Something quite inexplicable is going at Barça. It isn’t that the team has utterly gone bad overnight, nor the club in any form of footballing crisis. But things have not been quite the same after a promising start to the season. In truth, Barcelona have won games by the skin of their teeth in the last couple of weeks. And yet, even these victories have not come on a consistent basis. Collecting just four wins in the last eight games, while losing and drawing twice apiece, is the sort of stuff that mark a top team out as struggling. And for a club that aspires to win the biggest prizes on offer, failing to register more than two goals in each of the last eight games could possibly be a sign of trouble to come. The next fixtures will shape the rest of the season for Barça.
Where has all the October fun gone? What has halted this team from playing jaw-dropping football at supersonic pace. How come now comfortable 5-0 wins seem like a thing of the past? Where has the magic shoes of João Félix disappeared to? What is really going on with Robert Lewandowski? How can Xavi stem this drop-off in form?
Looking to get out of the ‘mess’
Naturally, when results are bad the finger is pointed at the manager initially. Xavi himself is the first to recognize that in the bad moments he will come in for heavy criticisms. And having once been a professional player plying his trade at this same mega-club, perhaps several years of experience and exposure has toughened his skin. Perhaps Xavi understands better than anyone what it means to be head coach of FC Barcelona. Unsurprisingly, the Barça coach has the unwavering support of the technical team. The board continues to keep faith with the 43-year-old. But patience in his methods could quickly evaporate if the decline persists.
During the post-match press conference with newsmen after the Alaves game, Xavi conceded younger members of the squad were affected by recent criticisms. He seemingly urged the media to tone down on the bashing. Further to this, he argued that once these young players don’t have to contend with criticisms, they will show their best level. And this, ladies and gentlemen, is the price one must pay for playing for the greatest club in world football. The heat will be felt when good results come in sparingly. On the other hand, when players consistently deliver, when great results pour in like rain in a bad monsoon weather, heroes will be briskly anointed.
There have been untimely injuries to key players. Certain players have had a dip in form. The team has been on the receiving end of poor refereeing decisions. But if the goal is to find excuses for the recent dramatic slump in form, then that would be a piece of cake. But the real objective here is to find solutions as quickly as possible. Poor form and bad results are inevitable. But the true mark of a great team is how it bounces back from adversity, how it’s capable of turning lemons to lemonade.
‘Make or Break’ time
The road ahead will be long. The days to come will be crucial. Upcoming fixtures against Porto, Atletico Madrid and Girona could either revive or turn up the heat on Barça. Fortunately for the Catalan club, all three games will be played at home. A win against Porto this Tuesday would virtually seal Barça’s qualification to the knockout stages of the Champions League and restore a bit of calm to the team. And this vital win may even spur the team on to overcome Atletico and Girona in games that promises to capture the imagination of neutrals around the world. But one more question remains. Can FC Barcelona really do it?