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FC Barcelona started 2020/2021 season with a new coach on the bench. Ronald Koeman, ex-blaugrana captain took the helm of the team after Quique Settien resisted only six months without having notable results. It was for the club a hot summer with the Messi transfer saga so it was interesting to see how the team will react and how much impact and enthusiasm the new coach can bring to the boys.
Until last game against Sevilla they played two games, both won, 3-0 at Celta and 4-0 against “yellow submarine” Villareal. The real test came in the 3rd round, playing at home with the “Los Nervionenses” leaded by ex-Spain and Real Madrid coach Julen Loptegui.
Comparing Koeman with Settien he changed the system preferring a 1-4-2-4-0(fluid)/4-2-3-1 on the paper and sometimes a 1-3-6 on offensive(rigid) and a 4-4-2(man-man pressure)/4-4-1-1 defensive.
As you can see in the matrix, they use de Goalkeeper a lot in build-up as well as frequent combinations between botch CB who later use more 21. De Jong than 5.Busquets. Also notable is not a pattern in long balls, who aren’t a religion as short passing on Nou Camp. In the middle you can see a triangle “5-10-20” without using 7.Griezman and on the left 21.De Jong very active. Messi, upfront, hasn’t dialogue with 14.Coutinho “thanks” to Koeman tactics who ask to argentinian to become a false 9 and many-many times even a playmaker like Maradona. Ansu Fati is mainly searced by 18.Alba and 21.De Jong. As you can also observe, the strikers doesn’t do too much passing between them.
Barcelona still wins the posession, but only 53%, reducing the quanity and making the play more vertical and also more ” waiting middle third” the rivals than high pressing. The accuracy is still top, no long balls, having the intiative of playing in the majority of the game, but with a medium-narrow formation concentrating the game more central than wider in Pep Guardiola era. The pressing intensity is low which confirm the normal and balanced approach of Koeman.
It was a big surprise Koeman doesnt use counterpressing and also when regaining the posession he is mantaining it like Pep. Probably, he knows Messi can run anymore, Fati is too young and not tactical ready so he choosed this mentality and tactical pattern (run back/close 1st option and come back) considering his tipe of the players. As you can see too low the number of balls recovered in opposition half on his transition negative. Is shocking for their quality to lose 95 balls in almost 50 minutes of pure play. Practical one ball lost at 30 seconds.
Speaking about his numbers on transition positive is shocking for a team like Barca to recover 57 balls in their own half and only 21 up, considering the middle third defensive approach. The numbers still aren’t what Koeman really wants, but is’s too early to ask more during COVID 19 pandemy and physical low work(no intensity).
Koeman used a medium block approach, risking to apply pressure with only 3 man. Busquets and De Jong remain solid-central, Fati dropping to double Alba and the “4” line staying very-very high. On purpose, they left their right flank free the main thing being the “ball zone” and “central areas”.
As you can observe, the focus is central, letting the wings free, just covering the ball and protect their blind sides and the central zones.
A very risky approach in midfield, as you can see with the wingers inside, and all central midfielders taking man-man marking. That move forced the Barcelona CB to play at interception as you can observe a lot of space between the CB-CDM line. Very good Ansu Fati positioning and Araujo body position to step forward on a vertical play or a one-two for the third.
Again, a solid body position of wingers, Messi free and a “double-pivote” protecting the defence.
The problem with man-man oriented in midfield and attack is the free space you can create if you move sincronized like Sevilla wanted here. They dragged Griezman central, Roberto didn’t had timing and the ball arrived at Sevilla striker breaking the defensive line of FC Barcelona. Observe also Sevilla striker having a lot of space to receive the ball central.
Blaugrana team had moments of no organisation and Sevilla managed with a splitted pass to break them easily and to find the striker.
A good image for shifts in Barca trio-midfield is this when you can observe 21.De Jong and 5.Busquets up to mark man-man (they were agressinve) and 14.Coutinho, the second striker was forced to become a temporary no.6 playing in a role that he never played in his career.
