Luis Enrique is definitely not the most approachable of managers. His sharp, dismissive messages in front of the media often create much more controversy than is actually needed, rubbing people off the wrong way unnecessarily from time to time. The Asturian's no-nonsense attitude and abrupt manner does raise a few eyebrows within the Cule fan-base but, to be honest, that doesn’t seem to bother him one bit.
Doubters consider Luis Enrique to be frustratingly stubborn. More candid analysts prefer to use the term strong-minded. Whatever your personal feelings, it is clear that a Barca manager must have plenty of self-belief and strength to be successful at the Camp Nou. With numerous sporting, political and economical battles being splashed all over the media on a daily basis, it takes a special sort of manager to take it all in the chin and keep moving forward -- as it became apparent during the forgettable season under Gerardo Martino.
Lucho may not be the most popular manager in the history of Barca, but his firm approach has enabled key players such as Gerard Pique and Jordi Alba to rediscover their best form. Sure, the Catalan centre-half was benched for nearly a month and the speedy left-back had to watch Jeremy Mathieu take his place in crucial matches such as El Clasico against Real Madrid earlier on in the season but, ultimately, both internationals used their frustration to dig deep and bounce back stronger.
After fielding an unprecedented 28 different lineups in as many matches, Luis Enrique seems to have finally settled on his preferred eleven, adding much-needed consistency. Although less frequently than earlier in the season, the manager continues to introduce slight variations from time to time in an attempt to keep the core of his squad motivated and as close to their best fitness as possible.
Luis Enrique has now lead Barca to an impressive 10 consecutive victories following their forgettable 1-0 defeat against Real Sociedad in early January. The unanimous shouts for an urgent improvement could not have been answered in a more positive manner, to be honest. With the Blaugranas scheduled to face Levante and Malaga in the next two matches, there is reason to believe the current streak could be extended even further.
The manager’s very public clash with Lionel Messi is now firmly and truly in the past, fortunately. While the Argentinean star did show his discontent in an unusually blunt manner, the unsavoury events in the Anoeta dressing room has in fact been turned into a positive stepping stone to build on. Sure, the episode made alarm bells ring at the time but, ultimately, it spurred a visible improvement in team performances to be proud of.
Barca are slowly but surely becoming the dynamic, unpredictable, exciting team fans have been waiting for. While the utterly dominant, beautiful passing game during the Pep Guardiola years may never come back, that may not necessarily be a negative. Sure, the legendary 2009 side will remain in Cule hearts forever but football has moved on in leaps and bounds since, making the current Blaugrana evolution a necessity.
Kudos to Luis Enrique for sticking to his guns despite the adversity and criticism faced in last couple of months. Change is a process that takes time and, while not every decision may be popular, it takes a strong leader to drive it forward.
The Quote: “We have the best attack in the world. Tell me one team who attacks best against 10 or nine defenders than us. We work hard to be effective. The winning streak? Ask me again at the end of the season. We can’t exaggerate when winning or lose the plot because of two consecutive defeats” -- Luis Enrique.