The vexed look on Antoine Griezmann’s face said it all.
Shunted onto the left wing, again, and largely ineffective, his number was on the board before the hour mark when embattled head coach Ernesto Valverde turned to his substitutes’ bench with Barcelona drawing 1-1 at bottom-placed Leganes.
Rather than becoming the unconvincing champions’ saviour at a partisan Estadio Municipal de Butarque, a peeved Griezmann would instead have to take his seat. Not even a boost in confidence from ending his seven-game drought for France during the international break could prevent the ignominy.
Salt was poured on a fresh wound 22 minutes later when replacement Arturo Vidal scrambled home a late winner – via the video-assistant referee – that, temporarily at least, earned a three-point lead in La Liga.
An enduring argument about his characteristics not gelling with Valverde’s system remains pertinent. Uruguay striker Luis Suarez – who had headed home the equaliser three minutes before Griezmann’s removal – and the peerless Lionel Messi continued to dominate the middle in the 4-2-3-1 formation chosen in the capital’s suburbs.
This state of play has witnessed their new Gallic team-mate go from a central character at Atletico Madrid, to Barca’s €120 million spare part.
But how much longer can someone, who so publicly canvassed last year for Ballon d’Or recognition, hide behind this excuse?
An element of personal agency and responsibility is sorely lacking in Griezmann’s, mostly, self-pitying exhibitions to date for the Blaugrana. Only this can quieten increasingly audible disquiet about his addition.
Statistically, the summer purchase could have few complaints at the Butarque. The Catalans’ third-most-expensive signing contributed one off-target attempt, the second-least touches of any starter at that stage (35), no key passes, no aerials won, no dribbles and no crosses.
In short, he was atrocious and might as well not been on the pitch.
On the opposite flank, compatriot Ousmane Dembele helped craft Vidal’s scrappy clincher from a corner. He’d also set-up ex-Spain centre-back Gerard Pique to rattle the woodwork.
Dembele walked off after the final whistle with two attempts on goal, one key pass and six dribbles.
This might not be a fair comparison. The 22-year-old is, of course, a natural winger.
Even teenage substitute Ansu Fati, however, managed to make a solitary key pass and win one aerial challenge upon his introduction on 69 minutes.
Such insipid displays give Valverde little encouragement to award Griezmann the central role he craves. Tellingly, it was playmaker Messi’s free-kick that teed up centre forward Suarez for the leveller.
But even an overview does the unthreatening forward – he’s got one in his last 10 Barca appearances – no service.
This was also only the third time from 12 La Liga starts that he has been hooked. Griezmann is being afforded chances that his performances, arguably, do not deserve.
From 11 top-flight games as No9, Suarez is tallying seven goals. This number includes a brace versus Valencia and goal against Sevilla.
From seven La Liga run-outs in which Griezmann featured, at some point, as centre forward, according to Wyscout, he’s produced two goals and one assist. Both of these came in August’s 5-2 home triumph against Real Betis – a game that both Suarez and Messi missed.
Remember when Barca fans were just only incensed by Griezmann’s flamboyant LeBron James-inspired confetti celebration? Such inconsequential worries already feel like they come from another, more simple, era.
It would be inexcusable, when all available material is collated, for Valverde to gift any central game time to Griezmann at Suarez’s expense.
It then boils down to the fact only one player can be gifted the ‘roaming role’.
Does it go to an underwhelming fresh face, or Barca’s greatest-ever player in Messi? No contest.
Systemic issues are paramount. But are the technical staff carrying the can for the recruitment department’s ill-advised decision to acquire a waning 28-year-old who had just registered his least-effective goalscoring campaign at Atleti?
The evidence makes sorry – and damning – reading for Griezmann.
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