Martino’s mark on Barca

Unknown in Europe, Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino has built a great reputation in South America and Barca were quick to seal the man they felt could stay true to the club’s football philosophy. In his presentation, the former Newell’s Old Boys Coach seemed to suggest he was going to be a purveyor of the type of football we had seen under Pep Guardiola and Tito Vilanova. Yet, early indications are that he is also keen to stamp his own mark on the side – will it be a success?

In late July, Tata was thrust into the limelight and when he signed with the Catalans, he was under no illusion that his honeymoon would be a short one. Barca had already started their preparations for the 2013-14 season and so Tata had little or no time to add his own input. At first it appeared to be very much as you were. But, whilst dominating possession looks to remain a key component, we have also seen some of Tata’s influence and it is getting very mixed reviews.

When he arrived in Barcelona, too many jumped on the bandwagon that the former Paraguay head Coach was a reincarnation of Marcelo Bielsa. It is fair to say that he does use some of the tactics that ‘El Loco’ is famous for but he always said that he learned not from one but three Coaches, with Jose Yudica and Jorge Solari being the other major influences. Yet, some are suggesting that Los Cule have started the season in a similar fashion to that of Bielsa’s Athletic in the first year of his time there. Barca have been seen using more direct, long balls towards the opponents’ goal, to match a return to pressing high up the pitch. Some in the media have been quick to criticise but others like that Tata is mixing things up.

“We occasionally tended to exaggerate our possession based style of play to the point where we were slaves of our own philosophy,” Gerard Pique has notably commented this week. Pique added that under Tata, Barca are developing other methods and so becoming less predictable.

One area that needs vital work is the defence. In August the coaching staff were seen defending set pieces but the Barca back four seem to have gotten worse as the rest of the team plays further away from them. Against Valencia, the Argentine claimed that we got to see the perfect Barca, but they still conceded two and allowed Los Che back into the game.

It is still early days and maybe Barca will come out stronger and better under the new system but after promising not to trail too far from the path, it seems that Tata wants to go off the beaten track a little. The problem is that he is in a difficult situation. He must either stick to the philosophy that has been so successful or tear up the manual and shake things up. Right now we are seeing him trying to do both and while he is winning, he is not convincing. At any other club, apart from Real Madrid, he would be given time but this is Barca and the knives may have been out from the start.