ISF Barcelona correspondent, Alexandra Jonson, takes a look at how Barcelona have started the season in La Liga, feeling that even with a perfect record of wins and no goals conceded, the best is still yet to come from Enrique’s side.
On Sunday night Barcelona romped to a five-goal victory at Levante, leaving the Catalans with the best goal-difference, 11-0, in club history after the opening four games of the season. This equals the statistics from 1929-30 (13-2) and 09-10 (14-3).
After five official games played this season Barcelona has yet to let in a single goal and only Real Madrid with 13, has scored more goals then the Catalans in La Liga.
But how much does a great start in La Liga really mean? During Barcelona’s record winning season in 08-09 they started the campaign with the worst league start in club history. Meanwhile last season, they failed to win any of the major three trophies, even though they’d had the best ever start to the season.
Even though Barcelona have won their games, it could be argued they haven’t been too convincing. There is still a lot to improve, to get everything running as smoothly as it possible can. But who can expect a team that has undergone the kind of transformation that Barça has this summer, to run so smoothly from the very start.
Captain Carles Puyol retired after 15 years in the first team. Victor Valdés, who has protected the Camp Nou goal for over a decade, decided to say his goodbyes and Xavi Herández, who has been the architect of Barcelona’s success, appears to have stepped down from his midfield throne, taking a spot on the bench.
More than that Cesc Fàbregas, Alex Song and Alexis Sanchez left for England, while an important dressing room personality like José Pinto decided to retire. In total thirteen players have left. Meanwhile, eight new signings have been made, along with Rafinha returning from a loan spell in Celta.
Both on and of the pitch their will be, and have been big changes, for Barcelona under new coach Luis Enrique..
The biggest changes aside from the players under Luis Enrique, has been an enormous improvement in defence. It’s not just the defenders, but the entire team that looks better defensively, with Barcelona applying very high pressure as soon they lose the ball, not giving opponents time to breath. Letting in zero goals in five games is a result of that.
Overall the team plays a bit more direct and Rakitic being keen to shoot outside the box, has given an entirely new dimension to Barça’s game. This could prove crucial when they play against teams who park the bus.
Something that talks for Barça in the long run, is that Ancelotti and Simeone have done little rotating in their squads, while Luis Enrique has already utilised 22 of his players, with only Douglas and suspended Luis Suárez, yet to feature any minutes for the blaugrana team.
However, one has to keep in mind that the teams Barcelona played so far are Elche, Villarreal, Athletic Club, APOEL and Levante. Even though Barça came away voctorious in all five of those games, they have yet to truly impress.
This season should probably be seen as a “in between season” for Barcelona, considering all changes going on, but in a club as big as Barcelona there will never be something called a “in between season”.
It will be interesting to see how the team react when they are facing top clubs like Atlético and Real Madrid in the league, or PSG in the Champions League. To be able to win those games and also have the possibility to collect titles, their game still needs to flow a lot better than it currently does. Right now they are winning, but not yet looking like a “champions” team.
None of Barça’s games have felt like secure wins, not even the 0-5 trashing of Levante on Monday. When the score was tied and without goals, Levante were as close as it gets to taking the lead, before Ivan Rakitic saved the day more or less clearing the ball off the goal line, as the home side pressured. That wasn’t the only time it got dangerous in front of Bravo, and remember this is Levante, the only who haven’t yet scored in either of Spain’s top divisions, a team who haven’t even scored a goal since the 10th May, last season.
However, taking all possible points so far while Atletí and Real Madrid have struggled, Barcelona have given themselves some important breathing space, to improve their game, with the aim of competing for the silverware this season.
One of the most interesting facts so far into the season, is that Lionel Messi has taken a new role in the team, the role of being the assist king. Sure, Leo has always been good at making assists, but this season the Argentine star is looking more like a team player then ever before. After the five opening games he has made five assists, whilst also playing more of a part in the overall passing game of Barcelona. A fact that could prove to be vital for Barcelona over the ongoing season.
Next up for Barcelona is Málaga and whilst they’ve made a somewhat sluggish start, they won’t be easy opponents for Enrique’s side. This will be another test of how fluidly the side is playing their football, but one that they should be able to pass.
This article was originally published here.
Follow Alexandra Jonson on Twitter: @AlexandraJonson