There's no two ways about it: Barcelona is slowly but surely losing is renowned holding tiki-taka style of play
In Barcelona’s latest match, the Copa del Rey final against Sevilla, Luis Enrique made a key decision that helped the club secure victory. Sure, the trophy was secured thanks to the quality of the world-class professionals in the squad, but kudos to the manager for allowing his stars to shine.
Early in the first half of the final match, Barcelona defender Javier Mascherano was sent off for a reckless tackle on Sevilla’s Kevin Gameiro. Although the Barcelona squad is full of talent, the loss of Mascherano was especially difficult to handle because his defensive style most closely matched that of the very incisive Sevilla forwards.
With only ten men on the field, Luis Enrique was left with the option of making changes to the squad to offset the impact of Mascherano’s untimely departure. Luis Enrique was wise to wait until halftime because, after his Argentinean defenders's sending off, it was necessary to revitalise the squad by adding someone who could fill his defensive void.
Of course, those necessary changes required the sacrifice of another player, who had been especially chosen for their ability to combat the talents of Sevilla players. Any choice Luis Enrique made would have as many disadvantages as advantages. Wisely, the Asturian took the time to thoroughly weigh all of the options instead of making a rushed. In fact, he did not make a substitution to the ten man lineup until the second half -- once he had the time to analyse where the game was going at that point.
Barcelona may have finished the season with two pieces of silverware, but the team has an impending problem. With the loss of midfield maestro Xavi, Barcelona is no longer the team of yesteryear that kept an overwhelming majority of possession. While still a formidable and talented team, the Catalans have been working harder than a team with a track record of remaining in complete control should.
There's no two ways about it: Barcelona is slowly but surely losing is renowned holding tiki-taka style of play. This style was first developed, then perfected by coaching legends Johan Cruyff and Pep Guardiola -- two men who rewrote the history books at the Camp Nou.
Between Pep, Johan and Luis Enrique’s tenures, two other managers have taken the reigns of the club. While it was certainly not any of the most recent coaches’ intention to destroy the rock solid structure that Barcelona had built up over the years, a combination of changes and a slew of new players has pushed the club further and further away from the instantly recognisable holding style which helped the Blaugrana dominate overwhelmingly in the mid-to-early 2000s.
Luis Enrique must decide over the summer whether or not he wants to guide the club back to that proven ultra-possessive style or to mold the club into its next form of greatness. If he wants to bring back the style of yesteryear, he must wisely make summer signings that will not only mesh well with current players but can also easily adjust to a possession-heavy playing style.
Each new year is like going back to level one of a video game. All of the accolades of the current season will quickly fade into the distant memory of every fan, player, and, most importantly, Barcelona board member if Luis Enrique’s men fail to build on their recent accomplishments.
Luis Enrique faces countless crucial decisions in the summer. Like his game-winning decision in the Copa del Rey final, the Asturian's every move could truly make or break the club's future.
By Marissa Blackman, columnist at Barcablog.