3 immediate changes Quique Setién will make at FC Barcelona
FC Barcelona finally parted ways with Ernesto Valverde after days of speculation as the Catalan club sacked the 55-year-old Spaniard following a string of bad results. The defeat against Atlético Madrid in the semi-final of the Spanish Super Cup triggered such a decision from the board as the last time a Barcelona manager was sacked mid-season was 17 years ago in 2003 when Dutch coach Louis van Gaal left the club.
Quique Setién was announced as the new manager after signing a 2.5 year contract with the Blaugrana. Setién is not a familiar name in the list of world-class managers but his core philosophy is very much similar to that of Barcelona's.
The 61-year-old coach has been managing teams in the Spanish top flight since 2015 when he led Las Palmas from the relegation zone to an 11th place finish. He then had a two-year stint at Real Betis where he led them to a sixth place finish in the first season with subsequent qualification to the group stage of Europa League. Setién was also the last manager to beat Barcelona at Camp Nou as Betis defeated them by a scoreline of 4-3 during the 2018-19 LaLiga campaign.
The arrival of Setién at the Catalan club will lead to some substantial tactical changes in the team. We shall now take a look at 3 immediate changes that Setien will make in the Barcelona camp.
#3 Frenkie de Jong will discover his potential
Frenkie de Jong was signed by Barcelona from AFC Ajax in January 2019 on a five-year contract and joined the club at the start of 2019-20 season. The 22-year-old midfielder made his competitive debut on 16th August, 2019 in a 1-0 away defeat against Athletic Bilbao.
He has been playing as a central midfielder at Barcelona but hasn't been able to bring out his full potential due to the team's conservative approach under Valverde. The club has lacked fluidity in its game-play in the past few seasons due to which a player like de Jong with great technical ability has been a mere shadow of his true self.
All this is bound to change under Setién as he will look to re-establish the Cruyffian philosophy and put greater emphasis on the midfield. A player like de Jong would benefit the most from this as he thrives in a possession based playing style where every attacking move originates from the midfield region.
De Jong with his excellent control, ability to dribble in narrow spaces and decisive passing will become the midfield powerhouse under Setien's guidance.
#2 La Masia players will appear more frequently
Barcelona have invested extensively in their youth training academy in the past; however, the number of players from La Masia featuring for the senior side decreased under Valverde's managerial tenure. Many promising young players as a result have failed to make a breakthrough in the senior team.
Setien has previously managed clubs that were not flooded with big names due to which he has always showed faith in his playing style rather than individual players. Current Barcelona left-back Junior Firpo is one such young talent who made his senior debut for Real Betis under Setien in February 2018 and featured for the Andalusian side on 43 occasions before moving to the Catalan club.
One particular La Masia graduate who would be able to rise to prominence under Setien would be Riqui Puig who possesses all qualities of a world class midfielder. The 20-year-old made only 3 appearances for the senior team under Valverde in the 2018-19 season and has not featured in any of Barcelona's games till now this season. It is expected that Setien would recognize Puig's talent and allow him some playing time with the senior side.
Other young players expected to benefit under Setien include Ansu Fati, Carles Perez, Moussa Wague and Alex Collado.
#1 Lionel Messi will no longer be burdened with carrying the team
Lionel Messi is undoubtedly one of the greatest players to have ever played the beautiful game and is an asset to any team he plays for; however, in recent years it appeared as if the 32-year-old Argentine forward was carrying Barcelona over the line in every game. In the absence of Messi, Barcelona looked like a mediocre side as there was no tactical system in place.
Setien will surely take off this burden from La Pulga by establishing a playing style that involves the entire team rather than an individual's brilliance. Messi will now be able to move around freely in the final third without frequently dropping back in the midfield to initiate attacking moves.
With a possession based system in place, Messi would be able to focus on his own role in the team going forward. Since Luis Suarez will be out for the next four months owing to a knee surgery, there is a possibility that Setien will deploy either Messi or Griezmann as False 9 in order create a greater link between the midfield and attacking third.Published 14 Jan 2020, 16:08 IST