Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Catalyst For A Radical Change: Barcelona Season Review And Expectations From The Upcoming Campaign

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Pratyay Maitra
A sports enthusiast in his mid-twenties who reads, breathes, as well as dreams (mostly) about football and attempts to share his views with the fanatics by jotting it down. Prefers to learn through extensive interaction, communication and exploration. So don't be in a quandary and SHOOT.

The Catalan giants had back to back triumphant and prosperous campaigns under Luis Enrique until this year when they witnessed a massive downfall in both La Liga and UEFA Champions League competitions as they failed to clinch either of them and only managed to retain the Copa del Rey trophy following a 3-1 win over minnows Alaves and won the Supercopa defeating Sevilla by 5-0 aggregate in a two-legged outing. Luis Enrique has stepped down as team manager upon expiration of his contract and former Barcelona forward Ernesto Valverde has been appointed as the new Barca boss following his impressive spell with Athletic Bilbao.

Barcelona Players Who Impressed This Season
Blaugrana have world’s best attackers and their front trio of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar Jr. did not disappoint. They scored 116 goals in 2016–17 La Liga campaign, ten more than champions Real Madrid.
Players Who Disappointed The Most
A few top performers struggled during this campaign and left back Jordi Alba tops the list. He lost his place in the squad for a few fixtures and has thrown a dig at former boss Luis Enrique following his quitting. Sergio Busquets, the midfield pillar, also struggled to sustain consistency. Javier Mascherano, the veteran Argentine, too failed to retain his first team stature in his supposedly conclusive campaign for the Catalans. However, the biggest disappointment has been Portugal’s Euro star Andre Gomes who made a €35 million (plus €20 million in add-ons) move from Valencia. The midfielder failed big time to settle in and had a dreadful campaign for the Spanish giants.
Season Status
Barcelona were supposed to reconquer the UEFA Champion League glory from league rivals, Real Madrid. But they not only failed to achieve that following a quarter-final exit against Juventus but also lost their La Liga dominance to Zinedine Zidane’s Los Blancos who reclaimed the title for the first time since 2012. They dropped points against the likes of Deportivo La Coruna, Malaga, Alaves and Real Betis which eventually shattered their title aspirations. Although their season touched its peak following a dramatic 6-1 return leg victory against PSG after a 4-0 defeat in the first leg fixture of Champions League Round of 16 encounter, the Catalans were knocked out by Juventus in the following round and only managed to clinch a couple of domestic cup titles  in form of Supercopa and Copa del Rey – the tournaments that do not reflect success for a team of Barcelona’s stature.
Areas of Improvement
Defence is still a major concern for Barcelona and the new boss Ernesto Valverde must rebuild his back-line in order to compete among the very bests in Europe’s most elite competition. Samuel Umtiti has been a decent inclusion, but they need proper reinforcements in fullback roles. Also, a defensive midfielder should be considered by the new gaffer who not only will win things in the middle of the park, but also own qualities of playing with the ball and construct counter attacks from a deeper midfield role.
Expectations from 2016–17 Season
Pressure will be on Valverde whose season goals will be to restore the league glory as well as reconquering the Champions League title. The Spaniard is known for his playing with the ball strategy with a little more directness, much similar to Barcelona’s signature. He will inject his manoeuvre in pre-season and the team needs to fine-tune quickly in order to achieve greater glory under the new manager.
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