- Arthiac Team
There is a giant dark cloud looming over Camp Nou as FC Barcelona have been humiliated by their opponents in recent weeks in La Liga and the Champions League.
Over the years, when Barcelona were in a spot of bother, the likes of Xavi, Iniesta, Luis Suarez, Neymar and Messi would come along with a storm of their own and crush their opponents on any given day.
However, those days are long gone and the crisis that FC Barcelona are going through has no boundaries as there are issues on and off the pitch for the Catalan side.
In La Liga, when Levante travelled to the Camp Nou, Barcelona cruised to a 3-0 win and the vibes around the stadium were calm for a few days at least. The fans were glad and it felt like Barcelona were finding their "mojo" back again after winning.
However, that has not been the case. Just when the Catalans thought that the sun was shining bright, the dark clouds came over again and they are here to stay!
In their Champions League game away from home against Portuguese side Benfica, the fixture was an opportunity for Barca to build from their weekend win over Levante and really calm the fears in and around the Camp Nou, but just as the game got underway, Benfica took the lead within 3 minutes of the game through Darwin Nunez as he cut inside onto his right and drilled it past Ter Stegen's right-hand side as the the Portuguese Eagles got underway and stamped their authority over a tame Barcelona defence which included the likes of Eric Garcia, Pique and Araujo.
The Portuguese side kept pushing forward after taking the lead, but FC Barcelona started finding their feet in a while as they were rocked back by the hosts.
Just around the 10th minute mark, Barcelona found themselves right in front of goal as they were able to get past Benfica's defensive line which saw Frankie De Jong pass it along the floor to Luuk De Jong, but the centre-forward just couldn't make it count when it mattered the most.
Barca kept growing and a minute later, they kept threatening to break through after Sergi Roberto's delivery found Frankie De Jong, but his effort on goal went wide.
You could probably feel that Barca were getting close to opening their account on Wednesday night as Barcelona had a good spell of ball possession as they seemed that they would be making inroads into the game as it went along.
There were multiple attempts at goal from the men in yellow with red diagonal stripes as Pedri had 2 attempts on goal which went wide.
Frankie De Jong was out there once again in front of the goal, but he decided to square it to Luuk as the Dutch striker had to stretch for it and fired it wide.
Well, besides all the chaos hovering around the Camp Nou and Barcelona, Gerard Pique was subbed off just after the 30 minute mark as his time on the pitch was far from secure as the veteran was clearly struggling to keep up with the pace of the game where you just felt that a minute longer for him and he could be off the pitch with a red card beside his name, leaving the club in a much more pathetic position in the game than they already were. This brought in youngster Gavi, who pushed Frankie into the back three, mostly in the center, with Eric Garcia and Araujo on his right and left sides.
Barcelona kept knocking on Benfica's door at the Estadio da Luz stadium in Portugal as Memphis Depay and crew looked to penetrate in behind the defensive line of the hosts, but they were unable to crack open.
The game got underway in the second-half and once again, Benfica got themselves off to a good start as they nearly had 3-4 attempts at goal within the opening 5 minutes of the game through Otamendi and Darwin Nunez, but this time around, the men in red and white could not capitalise as early as they did in the first.
They were so close to getting their second goal of the game when Ter-Stegen rushed out of his goal line to clear an ongoing Benfica attack where he was left in no man's land as Darwin Nunez would consider himself so unlucky as his attempt on goal hit the outside half of the goal post, which saw Barcelona get saved by the skin of their teeth.
However, things were on their way to getting even worse for Barcelona as they were so close to levelling the score line in the 57th minute of the game when Ronald Araujo headed the ball down towards Luuk De Jong, who hit the post as the ball hit his thigh as the flag stayed down initially. Could things possibly get any worse for Catalonia?They just couldn't find a way to break through!
Memphis Depay kept looking out for solutions as he was the only bright spark for Barcelona and his manager as he looked to find a way, thus providing an answer, but he too couldn't find the solution as Benfica kept defending desperately.
Their defensive efforts were rewarded when Joao Mario found a little pocket of space in behind Barcelona's defensive set-up as he pulled the trigger, but an outstretched Ter Stegen denied the Portuguese international midfielder, but the rebound fell kindly at the feet of the other Portuguese in Rafa Silva who wasted no time in finding the back of the net as he drilled it on to the roof of the net in the top-right corner as Benfica took the lead which saw them blow away the roof of the stadium.
The hosts didn't stop there yet as they kept pushing for a third goal to humiliate FC Barcelona and Ronald Koeman as Ukrainian forward Yaremchuk looked to provide the goods.
However, the night grew weary and old for the men in yellow as an effort on goal hit the arm of America's right-back, Sergino Dest as the hosts were rewarded with a penalty.
There was no better individual on the pitch other than Darwin Nunez to rub salt into the deep wounds of those in Barca colours as the Uruguayan striker rolled it past Ter-Stegen as Benfica wrote their own history in the Champions League books.
To make things look and sound worse, Eric Garcia was sent off in the 87th minute of the game as he saw his second yellow card of the game where he held Goncalo Ramos and brought him down.
Barcelona are burning down to ashes!
Could someone pour cold water on the burned area?
There are no words to describe the calamity at this historic Catalan side as they crumble into bits and pieces that seem far away from being recovered and rebuilt again.
Barcelona are the only side in the Champions League to have failed to record a shot on target in the first round of the Champions league. Nevertheless, they did record one against Benfica as they sit rock bottom in Group E with no points on board as it seems as though they have been crushed to the core on the inside.
These are back-to-back defeats in the Champions League and it is one hell of a ride if you're a Barcelona fan.
