From Tito to Tata: Martino's arrival a positive for Barca

Posted by Francesc Tomas

Barcelona have appointed Gerardo Tata Martino as their new first-team coach for the next two seasons following the shocking departure of Tito Vilanova due to a cancer relapse. Tata who? I hear you screaming...

Naturally, the decision to trust a largely unknown manager to lead one of the strongest squads in football history has raised a few eyebrows in Catalunya. However, according to reports, the appointment of the 50-year-old Argentinean was discussed with a number of ex-Blaugranas and trusted professionals, such as Gabi Milito, Marcelo Bielsa and, most interestingly, Lionel Messi and his father.

- Martino will maintain Barca traditions
- Martino: Messi key to appointment

Sadly, the fact that Leo was involved in these discussions has been used by the Madrid-based press to exaggerate La Pulga's importance to the club and as "evidence" to reinforce their "Little Dictator Owns Barcelona" theory.

Sure, I realize that Messi's views are being heeded more carefully as his career progresses but, honestly, I feel it would be irresponsible for the president to appoint a coach without consulting key players.

Judging by the quadruple Ballon d'Or winner's first reaction, the arrival of Martino seems to have made the best player on the planet incredibly happy. "I like him. He is a great coach and he showed that in the Clausura with what he did for the team, the way it ended and how he did it. He gets his teams playing well, and we all respect him."

Regular readers of my column will remember how I suggested Marcelo Bielsa as Vilanova's replacement as his decision to step down became official. President Sandro Rosell and sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta offering the managerial job to one of Bielsa's most successful colleagues makes, in my humble opinion, perfect sense within the current context.

Having successfully led the Paraguayan national team to the quarterfinals of the 2010 World Cup and having taken Argentina's legendary Newell's Old Boys to victory in the 2013 Final Tournament and to the Copa Libertadores semifinals, it is clear that Martino has a wealth of experience at the international level.

That said, I would be surprised if he does not find it challenging to coach within Europe, especially at the highly demanding Camp Nou. Blaugrana supporters are supportive when the team is winning, but have a very short fuse when the team struggles or lacks the expected level of footballing excellence.

There is no need to panic though. The fourth Argentine manager in Barcelona history (after Roque Olsen, Helenio Herrera and Cesar Luis Menotti) should, in theory, be able to build on the legacy of the successful Frank Rijkaard, Pep Guardiola and Vilanova. His attack-minded, creative approach will certainly be welcome, as will his predisposition to adapt to talented players and the traditional Barcelona philosophy.

Analysing Martino's strategic decisions on his most recent team, one can easily observe an adaptable 4-3-3 formation (which is virtually identical to the Barcelona system), an obsession for controlling the passing game, relentless attacking bursts, player superiority in midfield, full backs who join into attacking positions when possible and high defensive pressure across the pitch in order to regain the ball whenever dispossessed -- an impressive list of characteristics (especially the last one) that would certainly help Barcelona become an even better team in the near future.

However, my main concern ahead of the new season remains unanswered at this point: Which reliable central defender is the club going to sign, and when is that transfer going to be completed? With the signing of Thiago Silva becoming less likely as time goes by, who should the board be focusing on as an alternative?

Let's hope that, as vice president Javier Faus explained, the club can actually afford whatever signing coach Martino requests. Considering the limited time the new manager will have to get to know his players, having a full squad as soon as possible would certainly make his transition into the Blaugrana structures and routines much easier.

Appointing a coach with no experience in European football could certainly be understood as a risky decision (as evidenced by the small number, 48%, of Cules who consider him to be the right man for the job), but as long as he is granted enough time to adapt to his squad and implement the methods which have made his teams successful in the past, I am optimistic about the future.

Tots Units Fem Forca.

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