Barcelona has had a bad season this year, by its lofty standards with no trophy for the club this season. The club acquired the second position in La Liga behind Real Madrid, knocked out from the Spanish cup by Athletic Bilbao, and finally the humiliation against Bayern Munich, which ended a whooping 8-2 defeat.
Rotation between two coaches throughout the season, namely Ernesto Valverde, who left after five months from the start of the season, and then came Quique Setien, but the situation did not change much from modest performances and repeated problems.
Through this tactical analysis, we will try to review the problems of the team in the football part apart from administrative issues.
With a general overview, we can see Barcelona’s administrative and psychological problems which are way more pressing than tactical matters.
Among the administrative and technical problems is the disbursement of huge sums of money on signings that do not suit the style of play of the Catalan team, followed by big signings that haven’t shown for the money, such as Antoine Griezmann, Ousmane Dembele and Coutinho three deals that have cost the club’s treasury more than 350 million euros.
Besides, not bringing in a coach that is in line with Barcelona’s way of thinking in terms of the idea of playing the stars of La Masia didn’t help either.
We can conclude with the rise in the age of the first team, as most of the players have over the age of thirty, which reduces the work rate, and now let us address some technical problems, the first of which is building play.
Barcelona had a lot of issues this season, under both coaches Valverde and Setien, one of those was a build-up process from the first third when the team lost the ball a lot.
Keeping the ball with Ter Stegen in the first line with the pressure of the opponent’s players makes the Catalan team lose the ball, which was the case throughout the season due to the players not moving and creating spaces to pass the ball.
In this first example, we will see what the situation was like under Ernesto Valverde at the start of the season, when the team lost 3-0 to Levante.
Surrendering to the idea of high pressure from the opponent was one of the worst features of the team.
The same problem was repeated in Quique Setién’s custody again and appeared strongly in El Clásico, which the team lost to Real Madrid with a clean double.
Barcelona against Bayern Munich in the last match lost the ball 99 times, including 17 times in the first third.
Here, the high pressure from Bayern causes Ter Stegen to miss and pass vertically towards Thiago Alcantara, who attacks Barcelona again.
Barcelona’s weak ability in getting out with the ball was a big crisis, and perhaps this would take us to the midfielders and find solutions that the team lacked for a long time.
Lack of creativity and finishing in Barcelona players
In the last third, if we exclude Lionel Messi, we will see that the effectiveness of the Barcelona players is very little, with little to no dependence on others in their positions, with teams exposing the heavy dependence on Messi to create and finish.
Griezmann often plays on the right side as a winger in a 4-4-2 manner, which makes him lose those advantages in finishing attacks when he plays in the position of the second striker, as was the case in Atletico Madrid.
Griezmann contributed 19 goals during the season, scoring 14 and making five others, most of whom were active in the second striker position, as happened against Villarreal.
But Setien decided to banish the Frenchman from the area in which he is dangerous, the half of the spaces.
The abrupt recruitment of coaches of some Barcelona players such as Antoine and Arturo Vidal made the team lose a lot.
The Dutchman, who used to play in front of the defence as the defensive focal point, to contribute to building play, was played out of position as a central midfielder, which made him lose many of his qualities, most notably the play industry from late areas of the stadium.
All of these things were problems, and Barcelona had the ball in their possession, other issues off the ball that concerned the defence as well.
Barcelona players off the ball
Barcelona suffered from defensive problems when the ball came with the opponents, the most prominent of which is the lack of pressure on the ball carrier, despite the presence of all Barcelona players behind the ball line.
As there is a numerical parity between Barcelona players and the opponent in the last third of the field, by which the ideas of pressure are applied to the opponent, this did not happen in many times, and the ball carrier was allowed to play directly.
Here, in the case of a counterattack on Barcelona, we find multiple players against a player on the side, which gives the attacking team the advantage to play in the space created in the last third of the stadium.
Barcelona players suffered from losing the advantage of cutting the ball after losing to the opponent, which is the point that distinguished the team over the years, and perhaps this is due to some players individually, most notably the centre backs of the parties and the defensive focal point.
A dull performance from the left and right backs Jordi Alba and Nelson Semedo, both on the offensive or in the defensive side were observable throughout the season.
The biggest problem lies in the space they leave when advancing for offensive support, which leaves areas in which the opponent can play the ball and go towards the goal, with no coverage from Sergio Busquets, the focal point player.
Here we can move Jordi Alba and Nelson Semedo more inclined to vertical moves on the same line with fewer times for reverse coverage by moving horizontally.
It is usual for a possession-based team to launch at the end to extend the pitch from the full-back, but it becomes necessary for the full-back to retreat in this case because the attackers are not required to contribute to the defence. This is where the actual problem lies – Barcelona is at risk when the ball is lost and diverted to the broader side of the field. Defenders who advance in the race appear to be ineffective in defence, due to their inability to deal with teams that rely on flying wings.
Barcelona players, mainly the defence had many problems, and perhaps those were the most prominent from my point of view. I mentioned the issues of the two central defenders with the ball only in the stage of building up play, but they also have problems in individual situations.
Barcelona needs a radical change with Koeman, whether by homegrown Barcelona players from the youth side and selling some of Barcelona’s ageing core away or by beginning to depend on others by re-hiring some players in their positions if they are not sold.
Looking at the academy and seeing some young players, taking into account the quick assignment of a striker with a midfielder and left-back, trying to reduce the average age within the team and infuse the fighting spirit again should be key to Barcelona’s return to its stature.