Following Barcelona’s shambolic 1-1 draw to Real sociedad, we review how the media assessed a bitterly disappointing draw for Luis Enrique's side.
Barcelona arrived at Real Sociedad on Sunday night trailing La Liga leaders Real Madrid by seven points with the aim of ending their struggles on their visits to Anoeta stadium, having lost five out of their last six visits.
Luis Enrique made no changes to his own recent winning formula against Celtic in the midweek with Jordi Arba on the left wing and Gerald Pique continuing at centre back alongside Javier Macherano.
Real Sociedad dominated the goalless first half, in which Barcelona keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen made more passes than anyone and Barcelona’s first shot came with 40 minutes on the clock.
La Real took the lead in the second half, but after Lionel Messi equalized, the host was undeterred. Carlos Vela twice hit the woodwork and Juanmi had a goal disallowed for offside–when it looked like he was on. The two settled for a 1-1 draw.
The Catalans were very far from their blistering best,it had looked to be one of the those days for Barcelona with the host dominating proceedings.
GOAL'S JOE WRIGHT FELT LUIS ENRIQUE'S MEN WERE OUTFOUGHT AND NERVOUS WITH THE FRONT THREE ISOLATED:
Barca certainly looked like a side feeling the pressure of their poor run at Anoeta, with a sliced clearance from Pique and a subsequent mix-up between Mascherano and Ter Stegen underlining their nervousness early on.
Barca's front three looked completely isolated during a dismal first half for the visitors, during which they registered no shots on target, no crosses from open play and only 47 per cent of the possession.
CRITICISM WAS AIMED IN LUIS ENRIQUE'S DIRECTION, WITH BARCELONA MANAGER'S TEAM SELECTION, FORMATION, AND DEPLOYMENT OF CERTAIN PLAYERS IN UNSUITED ROLES HEAVILY QUESTIONED ON A DAY NOTHING WENT RIGHT FOR HIS SIDE.
SPORT 360'S ANDY WEST FOCUSED ON THE USE OF MESSI AND THE HIS INABILITY TO COPE IN THE NEW 4-2-2 FORMATION.
As always, much of the problems currently being experienced by Barca – and the potential solution – centre around Lionel Messi, who scored an excellent equaliser at the Anoeta on Sunday but was otherwise exceptionally quiet, touching the ball just 58 times – fewer than 11 other players on the pitch. Getting the best out of Messi has always been, and will continue to be, the greatest challenge for any Barca manager, and for a long time Enrique achieved exactly that by lining up the Argentine star on the right wing in a 4-3-3 formation, ending his occupation of a more central ‘false nine’role.
Although Messi has always had liberty to drift inside, his position on the right wing was fairly rigid during the heights of Enrique’s time in charge, the treble- winning climax to the 2014/15 season. Messi would form passing triangles with his right-back and right-sided midfielder, generally Dani Alves and Ivan Rakitic, probing for space in the opposition defence, and then cut infield to link up with Luis Suarez or arrow dangerous angled passes to Neymar and Jordi Alba on the left wing.
This approach often proved unstoppable, especially with Neymar, Alba and Andres Iniesta teaming up to do the same thing on the other side. If Barca’s right didn’t get you, their left would, and most opposition found it impossible to guard both sides while also keeping Suarez in check in the middle. Now, however, for some inexplicable reason, Barca have deviated from the 4-3-3 that served them so well and shifted to the 4-4-2 formation they employed on Sunday, with Messi and Suarez in the middle. It isn’t working at all, with a huge disconnect between the back eight and the front two meaning that Messi generally receives the ball in positions where he has few passing options. The 4-4-2 experiment should be scrapped. Barca had a system which was working perfectly for them – the 4-3-3 should be reintroduced immediately.
GULF TIMES CRITICIZED BARCELONA DEPENDENCE ON LIONEL MESSI FOR GOALS.
A year ago whilst Messi was sidelined for two months by knee ligament damage, Neymar and Suarez not only ensured Barca didn’t lose ground in the title race, but accelerated past Madrid at the top of the table. Twelve months on and Barca’s Messi-dependence has re-emerged with the Argentine scoring 10 of Barca’s last 14 goals. Suarez has scored just once in his last five outings, whilst Neymar hasn’t scored from open play in La Liga since September. Messi rescued Barca from a fifth consecutive defeat on their travels to San Sebastian, but Sunday’s draw was the first time Barca have dropped points in the league this season when the Argentine has completed 90 minutes.
Barca have failed to hit the heights of old, the gap between them and Madrid can also be explained by the differing challenges they have faced to date. The Catalans have already made tricky trips to Sevilla, Sociedad, Athletic Bilbao, Celta Vigo and, despite their current struggles, Valencia, as well as Atletico Madrid at home. Real’s 31-game unbeaten run will be put firmly to the test at the Camp Nou on Saturday.