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On the 13th of January 2020, Barcelona appointed Quique Setien as their head coach. The 32 days which have ensued have been intriguing, to say the least. The crew has performed properly most of the time, however has additionally displayed the identical vulnerabilities that it did underneath Ernesto Valverde. Furthermore, off-field debacles and suspect switch dealings have ensured that Setien has had a tough begin to his tenure because the Blaugrana head coach.
Setien has, slowly however certainly, began to make adjustments to the crew’s model of play. In his first few video games in cost, he deployed a 3-5-2, which turned a 4-3-Three out of possession, with Sergi Roberto because the third centre-back and Ansu Fati as a makeshift wing-back. This formation served Barca properly sufficient towards Granada; there was a dearth of probabilities, sure, however the again three appeared strong all through and Granada barely had a sniff of purpose. It didn’t work, nevertheless, within the away video games that adopted. An insipid show away at Ibiza was adopted by a harrowing 2-Zero loss on the Mestalla. In each video games, Barca’s play was static and there was an absence of creativity each in midfield and in assault. This was particularly evident towards Valencia. Regardless of having 74% of possession, the midfield trio of Arthur, Sergio Busquets and Frenkie de Jong struggled to provide something substantive. Barca usually had six gamers behind the ball with no clear runner via the center. Whereas the addition of Arturo Vidal did amend this to an extent, it was too little too late, as Los Che had already taken management of the sport by then. The crew appeared loads like Setien’s Real Betis in the direction of the tip of his spell on the membership; a whole lot of possession and never a lot else.
After the defeat on the Mestalla, Setien discarded his most well-liked 3-5-2 and reverted again to the 4-3-3. This resulted in a number of issues: Firstly, it moved Ansu Fati again to the left. He was tasked with holding width on the left hand facet as a substitute of Jordi Alba. Secondly, it made Setien drop Sergi Roberto for the extra athletic Nelson Semedo. With Lionel Messi usually dropping deep, Semedo was requested to bomb upfield on the correct hand facet. As a consequence, Semedo has had an outsized affect on Barca’s wing play and has displayed an attacking nous that he by no means did in two full seasons underneath Valverde.
To fight the shortage of runners within the closing third that he confronted with the 3-5-2, Setien has deployed a sophisticated inside (or two) who seems to be to interrupt the traces and be a nuisance within the 18-yard field. Within the absence of Vidal, it was De Jong who was tasked with this function. Whereas De Jong has himself appeared unfamiliar within the function, the presence of a secondary runner has made Barca seem much less toothless in assault. Within the sport towards Athletic Bilbao, for example, De Jong was a continuing menace in and across the field and had a stonewall penalty denied. Frenkie’s elevated attacking affect is mirrored in the truth that he has tried 5 pictures in six video games underneath Setien, two greater than he had tried in 26 underneath Valverde.
The 4-3-Three itself underwent a minor change away at Actual Betis. With the return of Vidal, Setien determined to utilise a 4-1-2-1-2 diamond, with the Chilean because the hyperlink between midfield and assault and Roberto and De Jong because the superior interiors. As Messi was dropping deep all through the sport, Vidal was usually enjoying as a false 9, together with his again in the direction of the opposition purpose. As a result of using a comparatively slender entrance two, the width was offered by Semedo and Roberto (who usually drifted broad) on the correct and Junior/Alba on the left. This diamond midfield labored properly; Barca continued to regulate possession (71%) whereas additionally sustaining verticality.
So, an early verdict on Setien’s tenure? It’s largely constructive. There have positively been some enhancements; Barca’s common possession has gone as much as 74% ( from 61% underneath Valverde), pictures per sport have gone up by 0.5 and pictures conceded per 90 have fallen by two. Furthermore, Barca have managed to outshoot their opponents in each away sport underneath Setien. They solely managed this twice underneath Valverde. The crew has additionally began to press as a unit and has appeared much less torpid off the ball. It is very important observe that Setien has managed to make enhancements while the membership has been within the midst of an ‘injury-crisis’. There have been some negatives as properly. The comfortable underbelly of this crew stays; Barca nonetheless get caught napping in defence and seem weak on the counter. This may want rectification if they’re to advance to the latter phases of the Champions League. Additionally, the choice to ship out Carles Perez has proved to be unwise, particularly with Dembele’s relapse and Barca’s lack of depth up entrance.
All in all, Setien has made the a lot of the testing circumstances. He has introduced entertaining soccer again to the Camp Nou. And that’s all we ask for.