FC Barcelona: Is Their Reign in Europe Sustainable?
With Barcelona's recent capture of the La Liga crown and the Champions League trophy, it seems they are now the undisputed kings of both Spain and Europe. Their form as of late has been nothing less than spectacular, and the manner in which these feats were accomplished have been sublime.
Barcelona's immaculate form has been in effect for three years now, with rivals wincing at the mere thought of facing them. This season has marked their third straight La Liga title and their second Champions League trophy in three years. At the moment, it seems Barcelona is unstoppable.
All the evidence as of late seems to assert that claim, and there has been a clear scramble to attempt to topple the reigning kings of Europe. The sun is shining brightly on the east coast of Spain as this trend seems likely to continue.
However, as all ardent fans know, football is cyclical, and what goes up must come down. The modern game is especially fast-paced, and three years has become a lengthy reside at the summit. Barcelona's perch atop world football is likely to receive a staunch challenge from unforgiving foes.
The question is whether Barcelona can weather that storm.
There is no question that the Barcelona squad is currently at their peak. Many of the players that served under Rikjaard have since matured and flourished under the new system. The benefit of both experience and time has served the squad well.
Is Barcelona's dominance sustainable?
However, just as time has smiled at Barcelona, it is indeed elusive and will begin to cast a dark shadow on what is now an aging squad. Key figures such as Xavi, Puyol and Abidal are now in the twilight of their respective careers, with Villa, Iniesta and Alves nearing their 30s as well.
Football is ever changing, and part of the reason why it is so difficult to remain supreme, is because rivals are more active than ever. The transfer season is currently buzzing with activity with each of Barcelona's rivals attempting to strengthen their squads.
The evolution of rivals is a constant threat and is a reminder that Barcelona can be usurped at any given moment. Rivals like Real Madrid and Manchester United could viably close the gap currently evident between these sides.
Barcelona is likely to counter such threats with some strengthening of their own. The imminent signing of Alexis Sanchez, and possible signings of Rossi and Fabregas seem likely options. However, the current iteration of the Barcelona squad thrives largely because of its seamless chemistry.
While new players might indeed be necessary, the system is by no means broken. Tampering with it could only alter the chemistry that currently teeters in the balance. New players would result in the possibility of a rift at Barcelona.
Such a rift may already be transpiring itself with the recent departure of Bojan, and the alleged offering of Jeffren to Udinese.
This restructuring also leads to another disconcerting point. That is that Guardiola has become increasingly hesitant in deploying emerging youngsters at the Camp Nou. In the past season, the same starting 11 has been used for the majority of the games, which has made it difficult for promising stars such as Bojan, Jeffren and Thiago to enter the fray.
Such a policy has not been evident in Barcelona in the past and signals a shift in the trust once lended to youth players. This could lead to the stifling of young talent and the eventual decline of a Barcelona squad that previously relied on its youth team.
The evidence is mounting, and it seems Barcelona may just be dethroned. Their aging squad, coupled with their refusal to trust young talent, spells a bad omen for a team that finds itself at the pinnacle of world football. Three years has become a lengthy period at the top, and the evolution of its rivals might just overwhelm Barcelona. This bout of dominance may prove itself ephemeral, in which case we will all fondly remember the team of the Tiki-Taka.
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