April has been quite a tumultuous month. Starting with “El Clasico”, we all rode into the month feeling pretty dandy about everything. And then, as we all know, things started slipping away, and we are hoping to close out the month with 50% games won! During this period of time a lot has been said, much analyzed, and many opinions have been voiced. Some things we all agree on, others we argue about, and some, we have no idea what to even think of.
What next? Having been dealt a blow far too harsh considering the circumstances, it is hard to speak of anything else. Sure, we are first in the league, with all the chances to bring it home, and we are in the final of CDR, but with the way all cules were pretty much daydreaming of a treble, everything has kind of exploded on us, and it’s hard to put things into perspective.
Original piece can be found on the website of “En Un Momento Dado”
A year ago, more or less at this stage of the season, Luis Enrique Martínez started to make on his bench a series of movements that turned into a pattern. The group of footballers that were behind the theoretical starters had weight in the definitive moments that weren’t very extensive, and yet, based on a series of specific interventions made by the coach, they ended up forming a more or less stable part of the plan that lasted the 90 minutes of the match. Xavi’s entrance on the pitch, for example, was made in both quarterfinal matches of the Champions League, in the semis, and in the final battle against Juventus in Berlin. Almost always with the score in favor and with the intention of reducing the speed of the game starting with the possession of the ball. Also, another recurring substitution was the entry of Mathieu in order to reinforce the team in its stages without the ball, directly, with his presence in the back, as well as indirectly, letting Mascherano move up closer to the midfield. Or, Pedro Rodríguez, who would sacrifice when needed, to contain, or would permit a line-up with four forwards, if what was needed was to add force to the machine.
Almost three months to the day, Arda Turan made his debut for FC Barcelona after accepting to sit on the sidelines for five months until the FIFA transfer ban expires. Expectations were expectedly for the Turk after a phenomenal spell with Atlético Madrid prior to joining the Catalan club, and with Rafinha Alcântara out injured at the time, his importance to the team automatically grew with yet a minute to play. And three months later, one must ask: What does Arda bring to the team?
For a couple of months, I’ve been thinking about how differently Barça play now compared to last season. As I’ve written several times, Luis Enrique’s first season was characterized by a very clear system, built around Lionel Messi and Neymar’s wing play. The two would start wide and then look to cut inside diagonally, either by dribbling, working short passes off of Luis Suárez, or playing a cross-field pass over the defense. The triangles formed out wide, especially on the right with Messi, Dani Alves, and Ivan Rakitić, were potent and very difficult to defend. Almost nothing of that system was visible today.