Piqué: Five errors costing Barça nine points this season
Gerard Piqué has retired from international duty and he says he feels good but his form is causing concern and costing Barcelona points this season.
Piqué says blaming goals on him is "in fashion" and that football is a team sport, the central defender has been involved in five of the last six goals that Ter Stegen has conceded with the latest coming on Sunday night against Valencia. For a team that ran like clockwork at the back last season, Barcelona's defensive failures this season are particularly out of character.
Defensive mistakes by Piqué
These are the five errors for the goals. Stuani picked him off to draw the game at 1-1 against Girona. In the second half, he was quick enough to compete with Portu but his tackle didn't do enough to stop the attacker getting his shot away and then he was slow to react to the rebound. Against Leganés, he cleared the ball straight to Oscar Rodriguez, who admits "maybe Pique didn't see me" given the absurdity of the failed clearance.
Against Athletic Club, he fell asleep and kept Oscar de Marcos onside, and left Sergi Roberto in the lurch as he chased but couldn't catch him before he slotted home. And then, on Sunday night, he ducked out of the way of the Garay header that gave Valencia the lead early on.
Barcelona not defending as well as a group
Some of the errors might be a little harsh but the irregularity of his performances are strange and given how solid he has been at the back in the past, it makes it all the more glaring. Also, his own failures are a symptom of a team that is not defending as well as a group as they did last season.
Piqué has admitted in the past that he struggles with motivation early in the year when the titles come into view. Dropping out of the national team might mean more rest but it also means less games at the very top level and too much inactivity. Pique's has assured that he feels fine physically but he is more than a footballer now with his roles as an entrepeneur, producer and creator of his own various media. His life is much more than football now and that might be another energy sapping source for the central defender.
Issue with Messi and issues with the board
He was named as the third captain this season and is committed to the project despite the issue he reportedly had with Bartomeu and the board over his involvement in the Antoine Griezmann debacle. The defender's media company produced "The Decision" documentary but the Barca board were last to find out what the Frenchman's decision was. There is also the issue of a reported breakdown in his relationship with Lionel Messi, which could be a factor.
The Barcelona legend thinks he has the situation under control but there are three upcoming games that will test his mettle against Sevilla, Inter Milan and Real Madrid. It is one of the most important run of games of his career.