Barcelona Continue Toward the Inevitable End of Their Cycle of Dominance

Guillem Balague@@GuillemBalagueFeatured ColumnistMarch 9, 2014

VALLADOLID, SPAIN - MARCH 08:  Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona reacts during the La Liga match between Real Valladolid CF and FC Barcelona at Estadio Nuevo Jose Zorillo on March 8, 2014 in Valladolid, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
Denis Doyle/Getty Images

It is funny how fans demand changes, instant changes, when a team loses a couple of games. But for Barcelona, who lost 1-0 at Real Valladolid on Saturday, many readers prefer to think that their defeats are not consequence of anything but just little accidents. 

But we are watching a team abandoning their essence, as I have said for a year or more.

They still have moments of good football, as they did against Manchester City in the Champions League. In fact, as Barcelona were approaching the Manchester City game, they probably played their best football of the season.

VALLADOLID, SPAIN - MARCH 08:  Lionel Messi (R) of FC Barcelona is tackled by Stefan Mitrovic of Valladolid CF during the La Liga match between Real Valladolid CF and FC Barcelona at estadio Nuevo Jose Zorillo on March 8, 2014 in Valladolid, Spain.  (Phot
Denis Doyle/Getty Images

But their best football was based on conservative possession. It was not the brave Barcelona; there was no high pressure, and there was still too much dependence on individuals. The Demichelis sending off and result allowed to hide other things.

Still, it was the best Barcelona of the season. Manchester City didn't take advantage of the situation, of a Barcelona that was weaker that it has been for years. City didn't keep the ball, didn't pressure high, didn't bite, and Barcelona just passed the ball around until Martin Demichelis' sending-off turned the game completely toward Barca.

When you say for a while that Barcelona are abandoning what made them great, the fans are the first to deny it, perhaps because they don't see it, or perhaps because they don't want to see it. Their judgment is based on results, and of course, Barcelona have been doing well with results, but you could see what's happening is—to borrow from Marquez—the chronicle of a death foretold.

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But it's quite clear to see that it's not all down to Tata Martino. There was the accusation that in the loss at Real Sociedad he changed too many things. But you can see now that it's not just down to that. It's down to a club that has no leadership.

At the top, there is a president who has not been selected. In the dressing room, there is a manager that has been losing the confidence of the players. And on the pitch, Carles Puyol, who was a leader, is disappearing little by little. Xavi is still a leader and so is Andres Iniesta, but they don't seem able to stop the rot. The team is not being coached properly, and the training sessions don't have the proper intensity - and every team plays as they train.

So basically what you have is a team in decline with good players that can still produce good results, but on big, I'm not sure they're ready to beat Real Madrid or Bayern Munich.

Israel L. Murillo/Associated Press

Of course, at the weekend, we saw the proof of that. It was the worst Barcelona performance people can remember since the last two years of the Rijkaard era, when basically people were walking on the pitch, and there was a lot of indiscipline and unprofessional behaviour. 

We're not seeing that now, but we are seeing a team that is not properly switched on. And doesn't rebel against their situation. There's not enough movement off the ball, not collective work.

"We lacked what makes us Barça—good elaboration in our build-up, finding spaces, breaking through on the wings and having depth," Martino told FCBarcelona.com after the loss to Valladolid. "But we didn’t lack attitude." I am not so sure.

At the end of 2013, Barcelona were top of the league, five points ahead of Real Madrid. Look where they are now.

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