Should Barcelona Consider the Double Pivot as an Alternative Tactical Variation?

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Should Barcelona Consider the Double Pivot as an Alternative Tactical Variation?
David Ramos/Getty Images
Playing Sergio Busquets and Javier Mascherano as a double pivot could be Luis Enrique's first masterstroke.

Barcelona have undergone significant and extensive regeneration over this summer period, with Luis Enrique really putting his stamp on the squad.

After a season full of disappointment, much is expected of the manager and his staff, and the coming months will show us if the group has learned any lessons from the 12 months spent under Tata Martino.

It's long been contended that Barca need a plan B to switch to if their natural passing and pressing game isn't producing the requisite results.

 

Lalo R. Villar/Associated Press
Luis Enrique needs to get his ideas across quickly and effectively.

Martino himself enjoyed some success at the beginning of his tenure, although his variant was of the long ball variety.

While Gerard Pique initially expressed his support per Gazzetta Dello Sport (via ClubCall), it was clear that such an ideal was at complete odds with the "Barca way," and the success of the same as a tool to unlock defences didn't really last long.

David Ramos/Getty Images
Tata Martino's "plan B" never really worked to any great extent.

Where Lucho must succeed is introducing new ways of playing that don't betray the Barca ideal, but that are also capable of neutralising the threat of teams that either "park the bus" or play with the same high-tempo game for which Barca have become renowned.

Although he was well below par at the World Cup along with many of his team-mates, Sergio Busquets has been the defensive-midfield anchor on which Barca have built their recent successes.

Denis Doyle/Getty Images
Mascherano has been utilised in defence alongside Gerard Pique.

His excellence in the role has demoted Javier Mascherano into a central-defensive pairing with Pique.

"Masche" has often struggled at the back, more so because of a lack of aerial presence, but in light of a quite appalling club policy to not buy a true centre-back for the last few seasons, the Argentinian and the club have had to make do and mend.

At the World Cup in Brazil, restored to his rightful position, we saw the very best of Mascherano. In many experts' eyes, including Oliver Holt of the Daily Mirror and The Telegraph's Henry Winter, he was the player of the tournament.

On his day, he is a more than able fit in the defensive midfield role and is certainly capable of challenging Busquets' ownership of the same.

But why chop and change? Surely looking at the double pivot now as another tactical option for further consideration is worthwhile?

Is it time for Barcelona to trial the double pivot?

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It would require the Catalans to move away from their comfort blanket, of course. The 4-3-3 that has served them well for decades would have to make way for a 4-2-3-1, for example.

Perhaps a 3-4-2-1 is more likely, with the two wide men of the four—let's say Ivan Rakitic and Andres Iniesta—shuttling relentlessly along the channels with a view to supplementing Barca's new front three.

While the transition to such a formation isn't beyond the realms of possibility, employing the double pivot would be quite a radical departure for the Catalans.

Not so at national level, where Spain have used Busquets and Xabi Alonso as a pair for years now. Enrique only needs to look at that template during La Roja's recent glory years to have some idea of what is required in order for the formation to gel effectively.

Gero Breloer/Associated Press/Associated Press
Sergio Busquets has played the double pivot with Xabi Alonso at national-team level.

Mascherano has more wanderlust than Busquets, so you might imagine that the latter's role stays much the same. It would be the Argentinian who aligns the three cherries to hit the jackpot of showing the Camp Nou faithful what he really is about after all this time.

Forward-thinking in almost every other way as an organisation, you wonder why Barca haven't trialled a double pivot to any great extent before now.

Yes, there will be other changes that would need to be made in order to accommodate such a scenario, but is that a good enough reason not to do it?

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