4-3-3, 3-4-3, 4-4-2 or 4-2-3-1… Barça just don’t play like they used to – but they still have Messi

It was a different Barcelona on Sunday. The Blaugrana lined up in a 3-4-3 formation at Atlético Madrid, although Luis Enrique claimed afterwards that it was a 4-4-2 when they did not have the ball.

Whatever it was, however, it was not very effective. Luis Enrique has mostly used 4-3-3 as Barça boss, but switched to 4-2-3-1 in the second half of the recent 4-0 loss at Paris Saint-Germain, reverted back to the original plan for the 2-1 win over Leganés and then used two new systems here.

And even though the Blaugrana came through the game against Leganés thanks to a last-minute penalty and also beat Atlético in the sides’ last-ever meeting at the Vicente Calderón on Sunday, there was little improvement in terms of performance.

With three, four or five men in midfield, this is just not the Barcelona of old and the days when this team used to dominate play from start to finish are long gone. The magic is missing. Since the departure of Xavi and also with the arrival of Luis Enrique, Barça have adopted a more direct style and are much more reliant upon their fantastic forward line nowadays.

The good news, however, is that they still have Lionel Messi. The Argentine attacker scored both goals against Leganés and netted the winner again on Sunday in the closing stages.

Whatever the system and whatever the performance, the five-time Ballon d’Or winner is always there – even if the midfield is not.

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