Gerard Pique welcomes varied tactics
Gerard Pique has welcomed the tactical tweaks being made at the Camp Nou by new coach Gerardo Martino, and suggested that Barcelona had become "slaves to their system" under previous bosses Josep Guardiola and Tito Vilanova.
• Tomas: Replacing Valdes
Barca’s ‘tiki-taka’ style famously won them 14 of the 20 trophies entered between 2008-09 and 2011-12 under Guardiola, but the team had already begun to struggle to break down well-organised opponents during his final season in charge, an issue which also affected them during Vilanova’s illness-affected year at the helm.
Since replacing Vilanova in July, Martino has been careful to stress his respect for what the team has achieved in recent years, but has also spoken about his intention to bring a more direct 'vertical' approach.
Pique told Gazzetta dello Sport that he for one was in favour of adding more tactical options.
"We played the last few years with homegrown coaches, first Pep and then Tito, and maybe we ended up exasperating our style of play to the extent that we found ourselves slaves to that system, that style," he said.
"Now that Tata, who comes from outside the club, has arrived, and who shares the same ideas of football, which are based on possession, he is, however, showing us different options."
Barca have struggled in the last 18 months with teams like Chelsea, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, but also against Paris Saint-Germain, Atletico Madrid, Milan and Celtic -- with the last two being in their Champions League group this season.
Pique said that hitting the odd long ball from the back -- something discouraged under Guardiola and Vilanova -- was not necessarily a negative thing, and could be useful especially if opponents had committed too many players high up the pitch.
"It's very positive because it gives us variety," he said. "When we are being pressed, sending the ball long a few times is not negative; it helps you mix things up, giving you oxygen and preventing us from getting crushed with no way out.
"We have started pressing far up the field again, winning back possession in the final third of the field and, from there, it's far easier to create chances without having to build up from right at the back, particularly against sides who close up a lot."
The Catalan defender did say that Martino was not ripping up Barca’s playbook completely, just adding extra variations which should prove useful.
"It's normal to try to develop new ideas and variations," Pique said. "After many years, our opponents obviously knew how we attacked, how we moved.
"Look at Alves and Alba, for example. They push a lot and some opponents would give them space down the wing, but not let them move inside. It became difficult to get in. We needed to find alternative solutions and Tata's doing that without ruining our style - we still have the same possession. We needed variations like this."