5 Ways in Which Spain's World Cup Failure Will Benefit Barcelona
When Spain crashed out of the World Cup at the group stage, there can't have been too many experts, if any, who had predicted such a fall from grace.
Vicente Del Bosque and his players were looking to create history and become the first-ever side to win four consecutive tournaments.
However, just like reigning champions Italy in 2010, the Spaniards exited stage left in double-quick time.
Let's take a look at five reasons why the Catalans stand to benefit from Spain's failure.
Forces Consideration of Other Options
If Spain's failure showed us anything at all, it is that, however unpalatable the thought, Xavi Hernandez is no longer the player he was at the very top level.
The fulcrum of and conduit for both the national side and Barcelona, Xavi neither has the intensity to his game any longer nor does he have the ability to influence games.
Just five assists in 41 appearances in all competitions per WhoScored.com is a fairly accurate barometer as to just how far he has fallen. And for Del Bosque to not consider him after the debacle against Holland—well, that really does say it all.
What it does do, of course, is force Luis Enrique to consider other midfield options, to look forward rather than perhaps doing what Del Bosque was guilty of pre-tournament, and that was sticking with his tried-and-tested personnel, even though the signs of a decline have been there for a while now.
There are other players who can't escape that scrutiny either. Pedro Rodriguez and Jordi Alba hardly set the world alight in Brazil.
Food for thought.
When you have won absolutely everything there is to win at both club and international level, the focus needed to stay at the highest level is what pushes you on to greater deeds.
An appetite, will to win and desire to remain at the very top of the game.
Perhaps that was missing for the Barcelona players out in Brazil, with the possible exception of Andres Iniesta.
Even if you put the Holland defeat down to one of those days—a bit like the beating Barca suffered at the hands of Bayern Munich—the Spanish application during the game against Chile was non-existent.
Lucho will have each and every member of his squad on their toes come the start of the season and beyond.
Shape up or ship out.
Defensive Mistakes Brought into Sharper Focus
During the first match against Holland, Gerard Pique's weaknesses were exposed time and again.
Ball watching, lack of pace, positional sense and more.
Arjen Robben was chief beneficiary—just look at Pique in the lead-up to the Dutchman's first goal. Clueless.
Such lack of focus throughout the tournament only served to highlight the defensive deficiencies, and after a season full of similar mistakes, Pique will need to step up to the plate.
Jordi Alba's defensive credentials were also sorely tested and he too came up short.
If the Catalans really do want to put the disappointments of last season behind them, then a full and focused pre-season is a must, followed by continued performances of the highest level.
Perhaps a spell on the sidelines could be a timely reminder that no one is guaranteed a start.
Change of Style
For years now, Barca have tended to work from the 4-3-3 template.
No matter the opposition or their style, the Catalans have stuck rigidly to what they believe in. Until recently, Spain adopted the same policy most of the time.
Although Vicente Del Bosque's 4-2-3-1 formation at the World Cup didn't quite work, that was as much because Diego Costa wasn't fully fit than anything else.
What it showed was that the Marquis had come to accept that a different style needed to be utilised in order for the Spaniards to continue their domination going forward.
"Tiki taka" isn't dead, but Spain and Barcelona do need to think of alternative methods of winning games, because when the opposition have their pretty patterns worked out, neither seems to have that "Plan B" at the ready.
The biggest plus point of the lot.
Just one day short of three weeks' rest that Barcelona's Spanish contingent probably weren't banking on.
It's recuperation time that they have needed for a while now, a chance to fully recharge the batteries for the first time in three years.
Elite sportsmen they may be, but 50-60 club games per season plus up to 10-12 more international games if they go all the way in certain competitions (as they have recently) is bound to have an effect on physical fitness and match sharpness.
Come the start of the regular La Liga season, Barca should be raring to go and able to maintain a certain level throughout the entire campaign.