Time for another guest article now and we have a new signing among the ranks at RFM towers. His name is Arnab Mukherji and he has written this excellent piece on the negative transformation of Barcelona’s midfield. Take it away Arnab the floor is yours…
Though the defence and attack have drawn their fair share of flak from experts and fans alike in the past, the midfield department has always been considered an area which a Barcelona squad can never lack quality in. Over the years many top midfielders like Johan Cruyff, Bernd Schuster, Guillermo Amor, Michael Laudrup, Pep Guardiola, Luis Enrique, Xavi, Deco, Iniesta have donned the famous jersey and enthralled us all.
Johan Cruyff introduced the glorious footballing system of tiki-taka which was further developed by Pep Guardiola resulting in Barcelona earning a spot amongst the top teams in world football under the latter. A major reason behind this success under Pep was the midfield trio of Xavi, Iniesta and Sergio Busquets who were hailed as the best in world football.
The period between 2008-11 saw Barcelona at their best. The opposition was unable to break down the intense flow of relentless passing which began from the goalkeeper and ended directly with the striker shooting the ball into the back of a net.
The midfield trio of Xavi, Iniesta and Sergio Busquets was responsible for developing the gameplay after the sweeper-keeper and ball playing defenders whom Pep encouraged, passed the ball into the centre of the park. Xavi and Iniesta brought creativity, innovation, grace and class into the game with effective passing and vision.
You could not help but feel sorry for the opposition defenders tasked with the mighty responsibility of blocking the searing advances of those men who never lost possession of the ball even when under pressure from the roughest of challenges.
Lionel Messi, who is arguably the greatest footballer ever, credited the trio as the fulcrum of the Barcelona midfield who made life at the club joyous for him. Even in the 2011/12 season when the attackers were missing chances at crucial opportunities with the defence unable to handle this pressure, the trio took it up as a challenge with a smile on their lips and pride in their heart.
In 2011, sadly the chinks in the armour started becoming more and more apparent. La Masia graduate Cesc Fabregas made a move back to Barcelona from Arsenal. Wenger had allowed Fabregas a lot of creative liberty and freedom with regard to his playing style during his successful spell at the Emirates resulting in him emerging as an influential figure.
However when Cesc made his desire to go back home apparent , Barcelona were more than willing to bring back their “Prodigal Son” which could benefit them both ways as Cesc was a product of La Masia boosting their ambitions of creating their homegrown project with a successfully established player also making his way back home further complimenting the trio.
Sadly this decision backfired so badly that the midfield which was the diamond helping the team gameplay glow, slowly started losing its sheen day by day. Cesc was an incorrect addition to a Barcelona outfit which was able to stay successful because of high discipline levels with every movement on the pitch implemented only after proper analysis and rehearsal. Fabregas who had enjoyed freedom under Wenger could not adjust to this new change which had a negative impact even on Iniesta and Xavi.
Fabregas ‘s introduction forced Pep to make a tweak in the formation in order to accommodate him with a false nine introduced. This ruined the chemistry and stability that the previous formation brought to the gameplay. With la Masia graduate Thiago Alacantra shunted out of the team, prompting him to make a move to Bayern in 2013, Fabregas soon left Camp Nou in search of a club which suited his style of play and mentality.
Luis Enrique’s decision to bring in Ivan Rakitic in search of fast, direct attacking football which could deliver the goals brought a different style of football at play. Xavi and Iniesta led the team – gameplay in an astute fashion with MSN the new trio consisting of Messi, Suarez and Neymar knocking in the goals. This approach paid off as Barcelona won the treble after a gap of 4 years.
Fans believed that the perfect combination had finally been discovered which could deliver the goods in the future also. However, Xavi’s decision to make a move from Camp Nou exposed the skeletons in the closet which were hidden all these days as a result of his calming presence in the midfield. The prestigious La Masia Academy had failed to generate any players at the same level as Xavi, Iniesta with the last successful graduate being Thiago Alacantra.
Young players who emerged were simply unable to express themselves on the senior level which prompted Luis Enrique to spend big in search of a replacement. In the absence of Xavi, the team became dependent on the front 3 for that moment of magic which could win them the games instead of the focus on midfield encouraged under Pep. Arda Turan who was signed up as a replacement failed to get the job done, struggling to adapt himself.
Currently, Lionel Messi is the man tasked with the responsibility of developing the game from the deep, scoring goals and racking up the assists which indicate the inefficiency displayed by new signings like Denis Suarez, Andre Gomes. Sergi Samper, the La Masia graduate considered the next Sergio Busquets seems unlikely to make the cut with Sergi Roberto, another impressive talent in charge of the troublesome right-back position under current manager Ernesto Valverde.
The Barcelona midfield is largely dependent on the heroics of defensive midfielder Sergio Busquets whose lack of form thoroughly exposed the side last season in a humiliating loss against AS Roma last season. The addition of talented youngsters like Arthur during the ongoing summer transfer window is certainly a promising sign for the fans though concerns arise over the club’s ability to juggle the loss of a midfield maestro like Andres Iniesta.
Do you agree with Arnab? If you do or even if you don’t then leave your comments below, while if you would like to also write a guest article or two then you can by getting in touch with us via the email address: