After falling out with players which threatened to prematurely end his Barcelona career, Luis Enrique has turned it around in style, and has the chance to emulate Guardiola with a treble in his debut season. Azeem Siddiqui explores the resurgence…
With just a few days from potentially clinching an unprecedented treble in his first season as a manager, many would think that Luis Enrique had it all too easy coaching the world’s best team, the world’s best player and because of that, in the first season, he is achieving such a great success. But that was not the case, and Lucho had a hard time settling in.
To begin with, Enrique tried to change the Barcelona style of play from being under the influence of tiki -taka football, to a more direct approach. At first, Barcelona seemed a little hesitant to adapt to the style they had replicated for years, and the absence of Suarez made it harder given that they lacked his proactive runs into space. Results were not exactly going their way either, and with Madrid enjoying, in retrospect, their best form of the season in the initial, which saw them sit four points clear, pressure were mounting on Enrique. Messi admitted to the press that he does not know where he will play in the next season and rumors emerged from the Catalonia that Enrique might be shown a door in the mid-season. However, Barcelona hierarchy backed Enrique for the rest of the season at least, and with Suarez completing the jigsaw puzzle, things started to look brighter than they ever were.
Under Enrique’s time at the Catalans, he did somethings tactically, that proved to be a master stroke for the Blaugrana. First of all, he bought a centre back in Mathieu to solve the height issue in defence. Barcelona always seemed too vulnerable on the set pieces and corners because they only had Pique to counter it. Now they have Mathieu as well. The height of Mathieu brought another plus in the team, with Barcelona becoming more of a threat on set pieces.
Defensively, Barcelona looked more solid throughout the season, with Rakitic being the supporting playing with the back four, and with Dani Alves and Alba not going forward together to attack from the wings, which use to leave the back line open for counter -attacks.
Enrique also made sure that Barcelona wouldn’t play the kind of football that they used to play before, that is, knocking the ball around with little effect. He made sure that his midfielders, usually Rakitic, Busquets and Iniesta, would play it directly to the front three, who would take it on from there with their skills, pace and hunger for goals.
The trio of Messi, Neymar and Suarez have scored 120 goals altogether, surpassing the best ever goal record by a trio in a season (118), which was set up by Ronaldo, Benzema and Higuain in 2011-2012 season.
Enrique also made sure that Messi, who has been playing as centre-forward for the last couple of seasons, would reach to his maximum potential by playing on the right, and cutting back into the centre to control the attacking play. Not only does Messi now score plenty of goals, he also provides key passes to Neymar & Suarez, who make runs through the wings and made it hard for the oppositions to come to terms with it. Rakitic, who had a fantastic first season till now, also joins the attack from defence, which makes it tougher for the opposition.
All of this leads us to believe that Barcelona, under Luis Enrique has succeeded like not many of us would have thought he would be able in the first season in charge. He took Barcelona to another level and the Catalan’s look more of a threat than they ever were.
However, rumours persist that Luis Enrique might still leave the Catalan’s at the end of the season, with Messi and him not see each other eye to eye. No matter what happens with Luis Enrique, he has proven to be an astute appointemtn this season and he will surely go down as part of a a successful chapter in the history of Barcelona.
The article originally appeared on Playingfor90.com