Barcelona had LaLiga in their hands before a dramatic collapse put them on a funeral march into uncertainty… they NEED a striker NOW, Ronald Koeman must stop being so cautious and teenage star Pedri needs help
- Barcelona need to make many changes after another season of disappointment
- A proven striker is urgently needed, with Sergio Aguero set to join on a free
- Pedri must be given more support after being handed too much responsibility
- Ronald Koeman has a lot to learn from his first season and must take more risks
When Barcelona captain Lionel Messi held a team-bonding barbecue at the start of the month the players were singing ‘Campeones! Campeones! Three games later and the season has gone up in smoke.
Three times during the run-in Barcelona had chances to take top spot and three times they blew it. Their final match away to already relegated Eibar next week will be a funeral march into a summer of uncertainty.
Sportsmail looks at how it all fell apart…
Barcelona’s loss to Celta Vigo left Lionel Messi without a LaLiga title for a second year in a row
Coach Ronald Koeman has been criticised for being over-cautious after his side finished third
Oh for a goalscorer?
In his backpage column in Diario Sport Jordi Cruyff, who most believe will come in as sporting director if not at the end of this season then at the end of the year, wrote that ‘Lionel Messi lacked someone alongside him who could score 20 goals this season’.
On the same day that Luis Suarez hit that figure for Atletico Madrid, Barcelona missed chance after chance to put Celta Vigo out of sight.
Barcelona have considerably out-scored everyone this season largely thanks to Messi’s 30 goals. But in the decisive games at the end of the season when Granada, Atletico Madrid and Levante all packed men behind the ball and forced them wide, they needed someone to do what Suarez did yesterday and finish from a cross.
Sergio Aguero will probably arrive this summer and while he won’t remedy Barca’s problems in Europe, he will get important league goals if he stays fit. Too late for this season though. They should never have let Suarez go.
The 18-year-old was the single brightest thing about Barcelona’s entire campaign but he played 52 games in his first ever season in the top flight. Expecting him to carry the load until the end was too much.
Taken off at half-time on Sunday, he was replaced by Riqui Puig who could maybe have been used more during the season to rest Pedri. R
onald Koeman was reluctant to rotate in midfield because he felt Pedri, Frenkie de Jong and Sergio Busquets was the best he had by some distance and he was probably right. Ilaix Moriba played a part but with Miralem Pjanic a signing that just hasn’t worked out, Barcelona were desperately lacking quality strength in depth.
They were once a team of midfielders under Pep Guardiola but now the middle of the pitch is a wilderness where Messi frequently has to run back to try to get the team playing – something which takes him further from the opponents’ goal.
Pedri, 18, has been Barcelona’s breakout start this season but he has been given to much to do
Gerard Pique missed a lot of the season but Barca still suffered in defence after he returned
Silly mistakes were what ruined the first half of Barcelona’s season and Koeman thought he had put the lapses behind him with a 5-3-2 system that papered over the cracks. But old bad habits die hard.
Against Granada it was too easy for first Darwin Machis and then Jorge Molina to score against Barcelona on the counter attack.
There were moments of naivety from young defenders Sergino Dest and Oscar Mingueza while older hands like Clement Lenglet also made key mistakes.
Gerard Pique avoided surgery to come back to action early but even he couldn’t make Barcelona the impregnable unit they needed to be to outdo the Madrid teams.
In the 0-0 draw with Atletico Madrid Busquets got injured in the first half but instead of being bold and throwing on Ousmane Dembele, Koeman put on another midfielder.
The 5-3-2 system that helped him eradicate many of the defensive errors became a crutch that he over-depended on.
Sure, it was more a 3-4-3 with Jordi Alba down the left and Dest down the right but too often the wing-backs were pegged back and the team was left with no width.
Playing Dembele as one of the wing-backs never really worked either. Barcelona coaches have to be brave and too often during the run-in Barcelona looked inhibited.
President Joan Laporta has not publicly backed Koeman but there are few good alternatives
Too many doubts and not enough belief
The Madrid clubs have not played the thrilling football that Barcelona have at times produced and they have not scored as many goals. But they both have a winning mentality, an unbreakable spirit, that Barcelona don’t come close to right now.
Instead of belief there is doubt. New president Joan Laporta has not ratified Koeman for all that it seems he is staying because there are no alternatives. And even though it’s clear Messi wants to stay, there was no pre-end-of-season statement of intent to remain at the club.
Would it have made a difference if both Koeman and Messi had been confirmed as staying or going? Maybe not but the limbo just added to a sense that this was a transition season, when it could easily have been a Double-winning one.
Sergio Aguero will provide goals if he joins Barca but is unlikely to fix their problems in Europe