“Barca lost Pep’s successor” was Publico.es recent headline and one Spanish newspapers have replicated over and over again. Having replaced Pep Guardiola as Coach of Barcelona B, Luis Enrique was destined to eventually take over the reins of the senior squad the day Guardiola departed for a new challenge. Pep’s reluctance to commit to long contracts made it all the more important to have a Barcelona B Coach who not only understood the ethos of the club but who fell right into it, continuing a tradition of promoting talent both in terms of players and Coaches. Ask Enrique about this and he insists that the thought of coaching the Primera side had never entered his mind.
Walter Sabatini confirmed in the official unveiling of the new Roma that Enrique was their first choice. Yet there was a delay in confirming him and Spanish Press went so far as to suggest it was because Enrique was waiting to see what events would unfold after the Champions League Final since Johan Cruyff admitted there was a chance Pep would decide to leave. A match played and won with conviction, Guardiola has seemingly opted to stay.
In terms of success with the current Barcelona B side, Enrique has achieved more than his predecessor, leading the team to their highest ranking within the league and scoring the highest number of goals. Creating a mesmeric offence that relies on a false number 9 and flanked by two midfielders who carve open a defence in a 4-3-3 formation, the Spaniard’s reserve side built their game around a combination of slick passes and familiar positioning advocated by the Barca legend Cruyff. He has often reverted to a 3-4-3 formation and has on occasion even dabbled with the traditional 4-4-2 – most notably in the win against Alcoyano earlier in his career, proving that he can maintain a sense of unpredictability whilst also tailoring a side capable of overcoming the obstacles a particular opponent may present.
Considering his fierce desire to accumulate learning experiences for the sake of his development, Roma will offer Enrique a chance to not only begin a revolution but the opportunity to implement his own vision of football in a league renowned for putting pressure on their Coaches. Whilst at Barca B he would motivate his players by promising them a seafood lunch if they accrued four consecutive wins, the egos of the Roma dressing room will be more demanding as many of the players including the likes of Jeremy Menez and Marco Borriello are more enamoured by their own personal glory.
However, what Enrique does possess are the characteristics necessary to carry out the Roma tradition of beautiful football thrust into the limelight under Luciano Spalletti. Walter Sabatini has already confirmed that the current budget allows him to work freely and youth is very much the name of the game, relying on Enrique’s teaching techniques to develop youngsters into stars.
However, whilst the Catalan clubs place a great deal of pressure on their squads to succeed, football in Italy is a different ball game with the Roman fans being the most demanding. Throwing caution to the wind and focusing on spectacular football by infinitely scoring to please the audience is an admirable approach to football but it is not a philosophy that generally succeeds in Serie A. Calcio is very much about organisation, tactics and balance and as we saw from Palermo last season, an overpowering offence can still cost you 63 goals and the opportunity to even break into the top six. Defensively, Enrique is a gamble having conceded 62 goals this season, 18 more than first placed Real Betis and two less than last placed Albacete.
Time is a luxury not afforded to new Coaches in Serie A and more importantly, Enrique will not have a stable environment to count on should he encounter hardships. But if anyone is up for taking on a challenge then it is the man who still seeks revenge for that Mauro Tassotti elbow in USA 94.