After last week’s loss against Osasuna, many doubts arose over the future of Barcelona manager Quique Setién, as there were rumours that the board could have been considering sacking him once the league was over.
Barça coach Quique Setién obtained his first defeat after the coronavirus break last Thursday against Osasuna. A defeat that could be classified as a failure or a disappointment as it was the same day that Real Madrid were crowned La Liga champions. Despite Los Blancos‘ 2–1 win over Villarreal already gave them the title, Barcelona’s loss brought even more frustration to fans. Fortunately for Quique, he managed to end La Liga campaign with a 0–5 away victory against Deportivo Alavés.
“We have talked a lot, and it has helped ease the situation for us”
after Barcelona’s 0–5 win over Alavés
Quique Setién has tried to implement some tactical changes at Barça compared to his predecessor Ernesto Valverde, but for several reasons, the changes between both managers has not been highly noticeable in the eyes of fans. In most games the team continues to have the same problems to kill off games and the impact in the third final can be minimal against compact low blocks. In addition, it is increasingly difficult for the best player in the side, Lionel Messi, to score goals or be more decisive from a tactical level.
Nevertheless, Setién has exponentially bolstered the defensive solidity by bringing out the best of Gerard Piqué and Clément Lenglet, by knowing how to accommodate Nélson Semedo at right-back, and by trusting Jordi Alba, who has found some of his best form this season after the return of football. Moreover, he has also given Barça B starlets Riqui Puig and Ronald Araújo the chances to adapt to the first team, apart from obviously 17-year-old winger Ansu Fati.
“We did our self-criticism behind closed doors. We didn’t have a great league season. We can’t let teams want the win more than we do. We need to be more consistent”
after Barcelona’s 0–5 win over Alavés
That said, current Barça B boss Xavier García Pimienta probably is the most prepared man for the manager post at FC Barcelona. Apart from his time as a player in the academy, he has been coaching in the lower categories of La Masía since the beginning of the 21st century, and little by little he has been climbing positions until reaching the reserves. A man who is full of character and knowledge and who possesses and transmits the Barça DNA as well as few others. But to what extent would it be sensible to give the job to García Pimienta at the moment?
Pimienta certainly deserves an opportunity in the first team. However, that opportunity should have probably come when Ernesto Valverde was sacked. After all Pimienta has done, and for being one of the few coaches who can fit in Barcelona, it seemed the right moment to promote him in January and inherit a squad that needed a fresh air in terms of tactics and youth.
Barcelona must ask themselves how much have the current circumstances influenced Quique Setién’s decisions | Photo by Alejandro García via Imago
But times have changed. In January the club hired Quique Setién and it doesn’t make much sense to dismiss him right now with the Champions League yet to be played. The Cantabrian received a weakened and very limited team in which he could not avoid the exits of the likes of Carles Aleñá, Carles Pérez and Jean-Clair Todibo. Furthermore, the Catalans were the leaders in La Liga with a two-point advantage over Real Madrid but with the worst points’ sum for more than ten years in the first half of La Liga.
Quique Setién possibly deserves to have a preseason, to start a new campaign by making his own decisions, to choose which players he wants to count on, and to have the opportunity to show his true football with the freedom he needs. Even so, García Pimienta is an almost perfect profile for this job, but not at this time, since it would mean wasting his undeniable talent by giving him a squad packed with problems.
“Now, we have the confidence we needed. We have done a deep analysis about the situation of the team. I certainly feel that I have the support of Messi and the rest of the team”
after Barcelona’s 0–5 win over Alavés
The best thing at present would be to keep Setién at Barcelona, to let him be in charge of the blaugranas in the Champions League, and then to trust him for the following season. If in Europe or in the following course everything crumbles, then there could come the real opportunity for García Pimienta. Yet, while not having Pimienta as the Barça coach is unfair to him, sacking Quique Setién would be much more unfair due to the poor circumstances he has had to deal with.
