FC Barcelona: Need For Improvement
FC Barcelona seem unlikely to catch a breath anytime soon. After an underwhelming summer that saw them witness the departure of club legend Lionel Messi to Paris Saint-Germain, the Blaugrana’s unaddressed problems have seemingly ticked over onto the start of the season. Ronald Koeman has, hitherto, been unable to rejuvenate his squad following the summer debacle, while also failing to produce convincing performances on the pitch and suffered embarrassing defeats in recent fixtures across Europe. Additionally, the Dutchman has also been severely scrutinized for his treatment of players and failure to display visible signs of progress since his appointment last season.
Now, given their results and fan opinion, the pressure remains mounted on Koeman to spark a turn-around in performances following the international break. Following a disappointing start to the campaign, Barcelona currently sit ninth in the league table and have lost two group games in the UEFA Champions League this season. Unless the manager finds a way to revitalizing their season in the coming months, the club could potentially fail to move onto the next stage in the Champions League and embarrassingly miss out on the race for the title and, arguably, a top-four spot this season.
Change in Approach
While the club have been synonymous with the ‘tiki-taka’ style of football, that has not been the case under the current manager. Having publicly acknowledged the lack of personnel within the squad to materialise the club’s footballing philosophy on the pitch, Koeman has relied upon a long-ball approach or utilising the width to deliver crosses in recent fixtures. Given the lack of technically gifted forwards, and reliance on a target-man, the manager’s approach is understandable, however, a shift from the club’s traditional mentality to dominate games has, arguably, hindered the prospects of the current set-up.
For much of last season, Koeman deployed his preferred 3-5-2 formation, thus, maintaining the majority of possession but sticking by a restrictive defensive approach – unlike previous managers – to grind out results across all competitions. And, although Koeman guided the club to a Copa Del Rey and a title race last season, questions still loom over his ability to employ a fluid approach in his tenure as club manager. For instance, although the team boast a capable forward line, they have failed to create adequate chances and convert them into goals this season. Under Koeman, they have managed to score ≤ 3 goals on only two occasions this season.
Unless the manager changes his tactics and adopts a fluid style of play, many of the team’s existing issues could remain persistent throughout the season. With key attackers returning from long-term injuries, fans will be hoping to see a definitive and regularly deployed style of attacking football developed by the manager and witness a visible improvement in team selection and performances on the pitch.
While the club’s financial mismanagement is unlikely to resolve itself imminently, an imbalanced squad combined with a poor start to the campaign could only worsen the overall predicament at Barcelona. After losing two key forwards in Antoine Griezmann and Lionel Messi ahead of the campaign, Koeman has been left with a crop of talented yet, ageing or underperforming players in the forward position. Additionally, owing to injuries to players such as Ansu Fati and newcomer Sergio Aguero, the manager has been unable to find the right attacking balance within the starting line-up.
Having been without the services of key players, it remains unlikely that Koeman could inspire a renewed sense of hope amongst the fan base. Provided Barcelona are to bounce back following the international break, the Dutchman will need to change his approach and likely adopt a new system of play going into the season. Given the number of ageing players and lack of quality options across multiple areas on the pitch, finding a workable balance remains indispensable if the club are to salvage some positive points going into a pivotal period of the season.