Connect in the back of the net

As a general rule, we are used to things improving with time and advancement.

Take the fields of technology and online gaming, for example, which our continuing to evolve and make our lives easier over time.

From the everyday capabilities of smartphones to being able to access the most popular slot sites rated by bestcasino.org.uk, we are used to the passing of time bring exciting new trends and developments.

The same cannot be said for the world of football, however, where the relentless passage of time can have a devastating impact on our favourite teams and players.

We may well have witnessed this first hand in Paris earlier this week, as a great and often omnipotent Barcelona side were ruthlessly thrashed by PSG in the Champions League second round.

 

A Defeat That Has Been Coming, but is it the End of the Line for Barca?

Great sides can lose, of course, while on rare occasions they can even endure the type of defeat handed out by an inspired PSG outfit at the Parc des Princes.

It was the manner of Barca’s display that was striking, however, from the inept and disorganised nature of the defending to the lacklustre midfield and a misfiring attack.

Not only this, but critics will argue that this defeat has been coming for some time.

The Catalan giants, usually renowned for their fluid and outstanding attacking play, have struggled to impose themselves in the final third all season, exposing a fragile and underperforming back-line against better sides.

This has left Barcelona well off the pace in La Liga (where rivals Real Madrid hold a one point lead and two games in hand), and while they have defeated Atletico to reach the Copa Del Rey final they were largely outplayed and out-ran during the two legs.

These failings came to a head on a cold night in Paris, as Barca were outplayed in every single aspect of the game.

Perhaps the most worrying aspect of the match was the extent to which PSG overran their illustrious opponents, with the French side covering 112.1km in total as opposed to just 104km by the Catalans.

This is a stark difference, and one that suggests that Barca’s collective failings and an underlying lack of motivation is beginning to overcome their undoubted individual talent.

This is something that has happened to a number of great teams throughout the ages, from Manchester United’s 1968 European Cup winning side (which was relegated from the top flight just five years later) to the Liverpool outfit of the late 1980s.

While these continued to boast a wealth of individual talent even as performances began to decline, the teams themselves had become stagnant and unable to cope with better-prepared, improved and more energetic rivals.

If this is the case, the current Barca generation may have reached the end of the line and the club may face the unthinkable task of breaking up a truly great selection of individuals.

 

Will the Players or Enrique Pay the Price?

Barring a miracle in the second leg or a sustained improvement in La Liga, the most that Barca can hope for this season is to retain the Copa Del Rey.

This will not be enough to disguise the failings that have presented themselves throughout the season (and particularly in Paris), however, with either the squad or manager Luis Enrique likely to take the fall.

While both are likely to suffer, we should expect Enrique to pay the initial price for Barca’s relative struggles.

After all, despite winning eight trophies and a treble since taking over in 2014, he has failed to convince the majority of fans who believe that he is tactically limited and unable to adapting his shape or style to suit the situation.

This was evident against PSG, where Enrique didn’t even use all of his substitutions despite the nature of the performance and the result.

Some will even claim that Enrique has even abandoned the possession-based style that is inherent to the club’s DNA, often by-passing midfield in order to feed the attacking talents of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar.

Barca should not fool themselves that Enrique is solely to blame for the debacle in Paris, however, particularly as the team dynamic becomes stale and players like Andreas Iniesta continue to suffer at the hands of time.

In fact, breaking up the current team and injecting some fresh blood and ideas may be the only way forward for Barca, who have reached a sudden nadir that they must recover from.

 

Written by Lewis Humphries

Follow Lewis on Twitter @LewisRHumphries

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