The team has only scored 2 goals from a play in the last 450 minutes
Despite Luis Enrique said several times FC Barcelona's squad is fresher than last season in terms of physic conditions, the team has shown clear fatigue symptoms in the most important part of the season. The decline of performance has been more evident in front of the most competitive opponents. They have no ideas after a great streak of 39 consecutive matches without losing.
Disconnection in Villarreal, vanishing in El Clásico after starting winning, impotence against Atlético Madrid in the Champions League or the usual defeat at Anoeta raised all alarms. Probably this has not only to do with physical problems, but reviewing some data we can see that the team is suffering from accumulation of matches and the shortage of players.
1 - More demand than the rest of the opponents
Super Cups, Club World Cup and overcoming all the Copa del Rey rounds. FC Barcelona has played 11 more matches than Real Madrid, 10 more than Bayern Munich and 7 more than Atlético Madrid. Trips to Georgia and Japan in moments when the opponents could rest and improve their physical preparation. Unlike the season of the treble, the team of Luis Enrique was forced to compete from the beginning and they had no breaks. The calendar is super-demanding and didn't let them disconnect. The great amount of matches is a problem which damaged them at the worst moment.
2 - Fatigued legs
In yesterday's match, Atlético Madrid players run 12 kilometers more than Barça players. Despite this data cannot be used to do a complete analysis of Barça's game, it's meaningful that the team's statistics dropped on Calderón match. In Champions League, FC Barcelona had an average of 106.3 km run and yesterday they ran 102.7. Atlético, 114.5. A show of the low rhythm, as they didn't feel comfortable with the possession and they couldn't counterattack neither. The defense of Simeone's team was really well-placed. As you can see on the graph, FC Barcelona hardly stepped in the opponent's box.
3 - Lack of substitute players
In mid-April, Suárez, Busquets, Rakitic, Sergi Roberto, Ter Stegen and Munir have already played more minutes than last season. Other players like Neymar, Mascherano, Piqué and Iniesta are 4 games or less left to overcome them. The departure of key players like Xavi or Pedro plus sanction to register new players last summer reduced chances to give rest to starters. Rafinha and Mathieu's injuries in moments where they could have given relief to the team also have limited options for Luis Enrique, who doesn't count in players like Bartra, Vermaelen, Douglas or Adriano. Arda and Aleix didn't add competitiveness to the usual starting XI. The squad is short and this eventually have an impact on the team.
4 - And what about control on the boxes?
3 out of the last 5 Barça goals were scored in set pieces. The team has only scored 2 goals in a play in the last 450 minutes: Suárez (2) against Atlético Madrid. Barça's decline is also in the front. The trident lost importance. Messi has stayed 5 matches without scoring. Neymar is also having problems on it. Furthermore, the drop in attack coincided with a poor performance in defense, far from Barça's treble. 6 consecutive matches conceding a goal. There has not been a clean sheet since a month ago. This season they have already conceded 47 goals, 9 more than the whole last season. If Barça wants to win La Liga and Copa del Rey, the strength in the boxes must come back.
5 - Break for national teams matches
Barça reached the international break of March with a streak of 39 games unbeaten. From October 3, 2015 to match vs Villarreal, the team was able to win 12 consecutive games in La Liga, reach a new Copa final and beat Arsenal in the UCL quarter finals. But at the end of March, up to 18 players went on international duties. Suárez travelled more than 28,000 km. Messi played two vital matches for Argentina. Neymar did the second trip to Brazil in less than a month. Piqué was the only Spanish who played two matches as starter. And Mathieu got injured with France. With this break, Barça lost their freshness and doubts raised. We must regain feeling and cheer up.