La Liga 2016/17: 5 reasons why Barcelona ceded the trophy to Real Madrid

Barcelona v Eibar - La Liga : News Photo
Where did it all go wrong for Barcelona?

While thousands of Madridistas will be celebrating the capture of Real Madrid’s 33rd league title at Cibeles, thousands of Barcelona supporters will be wondering where it all went wrong in a campaign that they only lost by three points but were, in truth, a million miles away from winning themselves.

Winning the league is always considered the benchmark, given that the season is often a long and arduous one. The 2016/17 La Liga was no different but perhaps the signs were already there before the campaign even began.

Also read: LaLiga glory for Ronaldo, Pichichi for Messi - how the great rivals compared in 2016-17

The Catalans were resting on their laurels whilst Zinedine Zidane made it a stated aim for Los Blancos to bring back the trophy they hadn’t won for five years.

Let’s take a look at five reasons why Barcelona ceded the league title to their bitterest rivals...

#1 Defensive frailties

Defensive issues...again

Ever since Carles Puyol hung up his boots, Barcelona have had issues with their back line. Whether it was aerially or full-backs pushing too far forward, there was always a hole that needed plugging.

The most obvious problem for them in 2016/17 has been the lack of a top-class right-back. For all of his willingness and industry, Sergi Roberto is not the answer.

Samuel Umtiti has largely sorted out the problem of the team not being able to deal with high balls, along with Gerard Pique, but Javier Mascherano has looked off-colour, Jordi Alba has been non-existent at times and their back-ups have been poor.

Dani Carvajal and Marcelo are probably the two best wing-backs in world football at the moment because, although they bomb forward and have assist stats to die for, their primary role remains defending, at which they are exemplary.

Sergio Ramos has reigned supreme as captain and though he’s had a number of partners, Varane, Nacho and Pepe have all been excellent when required.

#2 Real Madrid’s exemplary squad depth

Barcelona’s bench couldn’t compare

When you can regularly keep the likes of James Rodriguez, Alvaro Morata and Marco Asensio on your bench, it says an awful lot about the talent and depth within your squad.

Zinedine Zidane enjoyed hitherto unheard of luxuries in 2016/17, even benching Cristiano Ronaldo on nine occasions.

If the Frenchman wanted to bring the subs on, there was very rarely a drop in quality, something that was hugely noticeable when Barcelona tried to do the same, particularly in the early stages of the campaign.

At the back end of the season, when Isco came into his own and Lucas Vazquez, Asensio and others all contributed, Real’s bench became known as the ‘Plan B’ but in actual fact, those players were as good as any they had replaced.

Luis Enrique had to make do with players who were either out of form or not playing with any confidence whatsoever – a marked difference.

#3 MSN not functioning fully at all times

MSN have been tired and lethargic for long periods

With players of the calibre of Neymar, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, it isn’t unfair to expect a return in each and every game from one or the other.

Perhaps they should be cut some slack, after all they’re only human, but Juan Carlos Unzue’s tirade at the Brazilian, that he would “end up like Ronaldinho” if he didn’t settle down, has struck a nerve. Maybe because there’s an element of truth to it.

Yes, he was instrumental in the 6-1 victory over PSG, and in other games, he, along with his attacking colleagues, have been excellent.

But if you compare it with their output over the past couple of seasons, MSN have been sorely lacking at times. The big players need to show up time and again. That the Blaugrana’s ‘big three’ weren’t always able to deliver their best hints at tiredness and fatigue, something Barcelona have been accused of mismanaging before.

#4 Dropped points at crucial moments

Silly games have been lost

The La Liga table will show that Barcelona lost just one more game than their eternal rivals across the campaign but that doesn’t tell the whole story.

When there were chances for the Catalans to put pressure on Real Madrid, they failed to do so on more than one occasion. The match that particularly stands out is the one against Deportivo la Coruna.

Barca travelled to the Riazor knowing that a win would keep them firmly in the hunt, but a spectacularly bad performance meant that Luis Enrique’s side left with their tails between their legs.

Aside from the first couple of weeks of the season, and then at the end – though Real had a game in hand by that stage – Barcelona were never above Real in the table, making life so much easier for Los Blancos.

#5 Madrid had a better rotation policy

Zidane has shown himself to be an astute manager

Even before the 2016/17 campaign had begun, there was a general acceptance that Real Madrid had, man for man, just about the best squad in world football.

Chatter on the football grapevine was more to do with how Zinedine Zidane was going to keep everyone happy.

Aside from a couple of players, particularly Alvaro Morata and James Rodriguez, the Frenchman hasn’t only managed to keep everyone onside, but he’s done it in such a way that all of his perceived ‘reserves’ have played over 1000 minutes of the season, coming good on his promise that everyone was important.

Compare that to Luis Enrique who was hamstrung from the very beginning by some poor transfer window buys. Denis Suarez and Lucas Digne have been a complete waste of time and space with Paco Alcacer and Andre Gomes only finding their feet in the latter weeks of the season.

Umtiti has settled but a lack of decent back up has meant that Enrique couldn’t rotate as much as he would’ve wanted – and that’s been disastrous for the Blaugrana.

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