FC Barcelona just cannot catch any momentum this season. Every time it seems that they have found a working formula, the wagon gets derailed. Streaks are a thing of the past. Koeman’s side cannot go three games without dropping points.
Initially, there seemed a base to argue against the inconsistency. A new coach and ideology were always going to take time to adapt to. Over four months into the season and the engine is yet to start. The worst start to a League season in decades is just getting worse.
At a point when victories are the need of the hour, Barcelona continues to plummet down the standings. The game against Valencia exposed the many flaws of the Dutchman’s system. Sometimes one wonders how things can go further downhill given the disastrous state of the Catalan side. Yet, every week brings with it an additional dose of surprise and pain. Here are three takeaways from Barcelona’s lack-lustre draw against Valencia.
1. Ronald Koeman continues to lose games before they start
The reigns of Valencia once rested in the hands of Ronald Koeman, a spell of his managerial career the Dutchman would prefer to stay shush about. He has been in their dressing room and seen their philosophy with his own eyes. There could not be an opposition Barcelona’s manager could know any better.
Despite knowing of Valencia’s fortress at the back, of their tight lines in defence and resilience at the centre of defence, Koeman went ahead in deploying all his central forwards. A combination of Lionel Messi, Antoine Griezmann, Phillipe Coutinho, Pedri and Martin Braithwaite is unarguably the worst of the line-ups Koeman could come up with against Valencia. One destined to fail even before the opening whistle.
It’s staggering how a man can just not see what does not work. The team has cried desperately for width on so many occasions. Yet, Koeman just cannot understand. The limit to stubbornness has been surpassed. Losing a game on the pitch is one thing, however, losing games at the line-up stage only paints a manager’s incompetence.
2. One-two and you are through
Gerard Pique out. Clement Lenglet slowly going down the pecking order. The young duo of Ronald Araujo and Oscar Mingueza was given a second successive start.
However, defensive liability continues to haunt the Catalans. Valencia were tearing down Barcelona’s defence for fun with the minimal possession they recorded.
It is nothing new, a sequence of play seen in almost every goal Barcelona concede. A sudden break from the opposition catches the Blaugrana’s off-guard. It reaches a two versus two scenarios with the centre-backs trying to hold the fortress. A second of hesitation and hold up play from the player provides a window for a run behind the defence. To close the sequence, a sleek pass in between the centre-backs sees the striker in on a direct confrontation with Marc-Ande ter Stegen.
Ronald Araujo continued to shine bright on the night. Mingueza, on the other hand, showed that he needs some refinement. Nevertheless, irrespective of the paining, Barcelona seem to be equally incompetent in defence. The first goal conceded against Valencia was one that even a relegated side would be ashamed of conceding. Leaving a man completely unmarked and in acres of space is not acceptable, more so ever at Barcelona.
Barcelona’s defensive troubles go far beyond the two centre-backs and need instant resolution. When every opposition eases through a club’s defensive lines with minimal effort, it is a sign of terrible times to come. Such vulnerability at the back means that even Champions League qualification could be an uphill task for the Catalan giants.
3. Pele has finally been equalled
It was a record that the whole world has been patiently waiting for. Right from the tail-end of the last season, the spotlight has been shining on Lionel Messi. The Argentine has broken records by the masses over the years. Yet, this remains one of his biggest milestones. One that will go down in the history books for eternity.
Six hundred and Forty-three. A number that only a certain Brazilian Icon of the game had reached before. With his dramatic penalty-convert header goal, Lionel Messi has become the joint highest goal scorer for a single club in football history. Pele’s goal tally for Santos no longer remains unscathed. Moreover, it is a record that Leo will almost certainly extend to become the sole holder of. A single statistic could not more accurately define greatness and loyalty.
The Argentine maestro continues to inspire Barcelona year after year. Words cannot describe his influence on the club’s success. In every season he dons the famous garnet and blue, he produces magic. His consistency is unparalleled, impact unmatched and aura contagious.