A disappointing way to play the last game of La Liga 2019/20 at the Camp Nou. Not only did Barça not win, but they lost at the same time that Real Madrid were crowned champions. Also, bad sensations left for the Champions League. These are five takeaways from the Barcelona 1–2 Osasuna.
It’s over. The La Liga title race is over. On Thursday night Barcelona had to achieve a mandatory victory for two reasons. First, if Real Madrid lost points against Villarreal, the Catalans would still be alive in the fight for the title if they won their respective game. Second, if Zinedine Zidane’s team won, as was the case, at least Quique Setien’s side fought until the end. But this did not happen.
While the eternal rivals were crowned league champions, Barça suffered at the Camp Nou with enough fit players against Osasuna, not only losing La Liga but also the hope for the team. Lots of things to discuss, lots of time to draw conclusions. These are five things we learned from the Barcelona 1–2 Osasuna.
1. A different line-up
Perhaps the only positive of the match was the great rotations in the starting XI. Quique Setién showed courage by resting the group’s heavyweights, such as Luis Suárez, Arturo Vidal, Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets. It was a promising initial line-up. Players like Ansu Fati, Riqui Puig, Junior Firpo and Martin Braithwaite had another opportunity to demonstrate why the coach should have more confidence in them. And even though this promised to be an encouraging experiment by Setién, it let fans down.
Barça lost to a ten-man Osasuna after Enric Gallego was sent off in the 77th minute | Photo by Cordon Press via Imago
The first half was not terrible, not good either, but considering that the team needed a victory, it was not what was expected. The blaugranas were behind Osasuna at half-time with many doubts in the approach and a goal by former Barça B attacker José Arnaiz. Quique Setién’s face during the first 45 minutes said it all. It was the face of a desperate man, disappointed for seeing that the tactical work he had in his head was not reflected on the pitch. At least, as mentioned, a bit of rotation is always welcome, but maybe some details would have to be adjusted for a crucial game like this one.
2. Many difficulties against low compact blocks
The same story in almost every game this season. It happened against Sevilla, against Espanyol, against Real Valladolid and it happened again against Osasuna. Barcelona lacks ideas, creativity and is less cynical when facing teams that deploy a very compact and organised defence. The Spanish giants do not exhibit such spark or initiative to be dominant. There is no such hunger to win nor that ferocious Barcelona. Simply disappointment.
? — Barcelona lost possession 62 times in the first half. pic.twitter.com/rlPeQusN1T— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) July 16, 2020
Against Osasuna, the azulgranas missed an endless number of passes as the visitors took advantage of them to counter-attack. Martin Braithwaite‘s movements as the number 9 were totally non-existent, as he neither not drag defenders nor anticipate to search for the ball. And despite playing with wingers, the passing inefficiency affected the creation of the game. Furthermore, when small opportunities were created in the final third, there was no such lethality to finish the plays. This has happened in multiple matches this term, not one, not two, but in the majority. Many problems, few solutions.
3. Lionel Messi, more disappointed than ever
Lionel Messi was one of the few on the team that fought for the victory and to leave the dignity of the team intact. The captain of Barcelona generated many promising actions, made runs in the attack, created, tried to score on a couple of free-kicks, and ended up scoring in one. A similar Leo to the one that plays with the Argentine national team. Completely alone, without support, with no one to play for him. Leo played for the entire team, while his teammates missed those opportunities. Meanwhile, no one created anything for Messi.
“We were inconsistent during the season. Real Madrid did their thing. We lost a lot of points. We have to do some self-criticism. We are Barça”
The words at the end of Leo’s game were dramatic but revealing. The face of disappointment, sadness, failure, fatigue and frustration at seeing the situation of the club. If the captain and the maximum voice of such entity expresses himself in such way, it means that something is wrong. The Argentine does not seem to be happy with the team, nor with the coach, nor with the board, not even with the players. The defeat against Osasuna meant more than others. It meant shame.
4. Dark Thursday at the Camp Nou
Very few times will fans witness a defeat at the Camp Nou. In fact, the last one was against Quique Setién’s Real Betis a couple of seasons ago. However, yesterday’s was totally different. All culés experienced the dark Thursday at the Catalan temple. Playing in their own stadium, with several players back from suspension or injuries, and with the pressure of having to win, Barcelona delivered a display that will be marked in history for its negative outcome.
So far it has been a season to forget for Barcelona | Photo by David Ramos via Getty Images
Barça was lucky that there were no fans at the Camp Nou, and the board was lucky. To avoid the whistles, which the club unfortunately deserves. Real Madrid’s campaign was inefficient in the first half of La Liga, but they have completely dominated in terms of consistency. Consistency precisely was one of Barcelona’s main virtues in recent years. Not this one. Years will pass and every time the Catalans face Osasuna these disappointing memories will be on the minds of thousands of fans. A tragic night.
5. No faith for the Champions League
Quique Setién? Unmotivated. Players? Unmotivated. The fans? Unmotivated. Every time there are fewer and fewer reasons to believe that Barcelona is a candidate to win the Champions League. Even the optimism of beating Napoli at the Camp Nou seems gone. The feelings that the team left against Osasuna were incredibly negative. It is not enough to have the best players in the world it there is no well-structured project behind.