Ronald Koeman liked a lot that his team be agressive central, to cover the mans and to play in superiority everywhere on the field. As you can see, the danger was central so Roberto faced the playmaker of Sevilla, Griezman was marking his man to and the “double-pivote” just kept his position and didn’t do much effort to keep themselvs fresh for posession. Also 30.Araujo was ready to cover the blind side and the space behind Roberto. A very good move and I liked it a lot. Good discipline for both wingers who worked a lot defensively.
In midfield they defended central-wide creating triangles with the FB facing central like Roberto, now Alba, with a dropping winger and one of the CDM.
Maybe the last of the moves Koeman bring to the team was position of one CDM, here 21.De Jong who dropps to take a man and to create a 5×3. Also helping 18.Alba who was watching a Sevilla winger who could penetrate the space with/without the ball.
One mistake in ultra-offensive pressure was the timing. Roberto arrives to late and gaved time to rival to have time to thinks and to switch play letting after a situation 1×1 for Alba. Also what is good here is the team defends with 7 players in opposition half.
Barcelona builded up from Neto, including him a lot, and oriented the majority of ball wider. The fullback remained low and letting them to attack the space with the ball. No progression for both CB attacking the space. When they were blocked Neto used the long diagonal balls for Ansu Fati or Griezman.
The medium position of Koeman team, with the roles of players. Comparing to Guardiola team, the CB do not make progression to much, only one CDM goes in beteen lines as 21.De Jong here ’cause of the change of the system/model of play, both wingers ready to attack the space, not waiting the ball wider as Henry or Pedro. And Messi who play more now a False 9 playmaker like Maradona, dropping a lot down as you can see down.
Other thing to mention is the variability and the freedom FB have. One time they can be both up and one time one go-one stay, they have game intelligence and read the game very well. Here, Messi in Maradona role. And Roberto ultra-offensive.
Barcelona as in defence, created triangles and diamonds in the middle third and different combination to release players on free spaces, attacking the deepness with straight or diagonal running. Alba to Fati and one touch 21. De Jong for 14.Coutinho who is on full speed catching Sevilla CB static and slow.
Both CDM were attacking minded in posession, attacking the space converting the roles of them to a full attacking minded players. Even 5.Busquets one times tried to penetrate the space and to cross.
Another pattern of wingers was one stay wide, one diagonal run as you can see here. Also, Messi in a classic playmaker position, his place was taken by 14.Coutinho or simply creating confusion for Sevilla CB who didnt know who to mark or where to move.
The last 30 meters of Barcelona attacking play offered a interesting approach with this 1-1-3-6. Even a line of 6 players all in forward-strikers positions. De Jong and Busquets central for prevention, CB Araujo having time to progress and Pique remained alone in the back. Still, no game position for all 6 players.
The focus of Koeman was on Messi and Fati, letting Griezman without the ball and only letting him to cut inside without the ball and eventually finish a cross for Jordi Alba or a pass from Messi.
An unbelivable mistake letting 2×1 Sevilla players, not organized enough at the corners, before the goal was another situation exactly the same and they didn’t learn from it.
Barca goal started from a game moment when Sevilla press was good and Neto was forced to play wide for Alba who attacked the space very good and searches Fati.
They created the triangle with Coutinho this time and Fati receives the ball on 1×1 situation.
Ansu goes on his right foot as inverted winger and Messi releases him from marking, also fantastic movement of Coutinho forward to eliberate the zone and creating space to play from left to center.
Messi received the ball as playmaker and searched excellent Alba who was sprinting. A ball was crossed, they attacked with 3-4 players and the ball remained to them. Easy to score.
A really different Barcelona who alternated good tactical moments with bad ones.
Who suffer on transitions a lot, especially not organised on negative one comparing to Klopp.
Who has a decent build-up and attacking dynamic, but no magic there like Pep days. Sometimes the game became boring and they didnt have real solutions to finish.
Defensive missing tempo, intensity, coeshion.
Early days for Ronald Koeman in my opininon to judge him. He try to change some game principles here but still a lot of work to do. I let you this photo in the end.
Thank you for reading me!