tactical defender (Hummels is a logical choice) – to aid with the lack of height in the Barça side.
      – This brings me to my next point. Messi, Pedro, Iniesta and Xavi are 5’7″ and David Villa being slightly taller at 5’9″ (I assume Tello is roughly the same height as Villa). This means that even if Barcelona utilise the wing space (which they rarely do), and cross it into the box – it is very rare that someone gets on the end of it. Simply because, as brutal as this sounds, the forwards are too short. We need to buy someone who is that much taller so he can get into the box and have a chance heading it into goal. This would bring some much needed depth to our side. As teams (like Real) are not at all worried when Alba gets in a reasonable position on the wing because they know 9 times out of 10 he will pass it back to Iniesta. This narrows the field considerably – teams only have to guard down the middle which is simply not feasible.
      – Forthly, Roura. Now clearly this isn’t working. I’m sure that he is a nice person and everything, but the team is really suffering in command. He constantly uses the same team over and over – seemingly exhausting players like Iniesta and Messi. He needs to rotate the squad and experiment because what he is doing now can be no more humiliating than what would happen if he experimented a bit. The guy doesn’t seem to really know what’s going on on the field – he should be focusing on the defense in particular.
      – Then training – now of all the training videos and images I’ve seen, the players have only been doing the ‘ronda’ over and over. I would be working the players in terms of defending set pieces. The defenders would be taught how to position effectively, not rush tackles, and how to follow players as they run through the defense.
      – Also several times when Messi has been able to run through the defense towards the goal-line, the defenders block his route to the goal. Now, instead of his team-mates following behind him during this dangerous looking attacks, they seem to be staring open-mouthed at his prowess while dribbling. Why aren’t they supporting him and backing him up in these attacks?
      Xavi also needs to move the ball up the field quicker while the team is on the break – he looks slow sometimes and also like he is scared to lose possession because of the shaky defense.
      – Lastly, and perhaps the most crucial is that the players need to play with heart and passion. Against Madrid in the Copa del Rey they looked flat (except Iniesta, over the last few matches, he looks to be the only one playing) and like they had given up after the penalty was awarded against them. Look at Liverpool against Zenit (3-1), although Liverpool went out (due to the away goals rule), they went out with passion and heart – they couldn’t have given anymore. Barça need to play with more heart – something that seems to be lacking this season. It pains me to look back on games like the Chelsea – FCB match where Iniesta scored in the last minute or so; because that Barça had heart. It had passion and a ‘never-say-die’ attitude; which is something Barça and every fan should value above all other traits. That trait is truly something worth supporting and it is worth dying for.

      • May 2nd 2013 @ 1:47pm
        tejas said | May 2nd 2013 @ 1:47pm | ! Report

        This is great analysis, I completely agree with what you say.
        I also feel that they need to
        1. induct some good strikers
        2. speed up their counter attack – am sick of watching alves make a run with the ball on a counter attack and instead of going for goal, he passes it back so that the opposition defense have all the time in the world to fall back in their positions
        3. give more playing time to tello
        4. try out fresh legs from their b team
        5. get a plan b in place – they have been tactically miserable – everyone seems to know how to outplay them – they need a change of style

        • August 1st 2013 @ 7:13pm
          Opoku george said | August 1st 2013 @ 7:13pm | ! Report

          I tink i agree wit u samwy.bt i tink fcb shud sack pique n valdes for new 1s lyk mat hummels,d. Luis cuz dey ar da cause of da team wknss!

          • August 1st 2013 @ 7:18pm
            Titus said | August 1st 2013 @ 7:18pm | ! Report

            Wat?

    • March 3rd 2013 @ 10:32am
      Steve said | March 3rd 2013 @ 10:32am | ! Report

      Most of the problem seems to be in their attitude. Gone is the intent and fast movement of player and ball. They do need a new CB and probably a forward who wants to score a bit more.

      However let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. While Real Madrid deservedly won 3-1, in the first half Barcelona were the better side and Pique conceded a dumb penalty. That set the rest of the match up perfectly for Real, who could sit back with an aggregate lead and Real could then just counter. Before Real scored the second, it looked far more likely Barca would equalise with Busquets forcing a diving save from Real’s keeper.

