If there is one player who has been the fulcrum of Barcelona’s 4-3-3 in the present times, it is Sergio Busquets.
The No.5 has been successfully evolved from a buffer between the backline and the midfield to a lone pivot who smartly pushes the game upfront.
He is now renowned as a deep-lying midfielder and the destroyer with the power to predict other players’ moves and extraordinary positional intelligence. His physical attributes, body positioning and turning ability provide a strong contribution in the high pressing game of the club.
The Spanish international not only elegantly cuts off opposition’s attacks, but also starts new ones for his teammates.
Possessing supreme short passing, the ability to win most of the headers and loose balls, and the talent to distribute the ball high up the pitch allows the midfielder to fit best the tiki-taka and possession style of FC Barcelona.
Hindered by tactical revamp
However, the Catalans’ deviation from their trademarked tiki-taka in recent times has diluted the role of midfield in controlling the game.
No doubt, the MSN trio is more dangerous than ever and the attack-minded fullbacks have been relatively dependable, however, the midfield is no more their main foundation of success ever since Luis Enrique introduced the more direct style of play.
The tactic of extra reliance on the front line (not just on Messi which was the case before) to build up an attack has mostly caused the Catalans to struggle in midfield pressing and possession, especially due to their incompetence to stand up to a more midfield-oriented opposition.
The diminished role of the midfield has undermined the power of Busquets, Barcelona’s most reliable midfielder with one of the highest football IQs, and who also possesses great potential to maintain both the solidity and fluidity of the midfield.
Although his injury woes have resulted in a dip of form for the Spaniard, the declining performance of Barcelona’s midfield as a whole had relatively suppressed him.
The tactical changes under Luis Enrique has allowed the midfielder to move up the pitch with the attacking mind, yet the passing dynamics of the team are more of direct play and counter-attacking in nature.
Henceforth, Busquets doesn’t build up much of the play in the midfield – the zone where his creative possession, passing, and pressing talents can be utilized at the best. This has resulted in the underperformance of Barcelona’s midfield, too.
The most recent examples are Barcelona’s 4-0 loss to PSG in the Champions League quarterfinals first leg, where the latter was outperformed in the midfield, and the 3-0 loss to Juventus in the semi-finals where the sole dependable midfielder, Busquets, was absent due to injury.
Let Busquets take control
The better way to deal with this is to bring the dominant midfield identity back to Barcelona with Busquets leading the midfield – fingers crossed for the next manager.
Put simply, just like a dominant midfield can be a foundation of Barcelona’s success at the European level, Busquets is a swivel of that midfield.
A Busquets-led midfield, when empowered again, will be a saviour not only attacking-wise and defensively, but also in the transition phase given the unique ability of the 28-year-old to read the game and respond quickly to break up transition attacks and restart the play.
Written by Farkhanda Jabeen
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