With the second match under Koeman, FC Barcelona fans are glued to their seats in hope for a revolution that could set them free of all the disappointments they’ve been facing over the years.
The first match looking bright and sharp, here’s what our editors have to say about Koeman’s second match as the Barcelona head coach:
Adithya Kamath: “Glimpses of the Lucho era”
In the second friendly game against Girona, Barcelona lined up in it’s now favoured 4-2-3-1 with a familiar duo of Busquets and de Jong. The familiarity of de Jong in the deeper position helped Barcelona form a back three at times (only when pressed), with Busquets and de Jong usually alternating in the #6 space. Upfront, the Catalans were very fluid reminiscent of the Luis Enrique days playing with a free #10 and a false 9 especially focusing on individual comfort zones.
The surprising part was that instead of dropping deep, Messi was made to hold the line with Griezmann helping to connect between attack and defence in a free role while Coutinho was usually out wide on the left without the ball (usually in the LHS when Barca moved higher). Trincao also enjoyed autonomy to drop either centrally (when Griezmann was higher) or in the RHS to facilitate ball play.
The key high up was not to create width indefinitely, but minimum width to facilitate play in the middle by making curved runs. Without the ball, however, Barcelona mostly lined up in a typical 4-5-1 without pressing high up intensely instead focusing on shutting passing lanes. In this phase, Araujo’s physical presence was consequential in preventing opposition attacks from materialising, while on the other hand, Roberto’s poor defensive body shape was clearly noticeable as he was surprisingly made to play higher up during the build-up phase with Alba playing deeper.
In the last quarter, Konrad’s width and dribbling wide will give Koeman a good headache on the type of player he would want to play in next week’s games.
Swaroop: “Back with a Bang”
An absolute piece of art by FC Barcelona. I personally haven’t seen such a performance ever since the Lucho era. The overall involvement of the team has gone from close to zero to 100% in just a few days under Koeman. The idea of balancing the older players in the team with younger, higher work rate players seems to be covering up for all of Barca’s weaknesses.
The first half saw some really beautiful football, with brilliant first touch football with top-class off the ball positioning. The link-up between Trincao and Messi is one the fans would like to see more of throughout this season, and Coutinho seems to be getting more and more comfortable on the ball, we saw glimpses of vintage Coutinho when he glided past two opposition players and winning a foul almost beating the third. Although I cannot emphasise enough on the quality of passing we have just witnessed, even more, stunning is the off the ball runs and movement to facilitate spaces to play into. This is another version of Juego de posicion that fans are going to absolutely enjoy.
The best part was, for the first time in a while, we witnessed over the top balls (pun intended) which Barcelona seem to be ready to receive and score from. Another thing to point out is that the physicality of the players looks drastically improved in just a matter of weeks. These players look really sharp and quick to react, and it really seems that Albert Roca has whipped something magical to help players play at this intensity. Last season, in contrast, the players looked dreadful, often looking gassed out on the pitch too soon. The best performances were from Puig, Alena, Konrad, Araujo and Trincao for me. Araujo seems like he just needs a bit more time to mature and looks like he is a starting choice for Koeman, as Araujo played throughout the entire 90 minutes.
Even with all these positives, the game is a friendly and not a lot should be concluded from it. However, compare this to similar stature performances from the previous seasons and you can clearly see the improvement. The 4-2-3-1 might just end up being a revolution in the club’s methods for how well it is doing.
Sweta: “I can see the hope”
Yes, Our current management is still at some level of deep mud, we can hope for the changes there. But, the impact of Koeman seems noticeable. The play was much more faster, players were moving a bit quicker, they linked with Messi a bit more effectively and the overall teamwork in creating chances was visible in this game against Girona. Messi is still Messi and will continue to be.
The remarkable impact was of Trincao. The 20-year-old lad had shown his quality in the previous friendly game against Nastic and even in this game, he was amazing. He understands the game well; he understands Messi well; I lost counts of time Messi made those typical Messi through ball to Trincao and he was able to understand those. Koeman is trying out things, making changes, observing, practising.
The first goal came from teamwork and the team was constantly creating chances which we have seen much. We are so used to Messi doing it all, that’s why it seemed differently beautiful. There’s still a lot to work on in this team, our fullbacks, Alba and Roberto seems to struggle while being under pressure; Araujo has that quality of a strong, fast, technical defender and deserves his minutes.
