Welcome back to Barcelona! Last time out, amongst other things, we spent a truckload of cash on the squad in an effort to make it competitive. It worked, and the wins piled up.
I’ll be cramming the whole of the second half of the season into this post. It will feature a trying transfer window, a fraught February and TWO Rogers. You lucky people.
I’ll need to touch on the tactics again, before the run-in proper starts, and then I’ll finish with a season review.
So to start, some transfer news, including the impending arrival of everyone’s favourite German striker…
January Transfer Window:
I won’t lie, this transfer window irritated me a bit. First the outs:
I am at least glad to see the back of Jonathan Ros. He was at Barcelona for mere days before complaining about competition for places, then when he played, was absolutely terrible. The other sales are not good news.
Chardonie Banza is arguably the best right winger in the world right now, but he wasn’t happy and Man City met the amount that I promised we’d sell him for.
And then there’s Roger (right back). He’s played really well for Barcelona B and developed superbly in training too. So much so, that I decided he would become a first team player next season. So I offered him a new contract. Out of the blue, Chelsea offered £40.5m – the amount to match his minimum fee clause, and Roger chose the bright lights of London over us. Really disappointing.
Out with one Roger, in with another:
Really glad to welcome Klingy to Camp Nou. Our strikers have been a little streaky so far, and hopefully he can take us to another level. New Roger is a central midfield prospect, and as a Brazilian, takes the second of the two non-EU spots available to Barcelona B. He is “Dubbed the new Valdo“.
I’ll focus however, on our new right winger. It’s fairly slim pickings out there, but fortunately my marvelous scouts came up trumps at just the right time to find me this Swiss sensation:
Yeah, maybe sensation is pushing it, but it starts with ‘s’, so do one. He’s young and has room to develop. We’ll see how it goes. I find his lack of traits disturbing…
In a very busy month, results were very good:
Performances were a little up and down, probably due to my tactical tweaking (more on that later), but you can’t argue too much with eight wins and a draw. And it’s nice to see Beyeler make an impact already.
February and the Election:
In the past couple of months, rumours have been circulating about the upcoming Presidential election, with many suggesting that I’d be for the boot following regime change. For Zidane of all people! Mr Diaz apparently won by a mile, and introduced himself thus:
Thanks a bundle.
In the following week or so, there were plenty of suggestions in the media that I was off. Fortunately my fellow managers…
…and loyal players…
…were behind me.
However, I eventually checked on a couple of things:
And then this:
FINALLY LOSING PATIENCE!?!?!?! Unbelievable. I haven’t lost a single game. Fortunately, the team performed well against Spurs and emerged from North London with a fully deserved 2-1 win. I received an identical “Sack looms…” message days before our next fixture too (Real Madrid away), but the drama/narrative was ruined, as by the day of the match my job security was returned to untouchable. Bit of a scare there!
In the end, a hugely eventful month off of the field yielded fairly standard results on it:
Don’t ask about the Levante game. We were bad, and they were clinical. A stark contrast to the game before, where Geubbels totally schooled Atleti’s defence. Unfortunately, Ifeanyi Babalola has damaged his spine and looks likely to miss the rest of the season. He’ll be a big miss.
Some concerning performances:
We were great against Deportivo, but otherwise we weren’t good again until the Real Sociedad game. Praise be to the returning Philippe Coutinho who came off of the bench to save us against a Valencia side that were deservedly ahead. After this game, some serious tactical thinking occurred…
Since ditching the possession football board promise, I had been tinkering with the tactics, perhaps a little too often, and in such an ill-disciplined way it’s impossible for me to chronicle it here.
In the end (after Coutinho single-handedly bailed us out of that insipid performance against Valencia) I finally made a plan and stuck to it. This is it:
More attacking, more direct in the attack, faster play and more creative licence for the midfield particularly.
I’m really hopeful that by making the passing more direct, upping the tempo and freeing the team from the short passing shackles, that I can see some through balls for the front three, particular the striker, as whoever plays there has a tendency to disappear for entire games.
As well as an attempt to improve after recent concerning performances, these are really changes for my own gratification, as results this season have largely been good. But I don’t want to sit through tedious, slow passing moves. Give me some more exciting football!
April and May:
It’s far too early to tell conclusively about the tactical changes, but we do seem to be creating better chances for our front line, and we’ve definitely moved away from possession football as our possession stats have slumped.
Results wise, things have improved, with our mini-slump behind us:
We won the Copa del Rey with a fantastic attacking performance against Bilbao, and managed to avoid any more Premier League clubs to get ourselves into the Champions League final. We have faced Real Madrid five times this season, and beaten them every time. And the league table?
100+ goals, 100+ points and just 14 conceded.
Champions League Final:
So, to the Champions League final, the main event, judgement day, the big tom… Yeah enough. Our opponents, mighty Frankfurt, the top ranked side in Europe. You’re welcome guys…
Only three players make the starting eleven from my time at the club, with German internationals David Lee and Gian-Luca Itter continuing their partnership on the left flank, and a player who was developing nicely in my time (José Olaizola) starting in midfield. Another nine of my former charges sit on their bench. In goal, they have former Barcelona ‘keeper, Andreu Oribe.
As for us:
There were only really two question marks for this one. Bonnet or Beyeler on the right wing, where Bonnet got the start due to marginally better recent form. With Babalola finally fit enough for the bench after his long lay-off, and Mihali not convincing me, Enrique Peláez, all of 18 years old, starts in this massive game, to anchor the midfield. Yikes. To give him his due, he’s made twelve starts already and performed pretty well when called upon.
And of course, with Sergio Gómez and Rolf Klingenburg, we have two ex-Frankfurt players among our ranks.
A through ball to a forward! After 14 minutes, we were ahead:
The first half was fairly uneventful otherwise, although Klingy missed a great chance to double his tally. I warned against complacency for the second half, but kept the same team out there.
We were better in the second half, and comfortably kept Frankfurt at arms reach. Klingy and Geubbels missed a good chance each and I began to fear that our profligacy would cost us.
Then, in injury time:
A fully deserved second, and the cup was ours! Over ninety minutes, Frankfurt only had one shot on target.
A good performance, and a comfortable win.
A good season for the vast majority of the squad:
A couple of the new signings haven’t done brilliantly, but let’s not dwell on the negatives. The defence was far stronger than I anticipated, and the pairing of Adílson Soares Mota and Carlos Eduardo was watertight.
In midfield, the two playmakers worked out pretty well, with Lluís Reig performing well but being outshone by Fans’ Player of the Season, Sergio Gómez, whose 20 goals and 16 assists show how important a player he is.
Up front we had a few problems, with decent goal totals, but no consistency. Alfussene Cassamá being a good example of our troubles, either scoring a hat trick and looking amazing, or being completely irrelevant. I suspect he’ll get his desperate wish for a move to Chelsea in the summer.
Our top scorer was Willem Geubbels, a signing I got right, scoring a wonderful 24 goals from the wing and bagging 10 assists to boot.
Adílson Soares Mota wins Player of the Year, but doesn’t even make the bench of Team of the Year. These awards always seem to throw out some nonsense:
Sergio Gómez adds to his spectacular awards haul for the year:
Admittedly Klingy scored more of those goals for PSG than for us, but where did he win the big prize? Eh?
What a season. In the end, everything worked out perfectly, although who knows what might’ve happened had we lost that first leg against Tottenham.
As for what happens next, I’m not entirely sure! The next post could be anything, anywhere… Thanks for reading!