- S.D. Eibar ready for maiden La Liga outing
- SD Eibar stengthen ahead of debut La Liga season
- Can ‘Super Mario’ live up to expectations in Madrid?
- MAN IN THE GROUND – Brentford 0 – 4 Osasuna
- Historic Basque derby welcomes S.D. Eibar to La Liga
- Munich to Madrid, via Brazil – Tony Kroos
- Rakitic in Spanish Switch
- Can Spain find redemption in Rio?
- Viva Espana! A season of redemption for Spanish football
- From the old to the new: who can fill the void in years to come for La Roja?
The Real Madrid side show provides a useful smokescreen for Tito Vilanova
- Updated: 17 September, 2012
Tito Vilanova couldn’t have asked for a better start to his career as Barcelona boss. A series of decent to somewhat underwhelming performances have none the less seen his team grind out results, while at the same time the circus has pulled up in town at Real Madrid, taking the pressure entirely off the shoulders of the new Barca coach.
Four wins in a row in his opening ties as Barcelona coach put Vilanova amongst an illustrious select few of Barcelona managers (Cruyff, Guardiola, Van Gaal), and, as the Catalan press are keen to point out, all of those former Barcelona managers went on to win the league title that season. La Liga over then… or is it?
Despite the merits of opening an eight point gap with Real Madrid, it’s worth noting that rather than the source of that being Barcelona’s unstoppable brilliance, it’s at least in part down to Madrid’s own woeful displays. The strife in the Spanish capital has meant the Barcelona press have spent more time slinging mud at their eternal rivals (no surprises there) than looking in detail at the good and bad points of Barcelona’s wins. It’s certainly a useful scenario for Vilanova, who will happily sit on the sidelines and watch the pressure mount on Jose Mourinho, all the while wondering if anyone will even notice that Barcelona are playing a Champions League tie on Wednesday.
Make no mistake about it however, the moment Barcelona drop points (and they will at some point), the eternally pessimistic Catalans will be quick to point out faults that they’ll no doubt claim they always knew were there, yet failed to mention while the Blaugrana were winning. Those faults are few in number but familiar in detail: that Barcelona still rely too much on Lionel Messi, that once again they’re one injury away from a crisis in defence (after failing to reinforce adequately in the summer), and, crucially, that in only one of their four winning ties in the league so far, Barcelona have failed to keep a clean sheet.
The latter is something that Pep Guardiola used to value as much as winning a game, and with good reason. The former Barça boss was more than aware that a solid defensive foundation was needed should his team hope to win the biggest prizes available to them, and in conceding to Getafe, Osasuna and Real Sociedad (and depending on who you ask, they probably should have conceded against Valencia too), the Catalans have shown hints of a frailty at the back that hasn’t been remedied, and indeed, was exploited in a simple but effective manner by Real Madrid in the Supercopa.
Perhaps I’m being a tad unfair to a rookie coach that has managed to do what few have done by hitting the ground running at the Camp Nou, particularly when Barcelona tend to aim to peak around winter (in which case all will be forgiven), but I think it’s worth looking at the minutiae that often separates a good Barcelona team from a great Barcelona team. The first real decider of whether they fall into the latter category will come in October when they play, well, you know who…
In the mean time, the turmoil in Madrid along with the points put on the table by his players have bought Vilanova valuable time that he can use to fine tune his team, without suffering from the extensive scrutiny he would normally be put under as a new Barça coach, and that’s only a good thing from his point of view.
The honeymoon period isn’t likely to last long however. While in his initial days as Barça boss there was a sense that ‘try your hardest’ was enough for Vilanova, the fact that he has managed to pick up valuable points (even at the Coliseum), means that expectations will be quietly and steadily raising in the background. The moment Barcelona are put under some real pressure (most likely in October) the magnifying glass will focus solely on the man from Bellcaire.
Then, and only then, will we see what he’s made of. In the meantime, from Vilanova’s perspective, let the circus roll on…Follow @icentrocampista