Hovering over FC Barcelona’s impressive string of results is the ever present debate about the evolution of the team’s style of play under the direction of Gerardo 'Tata' Martino. Despite the manager’s insistence that his focus is to recover aspects of play that have been lost in seasons past – the inclusion of the occasional long ball from the back line for example, a resource often employed by Rafa Marquez in Guardiola’s Barça – press and pundits alike ponder the fate of the famed tiki-taka/possession style that’s brought so much success to FC Barcelona.
For Javier Mascherano, who sat down with the Argentinian magazine El Gráfico, the debate is pointless. “Against Rayo we won 0-4, but Rayo had more possession than us. I believe it was 51% to 49%, it’s an absurd debate,” said El Jefecito. “We are playing the same way. Now, if you have a chance to reach their goal with three passes, you’re not going to take 20 touches and allow your rival to settle in, are you?”
The reconverted center back then revealed what Martino announced to the team upon his arrival to the Catalan capital: “I’m not going to change anything, I am here to help you recover things that I’ve seen this team do, things that this team have recently stopped doing.”
Anecdotal as standalone stats may be, possession averages from past seasons aren’t dissimilar to this year’s. In 2009/10, Guardiola’s Barça maintained an average of 68% possession, the following year it was 75%. Under Tito Vilanova, Barça averaged 66%, this year it’s roughly 65.8%. As Martino noted after the match against Rayo Vallecano, a game in which the Blaugrana didn’t enjoy lion’s share of possession for the first time in many years, “you cannot say that we are changing everything because of a 0.2% difference.”