F.C Barcelona lost the La Liga title on the 17th of July with a horrendous display against Osasuna. The worst part was that they surrendered the title to their rivals, Real Madrid by seven points.
It has been a tough season for the Blaugrana team. They were also knocked out of the Copa Del Rey by Athletic Club and couldn’t reach the final for the first time in eleven years, and many speculate that Barca could go trophyless this season. However, we’re focusing on Laliga for now. Here are the 4 key reasons why F.C Barcelona lost the La Liga title to Real Madrid.
Barcelona Players And The Squad Depth:
It is no secret that this infamous board has made very questionable and shady decisions and has treated F.C Barcelona less like a football club and more like a business. That and the poor management have both contributed to this Laliga campaign being a failure.
The squad list against Deportivo Alaves indicates that rather perfectly.
With Pique, Umtiti, Griezzmann and Dembele out injured (thanks to the incompetent medical staff), some of the players like Alena, Todibo and Carles Perez out on loan and the Barca B Team off to the playoffs, there were only 16 players in the squad list. Three of them were goalkeepers. Only three substitutions could be made unless Setien played Ter Stegan in midfield.
That barely scratches the surface of how reduced the squad depth has been throughout the season. Things turned so desperate in February that Barcelona had to sign Martin Braithwaite as an emergency signing for 17 million.
In my opinion, this Barcelona squad is the most mediocre in years. Suarez can still score, but he has little to no pace, he can’t press, he can’t dribble, and his ball control has been abysmal this season. His link-up play has also been disappointing.
Rakitic is like a shadow of his former self. Vidal is inconsistent. Griezmann has shown glimpses, but he hasn’t found his place yet. Busquets has been fantastic under Setien, but he is mistake-prone. Messi hasn’t had his best season despite still producing unique numbers. Pique can still produce stellar performances, but he has also been inconsistent this season, accumulating the most Yellow Cards compared to other seasons throughout his career. Alba also hasn’t been at his best(and that’s an understatement).
The overall squad is old with the average lineup age rising to 30.1 three times this Laliga season. That squad is mostly made up of players that are past their prime and have little hunger for winning. An old team can never cover a lot of ground; it can never press high up and can never push throughout the whole ninety minutes. Messi summed it up perfectly in his post-match interview against Osasuna:
“THIS GAME REPRESENTS THE ENTIRE YEAR. WE HAVE BEEN AN ERRATIC AND WEAK TEAM.”
Change Of Coach Mid-Season:
We all know Ernesto Valverde. We all wanted him gone. This board, however, does things that you don’t expect. Bartomeu did not sack Valverde when Barca got humiliated at Anfield, neither did he sack him when the they lost out to Valencia in the Copa Del Rey FInal. Instead, he let Valverde go mid-season. Setien wasn’t even the first choice. Bartomeu contacted many other coaches, and most of them turned Barca down. In the end, Setien was appointed.
Quique Setien brought a lot of excitement. His philosophy about football matched perfectly with Barcelona’s. He was described as a Cruyffist. The fans were excited.
But Setien’s tenure was doomed from the start. Like I mentioned before, the squad had no depth. Setien had no out and out wingers at his disposal. Dembele was injured. Fati was only 17 and Messi isn’t a winger anymore. To truly implement all of his tactics well, Setien should have had a full squad to work with.
On top of that, Setien was never favoured by the dressing room.
According to reports, the heavyweights don’t agree with Setien’s methods; they don’t like changes in the system every game and aren’t happy with him. Everyone has seen the clip of Messi and Sarabia that went viral. On a positive note though, Setien and Messi seem at peace after the great 5-0 win against Alaves. And to be fair, Setien has improved Barca to some extent. He has coached the same amount of games Valverde did in the first half of the season. Here are some stats, taken from this site:
I still think sacking a coach mid-season and appointing a brand new coach with an almost conflicting style isn’t the way to go. Setien should have been appointed towards the start of the season.
Tiredness, Fatigue and La Liga fixtures:
This might sound like an excuse, but tiredness, fatigue and injuries have played a vital role in Barcelona’s La Liga title loss to Real Madrid. I already explained how the squad depth, the lack of quality in Barcelona players and countless injuries contributed to the title loss but that wasn’t helped by the tight Laliga schedule, with games being played every three to four days.
Like I mentioned before, this is an ageing squad, with most of the Barcelona players above the age of 29. So fatigue was almost inevitable. These Barcelona players could not cope with so many games in quick succession. That led to inconsistency.
Barcelona went from a promising display against Mallorca to a sluggish win against Leganes. After that, they drew against Seville, Celta Vigo and Atletico. Barca did start the games well but would crumble later on.
However, in the very next game, Barca looked like a completely different team. They won 4-1 against an in-form Villareal side in an emphatic fashion. It was a great performance. But, yet again, in the next game, Barcelona scraped past local rivals Espanyol with a frankly horrible display. Meanwhile, Real Madrid kept winning their games rather controversially. This is one of the main reasons Barcelona lost the La Liga title race despite being two points ahead.
Real Madrid’s shady winning streak:
Perhaps the most apparent reason is that Real Madrid did not draw or lose a single game after football resumed until they won the La Liga title. However, their win did have a fair share of controversy. There were soft decisions going Madrid’s way, clear decisions NOT going the opposition’s way and some overall shady decisions. I won’t completely delve into the dodgy refereeing but I will say that there definitely were some decisions that were not fair. La Liga needs to re-evaluate VAR.
Putting that aside, Real Madrid did deserve to win some of their games and in others, luck was on their side. Barcelona shouldn’t have slipped. They should only have had one thing in mind, and that is winning. In my opinion, Real Madrid was the more of a consistent side, had a stable squad and a proven coach. They weren’t superior to Barcelona in every way as the points table might suggest but, they were more consistent. As they say, consistency is key.