Martino not bothered by style debate

23 September 2013 12:01

Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino has insisted that he isn't annoyed by questions over the style of play he is trying to impose on his players despite an almost flawless start to the season.

The Spanish champions have racked up five straight league wins, as well as beating Ajax 4-0 in their Champions League opener and regaining the Spanish Super Cup with an away goals victory over Atletico Madrid.

However, the Argentine did hint that he is being treated differently because he is neither a local nor Dutch given the history of coaches from Holland taking charge at the Camp Nou in the wake of Johan Cruyff's excellent side in the early 1990s.

"I am not bothered by the debate," he told a press conference on Monday.

"When a team has bordered on excellence there are always these type of situations, especially when the coach is neither from within the club or Dutch. What interests me is the group of players. They seem solid and calm to me and that makes me relaxed."

The debate over Barca's more direct new style was brought to the fore in their 4-0 win over Rayo Vallecano on Saturday as despite the disparity on the scoreboard, Rayo had more possession than the visitors.

It was the first time in over five years that the Catalans had not had more of the ball, but Martino claimed that had more to do with Rayo's ball retention than a radical change on Barca's part.

"Possession is significant depending on the team. For Barcelona it is very important, but we need to look at the characteristics of the opponents. The possession against Rayo last season was 55 percent, which is also not what Barcelona are used to.

"I have not come here to change anything and if you ask me about the average possession, last year it was 66 percent and this year it is 65.8 percent. I don't think you can say everything has changed for this 0.2 percent.

"People talk about long passes, but I remember when Rafa Marquez played here so we are not doing anything that I haven't already seen here."

Barca's next test comes at home to struggling Real Sociedad on Tuesday evening.

A win will move Martino's men five points clear of Real Madrid for at least 24 hours before their trip to Elche on Wednesday.

And the match also offers another chance for Neymar to bag his first league goal in Spanish football having failed to find the net in five games so far.

However, Martino defended the Brazilian international's performances and highlighted the three assists he has to his name to show he is still contributing to the team.

"You look at his adaption in terms of scoring goals or not scoring goals, but he has made a great contribution in his creativity and recovery of the ball."

Sergio Busquets returns to Martino's 19-man squad after being rested at the weekend, but Cesc Fabregas is left out as he is the latest player to be given a break in the coach's rotation policy and Carles Puyol is not included despite taking a full part in training over the last few days.

Source: AFP

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