Barcelona's New Year Resolutions
Barcelona’s 2018 was bittersweet. La Liga and Copa Del Rey trophies celebrated their domestic dominance. Substandard performances in the Champions League knock-out stage suggested the need to rethink their method and structure.
The Blaugrana's struggles in 2018/19 still yield better results than the Madrid powerhouses. The Catalans look good value for back-to-back league titles. They are an unassailable force in other competitions as well.
The New Year brings new ambitions to the Nou Camp. Here are four resolutions the club should try to fulfil.
Barcelona conceded 19 times in the season's first half, a high figure according to their standards. The Blaugrana are streets ahead when it comes to goals scored but at the very top level, the ‘you score four, we score five’ mentality just won’t cut it.
Everyone around the club stressed their aim is to win another Champions League title. Their leaky defence won’t cut it in the competition's latter stages. The backline desperately misses Samuel Umtiti. Signing Jeison Murillo on loan from Valencia is a step in the right direction. The Colombian provides much-needed reinforcement but more needs doing.
Better Squad Rotation
Cules remember what happened in last season's late stages. When April arrived, Barcelona faced a stern test, playing a match every three days. Valverde was criticized for using his core players extensively, even in dead rubber games. Crucial difference makers like Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba and Ivan Rakitic ran out of gas when it mattered most. In the away defeat to Roma, half the team were dead on their feet. The toll for Valverde not trusting his reserves was a Champions League exit.
Valverde must learn from his error. This season, Valverde has used Rakitic in almost every game. Busquets has played a fair share. The squad’s depth allows the manager to provide key players with adequate rest, especially those in their early thirties.
Promoting from La Masia
When Pep Guardiola took over Barcelona, he promoted eight La Masia graduates to the first team. Thiago and Sergio Busquets were the notable names. Pep also shaped other graduates, such as Lionel Messi. Barca became a club that not only bought world-class talent but produced it on a regular basis.
Sadly, the recent years haven’t been so bright for the youngsters. Barcelona is becoming just another club buying top players. Despite stiff competition in the first team, some bright talents have made a mark in the current squad. From Carles Alena to Riqui Puig to Juan Miranda all proved their mettle when called upon. Giving wunderkinds chances is vital to affirming the club's ideology isn’t fading and La Masia can still produce players like Messi, Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta and Busquets.
Barcelona’s last UEFA Champions League triumph came in 2015. Since then, they have been far from their best in Europe’s elite competition. Being kicked out of the tournament in the quarterfinals repeatedly is bitter in itself for fans. Real Madrid winning it for three straight years is even harder to digest.
Inevitably, the big-eared trophy is Barcelona’s main aim. It’s a need of the hour rather than a season ambition. Valverde's squad can challenge for the trophy. The question is can they click at the right time? Beating Lyon is the first step towards the trophy they covet most.