People don't like change, especially when the status quo has produced four La Liga titles, two Champions League titles, two Copa del Rey trophies, four Spanish Super Cups, two UEFA Super Cups and two Club World Cup titles over the last five years. So when Barcelona finished a competitive match with less possession than their opponents for the first time since a 4-1 loss to Real Madrid in May 2008 (317 matches ago), it became the headline...even though Barca beat Ray Vallecano 4-0.
Barcelona's official website, which gets it's data from Opta, said possession was only 51-49 percent in Rayo's favor while Opta's English language Twitter feed said Barca only had 46 percent of possession (and Opta's Spanish language Twitter feed said 45 percent). Whatever the actual number was, it was less than what has become the team's standard practice of ball hoggery. Even in losing 7-0 on aggregate to Bayern Munich last season, Barca still had 60 percent of possession or more in both legs. But to stave off the "end of an era" talk that grew last season even though Barcelona still won La Liga, there was a need to modify and adapt and avoid stagnation and predictability. And as Gerard Pique said before 4-0 win over Ajax earlier in the week (yes, another 4-0 win), new manager Tata Martino is trying to do that.
"We've been playing the same way and Tata (coach Gerardo Martino) wants us to make some changes," Spain defender Gerard Pique told reporters on Tuesday.
"We need more time. We're trying to find the balance between playing more directly and playing as always. But things are going well," he added on the eve of the Group H tie against Ajax, the first meeting of the two former European champions.
Pique isn't sugar coating the situation, either. Barcelona are top of La Liga with five wins in as many matches. As Opta points out, "Barcelona have gone on to win the league on all five previous occasions where they have opened with five successive wins."
But as Barcelona's tiki-taka purity begins to be diluted, the man who started that five-year span of dominance, Pep Guardiola, consoles himself over his old club's divergence from "the right way" by spreading his gospel within the very club that dominated Barca last season. While Barcelona beat Rayo 4-0 with that puny sub-50 percent possession, Guardiola and Bayern Munich beat Schalke 4-0 with 69 percent of possession.