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May 20, 2014

It's too easy to criticize a man when he's out of favour, and to make him shoulder the blame for everybody else's mistakes. Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace

In the end it was impossible for this to continue. From the heights of driving their fans to ecstasy with their performance in the field Barca has come a long way. There were too many occasion where one simply felt that the team was merely going through the motions. Even though we were so close to winning the League, we have indeed given up at many occasions. So there was no way Martino could have survived this, there is no point in surviving this. At Barca, how you win matters most, more than how much you win. The way we were playing in recent weeks turned the table completely on Martino. As a matter of fact, we weren't exactly winning also! So that didn't do him any favour either.

When we announced Martino signing, I wrote a post - Is Tata Martino the Right Man for Barca?. In that post I mentioned a number of factors that could work against him and a number of ones that could work for him. It seems all that could have gone wrong, did go wrong! Not entirely but figuratively. Sometimes, may be most of the time; to assess a situation properly, the only thing have to do is ask the right question. So the first question to ask would be "Was this season a failure?” Again it's a tricky question to answer and cannot be answered properly until we define what is a "Failure" for Barca.

Barca's achievement at the end of the season will total up as one Super Cup triumph, Copa Del Rey Final appearance, UEFA Champions League Quarter Final appearance and a runner-up position in a hardly fought La Liga. For most of the clubs across Europe, this much would have been a major achievement. To stay in fight for all the competition almost till the end is no mean achievement. But such has been the dominance of Barca in recent times that these are reduced to mere numbers. It's not only the failure in grabbing any silverware which worked against Martino; to a greater extend the performance on the pitch mattered more. Towards the end of the season the team barely resembled the great side which it used to be. The pinnacle of that came in the Copa Del Rey final defeat against Real Madrid. For some reason we went into the final as a completely dysfunctional unit, a sudden change from that heroic triumph at the Bernabeu. We looked impotent from the beginning in that match, and the only player who looked good gave us the equalizer and that too from a corner. It is after that match the call for Martino's head just gained strength.

To an extent, Martino started his Barca career with an enormous disadvantage. He came too late to decide on any meaningful signing and by the time he took the reins, it was practically impossible for him to sign. To compound his misery, we had a great run till winter - doing really well without much injury crisis apart from Messi's. That may have forced him not to look for defensive reinforcement in the January window. It turned out to be a huge mistake. It looked like he and all of us failed to read the signs, or were simply hiding behind the exceptional performances of Victor Valdes in game after game. His injury not only deprived the team of the service of an exceptional keeper but also took the confidence along with it. The defense never appeared confident after that. After losing Valdes, we were just one injury away from a major defensive crisis and that became a reality with Pique's injury. The team never recovered from that. All these years of neglect of the team's needs by the management came back to haunt us. Unfortunately, Martino who had no say in those decisions had to take the full blame.

At the start of the season, I did write that whoever comes as the next manager would have to get the domination of our midfield back. It is true for Luis Enrique. At Barca, the midfield is everything - without the midfield domination we are poor in attack and defense. That precisely was the reason for our struggles in past few seasons. The only match where we solved that was the 2nd Leg match against AC Milan at Camp Nou last season. That 4-0 victory showed how we could get the domination back. But none of our managers have taken note of the same. The idea of signing Neymar was precisely to unlock complicated defences or teams which defend with a compact midfield and defense. Despite the 86 Million purchase, we looked absolutely clueless this season too when pitted against smart defending teams.

Last season many believed that Barca's over dependence of Messi was the reason why we struggled. It was sad to see Martino without any analysis accepting that line of argument. His comment of "Not wanting to get Messi much involved" after the Copa Del Rey final gave the picture of a totally confused man. By then he has lost the trust of the dressing room and also the confidence in his own tactics. Barca's recent problems with compact defences had many pundits harping on Barca's lack of a plan B. Martino tried to add some verticality into the team early on and believed that it will solve the issue. It had some success till the opposition started adjusting to that. After that especially in the second half of the season, we were treated to a barrage of high crosses into the box with not even a single Barca player in position to attack it. Again he failed there to isolate himself from the pundits and access what would have worked for the team. Sending in cross after cross into the box with a 5 feet 5 players in the box wasn't going to get any result!

In the end Tata Martino was hard done by the management's decision not to reinforce necessary positions. This deprived him of any escape option at times. There are also indications that he was forced to play a particular eleven in almost all the big games, even though some of the players outside that group were in better form. Tata Martino came in as someone who could arrest Barca's decline and restart the evolution. Instead he ended up accelerating it. The management may have played a bigger part in it than him, but as the Captain of the ship he will shoulder all the blame. In the end for the Board, he was the perfect scapegoat. His non-Catalan identity means no one will come to his defense.

All About FC Barcelona is a Blog dedicated to the Most prestigous Club in the world, FC Barcelona by an ardent fan. Here I discuss about the Latest happening surrounding our Club and present my Views about the same.

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