The 4-0 massacre by Paris St. Germain on Valentine’s Day was not only a serious blow to Barcelona’s chances of progressing to the Champions League’s next round, it was also a serious blow to their reputation and the person who will feel it most ultimately will be Luis Enrique.
Aside from the result, the style of football was damaging in itself. Lacklustre performances across the field from Messi & co. that night in Paris caused local football newspaper Sport to declare on it’s front page “This is not Barça”.
Some would argue that the Catalans felt a similar dent before (against Bayern Munich when they lost 3-0 and 4-0 home and away respectively), but it cannot disguise the fact that there are a number of flaws from the boardroom upstairs to the coaches and players.
Further questions were asked today following Barça’s lucky escape after narrowly beating CD Leganés at home. Leganés, who are currently sitting in 17th in their debut season in La Liga, were playing in Spain’s third tier three years ago, and their home ground holds approximately the same amount of tourists that turn up for a match in the Camp Nou each week. There was a time when scraping three points off them was unthinkable.
During the Guardiola era, Barcelona were almost untouchable. They would run through teams by a considerable scoreline, but they often recruited great players and used them intelligently. Plus Barça’s world-famous La Masia academy was used during that era to phenomenal effect, kick starting the careers of players such as Pedro, Sergio Busquets, Bojan and Sergi Roberto.
Barça aren’t quite at those levels right now. Ex-players are criticizing the board members, players are being played out of position at times (Sergi Roberto has been deployed as a right-back – a position they never filled after Dani Alves left for Juventus), new signing are being used incorrectly or simply not much at all. Their style of football and some of the decisions Luis Enrique has been making has been questionable – by their own standards of course. And make no mistake, Barça have enormously high standards.
Barcelona usually turn to Messi in times of crisis on the field and, to his credit, does more-often-than-not deliver. But not even the great Argentine (in the final year of his contract, a new deal still unsigned) can save them everytime.
Luis Enrique needs to turn things around to keep the ship afloat. She’s heading towards rocky waters.
Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)