Barcelona have been inconsistent with their performances this season; the highs are too high, and the lows too low. However, they have been consistent with one thing: not being able to finish chances that come their way.
Sometimes in football, goals cannot tell the entire story of how a match panned out. Yet in the end, it is the final score that matters in determining the result of the game — you may remember the scoreline; not the performance, though.
Over the past few years Barcelona fans have been yearning for the beautiful football that Johan Cruyff and Pep Guardiola’s teams displayed. Ernesto Valverde got games done in his first two seasons at Barça, but rarely did his team look as convincing as the scoreboard showed.
Under Ronald Koeman, however, the Blaugranas have struggled to find that finishing touch. Like the game against Deportivo Alavés, the team just cannot seem to get that winning goal despite a convincing performance. As they had against Sevilla and Real Madrid, Barca pulled a goal back to bring things level, and then failed to pull another one out of the bag.
The current situation
Replacing Luis Suarez’s goals was always going to be laborious. He might not have pressed with intensity, but when needed, he always seemed to produce outrageous screamers to win games. The poor financial situation at the club meant that his void was left empty. And now, without a proper number nine, the Azulgranas are struggling.
Lionel Messi has endured a torrid start to the campaign, whilst the likes of Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembélé are low on confidence, and it shows in their goal attempts. This means that it falls upon the shoulders of youngsters like Ansu Fati to bring in goals. Fati has fulfilled what fans expected from him and then some. Now its time for the other forwards to step up.
Even though it has been just six games since the domestic campaign began, it is staggering that the 18-year-old is the only player with more than one goal scored in La Liga for Barça.
One could never have expected that Messi would go nine games without scoring from open play. And somehow it has happened. His finishing has been abysmal this season, and his dip in form could not have come at a worse time. It may be because of him being used as a false nine at his current age, or his displeasure at being forcefully held at the club. But whatever it is, it needs to be amended soon.
The team needs to attempt more shots
At times like this, when your frontline is struggling for goals, you would expect your midfielders to step up. Even though Sergio Busquets, Frenkie de Jong or Miralem Pjanic are not going to turn into prime Luis Suarez, they are more than capable of attempting a shot on goal from inside the box or even from the edge of the area.
Miralem Pjanic’s shooting prowess is well known, and we should see more of that soon. (Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP)
Busquets has played as a defensive midfielder all his career and he has never been required to take shots. So one can understand why he always looks to pass the ball instead. On the other hand, the likes of Pedri and Francisco Trincão are still very young and are probably too nervous to go for it alone. De Jong, too, does not encounter many situations where he gets into goalscoring positions.
However, as Ronald Koeman himself said, the players need to take more shots. Passing around the edge of the box waiting for Messi to create goals just won’t work.
Additionally, Barça are not a team gifted with lethal forwards like Cristiano Ronaldo or Robert Lewandowski who can sniff out headers inside the box. So when a team parks the bus and forms a low block, long shots become more important than ever.
As seen against Juventus, the first goal took a huge deflection on the way in. One could say it was a mere stroke of luck for Ousmane Dembélé. But the fact that he took the shot from that position created the opportunity to get lucky.
What should Koeman do to fix the issue?
It is not ideal to have a team with so many players who prefer to fall deep and carry the ball without a single proper striker. Yet that is what Ronald Koeman has at his disposal, and he cannot change it till at least January. So it is now up to the Dutchman to motivate his squad to be fearless and have a go when the opportunity arises.
Koeman was known for his shooting ability despite playing at centre back. He knows more than anyone else how important it is to attempt a shot from a difficult position. And that means that he is well positioned to explain the same to his players.
Like seen in the 1992 European Cup final, inspiration can come from the most unexpected places. When Plan A fails to work, new routes must be explored to attain success; the same routine does not work every time. And that is exactly what this Barcelona side need.
The fact that he admitted that it was a reason for the Catalan giants going through a rough patch of form means that he is aware of where it is going wrong. Only time will tell whether Koeman can react and add that missing factor to Barça’s promising side. It is clear though that this might be the make or break factor given the crucial and gruelling season ahead.
3 Players Barcelona can sell to ease their financial burden
A debt of €1.173 billion, more than €700 million of which is short term, has sent FC Barcelona down a rabbit hole. The club’s gross mismanagement on both sporting as well as financial levels is no longer a secret. The former board of directors, led by president Josep Maria Bartomeu has consistently spent inordinate amounts of money on ludicrous signings. Most of which have come to bite the club back.
Now, they find themselves in a stickier situation than ever, with an astronomically high wage bill and multiple liabilities to clubs across Europe for signings. In addition, Lionel Messi’s future at Barcelona hangs in the balance. If the club are to conduct any business whatsoever, it will have to begin by offloading a few players.
After Ronald Koeman arrived at the club following the disastrous end to the 2019-20 season, a few key names have already been sold. As the initiation of a rebuilding process, Luis Suarez, Arturo Vidal, Nelson Semedo, and Ivan Rakitic were all sold. However, these departures have hardly put a dent in Barcelona’s debt.
That being said, Barça Universal takes a look at three potential sales that might help the club with their finances. Players who may not be key parts of the sporting project long term and whose departures will allow for some breathing room in the wage structure, and allow Barcelona to sign a huge talent such as Kylian Mbappe or Erling Haaland.
It would be a rather disappointing conclusion to what was potentially a wonderful signing. Samuel Umtiti, after signing for Barcelona, was rapidly rising up the ranks as one of the world’s best centre-backs. After his move from Lyon in 2016, he was flying high and quickly displayed why he staked a claim into the Blaugrana’s starting lineup.
But the Frenchman’s fairytale would come to an abrupt halt. After a fantastic second season with Barcelona, Umtiti suffered an injury to his left knee in 2018, just a month before the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The defender risked himself to represent his nation, and it ended up being a positive decision as France lifted the coveted prize with Umtiti as one of the key players. He decided not to have surgery as he felt it would worsen his issues.
Ever since then, despite his initial impressions, the injury woes have persisted and have led to many complications. Recurring issues with his meniscus, followed by foot injuries and many other issues, led to a massive decline in form and physicality. The centre-back was never really able to return to his brilliant best. While coach Ronald Koeman does favour the Frenchman, he is definitely not a consistently reliable presence at the back anymore.
Umtiti’s current deal with Barcelona expires in 2023, and given that he is 27 years old may work in favour of the club. He is not too old, and while he is injury-free, he could fetch Barcelona at least some money. The World Cup winner at his best is a fine player, but given the current circumstances, Barcelona can no longer afford to leave things up to chance.
Philippe Coutinho came to Spain with tremendous promise for the fans, backed up by a huge smile on his face. He was genuinely happy to be where he was. His dream of playing for Barcelona was finally a reality. But that optimism sadly did not last far too long.
The midfielder slowed down tremendously in his first full season with the Catalans. He looked out of sorts and lost in strange and unfamiliar systems. When he arrived in January of 2018 from Liverpool, he became Barcelona’s most expensive signing of all time for over €140 million. After two bad seasons and a loan spell at Bayern Munich, he was finally beginning to show small signs of promise under Ronald Koeman this term.
However, the Brazilian has also been sidelined due to a lengthy injury this season, which has extended into worse news. In addition to that, Liverpool are reportedly one of the clubs that Barcelona still owe money to in variables for Coutinho’s transfer. They will be keen on avoiding any more liabilities. And since Coutinho has obviously not come anywhere close to providing a return on Barcelona’s investment in him, his time at the club may be up.
He is also one of the highest earners in the squad, therefore selling him might be imperative.
The midfielder turned right-back has been a polarising figure in the Barcelona fans’ eyes for quite some time now. The 29-year-old’s current contract with Barcelona is set to run out next year and has a release clause of a massive €500 million. Roberto has made some amazing memories with the club, most prominently, his iconic goal against PSG in 2017’s famous ‘Remontada’.
However, since then he has been more or less showing that he is mostly just a utility player. The Spaniard has been unremarkable in a fair few games and has often made rather costly errors. Over time however, he had certainly become one of the heavyweights in the dressing room, which obviously reflects in his salary. This season, he has been struggling with a thigh injury, which he recovered from but then relapsed.
He was a valuable asset to have in the absence of a full fledged right-back who has the so-called ‘Barcelona DNA’. However, with the arrival of Sergino Dest, parting ways with Roberto makes sense from both sporting and financial perspectives.
While Roberto might not be among the players who have constantly underperformed but selling him might be a logical decision for Barcelona because as a player who can play in multiple positions across the pitch, and is in his theoretical prime, the Spaniard will be in demand. Football today requires for players to adapt in various positions and roles, and we have seen Roberto’s capability with the same.
Additionally, as one of the captains of the team, the La Masia graduate might be able to lease off a more than decent amount of cash. Several top teams in the market, including Juventus, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, and PSG, among others, might be vouching for a right-back soon and could look towards Sergi Roberto.
However, there are also more players like Jordi Alba, Junior Firpo and Neto who could be smart sales. Alba has also been declining rapidly but his offensive output has not yet been replaced. Firpo is already linked to a move away to various clubs after failing to impress at Barcelona. In a nutshell, the Blaugrana certainly have options to sell, in order to continue the rebuild effectively. Easing the financial load by selling and eventually making way for more sensible transfers will be vital for this transitioning side.