Martino defends approach

Gerardo Martino has suggested that there would be less criticism of his tweaks to Barcelona’s style if he were from the Netherlands or had come through the club’s La Masia academy.

(FC Barcelona)

(FC Barcelona)

Pundits in Catalonia were quick to notice that Rayo Vallecano had actually had more possession of the ball than Barca during Saturday’s meeting in Vallecas, as well as more shots on goal and more passes completed. As Madrid’s AS newspaper noted, it was the first time such a thing had happened in 315 games, since a defeat to Real Madrid in May 2008.

That meeting with Madrid was played before Pep Guardiola took charge of Barca, and the stats were taken as evidence that Martino was moving the team away from the tiki-taka style associated with both Pep and Tito Vilanova.

 “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.”

Asked if such criticism was annoying considering Barca’s 100% record in La Liga and the Champions League so far this term, Martino said any coach coming in from outside Barca’s usual pool would face similar scrutiny.

“I am upset at nothing,” he said. “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 the house nor Dutch. [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.”

“I believe we are getting better. I would like to keep going along the way we played in the second halves against Ajax and Rayo,” Martino said. “I feel we are getting there. I see the players more comfortable each day and think we are improving all the way. 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.”

Looking ahead to Tuesday’s La Liga game against Real Sociedad at the Camp Nou, Martino confirmed that Cesc Fabregas was being rested, so Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta would start.

“When you have three Spain internationals, who could all play together in some games, you want them all to feel well and happy and in good form for the whole season,” he said. “So I am making decisions based on the minutes they have played, and the characteristics of each opponent.”

“We will keep studying Neymar’s minutes,” Martino said. “Since the first three games, he is the outfield player who has played most. It is very difficult to rotate someone [after a hat-trick] but it could happen…”

Source: ESPN 

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