People forget that football is extremely circumstantial. Almost anything we do in life is, therefore, only consistency can take out the effect of circumstances (or the consideration thereof). A lot has happened this wonderful season of European football and it has been really beautiful to experience. Nothing lasts forever. I guess we all know that, especially not dynasties and football dynasties are quite a peculiar case.
Well, the fulcrum around which this post revolves is the recent hammering of the Spanish powerhouses by the German powerhouses. The thing is, both Spanish teams were outclassed and outplayed in the first leg encounters in such a way that “the end of an era” turned out to be the new mantra. However, I’d like to offer a different perspective.
Let me say first and foremost, for those who do not already know, that I love Barca, a lot, and they’re just behind Arsenal as my favorite team. Now, only few would deny that they have reigned supreme in the last five years and many who are quite scared of utter domination in any sense are quick to see the end of the era. Needless to say, they’re mainly the ones screaming about it when the ‘thrashings’ were handed out recently. No team is unbeatable. Not even the Red Army that is intending to usurp the Blaugranas. Barca at the height of its powers had been beaten quite a few times, too.
We all agree that it will be extremely difficult (not impossible) for Barca to qualify for the final but if there was ever a team at this moment that can pull off such a feat, it is precisely this Barca team. As well as Bayern has played this season, hardly would anyone give them a fighting chance of overturning a 4-nil deficit in a UCL Semi Final match. Circumstances! As it is, they’re the ones at the winning end so let’s analyze from there. First thing is, Barca has been considerably less stellar this season. And that is related to on-field performances only. Breaking La Liga records with this sort of form simply shows a team that still has the clichéd ‘champions mentality’.
As a fact, Barca has been shown up a few times this season by opponents who seemed not to have a way past them previously. They were pipped to the Spanish Super Cup by Madrid and, in this age of ‘only results matter’, it’s easy to forget that Madrid was gifted the cup by a Valdez error in the first leg. Circumstances! Next, they were dealt with by the same familiar foes in two consecutive matches, one at home and the other away, both tepid performances by the Barca team. Just before the Madrid maulings was the simple case of Milan destroying the Barca morale with a 2-nil win. The curious thing is that it is this same season that Bayern has chosen to be excellent and have destroyed Barca. Am I surprised? Not really. Maybe I wasn’t expecting the scoreline but I didn’t think Barca were rated better than Bayern in the match-up based essentially on recent performances. Added to that is the fact that their usually faultless defence has been continuously punctured, even at full strength, and they were now facing one of the most prolific sides in Europe with a weakened version of it, plus their recent knack for losing balls easily and getting caught on the counter, only disaster could be the result. Circumstances!
As witnessed in the 2nd leg against Milan, this Barca team, when on top form, can be very unstoppable but even that is quite circumstantial. Had Niang put in that shot that hit the post, we may have been talking about something quite different now. Also looking back at last year, had they qualified for the final and beaten Bayern to the cup, I doubt we would talking about the end of any era at the moment. What we’d think is that this is just a massive blip in the ongoing success of a great club and they’d probably bounce back soon.
Again, the so-called Barca era began in 2008/09 season, one in which they picked up all three cups in the competitions they entered. But the most significant by far was the UCL. It offered them the opportunity to pick up 2 extra trophies in 2009, totaling six, a record for any team in one year! Well, there was the ‘small’ case of a Semi Final match with Chelsea which would (or is it should) have changed the whole story in a sense. Circumstances! Since the 2009 feat, every seeming drop in form for the team looked like its just temporary. Not until recently that it started looking like the whole world has caught up with them. Yet the fact remains that it’s just more difficult to stay at the top for so long, especially when you try to do it week-in week-out.
What I’m trying to say is, before we say Barca’s run has ended, let’s give them one more season and compare with the teams around them, i.e., Madrid & Bayern, and hope they stay healthy enough to take out excuses and we can then talk about a faded era. Bayern might be the best team in Europe this season, highlighted by their winning the Bundesliga in record time with record points, but they need to repeat the feat at least one more time to confirm their true superiority to the rest. Till then, Barca still remains the standard by which European clubs are measured.
**Sidenote: Same goes for all those who think EPL has already lost stand in Europe. Two seasons without a team in the quarters doesn’t define a league, just as having two teams in the semis does not define one either. A look at the top 5 teams at present will most likely produce the two Spanish giants as well as the two Bundesliga giants while a top 10 will most likely add no other teams from both leagues but will consist of at least three English teams. So what really makes a league strong?
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