Following an unimpressive 1-2 home loss against Osasuna, our editors share their takes and standout performances from the Barcelona defeat over Osasuna.
On Thursday, once more, Barça let down their fans. As had almost been the norm this season, the Catalans disappointed when it really mattered. With a 1–2 loss against Osasuna in the final game at the Camp Nou of the league campaign, and Real Madrid’s 2–1 win over Villarreal, Los Blancos were crowned league champions. The poor feelings and outcome left all culés hopeless despite the season not being over yet. Meanwhile, after the defeat against Osasuna, our editors express their opinions and standout performers from such disheartening duel.
Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee!
Despair, hope, and heartbreak were at the center of attention tonight, as Real Madrid won the title for the first time in two years. This game was a tough pill to swallow as Barça dominated possession. Still, Osasuna’s five-at-the-back formation, Setién’s worst nightmare, was too structured for Barça to break it down and the Basque side stung the Culés twice to destroy Barça’s unbeaten home record at the death. First, after 15 minutes of complete Barça domination, a lucky breakthrough from Osasuna resulted in a goal and ex-Barça B player José Arnaíz stun Ter Stegen early to give his side the lead. After that, Osasuna sat back and shut up the shop to give Barcelona no breathing room. It was horrible to see a side so negative, but so be it, Osasuna play like this, Barça must adapt and not whine. Some free-kick and corner attempts by Leo Messi and the first half ended in despair, as Real Madrid found an opener in their game fifteen minutes earlier.
After the second half, Barça pushed hard, and it was nice to see such a change in energy, even though it all counted for nothing. Three goals from the giants came, but two were marginally offside. Also, Messi’s free-kick was the most beautiful strike since the return for the Blaugrana side. The Culés pushed hard and gambled too much to pull the comeback off. It was laborious at times, but the last minutes were good from the Culés, granted the football was rushed, and Osasuna stung for the second time. This last counter-attack hurts so much, as Osasuna surely did not deserve that result and the Catalans have to look back at this game and play better for the Champions League. In the end, it changed nothing, as Real Madrid won the league. Still, these two stings hurt.
Standout performer: The whole Osasuna defense
Holding off Barça isn’t this hard nowadays, but restricting them to two shots on target is more than impressive. The five-man defence of Osasuna was magnificent, from Pervis Estupiñan’s explosiveness down the left flank to Aridane Hernandez keeping his team alive by blocking shots from Ansu Fati and Leo Messi like a warrior. It was this kind of night for the eleven warriors on the pitch for Osasuna, who had to cope with ten men for the last ten minutes and played magnificently as a unit. This game doesn’t have one standout performer, but five, especially as Barça weren’t clinical enough and no one kept their head above water other than Messi, as per. Raul Navas’ repeated blocks were crucial in saving the newly-promoted side, and the Real Sociedad loanee can be proud of his performance. All in all, Osasuna essentially won thanks to their defence, and they could be proud of their performance tonight, as they have shown they’re a Primera side.
A Game Reminiscent of the Season
As usual, Lionel Messi is spot on, albeit this time with his words rather than his feet. This game is reminiscent of the whole season that Barca had; wasted opportunities to go ahead, making silly mistakes, frustration. Don’t get me wrong, they did not play that bad. They had a humungous possession percent of 75%. Sure, that on its own does not mean anything. But they also fired 17 shots in search of a goal and had won ten corners. They even had two goals chalked off for off-side. The lone goal came from a Messi free-kick. All those corner kicks went bust. ‘We had ten corners. If we had scored one, the result would have been different,’ lamented the manager. Which begs the question, does Barca really practice their corners and set pieces at all? Or is it just Messi who keeps working on his free-kicks? I am not sure there are many top sides in world football that would come up empty after ten corner kicks. Someone needs to do something about this.
?️ — Messi: "I said it before, if we continue like this, we won't win the UCL. Look, we've just lost the league." pic.twitter.com/nfvKw7VPnt— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) July 16, 2020
I had predicted that the squad would come up with a fight, clawing for each ball and giving everything. But even though the ball circulation and dynamism was good, there was despair on the faces of the Blaugranes throughout the match. It was evident on the faces of leaders like Gerard pique and even Lionel Messi. More than anything, therefore, I think this team needs to work on its attitude, so as to make sure they do not lose games even before stepping on to the pitch.
Standout performer: Lionel Messi
One has got to feel bad for the Barca captain at this point. Week after week, match after match, the team just does not turn up to support and fight alongside its captain. Messi was everywhere yesterday, fighting for loose balls, pressing, skipping through the half spaces, trying his signature reference point one-two-ones with anyone available in the final third. Many of those times, the ball just did not come back to him. But mostly no one really worked well enough to attract the defenders away from him – as has been typical of this season. It is to his credit that even in such a frustrating match, he scored a magical free-kick; even as every team comes up with novel techniques to stop him from doing exactly that.
Nothing short of mediocre
A win for Madrid would have sent them to the crown, sure, it was going to happen with the form they had picked up post lockdown. But what happened to Barcelona? A home game against bottom half Osasuna; Messi, Puig, Fati starting. Lenglet, Pique in form. Maybe the team was too demotivated knowing they would – in all probability – lose their defence of the title. However, nothing excuses them for such a shambolic display.
2 shots on target against a side that had conceded more than half a century of goals is inexcusable. The fullbacks were non-existent, Rakitic was absent from the only role he plays well in. As a Barca fan, it seems quite difficult to grasp my head around the game yesterday. Sacking Setien is not an option, what we need is a change of mentality. Desperately.
Standout performer: Lionel Messi
Till how long is this man going to drag us over the mud? He’s 33, obviously on the last juncture of his career, and absolutely done with the board and management. Lionel Messi took our only shots on goal yesterday, one of which was converted through a sublime freekick. However, he summed up the situation at the club and the game yesterday better than any fan could have. It’s time for change.
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.