The worst thing is that there isn’t even excitement to see the Champions League. All what supporters want to see is a change as soon as possible. Enough of making unneeded multi-million dollar signings, of not trusting La Masía, of having no creativity in a team that used to be the most creative in the world. More than an opportunity to redeem themselves, the Champions League now seems like a problem for Barcelona.
Koeman’s system in the Barcelona 4-0 Villareal
With a 4-0 victory at the Camp Nou, Koeman’s side has started the season on a positive note. Find out more about the tactical aspect of the match in this tactical analysis of Barcelona’s match against Villareal.
La Liga is finally back, and it’s back in full swing. We saw many high-scoring matches, with even Atleti scoring 6 goals against Granada. A very entertaining start to La Liga was capped off by Barcelona’s 4-0 Victory over Villareal. Koeman’s first La Liga game in-charge of Barcelona was a resounding success. The mindset of the players involved was clearly different from the mindset under Setien. With many players looking rejuvenated, Barcelona put in a performance which was desperately needed considering the fact that the wounds from Lisbon haven’t yet healed. Find out just how Barcelona managed to dominate a strong Villareal side in this tactical analysis.
Barcelona started out in a 4-2-3-1 as expected. The only surprise was that Messi’s starting position was more central than usual and Griezmann occupied the right-wing. Messi does eventually drift towards the centre anyway but the starting position is usually wider.
Villareal were in a 4-4-2 which later transitioned into a 4-4-2 diamond in the second half after the substitutions. Right from the start, Villareal looked to press from the front, with Chukwueze and Moi Gomez cutting out passing lanes to the full-backs and the two Villareal strikers pressing Barcelona’s center-backs. Here, an advantage of the 4-2-3-1 Koeman deployed was immediately visible. De Jong would drop back to receive the ball and then play it forward to Busquets, who was the other pivot. Had Barcelona played a 4-3-3, the pivot would have dropped back to receive the ball and build-up from the back in this case. But the midfield would be stretched vertically which we saw many times last season.
In midfield, Barcelona were prevented from playing through the centre by Parejo and Coquelin. The distance between Villareal’s midfield and defense lines was not much which forced Barcelona towards the wings. This strategy came back to bite Villareal in the form of Ansu Fati. The 17-year-old left-winger was unplayable against Villareal. Gaspar was unable to contain him. Jordi Alba was much better than in a long time. The work-rate Koeman demands and the many extra training sessions were really showing. After a 2019/20 season which wasn’t the best for Barcelona, yesterday’s performance was very impressive.
Both wingers would regularly tuck-in between the full-backs and center-halves. This allowed Barcelona’s full-backs to advance up the field much more. With the full-backs attacking and the wingers tucking in, the Villareal defensive line would be occupied. This allowed Coutinho more space than usual. Along with this, Busquets and De Jong would be available to either stop the counter, or to act as passing options. This assortment of many attacking roles allowed Barcelona to have sustained attacking possession.
Villareal had a clear game plan as well. Considering the fact that their two strikers are performing well and are well-synchronized, the wingers were instructed to cross the ball often. The full-backs would advance, but not overlap frequently. This could either not be a part of the game plan or because of the attacking threat, Barcelona posed from the start. With Dani Parejo in midfield, Emery would ideally be able to continue playing the possession-based football his teams play. Coquelin would offer a bit of dynamism in midfield along with the Spanish midfielder.
However, Koeman took an interesting decision and gave Busquets the role to man-mark Parejo. Though both were surprisingly not the best on the ball on the day, Busquets did well to restrict Parejo to lateral and back passes. In the second-half, Vilalreal’s game plan was executed better in the 4-4-2 diamond. This allowed Parejo to get on the ball more, wit him playing a major role in the build-up. Emery knows his players’ strengths very well. Parejo in the defensive mid role, with pacey wingers on either sides means fast transitions. For Barcelona s well, the transitions were key. Coutinho’s mediapunta role and the freedom Messi has both contributed to this.
We already saw the many benefits this formation has offered, taking the strengths of the players Koeman has into full consideration. The ease during build-up with one pivot dropping back, being able to sustain the attack with the mediapunta getting more space, the freedom Busquets had to man-mark Parejo, which would have been difficult in a single pivot, etc. Another one of the advantages is in defense.
Barcelona were vulnerable in defense throughout last season. Jordi Alba looks like refreshed and fitter than usual, and with Dest potentially joining the Blaugrana, the full-backs are looking promising. In case that Barcelona does get caught on the counter, Koeman does have a solution to one of the problems. When Barcelona are on the backfoot, De Jong and Busquets would need to make sure their positioning is immaculate. They were instructed to plug the gaps between the center-halves and full-backs, which would have a two-fold purpose. Firstly, through-balls against more creative players would be much more difficult, with the gaps being reduced and Coutinho and Griezmann helping in defense. Secondly, the opposition would be less likely to crowd the box, since Barcelona can now afford to get at least 4 players into the box if the pivots were to position themselves as such. However, this would be very dependent on the split-second judgment and whether the players decide to press or track-back.
For Koeman’s first La Liga match, the performance was quite promising. Barcelona looked better tactically and in terms of hard work than Villareal as we saw in this tactical analysis. The latter being something that Barcelona desperately need, what remains to be seen is how Barcelona will fare against teams that rely on individual ability more than Villareal and the unpredictability that follows. Apart from this, will the players be able to sustain the intense work ethic Koeman demands? If Barcelona do decently in these conditions and some others, we might see a much better season from them than expected.