FC Barcelona are going through a difficult period at the moment, both on the continental stage and domestically, albeit to a lesser extent. Given the financial risks taken to assemble the current squad, the Club’s hierarchy are sure to not be satisfied with recent results. But the performances pose one question: did Barcelona spend incorrectly during the summer?
Last week the Blaugrana were held to a 3-3 draw in the UEFA Champions League at home to Inter Milan. The result all but confirmed Barcelona’s spot in the Europa League knockout stage due to essentially needing a miracle if they’re to stand any chance of progressing in the UCL.
The European encounter was followed by an El Clasico on Sunday at the Bernabeu, one which Barcelona lost 3-1, surrendering top spot in La Liga to their rivals.
However, both fixtures followed a similar theme: Barcelona playing a decent brand of football, but errors from their defence end up costing them.
Despite numerous defenders arriving in the summer, namely Jules Kounde, Hector Bellerin, Andreas Christensen and Marcos Alonso, the Catalan’s options at the back haven’t looked weaker in years.
Bellerin and Christensen both joined Barcelona on free transfers, while Alonso was included in a deal that saw Chelsea pay €14million for striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Hence, the only significant outlay on defensive reinforcements came in the form of Kounde, who began life in Barcelona well, following his €50million move from Sevilla.
But Barcelona are experiencing a bit of an injury crisis in the backline at the moment, with Ronald Araujo and Kounde both missing recent fixtures. The pair represent Barça’s best centre-back partnership as the Blaugrana looked as solid as ever with the two at the heart of the defence, only conceding a single league goal prior to Sunday’s defeat.
The issue comes in when either of the two, if not both are unavailable, as the depth in that position has recently exhibited that they’re not of the level required for there to be no drop-off, should they be called upon.
Barcelona legend Pique has been widely criticized by fans for no longer possessing the physicality to keep up with the modern game. The 35-year-old has achieved everything possible in the game and is in the twilight of his career, but should consider his future in Spain, if he plans on cementing his legacy as a Barça great.
The World Cup winner was at fault for Lautaro Martinez’s goal at the Nou Camp last week, comically letting the ball run over his head without being aware of the Argentine striker behind him who finished the move off exquisitely.
His partner during the UCL clash and that also started the Clasico, Eric Garcia, has had an abject time in Spain since completing his return to the Club from Man City at the start of last campaign.
The Spanish International doesn’t have an imposing physique which means he isn’t able to dominate opposition attackers. However, his reading of the game isn’t much better, often having lapses in judgement and being unpredictable on the ball.
Garcia played a hand in Real Madrid’s second goal on Sunday, inexplicably heading a stray ball that was bound to end up at his defensive partner’s feet. Instead the ball fell to Vinicius, who held up the ball before Fede Valverde riffled it in from just outside the 18-yard area.
Both Garcia and Pique have built a bit of a reputation for clumsy defending in recent years, which should be a cause for concern to Barcelona.
The pair’s errors may prove to be even costlier in the long-term, particularly if they still receive regular game time.
Barcelona spent €153million in the summer, with the majority of the outlay being on attacking additions Robert Lewandowski and Raphinha. But, given the forward options that were already at the Club, namely Memphis Depay, Aubameyang, Ferran Torres, Ansu Fati and Ousmane Dembele, you can’t help but wonder if they were better off allocating more funds to their defence.
Polish star Lewandowski is undoubtedly world-class, and is among the top three strikers in world football. But he’s also 34-years-old. He has at most another two years left at the top, which means Barcelona may have been wiser to rather spend it on another centre-back.
Despite promising young stars such as Pedri, Gavi and Ansu Fati, the current Barcelona squad was built to compete and win major accolades now. However, the transfer strategy deployed, may come back to haunt them in the long-term, should they not meet their objectives this season.