Koeman had a brilliant opening of Laliga for Barcelona winning 4-0 against Villarreal, then 3-0 win against Celta Vigo. The most important takeaway from both games was, Barcelona looked much more quicker, sharper and effective in the build-up. I know, it’s still early for becoming optimistic and calling Koeman our saviour. Still, we faced two of the difficult opponents, Barcelona vs Villarreal and Barcelona vs Celta and Koeman managed to win both the game with much ease.
Let me highlight the few positive aspects of Barcelona under Koeman as we saw from the two games of Barcelona under Koeman.
Less Messi Dependencia
What we have seen in past few seasons of Barcelona is, they were utterly dependent on Messi; Messi would be the one to create chances, he would be the one to execute them, and I can’t keep the count of the times, he scored difficult goals out of nowhere; scored free-kick making the team secure victory single-handedly.
2018/19’s Champions League, Messi was the sole reason for Barcelona to make a place in the semi-final, with three goal-advantage in the first leg which is why Messi won the Ballon d’Or that season despite managing to win only Laliga and suffering an embarrassment in both UCL and Copa Del Rey.
But, under Koeman, We see Messi with much more freedom. In the game against Villarreal, Messi had received only seven passes within 22 mins, and Barcelona had already scored two goals. I don’t remember the last time Barcelona scored a goal without getting the beautiful touch or say, the role of Messi in it while he was playing.
We also see Messi in the final penalty area more often in a goal-scoring position as he has a limited role in build-up under Koeman(Setien had promised this, but Koeman is making this happen without promising us).
Right Player at Right Position
With 4-2-3-1 formation, Frenkie de jong plays as the midfielder in that double-pivot, which is his preferred position. He is good at controlling the ball under pressure and to be honest; we are seeing the much better version of De jong at Barcelona now ever since his debut at Barcelona.
In this 4-2-3-1 formation, Coutinho plays as an attacking midfielder; Valverde never, not even for once, gave him the role of midfielder when he played for Barcelona before moving out on loan to Bayern. I remember fans ranting out on twitter saying, “Coutinho is a midfielder for god’s sake,” But Valverde was keen to his ideology of playing Coutinho as a winger making him decline massively.
In the pre-season friendlies and these two opening fixtures of Barcelona, Coutinho is arguably the best mid-fielder from Barcelona side. He’s more creative, he’s more confident, and he links with Messi much better than how he used to.
He’s also consistently working with Fati and Alba to create chances from this left-side. And, working as a midfielder relieves him from the pressure to score goals, so, whenever he has the chance to score, he can do it without pressure with better chance to execute it with grace.
In two games for Barcelona in Laliga this season, Coutinho already has two assists in his name; and he only seems to be getting better with every game.
Faith in Young Blood
Fati started in both games against Villarreal and Celta Vigo, and he has already scored three goals for Barcelona this season. He has played for 142 mins already, and we will see more of Fati with coming games.
About Puig, Koeman still seems unconvinced, maybe because there’s too much option at midfield for Barcelona, we would obviously have enjoyed more of Puig, but he is giving minutes to the newcomers Pedri and Trincao again. So, It’s evident that he believes in the youth system. It has been benefitted with Exit of Suarez, Vidal and Rakitic, but, no matter what, we see he believes in these young players which obviously is a bright sign.
Koeman’s Attacking Mindset
Especially from the game at Balaidos, we learned that Koeman is not going to crush under pressure. We were ten men down at the end of the first half. Under Similar situation, Setien or Valverde would switch entirely defensive and would try to play the ball around while being on possession instead of going forward and creating chances.
Barcelona didn’t look switched off even after being restricted to 10 men; instead, they were putting more and more pressure on Celta and interestingly due to that, Barcelona had less defensive work to do. And in the same game against Celta, at 72 mins, he brought on Trincao and Pedri to give more scope for the attack rather than someone who will try to hold the ball to avoid attack till the final whistle.
There are less back-pass and side-pass, everyone knows their duty, Alba and Roberto are working more as a winger, and with 4-2-3-1 Formation, Barcelona have four attacking players with the box-to-box with the potential of having the fifth as well. This means that especially in a counterattacking situation, Barcelona can almost always have the numerical advantage.
Koeman knows what he is doing. Every player is conscious of his position. Basically, Koeman has installed a system at Barcelona, and all players are already activated in that system. The main problem under Valverde and Setien was, the players didn’t know what they should do next. Should I make that forward run? Should I try passing it Back? And at the end, they would end up with a Back pass to Stegen or Forward pass to Messi.
We rarely saw players striving out of their position under Koeman. The defence is more organized, which is why we are yet to concede a goal yet. And, it’s not because Neto is better than Stegen. It’s just that Neto doesn’t have much to do. This is a vital point because Barcelona faced two opponents who weren’t the easy ones; especially facing Celta at Balaidos and coming out with 3-0 win is definitely a significant achievement.
Koeman has the respect of the dressing room.
Koeman was a Barcelona player; to be precise, a player of Cruyff’s “dream team.” He is a part of the beautiful history of Barcelona. Koeman is the top-scoring defender in world football, and Barcelona’s top-scoring defender, with 90 goals in all competitions.
An accurate free-kick and penalty kick taker, Koeman was nicknamed the King of free-kicks throughout his career, and is Barca’s second-highest goalscorer from free kicks, behind Messi, with 26 goals from set-pieces in all competitions; he is also Barca’s second-highest scorer from penalties in La Liga, behind Messi once again, with 46 goals from spot-kicks, and the highest-scoring defender in La Liga from penalties. With 67 goals, he is the second most prolific defender in La Liga history, behind Sergio Ramos.
He currently holds the record for 25 consecutive successful penalty conversions in La Liga.
As a player, he is a very respected figure for Barcelona. As a coach, he hasn’t achieved much for a club, but he had a fantastic spell as the coach of the Netherlands. But back in 2019, Netherlands finished runners-up in the 2018–19 UEFA Nations League after a 1–0 defeat against Portugal in the final. His journey in UEFA Nations league was praised by many.
Valverde indeed was respected by the players, but the problem with Setien was, It always looked like, players don’t believe in his game, we can understand this by how Messi had said openly about him not considering the team as capable of winning the Champions League with how they were playing.
He didn’t have much control over the squad as speculated by many Barca fans. He is a tactical guy, but he was under immense pressure due to his lack of experience in handling big clubs.
He had tried a different formation, 3-5-2 at times trying to play the Cruyff style of playing with three defenders, but that didn’t last long and wasn’t much effective as well.
Messi too believes in Koeman; he considers the physical preparation is much more effective under Koeman.
It indeed is still early to come up with all sorts of the narrative just based on two games. But, you know, Morning shows the day. With the addition of Sergino Dest and probably Gracia in the upcoming days, our defensive issues might be solved as well.
Let’s hope for more of the positive display from Koeman in upcoming days.
Visca El Barca!