Even Griezmann found his place at Koeman’s Barça

Koeman talks to Pedri during the game against Villarreal.

Although in England it was allowed to make one change per game from the 1965-1966 season when an injury occurred, Spain did not copy it until after the 1970 World Cup, the year in which the rule was established to leave in the memory, among other things, the clever goal of the lame man [que era cuando un futbolista lesionado se ponía en punta porque no podía hacer esfuerzos y marcaba un tanto]. Until those days, it was not uncommon for the tadpoles who went to the stadium to recite to the pride of their parents and friends the team line-ups, always a eleven permanent. An inflexibility that no longer occurs and less in times of coronavirus, when it was decided to go from three to five substitutions. But that no longer matters to Koeman, since since he tried 3-5-2 against Sevilla – always moldable to 3-4-1-2 or 3-4-2-1 – he has found his team, an alignment that It barely allows two variables: Dest or Sergi Roberto on the right side; Griezmann or Dembélé pointed. It also remains to be seen if Araujo or Mingueza will take over the remaining position, now that the Uruguayan has recovered. And Koeman’s bet works because he has 11 duels with that system explained in nine wins, a draw (PSG) and a defeat (Madrid). Enough for Barça to conquer the Cup and aspire to become leader of the League if they beat Granada this Thursday.

Returns to the drawing. When he arrived at the Camp Nou his idea was clear. “The 4-2-3-1 is the perfect system for this squad and these types of players,” Koeman resolved. But the results did not accompany and he yielded to the 4-3-3 that the team claimed as known and the homegrown players by definition because they always played like that in the lower categories. Nor did he get away with it, Koeman, who tried 4-1-4-1 and, concerned about the lack of force in the areas, installed 3-5-2. A plan that finally gave Barça flight: it does not break so much in the retreats, it reaches the rival area with more troops and with surprises from the second line, the full-backs attack more than they defend and the midfield is filled with flyers. “If we beat Sevilla the season changes completely,” warned Piqué before the return of the semifinal cup. Barça came back two goals and history has six duels left to defoliate the margarita and find out if they achieve a double in a course announced as transitional.

Conqueror of the wardrobe. Griezmann claimed better aim. De Jong demanded more reliability in passing and arrival. Araujo was bluntly told to learn how to get the ball out. He made Umtiti and Coutinho see that their physical condition was not what they wanted… And he did everything in public without a complaint from the henhouse. The players have stopped commanding to be accomplices for the most part of a coach who commands and has authority. “Everything he says in press conferences he has told us a thousand times,” says a veteran of the team. “You may or may not like what he tells you, but he doesn’t fool you and that is what the players want,” adds a youth squad. And he has won his own as evidenced two games ago, when he gave Mingueza a fierce fight without receiving a bad face in return. “It helps you and makes you better,” Mingueza gratefully resolves.

Solomonic technician. Consistent with the performance of the players – only a few such as Pjanic, Riqui Puig, Junior and Matheus have not been given the opportunity to win the place – Koeman was configuring a team of moments until he gave his eleven. “He has personality and bad temper if he wants,” they explain from the dressing room; “But what he says he does.” Thus, Coutinho seemed another when he returned from Bayern, Braithwaite obtained with his speed and arrival his minutes of play, Araujo beat any center-back and Mingueza followed, Pedri took the position and Trincão asked for a turn with quality minutes and shooting accurate. Not everyone made the starting team, but Koeman found his lineup.

Memory equipment. Ter Stegen; Mingueza (Araujo), Piqué, Lenglet; Dest (Sergi Roberto), Busquets, De Jong, Alba; Pedri; Messi and Dembélé (Griezmann). It is the alignment from Seville. So much so that eight players have played the 11 matches as starters since then: Ter Stegen, Mingueza, Lenglet, Alba, De Jong, Busquets, Pedri and Messi. In addition, Dest has started at 10 while Griezmann in eight and Dembélé in seven. Only injuries have deprived Piqué of playing everything. As for Koeman, there are two unknowns left for the end of the course: the right lane and Messi in front. For the rearguard more Dest has played due to injury to Sergi Roberto, who brings more possession, better positioning and sobriety in the structure, even though the Dutchman is more incisive and quick. And above the bet was Dembélé, patent that it worked because of his speed and he hit with both legs. Griezmann suffered it, ruled out in several important games, but now he wants to recover his with two doubles in the last three games. But that is a minor problem for Koeman, always pragmatic and possible and who already knows what he is playing at. All footballers know their roles and seem to have found their place. Now it is about playing concentrated and uncomplexed, without fear of error.

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