5 Ways Luis Enrique Can Improve Barcelona
Barcelona's hire of Luis Enrique has hopefully heralded a new dawn at the Catalan club after an uninspiring and disappointing season under Tata Martino.
Lucho will be expected to hit the ground running and bring the style and panache back to Barca's play, whilst still getting points on the board.
Silverware of some description will surely be a prerequisite of his tenure, so changes need to be made and weaknesses addressed.
Here are five ways that the new man can improve Barca and bring the glory days back to Camp Nou...
More Verticality in Play
There's little doubt that Barcelona are amongst the best, if not the best, at playing some truly beautiful football.
Artistic and poetic, at its very best it is mesmeric to watch. Pop, pop, pop. Balls pinged around at a rate of knots.
However, quite often those pretty little triangles don't go anywhere other than horizontally across the pitch. Circulation and retention of possession is great, but there needs to be an end product to justify the means.
Luis Enrique has to introduce quick transitions into Barca's style and get them playing with sharpness and much more verticality.
Sharper Training Sessions
One of the first things that Lucho can change is the intensity in training.
Pep Guardiola was a firm believer in training as you play, and the results on the pitch spoke for themselves.
Training was intensive but interesting and enjoyable. Something that was sorely missing throughout Tata Martino's tenure.
Sky Sports' Guillem Balague noted last season:
There is a lack of leadership on the bench, on the pitch and at the club so they are trying to find their feet, and what we are seeing is a team that is far too relaxed - they are a side without intensity and with few demands tactically and physically.
The players have been rotated but do not find themselves sharp and all that points to the methodology and training during the week.
Players must be sharp, fully focused and challenged on a daily basis, and changing their training regime should therefore be one of the first areas under the microscope.
Ivan De La Pena also noted via Ben Hayward of Goal.com:
He is a coach who pushes you a lot; he is very demanding. He's an extremely meticulous coach in terms of planning. He leaves nothing to chance and gives special attention to physical conditioning, but also other vital elements.
He loves to study the individual development of the players to see how they can give more as the weeks go by.
Exactly what Barca need.
A Combative, Competitve and Nasty Streak
There's absolutely nothing wrong with showing an aggressive streak now and again on the football pitch.
Some teams positively thrive on it.
Just ask Diego Simeone, whose Atletico Madrid squad is all about the physical side as much as the beautiful game. Used in the right manner, it's a hell of a tool to have at your disposal.
Not bullying teams per se, but putting a marker down and letting your opponents know who's boss.
Luis Enrique never shirked his responsibilities in this regard, so you can expect he will demand the same of his players.
Defending the High Ball into the Box
Barca's Achilles' heel of failure to deal with the high ball is a strange one.
It hasn't mattered how tall or how good in the air the Blaugrana's defenders have been over the last few seasons, the problems have remained.
The issue appears to lie in not attacking the ball when it is received into the danger areas. Many times during last season we saw Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano just staring at each other, rather than taking all before them and clearing the ball.
A perfect example of the problem can be found from the final day of the La Liga season. As Diego Godin goes up for this header, don't track him—watch the numerous defenders that surround him.
Not anywhere close to being good enough at this level, so the purchase of a much-needed central defensive powerhouse will hopefully go some way to eradicating these schoolboy errors.
Variety in Formations
For too long Barcelona have stuck rigidly to the 4-3-3 that has become a hallmark of their play.
It generally serves them well, but as more and more teams are proving, there are ways to combat it.
With the addition of some new faces and perhaps a target man up front to change the focus of play, then there isn't any reason why, dependant on the opposition, Luis Enrique can't employ a 4-2-3-1, a 4-1-4-1 or even a 3-5-2 formation.
If Guardiola's style is still considered the benchmark for others to aspire to, then take a look at his tactical variations during his first season as Bayern Munich manager.
The Blaugrana still have the players that are intelligent enough to cope with such switches, so why not utilise them.