Barcelona or Real Madrid is always a contentious topic. Apart from the two Clasicos that are played within the La Liga season, this year’s Spanish Super Cup gave us a better assessment as to who is now in the spotlight and, to the dismay of many, it is not Barcelona.
Just two seasons ago, Barcelona won the coveted treble; last year they won the Copa del Rey, but the trophy shelves are starting to gather dust. Barcelona have many things to attend to, with a new manager, losing a key player and clustered back office, change will have to happen and quickly to come back and be a competitor.
With the current success of Real Madrid across Europe here are 5 reasons why Barcelona are no longer the dominant force.
1. Oversight of the midfield
Without having to go too far back, this weeks two-leg contest showed where the match was won and lost, the midfield. Barcelona looked empty and immature compared to Real Madrid. Unfortunately for Barcelona, their inability to weather the pressure of Real’s quick press left them high and dry.
When looking back at Barcelona’s more formidable performances against Madrid in recent history, Iniesta and Xavi were the engines that drove the car. With Xavi now playing in Qatar and Iniesta being injury prone and past his prime, a change is needed now more than ever before.
Their poise on the ball and vision is something that the Catalan side has yet to replace and doing so is no small feat. Ivan Rakitić has been a fair replacement and shown flashes of brilliance in numerous games but not at the consistency of his predecessors nor the level of his Croatian counterpart Luka Modric. Andre Gomes seemed to be working his way to a first choice player with Blaugrana, but that too has yet to come to light.
2. All heart and little personality
There is no question that those who put on the famous jersey of Barcelona love their team, but the character from the squad as a whole is something that has been missing.
Barca was once a club known for their Academy, producing some of the best footballers to ever grace the pitch, today the same cannot be said. Fans would rouse teams like Real Madrid for being big spenders but it seems as though they may now have to follow suit.
Unfortunately, those who have graduated from the elite academy have gone elsewhere in search of more minutes as competition at Barcelona is too stiff. The personality of Barcelona was the tiki-taka style but with reliance on the MSN and a few managerial changes, it seems as though that style may no longer be in style.
It almost seems as though the damage of Neymar leaving to Paris St. Germain is still sinking into the minds of his former teammates. Under the reign of Luis Enrique, the MSN was like Superheros who saved the day when needed and kept those around them safe, with just one missing Madrid bullied the Catalan side.
The effect of Neymar missing showed just how pivotal his absence was to the team, mentally and literally. Not only was Neymar crucial to the attack he was also the apparent heir to the throne of Messi, one who would continue leading Barcelona, his departure changed everything.
Replacing a player at his calibre is not something that is done overnight and may even take a few weeks or months, not that time is in Barcelona’s hands.
4. Me, myself, and no one else to help
With the fame and glory also comes hatred and blame, something Lionel Messi is no stranger to, but not what he deserves right now. The Argentinian maestro is still from another world but he is missing the supporting cast to help lead the way.
It’s fair to say that Barcelona would look like a mediocre team had it not been for Messi, unlike the case as it is with Argentina. Messi is left with an ageing back line, and immature midfield and now a Tottenham deject.
Neymar provided width to the attack of Barca, allowing Messi to drift more freely behind Suarez and as deep as he wishes with the pacy Brazilian as an outlet. With Neymar gone Messi has left with only Suarez ahead of him, which of course is no comparison to the skill set brought upon by Neymar.
With the lack of support the blame falls on the man who also receives the most glory, and with the departure of Neymar, everyone is looking for him to pull bunnies from his hat, birds out of napkins and everything in between. Barca need to work fast and hard to find the maestro more support as the Argentinian star cannot keep going up against giants like Madrid and be expecting to win.
5. Ageing back line
Barcelona has not only take a blow in the final third with the departure of Neymar and now Suarez out for a month but their defensive line is ageing as well. The average age of the teams regular starting XI is 28.2 years and the back line is not too far off.
Short of Samuel Umtiti fighting tooth and nail to gain a regular starting position new signings have been sent on loan or kept to the bench. With Pique on the wrong side of 3 of Madrid’s goals and it may be about time that Josep Bartomeu starts splashing the cash from the Neymar deal, and soon.
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