Embracing new depth, Barcelona absorbs early-season blip in stunning loss
Winning back-to-back league and cup doubles and a Champions League title can buy you a grace period. Barcelona coach Luis Enrique took the blame for his side’s surprise first defeat of the season, a 2-1 loss at home to promoted Alaves, and for once, there was some sympathy for his situation.
“I’m the most responsible for results and I accept [the criticism],” he said. “Everything bad that happens is my fault, but it’s easy to criticize with hindsight. This season we don’t just move forward with 11 players, we move forward with 22.”
That last comment went some way to explaining the result. Last season, the consensus was that Barcelona missed out on another European title because the side was not rotated enough during the season, and that the key players were shattered when the big games came around. Barcelona’s summer moves were designed to improve the squad depth, which Luis Enrique wanted to utilize after an international week. So Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Andres Iniesta all started on the bench, Gerard Pique, Sergi Roberto and Jordi Alba were rested.
“The problem wasn't with the rotations, but with not playing well,” wrote Luis Rojo in Marca.
The front line of Arda Turan, Paco Alcacer and Neymar did not work: Arda played like he did last season (not well), Alcacer has only had two training sessions with the squad and Neymar seemed to sense it, going for the individual rather than the more obvious pass.
Errors at the back did not help–Javier Mascherano was at fault for Deyverson’s first goal–but this is just a blip for Barcelona, nothing more. It also happened early last season, when a 4-1 loss at Celta Vigo served as a wake-up call.
Barcelona will be at full strength Tuesday in the Champions League against Celtic, which will be hoping normal service doesn't resume just yet.