In this game, Araujo started ahead of Lenglet, and he showed his quality. But, these things can be worked on. With Rakitic, Vidal and probably Suarez gone, and with the addition of such talented youngsters like Trincao and Pedri, Araujo, Puig, Konrad, I am finally seeing the hope from this team. Dembele and Coutinho had a decent game too. We already have the best player in the world who is able to do wonders like he did in this game.
These friendlies showed what young players can give to the team. If Koeman is able to make such changes, with such choice even during official games, then Koeman might revive our club. So, all we can do is, hope for the best!
Sahil Dani: “Job Done Well”
The intensity was kind off good with players seem more focused on the game. The front four
was very fluid and they constantly rotated and occupied different zones making it hard for
Girona to man-mark. Girona placed a 4-4-2 formation so to counter the first line of the press,
Frenkie placed himself in the left halfspace alongside Pique and Araujo to create 3v2 and
find more options of passing. The overloading on either side was active with fast passing
and quick movements. The first goal was the brilliance of Messi with an intelligent
defence-splitting pass to Trincao who perfected his run and later laid it off to Coutinho to
score. The second goal was from Messi with the Argentine using his right foot from outside
the box. In terms of pressing, the players used to block the inner channels well but it was not
organized. Somehow, Girona got a lot of spaces during their time on the ball. Something
which Koeman needs to pay attention to.
During 60th min, Koeman almost substituted every player and brought in young blood. With
correct profiles, high enthusiasm, great energy, the team was playing some of the best
football the team has seen for a while. Whenever on the ball, they never wasted their time in
the build-up and were having more territory in the final third. Konrad on the left was providing
excellent width, Dembele amazed with his pace, Riqui with his dynamism and Pedri with his
magic. The winger-FB connection on either side was solid and proved lethal in terms of
chances created. What amazed me was the accurate strings of passes they pulled in
confined spaces and press. Almost as if they have perfected the training drills.
This friendly has given a lot of positives but some of the work should be done in
the defensive aspect of the game. With the set of young players this team has, there is no doubt
that if they all are retained than the manager after Koeman can definitely aim for trophies
after trophies every year.
Conroy: “Koeman’s Barça getting in the groove”
Albeit a pre-season game, this performance gives me hope that Koeman is doing a great job already.
A tale of 2 halves
From the kick off, to have glimpses of some good passing football between Messi, Trincao, Alba and Coutinho was something we all have been waiting to see. De Jong along with Busquets put in a shift defensively. Even though Coutinho wasn’t at his best, getting on the scoresheet would bring him confidence. That’s 2 games in a row now for the Brazilian and he is already showing us what he can do with the ball.
When you look at that first goal, Messi again like he has done for years sliding that through ball out of nowhere for Trincao who set up Coutinho. Another rare sight was when Messi blasted his first goal of the game with his right foot off the cross bar. Messi looked dangerous as his free kick kept the Girona keeper busy as he was forced to pull off a save just before the half.
Onto the second half, bringing in the youth Puig, Pedri, Aleña and Dembele and all of them looked positive. Messi bagged his second goal just off the start of the second half and gave the team some leverage for the youngsters to free their legs as Koeman had done 9 changes.
Dembélé showed us glimpses that he could be back to his best with those feints and sudden burst of pace. At the 74’ min when Dembélé broke some ankles in the Girona box, you could have bet he would bury the ball in the back of the net on any other day. Puig and Aleña did a pretty good job in midfield spreading the game play.
Koeman’s style of spreading the play through the wingers and giving the CF that space could be effective. This Barça batch looked more attacking than the first half of players but they lacked finishing. Puig pulled off an outrageous scooped pass in the 84’ min that Pedri blasted over the bar. Puig reminds us of Iniesta when he has the ball, with confidence beaming high this kid is definetly grooming into a future star.
Can conclude with a handful of positives from today’s game. Barcelona is playing more attacking football as we always love to watch, spreading the play and watching Coutinho, Dembele, Messi delivering a worthy performance. With Pjanic joining the midfield, Koeman could strengthen the side and with Trincao playing with so much maturity should be a defínete starter in his 11.
Defensively, Barcelona still look like their shaky selves and won’t be doing well if they continue this form. The full back position is still a major problem for Barça and playing with a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-3-3 formation added pressure on the midfielders to cover up and is always a worry against stronger and faster teams.
Dominating the field of play with ball possession, Barcelona have to end up finishing their chances if they have to bounce back from their disastrous last season.
Koeman and his army have a mission to complete!