Destruction is perhaps the worst phase a team can go through in football. Destruction often comes from repeated batterings and years, if not decades, of dismantlement. However, it takes something special to destroy what was once the most functioning team in the world. Welcome to the 2020/21 Barcelona season.
Sandro Rosell and Josep Maria Bartomeu have buried FC Barcelona so far under the ground that it seems like there is no way back for the Catalans. Even without either of them as the president, their shadows still haunt the institution from inside and outside.
Barcelona’s defeat to Atlético Madrid was not unexpected; in fact, Diego Simeone’s first win over Barcelona in the league was a long time coming. In fact, given Barcelona’s gloomy season, it was the most expected outcome.
After years of damage, Barça have finally reached the bottom of the barrel and seem powerless to climb back. What was once the best side in the world has become a laughing stock. This season seems to go from bad to worse with each passing day.
The results on the pitch
When neutrals, and even Culés, think about Barça, they immediately think they will be around the top in La Liga. Last year, for example, the Catalans finished in the second position. Their league standing was still regarded as a failure for them, even though it was none other than the record title-holders Real Madrid who won the trophy.
However, this year, if the Catalan giants finish anywhere near the top spots, it will be a huge achievement. After playing eight games, Ronald Koeman’s men have already lost three of them. Worse, they drew twice and have only won once in the past six games. Granted, the performances are not dreadful, and the opponents have been tough, but Koeman has to find solutions.
The seaon’s spiralling, and there is very little the players seem to do about it. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)
Ever since the El Clasico loss, the Dutchman’s side has outplayed many teams but have not been able to score. Against Atletico, Barça’s chance creation became the stalest part of their game.
In the first few games, however, Lionel Messi’s men looked different. Team pressing, chance creation, goals, everything was there to make Barcelona redefine themselves as the most dominant side in the league.
Nonetheless, since that impressive Celta Vigo performance, the Catalan outfit had a few horrible ones to compensate. It was as if the players had left their souls in Vigo. Philippe Coutinho, Gerard Piqué, Clément Lenglet, everyone started to have below-par displays. In defence, the Balugranas could not tame sides such as Deportivo Alavés or Real Betis while regaining their form on the other side of the pitch.
With Koeman, it has always been a one-sided affair. The team always looked ready to create chances but unable to convert them. They also struggled to keep a clean sheet against minnows.
This inability to be dominant comes from the lack of balance created by Koeman with his 4-2-3-1. This formation is chaotic in defence but helps in chance creation. However, do Barça need to create that much when they got outplayed in defence?
If Barcelona’s season is going south, it is because they have gone on a downward spiral since winning in Vigo. Other than being extremely inconsistent, the Catalans have managed to lower the fans’ standards. Culés started believing in the team again, but this time the fans did not have to wait until May for their hearts to be crushed.
The cost of injuries
Another major factor of the Catalans’ cataclysmic start has been the injuries. Because of COVID-19, no team is secure from injuries and leagues have saturated in terms of players out. Barcelona is the perfect example of a team that has struggled with injuries.
Despite Ousmane Dembélé staying fit, Philippe Coutinho, Ansu Fati, Gerard Piqué and Ronald Araujo, to name a few, have gone down injured. The injuries are not only detrimental to the victims but the team in equal parts, who lose pivotal components.
❗Official — Gerard Pique has a right knee sprain. He will undergo further testing to determine the exact extent of his injury. pic.twitter.com/lL3MtghN56— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) November 21, 2020
Frenkie de Jong had a brilliant game as a centre-back against Juventus. Nonetheless, he is not a defender but will have to fill in for Gerard Piqué who suffered an awful setback against Atletico.
The 57-year-old manager has not had time to rest with his team selection as he has lost many men. His best players have gone down, and he will surely have to deal with other injuries to perhaps the most important players in the squad. Culés have not seen the in-form Dembélé, their talisman Leo Messi or de Jong suffer on the treatment table so far this season. If one of these three players has to be sent to the physio, Barcelona may be on-road to a shocking season.
Playing with a decimated squad is never easy, but other teams suffer from this problem too. Barcelona have to find a way around it and perhaps go towards the youngsters, it is not like the club has money to buy a new shiny toy.
In need of drastic changes?
In conclusion, the season has been one of the darkest in the past few years for Barcelona. This start is unacceptable, especially with the players at Koeman’s disposal. The former Barça legend needs to change his ways if he wants to succeed again at Camp Nou, this time as a manager.
In fairness, the giants do not need to change drastically, they just have to find their way of playing. The summer of 2020 brought a lot of new faces at Camp Nou and this is an exciting crop of players.
Nevertheless, these players do not know each other for the most part. They lack some chemistry, which will come slowly, game after game playing together. This sinister season might not go well for Barcelona, but the rebuild is not entirely completed.
Very few reasons for Barcelona fans to smile right now. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)
Barcelona got rid of some of their veterans this season, but few others remain. When the Catalans find new heirs to their old guard, they will finally begin to flourish. Such a young side can only learn from their mistakes, and if the next president backs them up, they can do miracles, because truth be told, this is far from a dysfunctional team.