The Barcelona of this season are not that of the two previous ones, that much is certain after they have lost at Osasuna last night. Their dominance over the last couple of years was suffocating to the point where the competition lost all its excitement. Only the Clasicos delivered some spark, only albeit for the wrong reasons. Barceolna’s away form saw them drawing five and losing two out of eleven games, while they are unbeaten at home.
In an analysis for the guardian newspaper, Jonathan Wilson asked whether the team of Pep Guardiola has it in them to extend their successful run of three consecutive league titles to a possible fourth this season. Bringing the Hungarian football visionary and pioneer Bela Guttmann as an example of the three-year-rule, Wilson highlights that it is difficult if not impossible to maintain the high pressing game of theirs over a period of more than three years. This however, might be correct in thought but in practice it may be very difficult. For a start, Guttmann was a coach who appeared to leave clubs after three successful seasons or even earlier. His biggest triumph was the European Cup with Benfica Lisbon in 1961 and 1962, terminating Real Madrid’s hold on this competition which they have won five times between 1956 and 1960.
It is true that keeping the pressure on the opponent has to take its toll at one point and it seems to be this season. Xavi and Iniesta were out with minor injuries but their absence was telling immediately. Messi alone can’t do all the work on his own. On top of that, he has experienced a dip in form this year while his opponent at Real Madrid Cristiano Ronaldo is scoring goals en masse his season.
Whatever the cause for their lack of sharpness this season, they are still in the Champions League, where they are the holders. One might also consider that others may have caught up with them, simple as that. To suggest that Barcelona are in decline is premature, Wilson correctly points out but to read too much into their last defeat as L’Equipe have done, in their printed version on Sunday and online where they saw Barca being returned back to the carpet of normal life.
PSG Version GPS
The same paper once more delivered a report on the scientific approach of Carlo Ancelotti at Paris St. Germain in their Sunday edition. The paper on the one side speaks of a revolution when they describe the scientific approach of Ancelotti to everything in training. This contains a daily questionnaire to be completed by the players about their mental state, i.e. if they feel stressed or if they haven’t slept well etc. The performance of each player is monitored via Global Positioning System, GPS to elaborate their physical fitness and avoid fatigue and injuries. Yet, today they describe the performance of the team against a revived Nizza as they titled their match report ‘PSG in slow motion.’ This is the other side of the paper, where it appears that they write as football fans and as such they want to see direct results of such a technological approach to football.
Whether the new regime bears any fruit is open until the end of the season. For the time being they are top of the league, playing away at Dijon Wednesday in the Cup and host Montpellier, currently in second place on Sunday at Parc des Princes in what many already describe as the title decider.