In the past decade, Barcelona have been the team to beat.
They’ve dominated Spain and the rest of Europe with their mesmeric play which started with the elegance of tiki-taka and intense pressing of the opposition that reached its peak in Pep Guardiola’s time as manager, This then evolved into their current style under Luis Enrique which is a much quicker, direct approach in order to get the ball to the front three as quickly as possible while at the same time dominating possession.
During this period Barcelona have accumulated a total of 26 major trophies which is an impressive haul. This includes: seven La Liga titles, four Copa del Reys and four Champions League titles, so you certainly can’t argue that they haven’t been successful. This is probably the best spell the club has ever had eclipsing even the early 1990s when Johan Cruyff was manager, and a major reason for this is Lionel Messi who has entertained the world with his unique abilities.
As with any period of domination by a team, there has to be a rebuilding of the squad because players either retire or want a different challenge, so teams usually have a quiet period when this is happening.
This doesn’t seem to be the case with Barcelona because they’ve made small changes over the last few years such as bringing in Ivan Rakitic, Neymar and Luis Suarez to significantly bolster the attack, and replaced legends such as Xavi and Carles Puyol. They’ve managed to do this and win trophies at the same time which is rare, and this is a credit to the strong team they have as well as the great signings they have made such as signing Neymar and Suarez to from the ‘MSN’ partnership which has proved to be deadly.
Time to Rejuvenate
This summer seems to have been the time where the decision was made to bring in talented young players to revitalise the squad, external of those from La Masia. However, this may have been planned to be done a few seasons ago, but was stopped by the transfer embargo caused by poor decisions made by the board in terms of transfer policy regarding young players.
The transfer embargo helped limit the depth of the squad and the ageing of some of the key members of the squad led to the need for an influx of youthful players this summer which includes Lucas Digne, Andre Gomes and Samuel Umtiti.
Gomes will be a great back-up for Andres Iniesta due to possessing similar skills, such as excellent dribbling ability and an eye for a pass especially in the final third. Iniesta needs a back-up because of the hard nature of his role physically and Gomes is still learning due to him only being 22, so it’s a great fit even if it is a lot of money (£40m).
Samuel Umtiti and Lucas Digne are smart signings because they can act as back-ups for the defence which is important in the second half of the season when the fixture list gets congested. Both of them are talented individuals who have plenty of potential due to them being 22 and 23 respectively, so they will be able to gain invaluable experience for when they become first team regulars which is presumably going to happen in the next few years.
Buying Denis Suarez was a smart use of his buy-back clause because he proved himself at Villarreal, and has experience of the league, which means he can provide support as a back-up in midfield in a similar role to Sergi Roberto. This will hopefully translate to him becoming a major player for them in the future.
The need for major additions to the squad was highlighted by the fatigue that the squad had during March and April last season which nearly cost them the league and helped cause them to get knocked out of the Champions League in the quarter finals by Atletico Madrid.
Barcelona looked thin at the back last season when they needed to rest Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano due to fatigue caused by the sheer amount of games they were playing. Jeremy Mathieu never looked convincing,and Thomas Vermaelen looked out of his depth, so Umtiti will act as an able deputy.
Bringing in Digne and Suarez is also important because they will be able to play against the lower teams in the league which will reduce the fatigue throughout the squad because key players such as Jordi Alba and Ivan Rakitic will be able to have a rest, and Gomes’ importance to the team was already stated above.
These players are a significant investment by Barcelona, but if they prove to be successful then Barcelona’s dominance will probably continue, and the investment may be seen as very profitable in the near future.
Having this extra depth to the squad allows them as a club to actively compete on more fronts and makes it much less likely that we will see a mid-season loss of form which was the case last season, so it’s a smart move.
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