Madrid: The big debate around the Camp Nou Stadium in recent days is whether or not new manager Tato Martino has changed the playing style of FC Barcelona and his tactics will once again be under the spotlight when Barca entertain Real Sociedad onTuesday night.
Perhaps the gulf in style is not so much between that of Martino and his direct predecessor, Tito Vilanova, but more between his and Pep Guardiola,
Guardiola`s side kept possession of the ball almost as a matter of religious belief, while Vilanova made subtle adaptations, such as taking more direct corner kicks and using the odd cross-field pass, rather than the series of short passes fans grew so used to seeing during the four years of Guardiola`s reign.
Martino has introduced further subtle changes: his defence pushes further up and the front players, despite the assertions of Rayo`s Paco Jemez, press their rivals high up the park looking to force an error.
The fact that the defence is more willing to then look for a ball into space, may be true, but Barca`s main belief is that it is better to have the ball than for their rivals to have it.
The shock of the weekend was not that Barca won 4-0 away to Rayo Vallecano, but that at the end of the game the statistics showed Rayo had actually enjoyed more ball possession than their rivals.
That has been jumped on by fans and journalists alike as proof of Martino`s change of strategy without taking into account the Vallecas factor: Rayo`s ground has one of the smallest pitches in La Liga and Saturday it was dry and bumpy, making ball control difficult for even the best of players.
Speaking on Monday, Martino wasn`t too worried by the possession stats.
"It is important depending on the team. It is important for Barcelona, but we have to look at out the rivals. Rayo is the team that has the second highest possession in the league and we have to bear that in mind," he said, denying there has been a change of style in the first place
"I haven`t come here to change anything and if people are questioning the possession stats, then last year they were at 66 percent and this year it is 65.8 percent," added Martino, who admitted the side had room for improvement and said the displays in the second halves in recent wins against Ajax and Rayo was the way to carry on.