With or without Neymar, does it make a difference?
by Arda Alan Işık
ISTANBULMar 08, 2016 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Arda Alan Işık
Mar 08, 2016 12:00 am
Barcelona made it 36 games unbeaten as they saw off Eibar 4-0 on Sunday. Of course, before the game, the question on everyone's mind was how the absence of Neymar would affect the Catalans? In the end, the question seemed a bit excessive given Eibar's terrible form and Barca's incredible run, but there are still theoretical concerns about Munir El Haddadi and Neymar's absence. Seeing as young Spaniard El Haddadi cannot facilitate the right wing like his predecessor, dangerous opponents like Arsenal and Atletico Madrid may benefit in ways Barca will regret.
For sure, neither Lionel Messi nor Neymar will stay suspended or injured all the time; most of the time they operate at full power on both wings. But the real problem arises when strict defenses block Neymar and Messi's ability to move forward. If that happens, Barca will need a plan B to utilize their magical trio, just as if the three were injured or suspended.
So far, Barcelona coach Luis Enrique has managed to combine traditional methods with Barcelona's revolutionary game and made his team less vulnerable to sneaky counter-attacks. However, this has led Barcelona down a path at odds with the one they took in the decade previous. The backwards march of the team's revolutionary strategy started to with Tito Villanova, with the revolution becoming less groundbreaking with Gerardo Martino and now finally transformed into a mixed and confused strategy under Enrique.
Of course, after years of domination, many opponents were able to hit Barca's soft side and Enrique, in a sense, worked more on limiting their opponent's weapons than expanding Barcelona's arsenal. With great individual talents capable of bringing creativity to almost every strategy, it did not take long for Barca to shock and awe their opponent's with a different approach.
But as history repeatedly shows, the fatal flaw arises not from without, but from within. The reason why Villanova and Martino were unsuccessful, despite favoring the same strategy as Enrique, is not because they lacked Enrique's magical talents. Barcelona always had incredible players and won almost every possible trophy with Pep Guardiola, but the same players were less successful under Villanova and Martino because the two managers did not understand what Pep Guardiola had actually achieved: a talented, self-sufficient and compact game. Enrique is also far away from such an achievement, but he has made up for the deficiencies with clever tricks and key playmakers, like Ivan Rakitic, Sergio Busquets and Arda Turan.
Nonetheless, it will not take Barcelona's opponents long to realize where their creativity comes from, or how to strangle it. To cope with this situation, Guardiola tried to make his already revolutionary game even more exciting and efficient by using three players in defense, but his decision was disapproved by the club. Later he shocked the world with Bayern Munich, when they implemented the strategy and crushed their opponents. Thus, to extend Barcelona's dominance over global football, Enrique must grasp the future of his game, because when individual talents are blocked, no Neymar or Messi can save Barca individually without an intelligent strategy.