One of the most successful clubs in recent times, Barcelona are in a dire state this season and are on the brink of losing their footballing identity.
Most of their downfall can be attributed to the club’s shocking transfer strategies, poor team management and a weak board.
A string of poor decisions since Luis Enrique’s departure has put the Catalan giants’ title hopes hanging by a slim thread.
Before the resumption of La Liga, Barcelona enjoyed a two-point lead over their arch-rivals, Real Madrid at the top of the table, despite losing at the Santiago Bernabeu earlier in the season.
However, the picture isn’t the same anymore. Following a series of draws against Sevilla, Celta Vigo and Atletico Madrid, Barcelona are now four points adrift of league leaders, Real Madrid, and the Camp Nou outfit’s hopes of bringing home their 27th La Liga title is looking bleak, with just two matchdays remaining in the season.
The Blaugrana, who are also out of the Copa del Rey, still have a chance of winning the Champions League. Barcelona played out a 1-1 draw with Napoli in the first leg of their Round of 16 fixture in Italy before the COVID-19-enforced break.
However, owing to the club’s recent lacklustre performances, their chances of progressing in Europe’s premium club competition looks bleak.
Keeping in mind the weaknesses and downfall of Barcelona in recent years, here are three areas the Catalan giants need to strengthen next season to bring the glory days back to the Camp Nou.
#1 Improved transfer strategy
Barcelona have spent a whopping €767.2 million on transfers since 2017, hoping to improve the quality of the squad. Ousmane Dembele, Phillipe Coutinho and Antoine Griezmann became the highlights of the spending spree, with each amounting to over €100 million.
Despite having such big names on the team sheet, the impact of the trio has been nominal.
Moreover, selling the 23-year-old Arthur Melo for veteran Juventus midfielder, Miralem Pjanic has also raised a few eyebrows.
It is evident from the ageing squad that a fresh set of young players is the need of the hour. Going into the 2020-21 season, Barcelona need to administrate a new approach of signing players.
20-year-old Portuguese sensation, Francisco Trincao, along with Brazilian midfielder, Matheus Fernandes, are set to join the Catalan giants at the end of the present campaign. Both the young players will hopefully inject some much-needed pace into the team.
Barcelona are likely to dip into the transfer market again as they continue to search for Luis Suarez’s replacement. Inter Milan striker Lautaro Martinez has been heavily linked with a move to the Camp Nou, and the Argentine can be an ideal long-term successor of the 33-year-old Suarez.
Barcelona have also shown determination in bringing back Brazilian superstar Neymar at the end of the season. If the transfer indeed happens, the Paris Saint-Germain star could pick up the baton from Lionel Messi, who turned 33 this June.
If Barcelona are successful in their attempts in the transfer market, the moves could pay rich dividends not just next season, but for years to come.
#2 Change in tactics
Keeping aside the surprisingly wonderful performance in the 4-1 win over Villareal, Barcelona have failed to dominate games since the league’s restart, and much of it is down to Quique Setien’s strategy.
Barcelona have been renowned for their possession-based style of play, which has been pivotal to their success in previous campaigns.
However, the lack of runs and movements into the final-third has made the Catalans less potent in front of goal this season. Also, Setien’s plan of deploying a high backline, despite having an ageing defence, has exposed the team to fast counter-attacks time and again.
Moreover, Barcelona’s over-reliance on Lionel Messi, who leads both the goalscoring and assists charts, has cost the club dear. Setien should consider rotating the team often and introducing young and pacey players at both ends of the pitch.
#3 Defensive strength
An ageing and slow defence has significantly contributed to Barcelona’s downfall this season. Although they have a world-class goalkeeper in Marc-André ter Stegen, the Catalans have struggled to keep clean sheets, conceding 36 goals already in La Liga with two more games to go.
Barcelona have the worst defensive record among the top four clubs in the division.
Advanced positioning of the full-backs, along with Samuel Umtiti and Clement Lenglet’s lacklustre performances have often put added pressure on veteran defender Gerard Pique.
At times, Ter Stegen plays like a centre-back, completing an average of 35 successful passes per game. The pivotal problem arises while facing fast and counter-attacking teams, with the Barcelona defenders being very slow to react.
La Masia graduate Ronald Araújo has shown some promise, however, securing at least an agile centre-back for the ageing defence should remain Barcelona’s topmost priority going into the transfer market.