Gerard Pique freely admits that the current Barcelona lineup does not compare to the Pep Guardiola-led side that lifted six trophies but is in no doubt that the Catalans will compete for titles under new boss Gerardo Martino.
Much has been made of the more direct approach adopted by the Blaugrana this season, particularly after the back-to-back defeats to Ajax and Athletic Bilbao, but the Spain international says that the players are fully behind the tactics employed by their new Argentine trainer.
Pique also feels it is futile to continually contrast this season's side with the one that swept all before them in 2009.
"We have stopped thinking about it," the center half told reporters Wednesday. "We don't compare ourselves with the team that won six trophies in one year. We will lose in every comparison. We're going to take everything step by step and in March and April we'll see where we are and what we aspire to.
"The level of expectation is the same. [Martino] is learning the ropes and he knows how it works. He's a professional and he's been well received by the dressing room. I take my hat off to him."
Pique admitted, though, that he and his teammates had been hurt by the insinuation that they are no longer working as hard, either in competitive games or on the training field.
"I like criticism to be constructive," he said. "But a lack of respect is quite another thing, as happened the other day when [midfielder Andres] Iniesta was asked if we were training well. We all accept criticism; of course we do. I don't think it's a lack of respect to say that we need to change our squad.
"But it's impossible for a team to press for the whole game. Before, when we used to have the ball a lot we were able to rest more. Now, we find it harder to hold onto the ball because we are playing in a more direct way, but the team still wants to press."
Martino has integrated himself in the club, Pique said, and has attempted to learn from those already around the team.
"The coach has adapted to the methods of Barcelona and has sought support from the people who were already here. We are grateful he has done this and changed his customs. But when it comes to tactics, he calls the shots," he said. "We've had ups and downs, like the game in Amsterdam [against Ajax], which was unforgivable. But we need to show that we aren't in a depression and that we are ready to start winning again."
Pique added that he has just opened talks with Barcelona about extending his stay at Camp Nou.
"We are at the initial stage," he explained. "We have just had one meeting."
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