F.C. Barcelona’s most recent loss against Athletic Bilbao has generated questions, Gerardo Martino has yet to find the team’s personality without Messi, and the lack of a strong central defender is now a serious issue.
At the beginning of the season Martino was unknown to Europe, now he has managed to gain the respect of many by putting Barcelona at the top of La Liga, but the questions still remain, What is Barcelona’s playing style? Was Martino able to adapt to the European way of play?
Martino has created a playing style that has amazed many in South America, but this didn’t happen overnight, Barcelona is one of the best teams in the world and people expect immediate results. When Martino was hired, his goal wasn’t to keep Barcelona’s successful style of play, but to integrate his own. At this point of the season, Barcelona is not quite ready to compete for the top spots of European competitions, they do have some of the best players in the world, but it looks like they are just beginning to adapt to what Martino wants from them. This group of players has the potential to achieve great things, even greater things than before, but they just need time, trust and reinforcement in their abilities.
The injury list does not help Barcelona, not only the best player in the world is out, but crucial players in the starting line-up as well. Some players are in the right age to maintain a high competitive level, but there are some players who are closer to the exit door, such as Puyol. The historic defender has become a symbol in Barcelona, his competitive spirit and his leadership trait are to be made an example of, but in the last year his career has been plagued with injuries and he has lost his competitive form.
With that in mind, Barcelona has to start looking for a new defender, someone who can adapt quick, who can act on offense as well as on defense, and who can lead and organize the defense when facing a counter attack. Barcelona cannot afford to wait for a player to come back into shape after a year, the team needs to act quick in order to start building the section of the team around the player. Martino has the potential to take Barcelona to next level but he can’t do it in half season. Guardiola didn’t make Barcelona the best team in the world from one day to another, and neither will Martino.