Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino has brushed off accusatory questions regarding his tweaking of the Catalan club’s style.
Defender Gerard Pique was recently forced to explain what he meant when he said that Barca had been “slaves to tiki-taka” under their last two managers, and how Martino was adding new qualities to their game plan.
In their weekend victory over Rayo Vallecano, Barca played more long balls than usual, and it was the first time in 315 games that their opposition enjoyed more possession and shots on goal than they did.
The last time that happened was before the reign of Pep Guardiola, and some pundits are suggesting that Barca are beginning to move away from their contemporary blueprint for success.
But ‘Tata’ has rejected those claims.
Firstly, he says Barca won 4-0 anyway, and so clearly they did what they needed to do.
Secondly, he acknowledges that Rayo often out-pass their opponents at home, and that Barca’s 100% start to the season bears more or less the same possession stats as usual.
And finally, he says they only way he could avoid accusations of changing Barca’s style is if he was a graduate of La Masia, or Dutch!
“There are always statistics, and you always pay attention to them, but I am more interested in them at the end of the season -- not so much now,” Martino told AS.
“You also have to look at who you are playing. The game last season against Rayo was similar and they had the second best possession stats behind Barcelona last year. We have changed from 66% possession last season to 65.8% this year -- you cannot say we are changing everything because of 0.2% difference.”
“When a team has reached such a level of excellence as Barcelona, you always get these type of situations -- even more when you have a coach who is neither from La Masia nor Dutch,” he added.
“[But] long passes are not something unseen at Barcelona in the last 20 years. I mentioned Rafael Marquez before, and could also go back to Ronald Koeman.”
With successive 4-0 victories it does seem churlish to question Martino’s approach, and he is more than satisfied with his steadily improving outfit of Spanish champions.
“I feel we are getting there. I see the players more comfortable each day and think we are improving all the way,” he said.
“We have a perfect amount of points but are not close to perfection in our performances. We can keep improving; there are a lot of things we can do better.”
Meanwhile, Barca star Dani Alves has confirmed that he offered to donate his liver to Eric Abidal when the Frenchman was suffering from cancer.
“My wish was only to help him, for the admiration that I have for Eric, for the affection I have for his family,” Alves told Lance.
“It is obvious that there was a risk. But it is not completely correct that I would have had to leave football because of the donation. It was a risk, but when life is in the balance, football is the least important thing.”