The following is a translation of Johan Cruyff’s weekly article with El Periodico. The original can be found here.
The few, the proud, the blaugrana
I don’t know if Barca is planning on signing another player for the attack in the next few hours but it would surprise me if they did. With the departure of Ibrahimovic and the arrival of Mascherano, the team is made of up 19 players, two of them goalkeepers. It seems crazy to start a season consisting of three competitions with only 17 players but with a team like Barca anything is possible. It’s Guardiola’s gamble and it reaffirms the philosophy of the club: we start with nineteen first team players but we have numerous possibilities from the cantera. These youth players have talent and will fit in due to having been brought up under this same style of play.
If I was one of the nineteen chosen players I’d be ecstatic. I know that I’ll get to play and play often. I might get to play in my position or in one very similar. It’s even possible I’ll play out of position but it doesn’t matter because at least I’ll play. The group will be stronger due to all of the individuals giving it their all.
Nobody can afford to slack off
Guardiola’s gamble seems risky but it’s not a new idea –two seasons with two supposedly small squads that have brought eight titles and good football-nor is it a temporary idea. Maybe it’s a passing whim but it’s been well studied because it gets the best out of the players that are there. That is the key. There are so few players that everyone has to work as hard as possible because everyone will end up playing. One suspension, one injury or one game of rest due to precaution and nobody is left out of the squad.
For those that would like to a see a team with more players I have a question: What is the ideal number of players? One? Two? Four? One for each area? Maybe another striker due to Ibra’s departure? Someone with experience? Ibra did have experience. And talent. However, he wasn’t able to integrate into the squad. His personality and his character failed him from the start. Being able to fit in is what governs success or failure in Guardiola’s Barca.
Even with all of the stars, football is a team game and the individuals have to sacrifice themselves for the good of the team. Besides the goalkeepers, all of the players know one thing: they won’t always play in the same position. It’s impossible. This year we’ll see players interchange positions.
Here nobody is another’s backup. Everyone compliments each other because sooner or later everyone will take a seat on the bench. And everyone will have to be supportive of one another.
Without Ibra there are only five forwards. Do we really need six? Then you’d have three that wouldn’t play. And one that doesn’t travel to away games. More important than quantity is equilibrium. On the field and inside the locker room. What’s the point of a team with 23 or 24 players? Besides the cost and the fact that fringe players would be even more on the fringe, an excess amount of players provokes jealousy and a lack of hard work in practice. And that affects the entire morale of the squad. It’s true that there could be a lot of injuries. But where will they be? And what happens if an entire position is decimated due to injuries? Should we sign a bunch of defenders? Midfielders? Or how about all offensive players just in case? Unfortunately nobody can see into the future even though we all know that a post World Cup season is always physically demanding.
The only thing that can be controlled is the public attitude of the agents. The player is always responsible for what comes out of the agent’s mouth. The players need to control their agents. I’d be inflexible. If one opens his mouth then goodbye. Your player won’t play on Sunday.
The same old Barca
Everything continues to be the same in Barcelona. It doesn’t matter who plays and in what position. The team is on the right track. It’s difficult to stop and if they lose one day it’ll be due to an accumulation of errors and not because the other team did well. Yesterday we saw a stellar Valdes. 0-2 is not the same as 1-2. A 1-2 can complicate the second half. Mourinho’s Madrid needs to get on the right track because Barcelona is already on the way.