Why Erling Braut Håland should be Barcelona’s future number 9
While he would be an unconventional player at the club, why should Barcelona target Borussia Dortmund’s Erling Braut Håland after the departure of Luis Suárez?
A 19-year-old Erling Braut Håland took the footballing world by storm last year when he scored a hat-trick of goals on his Champions League debut and then went on to become only the second teenager to score in each of his first three appearances in the competition.
In the winter transfer window, Håland moved from Austria’s Red Bull Salzburg to German side Borussia Dortmund in hopes of both improving his game and leading Lucien Favre’s side to the Bundesliga title. The Norwegian wonderkid ended the Bundesliga season with 13 goals and 3 assists in 15 games, and Dortmund finished second on the table.
Håland’s 44-goal season put him on the radar of all the top clubs in the world, and while the striker is at the top of his game at Dortmund, his departure to a top European club in the future is inevitable at some point. Following club legend Luis Suárez‘s departure from Barcelona, the Catalan club is surely looking for El Pistolero‘s heir. With Barcelona looking for a top striker for the future, and the Norwegian machine looking at a European giant to move to, Håland might just be the name that reads on Barcelona’s number 9 shirt.
The transfer market is unpredictable, and Håland’s agent being notorious superagent – and supervillain – Mino Raiola, makes things even more complicated. Instead of looking at if Barcelona will seek Håland’s services, this article will look at why Barcelona should seek Håland’s services.
To begin with, let’s talk about Håland’s statistics. In the 2019/20 season, he scored 44 and assisted 10 goals. 10 of the goals were in the Champions League. He scored more goals than expected with his G90, 1.10, being higher than his xG90, 0.75. It has been established that Håland is a goalscoring machine. The Norwegian’s physique is absolutely astounding. At 6 feet 4 inches (1.94 metres), Håland provides quite the aerial threat, something the blaugrana club severely lacks.
In spite of his towering height, Håland is incredibly fast; he reached a top speed of 36 km/h and was 0.3 seconds off from breaking the world record for a 60-metre sprint. Football has evolved in recent years, with training facilities improving and more money being invested in fitness training, players have become more athletic. A striker who will face off against athletic defenders definitely needs to be a physical demon.
When at RB Salzburg, Barcelona rejected to sign Erling Braut Håland because he did not have the suited profile | Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos via Getty Images
Does Håland have the technical ability of a prime Luis Suárez or of a Samuel Eto’o? No. Would he be heavily involved in the build-up play like some of Barcelona’s preceding number 9s? No. If Håland was to join, he would be the most uncreative player in the squad, and believe it or not, that is exactly what Barcelona needs right now.
The recurring humiliations in the Champions League knockout stages have had one thing in common – apart from the poor defence –: the lack of a runner. Every elite team in Europe has elite runners: PSG have Kylian Mbappé, Liverpool have Mohammed Salah and Sadio Mané, Bayern have Robert Lewandowski and Serge Gnabry.
The Barcelona team, all these years, has been stacked with players who love having the ball at their feet all the time – Lionel Messi, Philippe Coutinho, Antoine Griezmann…The reason Messi’s last few years have been wasted is that he hasn’t been provided with a runner to get at the end of his through balls. This problem cannot occur again.
Barcelona’s future lies with talented playmakers like Francisco Trincão, Pedri, Riqui Puig, etc, and these playmakers need a proficient and clinical striker with good off the ball movement, to score goals for the team. Håland doesn’t only have a good physique, he is also an intelligent footballer. He knows how to time runs, how to hold the defence, and is a lethal shooter of the ball.
Erling Braut Håland would be quite an unorthodox signing for Barcelona. Quite unlike all of his predecessors. But if the club’s transfer policy fails to evolve while the game itself is evolving, then the Catalan club is going to become a relic of the past. A player like Lionel Messi is never going to appear again. Thus, after his departure, if Barcelona want to dominate in Europe like they once did, the team is going to have to function like a system, and Erling Håland is the piece that fits the puzzle the best.
So apart from everything discussed in this article, why should Erling Håland join Barcelona? Well, in his own words: why not?