It is not every time that you get to see Barcelona not win the League.
It is also not every time that Barcelona sacks a manager that is top of the League as at the time of the sacking.
It is also not every time your main striker gets injured and ruled out for over three months, three months to the end of season, and still gets to play in that same football season (thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic).
It is also not every time that you get to witness a team like Barcelona trigger an emergency exception to sign a striker in a struggling team outside the regular transfer window as a result of their long-term injury to one of their attackers. Now, said striker is no longer in the plans of the team that did the ‘emergency buying’
It is also not every time that you see a team sell a young exciting midfielder for an older one who is getting to the climax of his career (the jury is still out on this one).
On the positive side, it is not every time that you see a player score more than 20 goals and assist more than 20 goals in the same season. We have always accepted than the little magician was in a League of his own but this is another amazing feat to add to his catalogue of….amazing feats!
Bottom line is, Barcelona is most going through a phase. This time, things are looking very different.
Unless they win the Champions League, which is highly unlikely, they would be without a trophy this season, something that has not happened in a while.
Whether they do or not, a lot of things would have to change.
The issue seems to be that there is no long-term strategy in place for this team.
Their main stalwarts are getting to the end of their careers: Gerard Pique is 33, Jordi Alba is 31, Sergio Busquets is 32, Ivan Rakitic is 32, Arturo Vidal is 33, Luis Suarez is 33, Antoine Griezmann is 29 and Lionel Messi is also 33. That amounts to six players – sans Rakitic – who are in the Barcelona first team. This is even made worse considering the fact that Arthur, 23, has been allowed to leave and Miralem Pjanic, 29, would then come in. There are still a number of good young players in the team but there is still a lot left to be desired when it comes to performances.
Compare this to their main counterparts in Real Madrid: Varane is 27, Ramos is 34, Militao is 22, F. Mendy is 25, Carvajal is 28, Casemiro is 28, Valverde is 22,Isco is 28, Hazard is 29, Kroos is 30, Modric is 34, Vinicius is 20, Asensio is 24, Rodrygo is 19, Benzema is 32. There seems to be a better balance for the Madrid team in terms of age and experience.
There is also the issue of signings. It has been a while that Barcelona has got any of its big name signings right, especially in the final third. There currently is no player in the horizon to take over from Luis Suarez, let alone Lionel Messi. Coutinho and Dembele have been big name signings that have not been able to repay even close to the fee that Barcelona shelled out for them on the pitch.
Another key piece would be the coach in Quique Setien. Letting Ernesto Valverde leave when the club was not necessarily in a crisis now seems like a strange decision in hindsight. Now, the consensus is that he managed only half a season and would be better assessed at the end of the next season. That is a fair assessment. However, when you consider that Zinedine Zidane and Real Madrid, given their relationship and record, would most likely get better, then Setien and Barcelona would have to step up significantly. In the Champions League, a final place was all but secured before the debacle in Anfield happened. Barcelona has generally not done very well in the Champions League since Neymar left.
Would Setien be able to set Barcelona up in a varied, more efficient way?
We would find out soon enough, as him and his team are still in the Champions League.