Samuel Umtiti arrived to Barcelona in 2016, offering privileged physical and tactical conditions. But an injury a couple of years ago changed his life. Still, fans hoped to see Big Sam shine again. Yet time passes, and that faith in the player disappears. Yesterday, against Celta de Vigo, Umtiti could have signed his potential departure from Barça.
Samuel Umtiti. That physical, reliable and solid defender who avoided countless times that the rivals scored a goal. That French beast that culés considered as their new Carles Puyol, and the next partner of Gerard Piqué. A centre-back who, from the first day, fans fell in love with, since, for his characteristics and security, he was entertaining to watch. However, a knee injury that sidelined him for 28 games in the 2018/19 season forced Umtiti to undergo a treatment.
After such treatment, Big Sam looked the same physically, but, when he was on the pitch, there was no trace of the old Samuel. Sure, there were games in which he did well, but there was no consistency or confidence to consider Umtiti reliable for the important clashes. Still, supporters continued to believe in him, having faith that the talent of a few years earlier was going to regain his level. Unfortunately, a long time has passed and we continue without response.
Since the return of La Liga, Umtiti had not made his debut yet, as the staff was not entirely sure of his fitness after suffering a slight injury during the break. Notwithstanding, the 26-year-old was in charge of defending the blaugranas‘ shirt against Celta de Vigo on Saturday, a game with a high level of demands and pressure since the league title was at stake. As expected, Samuel did not fulfil his duties and ended up being one of the main culprits of that draw, especially for the local’s first goal. A disappointing game, but one that could definitely change the footballer’s future.
Samuel Umtiti in the 2019/20 season
With just 18 games played this season, four of which came from the bench, it is clear that Umtiti has dramatically gone from being in the foreground to being a secondary option. He has only been part in 33% of matches. In addition, most of the teams that Sam has faced have been from the lower half of the table. Almost never against top La Liga sides. And, despite extreme measures with little rest after the pandemic break, Umtiti is also not an active part of the rotations, especially given the importance behind each matchday.
Moreover, with Clément Lenglet in the team, it is even more difficult for Umtiti to develop his confidence since his compatriot is an essential man for the defensive approach of manager Quique Setién. Although Samuel offers different things to Barça’s game, Lenglet is a safer bet. Clément is a physically healthy player, very unlikely to be injured, usually focused through the full 90 minutes, and working well under pressure. While Lenglet has all these features at the fullest, Umtiti has lost all of them.
Umtiti for Barça against Celta de Vigo
After having lost the top spot of La Liga against Sevilla, Barcelona faced a Celta de Vigo that had been playing fabulously at the hands of Rafinha Alcântara, Denis Suárez, Iago Aspas and obviously coach Óscar García. Furthermore, the match was held at Balaídos, a stadium where the blaugranas had had many difficulties in recent years. To everyone’s surprise, Quique Setién trusted Samuel Umtiti for this match against Celta. A duel in which the Frenchman certainly didn’t cover himself in glory.
Umtiti was out of position in the majority of Celta’s attacks, leaving a lot of space behind, pressing up when he shouldn’t, and lacking concentration. Celta de Vigo had multiple chances of danger for the simple fact of having Umtiti on the defensive line of Barça. Sam did not add, but subtracted.
A match to forget for Umtiti | Photo by Octavio Passos via Getty Images
Umtiti’s disappointing display gave extra work to Gerard Piqué, who did a great job in supporting his teammate when he made a mistake. However, there was an error that neither Gerard nor Marc-André ter Stegen could save. In the action of Celta’s first equaliser, Samuel wanted to anticipate and move forward when he left Okay Yokuşlu run behind him, leaving Piqué alone in defence against two attackers. As a consequence, Fyodor Smolov was able to open the scoring for the celestes.
And this did not end there. He kept making similar mistakes throughout the match. Fortunately, the resulting errors were fixable. Additionally, against an opponent like Celta and with so much at stake, these mistakes by Umtiti were unforgivable for a club as professional and demanding as Barcelona. Having rested in the previous game, he should have been an asset in rotations, but he was not. Umtiti was a liability that unbalanced the approach of Barça against Celta.
Is it time to say goodbye to Big Sam?
Samuel Umtiti’s first season at Barcelona was unbelievable. Full of physical power, and with the joy of seeing how rivals battled and struggled to beat him. It really was like having a defensive wall. You could see the faces of the attackers when they had to overcome Big Sam in a one-versus-one, in a counter-attack or in a build-up. They couldn’t be calm the day before knowing that on the following day they were going to face Umtiti.
Unfortunately, the years go by, players come, players leave and others lower their performance. The case of Umtiti belongs to the latter. The worst thing is that he surely tries hard, but a physical issue such as his dramatic knee injury forced him to make a 180° turn in his career. Undoubtedly a depressing situation, as culés will end up sad to see what it was to once watch the iconic Carles Puyol in the body of a Frenchman that finished being a set of poor performances.
Barcelona fans thought they had found their rock at the back for many years to come | Photo by Alex Caparros via Getty Images
After two seasons full of bad moments, at Balaídos it was time to realise, or rather confirm, that there is no turning back. We can assure the faith to get Umtiti back is over. With the return of Jean-Clair Todibo, the good displays of the young Ronald Araújo, and the irreplaceable Piqué and Lenglet, Umtiti would not only have fewer minutes, but would practically not be considered.
Now, what should Barcelona do? Selling Umtiti sounds like the most logical option. In 2018, before his injury and in his prime years aged 25, Barça received multiple offers for him, whose release clause was of 60 million euros. A fair price. However, currently, his market value is half of what it was two years ago, if not less. Of course, there is a lot of difference but, given the circumstances, it would not be wrong to sell him for that price. The problem is that no club may be willing to pay such high fee and wages.
