Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Complacent Barcelona need more than just the MSN

David Nugent in Editorial, UEFA Champions League 12 Apr 2017

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Barcelona boss Luis Enrique watched on as his side suffered a 3-0 defeat at Juventus in the Champions League quarter-finals

Barcelona’s strike force of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez has been lauded as the best forward line ever seen by many.

The MSN as they are known, are all undoubtedly world-class players. Any club would love to have them in their team. However, the Catalan giant’s reliance on the trio has been to their detriment at times this season.

On Tuesday night the Spanish champions suffered a 3-0 defeat against Italian giants Juventus in the Champions League quarter-final first leg. One of the reasons was that the Bianconeri were simply a better TEAM.

Not the first example

Last night was not the first example of Luis Enrique’s side being beaten by a better TEAM. The Champions League last-16 first leg saw PSG hammer Barcelona 4-0 at the Parc de Princes, only for Barcelona to pull off a famous 6-1 win in the second leg back at the Nou Camp.

The game in Paris and last night’s defeat in Turin exposed Barcelona’s weaknesses. The defeat against both teams just confirmed that Barcelona relies far too much on their attacking prowess. When they come up against a well-organised or powerful team they wilt.

It will not be exposed that much in La Liga, as many of the teams in the Spanish top-flight are poor. However, it has happened on a number of times to the Spanish champions with defeats at the likes of Celta Vigo and Malaga this season.

Barcelona are no longer able to play the same possession football like the famous Pep Guardiola side, with Xavi as their midfield metronome controlling games. They no longer have the sort of players that can influence games against top level teams like Juventus.

There is no doubt that Barcelona have been weak in defence for a long time. Even when Guardiola was in charge the Catalan giants were not great at the back. However, the midfield’s ability to retain the ball was what made them all conquering. They no longer have a Xavi to keep possession in the centre of the park and that has led to teams being able to hurt them.

Poor recruitment in recent seasons

In truth, Barcelona’s recruitment of players in recent years has been poor. For much of the campaign, the Spanish champions have been playing without a natural right-back. Midfielder Sergi Roberto has been filling in at full-back, as they did not sign a quality right-back in the summer.

This has arguably led to Luis Enrique changing his system to a 3-4-3 at times, exposing his creaking defence. The signings of the likes of Paco Alcacer and Andre Gomes have just not worked out. Samuel Umtiti and Arda Turan have proven slightly more successful.

However, even the latter has struggled at times for first team football, starting just 13 La Liga games this season. Barcelona have found it hard to recruit players that fit in with the clubs ethos and team.

Too much to do

Barcelona are now odds of 16/1 to win the Champions League trophy this season. It will take another miracle for the Spanish giants to make it to the semi-finals after that terrible first leg display in Italy.

Barcelona may have come back from a bigger deficit against PSG, but Juventus are a completely different animal. Juventus are an experienced European side, with a lot of know-how and are extremely well organised.

They are likely to squeeze the life out of the second leg at the Nou Camp. In an old-fashioned Italian away display in Europe. They are unlikely to fold like a deck of cards as PSG did in Catalonia.

What Barcelona’s recent European games have taught us is that the Spanish giants need to invest in signing better support acts to their main stars. It is fine having the likes of Messi, Neymar and Suarez in your team.

However, if they fail to perform in these European ties, the team needs to have enough players with steel to grind out a goalless draw in an effort to stay in the tie. Barcelona currently do not have those sorts of players. That is why they are unlikely to win either La Liga or the Champions League this season.

Does Barcelona depend too much on the MSN?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David Nugent


David is a freelance football writer with nearly a decade of experience writing about the beautiful game. The 33-year-old has written for over a dozen websites and also an international soccer magazine offline.
Arguably his best work has come as an editorial writer for Soccernews, sharing his good, bad and ugly opinions on the world’s favourite sport. During David’s writing career he has written editorials, betting previews, match previews, banter, news and opinion pieces.

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