The best way to find an answer is to ask the right questions. As everything seems to have reached the boiling point in Barcelona, I don’t have answers, so I’m going to ask questions.
1. What has Luis Enrique brought to the team?
Has he brought in a strategy, a fundamental idea that defines the team’s matches week after week? Based on what we’ve seen week after week, the answer to the question would be a no. We’re halfway through the season, and although there have been good matches too, I find it hard to determine what exactly Luis Enrique’s fundamental footballing idea is. And if it is to make use of the lethal front three, should that be done by leaving limitless room for their individual skill, or should it be done by creating a system in which each individual knows his role, which would then create balance to the overall performance?
2. Has Luis Enrique convinced his squad about his ideas bringing success?
Luis Enrique himself isn’t lacking confidence – just take a look at any of his press conferences – but are his players as confident about his ideas? Do his players feel that by doing what the coach says, they will lift trophies at the end of the season? If they don’t believe in it now, after nearly six months of working under Enrique, will they ever believe in it? If they don’t believe in it, will they ever achieve success under Enrique? And if they don’t have faith in the coach’s ideas, whose fault is that? Has the coach managed to sell his ideas to the squad, or has the squad not been open to receiving them?
3. Do the players have a right to demand better if they think that Luis Enrique can’t deliver?
Does a professional footballer, who trains everyday (unless he has gastroenteritis) and dedicates his entire life to his profession, have a right to demand the absolute best from the people by his side? Or should he sit in silence, suck it up and blindly believe in the coach regardless, because the coach is the biggest authority? When a professional footballer has won it all, does he know when a coach is inept? Or does a coach always know better? And if the players think they know better, does the coach have any chance to begin with? If the coach thinks he knows better, do the players (who have won everything) feel disrespected? And if they do, could there be something more behind it? Could it be that the coach hasn’t given them enough explanations as to why he knows better, and why his ideas are worth believing in? Or should a player believe in a coach’s ideas anyway?
4. If there’s no faith in the coach, should the coach go?
Can a coach manage a team that doesn’t believe in him? If that is the case, should a new face be brought in, or should the coach be given more time to gain the trust? Or should the players who don’t believe in the coach – assuming those exist – be left out of the squad to underline the coach’s authority? Can authority be gained by punishing disbelievers, or should it be gained by being close to the players and assuring them that your ideas work?
5. Is there proof that Luis Enrique’s ideas could work during the second half of the season?
We have seen glimpses of the front three connecting well, and we have seen a defense that concedes less than in the previous seasons, but is that enough if the team has already lost four matches and been left without a single goal in four matches? Can a faint promise of better carry us through an entire season, when there’s a chance of the promise exploding into magic, but when it could just as well end up in a fiasco? Have we seen the same mistakes repeatedly, or have mistakes been learned from? If mistakes haven’t be learned from so far (and Enrique still keeps assuring that the team is doing fine), can we assume that the coach will suddenly make a U-turn and things will start changing?
6. Is it worth it to bring in a new coach for six months?
Realistically, if Josep Maria Bartomeu doesn’t get elected next summer, the team will be managed by a new coach at the start of the 2015-16 season. A new board, a new coach. With that being said, we can probably assume that Luis Enrique won’t coach Barcelona next season, and nor will the man who could replace him now. So is Luis Enrique doing so desperately bad that a new coach, with six months of time to build something from scratch, would have better chances of ending the season with at least one trophy? Right now, Barcelona is still alive in three competitions, and although it may be hard to believe, could win, for example, the Copa del Rey. Who has bigger chances of doing that: the man who has steered the ship thus far, or a newcomer who requires a whole new adaptation period? Or if we don’t think about trophies at all, is it worth it to bring more instability to the club in form of a new coach, considering that everything will start from scratch after the elections anyway? Or can things even get more unstable?And last but not least…
7. How should we interpret everything said in the press at a time like this?
With the elections coming up, everyone has their own agenda. We all have our opinions on Bartomeu, but he isn’t stupid enough to side against Messi when he’s trying to defend his position as the club president next summer. So of course he will make Messi his friend, not his enemy. If being Messi’s friend means sacking Luis Enrique, he will do it, even if it carves a new scratch in his reputation: Enrique was Bartomeu’s board’s man, after all. If Bartomeu sides with Messi, he will want the voters to know that he’s siding with Messi. As a result, we will hear and read stories like “Bartomeu convinces Messi that he’s on his side”, or “Bartomeu has calmed Messi down and convinced him to stay”. We’ll read stories like this without ever really seeing the full picture, without ever really knowing if Messi is thinking about leaving in the first place, or whether him staying in the club has anything to do with Luis Enrique’s future.
So in conclusion….
I have no idea what’s about to happen, but I do know that it will cause more drama and controversy than we’ve seen in a long time. So buckle up.