I haven't posted on here for what seems a very long time due to varying reasons but I've managed to watch our last few games, and on the whole several things surrounding the team seem to be glaringly obvious.
For a start, I'll state the obvious: we've been horrendous compared to the standards we've set in recent seasons. Off the top of my head, the results in the league against Sociedad, Getafe, and Osasuna were embarrassing. Letting go of a two-goal lead against Sociedad, then letting Getafe score with their only shot on target in 90 minutes, then getting absolutely mauled by Osasuna? Unacceptable for a squad of this calibre. The away form this season, for some reason or another, has completely deserted us. The Chelsea match, last week, however, was a painful one to take. To absolutely dominate them in terms of possession and create so many chances, and still come away with a 1-0 defeat, would have been incomprehendable if we'd had certain players from the past few years in the squad this year. After watching that match, I already knew what the outcome of Saturday's match would be.
Yes, I do realise that fatigue has played a crucial factor in jaded performances being so abundant this season. It's understandable given the fact this squad of players have essentially been going non-stop through Euro 2008, Confederations Cup 2009, WC 2010, and then the (IMO, pointless) tour last summer. However, given the budget that was dished out at the start of the season to Pep, to only bring in Cesc and Alexis is criminal. Granted, the camaraderie that has been created in such a small squad has contributed significantly to our recent success but what has it cost us this season? There have been times when we have looked utterly devoid of ideas, other times we have looked amateurish in our attempts to defend. As much as I idolise Carles Puyol, what in God's name was he doing for Khedira's goal on Saturday?
The over-reliance on youth may seem like a romantic and unique concept to some but the rate at which Cuenca and Tello have been deployed this season, I believe to be detrimental. Bojan was blooded in young and effectively dropped in at the deep end, and look how he turned out. I have no doubt that Cuenca and Tello will go on to become great footballer, perhaps not with Barca, but the pressure being placed on them at the moment is far, far too much for my liking. Some may disagree, and I do understand that we have little option but to play them. However, spunking €50m+ on two players who have been either injured half the season or drastically out form (1 goal in the last 20 games for Cesc), then that's where I have a problem.
We miss Villa. At times I was critical of him due to not really hitting the same sort of goal tallies as his Valencia days. Being played out wide doesn't help this, but in saying that he plays that position for the Spanish NT without any problem. His general link up play, his movement (despite being offside several times each match, it seemed) is world class. His finishing was always there in the big games - Manita, and CL final being the standouts for me.
We miss Afellay. Yeah, a bit part player last year but his confidence in the games against Madrid was soaring. Changing the game in the second leg of the SF last season will live long in my memory. He also cost €3m, which is an utter bargain.
We miss Abidal. I had my doubts that this may have been his last season, anyway, but I imagine the tumour saga caught the squad off guard and hit a lot of them mentally. On the pitch, he was an absolute rock but I sadly fear we've saw the last of him in the blaugrana. Adriano is nowhere near an adequate enough replacement but at least he gives it 100%.
We miss Piqué of old, when he resembled Beckenbauer and defenders of that vintage. Now, he seems to self-involved in Shakira, or making the headlines as the popstar's boyfriend as someone else on here put it. I still maintain his vision, passing, tactical awareness and general all-round play could see him be one of the greatest of all time but he's drastically off form and needs a serious reality check.
Most of all, we miss a centre-forward, a natural finisher. Bojan, for all of his faults and his severe confidence crisis, at least was a natural finisher. Eto'o's conversion rate probably wasn't the best in the world but he was an absolute goal machine. The over-reliance on Messi this season is staggering and in order to compete I genuinely believe we need 3 natural finishers here. We're 2/3 of the way there, once Villa returns.
I know I'm ranting on a bit here, but I'll finish with this: I think if we don't make the Champions League final it'll be the end of the Guardiola era. Personally I would love to see him stay for a lot longer and try and bring through the next generation (Delofelu, Dougou, etc.) and win more CL, but he's like a caged animal. Let's just focus on bringing in the CL and CdR, then we can discuss the future in greater depth.
Visca el Barça.