The Barcelona defence is hampered with injury concerns at the moment, with Lenglet the latest name in that list. However, two B team players – Arnau Comas and Santiago Ramos Mino can tow Barça out of this situation.
In the 66th minute against Osasuna, as French defender Clement Lenglet fell clutching his ankle, there was visible nervousness on the face of manager Ronald Koeman. As Lenglet contested for an aerial challenge against Ruben Garcia, the forward caught the defender on his leg, followed by a twisted ankle after an unbalanced landing for the Frenchman.
While there is much to speculate regarding the Lenglet injury, it is being reported that he will miss nearly 10 games. With Gerard Pique out injured for a few more months at the very least, Ronald Araujo, who is yet to be given complete medical clearance, remains the only available centre-back alongside La Liga debutant Oscar Mingueza. So, what are options for Barcelona in defence for the time being considering the many injuries?
Dutch midfielder Frenkie de Jong slotted in at centre-back after Lenglet was subbed-off. Even when Gerard Pique was substituted off against Atletico Madrid, de Jong was temporarily deployed at centre-back. From the latest squad, that is, the squad-list released for the match against Osasuna, he remains the only player who can be trusted to fill the empty spot in the defence.
Ronald Araujo suffered an injury against Juventus in the UEFA Champions League around a month ago. He has started training with the team again but is yet to be given the green light. He certainly has the trust of Koeman and upon returning, will certainly start alongside Mingueza in defence. The two 21-year-olds will be expected to cover for the absence of the other two centre-halves.
Clement Lenglet’s injury means Barcelona’s defence is completely hampered in terms of quantity. (Photo by LLUIS GENE / AFP)
However, a squad with just two central defenders is not a complete squad. Players will have to be called up from Barcelona’s B side. Who are the players which we can expect to be called up in the coming fixtures?
Santiago Ramos Mingo
Argentine defender Santiago Ramos Mingo is a new signing for Barcelona B. Leaving Boca Juniors in mid-January, he joined Garcia Pimienta’s Barcelona B side. Though the team has been struggling recently, just earning their first victory yesterday, the defence has been impressive at times.
Alongside Arnau Comas, Ramos Mingo has formed a good understanding as part of the backline. He is a reliable defender, who plays on the left side. Similar to Oscar Mingueza, he is someone who likes to progress with the ball at his feet.
As Barcelona possess attacking full-backs, this suits the team and allows for the platform to build upon to be higher than it would usually be with a rigid defence. Dribbling forwards and looking to surpass the first line of pressure regularly, the 19-year-old is a courageous defender, and his performance against Prat stands out for the same where he was solid in defence as well as in progressing the ball forwards.
Mingo is available to fill in the Barcelona defence if push comes to shove. (Photo via Imago)
The sharp and incisive passing required from a Barcelona centre-back is present in his skillset as well. Though Arnau Comas is more adept at playing the “Barcelona way”, it is only natural considering the many years he has spent at the club.
The Argentine defender is someone who is reliable in defence. No rash decisions, no unnecessary tackles, he relies on well-timed, calculated tackles most often.
Ramos Mingo is also competent in the air. Though 186cm isn’t extraordinarily tall for a central defender, he boasts of a spectacular leap and comes out as the victor in most aerial duels.
Unfortunately, as Ramos Mingo is not registered in the squad for the UEFA Champions League, Barcelona will be unable to count on him for the time being against Ferencvaros.
A typical Barcelona center-back, 20-year-old Arnau Comas was sent on loan to Olot last season, where he developed rapidly. A decade ago, he joined the U-12 Barcelona side, after which he went on to grow well leading to a loan after progressing from the Juvenil A. Since returning from loan, Comas has been excellent in defence.
Comas is a very intelligent centre-back. Part of Garcia Pimienta’s UEFA Youth League winning side, the Spaniard is very adept at tackling cleanly, but rather, at winning the ball without having to tackle. His positioning is excellent, meaning he rarely lets passes pierce the defence. Koeman’s Barcelona play a high-line, and Comas’ brilliant reading of the game will be a crucial peg in this.
Comas is the next big thing to come out of the Barcelona B defence. (Photo via Imago)
An often-overlooked part of Comas’ repertoire is his pace. Though he isn’t incredibly fast, he is agile enough to warrant playing in a high-line. His ball-carrying is greatly benefited by this, which he has displayed this season. Someone who likes to carry the ball forwards and play incisive passes, he resembles Gerard Pique in this aspect. To complement this, he is capable of playing on the back-foot and against dribblers as well.
The 20-year-old has also become an aerial threat, even scoring a goal with a header recently. With Pique and Lenglet out, it seems like Comas should be the one chosen to play alongside Mingueza. Considering the many injuries Barcelona face, with the defence being most impacted, changes are imminent.
As he isn’t registered in the UEFA Champions League, it leads us to conclude that neither B team defender will be included in the squad. In La Liga however, rather than playing de Jong in defence, Comas deserves a chance to impress the coach at the very least.