Why can't Barcelona find a way to win?
There are many times when we think that Barcelona are trying to find a cute way to score goals on many occasions during a game.
Those days are gone and so are the players. With all due respect, Barcelona have a few players now who could do that, with Depay, Fati, and Pedri being amongst them. You could also squeeze in Frankie in there. The rest are on the same wavelength as the iconic Barcelona stars were in the past who could walk their way into an opponent's goal.
Adding to that, teams have grown. Teams have changed, the structure around many clubs has changed, and the players that have come into sides show that in the modern world, clubs are out there for success and not just survival.
Here's an example: there are clubs like Aston Villa in the Premier League who have acquired the services of an assistant coach to improve and develop their side as a complete package of threat.
In the game against Benfica, Frankie De Jong was through on goal twice in the first half of the game. He had the goal right in front of him. Instead, he decided to pass on the ball to his international strike partner in Luuk De Jong.
These cute goals may come easily on the training ground, but when the stage is set and when the lights are on, you need to take your chance and deliver, especially when the club is in utmost disarray at this point in time.
They just look like a side who doesn't have an answer when they are put on the back foot.
Talk about great teams like Real Madrid, Manchester United, Manchester City, PSG, Chelsea, Liverpool, Bayern Munich and many more. These are sides that will get back up. They find a way to bounce back next week and irrespective of how big and a club like Barcelona are in global structure, they don't seem to be able to make things happen on the pitch.
This is the first time that Barcelona have lost their opening two group stage games in the Champions League, which is a stat worthy of taking into consideration to describe the fall of this great club.
Yeah, it's great that they defeated Levante last weekend, but really? Is it great? Barcelona are staring down the barrel of competing in the Europa League. They are in a desperate situation right now at this present moment.
They were in bits and pieces against Bayern Munich two weeks ago and it was as embarrassing as it could get for Barca.
We have always said that it was good to sign Eric Garcia from Manchester City on a free deal, but the guy is just not capable of handling the weight of wearing that Barcelona jersey.
He isn't the right personnel that would fill in the boots and fill the void of that lacklustre defensive outline of the club. He's already received a lot of red cards during his short tenure at the club and things just don't look promising. Yes, you could say that his signing resulted from the club's financial crisis, but if you look at it, it just wouldn't be that way if the previous hierarchy at the Catalan club handled the situation well.
Who is the culprit at the club? Koeman or his players?
It is certainly painful to see this side go down. Well, it isn't painful if you are a Real Madrid fan.
Looking into it, we don't see the players subscribing to the plans and strategies used by Koeman to get his boys over this finishing line. It seems as though that the players and everyone at the club are still mourning the loss of their own legend in Lionel Messi.
The past remains in the past. You can not change it now, no matter what. It is about time that everyone around the club rolls up their sleeves and accepts the new chapter that has begun at the Camp Nou.
Of course! Of course, it is not a beautiful chapter. It's not a chapter that would bring in roses and daffodils at the end. It's a chapter that describes the painful reality of what the club is now and where it could possibly be heading towards.
Recently, Barcelona were slashed with a wage bill that lowered the standards of their Premier League promotion club, Watford. Do we even need to speak of the numbers?
At the moment, almost everyone is talking about the possibility of one of Europe's big giants as FC Barcelona may not be making it into the knockout stages of the Champions League.
There is a slight possibility that they may not make it through to the Europa League knockout stages as well, but we won't go that far for now.
The irony is that if you're a Barcelona fan, you can not sit and dwell on the past about how great the club was. Times have changed, things have changed and we all need to accept that Barcelona is not amongst the Elite's of the Elite's at this point in time. They may become an elite club in the future, but not now and not so soon.
It's all about "acceptance." Accept the fact that the club is in a situation of desperate need and help. The least the fans could do is to be "partial" towards their manager and players.
Have mercy on the players that wear the jersey. They may not be deserving of having it on them, but with your support and love, they will go a long way.
Yes, maybe even Koeman isn't the right man for the job at the moment, but give him time and some "breathing space" for the sake of humanity.
It was really saddening to see the Barca fans boo and whistle Sergi Roberto when he wasn't performing at his best. We have a question:
Did you forget his winning goal against PSG at the Camp Nou where you sealed a comeback win after losing 4-0 at the Parc des Princes?
We are all humans and so are the players and as hard as it may seem to accept and carry on with the performances of this Barcelona side, we can't do anything about it.
It's just true that the players are not playing for their manager as they look like they don't trust him. This is a sign that there is no synergy and player-manager relationship within the dressing room at the club.
When your players don't go the extra mile for you, we're not quite sure where you as a club could be heading.
Strong reports have emerged that Barcelona are already on the hunt for a new manager as Ronald Koeman may not be on the bench in 3 weeks time to manage the game against Dynamo Kiev.
Reports have also emerged that Andrea Pirlo, Roberto Martinez and Xavi are the prime candidates to replace Koeman.
Speaking of Koeman, we think it is safe to say that he would have gone long ago if Barcelona could afford it. We're not sure if they can afford it now as well, but you just have to accept that he is the man in charge of what happens during the 90 minutes of every game for now.
However, it's always easy to sack the coach instead of the players as it's the cheapest alternative available for the hierarchy to consider.
Koeman has limited tools at the moment to work and find a way to keep this side winning consistently.
Keeping the tools aside, you need tools that work, you need tools that function, and if your assets or players don't work or function for their manager, it is hard to see them going anywhere near their best any time soon.
It is safe to say that right now, FC Barcelona are drowning.
Food for thought: