On Saturday night, the world got its first glimpse of Ronald Koeman’s plans for the squad. Meanwhile, multiple sources in the media have come out with their predicted ideal line-ups for the season. Is this line-up for Barcelona truly ideal, or is it yet another fantasy?
An eerie silence after a calamity is one amongst nature’s many fascinating paradigms. A sudden dilution of all the usual noises and distractions is often indicatory of a terrible event. And it was exactly what cules around the world was hoping for.
The tail-end of the 2019/20 season was nothing short of a calamity for FC Barcelona. The public humiliation in Lisbon had to be the final nail in the coffin. A couple of peaceful days just to sink in the reality of things was all that cules wanted. And as it turns out, it is exactly what they were denied. The chaos in the club has not left any breathing space. From the appointment of a new coach to the potential departure of our captain; the arrival of young talents to the chopping off of deadwood, the disarray has kept us on our toes.
Meanwhile, the new season is already upon us. New faces have graced the dressing room in the form of Fransisco Trincao, Pedri, and Miralem Pjanic. All eyes indeed are on the new manager: Ronald Koeman. The initial signs have been promising, but these ‘initial’ signs have seldom been a useful indicator. Amidst all the speculation of how Koeman plans to approach the season, various outlets including Mundo Deportivo and Sport have come out with predicted line-ups. The similarities in the line-ups proposed by both the media outlets are striking, with the only difference coming at the right-back position. How has the team changed from the collapse last month?
Undoubtedly, it is Marc Andre ter Stegen that retains the spot in between the sticks. The German shot-stopper had come under immense criticism after conceding 8 on that fateful night. However, there was never an ounce of doubt that he would lose his starting spot. His ball-playing ability coupled with quick reflexes makes him the perfect No.1 for Barcelona.
However, he faces close to 3 months out following his precautionary knee surgery last month. All eyes indeed will be on Neto, who also has a point to prove. It also presents a bright opportunity for Inaki Pena, who will feel closer to a starting spot than ever before.
Who would have thought that there would be absolutely no change in the defensive line going into the next season. Conceding 8 goals in 90 minutes doesn’t seem to be enough to convince the board of change. No arrivals, no departures and not even a backup reinforcement for any defensive position. The situation speaks volumes about the shambles the club finds itself in.
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At centre-back, Gerard Pique and Clement Lenglet hold on to their positions. Jordi Alba continues to be an undisputed starter with no real competition for his position. On the right side, Nelson Semedo and Sergi Roberto look equally poised to stake a claim on the starting role. Irrespective of the outcome, it does come as bad news. The right flank seems to be heading into another season in the same lifeless state.
The first department that boasts of some changes. With Koeman seemingly leaning to a 4-2-3-1, a double pivot od Frenkie de Jong and Miralem Pjanic has been proposed. The visible difference in the midfield is the absence of Sergio Busquets, who is said to have a minor role in Koeman’s plans.
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The Dutch manager has made it clear that Frenkie will be playing in his natural position, i.e immediately in front of the centre-backs. This will permit Pjanic to play in a slightly more advanced position. He has not been the greatest midfielder defensively, however his creative ability will provide Leo Messi with some breathing space. With Busquets on the bench to cover up for de Jong and the likes of Alena and Riqui Puig contesting with the Bosnian, the midfield seems to be in safe hands. This will undoubtedly be a season with a faster and more exuberant midfield.
Despite boasting of some of the biggest names in world football, the front line does not look to be in great shape. The biggest difference from last season comes in the form of the absence of Luis Suarez. Ousmane Dembele’s return and Trincao’s arrival provide the team with some much-needed width at the spearhead. However, that’s where the positives end.
The proposed idea of using Ansu Fati as a number nine does not appease to many. A rare and exciting profile that can be moulded into a world-class winger must not be converted into a poacher. No doubt he has a great eye for goal, however, the 17-year-old provides much more on the left-wing.
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The biggest conundrum up-front is accomodating Messi, Grieazmann and Coutinho in the same team. With all 3 players having similar niches, it seems to be an impossible task. Given that all 3 prefer to drift centrally, starting any of the 3 on the wing will render the flank lifeless. With such big names fighting for starting spots, where do the likes of Trincao and Pedri make the cut? Does Griezmann have what it takes to be a complete number 9? If so, who is chosen on the left flank: Dembele or Fati?
A lot of unanswered questions that only time will answer. The only given is that the predicted forward line will not be as straightforward as what the media outlets report. Be prepared for a whole lot of juggling and chaos. It may easily be half-season before there is a settled forward line.
This was supposed to be the season of changes, and it seems to be so. There have been considerable changes, however, there is still a sense of imbalance. The addition of Memphis Depay and Wijnaldum will add to the growing puzzle. If the predicted lineups are anything to go by, the inference seems straight forward. The team does have the resources to compete convincingly on all fronts. If starting positions are decided purely on merit, we are in for a treat. However if heavyweights influence or transfer fee tags decide team selection, it will be another long dreary ride.
Why Erling Braut Håland should be Barcelona’s future number 9
While he would be an unconventional player at the club, why should Barcelona target Borussia Dortmund’s Erling Braut Håland after the departure of Luis Suárez?
A 19-year-old Erling Braut Håland took the footballing world by storm last year when he scored a hat-trick of goals on his Champions League debut and then went on to become only the second teenager to score in each of his first three appearances in the competition.
In the winter transfer window, Håland moved from Austria’s Red Bull Salzburg to German side Borussia Dortmund in hopes of both improving his game and leading Lucien Favre’s side to the Bundesliga title. The Norwegian wonderkid ended the Bundesliga season with 13 goals and 3 assists in 15 games, and Dortmund finished second on the table.
Håland’s 44-goal season put him on the radar of all the top clubs in the world, and while the striker is at the top of his game at Dortmund, his departure to a top European club in the future is inevitable at some point. Following club legend Luis Suárez‘s departure from Barcelona, the Catalan club is surely looking for El Pistolero‘s heir. With Barcelona looking for a top striker for the future, and the Norwegian machine looking at a European giant to move to, Håland might just be the name that reads on Barcelona’s number 9 shirt.
The transfer market is unpredictable, and Håland’s agent being notorious superagent – and supervillain – Mino Raiola, makes things even more complicated. Instead of looking at if Barcelona will seek Håland’s services, this article will look at why Barcelona should seek Håland’s services.
To begin with, let’s talk about Håland’s statistics. In the 2019/20 season, he scored 44 and assisted 10 goals. 10 of the goals were in the Champions League. He scored more goals than expected with his G90, 1.10, being higher than his xG90, 0.75. It has been established that Håland is a goalscoring machine. The Norwegian’s physique is absolutely astounding. At 6 feet 4 inches (1.94 metres), Håland provides quite the aerial threat, something the blaugrana club severely lacks.
In spite of his towering height, Håland is incredibly fast; he reached a top speed of 36 km/h and was 0.3 seconds off from breaking the world record for a 60-metre sprint. Football has evolved in recent years, with training facilities improving and more money being invested in fitness training, players have become more athletic. A striker who will face off against athletic defenders definitely needs to be a physical demon.
When at RB Salzburg, Barcelona rejected to sign Erling Braut Håland because he did not have the suited profile | Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos via Getty Images
Does Håland have the technical ability of a prime Luis Suárez or of a Samuel Eto’o? No. Would he be heavily involved in the build-up play like some of Barcelona’s preceding number 9s? No. If Håland was to join, he would be the most uncreative player in the squad, and believe it or not, that is exactly what Barcelona needs right now.
The recurring humiliations in the Champions League knockout stages have had one thing in common – apart from the poor defence –: the lack of a runner. Every elite team in Europe has elite runners: PSG have Kylian Mbappé, Liverpool have Mohammed Salah and Sadio Mané, Bayern have Robert Lewandowski and Serge Gnabry.
The Barcelona team, all these years, has been stacked with players who love having the ball at their feet all the time – Lionel Messi, Philippe Coutinho, Antoine Griezmann…The reason Messi’s last few years have been wasted is that he hasn’t been provided with a runner to get at the end of his through balls. This problem cannot occur again.
Barcelona’s future lies with talented playmakers like Francisco Trincão, Pedri, Riqui Puig, etc, and these playmakers need a proficient and clinical striker with good off the ball movement, to score goals for the team. Håland doesn’t only have a good physique, he is also an intelligent footballer. He knows how to time runs, how to hold the defence, and is a lethal shooter of the ball.
Erling Braut Håland would be quite an unorthodox signing for Barcelona. Quite unlike all of his predecessors. But if the club’s transfer policy fails to evolve while the game itself is evolving, then the Catalan club is going to become a relic of the past. A player like Lionel Messi is never going to appear again. Thus, after his departure, if Barcelona want to dominate in Europe like they once did, the team is going to have to function like a system, and Erling Håland is the piece that fits the puzzle the best.
So apart from everything discussed in this article, why should Erling Håland join Barcelona? Well, in his own words: why not?