Barcelona continue their show at the Camp Nou as they get ready to take on Valencia in the hopes of carrying forward their winning streak with a victory each over Levante and in midweek against then-league leaders Real Sociedad.
Ronald Koeman at down to address the media ahead of this game, covering topics ranging from Riqui Puig, Miralem Pjanic, Frenkie de Jong, and the team’s rollercoaster season.
On Puig and Araujo
Koeman was inquired about Riqui Puig and how and if his position was different to Ronald Araujo. Recently, several reports have been released suggesting that the young Spaniard does not do enough in training and that the Barça dressing room is not fond of him. His reply was rather straight and it sounds like he is finally losing his patience with the questions about Puig.
“Araujo and Puig are totally different. Yes, I like people who work every day to improve and take the opportunity with both hands to improve. There are players who don’t do enough to make the coach think about changing things.”
“Araujo is strong and quite fast. He has a strong character, he commands and trains hard every day.”
He continued to praise Araujo while also talking about where the Uruguayan can improve; areas such as passing and composure, which has been pointed out by fans themselves.
“In some things, such as his first touch, circulating the ball, vertical passes, etc., he has to improve. But Araujo is a young player who already occupies an important place, and he told me that he wants to improve and that is very important.”
On de Jong and Coutinho
Ronald Koeman has changed his mind about the 4-3-3 and has finally started to deploy the formation that suits Barcelona best. Frenkie de Jong has benefited from this the most, being used in an attacking role, registering a goal and assist in his last two games.
“De Jong has played higher and has taken more responsibility in the last part of the field. He has to take more command for the future of this club.”
On the contrary, Philippe Coutinho is going through a run of underwhelming performances, which has brought his future with Barcelona in question. Koeman answered questions about him as well, saying:
“I like him a lot, because he has quality in attack and there are things he has learned in England and at Bayern. He has had some discomfort and now he has to work.”
On Alena and Pjanic
Carles Alena entered the pitch against Real Sociedad earlier than Miralem Pjanic, which raised some eyebrows, including the media’s. Koeman made sure to address this as well, saying:
“Aleñá entered the pitch before Pjanic against Real Sociedad because he is left-footed and we needed a left-footed midfielder.”
On Sergino Dest
Sergino Dest has been forced to play consecutive games in the absence of Sergi Roberto, which means that the American is in danger of racking up injuries, like several others in the squad. When asked about this, Koeman replied:
“We need at least two players for each position and on the right side it is complicated because Roberto is injured. We know that Mingueza can play as a RB.”
On the dressing room atmosphere
Given the team’s inconsistent performances and several underwhelming losses, there have been doubts raised on the dressing room atmosphere and how the morale has been impacted.
“I have always seen a good atmosphere in the changing room even when we lose games. Of course, it is easier to have a positive atmosphere of joy when you win or with a game like the other day against Real.”
“Sometimes it’s easier if you win for the atmosphere to be good, but from day one I’ve seen a united group. But it’s easy for the press to take a picture of a difficult situation, even though they’re not in the dressing room.”
On the Valencia clash
Finally, Koeman was asked about how the team is preparing for the game against Valencia, and what the viewers can expect from the counter.
“Any game we play depends on ourselves, we have to be focused and energetic. We know they are a strong team. In the last six games they have lost only one.”
He continued on this topic, talking about how Valencia’s system can be countered: “We always analyze our opponent because there are many teams that play with a 4-4-2. I am in favor of filling the midfield with midfielders who can attack. But we must not stick to one formula.”
Valencia often depend on long balls and counter attacks to win games, and it is Barcelona’s stand-out weakness right now. Koeman spoke about this as well, saying, “If an opponent plays long balls, it is more difficult to press. Sometimes the game you want works and sometimes not, it depends a lot on the rival. It is important to have another game at home and win it.”
Official: Lionel Messi named La Liga Player of the Month for February
2021 has treated Barcelona very well. They have picked up more points this year alone than they did from September to December, even after the inclusion of more competitions, like the Spanish Super Cup. This charge has been led by none other than the GOAT – Lionel Messi. The Argentine has been rewarded for the same as he picks up the La Liga Player of the Month for February.
Messi was nominated alongside Real Madrid’s Thibaut Courtois, Real Sociedad’s Aleksander Isak, Real Betis’ Nabil Fekir, Levante’s Jose Luis Morales, Sevilla’s Yassine Bounou, and Athletic Bilbao’s Alek Berenguer for the award, but tipped each one of them to win it. This comes on the back of a sensational performance stretching across five games where he scored seven goals (including two braces), and two assists.
With this win, the six-time Ballon d’Or winner has extended his own records of the most wins, with eight such trophies to his name now. What is surprising, though, is that Messi did not win the first of his January 2016, almost two years after the award was introduced in the league (November 2013). It is also his first win in over a year, with the last of these trophies coming to him in November 2019.
❗Official — Leo Messi has been named La Liga Player of the Month for February! pic.twitter.com/uvF6w8tU7Z— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) March 5, 2021
In fact, no Barcelona player achieved this feat in 24 months despite winning the La Liga once by this time. Neymar was the first player from Barça to get his hands on the trophy for his remarkable form in November 2015.
Unsurprisingly, Luis Suarez has won the award four times himself, etching his name alongside his two partners in crime. His name is alongside Iago Aspas and Antoine Griezmann, sharing the runners up position in the pedestal for the second-most wins of the award. Sadly, the latter has not been able to mark any wins since joining Barcelona in 2019. Other than the incredible MSN, Ansu Fati is the only player from the Garnet and Blue to win the Player of the Month, sealing it for himself in September 2020.
Frenkie de Jong was within a real shout to win the award last month, but Youssef En-Nesyri’s incredible form for Sevilla could not be overlooked.