FC Barcelona's Defence: What's Wrong With It? Can It Be Revived?
Throughout the history of FC Barcelona, beautiful, one-touch, attacking football has been part of the culture, earning them adoration and plaudits from across the world.
The likes of Cruyff, Laudrup, Maradona, Romario, Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho, to name a few, have cemented the attacking philosophy that is almost second nature to the Catalans.
However, in the midst of all this, one part of Barcelona has trailed behind in terms of effectiveness and reliability—defence.
The 2008/2009 season has been no different, with the soft underbelly of arguably the best attacking club in the world once again exposed.
So why do Barcelona seem to concede so many?
The quality and form of a keeper in a team like Barcelona must be consistently good.
Victor Valdes, the man who stands in between the Barca sticks, has been under the microscope for a long time.
Though he has improved in recent years, his handling and positioning are still not on par with the reputation of a club like Barca.
With just two clean sheets since the turn of the year, how questionable is his performance and consistency?
Barca's Brazilian full back has been in scintillating form this season, providing no fewer than 13 assists, most of which have come from his pin-point crosses.
Unfortunately, no part of Barcelona's backline has been as impressive in fulfilling their defensive duties as Dani Alves has been going forward.
Alves' running helps the team score more goals, but, unfortunately, when Barcelona lose possession in the final third, the defence are vulnerable to counter-attacks.
Without a doubt, Barca has one of the most vertically challenged squads in world football. The only players who are 6 feet tall or over are the three keepers, Gerard Pique, Aliaksandr Hleb, and Yaya Toure.
In almost all instances, you will never find more than three of these guys on the pitch at the same time.
When Barca face corners, this lack of height causes them serious problems.
Freekicks cause yet more concern. The wall is flimsy and experienced dead ball specialists like Barkero (Numancia) and Juninho (Lyon) can take advantage of that.
Injuries, Rotations and Suspensions
Barcelona have been hampered by too many injuries and suspensions to important figures at the back.
When Dani Alves is suspended or being rested, Barcelona use a center-back (Puyol or Carceres) as his replacement on the flank, which has not been successful.
When the defensive minded full-back Eric Abidal is injured, Sylvinho usually fills that gap.
Sylvinho, like his Brazilian counterpart Alves, enjoys his forays forward increasing the vulnerability on counters, as two attacking full-backs leave gaps aplenty for the opposition to exploit.
What Can Be Done For The Remainder Of The Season?
With Victor Valdes in goal, el cules (Barcelona supporters) might have to accept that, at some random time, things might go wrong.
Players like Valdes need excessive motivation to do well, which is why the least Barca can do for him in the middle of the season is to stand by the guy.
Trying to conjure a less aggressive approach from Alves is almost like trying to convince a shark to live in a lake (even if the lake is salty). Although it lives in water, hunting instincts are in its blood and the lake is just not a big enough area.
On top of that, Alves has become an irreplaceable component, so in that regard, Barca have to live with it.
It is clear that Barca are vulnerable at set-pieces, so this is where their ruthless attack is pivotal.
Barcelona usually score way more goals than they let in (117 scored and 41 conceded this season alone, a 2.85:1 ratio).
As long as they keep scoring until the end of the season, conceding (especially from dead-ball situations) won't be as bad.
Sergio Asenjo, the young and vibrant Valladolid shot-stopper, is expected to move this summer, and one of the biggest favours Barcelona can do for themselves is to get his signature.
As I said earlier, Valdes needs strong motivation. What better way than bringing in someone who is younger and more talented than he is?
The option of bringing in Philipp Lahm to strengthen the left side of the defence does not seem to be the solution to any problem.
First of all, he is shorter than all the members of Barca's defence and it will not provide any more resilience when defending corners and freekicks.
Secondly, he is as attacking as Alves, leaving the centre backs vulnerable. That's why Abidal, with his height and discipline, is still a very good option.
Barcelona's defensive problems cannot be resolved right now, maybe not in the next two seasons, maybe not ever.
Every club has its strengths, and for Barca, their prowess is in attacking opponents, which is why they score so many.
Would the world want to watch a Barcelona with great defending prowess at the expense of of their majestic passing and attacking football?
The reason Barcelona has the greatest fanbase in Europe is due to the quality it shows in attack and possession.
But the question in many fans minds is: "With their shocking defense, can Barcelona cope against European teams and win the UEFA Champions league?"
Well, How did they do it three seasons ago?
Barcelona has many quality and talented defenders (Dani Alves, Carceres, Pique, Puyol, Milito, Marquez), what are they doing wrong? What do you think Barca can do to remedy this vulnerability in defense?
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