Saying that the Barcelona era is over is like saying plastic money works.
It's not happening anytime soon — not with the current crop of players they have and those that are still being manufactured at the La Masia.
It's a blip — a dip in form — a little loss of fitness and a case of them trying to rub off their own monotony. Maybe next season, Barcelona will look back and see their three defeats (two against Real Madrid and one at AC Milan) as a boon in disguise — a sign that points to the right direction after you've been walking on the same road for too long.
Nevertheless, three defeats in quick succession (the 2-1 win over Sevilla squeezed in among them) is a surprise. A pleasant and refreshing one for some no doubt— but with the impending threat that it may not last too long.
Barcelona play a very intricate attacking game — ironical when you see the simple defensive errors that have led to their recent losses.
We try and analyse Barcelona's defensive mistakes, and why they're looking so vulnerable
WHERE ARE GOALS COMING FROM?
They've conceded eight goals in the last four games (L-L-W-L), and all of them have been from inside the box.
Three of those have been headers, two after rebounds, two from players who were unmarked in the box and one a penalty.
WHO IS AT FAULT?
This is the part where the rap breaks down...
Dani Alves and Gerard Pique have made glaring mistakes in the four matches in question.
Not just the goals, we also saw the attacks that Barcelona endured in 360 minutes. Most of the passes and the successful runs have come through the wide gate between Pique and Alves.
WHAT ARE THEY DOING WRONG?
Barcelona have suffered and gained from Alves' tendency to go forward. While he gets assists, it leaves Pique open and the Spaniard has developed a tendency to commit himself in a forward tackle — something which defensive midfielder Sergio Busquets should help with — but isn't.
The marking has simply been woeful too. Examples are listed below.
Barcelona's wing-backs are both short, fast and agile. They are not blockers, they are of a haranguing type -- they'll buzz around you, hoping one of the bigger guys comes out and helps them by winning the ball.
They're allowing too many crosses, and early ones from deep positions too.
WHICH GOALS AND ATTACKS ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?
vs AC Milan
- Pique was almost at the right back's position and Alves tracking back when Milan split the defence to send Stephan El Shaarawy infield from the left. His bad touch let him down and the attack fizzled out.
- During a corner in the first half, Kevin Prince Boateng was standing all alone in the box. Didn't anyone see him? The low pass came in and his shot went just wide. Embarrassing marking (as shown in picture).
- Early crossing has hit Barcelona hard. Milan collected the ball on their right, 20 yards ahead of the half-line and sent an early ball which Shaarawy missed by inches on the slide. Pique and Alves were nowhere near him.
- First goal: Came off rebound.
- Second goal: Due to bad marking again. There were four men on Shaarawy and M'Baye Niang. There was no one on Sulley Muntari — and he scored (as shown in picture below).
- First goal: Sevilla change wings from left to right, where Jordi Alba can't reach with his head to block. Coke collects, crosses and Alberto Botia beats Alves in the air to head in.
- Another two attacks came after Sevilla went behind — both culminating from the left-wing from the same gaping area between Pique and Alves.
vs Real Madrid (Copa del Rey)
- Fabio Coentrao's first chance came as Madrid but through Alves' position. He missed.
- First goal: Pique is one-on-one with Cristiano Ronaldo and concedes a sloppy penalty. 1-0 to Madrid.
- Second goal: Angel di Maria ran at the defence on the counter. Of course, Alves wasn't around, di Maria beat Carles Puyol, took a shot and the rebound fell to Ronaldo who made no mistake. He was, as usual, unmarked.
- Third goal — Pique was squeezed between Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane, the latter thumping in the header.
vs Real Madrid (La Liga)
- First goal: the ball was lost in the middle, a pass threaded through the gap between Alves and Pique for Alvaro Morata who crossed despite Alves' block. Karim Benzema was unmarked in the box for tap-in.
- A cross from the deep from Luka Modric caught out the whole defence and he almost punished them. Alves wasn't even in the box.
- Second goal: How on earth does Ramos, sandwiched between Pique and Busquets (two of Barca's tallest players) manage to head a goal in? Something's wrong.
IS IT JUST BAD DEFENDING?
No, it's not. Teams have somehow figured out how to squirm out of Barcelona's high intensity pressing and sit tight as they continuously pass the ball around. Simply passing it is not enough — you have to pass it with purpose.
While their tiki-taka football is a more deeper discussion, in the short-term we believe the Catalans are missing the finesse of David Villa. They should play Pedro in his more preferred position on the left, Villa through the centre and Messi through the right (with the freedom to roam).
You saw how it worked when Villa headed the equaliser from a striker's position. With Messi through the middle, he has to do everything — create and finish. As a result, he didn't manage a single shot on target against AC Milan and Madrid (Copa).
Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas seem to be clutching at straws - stranded outside the box. Cristian Tello has done much better when deployed out wide.
They also need to sort out defensive duties. They all rush towards the ball together, leaving unmarked players and they are not using Busquets to mark inside the box.