The beginning of the 2021/22 La Liga season could not have been better for Barcelona. The Blaugrana emerged victorious against Real Sociedad by four goals to two. The result did not correspond with the performance, as Barça were far better than the two goals they conceded on the night.
In this article, join Barça Universal as we explore three lessons learnt from the Catalans’ thumping victory over Real Sociedad.
1. A (near) perfect start to the season
Playing their first game without Lionel Messi was always believed to be a hurdle. The Argentine was the cornerstone of the blub, a pivotal piece to all their attacks. Replacing him, who individually was a self-sustaining system, is far from the easiest task in the world, but at least in the first game without him, Ronald Koeman did a phenomenal job.
Barcelona’s pressing, passing and positioning were all sublime tonight. The Blaugrana initiated the press from the highest point in the pitch, forcing out mistakes from the Sociedad defence.
The team dictated the tempo quite well, switching from a high and low intensity whenever the game needed it. This in-game management paid dividends, as not too much energy was unnecessarily exerted. It brilliantly shaped up to be a confident victory for the Catalan giants.
Barça could perhaps be blamed for being too calm, as this resulted in both goals, but overall there is little to complain about regarding the performance.
This victory was especially amazing for the fact that the fans were there to enjoy it. Their warm presence was duly felt by the Catalans all throughout the 90.
2. Every good deed deserves another
Gerard Pique made a hero’s sacrifice this week. On the back of one of the most calamitous summers in the club’s history, Barcelona could not so much as register even a free agent. The club tried to sell players they had no interest in keeping, as well as cut salaries that were too high, but next to nothing bore fruit.
In came Pique to salvage the situation with a mammoth salary cut. This immediate cut in his salary allowed Barcelona to register Memphis Depay and Eric Garcia into the team, both of whom played in the La Liga opener against Imanol Alugacil’s Real Sociedad.
In the most poetic way possible, Memphis Depay assisted Pique via a set-piece chance. His delicately whipped free-kick met the Spaniard’s head, and he ran to the fans he so longed to meet in celebration. Perfect reward and the perfect thank-you for that massive sacrifice.
3. Encouraging changes from Koeman
For a good portion of last season, Ronald Koeman was criticised for his bizarre substitutions and reluctance to make significant changes when the games needed them. This time, he had a perfect evening on the bench, succeeding in both his timing and the tactical importance of his changes.
The timing was as pristine as could be. They positively altered the game state, as more fatigued players came off for energetic players when the game required it. The likes of Frenkie de Jong, Sergio Busquets and Sergino Dest came off in line for like changes, all expertly timed by their boss.
As for the shape of the team, it was coherent even after the changes were made. The team at first was a 4-3-3, and this was maintained until Mikel Oyarzabal’s absolute belter. The team ended the match on a 5-3-2, this after having their 3 goal lead cut down to one. This shift resulted in Barcelona making it 4-2 in stoppage time, with substitute Sergi Roberto getting on the scoresheet.
A brilliant way to start the season from Ronald Koeman and his men.