Heads down in the Camp Nou after ninety minutes. It’s Koeman’s first game without a win since his arrival as FC Barcelona manager, as he admitted it himself after the match: “It was a difficult game”. Not only did the Dutchman fail to win on the scoresheet, but the football displayed throughout the 90’ hasn’t pleased the fans either.
And the fans are right. Because at no point did Barcelona manage to control the game. Only the first fifteen minutes had been okay, where Barcelona equalized through Coutinho in the tenth minute, two minutes after De Jong had scored for Sevilla. Koeman’s side saw itself unable to pass through quick transitions, but also unable to use long balls in an effective way. As much defensively as offensively, Koeman’s Barcelona lacked the resources. However, not all is to blame on Koeman. His reaction had come early enough as Griezmann and Ansu went off for Trincao and Pedri. Too bad it didn’t help much either.
Where Barcelona excelled is where they fell short yesterday: The midfield. While Coutinho did have a great first twenty fives minutes, the Brazilian failed to make an impact later, seemingly tired. Meanwhile, Frenkie misplaced too many passes while Busquets failed to adapt to the tempo of the game. As a consequence, the midfield was virtually nonexistent, worryingly enough. The best news is that the two were never subbed off for Riqui Puig, who was forced to hail the bench as his new home to the despair of culés.
Plan didn’t work
The source to Koeman’s problem isn’t to be found in the individuals but in the plan itself. The direct play Koeman plays required very quick transitions, pace and lethality in the final third. Yesterday, none of the three were to be found, thus showing a fairly poor Barça, unable to threaten Sevilla. So far, it seems as the Dutchman tries to priorities individual qualities (Coutinho, Ansu, Frenkie) instead of a cohesive team, especially in the final third. On the other hand, Sevilla deserve to be praised as well.
For it was the hardest team we’ve faced so far. They mastered quick transitions, patience, long balls and defensive solidity. Barcelona hardly found any chances (1.0xG for Barcelona while Sevilla had 1.7xG), and thus could hardly score. Sevilla were not afraid to use a low block at times knowing this Barcelona team doesn’t know how to break those blocks, also allowing quicker counter-attacks.
Even worse, it’s in the second half that Sevilla seemed stronger while Barça appeared weaker. As if Barcelona were given a poison and Sevilla a red bull drink, Sevilla pressed harder than ever following the half-time break, and Barcelona sunk deeper, deeper and even deeper. Frenkie was also later moved to a playmaker role which doesn’t suit him, while Coutinho had to be moved to the left. Fans still wonder what was going through Koeman’s head, as if he were almost inflexible. Changing the individuals doesn’t help when the problem was more tactical if anything.
Koeman has learned the lesson: There are several problems in his new formation. Will he try to improve it, or will he revert to the 4-3-3 like his damned predecessors? Koeman will have two weeks before facing a tough schedule after the international break.