5 Areas in Which Barcelona Must Improve in 2013
Things couldn't be rosier for Barcelona right now.
They hold healthy lead at the top of La Liga, with an even bigger gap between them and Real Madrid.
AC Milan await in the knockout phases of the Champions League and Cordoba are 90 minutes away from exiting the Copa Del Rey at Camp Nou next week.
But despite all that, 2012 has demonstrated some frailties, chinks to the armor which some people had began to think could not possibly exist.
Let's have a look at where they can improve in 2013...
Tighten Up the Defence
A slightly varied, more direct style of play offered by Tito has its pros and cons. One con is that Barca will end up pressing less, higher up the pitch—this leads to more pressure on their defence.
Coupled with Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique's absences, this has led to more goals conceded. They have let in an average of 1.117 goals in the league this season, this compares with 0.76, 0.55, 0.63 and 0.92 in recent years.
The four goals conceded at Deportivo were uncharacteristic of the modern Barca, as were the two leaked at Mallorca and Sevilla. This minor problem will likely be addressed in 2013—with Pique and Puyol back, signs are already positive.
Victor Valdes Must Improve
Whether you are a Victor Valdes fan or not, you will be more than aware that he is prone to the occasional error.
At the beginning of the season, a high-profile mistake against Real Madrid gifted Los Blancos a route back into the Supercopa—Mourinho's side went on to win it on away goals.
A new keeper is not necessarily the way forward for La Blaugrana. Valdes is a homegrown player and has proved that he can play from the back. Let's hope 2013 can be the year he eradicates these minor errors from his game.
Get the Best out of Alexis Sanchez
If one player has improved under Tito Vilanova it has been Adriano. If one has slightly regressed, it would probably be Alexis Sanchez.
The first Chilean to play for the club signed from Udinese in 2011 and contributed 15 goals—including one in El Clasico—in his debut season, despite being plagued by short-term injuries.
At the halfway stage of the 2012/13 campaign, heading into the New Year, the 24-year-old has added just one more goal to last season's haul. Cules across the world will be hoping he can improve in 2013.
Kill Games off
Already this season, as mentioned previously, we have seen Barcelona let Deportivo, Mallorca and others back into games which seemed dead.
In seasons past, they have been much more ruthless. When they led by two goals you knew that was that. This season that hasn't strictly been the case.
Although they won those aforementioned games, Cules across the globe may be grateful for a bit more simplicity in their wins. It's doubtful that they're toying with the opposition is for entertainment purposes, so in 2013, Tito may be grateful for a bit less drama.
Turn Up for the Big Games
On the back of a 4-1 win over Atletico Madrid, this may seem a little harsh, but in 2012 there were moments when Barcelona became beatable.
Through luck or through judgement, both Real Madrid and Chelsea took their scalp in April as Barca's season crumbled before them. Again this year Madrid got the better of them—only via away goals—in the Supercopa and held them to a draw in the league at Camp Nou.
Celtic have already done the dirty on them this season, and La Blaugrana will need to find a bit more luck and variety to break down defensive teams when the business end of 2013 comes around.