In a season that has been dominated by chaos and criticism, successful rotations deployed by Ronald Koeman have come out as a headlining positive for Barcelona.
The innumerable facets of managing a team have rightfully made it a very demanding job. A perfect manager is expected to be on point tactically, courteous in the press room, diplomatic in the dressing room, harsh on mistakes, yet not stubborn. While it is debatable as to how many of these boxed Ronald Koeman can tick, the recent games have shown that the Dutchman knows to utilise his resources efficiently.
Undoubtedly, Koeman has been harsh on a sect of the squad while rewarding a parallel-group with back to back starts. The numbers themselves refect the injustice to the likes of Riqui Puig and co.
Puig has not benefited from the rotations deployed by Koeman. (Photo via Imago)
Yet, one must commend the manager’s composure and resourcefulness whilst on a tightrope. The congested fixtures do not help the clubs situation. Players continue to fall prey to injuries one after the other, as the situation goes from bad to worse.
Setbacks are a part of every sport, yet Barcelona would feel harshly undone with the deepening injury crisis. However, this is beyond managers control. What is in the Dutchman’s hand is to rotate the players at his disposal to snatch effective performances with the sustainable use of players. As recent games reflect, he has done it in spades.
Midweek against Dynamo Kyiv, the coach decided to give Lionel Messi and Frenkie de Jong a complete rest. It was a situation in which a situation where the club was already without its other three captains. He trusted Oscar Mingueza when he had the option to deploy a previously tested gamble of de Jong at centre-back.
Koeman rested Antoine Griezmann to preserve him for the more important games up ahead. He instead put his faith in Martin Braithwaite. The Danish striker may not be the most aesthetically pleasing on the ball, but one cannot ask of any more dedication from a player as he provides. The fruits borne from his recent performances are indicative of the fact that he does get the job done cleanly, and everything indicates him getting another start against Ferenvaros.
Yet, the Barcelona legend has kept his options open in the front line as a whole. Messi has played almost every game, yet rested whenever necessary. Not to mention how resting Leo brought the best out of him this season, on both aspects – against Real Betis in the second half, and then against Osasuna after he did not travel to Ukraine in midweek.
Credit where credit is due; the rotations from Koeman clearly brought Messi to life. (Photo by LLUIS GENE / AFP)
Pedri has played in every game so far, which is one of the shortcomings of Koeman, but the youngster seems to thrive with every passing minute. It is indeed necessary to utilize the younger players conservatively. The trend from Koeman in the same regard has been positive.
Ousmane Dembele has come to the forefront since Ansu Fati’s injury and has completed games whilst maintaining his fitness. This is one of the biggest takeaways regarding Koemans efficient man-management. He may not have rewarded Trincao with many starts, yet the youngster provides regular cameo appearances off the bench to make an impact. Visibly, the manager has kept every player on their toes with defines roles.
The deputation in midfield reflects the same. Whilst Sergio Busquets and Frenkie de Jong have been the first choice players in the pivot, Koeman has not hesitated to bend his choices.
Miralem Pjanic has got his fair share of appearances in the midfield. Recent performances from Carles Alena has seen him jump up the pecking order to possibly even ahead of the Bosnian. The game against Osasuna saw Pedri played in the pivot, and the sight of Frenkie de Jong in the defence is now common.
The situation in defence is fragile, yet the Dutchman has not openly complained at all. Being without Gerard Pique, Ronald Araujo and even Samuel Umtiti, he has been brave enough to hand Oscar Mingueza starts despite the growing pressure he is under himself. The resources are very tight, yet one has the confidence that Koeman will find a way through ever in all the first-choice centre-backs are injured.
After an initial quiet spell, Junior Firpo has now seen minutes in consecutive games. Koeman has learnt from the events of the last few weeks and has begun to be more conscious with rotations. Indeed, Jordi Alba is a crucial log for the Catalans, and Barcelona cannot afford to have him out injured.
What is objectively clear is that Koeman has counted on almost all his options, and not hesitated from taking risks when necessary. Too many options can only be a positive problem for the team, and the reality of the statement is visible now. Barcelona is reeling under the piling pressure of injuries. The only way out of the mess is efficient rotation. Something one can come to expect from Koeman seeing the recent trend.