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This Barça really hurts: a brutally terrifying helplessness

This Barça really hurts
A brutally terrifying helplessness

By Tobias Nordmann

In the La Liga table, the world of FC Barcelona is actually still okay. With one game less, the gap to Real Madrid is still absolutely bearable. However, this no longer applies to the Catalans’ football. The former football giant dwarfs in a hurry.

It is the (very) small moments that have given FC Barcelona (very) great happiness these weeks. A goal in the last minute of the game against table 17. For example, Granada CF. The massive central defender Ronald Federico Araújo da Silva achieved this on Monday evening. He had packed all the strength of his body into this crucial moment. And that was calculated by trainer Ronald Koeman. The Dutchman had left the Uruguayan with a strong header in the final minutes of the league game in the storm center. An act of desperation. But the idea paid off. So everything was done right.

Araújo, who had crashed briefly after a header duel, quickly got up again, because he already sensed the next chance. And it came just seconds later. The only 17-year-old Gavi played an outstanding lob into the center in the penalty area from a standing position, Araújo ran into this cross as if there was no more tomorrow and headed the ball to make it 1-1 in Granada’s housing. The joy of this little luck discharged at least as powerfully as the ball had hit before. Araújo screamed, cheered, and hammered his hand several times on the coat of arms on his chest. FC Barcelona had saved the point. In the table, the team is in seventh place. But she has one game less and – assuming a win – could move up to two points on Real Madrid. The “royals” are at the top after five match days.

So it doesn’t sound particularly dramatic from Barça’s point of view, but it is. Because this team is desperate. Without superstar Lionel Messi, who is also still looking for happiness at Paris St. Germain, FC Barcelona will lack everything. The heart, the brain, the creativity. How dwarfed the giant is after the departure of his legend, that was shown last week in the Champions League. The group game was lost 3-0 against FC Bayern. The result is much milder than last year, when they were humiliated 2-8 in the premier class final tournament, but the helplessness with which the Koeman footballers acted shocked an entire country.

Good chance, terrible football

Overall, it wasn’t much better against Granada. Barça were more dominant, especially in the second half, but that was still far from good. That was a far cry from a clear and engaging game idea. Even if the quality of the few opportunities reads fine. After the early shock, Domingos Duarte had hit after 90 seconds, a shot from Sergi Roberto hit the crossbar after 17 minutes. However, the action in the penalty area didn’t seem very planned, but rather a bit random. The equalization would also have been possible right before the break. Araújo failed twice with great headers, once Sergino Dest failed from an acute angle.

In fact, there were very few moments that conjured up danger. It was seldom as compelling as it was in the last minute. Luuk de Jong, the substitute ex-Gladbacher, had left a huge thing in the middle of the round. How he was able to put a header over and not into the goal from a very short distance, he probably cannot explain himself. Now what do you do with this result? A draw is always better than a defeat. But otherwise? Otherwise all signs point to a crisis. The loud whistles in Camp Nou were the most audible evidence of this.

“It’s hard to get back into the game after such an early deficit. They used clever fouls and played down the time well. Apart from the goal, they had no real chance,” said Marc-André ter Stegen after the game. They are bitter truths from the point of view of FC Barcelona. The team is not (any longer) able to develop an idea to crack an opponent who has huddled up. Crosses, crosses, always crosses, that wasn’t effective. There were 54 attempts against Granada. Only one was successful. Another time, newcomer Memphis Depay wanted to use the ball spectacularly with a side pull. He took off too early, clearly missed the cross and landed hard. A symbolic image.

A bad faux pas

The once dreaded short passing game, it’s just a beautiful and painful memory. But still a sanctuary in the club. And that the heavily criticized coach, whose possible dismissal should cost the financially threatening club around twelve million euros according to media reports, now made a linguistic faux pas after the game, that was not at all well received. He called the legendary “Tiki Taka” “Tiki Taki”. The newspaper “Marca” hastily blasphemed: “Koeman invents Tiki-Taki … although he completely renounces it”. FC Barcelona is no longer fascinating, it is laughed at.

The magic of the past has brutally given way. An unimaginative despair fills the vacuum of the post-Messi era. Also in the line-up: suddenly Philippe Coutinho is back in the starting line-up. It would have been better to get rid of the expensive Brazilian in the summer. Instead, Antoine Griezmann went in addition to Messi (on loan to ex-club Atletico). However, he was never really happy at FC Barcelona. In early autumn 2021, the means of choice is no longer the genius of the Argentine legend, but the crowbar. What a bitter realization. The already knocked out coach Koeman urgently needs a solution (and healthy players like top talent Ansu Fati), because nobody in Catalonia wants to get used to this method of choice.

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