Last season Barcelona’s defensive form was a talking point for a sizeable amount of period. The players at the back had been rock solid consistently throughout the campaign. So much so, that the team’s defence record was 2nd best in the league conceding 29 goals in 38 matches, only behind Atletico Madrid’s tally of 22 goals.
This season once again the Barcelona’s defence has come under the spotlight, but this time, for all the wrong reasons. They have conceded 18 goals in 12 matches and the back line is delivering completely dull performances. Such abysmal have they fared that they currently have the 5th worst defensive record in the league.
There are many reasons for this egregiously poor defensive form of FC Barcelona. Gerard Pique will be the protagonist, if a video of Barcelona’s defensive errors this season is compiled. The 31 year old had started the season on the wrong foot after coming from the world cup. He has committed schoolboy howlers in the defence and let many goals through. A large section of the fans have been upset because of his performances. His pace has been low, he’s failed to mark opponents properly has been caught napping on several occasions. Many say his lack of focus in the game can be attributed to the number of new things he’s been getting involved in off the pitch. He’s been involving in tennis and new businesses lately which has caused him to lose concentration in his expertise i.e football. Besides these, the ageing has also taken a toll on his abilities and it seems that the Spaniard doesn’t have many years left in his career.
Another obvious reason for Barca’s defensive problems is Samuel Umtiti’s absence due to injury. The World Cup winner did not seemed to be delivering his best on the field after the tournament and soon after a few matches, he picked up an injury which has taken a lot of time to recover. His long absence also compelled the Barcelona board to explore new options in the market for his position. But he has returned in the train just a few days back and seems to be ready to face Atletico after the international break is over.
Sergi Roberto has been found exposed on multiple occasions and was culpable for one of the goals conceded against Betis. The La Masia graduate who had been converted into a right back during the Luis Enrique days is still been serving the same role since those days. He sacrificed his favored position (of a midfielder) to help the team in the way coach wanted. But it has to be understood that he is still a convert and not a natural right back, hence Semedo, the Portuguese right back signed last season, needs to be handed chances to play in that position.
Besides the above mentioned reasons, another major reason is the squad depth. Lucas Digne, Yerry Mina and Aliex Vidal, all three have been offloaded and no other defender except Lenglet has been signed. Lack of options to choose from, has forced Valverde to play the only available defenders in every match.
While Jordi Alba has been excellent and Lenglet has also done pretty well, the right side of the defence is the one which is been paralyzed and found guilty for most goals that are conceded. The frailties in the right side have also eclipsed Ter Stegen’s brilliance between the sticks. Despite having one of the top 3 goalkeepers in the world, the men right in front of him have done little to help him find clean sheets.
Barca were ripped apart by Quique Setien’s Real Betis in the last match where they lost 4-3 at Camp Nou. Even Lionel Messi’s brace and Arturo Vidal’s goal were not enough to bail them out. The last time Barca conceded 4 goals at home was in April 2003 (vs Deportivo). This defeat was telling and it should open Valverde’s eyes, stimulating him to fix the defensive problems.