Do Barcelona Need a True Centre-Forward Rather Than a 'False Nine'?

Jason Pettigrove@@jaypetti1971Contributor IJune 12, 2014

Fernando Llorente would be an ideal centre-forward for Barcelona.
Fernando Llorente would be an ideal centre-forward for Barcelona.Massimo Pinca/Associated Press

Barcelona have done very well over the last few years by employing what has become known as the "false nine" role, perhaps because their main exponent in the position has been Lionel Messi.

Both Cesc Fabregas and Neymar have been tried in that role, but neither appeared to have the potency and consistency required to make their tenure there a success.

As B/R's own Sam Tighe detailed, the role of the false nine is a complex one:

If the man who takes the reins from deeper in the formation isn't a world-class prodigy, you're likely to have some trouble.

He needs the full skill set: dribbling, passing, speed, centre of gravity, finishing (close- and long-range), awareness and quickness.

Against the best teams, as Atletico Madrid proved time and again during the last campaign, the tactic doesn't always succeed.

If Messi is in the role but is marked out of the game, then much of Barcelona's intensity in attack is extinguished. Moribund.

Only Lionel Messi plays the "false nine" role with any great success.
Only Lionel Messi plays the "false nine" role with any great success.Alberto Saiz/Associated Press

The argument for there to be a mobile but more robust centre-forward at Camp Nou is therefore an interesting proposition.

Such a move is potentially a real game-changer as far as Barcelona are concerned and whilst it might not please the purists, with the right player in-situ there's little doubt it would work as an alternative tactic.

Fernando Llorente has enjoyed a great season at Juventus after a slow start and would be ideally suited to such a role. An added benefit of already knowing La Liga makes him an attractive purchase.

Per Adam Gray of Outside of the Boot, Luis Enrique is known to utilise the 4-2-3-1 system as much as a fluid 4-3-3, so in order for the former to work effectively, the purchase of a "target man" becomes a necessity.

It would allow Barca to be a threat from corners and free-kicks, and also give them much more variety when going forward.

How many times last season would Barca have scored or at least come close to doing so if there had been someone on the end of Dani Alves' balls into the box. In the Granada game alone there were 42 crosses, of which only 10 found their target, per Squawka.

Despite the way in which Zlatan Ibrahimovich's Barcelona cameo ended, that experiment was not without its merits.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic played his part in a successful season.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic played his part in a successful season.Denis Doyle/Getty Images

The reasons for why his season petered out are well known, but the fact remains that he still scored 16 goals in 30 games. That's a fine return, and the way in which his goals in the early part of the season were scored proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Barcelona can play with that type of striker if they need to.

The balancing act for Luis Enrique is to keep the style for which Barca are synonymous, whilst changing up to a more direct and vertical system as play allows.

Football doesn't always have to be pretty, but it does have to be effective.