Ahead of Barcelona’s Champions League match against Ajax on Wednesday night, Gerard Pique has sought to explain his comment that they became “slaves to tiki-taka” under Pep Guardiola and Tito Vilanova.
He made the assertion in an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport last week, which led to an outcry among Barca’s loyal supporters around the world and at home in Catalonia.
It was evident that Pique had simply suggested Barca’s tactics needed to evolve, and he was happy that new manager Gerardo Martino had brought a fresh outlook to the club.
But judging by the furore that ensued, Pique was suddenly considered a traitor to Barca’s identity, and so he has sought to clarify matters accordingly.
“The headline was taken out of context,” Pique said.
“From there everyone has their opinion. I wanted to say that we had become very predictable. We cannot change our style of play -- it has been good for us, and we will always have it, although in recent years teams have known how we play.
“They hit us on the break, while we have been moving the ball horizontally, always through Xavi [Hernandez] and [Andres] Iniesta.
“Sometimes it looked like a game of handball. So we are looking for more different ways to attack, to be more vertical, to win the ball back high up the pitch -- so we can score a goal in one pass. All goals count the same.”
Pique says it has been a challenge to incorporate Martino’s tactical tinkering, especially for the defence.
Having failed to secure a top-class new defender, Martino has simply forced his current defenders to work harder and run further, which Pique says takes some getting used to.
“I feel good, but the centre-halves have to run backwards a lot,” he said, explaining how Martino has been working.
“There are days when things go better than others. They showed us the stats from the last game and the defenders had never run as far.
“We could play better, but then we have won all four games in La Liga and have won the Supercopa.
“We have a new coach, giving us new ideas, so we can be happy, but know that we can improve. So we are in a very good and comfortable position.”
Meanwhile, Pique has denied that Barca’s hammering by Bayern Munich last season has made them prioritise winning the Champions League this season, to prove they are not European has-beens.
“Our principle objective is always La Liga. If we also win the Champions League, then it is a brilliant year,” he said.
“We cannot start the year saying it is our objective, because you can reach the semi-finals, have a bad game, and then you lose it.
“La Liga is a better mark of whether the team has done well or not, and last year we did very, very well -- with such a distance over the second team it was a great season considering everything we went through.”