THE STORM DOESN’T SEEM OVER AT BARCELONA
Photo credit : Eurosport
By Chima Azu
Without mincing words it is obvious to the blind that all is not well in Barcelona. The back-to-back loss in the Champions to Bayern and Benfica, also the recent defeat to Athletico Madrid shows how terrible things are with this current Barca squad. Out of nine games this season, Barca has won just three, drew three and lost three in all competitions. They are currently placed ninth on the La Liga standings and are bottom in their Champions’ League group with zero point, no goals scored and a worrying minus six goals against.
Barcelona fans are currently calling for Ronald Koeman to be fired, but would that be an instant fix to a despondent situation? Obviously not, firing the coach is just one of the many problems the team is faced with currently. The Dutch man definitely deserves the sticks his getting with the team’s abysmal performances. His substitutions and tactical frailty plays a pivotal role in the team’s recent outings where he keeps trying out three center-backs so the team could flood the midfield is still not yielding fruit. And most matches from when he took over the job up until this season the team has struggled to keep possession which has always been Barcelona’s trademark even before the days of the fantastic trio of Xavi, Iniesta and Busquet. The Blaugranas last six matches in European competition from last season have been: 0 wins, 5 defeats, 1 draw, 17 goals conceded and scored just 2 goals. And this is the first time ever in the Champions League history that Barca has lost their first two opening matches. These are not just worrying signs, they are unacceptable results for a team of this magnitude.
On the other hand, the past president Bartomeu mismanaged the team with so many unnecessary signings which didn’t fit into the team’s playing style and these players had contracts with outrageous wages which has now left the team in financial crisis and Covid 19 didn’t help matters especially with fans not being allowed into the stadium. The Catalans debt has risen to 1.35 billion euros which the incumbent president Joan Laporta declared in August. And this chronic financial issue is the reason why the team could not keep their talisman and arguably the best player ever Lionel Messi who wanted to stay even with a 50 percent pay cut. They wanted to also ship out other players with high wages to help meet with the La Liga’s Financial Fair Play Regulations like Umtiti but ended only loaning Pjanic and shockingly Griezmann. The team currently cannot afford quality players but are rather stock with signing players on free transfers (Deepay, Garcia and Aguero) are all testament to that. And with the team lacking much quality one will only ask how would they get the desired results?
Also, the current crop of players in the squad is relatively average or even below average. Most of these players will naturally not play for the Barcelona the footballing world got accustomed to. The team currently lacks marquee players, leaders who can change the game when the chips are down. With all due respect, players like Boateng, Braithwaite, Luuk De Jong, Demir, Dest etc would not have dreamt of playing for Barca in the past, but this is the reality the team is faced with. It is disheartening for Barca fans and football lovers that a team that once had Ronaldinho, Neymar, Deco, Puyol, Samuel Eto’o just to mention a few are now struggling for world class players and are currently looking like an average team.
Although the team still has Aguero and Dembele out injured, but there are no guarantees that these two can play twenty games consecutively without being injured looking at their antecedent in previous seasons with injury. Also, seeing the new number 10 back (Ansu Fati) who obviously has a lot of potential looks like there is a glimmer of hope but isn’t it too much of a task to put the hopes of the team on and eighteen year old who has only had one season in top flight football which has cut short due to injury. Confidence is obviously low in the squad and many of the players have lost form, so one would wonder how they can overturn this current situation.
However, it is believed that the team will hopefully come back to what the footballing world were used to. But before things will get better, these current players and a tactless Koeman in charge seem like Barca fans need to prepare their minds for more heartbreaking results with games like Bayern away in the Champions League, the El Clasico , Sevilla and some other tough games yet to be played it obviously looking like the storm won’t be over anytime soon.