Do Barcelona really need Luis Suarez?

Goodbye Liverpool!
Goodbye Liverpool!

Luis Suarez joined FC Barcelona for a fee of  £75 million. This was a signing Barcelona were able to pull off after selling Alexis Sanchez to Arsenal for  £30 million. Sanchez was initially supposed to sign for Liverpool as part of the deal that sent Suarez the other way. However, by selling Sanchez, Barcelona were able to purchase Luis Suarez in a cash up front deal. The question that needs to be answered, has to be whether Barcelona really did need to buy the Uruguayan forward from Liverpool.

Suarez’s arrival means Barcelona now have the ability of sending out a delicious attacking trio comprising Lionel Messi, Neymar Jr. and Luis Suarez, all of whom will form a part of anyone’s top ten list. Attractive though it may sound, it does leave the team very lopsided in attack, as with the exception of Suarez, neither of the other two track back and help out defensively.

Barcelona’s central midfield is too full of attacking players such as Andres Iniesta and Ivan Rakitic (although he was deployed as a deep central midfielder in the World Cup). Xavi Hernandez, who is still a phenomenal player, unfortunately doesn’t have the legs anymore to sustain Barcelona’s heavy pressing style. Busquets and Song are the only defensive-minded midfielders and unfortunately are not the best in their duty of effectively shielding the back two four.

Barcelona’s typical style of play requires the two fullbacks to constantly bomb forward and assist the attack. Dani Alves and Jordi Alba are very attack-minded and play more as auxiliary wingers rather than fullbacks. In the Pep Guardiola years, Barcelona had a very solid back four of Dani Alves, Gerard Pique, Carles Puyol and Eric Abidal. When Barcelona used to attack, Guardiola’s back four would become a back three with Dani Alves attacking. Abidal used to act as the perfect defensive foil to counter Alves’ attacking tendencies.

However, Barcelona have not coped well with the departure of Abidal and Puyol’s injuries and subsequent retirement . Abidal’s replacement was Jordi Alba and whilst he is very good fullback, he is too tactically similiar to Dani Alves and this leaves the team very vulnerable to swift counters. Barcelona’s central defensive pairing of Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano is hardly the best when compared to other top teams in Europe.

Mascherano’s heading capabilities leave a lot to be desired whereas Gerard Pique has been a shadow of his former self. Barcelona’s back-up central defender Marc Bartra has not yet shown in his performances so far that he can consistently play well at the top level.

By selling Alexis Sanchez and buying Suarez, Barcelona have effectively brought in a slightly superior but an older and controversy-prone player who can play in the same positions as the former. Instead of spending  £75 million on one player, they could have easily bought three-four players who can strengthen the ranks and add more quality and depth to the squad. They could have bought a player to fill the Carles Puyol-shaped hole in central defence and a player to add steel and grit to the midfield as they seem to be blown apart too easily by much more physical opposition.

Buying players like Mats Hummels, Mehdi Benatia or Arturo Vidal would have made much more sense and added quality to a weak defence. And at the same time, they could have also kept Alexis Sanchez who had a stellar World Cup campaign with Chile which was preceded by 21 goals and 15 assists in 54 appearances for Barcelona, arguably his best in the Barcelona shirt.

Then why, despite all of the above, buy Luis Suarez? I do hope for Suarez’s, sake and Barcelona’s, that this turns out to be fruitful partnership but history is not on Barcelona’s side. The last time they bought a striker (read Zlatan Ibrahimovic), he was effectively booted out by Lionel Messi and Pep Guardiola after coming to the conclusion that Lionel Messi (and not him) was the focal point of Barcelona’s attack.

Whilst Suarez is more versatile and a team player then Zlatan ever was, we can only wait and watch whether this new chapter can lead him to abandon controversy for good, or continue with it constantly hovering around his head.

The Author

Shubhayan Sengupta

Shubhayan Sengupta writes on European and Indian football, although not both of them at the same time.

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