opinions | 2016-09-14
Excessive rotations proved to be the main issue vs Alavés
A bad day at the Camp Nou begun with a lineup with many backup players and led to our first defeat of the season
After a long and productive summer of great transfers, the time had come for Luis Enrique to make his rotations game play a key part in the season for the first time, and after the dreaded international break, commonly known in Spain as the FIFA Virus. One of the reasons Barcelona missed out on the Champions League and almost lost the league last season was undoubtedly the lack of squad depth with no suitable players to substitute and give rest to the main players in lesser matches.
Let's just say the beginning of the rotations didn't turn out as well as we had expected. We lacked a bit of fortune in front of the goal? Perhaps, but having Mathieu making the most shots on goal when you had Neymar, Messi, Suárez and Alcácer was telling. The main mistake of the debacle vs Alavés were the exaggerated rotation choices made by Luis Enrique, many of the players on pitch hadn't played a single match together, the lineup was the first with a single La Masia starter since the embarrassing Champions League semifinals defeat to Real Madrid at the Camp Nou back in 2002, and the red flag was risen even before the kick-off.
Alavés opted to try Málaga's successful 5-4-1 at the Camp Nou, one that yielded a win back in the 2014/2015, and the gamble paid off by facing a disgruntled Barça side without any chemistry or balance. Arda Turan started on the right wing and even with the best of his efforts, it's not a position he's comfortable. We all expected a better debut, but the new target man Alcácer was ineffective because he was constantly outnumbered 3-1 against the opponent's centre backs and barely saw any of the ball, a problem that Suárez suffered in his first months at Barça.
If that wasn't enough, Neymar was back after over three months away between vacations and international competitions for Brazil, much was expected of him after a successful Olympics and clear signs of optimism under the guidance of the new manager Tite for his country, and even though he tried his best to get on the ball and create, he was always one dribble too much and losing the ball frequently.
On the midfield, Rakitic played on the midfield aimlessly without having to cover for Messi and the now gone Dani Alves; Denis Suárez looked out of depth after a good month of August, and is still deeper into the adaptation phase; and our key cog Busquets continues to be off form for his club as he was for Spain during the Euros and it's clear he's not a player you can depend to run around the pitch like Kante, but a more tactically refined footballer that was overrun by Alavés due to lack of support from his fellow midfielders and defense.
Finally, the defense looked as bad as it was in the first months last season, Aleix Vidal looked out of depth as he's been since he started at the club and is likely to have ended his chances of making at the club before things even started; Mascherano had one of his worst matches in a blaugrana shirt, shaky at the back, caught slacking off and doomed us to the worst home defeat since the one vs Hércules exactly six years ago; Digne couldn't do much going forward due to Arda drifting onto the left and occupying the space he was meant to be. His first half was rather mediocre for the first time in the club colors, even if he did get some crosses right as we're already getting used to.
Mathieu stood out as the one that let us down the least, made a few usual poor decisions at the back with reckless tackles and poor passing, but still wasn't the one to blame for the goals, and surprisingly going forward, was the man that made the most shots on target (3) and scored our only goal, even if he did miss a clear chance later. As for our new Dutchman, Cillessen can't take the blame for an unfortunate debut, the match outcome wasn't in his hands.
We were surprised that Lucho made so many changes, especially the omission of Sergi Roberto and Piqué from the match day squad. It is still early in the season and Barcelona are allowed to make mistakes. The club continues to be the outright favorites to win the Champions League at 4.00 and La Liga at 1.83, the page has been turned vs Celtic, Luis Enrique will learn from and we won't be getting too complacent against La Liga's minnows.
Anything wrong? Send your correction.
WRITTEN BY: Rafael Hernández
A die hard Barcelona fan since the Joan Gaspart years, Rafael has seen the best and worst of his club. One of the Grup 14 founders, currently overlooking and coordinating the group's strategy. Rafael’s also a football journalist and entrepreneur.
WRITTEN BY: Sulaiman
Sulaiman is a Barcelona fan since 2005. He loves discussing anything related to the club. Sulaiman is currently studying Accounting and Finance and has a keen interest in Statistics.
WRITTEN BY: Andreas Drevsfeldt
Andreas is a geek by heart. He’s studying to become a Physiotherapist and dreaming about working for a football club one day.