For most teams, reaching a cup final would be seen as a pretty good season, but for Spanish giant Barcelona, it is not even close to enough. After squeaking past PSG in the Champions League Round of 16 they were soundly beaten by Juventus in the Quarter Final and finished a disappointing second, three points behind their great rivals Real Madrid in La Liga.
Coach Luis Enrique announced earlier that this season would be his last and many fans are hoping for even more changes than a new coach. Barcelona have to play catch up now, with that in mind we came up with three things Barcelona need to do to climb back to the summit of the European and Spanish game.
Invest in the defence
Barcelona have missed Dani Alves at right-back this term and continue to look for a centre-back to fill the shoes of Carlos Puyol. Too often in recent years, they have relied on the goalscoring ability of the MSN trio to make up for a leaky defence.
With Arsenal out of the Champions League next season, it could make sense for Barcelona to try and bring Hector Bellerin back to the Nou Camp. The 22-year-old spent eight years at Barcelona’s academy and is now one of the best young right-backs in the world. In the middle of defence, they should consider Tottenham’s Toby Alderweireld who has been sensational over the last two seasons and is stalling on a new contract at Spurs, according to The Times.
Use La Masia
When thinking about the Barcelona team under Pep Guardiola, one of the prime reasons behind their success was the number of players coming through the youth system.
In their 2009 Champions League final win, an astounding seven players had come from Barcelona’s youth academy.
On the other hand, in their defeat to Juventus this season it was just four with only one of those players having come into the fray since the 2009 win, Sergi Roberto. Barcelona need to reinject their side with youth, and they have a selection of excellent players already at the club to do that.
Sergi Samper has seen some first-team playing time but continues to be used sporadically, and with Sergio Busquets struggling to recapture his best form, Samper can fill his role and give Busquets a rest.
Lee Seung-Woo, the South Korean winger, lit up the U-20 World Cup this week with a goal against Argentina and if given sporadic playing time, could help to lift the load on Neymar. Finally, Carles Alena has long been seen as an heir to Iniesta, and with the ageing midfield maestro no longer playing every game, Alena can help rejuvenate Barcelona’s midfield.
Allow Valverde to make unpopular decisions
It seems almost definite that Ernesto Valverde will replace Luis Enrique at Barcelona and the former Athletic Bilbao coach needs to be given the space to reshape Barcelona in his image. Having played for Barcelona under Johan Cruyff, Valverde knows how Barcelona should play and has a great record of getting teams into defensive shape.
This might mean he has to phase out players like Iniesta and Mascherano which while unpopular could be necessary. He has to be given the trust of the board and the support of the fans if he is to take Barcelona back to the summit.