In the end, the result was Barcelona 2 – Ajax 0, Messi broke another record, and everyone was happy. That’s what happened this week at the Amsterdam Arena when Barca faced Ajax in the UEFA Champions League on match day 4.
Barcelona was trying to forget that miserable week: the week that saw them lose to their biggest rival, Real Madrid, and fail to score against Celta. These two upsets raise more questions about Barcelona’s style and Luis Enrique’s direction.
The match with Ajax was a game of two halves, and the first half tells you everything that is wrong with this Barcelona team: less creativity on the final third and over-reliance on the magic of Lionel Messi.
If you have been following Barca this season, then you have noticed a few things that need to be fixed. One aspect you can’t miss is the fact that the Barcelona midfield is not linking well with forwards, and there is a lack of creativity in that area. When that midfield creativity is missing, Messi is forced to drop deep and create something on his own. It must be very frustrating for Messi to have to do this all the time to get the ball.
At this time we thought we would see Rakitić making huge progress and taking over the important role that Xavi always plays, but this has proved difficult, and it looks like Barcelona needs Xavi now more than eve. The problem is, how many games can Xavi play at his age? Rakitić is not at the same level as Xavi, and he plays more safe balls rather than trying to penetrate and open up the opponent’s defense. Iniesta is injured after every few games, and I doubt he will be able to return to his high level of play again.
I think the introduction of Sergi Samper, Denis Suárez, or Alen Halilović will help shape the future of that midfield again. All three of them are talented young players. Denis Suárez is doing very well at Sevilla, and he is in their starting line up constantly. Sergi Samper is another wonderfully gifted player who knows all about Barcelona and how they play. Halilovic has talent and skills, it’s just a matter of time before we see his contribution on bigger stage. These youngsters need to start getting used to the Barcelona first team, Luis Enrique needs to start giving them a few minutes of play here and there so that they can understand firsthand the creative roles that Xavi and Iniesta have been playing.
It’s about time that we start to accept that the era of Xavi and Iniesta is over, and that Barcelona now needs to start introducing new kids for the future. There will be no escaping that, and the more Luis Enrique waits, the more painful it will be for blaugrana fans.