For Samuel Umtiti, all that remains is to continue working and giving his all to recover his level. To keep smiling as on the day of his presentation, where he started spreading his happiness to the entire Barça entity. It hurts everyone to see his current situation, but for both the footballer and the club, the best thing for him is to finish his spell in Catalonia.
Using Machine Learning to predict Barcelona’s 2021/22 league season
Johan Cruyff famously said, “I’ve never seen a bag of money score a goal.” It is indisputable that money is not the only deciding factor behind a football club’s success. Time and time again, we have seen that football is chaotic and absurd. Anything can happen.
That being said, it is evident that statistically, the clubs with more money are usually the more successful ones. While one cannot predict the unpredictability that is engraved within football, an outcome that is statistically probable can be predicted. This article will explore the relationship between the points a club accumulates in a league season and the total value of the club’s squad. Then, Python will be used to build a linear regression model in order to predict the number of points Barcelona will obtain in the 21/22 season based on the club’s hypothetical squad.
Let us begin with visualizing the relationship between the total league points obtained by a club and the club’s total squad value. Since the amount of money spent on transfers has increased tremendously over the course of the last decade, in this article, only seasons 2014/15 – 2019/20 will be considered. Upon plotting the total points against the total squad value, it is evident that there is a positive correlation between the two. Granted, the correlation is not extremely strong, but it exists nonetheless.
A line of regression has been generated. The line’s gradient is approximately 0.05138986, and its y-intercept is approximately 44.5470726. There is only one dependant variable in question, club value/total value of squad, and so our line of regression can be modelled by the equation:
P = (0.05138986 )V + 44.5470726 where P is the points and V is the total squad value.
club_values = np.array(df['Values']).reshape(89,1) club_points = np.array(df['Point']).reshape(89,1) from sklearn.linear_model import LinearRegression linear_model = LinearRegression() linear_model.fit(club_values,club_points)
In order to predict the points accumulated based on Barcelona’s squad value next season, the squad value won’t directly be inputted into our equation above. The coefficient and the y-intercept have been rounded up after a certain number of decimal places, and so, to preserve the precision of the prediction, Python’s LinearRegression predict method will be utilized.
Now comes another challenging part of coming up with Barcelona’s hypothetical squad next season. Based on reports, it can be assumed that Samuel Umtiti, Miralem Pjanic, Martin Braithwaite and Phillipe Coutinho will be some of the notable players to leave. To compensate for the outgoing players, it can be assumed that Barcelona will sign Eric Garcia, David Alaba, Georginio Wijnaldum and Memphis Depay. Here is a table that contains all the players in Barcelona’s hypothetical 21/22 squad and their corresponding market values:
|PLAYER NAME||MARKET VALUE (MILLION POUNDS)|
|MARC ANDRE TER STEGEN||79.34|
|FRENKIE DE JONG||84.63|
|KONRAD DE LA FUENTE||2.64|
The club’s total value comes up to be £786.60 million. It is important to note that a player’s value is volatile. Transfermarkt updates player values every few months, and so it is extremely probable that this squad’s market value will be drastically different next season.
It is also important to understand that Transfermarkt’s market values are not official and so they are not always an accurate representation of a player’s true market value. Moreover, a player’s value is not always an accurate representation of their quality. Age is a key factor in determining market value, and so while a young player might have a high market value indicating that they are a bright prospect for the future, they might not necessarily be an excellent player at the time when the value is assigned.
Now that all of this has been established, the only thing left is making the prediction.
The machine learning model predicts that Barcelona will obtain 85 points in the 21/22 La Liga season. In the 19/20 season, Real Madrid won the league with 87 points, and in the 18/19 season, Barcelona won the league with 87 points as well. The difference between the points accumulated by the last two winning La Liga squads and the predicted points that Barcelona’s 21/22 squad will obtain is a mere 2 points. This shows that it is possible for Barcelona to win the league next season.
Since the correlation between the two variables, as observed from the data from the last 6 seasons, is not even close to being extremely strong, Barcelona’s 21/22 league points tally may be drastically different from what was predicted by the machine learning model. However, at the end of the day, the model can only work with the data it is exposed to.
Erling Haaland can change the course of Barcelona’s season. It would take forever to make predictions based on Barcelona’s hypothetical squads that include all of the club’s potential transfer targets, however, due to Haaland’s influence, an exception can be made for him. Laporta’s interest in signing Haaland has been widely reported.
However, he will cost a fortune this summer, and with Barcelona’s debt situation, it is unlikely that the Catalan club will pursue him in the upcoming transfer window. That being said like mentioned previously in the article, football is chaotic, and anything can happen.
Assuming that Barcelona does end up signing Haaland in the summer, Antoine Griezmann will most definitely have to leave (due to wages and the money that can be generated from his sale). Haaland’s current value is £99 million, and so Barcelona’s total squad value for next season, after being corrected for Griezmann’s exit and Haaland’s arrival is £831.60 million.
Haaland’s addition can put 21/22 Barcelona on level with the previous two Spanish champions in terms of total points won. The difference in points between a squad containing Haaland and one not containing him is only two. However, an argument about whether signing Haaland is worth it, is not in the scope of this article.
“Transition seasons do not exist at Barcelona.”Joan Laporta | Presidential campaign
A club of Barcelona’s stature will always compete for titles. The machine learning model shows that Barcelona is in contention for the 2021/22 La Liga title. Ronald Koeman has done a splendid job at the Blaugrana club this season, and there is no logical reason for him to not do an even better job next season after getting fresh players in the summer.
While football at its core is unpredictable, statistically, it would not hurt to trust Barcelona to win the 2021/22 La Liga title.