It’s not been a good campaign for Barcelona so far despite having a squad of players that are no less than world class. The team has countless champions, prolific goalscorers, exciting talents, and, of course, the best player in the world. Still, the Blaugranas haven’t won either of the two games played in this new year, and they have conceded 23 goals in La Liga so far halfway through the season. Are Barcelona in crisis?
Top of the league, with the same points as Real Madrid, and qualified into the Champions League’s last 16 as group leaders – many sides would do anything to be in this same situation. Nonetheless, rather than for results – which have also been disappointing if the potential of the squad is considered – it’s the sensations transmitted what is most troubling.
It’s not just a few games, but the away form and the inability to take the game to the opposition. It’s in defence where they are the most vulnerable, and a heavy reliance on Lionel Messi is too risky a strategy across 90 minutes. In the past, no one even thought of saying the words ‘Barca are not themselves’ given the history and prestige of the club, but we’ve come to a point where this is all normal. The fans wanted Ernesto Valverde gone and now Quique Setien has been tasked with steering the Catalans back on course.
Of course, his main job will be to restore an attractive brand of football but here are a few other solutions he could offer that might just get Barcelona back on track and end this crisis.
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The young defenders need minutes
Jean-Clair Todibo is a centre-back targeted by various clubs across Europe for a loan and/or a permanent transfer, with Schalke being the latest suitors.
German football legend Lothar Matthaus said about the Frenchman that he “is the best centre-back I’ve seen in a long time”. As surprising as this statement is, his conditions are undeniable. This was evident in his performance against Inter at San Siro in the Champions League, wherein he almost single-handedly stopped Lautaro Martinez and Romelu Lukaku from scoring and giving them a really hard time.
Todibo is very calm and patient on the ball, and has the ability to play out from the back. The fact that Valverde was unable to give the young lad minutes was no less than unfair. In addition, it would be advisable for Setien to give the Uruguayan Ronald Araujo some minutes to show his worth. He has pace that will help stop counter-attacks as that is where the team is the most fragile when they lose possession.
Trust Riqui Puig
Culés across the globe have watched the talent of their very own homegrown boy Riqui Puig and await the day when he’s playing regularly in the first team. Riqui was offered to go out on loan to gain La Liga experience, but he declined the offer as the Catalan wants to succeed by staying home. The 20-year-old provides the high-press attacking football and creativity that is missing from Barca’s midfield – something Setien will want to restore.
Only Arturo Vidal, who himself has limited minutes, gives the Azulgranas that quality as of now. Riqui Puig has the pace and the ability to dribble past the defence and can link up with the front three as well. The midfield comprising of three of Sergio Busquets, Frenkie De Jong, Arthur and Puig would give Barcelona the balance they need in order to press the opposition and control the game.
Use Griezmann in his natural position
The Frenchman should not be on the wings, but leading the line for Barcelona and taking Luis Suarez’s place. That has not been the case yet, as the former Atletico Madrid man was shifted to the left flank where basically Jordi Alba plays most of the time. Despite slowly adapting, Griezmann finds himself out of position much like Coutinho did last season.
If there was no wing-back, the 28-year-old could be even more productive, although at present he’s not able to show his full quality and contribute to the attack as he would like. The MSG has not yet fully developed into the deadly attacking trio the world wants to see, and all three components are not getting any younger. Now, however, the injury of Suarez, who may miss four months as he’ll be operated on his right knee, could open the door for Antoine to play more centrally again.
No nonsense transfer policy
In January of 2019, Barcelona signed Kevin-Prince Boateng and Jeison Murillo on 6-month loans as emergency additions in case any of the centre-backs or strikers were missing. There’s also a case to be made about the ‘statement signing’ Coutinho – we all know how that turned out. The board needs to evaluate who they are signing and what are they capable of.
Barcelona are after Lautaro Martinez for the summer of 2020, but it is unknown what role Griezmann was expected to occupy in the first place and why the La Liga giants are now looking to sign a young forward. In addition, players like Todibo are not to be sent out on loan but should be given minutes in the senior squad instead.
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