FC Barcelona are an absolute mess right now, but they still have far and away the best player in the league and he has a tendency to find results for them. We sat down with Gill Clark, from our SBN sister site Barca Blaugranes to talk about what in the world is going on at Catalonia’s flagship club.
1.So uh… why has Barca been so bad since the return of football?
Well they haven’t been that bad but they’ve thrown away the title with three draws in four games which makes for a full-blown crisis when you’re Barcelona. They’re a team in decline and it shows with the same old problems cropping up: they are way to open, vulnerable to a quick counter and don’t create enough.
Editor’s note: Worth pointing out that before the break in football Villarreal was one of the league leaders in chances created on the counter attack.
2. It seems like Setien has gone back to a lot of the tactics Valverde was using before he was sacked. Do you think this indicates it was a mistake to fire Valverde or does it just say something about how this roster is constructed?
I don’t think it was a mistake to fire Valverde but the timing was definitely wrong. He should have gone last summer not halfway through this season. Setien has made a few mistakes but he’s also been dealt a tough hand and I feel a bit sorry for him. He’s had to come in halfway through the season, lost Suarez and Dembele to long-term injury straightaway, saw the season get postponed for three months because of coronavirus and has then had to deal with Arthur getting sold because the club are run so badly.
As for tactics, Setien tried to shake things up to start with but the team didn’t look too comfortable playing that way. Why has he switched back? Perhaps because he thought it was the best way in the short-term, maybe the dressing room convinced him. The truth is no-one knows but he needs to be braver and more true to his style. If he stays next season, and that’s a big if right now, you might see a more-Setienish Barcelona.
Editor’s note: Pretty sure if a manager won two straight leagues at Villarreal we’d build them a statue and let them coach forever.
3. Messi recently turned 33, are you concerned about how much he is being asked to do to keep this team in the title race?
I think it’s obvious how reliant Barcelona continue to be on Messi and that the team needs the other players to contribute more. It’s one of the reasons they’ve faltered this season and the title has slipped away. Griezmann’s only scored once in La Liga in 2020, Suarez was out for a long time after knee surgery, Dembele can’t stay fit, Ansu Fati is great but he’s only 17. The team needs a big shake up that’s for sure.
4. Do you expect Bartomeu to be re-elected next year after all the controversy that has surrounded the club in the last 12 months?
No, as far as I know he’s served two terms so he won’t run again.
5. What’s the perspective from a ‘Big 2’ club on VAR in La Liga and how it is being used?
I think the refereeing in La Liga has been pretty poor since La Liga resumed. It’s the lack of consistency that drives you crazy. I mean Ter Stegen gets penalised for being off his line for the penalty against Atletico which, yes is correct but happens all the time and doesn’t usually get enforced. And then you have Correa encroaching at the next penalty which is not called. It feels like right now there’s a controversial call in every single match. Super frustrating.
Editor’s note: There was talk about a lack of friendlies for clubs as they came back and how it might affect their sharpness, maybe the same thing happened with the officials? La Liga refs are always bad but things have been especially rough since the return.
6. Who is most responsible for Antoine Griezmann’s struggles this season?
I like Griezmann but he was never in a million years a good fit for Barcelona and I don’t really know why they signed him, particularly after THAT documentary when he basically rejected them the season before. I think he’s trying his hardest, you can’t fault his effort but there’s just no natural place for him in the team and that’s why he’s struggling.
Editor’s note: Griezmann at Atleti, if you compare his season heat map, occupies almost the exact same piece of the pitch that Leo Messi typically does. I’m not sure who at Barca thought they’d be able to both occupy that space on the pitch.
7. What do you think will be the most important factor in deciding the result for Sunday’s match?
Well, from a Barcelona point of view, it might depend on how far ahead Real Madrid are when they kick off. They play Athletic before Barca and Villarreal kick off and if they win that’s a gap of seven points. If they do lose then Barca can cut the gap to one and the title race is back on. Huge motivation if that happens.
Editor’s note: So... I guess that means we want Real Madrid to win?
8. Score prediction for Sunday?
Barca are so tough to predict right now but they are under pressure and really need a result on Sunday. Having said that they’ve been pretty dismal away from home all season and Villarreal are in great shape. Another 4-4?!
Editor’s Note: I’m really not sure my nerves could handle that.
Thanks to Gill for taking time to talk with us. It should be a great match. There will be a crazy number of over 30 players in this match, so things may just come down to who can run the longest.