A few observations from last night’s Champions’ League tie between Liverpool and Barcelona:

  • Liverpool have the strongest domestic squad in Europe, and in effect, the world. Barcelona were put to the sword without the absent Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino, Naby Keita, Adam Lallana, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, whilst Divock Origi and Xherdan Shaqiri seamlessly stepped up to the plate without the need for Daniel Sturridge.
  • Barcelona are dining out on the accolades of yesteryear. Although one could argue that planning for the eventual departure of a ‘one off’ Greatest of All Time is a virtually impossible task, without Messi they run the risk of slipping into mediocrity, even obscurity. It must though be stated that manager Ernesto Valverde is not the right man for the big occasion, proven by his passive, detached pitch-side demeanour and staid, almost arrogant tactics that insinuated that ‘we are Barcelona, and can beat anyone’ without adapting to such dangerous opposition.
  • Starting Coutinho was a great mistake. Not because of his Liverpool connections – the transfer fee received for the Brazilian paid for Virgil van Dijk and Allison Becker – but would have given Barca’s bench much needed experience and guile. Instead, bringing on the callow Arthur and Malcom – footballers, not a music hall act – when the Catalan’s needed fresh attacking impetus failed to have the desired effect.
  • Andy Robertson is a world-class full back and vital, through his unerring delivery from the flank, to Liverpool’s devastating attacking prowess.
  • Anyone with their finger on the pulse of Liverpool’s modus operandi knows the red half of Merseyside play an intense, pressing game with and without the ball. How, therefore, did Valverde expect to cut through such a wired, resolute opposition by playing so deep, and as such starting attacks from defence against a team playing a high line? Lionel Messi was frequently seen just in front of his own back four, trying in vain to slalom single-handedly through Liverpool. Playing a higher line risks being caught on the break but would have pinned Liverpool back far more than transpired. Barcelona barely laid a glove on the opposition, in what was the small matter of a Champions’ League semi-final.
  • What is a player like Malcom doing at a club of Barcelona’s standing? I struggle to recall a cameo more blatantly one-footed and ineffectual.
  • As with Bayern Munich and Thomas Mueller, Mats Hummels, and Manuel Neuer, Barca have ignored the sands of time and persisted, without seemingly much thought for the future, with players living off past glories. Similar to FC Hollywood inferior replacements recruited as long or short-term successors foretell a bleak future, unless continental Europe’s slain giants have the means, and will, to financially go head to head with the Premier League’s fiscal muscle.
  • Furthermore, in all its monied vulgarity that could in theory see, for example, Bournemouth outbid in the course of player recruitment some of Europe’s established so-called elite, the Premier League, fuelled by barely believable amounts of television money holds the whip hand over its continental counterparts. Before it is broken up in true Ajax fashion can the current Amsterdam-based side underpinned by youth and ingenuity bloody the nose of Mammon, earning rather than acquiring success?
  • Barcelona need a fresh approach, not a manager out of his depth secured relatively on the cheap. Revolving door recruitment of managers does not work, especially when the tools needed are of inferior quality. Arsene Wenger, anyone?
  • Lionel Messi is the greatest player the world has ever known, as such a blessing and a curse to Barcelona. Where would they be without him, but how do you replace the incomparable?