If we already have a very short squad of 16 or 17 active first team players, it is vital to at least have them all performing at a high level. We have almost no margin for rotations, but, whenever we do changes, the chosen footballers must prove to be reliable enough.
However, that doesn’t seem to be the case now. As said, our squad is of 16 (plus Neto), but not all 16 players can be trusted for any circumstance. Junior Firpo, Umtiti, Rakitić…They are all performing below their standards, and this can be catastrophic. If we are forced to make a modification in our backline in a big clash, the drop from our regular starter to our back-up is huge. Even if in a simple league game we want to rotate, we can’t do it with total confidence.
We complain about Piqué, Jordi Alba or Suárez when they are on the pitch, but at least they allow us to keep a relatively high level of competitiveness. We truly miss them when they are not on the field. It’s the typical ‘You don’t know what you have until it’s lost’. And that probably is the problem. Not having trustworthy replacements to our ageing stars.
Umtiti’s case is worrying. It’s not only his physical decline, but also his loss of defensive concepts and authority. If Samu had something in the past, that’s solidity. He used to make no errors, always anticipating and winning all duels. Now he’s almost the opposite. Fragile and prone to mistake. Against Fekir, he did nothing to reduce spaces to the Betis magician, as the defender kept running backwards, retreating and eventually let him shoot comfortably on his strong foot.
Umtiti needs continuity, no doubt, but it’s also important to think about the present results and have other alternatives. On Saturday, I wouldn’t take Getafe’s attack lightly. They are often considered defensive, but their front line is very dangerous too and their forwards are capable of creating and exploiting any gaps in our defence. Without need for exaggeration, 37-year-old Jorge Molina looks more fit than 26-year-old Umtiti. Now that Lenglet is suspended, I would consider starting Araújo alongside Piqué at the Camp Nou. Risky? I don’t know, but we should activate another piece for our squad.