Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Barcelona need to evolve, not completely change

Barcelona take on Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey final today, and it's a coin toss over who wins the trophy. But win or lose, it's probably about time for some changes at the Catalan club. It's time for them to tweak their style, but perhaps with new players rather than a complete ideology overhaul.

The success of the Pep Guardiola era seems a long time ago. They are out of the Champions League, sit 4 points behind Atletico Madrid with 5 games left in La Liga and are still reeling from the Neymar tax scandel and 14 month transfer ban on players under 18.

But let's ignore the off the field issues and look at the team, and where they need to improve if they are going to challenge teams like Real Madrid and Bayern Munich for domestic and European honors.

Victor Valdes is done. It's a sad end to a great career with Barca, but there has always been a feeling that they could have improved in that area. Valdes is a very good 'keeper, but he's not in the top 5 in the world - he's barely in the top 5 Spanish goalies with Casillas, De Gea and Reina all arguably ahead of him. Who do they need? Maybe Thibaut Courtais from Atletico, but his parent club Chelsea are unlikely to let that happen. Or David De Gea from Manchester United - that could happen with United out of next year's Champions League.

Carlos Puyol is also retiring, and Javier Mascherano is just not a center-back.  Marc Bantra is decent, but not the man to help Gerard Pique lead that back 4 yet. Vincent Kompany is the man, but Manchester City won't sell him. Maybe Mats Hummels from Borussia Dortmund would make sense, but they probably need two defenders unless they can convert Sergio Busquets into a defender. Jordi Alba is quality, but Dani Alves is pushing on a little, so a full-back is needed too.

In midfield, Xavi, Iniesta, Fabregas and Busquets are all top players, but maybe a box-to-box type guy with a little more dynamism is needed - they probably don't regret selling Yaya Toure, but they'd love to have him back.

Barca need to cash in on players like Alex Song and Alexis Sanchez in order to strengthen in other areas. They produce a load of top quality youngsters, but players like Cristian Tello and Gerard Deulofeu need to establish themselves in the first team soon, or risk becoming bench players.

Tello has slipped down the pecking order after Neymar's arrival
I'm not going to mention Lionel Messi or Neymar. The team will be built around those two for the next 5 years - and they could beat most teams (especially in La Liga) on their own. But Barca do need to build again or risk falling behind. Maybe another striker like Roberto Soldado would give them another option up front - and Spurs would probably let him go after a miserable first season in England.

Barca need to change. The tika taka style is not dead, it just needs to evolve in order for them to compete for every trophy (which they expect to do) - maybe with a new coach, but definitely with 3-4 new additions.