Fans were set to rejoice facing a modest 15th Alavés. However, the fans can’t believe it as they cover their eyes in horror: Barcelona didn’t win, and even worse, didn’t dominate. For long, Koeman’s team was unable to generate proper chances, until Griezmann scored the equalizer in the second half. Alavés was even a man down for thirty minutes, but this was not enough for Barcelona to win.
Koeman has already raised eyebrows before the match, by dropping Dest and Pjanic from the starting XI, seeing Busquets and Roberto starting again, contrary to the culés’ popular will. An XI that didn’t convince, for sure. Busquets was struggling to keep up to the game’s tempo, Frenkie kept the ball for too long and the team suffered counter-attacks. Most players were unable to keep the ball for long while simultaneously failing to stop counter-attacks in transitions. It is foolish to lose the ball in the wrong area while being unable to recover the ball efficiently.
Conceding Embarrassing Goal
And amidst the chaos, the first goal of the encounter. A lack of communication, most likely, between Piqué & Neto caused the goal. Piqué covers the area to pass it safely to Neto – who should have stayed near the goal. Instead, the Brazilian goalkeeper runs towards the ball, fails to perform his action and then the goal is scored. It is insane to think that such a rookie error is to be seen at the highest level like Barcelona’s. Nonetheless, this error of communication was far from the biggest problem in the match.
A common theme of this team? Disconnection. It’s all about a block of three or four players together, blocks that are disconnected. This team is not one team, but a collection of multiple little sub-teams that are independent from each other and do not interact with each other. This may be at the core of the problem. More than the individuals, Koeman’s system is the problem, and nothing will change until he himself will notice it. Barcelona’s problem resumes to that well known Einstein quote: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.
However, exceptionally, Koeman’s team did dominate possession on the ball. The question remains: At what cost? Sterile possession has always been unwanted and useless, but this is how Barcelona presented itself yesterday: Inefficient and unable to find solutions. Both Frenkie and Messi were unable to make purpose of their runs, often keeping the ball for too long periods and failing to unleash the right pass at the right moment, especially for the Dutchman.
Griezmann finally scores
On the bright side, however, Griezmann had done well. Having scored the equalizer, he proved to be important and did well, despite this needing to be confirmed in the next matches. Koeman also introduced three subs at the beginning of the second half. Pjanic, Pedri & Trincao came in for Busquets, Lenglet & Dembele. Later on, even Ansu was subbed off, to the general surprise. It is not that Barcelona lacked the wingers, but lacked width.
And surprisingly so, considering wingers usually provide width, that is their job, like the baker bakes bread. Unfortunately, before wingers start to have a real impact, they need to get the ball in favourable conditions. And that was neither the case of Ansu or Dembele, who had to cope with full-backs that seemingly lacked the aptitude to provide support to the corresponding wingers. Both Ansu and Dembele often found themselves in unfavourable situations, especially the latter confronted to a 1v2 situation where he was almost forced to pass back or eventually take on before getting dispossessed, the main critique towards his play.
Unfortunately, these three substitutes were never enough. More than individuals, the collective system had to change. Which eventually didn’t prove to be successful enough. If Pedri and Pjanic proved to be very good subs to the point fans wonder why they weren’t starters, the midfield still lacked man-power. Too often, Barcelona lacked the players to connect the midfield to the attack, the ones dropping between the lines. In that case, players like Riqui or Alena would have been useful. But neither came on, the former wasn’t even in the squad list.
Unable to get the winner
Eventually, the shots came. The shots came, but the winner never did. Even after Alavés was down to ten men after a second yellow card in the 63’, even then Barcelona couldn’t break the deadlock. Too many shots with too low quality, the highest of the shots coming around 0.2 xG which is very worrying. Pep himself always aimed to get quality shots instead of shot quantity. Koeman seems to do the exact opposite, score and Inshallah. Eventually, it fires back. Shots were predictable and a brilliant Pacheco managed to keep the goal safe, despite all possible shots incoming. Barcelona could fire as many shots as they wanted, not a single one would arrive at its target.
Barcelona is now 12th and is seemingly struggling to find new ideas, with Koeman using the same game plan no matter the circumstances. More attackers are coming on towards the end while leaving the midfield dull, a mistake Koeman keeps making. Unless he realises where his errors lie, Barcelona are not likely to have a fun season ahead.