On the pitch things couldn’t be much better. Even with Lionel Messi injured, Barcelona are sitting at the top of the League and sailed through their Champions League group with few problems. Neymar has settled well and both Cesc Fabregas and Alexis Sanchez have rediscovered their form. They should be happy but this season it is the off the field events that are making the headlines at the club. Boardroom arguments, player’s personal lives in the papers and now a Coach who is thinking of leaving, if reports are to be believed.
“We will try to recuperate some of the things we saw in the best version of Barca. Creating pressure and getting the ball back quickly are two of the things we really want to get the team doing again,” Tata Martino said when he joined the club midway through pre-season. He seemed to be a believer in Barca’s football philosophy and in his first Press conference suggested that he wouldn’t be changing that much at the club.
Barca fans were expecting things to stay pretty much as they were but maybe with the strengthening of the defence. The club didn’t sign a defender that was badly needed but Tata was given the benefit of the doubt, for a while anyway.
Barca recently broke a Real Madrid record from the 1980s of the most successive weeks at the top of the table but not too many are writing about it. In fact Tata’s style on the pitch is what is grabbing the headlines. In some games he has opted to defend a lead rather than seek another goal, something that was unheard of under Pep Guardiola and Tito Vilanova.
In a game against Rayo Vallecano, an opposing side had more possession than the Catalans, the first time this had happened since 2008. After the game, the 4-0 victory was ignored, as the stat was all journalists wanted to talk about. Tata, who had been pleasant until then, seemed to suggest that his nationality might be one reason for the critics he was receiving in Press.
“Whenever you have a team that has been as successful as this side, these debates will occur, especially when the Coach isn't from Catalonia or from Holland,” he snapped back when asked about his tactics. They have dominated most of his Press conferences. Even though his side are winning, they haven’t been doing so convincingly or in a manner than Cule fans are accustomed to. It appears to be taking its toll on the Coach.
“Nobody is indispensable, not even the Coach,” said the Argentine a few days ago and it rose more than a few eyebrows in the Pressroom. Now the media in his homeland are reporting that Tata has confided to close friends that he is not happy and that he doesn’t feel comfortable in his position.
Whether it is true or not, one thing that will be agreed on is that Barca definitely need to avoid another summer of upheaval. The question is, will they?