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Time, January Transfer Window Will Reenergize Gerardo Martino And Barcelona

A student from Marcelo Bielsa, who managed Argentina to conquer a Golden medal in 2004 and brought Athletic Bilbao to second place in the 2011-12 UEFA Europa League, Gerardo Martino has also been successful as a coach on his own.

Gerardo "Tata" Martino
Gerardo “Tata” Martino

Alike his mentor, Martino’s attacking shaped mentality has proved to be not only correct, but also effective. His first silverware came as a national title with Libertad from Paraguay in 2002. He, then, repeated the doze in 2003 and 2006.

Also, Martino has lifted the Paraguayan national title with the traditional club Cerro Porteño. And lastly prior to his move to F.C. Barcelona, he clinched the Argentinian national tournament with Newell’s Old Boys.

“I’ve always been a big fan of his, right from when he was starting out as a coach, which was around the time my playing career was drawing to a close. Straight away, I warmed to his working methods and personality. Do I liken myself to him? Only physically!” Martino has said about Bielsa, according to ESPNFC. 

And so far with Barça, the 51-year-old manager has accumulated one title—the Spanish Super Cup versus Atletico Madrid just a little over a month after his arrival—17 wins, four draws and two losses. Not bad for a first run with a European club, especially being a powerhouse such as the Catalan side.

Comparisons To Previous Managers

However, after suffering back-to-back defeats—a 2-1 loss to Ajax at Amsterdam Arena during the fifth round of the group stage in the UEFA Champions League as well as an one nil to Athletic Club at San Mamés—some fans and parts of the media seem to have forgotten all of the above.

So comparisons have started to be drawn and will continue to take place until Martino lifts several expressive silverwares with Barcelona. First he has been put against “Tito” Villanova, who so abruptly had to leave the club to treat a cancer, and now it has extended to Pep Guardiola.

This is not new in soccer, especially in Barcelona. In the 1996/97 season, English manager Bobby Robson became Johan Cruyff’ successor and he had the almost unbearable mission to repeat the success of the “Dream Team.”

Robson only lasted one term, but this was greatly because of this mind set to abandon Cruyff’s scoring machine tactics fed through a 4-3-3 or 3-4-3 system to install a conservative 4-4-2.

Yet this does not look to be the road Martino has chosen to take, and players, the management and most fans have noticed it.

Key players, the club management and supporters backup Martino

By the end of the match against Granada couple of weeks ago, Barça had already constructed a solid advantage so Martino opted to introduce the youngster Adama Traore for his debut by replacing Neymar in the 83rd minute. And for the club’s Director of the Sports Area of Football, Andoni Zubizarreta, has said that this was a pivotal moment to show that the new manager has an awareness of the mentality behind the organization.

“Tata has understood what we are as a club and that when there are injuries, we turn to the younger players,” he said according to Goal.com 

Also, Xavi has drawn parallels between Martino and former Spain 2008 European champion manager Luis Aragones.

“He is very football-focused, talks to you face-to-face. He has understood the system and style of play of Barcelona. He consults a lot with the players of Barcelona who have been here for a long tie. He is very close to the players and is a winner,” said the midfielder via BeInSport according to Football Espana.

The stands have also so far responded in a positive manner. Last season, Barcelona experienced an average of 73660 fans at Camp Nou during La Liga games. Yet thus far this term in the national tournament the club has had 78296 supporters per match.

January Transfer Window

Regardless the two recent losses, Martino has had to deal with multiple first team players in the medical department. But his remaining healthy men were resilient and cruised over Cartagena in their last match. Therefore, Barça have advanced into the Copa del Rey and continue to lead both La Liga and their group in the UEFA Champions League.

Martino’s first 100 days managing the Blaugrana has only seen 12 days in total to rest and recuperate his athletes. And in parts because of it Dani Alves, Valdés, Dos Santos, Messi and Afellay currently show up in the medical center and not on the field.

Moving forward against Celtic today for the last game in the group stage of the UCL, Isaac Cuenca and Fabregas won’t be on the 20-players list of available men power for Martino.

Most, if not all managers in soccer, will have to face such challenge although this quantity is a bit too much to have enough pieces for an ideal system and spares to switch plans when needed.

But a few weeks from now Martino and Barça will have their golden chance to restructure the most affected areas due to injuries as well as positions that could use some strength in the squad and move players who they feel haven’t met the club’s expectations this season.

And key acquisitions in the likes of Robin van Persie and Pepe Reina will provide extra quality and depth in the squad for the long term, while David Luiz and Ilkay Gundogen will add youth and explosion, which the club lacked in the spring this year and a vicious Borussia Dortmund proved to penalize Barcelona in the semi-final of the 2012-13 UCL.

Martino’s contract with Barcelona expiries on June 30, 2015, yet if he is backed up by the club to bring reinforcements such the ones mentioned above who have been linked to land at Camp Nou in January, persists with his offensive approach on the pitch and continues to seek out the knowledge of leaders within the Barcelona group, titles will follow him and his time ahead of the Blaugrana shall go further than 2015.