Another week another five-star performance from Barcelona, when you see such artistic brilliance every game it is easy to get complacent. It’s very difficult to take in and appreciate at times, you could question the level of the opposition which is what many do but that would be wrong as these are very good sides. The fact of the matter is if you put this Barcelona up against a Tottenham, Juventus or Bayern Munich next week the result would be very much the same. That’s not to say when they come up against Arsenal in February that they will do the same to them, a lot can change by then and as this team has been trained to reach two peaks in the season following the World cup. Those periods are now, starting from El Classico and April to May when the trophies are decided. The movement and passing on the ball is some of the best football that you can witness. The pressing and work rate off the ball to win it back is second to none. Is this the greatest club side in the history of football ?
Since the end of October when they put there first 5 goals past a team this season (Sevilla), they have played 8 games including the Sevilla game in the league. In those 8 games they have scored 37 goals and conceded just 3, an average of 4.6 goals scored a game. In comparison to the other current leaders of the top ranked leagues in the world, Manchester United have scored 18 and let in 5, at an average of 2.25 goals scored a game. AC Milan have scored 15 and conceded 5, at an average of 1.8 goals scored a game. Borussia Dortmund have scored 18 and goals against are an impressive 3, an average the same as United at 2.25 a game. Now whilst I realise that seasons aren’t 8 games long it gives a clear indication as to the current form of Spain’s top side.
Over the full seasons of last year Bayern Munich won the domestic double as well as reaching the Champions League Final recording 20 wins and 70 points in a 34 game season, scoring 72 goals and conceding 31. A win percentage of 58.8%, a goal ratio of 2.1 goals per game and an average of 2.05 points . English double winners Chelsea secured 27 wins and 86 points in a 38 game season, scoring 103 goals and conceding 32. A win rate of 71%, a goal ratio of 2.7 and average points total at 2.26. Over in Italy Jose’s treble winners and newly crowned World club champions had 24 wins in a 38 game season with 82 points, scoring 75 and letting in 34. A win rate of 63%, a goal ratio of 1.97 and average points 2.16.
Barcelona last year saw them gain an incredible 31 wins in a 38 game season with a record total of 99 points. Hitting the net 98 times and picking the ball back out just 24 times. An incredible win rate of 81.6%, a goal ratio of 2.58 and average points total of 2.6. Only Chelsea out performed Barcelona in one area and that was goals scored. Even park the bus Mourinho at Inter let 10 more goals in over the course of the season than the high line of the Catalan side. Lets not forget that second placed Real Madrid were only 1 point behind and they also achieved a record-breaking season.
This year Barcelona have recorded 14 wins in 16 games another record, whilst Borussia Dortmund 14 in 17, Man United 9 in 16 and AC Milan 11 in 17. The remarkable thing is that last years champions Bayern Munich have 7 in 16, Chelsea have 9 in 17 and Inter have 6 in 15. The long seasons of these sides last year and severe injuries to the first choice elevens have meant they have all found the first part of the season hard going. But Barcelona players also had long seasons with 7 of the first choice 11 having started and won the World Cup final in South Africa. Credit here should be given to Barcelona’s fitness and conditioning staff as well as Pep Guardiola for insuring so many of their players have remained injury free and have now reached physical peak in November/December.
When looking at the top sides that dominated Europe last year the average age of the first choice eleven at Inter is 30.3, at Bayern it is 28, at Chelsea it is 29 and at Barcelona it is 26.7 suggests that they could be at there peak for a whole lot longer. If statistics aren’t your thing their you can’t go much wrong with the naked eye anyone that watches this team regularly and isn’t biased can see the beauty of their football the statistics are just there to back it up.
Now next you’re going to tell me that Spain’s a two team league and the quality of the other sides aren’t as strong as the rest of the top-tier in Europe. This could be argued until you are blue in the face and truth could never really be told until teams embark across 154 game seasons through the top divisions in Europe. In reality though a few thoughts should push you closer to making up your mind. The last time a side other than Barcelona or Real Madrid won the league was 2004, this also applies to England when looking at Chelsea and Manchester United. The same could be said in Italy where Internazionale have won the last 5 titles although this is a much grayer area with the Calciopoli scandal. In Germany the league is often more wide open with teams emerging for a season but never able to maintain it over a longer period although Bayern Munich have still won 7 of the last 10 seasons and as it stands Dortmund currently hold a 10 point gap over there nearest rivals.
Further down the league is where most people will state their case, is the strength in-depth in Spain as a whole ? Of the last 20 Uefa Cup/Europa League finalists, 6 have been from Spain(Alaves,Valencia,Sevilla twice, Espanyol and Atletico Madrid) more than any other country with England being the nearest with 4. Last years winners Atletico Madrid finished in 9th in La Liga. Even further down the league critics will argue that Barcelona would struggle at a Stoke for instance but it’s just as challenging to go to a Osasuna. Arsenal seem to do ok although not great with their similar style of football at such destinations, maybe if you added a further 7 World Cup winners and the best player in the World to their ranks then they too would brush them aside a little more easily. How would Chelsea or Manchester United fair if they had to travel 556 miles(895 K) like Barca do when playing Deportivo La Coruna ? (Chelsea’s furthest away game is Newcastle 248 miles(400k) The same could be applied for Germany and Italy though where the Milan sides have to travel 628 miles(1011k) when visiting Catania or when Bayern travel to Hamburg or St Pauli by covering 381 miles(613). Strong away form is a lot harder to come by in Spain or if your names Roy Hodgson. Which makes Barcelona’s 100% 8 away wins this season all the more impressive.
The physical side of the game is not something that Pep’s men will shy away from as seen in South Africa, all that’s needed is a strong referee to take the appropriate action to stop them being kicked off the pitch, sit down Mr Webb. They may be susceptible to set-pieces but then they would have to give the ball away first in order to have the problem.
The teams that Barcelona have breezed past in the last 8 games are Sevilla, Getafe, Villarreal, Almeria, Real Madrid, Osasuna, Real Sociedad and Espanyol. Sevilla, Getafe and Villarreal have all played in this seasons Europa League. Almeria were beaten 8-0 and their manager was subsequently sacked although for a team that has only 13 points from 16 games and in comparison to the 5 that Barcelona put past last seasons 4th placed team Sevilla, this seasons 5th placed team Espanyol and Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid might now look a little harsh. Osasuna was a last gasp away trip on the train which saw them arrive 3 minutes after kick off was due to start and Osasuna were unbeaten in 13 games at home beforehand. Real Sociedad are newly promoted but lie in a respectable 9th but were probably beaten mentally before they stepped out at the Nou Camp. Real Madrid and Espanyol are the two games that mean the most to the fans and possibly the players, whilst Real were beaten after 20 mins, Espanyol had a real go and despite losing 5-1 had actually played quite well. Barcelona had scored 31 goals in all competitions since they had last conceded so Osvaldo’s cool finish on the break was a little consolation.
In the last 4 and a half years Barcelona have won 3 La Liga titles, 2 European cups, 1 Spanish Cup, 3 Spanish Super Cups, 1 UEFA Super cup and 1 World Club cup, along with a large proportion of their players helping Spain win the European Championship and World Cup.
Best club side ever ? Possibly
Best club side in recent history ? Definitely