The psychology at Barcelona: A leaf out of Jurgen Klopp’s book
Guest Contributor: Darren Looney
“When I came here, the size of the club was a burden. Now it’s our safety net, it’s our trampoline, it’s our home, it’s our basis, it’s everything to us. Now we are Liverpool before the club was Liverpool and we were just the guys who were trying to be good enough”.
In Melissa Reddy’s book ‘Believe Us’, Jurgen Klopp, the man who led Liverpool to become champions of England, Europe and the world, details how a change in psychology from having the clubs past success being used as a noose around their necks to becoming fully confident individuals, helped the club end their 30-year wait for a league title.
FC Barcelona has a noose of its own hanging over the Camp Nou at present. It has been placed there by former president Josep Maria Bartomeu, having left the club in a state that is unable to match the success seen over the last two decades.
The incoming president and manager will be the ones left to cut it free, and with limited economic resources to do this, a change in the mindsets of the lads could play a part in helping the club get the most out of what they already have.
Barcelona’s current state
The Josep Maria Bartomeu’s presidency oversaw a circus rather than a football club. In this timeframe, Barcelona lost the respect of its fellow European giants through humiliating performances in the Champions League, selling Neymar Jr. to Paris Saint Germain, poor recruitment, and a squad constantly breaking under pressure.
Players such as Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Gerard Pique, Clement Lenglet, Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets, Lionel Messi, and Ousmane Dembele, of those that started in the latest Champions League match, have all been through the most of these embarrassing moments, which has no doubt left some trauma.
Others in the squad have laid witness to Bartomeu disregarding the club’s motto ‘MÉS QUE UN CLUB’ with his handling of club legends Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi’s transfer situations in the summer. That could not have inspired the non-senior members of the squad with any confidence.
Adding to that, players like Ousmane Dembele, Philippe Coutinho, Junior Firpo, and Antoine Griezmann have had their names constantly attached to rumoured player plus cash deals, such as the Neymar offers, which can lead to them questioning if they are good enough. This is the sort of psychology you do not want around a club trying to compete.
When asked about whether a sports psychologist would benefit FC Barcelona back in December, Barça manager Ronald Koeman stated, “I don’t believe in psychologists and mental [issues]. If you play for Barca, pressure exists, you know that, and you have to overcome it”.
This answer shows the Dutchman’s ignorance of the importance of a player’s psychological state. Additionally, it also shows arrogance about the club and the stress that comes binding with it. Ignorance that is evident in the pictures of Lenglet, as he left the Camp Nou after Sunday’s match in tears, most likely due to a lack of support. The kind of lack of support that eventually leads to careers dissolving.
In the same press conference, Koeman stated that “this team has enough personality and experience” to get through bad moments. This “experience” is also susceptible to being psychologically overwhelmed, the dressing room at halftime at Anfield is evidence of this.
Whether it is Koeman or the next president’s manager, one will have to get a hold of this problem. Luckily for them, the blueprint of how much power the manager can have over this can be seen in the place Jordi Alba shed his tears.
The Jurgen Klopp effect
When Jurgen Klopp arrived in Liverpool, one of the first things he addressed was a change in psychology from the supporters. He wanted the fans to believe in the process, and in his first press conference, he enforced this by saying, “we need to feel the confidence and trust of the people”.
In ‘Believe Us’, Klopp speaks about the psychological state he found the players in when he first arrived. He claims that “The players were obviously listening to all the voices saying they are not good enough for the club or that I can’t wait to get rid of them.” A situation some Barca players find themselves in now, as mentioned earlier.
One of the German’s first instructions was for the players to pay no attention to comments outside of him and his coaching staff, a message that took longer than expected to resonate, as the team collapsed in the title race halfway through the next season.
Klopp explains that the collapse was down to the players not complying with this request. The German explained how the players were focused on people saying, “they don’t have a plan B for deep-defending sides, they can only play one way”. A criticism that Cúlers this season know too well.
Klopp emphasises the importance a strong mentality within games had on the Red’s fortunes and claims new players alone would not have been enough. This is a note worth taking for those looking at Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe to change Barcelona’s fortunes.
It took Klopp years to convince some players that they were good enough to play for a club as big as Liverpool. New players added to the quality of the squad but that psychological attitude to keep going for the full 90 minutes, no matter the score, is what led the club to their recent success. This was visible countless times over last season as well, as Pool continued to take hits at teams till the last minute till they eventually broke. Barcelona, too, have been on the receiving end of their incredible mentality.
Koeman might be right in that the players do not need a sports psychologist. However, Lenglet’s incident exhibits that the psychological state of his players is something that he must take control of and not ignore.
Next season has the potential to be an important one for Barcelona’s near future. With a new president at the helm and a potential new manager. The Catalan side needs to banish the psychological doubts leftover by Bartomeu’s reign and move forward as one unit.
The fans and players need to get behind the project put in place, as Jurgen Klopp puts it “when you agree on a common idea and work towards it together, you can create something special”.