Madrid, Sep 21 (AFP): Desperately trying to break through the Granada defense, Barcelona sent more than 50 crosses into the area in its search for a goal.
There was none of Barcelona’s famous “tiki taka” — passing the ball around patiently until finding the right space near the opponents’ goal — against Granada in the Spanish league on Monday.
Central defenders Gerard Piqué and Ronald Araújo even played the final minutes as strikers, with little tactical organisation on display as the team pressed forward to try to avoid defeat. Barcelona salvaged a point thanks to a 90th-minute equaliser by Araújo.
The team was jeered by many of the 27,000 fans at Camp Nou Stadium after the final whistle, and it didn’t take long before critics started to attack coach Ronald Koeman for relinquishing the club’s traditional passing game. “What kind of Barcelona is this?” read the front-page headline of the sports daily Marca.
The 54 crosses made on Monday were the second highest for Barcelona in a league game since at least 2005-06, according to stats by OptaJose. That was the first full season with the main team for Lionel Messi, the commander of the tiki-taka style for nearly two decades.
“Barcelona is not what it used to be eight years ago,” said Koeman, who has become increasingly under pressure at the helm of the Catalan club.
Monday’s draw came less than a week after Barcelona endured a demoralising 3-0 loss to Bayern Munich at Camp Nou to begin its campaign in the Champions League.
Koeman said “tiki taki,” as he called it in the news conference after the game against Granada, was not done yet. But he argued he can’t get his team to play that way when several players are injured and out of action.
“It depends on the players we have available. Look at the squad list we had. We did what we could do. There were no players for the tiki taki,” he said. “We want to play our style, but if a match requires a change, we have to make that change. If we have to make crosses, so be it.”
Koeman said he has to improvise because he is missing some key players who could be helping with their individual talent, including Ansu Fati and Ousmane Dembélé.
“With Ansu and Dembélé in the team, things are different,” he said. “But they are not available and we have to find alternatives.”
Among the other players currently nursing injuries are Jordi Alba — another veteran used to the tiki-taka — and youngster Pedri González.
Koeman said after the loss to Bayern that Barcelona is facing a new reality following Messi’s departure to Paris Saint-Germain. The coach has been using several youngsters in the squad, with 17-year-old Gavi again making an appearance on Monday and setting up Araújo’s last-minute equaliser. Yusuf Demir, 18, was a starter at Camp Nou.
The draw against winless Granada left Barcelona in seventh place, five points behind leader Real Madrid with a game in hand. Barcelona’s next league match is on Thursday at Cádiz.