How Tata Martino Will Set Up Barcelona This Season

Samuel Marsden@@samuelmarsdenFeatured ColumnistJuly 29, 2013

In Oslo on Saturday evening, Gerardo Martino, having been presented to the press in Barcelona on Friday, maintained a watching brief as his new club dispatched Valerenga with considerable ease.

This week, the 50-year-old, nicknamed Tata, will begin his role as manager of the La Liga champions with friendlies against Lechia Gdansk and Santos.

It will presumably give the football world a first glimpse into the way Martino may shape Barcelona for the forthcoming season.

Like Josep Guardiola he shares the Marcelo Bielsa school of thought, having played for El Loco in the 90's, and it's speculated that those thoughts made him an obvious choice to allow evolution at Camp Nou.

Speaking at his unveiling, Martino suggested any changes would be subtle, via football-espana.net:

I will try to recover some of the things we have seen with this team, from the best side of Barca, as well as introduce some of our ideas, and look at the way they play.

The style? Well, obviously thinking about two things, the style of the club and of the players. I will try and confirm the way they want to work, the way they feel comfortable. I will try to introduce a few ideas of my own to help make the team more complete.

The basics will obviously remain the same. Possession will remain key, but South American football writer, Euan Marshall doesn't imagine it will revolve around keeping the ball at all costs. Instead, he expects "Barca to be more intense and direct under Martino." 

Supposedly pressing in the final third, which visually lessened under Tito Vilanova, will return, but the emphasis on attacks will strike more parallels with the Athletic Bilbao side which reached the Europa League final in 2012 than with any of the Barcelona sides over the past five years.

Reassuringly for fans of the Catalan club, The Guardian's Jonathan Wilson has written about how pragmatic Tata can be as a coach—as Paraguay manager particularly he demonstrated his ability to adapt to the players at his disposal.

Wilson says that he is "probably less idealistic than Van Gaal, Cruyff or Bielsa" and that although "Newell's did finally cut loose in the torneo final, it was only after securing the defense." 

Martino has little option but to try to improve a flagging Barcelona back line, presumably with the signing of a defender. He will not want to be in charge of a side beaten 7-0 over two legs in the Champions League and will have shoring up the back four at the top of his to-do-list.

The formula should remain similar though, with Barcelona unlikely to alter from their 4-3-3 shape which has become common ground at Camp Nou since Guardiola's appointment in 2008.

Optimizing the use of the ball with the foundations of a more solid defensive platform seems to be an early indication of how Martino may sculpt his Barca side; they'd become more assertive and quicker, which could bring Xavi's role into question as the season progresses.

Whatever Tata has in mind though, this week's friendlies will offer the first glimpse into what it might be.

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