They’re only two points behind Real Madrid at the top of La Liga, but it is difficult to escape the feeling that things are crumbling at Barcelona.
From reports that the squad want nothing to do with Quique Setien, to the complete disappearance of any nerve when they go behind, to this weird Arthur-Miralem Pjanic swap deal that appears to be more designed to satisfy the accountants than the team, things aren’t looking great.
A couple of their big problems were made clear in the 2-2 draw (which could easily have been a defeat) with Celta Vigo at the weekend, as Alvaro Romeo explained on the brand new European edition of the Totally Football Show .
“The game doesn’t look good for many reasons. 1) Because Barcelona lost an advantage they had, but more importantly 2) during the ‘cooling’ [drinks] break in the second-half, the managers have a chance to give instructions to the players, and Quique Setien’s assistant Eder Sarabia went to Leo Messi to tell him a couple of things, but Messi completely ignored him. The cameras caught that, and that doesn’t look good for Barcelona.
“After the game there was a very strong discussion between the coaching staff and the players, and you could see that started during the game, in the cooling break.”
So is Setien going to stay? Can he stay?
“Setien will find it very difficult to stay, even though he has a contract until 2022. The players don’t seem to support him. When Suarez was asked after the Celta game about the pitiful form away from home, he said “that’s something you should ask the manager.” There is clearly a palpable discord between Setien and the players, and I don’t think this is going to end well.”
Of course, the problems are not confined to the team or even their relationship with the manager.
“I think one of the main problems at Barcelona is their board are trying to make decisions to please Messi without talking to him. They are trying to make up what Messi would like, which is why they tried to bring Neymar back, why they kept players like Mascherano, Luis Suarez, or perhaps Pinto the former second goalkeeper, for longer than they perhaps should have.
“Somebody at Barcelona has to make big decisions. The squad is quite old, and the big players haven’t had any incoming players who can challenge the established core. They haven’t signed a player to challenge Pique, Messi, Busquets or Suarez in the last four or five years. This is the problem. The players have a lot of power.
“Quique Setien probably wasn’t wanted as a manager and hasn’t been convincing so far. He hasn’t persuaded the players that he is the right manager to steer the ship in the right direction.
“They have huge intolerance to adversity in games, as you saw at Anfield [in the Champions League last season], and in many other games. If something goes wrong, they don’t win the game, and it’s very difficult to win the league like this.
“If I was a Barcelona supporter, I would be more worried about next season than this season.”
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