Barcelona: Why Signing Cesc Fabregas Has Been a Costly Mistake

Ratan PostwallaCorrespondent IISeptember 15, 2011

A £35 million mistake??
A £35 million mistake??Denis Doyle/Getty Images

When Barcelona signed Cesc Fabregas and Alexis Sanchez during the transfer window, the football world was in raptures.  Fantasy football on steroids - that was the global view.  

I must admit that I wasn't entirely convinced when I realized that this would be the end of Barcelona's summer spending.  On the one hand, the addition of the considerable attacking talents of both Fabregas and Sanchez to their existing array of superstars just blew my mind. Unbelievable strength in depth.  

But on the other hand, I wondered if a certain amount of arrogance was creeping into the club's mentality - we need not bother about defending, we'll just keep the ball and score more goals than our opponents.  

For a squad that did show defensive susceptibility last season, not strengthening their rearguard, especially in light of skipper Carles Puyol's recent injury record, seemed overconfident and foolhardy.

However, all concerns were put on the back burner as Barcelona overcame both Real Madrid and Porto to open the season with two "trophies."  And when, with a three-man defense comprised of Javier Mascherano, Sergio Busquets and Eric Abidal, they annihilated last season's fourth placed team, Villareal, I did feel a little silly for doubting Pep Guardiola's wisdom.

They enjoyed 74 percent possession in that game and had 18 shots, compared to Villareal's five. After watching that romp at the Camp Nou, I began to compose a piece called "How Barcelona have become defensively stronger by adding attacking depth."  Fortunately, a part of me remained skeptical and that piece never saw the light of day.

In the two games that followed the vanquishing of Villareal, Barcelona have continued to play with a somewhat makeshift back four, and conceded four goals.  This has cost them two points apiece in La Liga and the UEFA Champions League, and although it's way too early (and silly) to write a team like Barcelona off, I believe that Pep has erred.

If you look at the players he had before he bought Sanchez and Fabregas, you will see what I mean.  Up front, he had his starting three of Lionel Messi, Pedro and David Villa, backed up by Ibrahim Afellay and the misfiring Bojan Krkic.  Bojan needed to be replaced, and Sanchez was the man.  Fair enough.

In midfield, Pep had Busquets, Xavi and Andres Iniesta, with Seydou Keita, Javier Mascherano and the precocious talent of Thiago Alcantara on the bench.  It is indeed an embarrassment of riches when the captain of Argentina (as Mascherano was then) is the sixth choice at midfield.

And finally, in defense, there was Dani Alves, Puyol, Gerard Pique and Abidal, with Adriano and Maxwell (both left backs) as the only senior back-ups. 

So instead of buying a center half, Barcelona allowed their ego to rule their brains, and in order to bring back what was rightfully theirs, they bought an attacking midfielder in Cesc.

So what happens as a result?  The extra midfielders replace the injured defenders, and a makeshift Barca defense leaks goals like a sieve.  

In the game against Real Sociedad, Barca stormed to a 2-0 lead inside 11 minutes, only to see Sociedad level things up inside one crazy minute in the second half.  The first goal came off a header, and the second thanks to David Villa's suicidal back pass and Victor Valdes's indecisive 'keeping.

Against AC Milan in the Champions League, Barca were cut open inside 24 seconds (yes, seconds) by Alexandre Pato, who breezed past the almost invisible Busquets at center back to fire past Valdes.  And with time running out and Milan trailing 2-1, Thiago Silva rose above the patched-up Barca defense to fire his header into the net.

In previous seasons, Barcelona have been extremely lucky with the injury situation, but this year, lady luck seems to have deserted them.  In addition to all the defensive absentees, it now looks as if Iniesta and Sanchez will also be out for a while.

Luck is going against Barcelona.  And thanks to their folly in the transfer window, their results seem to be following suit.