Ronald Koeman is adamant Barcelona will be better soon but he heads to Granada in La Liga on Monday under pressure, with his team accused not just of losing but of losing their identity.
Barca were outplayed in a 3-0 defeat by Bayern Munich on Tuesday, the gulf in class so obvious that Bayern eased off in the second half.
By the end the home fans at Camp Nou were more interested in keeping up an inflatable ball than keeping up with what was on the pitch.
Koeman’s team failed to muster a single shot on target, had less of the ball – once the club’s signature statistic - and have now registered three consecutive losses at home in the Champions League, with 10 goals conceded.
After the string of summer sales and the departure of Lionel Messi, nobody was shocked Bayern were better. Few expect Barcelona to trouble either the Champions League's latter stages or any of its chief contenders this season.
But as Barca look ahead now to some kinder assignments – Granada on Monday, then Cadiz and Levante – the debate has begun about the manner of the decline and whether Koeman is the right coach to close the gap.
“It is what it is, we are what we are,” said Gerard Pique after the game in midweek, a sentiment Koeman said he agreed with. “We have to be realistic,” he added.
Yet that growing sense of resignation has irked many around Camp Nou, who feel the line between realism and acceptance is being blurred. While Barca are not expected to beat Bayern, there is a way to lose - courageously and while rebuilding in the process.
Last season, Koeman was given margin for error, his insistence that the team were “not in a position to win anything” reluctantly absorbed by the club and fans, after senior players had left and youngsters began to emerge.
The key, though, was also a base level of results and performance, which eventually won Barcelona the Copa del Rey, put them in contention to win La Liga and saw a degree of resistance offered against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League.