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La Liga Match Abstract: Barcelona 1, Granada 0

Posted: Tue Jan 21, 2020 3:23 pm
by RealGM Articles
  1. “Yesterday I was walking past cows in my hometown; today I was at Barcelona’s training ground coaching the best players in the world,” said Quique Setien when he was unveiled as Barcelona manager on Tuesday. Less than a week later, Setien will manage his first game at the Camp Nou against Granada. Life in La Liga comes at you fast. 
  2. Setien, vocal about his admiration for Barcelona’s style since his time with Las Palmas and Real Betis, spoke this moment into existence. The 61-year-old, who never managed in the top flight until four years ago, frames playing possession football as a question of morality and ethics. He has been labeled in Spain as the coach with Barcelona DNA, even if he is not of Barcelona. 
  3. There would be no proof without social media. The team released a short clip of players zipping the ball around with one-touch, reminiscent of how we view Barcelona in our imagination.
  4. Their opponents Granada are in 10th  place this season. Barcelona, who were leading when Ernesto Valverde was sacked, are now in second place after Real Madrid’s win over Sevilla.
  5. Setien makes two immediate changes in Barcelona’s starting 11: Ansu Fati gets the nod on the wing, and Samuel Umtiti replaces Clement Lenglet at centerback.
  6. Barcelona open the match with a high press and force a long ball that goes out for a throw-in. Setien’s side then play out of the back, deep in their own penalty box. A new era has truly started a minute into the match. 
  7. Gerard Pique, Sergi Roberto, and Umtiti are creating a back three in possession, with Sergio Busquets just ahead of the backline. 
  8. Arturo Vidal gets an early touch on the ball. His role in the squad, especially in battling Ivan Rakitic for the box-to-box role, must be monitored moving forward. His physicality is a vestige of Valverde’s desire to play more direct, in transition. There is a place for him or Rakitic in providing balance to Setien’s midfield three, although having both in the lineup seems redundant once Frenkie de Jong returns. 
  9. Fati gets the first shot on target of the Setien era. The sequence started with Messi roaming the field, creating triangles of quick interplay. 
  10. Antoine Griezmann already looks more connected to the larger play starting from a wide left position. There was criticism surrounding the lack of continuity between him and Messi early on, appearing as if they would take turns in attack but never combine under Valverde’s structure focused on individuals. They already combined for a chance for Fati 10 minutes in, and that interplay is even more foundational without Luis Suarez. 
  11. Barcelona’s spacing and measured play is freeing Messi to find pockets in between the lines. He has free reign to connect play wherever he sees.
  12. Fati and Griezmann continue to switch wings, further emphasizing the free-flowing movement and positioning in attack.
  13. Barcelona’s patient, one-touch build-up between the backline and Busquets is jarring, especially after the frenetic energy of Liverpool’s 2-0 win over Manchester United earlier in the morning. One wonders how effective Setien’s style would be when faced with an organized press. 
  14. Though Barcelona are also displaying their own high press though Griezmann and Fati. A proactive style without the ball is just as important as the refocus on possession.
  15. Though Granada’s best chances in the first half have come off unforced turnovers in Barcelona’s own half. There is a rust in Barcelona’s backline working their way out of their own third. 
  16. Barcelona finish the first half with 82% possession and 469 passes completed - though with no clear chances or goals. But those numbers are secondary to the feel of the side, with Setien getting room to implement his style at the expense of results for now. 
  17. The camera switches to a wide angle view as the second half opens, letting the view see the movement, spacing, and passing patterns exhibited by Barcelona. Possession form follows function. 
  18. Messi sprays a shot just outside of the post. Tension will develop the longer this stays 0-0, adding into the narratives of Setien sides possessing the ball without incision.
  19. Carles Perez is Barcelona’s only striker option off the bench, with Ousmane Dembele set to return in the upcoming weeks. 
  20. Similar to the backline, Barcelona’s passing in the final third has been just a bit off. The initial movements are crisp, but the deciding sequence and final ball aren’t connecting. 
  21. The camera pans to a corner flag flapping in the wind, as if excusing Setien and Barcelona for their lack of goals. 
  22. Granada hit the post off off a turnover in Barcelona’s half. Again, it began with a carelessness from the back. Due to their structural buildup, Barcelona were outnumber 3 v 4 once they lost the ball in transition. A better team would be up at least 1-0 now. 
  23. Griezmann answers Granada with his own shot on target. This may not necessarily be his best match as a Barcelona player, but it is his most active within a team structure.
  24. German Sanchez is sent off with his second yellow card. The second yellow is soft, and obviously tilts the match towards Barcelona. You can already feel the post-match controversy already brewing. Granada were defensively organized throughout the match, keeping Messi and Griezmann in front of their backline. With that said, there’s no room for Setien to feel sorry for his opponents as he’ll be judged only on results here. 
  25. Riqui Puig comes on for Rakitic. Puig, who gone viral for his ball-carrying ability, could arguably be the player with the most to gain from Setien.
  26. It was only a matter of time before Messi scored, especially with Granada a player down. The buildup featured Messi playing a pass into Griezmann, who flicked to Vidal, whose backheeled froze the backline and freed Messi. The sequence was started by Puig recovering the ball deep in Granada’s half. And finally, it showcased what the interplay between Messi and Griezmann could accomplish. 
  27. Messi follows up his goal with another shot on target. He’s feeling it now.
  28. Perez comes on for Fati, making three players from the academy (along with Puig) getting time in this match - which is a win in itself. 
  29. Barcelona see out the rest of this match, a formality after the goal and up a player. The result was important, but most of all, the play reflected a nostalgia and familiarity of past sides. Barcelona’s 82.6% possession was the most amount of possession in a managerial debut since Pep Guardiola. They also completed over 1000 passes at 91% accuracy.  
  30. Can Barcelona play like this against Napoli in the Champions League? That question is beside the main point, for now. They can improve on their possession out of the back as better teams will take advantage of loose passes. But one can imagine this side once de Jong and Dembele return from injury. And we’re only seeing the early glimpses of Griezmann and Messi’s connection. Setien and Barcelona end the week where they started, at the top of the table.