The veteran admits Barca have defence problems, slams Dembele
Barcelona defender Gerard Pique admitted his side have a problem with their porous defence after the La Liga leaders were beaten 4-3 at home by Real Betis on Sunday, conceding four times at the Nou Camp for the first time in over 15 years.
Yet the Spanish international, while conceding that all their defenders all needed to improve, was also adamant that the champions' fans should not be worried about the current frailties of the team's rearguard.
Barca trailed 2-0 at halftime and even though Lionel Messi struck twice on his return from injury and Arturo Vidal also scored for the Catalans, Betis became the first side to beat Barca at the Nou Camp since Alaves in September 2016.
"We know we have a problem and that we are conceding a lot of goals, more than we have conceded for a very long time," Pique told reporters.
"We will almost never be the team that concedes the fewest goals because of our attacking philosophy, but we know we have to improve."
Despite Sunday's defeat, Barca still lead the standings and are one point clear of Atletico Madrid, Alaves and Sevilla, although they have by far the worst defensive record of the top seven teams in the league.
Barca have let in 18 goals in 12 league games, more than 13 teams in La Liga.
"It's not an individual thing, it's a group problem. We have to focus on it and work together," Pique said.
"It's basic stuff which we know and we have talked about. Today, we faced a very attacking team and we had to take risks.
"I think that, defensively, we all need to improve. Sometimes, we go to press and we don't all go and that leaves a lot of gaps between the lines and teams create a lot of counter-attacks against us.
"Today, for example, we should have stopped their first goal by committing a foul."
Barca have dropped points in five of their 12 games this season, four times against sides in the bottom half of the standings but Pique said fans should not be concerned by the team's form.
"It's true that we are finding it harder to beat teams who, in theory, are smaller than us but I think it's something sporadic and won't happen throughout the season," he said.
"Our fans can relax, we are top of the league. This year, the level of our opponents has risen, you can no longer win the league with 100 points.
"Teams have bigger budgets, better players and they are more competitive and that's better for spectators."
'Dembele must learn football is 24-hour job'
After a week in which Barcelona forward Ousmane Dembele failed to show for training and the spotlight on his apparent lack of discipline increased further, teammate Gerard Pique said it was time to teach the Frenchman that football is a 24-hour job.
Dembele was not included in the squad for Barca's 4-3 defeat at home to Real Betis on Sunday after not turning up to training on Thursday and, according to local media, not informing the club of his whereabouts for 90 minutes.
"We were also young and we have also committed mistakes," Pique told reporters after the match on Sunday.
"From experience, we have to help him to understand that football is a 24-hour job and he has to live accordingly. I'm convinced that he's going to improve in this respect and that decisions like the one the coach took will help him."
The 21-year-old France forward has struggled to fully adapt at Barca since signing from Borussia Dortmund in August 2017 for a then club record fee of 105 million euros ($119.01 million) with a view to filling the void left by Neymar.
His playing time has been limited by a series of hamstring injuries and he has also fallen foul of the club's disciplinary code, including turning up late for a team meeting before a Champions League game at home to Inter Milan in October.
"We are here to help him, he's very young and he has a lot of room for improvement and a lot of talent," Pique added of Dembele.
"He's just like any other player in the squad and today the coach decided not to include him in the squad. I'm sure he did it so he can improve in certain aspects."