Over the last few years, the Board of FC Barcelona has made many questionable decisions. It has been a period of shocking transfers, atrocious wage bills, lack of vision for the project and many other things. One of the better decisions was the appointment of Quique Setién as the first team manager. He was appointed on the 13th of January, replacing Ernesto Valverde. It was a very unexpected and dramatic move.
Valverde was appointed in 2018 after Luis Enrique decided to step down as the first team manager He was the Barça manager for two and a half years where he won 4 trophies, including 2 La Liga trophies. Though his numbers were decent, the two debacles in Rome and Liverpool in two years had turned a majority of fans against him. His passive style of play, poor management of the youth players and overdependence on individual brilliance caused a lot of problems. He was also often criticised for a very fixed game plan and not having a plan B if things didn’t work out. A lot of people believed he deserved the sack after the debacle at Anfield, followed by the shambolic performance against Valencia in the Copa Del Rey final. But the board continued with him. It was in the middle of the 19/20 season that Valverde was sacked after a 3-2 loss against Atletico Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup.
Quique Setién’s arrival, though sudden, came as a ray of hope for all Barça fans. In the 18/19 season, Setien’s Real Betis had trumped Barcelona at the Camp Nou, playing the beautiful possession-based football that all Barça lovers wanted to watch their teams play. There was a lot of excitement among fans all around the world as there was now a belief that Barcelona could go back to playing the beautiful football, that they were so used to watching.
During his unveiling on 14th January, Setién said all the right things. He spoke about his philosophy, giving youth players chances and only giving deserving players opportunities to play. This was very contrasting to what Valverde had done. He stuck with the same starting 11 for the majority of the games, barely giving youth players a chance and had never rested the big-name players. Setien’s words got Barca fans up and ready for his first game
Setien’s first game was against Granada at that Camp Nou. He managed to register his first win with an admirable goal finished by Lionel Messi in the 76th minute. Barça kept 83% possession, attempting over a thousand passes.
In his second game against Valencia Setién’s Barça looked utterly out of sorts and were taken apart at the Mestalla. His results since then have been a mixed bag, there have been some promising performances and some very mediocre performances. But there was a noticeable advancement from Valverde’s term(19/20) at Barca, especially with respect to the approach.
The unexpected halt to football because of the COVID 19 pandemic came as a blessing in disguise as it gave Setién some much needed time to figure things out. It also gave the players some rest as they were looking drained towards the end of February. When football returned everything looked good, the players looked happy and fresh, and Setién seemed very confident.FC Barcelona beat Mallorca in their first game after the return by a massive four goals to nothing. They picked up a win in their next game against Leganes, though the performance wasn’t as convincing.
Then came the big game against Sevilla (away) and all the fans were very optimistic. This is where Setien made a mistake. In the pre-match press conference, he said that he doesn’t expect Barca to win every game, which is not a sign of confidence. Barça drew, and by doing so gave Madrid the upper hand in the title race.
Rumours were going around that the players were unhappy and did not agree with Setién’s tactics and substitutions. The game against Celta Vigo showed some significant issues in the club. Big players like Lionel Messi and Ivan Rakitic summed to be extremely displeased with some decisions and tactics. Messi even went to the extent where he ignored assistant coach Eder Sarabia. It was a game where Barcelona was dominating for the majority of the game where young players like Riqui Puig had great games. It was during the last quarter of the game where Suarez and Puig were taken off, and the tide completely shifted in Celta’s favour. There have been several reports since the match about a heated discussion among the players and the coaching staff, regarding the tactics and “unnecessary” substitutions. Arguments of this sort often take place at clubs when a team doesn’t perform at the expected level. It’s not very worrying as most of these discussions constantly help find solutions.
Reports have also come out saying that players like Messi, Pique and Suarez do not want to have any discussion with Sarabia and wish to address Setién directly. In a club like FC Barcelona, losing the big names of the dressing room can have enormous repercussions. The degree of truth in these reports is yet to determined
The latest reports from very reliable sources say that if Quique Setién were to lose any of his next two games against Atletico Madrid and Villarreal respectively, he’d be given the sack or will get the sack at the end of the La Liga season
What has Setién done?
In his 13 La Liga games so far, Setién has won 9 games and lost just 2. It is a very commendable performance considering his surprise appointment. There is also a definite but marginal improvement in the performances since his arrival. Some of the older players like Rakitic and Alba have found their best form in a long time. There is a lot more movement off the ball, and players like Semedo are understating their role more clearly. Let us take the Celta game as an example, barring the substitutions and individual errors. There were a lot of improvements from a tactical and individual standpoint. Barça created many chances, but missed a few scoring opportunities and was unlucky on some occasions as well. Setién didn’t do much wrong at all. The team has improved in every front. It’s not just the Celta game; there were five clean sheets in five games before that. We must understand that we are moving in the right direction.
Like I indicated earlier, it has only been small steps in the right direction. Though we are getting to see a lot more of the likes of Puig, Fati and Aroujo, the big-name players are still getting a significant chunk of game time. Considering their age, this might not be the right thing to do. This part is very identical to how things were under Valverde. Barça is also scoring lesser but is even conceding significantly less. With some more time and a better understanding of the ideas of the coach, the goals will only increase.
The underlying problem
The biggest problem at the club , as it often turns out to be is the board. Josep Maria Bartomue is a very weak leader and that translates to the other board members and even the coach. This gives players powers that they shouldn’t even have. A coach should be able to make whatever decision they believe is right .That, unfortunately, doesn’t seem to be the case at Barça right now, the big names of the club hold a lot of power and that can never be a positive thing. The board, on the other hand, are not giving the coach time to stamp his authority by making rash decisions. Sacking a coach who has just been appointed should never be an option. Not only does that show obvious mismanagement on their part, but it also shows that their initial decision wasn’t very well calculated or planned at all
What does the future hold for Setién and Barca?
The future does not look very luminous for Setién’s Barca career unless he can turn things around in the next few games. To accomplish that he will have to win the confidence of the dressing room. The following six games are crucial for both Barça and Setién. Barça, on the other hand, has already started looking for a replacement for Setién. Reports suggest that Garcia Pimienta, the coach of the Barca B team, is most likely to get the job if Setién is fired. There are also several reports saying that Barça will try to lure Xavi to take up the position of head coach.
I, for one, believe Setién, like many other players and personnel under this board, has not been given enough time to put his ideas through to the players. It’s very, very rare that a coach can come and alter things, so drastically, in such a short time. Setién hasn’t yet been able to implement his plans to the level we expect of him. But, he deserves to get at least one transfer window and pre-season(which he still won’t get) before being given the sack. But the Barça board are simply not ready to give him that time. So Setién has to make sure Barca do well in every game from now starting with Atleti if he is to keep his job. Though I believe Setién deserves some more time, He has done himself no favours with his vague statements in the press. Losing the dressing room is probably the biggest problem from his point of view. All these things considered it remains to be seen what the future holds for Setién and FC Barcelona
Let’s hope for the best.. and until the subsequent article.
VISCA BARCA ????????