A year ago to day, it was official : Ronald Koeman became the coach of FC Barcelona. The club’s legend was one of those coaches that their name always came up when we looked for a new coach. However, this time he took the job in probably the worst moment he could. In the middle of the chaos between the 8-2 loss to Bayern, the Burofax and a vote of no confidence vs Bartomeu, he had a bad environment. Moreover, the club’s financial status made the signings he wanted impossible. But the Dutch took the job, knowing that it might be his last chance to return to his former club as a coach. And a year after, what do I think about Ronald Koeman’s Barça?
First of all, we have to realize that Ronald Koeman’s made a sacrifice in coming to Barça. He knew that the club is in a very bad place, and he knew that life will be hard for him. Moreover, had already had a very convenient job coaching the NT of Netherlands, leading them to Euro 2020. Furthermore, he had a heart procedure just few months before signing his contract with Barcelona. So why would he even take this stressful job?
First of all, for a guy like Koeman, Barcelona isn’t another club. As a club legend, Ronald Koeman’s dream was always to return to Barça as a coach. But every time the option returned to the table, something came along the way.
A brief look at history
In 2003, a new president called Joan Laporta looked for a new manager. He spoke with his good friend Johan Cruyff, and they decided to contact Ronald Koeman’s environment so he would coach Barça. It was only natural that Koeman, a club legend as a player and a former Assistant Manager in the club – would take the job. But back then he had a commitment to Ajax, where he was the coach. So the club went for Frank Rijkaard, and the rest was history.
First season in Barcelona
This time, Koeman didn’t want to miss this opportunity. Was he right in doing it? Time would tell. But sometimes when it’s something you wanted all your life – It’s better to try and fail, then not try. So he took the job, and Ronald Koeman’s era in Barça started.
The first few months were very tough for the team, and the fans didn’t spare criticism from Koeman. The Dutch coach looked stubborn, played with a formation that didn’t suit the team, and we looked awful. But sometime in the start of 2021 everything started to change. Maybe it was the upcoming election, and maybe it’s the change of formation. But eventually, a run of great games got Barcelona closer to the league title. Moreover, the team won a trophy – Copa de Rey – Which is something that looked very hard at some parts of the season.
But eventually, his stubbornness and his lack of Plan B took caused the team to lose every match vs elite coach. And it’s fair to say that many of us thought that the club would sack him in the end of the season.
But then, Laporta gave Koeman another season in charge of the team. I don’t know if it’s the lack of alternatives, the lack of funds to sack him, or another reason. But in the end of the day, Ronald Koeman’s still the coach of Barça, one year later.
The Main Targets for Ronald Koeman’s second year in Barça
Will the second year as a coach will also be the last one for Ronald Koeman? Too early to say. But it’s fair to say that him staying in charge is maily a result of external reasons and not his abilities. But according to many reports, he does have the respect of the squad, and that’s important. Naturally, players like Pique, Albe, Busquets and the other veterans knew him from the time they started watching football.
Pique just posted a video of him getting an autograph from Koeman as a young boy. Moreover, Sergio Busquet’s father was a teammate for Ronald Koeman. So the fact that they respect him has it’s weight.
But respect is not enough. This year he got some players that he wanted when he came 1 year ago. But he also left without Leo Messi, the club’s best player ever. So you can look at this season as a golden opportunity for Koeman and the club. How so?
Youngsters time to shine
Emotions aside, losing Leo Messi means that FC Barcelona automatically lost the main power that made you consider the team as elite. Memphis Depay and Aguero are not close to be enough to cover for the loss of Messi, and no one will be enough.
But as we all probably know, in Barcelona there is a very very promising young generation. When you look at the amount of youngsters there is in the squad, you can only imagine the team they could form in the future. The idea scenario was to let them play with Messi for 2-3 more years so they could learn from the best. But with him outside the club, Koeman will have to give the youngsters enough time to shine.
I know that Koeman does have his issues with Riqui Puig, and maybe with Collado to. But in the end of the day, Koeman does let the youngsters play, and he can have his favorites, as long as it’s working. Does Koeman consider Gavi better than Riqui? Fair enough. Demir better than Collado? Also fair. Let them play.
The youngsters can use this season to mark their territory in the team. For the first time in more than a decade – the fans don’t expect us to run for a treble. Moreover, even La Liga looks like a very tough task. So the club can actually use this year to make the youngsters play more.
In a year or two, the club will have the funds to bring Top-Quality players again. By that time we will have more knowledge in which areas we need to strengthen.
Plan B Required
The main issue that I personally had with Koeman last year was the fact that he failed every tactical battle vs elite coaches. He lost those battles due to his lack of tactical flexibility. Somewhere during the season, he found out that the 3 at-the-back formation worked pretty well, as it surprised other teams. But then other teams learned how to deal with it, and he didn’t know how to surprise them again. This went on many times, and we lost points because of it.
This year we seem to start the season with a 4-3-3 formation. But still, when things got suddenly tough vs Real Sociedad, Koeman subbed Lenglet in for the last minutes. This is probably worst move you could choose. But the fact that Barcelona scored the 4th goal might make it even worse, as it means he will make this change more..
If, for example, Koeman would sub in Demir and Gavi when were at 3-0 lead, we could see them wanting to prove themselves, and we might just see more goals. Instead, he waited with the subs, played Pedri for the whole game, and made changes in the defense, which is something that always takes the team sometime to settle.
Potentially great year ahead
Bottom line, I have great expectations for the second year of Ronald Koeman. I’m not thinking about trophies or anything, as it will be very hard without Leo Messi. I won’t judge Koeman even if we go Trophy-less. But I personally will judge Ronald Koeman’s second year as a Barça coach in his ability to take this team and make it better.
I want to see the team pressure the ball like they did in the first half vs Real Sociedad. I want to see possession playing with purpose, scoring lot of goals, and having a normal defensive structure.
I want to see Koeman let the youngsters play more, and help them secure their place for years to come.
And in the end, I want to see Koeman more active tactically. Don’t wait with the substitutions until the 80th minute while we’re leading the game. Moreover, don’t do panic moves if we suddenly chasing the game.
Overall, the preseason and the first league game made me feel excited with the club. I hope to see a lot more from them.