Gerardo “Tata” Martino has been on trial in the past week for his suspected change on F.C. Barcelona’s style of play. The result of the game was positive, Barcelona defeated Rayo 4-0 to keep their undefeated streak alive, but the critics were only focused on the ball possession percentage, which was the only thing that Barcelona had lost.
Since the year 2008, when Pep Guardiola was the coach, F.C. Barcelona had never lost a game on possession percentage; this called for judgment and criticism from the journalists and the fans. “Last season we averaged 66 percent possession and this season it’s 65.8 percent, so we have changed our style by 0.2 percent,” said Martino as he responded the style changing accusations.
Keeping the basics
Barcelona hired Martino at the beginning of the season to replace Tito Villanova, who was discharged due to the deterioration of his health. Martino has had great performances with his previous teams, winning several international titles and even taking Paraguayan’s national team to the quarterfinals in the 2010 world cup in South Africa, a record mark for the country’s soccer team.
With those antecedents, Martino style of play was more than fit to fulfill Barcelona’s. Martino has been on a close watch by journalists and fans because he had never coached in Europe until now. Barcelona has won every game in the Liga BBVA as well as internationally, which calls for close scrutiny by the critics as they leave no room for error.
The game play that Barcelona has been showing since Martino arrived hasn’t changed visually, but it has tactically. The long pass has been incorporated to the style of play, although still in work, it has proved somewhat successful in some occasions. Alexis Sanchez and Neymar, together with Pedro and Messi, are now having their sprinting abilities tested to the fullest, especially Sanchez, who was once known to be one of the fastest players in the game. The tactical awareness and the vision of Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta is now used to the maximum, and this will be needed to take the game play to the next level.
The past Saturday, Barcelona managed to score 4 goals against a weak Rayo. Pedro scored a surprising, but yet deserving, hat-trick and Fabregas finished the game with a last goal. Surprisingly, Messi was not able to put his name up in the scoreboard, but he did indeed play a fascinating game as the creator.
Barcelona and Martino will be looked upon with a microscope all season, but as long as the team keeps growing and the game play improving, the results will be positive and they will eventually be victorious.