Throwdown Thursdays: Would Barcelona stroll to the EPL title?

This week, Gerard Pique came out and said that if Barcelona and Real Madrid were to go to the Premier League right now they would have no chance of winning the Premier League title, at least not in their first season. His rationale?

“If you go to Stoke, or other types of teams, then it will be really tough.”

The Cosh Boys took this question on and had a right old debate about it.

Bernie: I disagree with Gerard Pique on this. I do think that Barcelona more so than Real Madrid could come in and win the league. However, I do not believe it would be a walk in the park. Clearly the Stoke that Pique is referring to no longer exists. Pulis’ mythical man mountains no longer grace the English countryside. They’ve been replaced with a fake version of Barcelona. Mark Hughes believes his short stint in Catalunya gives him the managerial ability to recreate tiki-taka in England. Barcelona would eat this Stoke team alive. However, teams like Crystal Palace, West Ham and Southampton are awkward to play against and could surprise the Spanish giants.

Alex: If anyone should know that Stoke are trying to change their ways it’s the Barcelona players given half their mates now play there. I think it depends how you define “walk in the park”, really. This Barca side would win the Premier League as easily as Chelsea did last season, for example. They strolled it, and without being anywhere near a good a team as Barcelona.

The best team in England at the moment is who, Manchester City? Probably. And yet they’re prone to drawing or losing silly games. I just can’t see Barcelona dropping points to West Brom, hilarious though the image is. Pulis would retire on the spot.

Mo: I disagree with Pique for one main reason – it’s all relative. If he thinks Barcelona or Madrid would struggle in tough away games in the Premier League (relative to La Liga) then Chelsea, City, etc. would struggle equally. I don’t see why Barcelona would struggle but the top English teams stroll.  That said, Barcelona would demolish any of these teams home, away, on Mars, anywhere. Lets not get all EPL sentimental here. Neymar vs Glen Johnson. Ha! We’ve seen what Suarez has done to this league with Henderson in midfield, let alone Iniesta.

For me the league title would be determined by the head-to-head games between the top teams. Barcelona would win that in my eyes. We’ve seen them tear City apart in the Champions League. Sure, Chelsea and Arsenal did beat them in one-off games once upon a time, but that’s with a playoff mentality. In a league where they all need the points, Barcelona would come out on top.

Premiership sides occasionally beat Barcelona in the Champions League, but doing it regularly would be another matter.

Premiership sides occasionally beat Barcelona in the Champions League, but doing it regularly would be another matter.

Bernie: It’s a little bit simplistic to suggest that over a 38-game season with no winter break that Barcelona would beat anyone easily. There’s always an adjustment period to England when it comes to Spanish players. This is mostly due to the physical demands the league places on players. Some can handle it but I doubt Jordi Alba for example would take too kindly to it. Mascherano was a great holding midfielder for Liverpool but would have been a horror show in their back four due to his small stature. Imagine Jefferson Montero crossing to Gomis who would pick on the Argentinian at every opportunity. It’s not a tactic employed regularly in Spain. Even though the Premier League is hardly “English” it’s still very common.

La Liga is a league of technique and not power and someone like Neymar who got kicked out of the Copa America and couldn’t handle it, would have this problem week-in and week-out in England. Arsenal haven’t won the league for many reasons over the last decade. One of them is the lack of physicality. Ferguson’s recent Man United squad, Chelsea and Man City had a mix of pace, power and panache. That’s the formula and Barca will have to adjust to that. Can they? I think they have the ability to do so but it won’t come easy.

Alex: For a start, it’s not as if Barcelona lack pace. That said, power and pace are all very well, but only if you can get the ball. Barcelona take care of possession far better than any English team and I think we’ve seen plenty of evidence in the Champions League and in Spain’s domination of international football for a decade that you can combat physicality with technical ability. The way, for example, that players like Pogba and Vidal – who many would consider Premier League-style players in their immense physicality – were so easily made insignificant  and swept aside in last season’s Champions League final is a good illustration. You mention Gomis against Mascherano – sure. He might win that aerial duel. But at the other end you’ve got Messi, Neymar and Suarez going up against Kyle Naughton, Frederico Fernandez, Ashley Williams and Neil Taylor. It would be a blood bath.

Fatigue is a different thing, and while that would certainly have an impact I don’t think it would be enough to derail a Barcelona title-push.

Mo: I must say I enjoyed both your points above. The problem with any argument you or I will make (fitness, adjustment, power) is the other side of the coin (Messi, Neymar and Suarez). Any reason you will bring up, I’ll just rebut with “Messi”. Like Alex said, Barcelona have dominated the world twice in the last decade playing a certain style that is exactly the reason some might doubt their EPL credentials.

We might say that Barca’s defense will struggle. Alright. Let’s take a look at recent Premier League teams. Suarez carried a Liverpool team that had no idea how to defend while Cesc and Rvp carried Arsenal sides that couldn’t keep a clean sheet to fourth place or better. I’m sure there are more examples but the point is, top heavy sides will still thrive, and there isn’t any heavier than Barca’s front three.

With that attack and possession game, the opposition would barely even get a chance to expose Barcelona’s seemingly weaker defence. Firstly, the opposition would set up to defend, and secondly, even if they did score on a random counter, Barca would likely already have four on the score sheet!

The lads have had their say. Comment here or join the debate on Twitter. Can a club as good as Barcelona just set up shop in a new league and romp to victory, or are there other factors that would make it a little more difficult than one might imagine?

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