Barcelona suffered their third defeat of the season on Saturday, falling at the Anoeta Stadium against Real Sociedad, 3-1. There's no question that La Real is a good team with talented and quick attackers that can cause fits for even the best defenses.
We're all well aware of Barcelona's defensive problems and the unending debate in the media and amongst fans about whether or not the team needs to sign another defender. At times it seems that Barca can shut down the best attacking teams in the world -- see matches against Real Madrid, Atlético Madrid and Manchester City -- and the next thing you know they're being picked apart by Valencia. That's not a cheap shot at Valencia, just a recent example.
Normally Barca's high pressure, "the best defense is to keep the other team from touching the ball" strategy works and overwhelms their opponent. Sometimes it doesn't, like in Saturday's match.
All three goals happened because of terrible defensive errors: Alex Song failing to pick-up Gorka Elustondo's run on the opening goal of the match, Marc Bartra's ill-advised flick and Adriano's poor decision-making that allowed the quick break that led to the second goal and a defensive misalignment on the third goal that left Martin Montoya in a bad position.
Let's take a look at what went wrong on Real Sociedad's second and third goals.
First, the second, when the game was tied at 1-1. After the ball was flicked behind by Marc Bartra, off a goal kick, Adriano still had a chance to react and match Antoine Griezmann's run.
Adriano was apparently convinced that the play was offside, which was unfortunate. Yes, Carlos Vela was behind the last defender but it didn't matter because a player cannot be offside on a goal kick. Instead of trying to match Antoine Griezmann's run, Adriano turned his head looking towards the linesman desperately hoping to see the flag come up and save his bacon. It didn't, and Griezmann took advantage, racing forward while Adriano was still stuck in first gear.
By the time Adriano decides to chase the play, there's no chance he can catch Griezmann, but it might have been nice, from a Barcelona perspective, to see him at least make an effort. Instead he drifts centrally behind the play. Victor Valdés, meanwhile, is stuck in no man's land. There's no chance he can cut off the cross from Vela and he's got a ton of ground to cover to get in front of Griezmann.
Griezmann just made it to the ball in the end and was able to direct the ball into the empty net, giving Real Sociedad a 2-1 lead.
There were several moving parts that led to David Zurutuza scoring La Real's third goal of the match. Griezmann astutely saw both David Zurutuza's run and the massive gap in the Barcelona defensive line. It was just a matter of getting the ball over the defenders and in the right spot. Worst case for La Real, the ball gets headed away or Victor Valdés grabs it. Best case, a goal.
Montoya likely saw Zurutuza's run but he couldn't risk stepping into the gap because it would have left his mark wide open to run in behind him and potentially make a play on the ball. Montoya no doubt hoped, or expected, that Busquets would pick up the run and step back into the open space. Instead, Busquets went forward along with Barta in an attempt to trap Zurutuza offside.
See the player sort of not closing down on Griezmann's cross in the image below? That's Gerard Piqué, the player who should be where Busquets was positioned. La Real took advantage of Barca's alignment being off and Busquets having to cover a position he's not asked to play.
While there was a player offside, he made no move towards Griezmann's cross and did not affect the play. Busquets and Bartra's reactions are fine, but they had to get a touch on the cross and prevent it from getting past them, because Zurutuza was left with a wide open lane to run in.
Thanks to their lack of organization, Barcelona have dropped from the top spot in La Liga and are now chasing Real Madrid. Gerardo Martino has some work to do if he expects to keep pace.