As the half-time whistle blew at Alaves, the 45mins that had just preceeded it felt long and boring. It was Barcelona who had had a lion’s share of possession. The possession stat read 77% to Alaves’ paltry 23%.
Barcelona had the most goal attempts and won all the corners in the first half. And yet, it was the home side who looked the likelier to score. Alaves were on a 9-game winless streak in La Liga coming into this game. They sat dangerously in the relegation zone. Indeed, this was a team painfully going through a rough patch. And yet, Barcelona struggled to play any meaningful football, rarely posed any danger in attack and seemed generally blank.
Alaves, roared on by their avid fans, held Barcelona at arms length. These days, it’s been rather usual for even less formidable sides to hold Barca at bay. And here, after these lifeless 45mins, it was possible to comprehend the extent to which Barcelona have fallen away from grace.
This Barcelona, this very one, is no longer the team that once was the envy of the world. This Barcelona, this very one, is no more the team that once gave joy to many all over the world just by kicking a football around. This Barcelona, this very one … is, well, not quite as good as the team of a decade ago.
A Change Takes Time
Perhaps, it’s unfair to pit this current young team against the golden era side. Perhaps, it’s an injustice to demand that this current side tear apart opponents without breaking a sweat just like old times. Just like in the club’s heyday. Perhaps, too, all what is now unfolding before us is completely normal. Barcelona were once the standard. But now we are not. It’s a cycle, you know. What rises can surely fall. What is birthed can surely die.
And so in the last few years, managers have come and gone. Players have also come and gone. But still, Barcelona’s decline has been obvious, sharp and painful. We used to play in the Champions League around this time of the year. But now we will be playing in the Europa. We used to challenge for the league title. But now we are hoping to finish in the top four. Times, indeed, have changed.
A lot has changed with regards to this team. Now, Barcelona struggles to kill games. Now, Barcelona easily surrenders leads especially in the closing stages of games. The attack, for the most part, has a few bullets in them. The defense so often seems to collapse under the slightest assault. And so we have reached a point where we have more questions than answers.
More Questions Than Answers
Can Xavi be the man to resurrect Barcelona? Is Dembele’s agent truly working in his best interest. What do we do with Luuk de Jong? Are we better off without Pique, Busquets and Alba? Is it financially possible to secure the signature of Erling Haaland? Can Frenkie de Jong really succeed at Barcelona? Is Dest not good enough? Can we label Memphis Depay a fraud? Or, perhaps, it’s a tad harsh?
As the critical part of the season approaches, we are admittedly low on confidence than ever before. We didn’t compete in the final of the Spanish Super Cup. We have been knocked out of the Copa Del Rey. The league title seems a long shot. We may not win Europa or even go far in that competition. And so trophyless beckons, and we keep wondering if the sun will shine on us once more. Still, we are only in January, are we up for the challenge?