Barcelona had displayed relatively better performance under Koeman in the first two friendlies; looking promising, quick and effective in the build-ups. Fans were expecting similar performance in this game too. In this editorial review, our editors will have their say about this narrow win against Elche at the Camp Nou.
A Better Opposition and this team will fall
Barca, as predicted, started with a 4-2-3-1 formation with Busquets and De Jong playing the role of the double pivots. A front four consisting of Messi, Coutinho, Greizmann and Fati were all over the pitch. From the start, Griezmann started as a No 9 with Messi and Coutinho as the 2 No 10s. Fati was continually holding the left flank and did amazingly well as a left-winger. As the game progressed, Griezmann exchanged his position with Messi and dropped which opened up the fluidity which we saw in the passes in the first half.
The defence is the main problem. Alba, despite having a decent game, was caught out of position many times along with Sergi Roberto. De Jong played as the offensive guy alongside Busquets. Coutinho except for 1 or 2 good moves, didn’t impress in the system. The only positive was Dembele taking on players along with Pjanic also having a promising debut.
This Barca is still vulnerable, and better opposition can easily punish them. The intensity on the press was better, but the transition from attack to defence was slower, and Barca was caught many times on the counter.
Puig can still be an option for Koeman as he can easily fit in Coutinho’s position. He has the right profile to play behind the No 9. Barca of today needs improvements not just defensively but also how they play. Many of the times, players looked they didn’t know what their role was.
Frenkie De Jong is the man of the match for me. He seemed involved both in creating chances as well as winning balls. He is getting better and better under Koeman.
“IT IS WHAT IT IS”
“And the truth is that there has been no project or anything for a long time, they juggle and cover holes as things go by.” These words of Messi from the GOAL interview of Sep 4, kept ringing in my mind from the beginning of this game. Just before the game, we learned that Puig is excluded because Koeman doesn’t count him anymore. Before Koeman was the coach of Barcelona, he had talked about how the age of the key players is a critical factor for the downfall of FC Barcelona.
“I always say that, when you have 30-year-old players and 22-year-olds playing at the same level, I would prefer to play 22-year-old players because they are the future. You have to play players who educate themselves if they are good enough.”
But, as the rumours suggest, Puig somehow ended up not fitting in Koeman’s plan which seems unpleasing. The starting lineup which looked like the final XI choice of Koeman had likes of Fati, Messi, Griezmann and Coutinho opted for the attack with Busquets and De jong managing the double pivot role and the usual, Alba, Roberto, Lenglet and Pique in the defence. Griezmann played on the right-wing which contradicts what Koeman had said in the past about playing players out of their position.
It was a disappointing game in my opinion. The only goal came from Messi’s brilliance in the build-up. Messi made that sumptuous pass to his all-time partner, Alba who only needed one touch to set up Griezmann who didn’t have much to do to finish the ball.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) September 19, 2020
Messi was more involved in this game than the previous two friendlies. Dembele and Trincao came on at around 63 minutes and then only Messi’s workload was reduced a bit. Alba and Roberto seem to struggle a lot in defence; they are involved in attack for multiple occasion, but defensively they are fragile. Pique and Lenglet had to cover for them for several times in this game.
The positives from the game were, Messi is Messi, he can easily guide us to make us fight for trophies, Pjanic had a decent match, De jong is getting better, Fati will get his chances, Dembele brings versatility in the attack, Coutinho seems to be at better form than how he was here before. We have great options in the attack. Trincao and Pedri, if chances are given have so much potential to help Messi guide Barcelona.
But, there were always some option, room for improvement in Barcelona and yet they would end up not making things change or changing things that don’t need to be changed. Koeman has still a lot to do to improve Fc Barcelona.
Messi it is.
CLASSIC BARCELONA DISPLAY
Barcelona started with their usual 4-2-3-1. Elche, as many Spanish teams, decided to sit deep in 4-5-1 formation and counter.
The first goal came from classic Messi-Alba connection with Alba giving a cutback to Griezmann to tuck it home. The team started again playing the stagnated play with just a few adjustments, this time every player was roaming around the pitch.
This way, Barcelona had useless possession throughout the half. A change was that Griezmann during attack shifted into the wide right with Messi playing more centrally. On the left, Elche created a 2v1 on Ansu to stop him from penetrating their defence, but Coutinho later shifted with Ansu to combine together. Without the ball, Barcelona pressed in a 4-1-4-1 line with the man-marking scheme used to stop Elche.
As the substitution came in, Barcelona crowded the opposition box more. With Dembele and Trincao coming in, it gave Coutinho more confidence, and he started to make a lot of good chances. The team missed a lot of chances, and the Elche keeper was brilliant in between the sticks.
Ousmane is fast.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) September 19, 2020
By classic Barcelona display, what I meant is, Barcelona yet again looked like they had the ball without the knowledge of not knowing the next step or passing the ball to Messi as the next step. Barcelona has basically done only this under previous managers, Valverde and Setien. This is going to make Barcelona struggle a lot in Laliga when they face opposition who play with that high defensive line.
If Koeman is critical with his selection of players; if players like Trincao, Dembele, Fati, Puig, Pedri are given their chances regardless of their age and solve those defensive issues, we have a chance; otherwise It’s going to be just another season of disaster class.
There’s still a lot to improve!
Solitary goal stirs Blaugrana in the first trophy of the season.
Unsurprisingly, the breathtaking football lasted only for over half an hour in the second game, before it went back to the soreness that Cules have been so used to seeing. The poor rhythm in the game was widely visible as the team sunk back to its usual self.
During the build-up, Frenkie would drop as an LCB while Busquests would split the CBs. In a 4-2-3-1 with three-quarters of them being ball-playing, Frenkie de Jong has yet again been forced to hold the line higher up to allow Messi to drop deep with Roberto providing the width.
On the left, however, Ansu Fati provided the bright spark holding the width and dribbling in space. This allowed Coutinho to play more centrally to receive and turn as opposed to being isolated wide on the left. The first and only goal showed the classic Messi-Alba connection with a threading pass between the WB and wide CB for Alba to make a run into, who squares it centrally for Griezmann to score.
We can’t draw a conclusion based on these games; There’s a room for improvement as well as a chance of exposure of the flaws of this team in coming days. Let’s hope for the best.
Visca el Barca!