NEYMAR AND A PROPER STRIKER
With their crushing two leg defeat to Bayern Munich greeted by an onslaught of criticism and talk that the ‘Tika-Taka’ style of play synonymous with Barcelona in recent years was dead, does the signing of Neymar suggest a new style will be adopted by the Catalan giants?
Spain themselves were defeated in the recent Confederations Cup Final and again, despite still having an abundance of admirers, the well oiled machines of Brazil (a rare description of Seleção) and Bayern Munich have done much to create an opposing, less flamboyant, yet arguably more successful approach to the beautiful game.
This brief summation of the past footballing year leads me on to my recent thoughts about how the all conquering FC Barcelona may well maintain that title. Many think Pep Guardiola was the key to Barcelona’s seemingly perpetual dominance, and yes his record was extremely impressive, however when considering he had a Lionel Messi fit for all of his pivotal encounters, as well as the fact Vilanova was his number two, Barcelona’s ‘failure’ (if we can even call it that) I believe is not down to a different manager, but that they were in fact a victim of circumstance and in terms of Vilanova’s absence at times, extremely horrific ones.
A fit Lionel Messi was the lynchpin for Guardiola’s success and the fact that he was missing in Barcelona’s biggest games of the season under Vilanova (against Bayern Munich) and at a time when the whole world was ready to scrutinise, meant their subsequent defeat unleashed a mass wave of criticism and questions raised about the future of their dominance. However my reasoning for their defeat is simply that their system only works with a player like Lionel Messi playing in it. No other player in the world has the ability to play as a centre forward and an attacking midfielder at the same time. Messi’s ability to punish any team, with or without the ball, is unrivalled in the modern game and Barcelona’s reliance on him has always been underplayed but was unveiled to the world in this Champions League semi final clash.
Despite Fabregas being a world class centre midfielder, he does not have the same skill set, or indeed the right skill set to fill the huge void left by Messi, and neither does any other player. My point is, Barcelona need to change their style of play in order to avoid further criticism and I believe the signing of Neymar could be the first stage in this process.
Neymar Junior showed the entire world how good he really is in the Confederations Cup and I believe his move to Barcelona needs to be followed by the signing of a proper centre forward to get the best out of him and Messi, and for Barcelona to make the necessary steps forward. Neymar is the closest to Messi in terms of their style of play, however despite my previous comments stating that Barcelona are lacking players to replace Messi, controversially does not mean I think Neymar will be the man to do so. In fact I don’t think Barcelona need to do it at all, and what they need to do is sign a striker to stand upfront and let Messi and Neymar bamboozle the opposition, using this striker as a wall to play one twos, if that at all, perhaps simply to occupy at least one opposing defender.
In order to understand my longwinded, confusing and I must admit not very eloquent point, I have one word to make it easier to see where I am going with this. Fred.
Fred was one of the best players in the Confederations Cup and allowed Neymar to take centre stage purely because he did not move. Many people, in ironic fashion, praised Fred for this lack of movement, and when assuming this position he showed an ability to link up play if need be, or simply to score if Neymar missed. The effectiveness of this sort of striker would be even greater in the Barcelona team as Neymar could operate on the left hand side like he did for Brazil, whilst Messi could operate from the right of him, but obviously with the freedom to roam and indeed swap with Neymar. Messi has always been considered the ‘false nine’ due to his running ability from deep rather than leading the line himself and therefore the acquisition of a stationary striker may in fact provide a more rigid team unit, whilst having little effect on Messi’s freedom of expression in attack and also lessening the blow if he ever were to be absent due to the level of expectation shared with Neymar and indeed my proposed front man.
All in all, I would go as far as saying this is a must for Barcelona. Bayern Munich demonstrated the effectiveness of having an out and out centre forward in Mandzukic, just as much as Brazil did with Fred, and despite some people’s unyielding support for the beautiful football once played by Barcelona, a slight change in tactic and the signing of the right player may well ensure an even greater spell of dominance in European football, and even extend the careers of Xavi and Iniesta even further.
Here’s a little mock up of how I believe they should set up, if they were to sign the type of striker I have spoken about.
RB CB CB LB
You can fill in the other positions yourselves for a bit of fun as I only really wanted to provide a visual explanation (no matter how basic) to show what I believe should be done. I also would invite comments including suggestions, if you do indeed agree, of who you would want to see spearheading the attack for this team. My personal favourite would be Ibrahimovic as I believe he has the technical as well as physical stature and style of play to accommodate and accentuate the talents of Lionel Messi and Neymar, whilst also being a good enough individual to provide a problem in his own right. Or, you may in fact disagree with what I am proposing, but this came to me in an epiphany like fashion, so I thought it was worth sharing but as always feel free to state your views.