Gerardo Martino Proves Barcelona Learning Curve Remains Steep Process

Paul WilkesFeatured ColumnistApril 7, 2014

FC Barcelona's coach Gerardo Tata Martino, from Argentina, attends a news conference at the Sports Center FC Barcelona Joan Gamper in San Joan Despi, Spain, Tuesday, March 11, 2014. . FC Barcelona will play against Manchester City in a last sixteen Champions League soccer match on Wednesday March 12. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
Manu Fernandez

Results are going the right way for Barcelona at present, even if some of the performances are below par. All the talk of style and philosophy becomes a little less relevant when entering the title run-in.

It's all about winning, and if there are defeats then that will be the opportunity for the voices of discontent. Manager Gerardo Martino drew similar conclusions in a press conference: "If we win, we will have had a good season and if we lose, no," per Football Espana.

Martino arrived in Catalonia with a reputation for wanting to play the same brand of football, but with an outsider's take on the process. This seemed to make sense, as too much of a change wouldn't work and the team appeared to need slight variations in their play.

We have seen him learn lessons about his team's approach, formations, personnel and the local media. Overall, he has found Spain a different proposition from Argentina and, more importantly, Barcelona a new world from Newell's Old Boys.

Unsurprisingly, as the face of the football club, he will get asked about the complex situations that continue to unfold. It's important that he remembers that the politics and off-field complications they have faced in recent weeks are beyond his remit. Per Football Espana:

It's a lot easier for the players to just think about football because that's our job. The club's authorities have spoken about the problem. I don't want to get caught up in negative thoughts before next season.

It's unclear whether he will be in charge at the top next term, though all this must be having an impact on his final decision come May. "We accept the problems as part of daily life at Barca. It isn't a different panoramic than what we'd had all year," the coach insists.

Luckily for Martino, most of the accusations thrown at Barcelona happened before his time at the Camp Nou, which makes it relatively easy to fend off questions on the subject.

His focus is to control events during games and on the training pitch. "For a side that has 12 games ahead and the possibility of securing three titles, it is important to not alter the course the marked objectives," added Martino.

At one of Europe's top sides like Barcelona, the games arrive quickly, the preparation is less and so too is the recovery time for players.

Former Liverpool defender and Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher said one of the reasons Andy Carroll failed to adapt to the Anfield side was because: "He found the intensity of playing three games every week difficult," via the Daily Mail.

Martino is lucky that the majority of his squad has done this over their entire careers, but there are some who will still be adapting. The manager has a responsibility to manage the fitness demands of his players.

"Perhaps I got it wrong with the rotations," Martino told the press after they beat Real Betis 3-1 on the weekend, via Football Espana. "Looking back over what happened, maybe I could have rested a few of the players who were involved in the Atletico game."

Hindsight is wonderful thing, though there is a sense that he is prioritising Europe's premier competition. "Wednesday’s [Champions League second leg] is decisive. When you have two extremely important games in such a short space of time, what’s left in the middle doesn’t seem so decisive."

It's a confusing admission. If that's the case, then why not rest some of the midfielders? Does he only trust a select number of players?

This was a match against the league's bottom club at home. Martino will be hoping that his lack of rotation doesn't come back to haunt him on Wednesday evening at the Vicente Calderon.