Talk about getting a monkey off your back. This performance may not have been the best Barcelona performance, but it may have been the most necessary. Coming to a stadium that has plagued so many a blaugrana side and leaving with a positive result is such a rarity that even the low scoreline of 0-1 could be enough to finally be the spark that ignites Luis Enrique’s men. Not to mention that this result has come at a time where Real Madrid have looked vulnerable for the first time this season. Bravo Lucho.
And so 2017 has begun. What was meant to be a promising start to the season has now become a rather interesting start to the season. Let us make one thing very clear: this match is not, and was not, doomsday. The truth is, there is still a second leg to be played at Camp Nou, where an MSN explosion is likely. However, this match exposed weaknesses and chinks in Luis Enrique’s armour that have existed since last season’s UEFA Champions League Quarter Final.
What a relief it is to have Lionel Messi on your side. Not only is he a magician on the field, but he also has the ability to be the ultimate decider of games- more so than any player in other player in the world. Is it a coincidence that Leo happened to be the player making the run-on into the box conveniently for Neymar to put in a dinked cross that ultimately led to the first goal? It all looks so simple- so easy. But often it is not. Leo has started the season on fire, scoring 17 goals in 13 appearances, whilst also racking up five assists.
Luis Enrique’s men took to the field this afternoon to make a point- that they could manage to come back from an international break and still play at the highest level. And that is exactly what they achieved.
I love Luis Enrique. Love is a strong word, but I am sure this is it. How can I not? The man won a treble his first season and followed that up with a double last season. He’s successfully put together possibly the most lethal attack in the history of the game, but that does not rank amongst Lucho’s greatest achievements to date.
There has been a lot of finger-pointing going around since our loss to Celta Vigo. A lot of it has come Marc-André Ter Stegen’s way. And sure, he made yet another crucial mistake that cost us points, on a weekend where Real Madrid had dropped points and had presented us an opportunity to make up the points deficit. And sure, this is definitely not the first time Marc has done something of the sort. And yet again, sure, Claudio Bravo was mostly immune to any such mistakes (as we saw on his Manchester City debut). But is it fair to put so much blame on one man?
Much has been made of Sergio Busquets’ recent performances. After all, his form has been rather patchy, to say the least- similarly to that of his team. For the most part, Sergi has been at his brilliant best. That being said, some of his performances have raised some concerns. A pattern has started recently, whereby teams playing a high-intensity press system have managed to make life difficult for Busi. But why? Surely, Busquets has come up against dozens, if not hundreds of teams, employing such a system.
The last three matches against Atlético Madrid have brought almost no fruit. A 2-1 win in the first leg of the UEFA Champions Quarter Final in Camp Nou (against a 10 man Atlético), a 0-2 loss at the Vicente Calderón in the second leg, and now a 1-1 draw at Camp Nou. There are few sides, if any, that are capable of nullifying our team the way Atlético are. Then again, there are few sides, if any, that are capable of the defensive discipline Diego Simeone’s men are. When these two sides clash, it is a battle of Attack vs Defense. A true battle of opposites. So then, does this mean that Atlético indeed has figured us out, and if so, should we be concerned?
In the past seven days, a lot has happened. Exactly a week ago, Luis Enrique found himself licking a few early-season wounds from the loss to Deportivo Alavés. Eyebrows were raised as to whether Lucho had made the right decision in resting so many key players that weekend. A few weeks into the season, we can now start analyzing the intentions of most managers. On the surface level, anyone with a seasoned culé eye would have been able to see Lucho’s clear intention of rotating his players to utilize the benefits of economies of squad– That being that this time around, Lucho has arguably the best and most versatile squad in Europe. Why? Because one of the biggest reasons (in fact, to many blaugrana’s, the only reason) why our team fell apart in it’s only blemish last season in the loss to Atlético Madrid in the UEFA Champions League Quarter-Final, was down to fatigue. It only makes sense to rotate as much as possible, even to a fault (such as what was witnessed in the Alavés game), if it ensures that MSN and co are fully fit come April 2017. Other than this, Lucho has pulled a few rabbit’s out of the hat too.
Two seasons into Luis Enrique’s tenure, can we say that he has successfully managed to break out of Pep Guardiola’s shadow? Let’s compare the record of both managers, entering their third season as FC Barcelona manager.