Was it all that bad, Barcelona?
At first glance FC Barcelona had a miserable 2016/2017 season. But when one zooms in and takes a closer look at the statistics, was it all that bad? Are Barcelona fans so spoilt that finishing second in the La Liga, just three points adrift from Champions Real Madrid constitutes a “forgettable” season?
In the 2015/2016 season Barcelona were crowned champions after a 76% win rate, losing just five out of 38.
In the season that recently concluded, a 73% win rate was not enough for Luis Enrique’s men to stop Real Madrid from winning a title that has escaped them since 2012.
It’s understandable that, for a club of such a high calibre, a club that wins everything on offer more often than not, a season of ups and downs and puerile mistakes such as losing to Alaves in September 2016, may seem like it’s the end of the world, but it’s not.
In this “mediocre” season Barcelona managed a historic 6-1 comeback in the round of 16 second-leg after losing 4-0 to Paris St Germain in the first leg. Possibly the finest game of football, ever seen. A second miraculous comeback was nothing but wishful thinking after Barcelona lost 3-0 to Juventus in a defensive master class by the Italian side in the first leg of the quarterfinals. The second leg was a daunting task for the Spanish giants, with missed chances and just one shot on target. Just as in the league, Barcelona assisted in paving an easy road to Champions League glory for 12thtime winners Real Madrid who have been nothing short of amazing.
The 6-1 victory against PSG in the Champions League and the 2-3 El Clasico win in the second half of the season should give Barcelona supporters some hope, understanding that you cannot simply rule out a team with the best attacking force in the world, because of bad technical staff decisions, injuries and losing just four games in an entire season.
The key difference between Real Madrid and Barcelona was on the bench. The players bought by Luis Enrique did not match the standards of the Barcelona we all know. They did not even attempt to match the powerful forward combination of Messi, Neymar and Suarez. Samuel Umtiti, André Gomes, Lucas Digne, and Paco Alcácer were the new names bought in but only Umtiti had a season worth noting. With Andres Iniesta on the business end of his football career, Arda Turan, Ivan Rakitic and Gomes were not good enough.
It is said every season and this past one was no different: Barcelona need to strengthen at the back and it’s of utmost importance that this happen in the next transfer season. Jeremy Mathieu, Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano have not been at their best.Umtiti and Digne will need to step up but reinforcement and inspiration is unquestionably needed.
Ernesto Valverde comes in as Enrique’s replacement to appease the tough, very demanding fans. He’s already boldly stated that he wants to “win everything”. Key to the start of his tenure will be his signings. A name that has been dominating the rumour mill is Philippe Coutinho. That acquisition will be a fantastic way to start, especially if he enjoys the luxury of being monitored by Iniesta before the mid-field maestro leaves the club or retires.
Arsenal full-back Hector Bellerin is also rumoured to be an interest for the Catalans. It would be a move in the right direction because we cannot escape the face that changes need to be made if a repeat of the 2016/2017 season is to be avoided. Certainly, a new manager, the determination to correct the mishaps of a “mediocre” season, squad reinforcement and the pressure from the fastidious fans means we could be up for another season of very a competitive Spanish La Liga and UEFA Champions League.