      If Messi’s shot in the 3rd minute against Real last Tuesday was a foot to the right Barca go up 1-0 and Real have to attack. And since I don’t have the memory of a goldfish like many football fans (I’m not saying you mind), I remember the 4 outstanding counterattacking opportunities Barca had in the first leg only 4 weeks ago, where Pedro missed a sitter and Fabregas hit the bar when it was easier to score, let alone Varane clearing one off the line. That first leg should have finished 4-1 to Barca and the tie should have been over (much like the SuperCopa in August if not for a Casillas super save one minute following by a Valdes howler 30 seconds later).

      The Milan performance was far worse. A lethargic, lazy team that deserved to lose 2-0. It was the first time they looked out of ideas for ages. However it is not beyond the realms that Barca score a goal early against Milan, and then score again later on to take it to ET, and potentially win the tie. What they need is to rest the key players for the next 10 days, and then play with purpose and intent. Go after Milan from the go. Because in the first leg, I could tell from the first three passes, which were slowly played to the defenders, that Barcelona would not win.

    • March 3rd 2013 @ 2:32pm
      Calum said | March 3rd 2013 @ 2:32pm | ! Report

      Ach, I really think we should wait awhile before calling for the undertakers.

      There is a difference between ‘heart’ and ‘fatigue’ and ‘injuries’. Basically this team has been playing so many games (plus loads of internationals where a singnificant number have placed in the unbelievable euro-world cup- euro winning side). They may well have lost a bit of passion but frankly it seems that they have had problems with injuries (especially defensively) and they do seem a bit fatigued.

      Everyone goes on about their attacking play but the true greatness of the team was the work ethic on defense. As soon as they lost the ball they pressed up so high and so fast. You loose a fraction of that and your suddenly in trouble.

      What FCB certainly do NOT need is Neymar. Yay, lets sign a flatters-to-deceive wide player. Who can foget the fantastic Bojan? And some other player that they managed to sell to spurs… Dos santos was it? The one person they need to replace it puyol who increasingly looks injury prone and used to make up for his mistakes by speed but is loosing that a little bit.

      Other than, let see how the 2nd leg against Milan goes and ideally give the team decent rest! I guess it’s a compliment to them; no other team would still be carrying this level of expectation with the injuries/ no of games / illness of the coach etc that Barca have had to deal with the season.

    • March 3rd 2013 @ 4:47pm
      Joseph said | March 3rd 2013 @ 4:47pm | ! Report

      I fully realize that speaking about past mistakes is not a good way out of a situation, but sometimes it’s a way to find solution. Thus, I suppose that main mistake was to let Guardiola to quit. The author of the tiki-taka style of play know better of all of us how to improve this style (all of you agree that now it needs improvement, as some clubs have found the ways to destroy it). Yes, it looks like Puyol is ending his career; Xavi is out of his best form, but what’s wrong with Pedro? He is not scoring in the club, but scoring perfectly for the national team. Or Fabregus, who have not found his place in the team? Of course, we can buy Neymar, some toll players; propose change their formation from their 4-3-3 to a 4-5-1, but we will receive different Barcelona!
      Guardiola’s exit was the result of replacing La Porta by Rosell. So, I suppose the best solution is to bring La Porta and Guardiola back and let them improve existing style and our Barcelona!

    • March 3rd 2013 @ 9:27pm
      Calum said | March 3rd 2013 @ 9:27pm | ! Report

      Genuine question Joseph;

      where do you get that gaurdiola going was a result of laporta beig replaced? What is that based on? All the reports were that pep was totally burnt out and needed a change of scene and that everyone in Barcelona wanted him to stay (although you only had to look at ‘before’ and ‘after’ to see that he had aged 10 years in 3!

      as a by the by wouldn’t say gaurdiola was the ‘author’ of tika taka. It was a style of play that was established before he took over as head coach based on the training exercises that they do at ‘the ranch’. I know that he was the B team coach before taking the main job but I think it even predates that. Fantastic coach though and a class act – be interesting to see how he goes at bayern.

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