There has been a lot of positive buzz concerning Barcelona’s chances in the 2018/2019 season. The Camp Nou outfit had a rather curious time last season. In any season, winning a domestic double (La Liga and Copa del Rey) would have been classed as a successful season. However, the manner of the team’s exit in the UEFA Champions League was a dark cloud that hung over the team.
Leading 4-1 against AS Roma in the quarterfinal, the Blaugrana lost 3-0 to the Italians in Rome. The manner of the defeat led to silly calls for the dismissal of manager Ernesto Valverde.
Luckily, Barcelona supremo Josep Bartomeu ignored these infantile calls. Instead, he has heavily backed his manager with funds to recruit quality players.
Barcelona’s recruitment so far
The exit of Andres Iniesta represented the end of an era for Barcelona. Alongside the La Masia-trained core, he was key to the greatest era of success in the club’s storied history (34 trophies in his 22-year career).
His departure has made it abundantly clear that the club recognizes the need for a change in the style of play. The possession-hogging, tiki-taka style has been crying for modification for a while now.
This reality has been reflected in the transfer business done so far. At the back, 23-year-old French centre-back Clement Lenglet has joined from Sevilla. His buyout clause of £32.31 million was met and the signing wrapped up.
The midfield has seen perhaps the biggest changes. Brazilian Arthur Melo (£27.90 million from Gremio) and Chilean Arturo Vidal (£16.20 million from Bayern Munich) have joined. The signing of Brazilian winger Malcolm for £36.90 million has been the most noteworthy one so far. Barcelona’s stealthy signing of the 21-year-old from Bordeaux surprised everyone, especially AS Roma.
What these new players will add to Barcelona
Lenglet offers the best of both worlds for Barcelona. A capable ball-playing defender, he is also quite aggressive and good in the air. This makes him the ideal replacement for any of Gerard Pique or Samuel Umtiti.
The 21-year-old Arthur has a playing style similar to Xavi and looks like the long-term solution to the regista (deep lying playmaker) problem. Vidal has been the statement signing for Barcelona so far. An absolute warrior, he is expected to add bite, aggression, and box-to-box running to the midfield.
Vidal will be tasked with delivering the dynamism Andre Gomes and Paulinho failed to. His presence means that Barca will be able to play at a faster pace than ever before.
Malcom’s pace, trickery and shooting present a different attacking option. The youngster is used to getting a fair amount of goals and assists.
This would also be the first full season for last season’s big money recruits Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele. Both players impressed in fits and starts last season. With a limited pre-season (due to the World Cup), both players may not hit their stride until late in the season.
Old wine and a fresh start for Barcelona
It is not just about what the new/new-ish additions will provide. The greatest player in Barcelona’s history, Lionel Messi is expected to deliver another double-figures tally for goals and assists.
Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitic, Samuel Umtiti, Jordi Alba and Marc-Andre ter Stegen among others are expected to continue being important for the team.
With these new players, it is expected that Valverde would loosen the reigns a bit. Last season, the team focused on not conceding and being solid. The result was a better defensive record although; the team’s traditional attacking dynamism was stifled.
Cules will be expecting something close to peak Barcelona (2009 to 2011). This means unending attacking, fast and furious pressing combined with intricate passing. A sort of clearout has already started. It is expected that a lot of fringe players will leave in a bid to reduce the wage bill/raise funds. Gerard Deulofeu, Lucas Digne, Aleix Vidal, Yerry Mina are some of the players that have already left/set to leave.
A repeat of the treble-winning seasons in 2009 and 2015 will be an incredible achievement. However, whatever trophies may be won, Cules will demand that it ‘be done in an entertaining style.