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3 lessons learned from Real Betis 2-3 Barcelona

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Photo by CRISTINA QUICLER/AFP via Getty Images

Another day, another comeback victory for Ronald Koeman and his troops. For a team that was doomed whenever they fell behind in the past, Barcelona seem like a united squad whose mentality is improving once more.

However, despite yet another valiant effort by the Azulgranas, not everything is as perfect as it may seem at first. Giving Real Betis the chance to get into a winning position was quite worrying, especially considering the difficult challenges that lie ahead.

With that in mind, Koeman can definitely take something valuable from last night’s clash and hopefully, implement some effective solutions soon once again.

Now, however, we will look at the three most important lessons we’ve learned from Barcelona’s dramatic victory over Real Betis to see whether the team is truly moving in the right direction.

1. Squad depth issues still at large

For a team that wants to fight on all fronts and contest for all titles, both now and in the future, a quality bench is a must have. However, at his very moment, it doesn’t seem like Koeman can fully rely on his substitutes to shine.

Throughout the 2020/21 season, the Dutchman has been heavily criticised for not rotating the team often enough and not giving some of the fringe players a bigger role in the team. However, despite that being true to a certain extent, it has to be said that the subs haven’t exactly been filling him with confidence either.

Before making a big decision to rest some of his biggest guns like Lionel Messi and Pedri, the gaffer must first be absolutely sure the substitute players can and will do the job successfully. So far, unfortunately, that hasn’t really been the case at all.

Yesterday against Real Betis we’ve seen players like Miralem Pjanić, Riqui Puig and Martin Braithwaite get a chance to shine right from the start. However, despite some good passing and movement in some instances, ultimately they failed to make an impact and had to be subbed off before the end of the game so that Barcelona could turn the game around.

Horror outing from Miralem Pjanic. (Photo via Imago)

And it’s the fact that the big guns had to save the day that may be a very troubling thought for Koeman. The current campaign is only half way through and the Catalans will have a busy schedule in the following weeks of the season.

This means that rotation might be necessary once again. However, if he can’t count on the substitutes to do their job properly, can Barcelona really be as competitive as they’d like to be?

Hopefully, things improve over time but for now, it’s really difficult to keep blaming Koeman for not rotating if the results are lacking whenever the gala XI is not on the pitch.

2. Koeman’s in-game management starting to shine

The second lesson we learned from yesterday’s game has a direct correlation to the first one. While the fringe players may not have impressed as much or at all, the big guns who were introduced off the bench were super impactful for Barcelona.

And with this being one of the main critiques of Koeman’s tenure so far, we have to mention it as a big positive in both his and the team’s development. Of course, you can’t really go wrong with subbing in Messi and Pedri but the fact the coach had recognised what changes were needed and when to go for them was still a big plus.

Yes, his experiment with the rotational personnel didn’t really go as planned but we’re finally seeing his problem-solving and in-game management skills at work. We should also mention the fact that alongside Messi and Pedri, Francisco Trincão was also a given a chance to impress and the Portuguese winger took it with both hands.

And his case might exactly be a great example of Koeman’s work. Despite the youngster struggling to find his footing as of late, the Dutchman didn’t ostracise him from the team or punish him with no game time at all. Instead, he put his trust in Trincão to overturn Barcelona’s deficit yesterday and it paid off massively.

Koeman deserves a lot of praise for Barcelona’s form. (Photo by Fran Santiago/Getty Images)

Now, with that sensational strike almost definitely giving him a huge morale boost, we may be seeing a more confident and an overall much better player in the games to come. Simply knowing there are players you can indeed trust on the bench must be an excellent feeling for Koeman, despite overall underperformance by the ‘second team’ last night.

Props should be given to the players themselves, that much is certain, but let’s give credit where credit is due with Koeman as well. He was also constantly guiding the likes of Puig from the sidelines and it does seem like he genuinely wants his players to succeed.

However, there’s only so much he can do and the heavy lifting will have to be done by them and no one else.

3. Ousmane Dembélé is finally breaking out of his shell

It truly has taken him a while but Ousmane Dembélé might finally be showing his true face. Following years of agony and injury-related issues, the Frenchman’s future was all but certain at the Camp Nou. However, now, half-way trough 2020/21, he is starting to warrant that reported contract-renewal of his.

Dembélé may not have scored yesterday but he was crucial in finding Messi for the equaliser and in a team that struggled to break down the opposition, Dembouz was the only proactive and erratic presence on the pitch.

Yes, many may have noticed the lost balls and failed attempts but that’s inevitable when you keep trying and go for the high-risk, high-reward kind of plays. And with Barcelona hitting a brick wall that was Real Betis’ defence, that was more than just necessary to turn the tides back in their favour.

Again, Dembélé didn’t find his name on the score shoot at the end of the day but his level has been extremely high since his return from injury. Of course, we have to be very cautious with the Frenchman but with the team’s general fitness level on the rise, we’re once again allowed to be optimistic regarding his future.

Dembele inspired Barcelona to the win. (Photo via Imago)

His quality and potential were never really in doubt. As long as Dembélé can stay fit, there’s no denying he can offer this Barcelona team a whole lot on the pitch. For far too long the Catalans have relied exclusively on Messi to bring that x-factor to the play but with the Frenchman starting to break out of the shell that was limiting him so much, the future looks bright once more.

Let’s just hope that he can stay healthy this time and continue doing what he does best.

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