Barcelona are in freefall. One of Europe’s most celebrated and decorated clubs, who have enjoyed such dominance in the Spanish and European game over the last 15 years or so, seem to have hit a new low. Sitting ninth in the La Liga table at the time of writing, having lost four matches already this season, Ronald Koeman’s side have failed to deliver any kind of consistent performances, and are facing a real challenge to make the 2020-21 season a successful one.
To compound their league sorrows, a recent 3-0 humiliation at the hands of Juventus and Cristiano Ronaldo at the Camp Nou saw them finish second in their Champions League group, ensuring the possibility of facing one of Europe’s most fearsome sides in the last 16. Where Barcelona were once a shoe-in when it came to football betting, they are now looking like a very risky pick.
“We weren’t aggressive,” said Koeman after the Juventus defeat. “It looked as if we’d come out looking not to lose, as opposed to trying to control the game. We weren’t good, not even positionally. We looked scared.”
That last line is a damning indictment on his own side by the Dutchman. To think of Barcelona, the great Barcelona, as being “scared” of anyone would previously have been laughable, but to watch them is to see a group of players that look utterly bereft of confidence, and complete misunderstanding as to what each player’s role is within the team.
It would seem as though time is ticking for Koeman at the club, given that they already sit 12 points adrift of La Liga leaders Atlético Madrid, having lost to both Madrid sides already this season, including a painful 3-1 defeat in El Clásico at the Camp Nou back in October. Further defeats against Getafe and Cádiz, sides you would expect Barcelona to sweep aside, have given Koeman plenty of headaches as he seeks to find a way to reverse this slump.
Of course, it had always looked as though this was going to be a difficult season for Barcelona, given what went on in the summer. When Lionel Messi handed in a transfer request, it was the natural result of a tumultuous period for the club, with many pointing the finger at former club president Josep Bartimeu, who eventually resigned in light of Messi’s desire to leave. The Argentine opted to stay for the 2020-21 season, due to the fact that he didn’t want to become embroiled in legal proceedings over exit clauses in his contract, but there have already been reports that, come the summer of 2021, Messi will indeed be on his way.
A turning point was arguably the club’s embarrassing 8-2 defeat at the hands of Bayern Munich in last season’s Champions League quarter-finals. For a club of Barcelona’s stature to endure such a humbling clearly inflicted a lot of pain on the players and supporters alike, and any manager coming in was destined to have their work cut out to bring success back to the Camp Nou. As of yet, Koeman has failed disastrously to do so.
It’s a sorry situation at a club whose passionate fanbase deserves so much better. It seems as though a rebuilding project is needed at the club, something Koeman has already tried to action with the departure of Luis Suárez in the summer, but it feels as though the problems at Barcelona go deeper than just the players and coaching staff. With the fact that Barcelona have enjoyed such dominance and lofty success in modern times, it’s heart-wrenching to see the club on its knees as it is currently.