Happy Birthday Ernesto Valverde: 5 reasons why the current Barca coach deserves props for his role
When Luis Enrique ended his tenure as Barcelona's coach at the end of the 2016/17 season, Barcelona had a huge task in hand to replace him. This was the coach who had won 9 out of 12 trophies in his tenure as manager. The management's choice was former Athletic Bilbao coach Ernesto Valverde, who had notably denied Enrique a sextuple by beating Barcelona 5-1 over two legs.
The start that Ernesto had to his managerial career at Barcelona was pretty rough. He started with two losses to Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup. Even more, Barcelona lost on a 5-1 aggregate which already created suspicions over the ability of the coach. But even after all the lows, here we are, Barcelona won the domestic double in their first season under Ernesto. At the moment, they are on top of the league, they are waiting to play Madrid in the second leg of Copa Del Rey at Bernabeu, and they are waiting for Lyon in the Round-of-16.
But even after the success, there has been considerable criticism coming his way. More or less it is due to the debacle at Rome, which saw Barcelona squander a 4-1 advantage from the first leg to Roma. The other issues that people raise are his failure to play beautiful football, pragmatic approach, and poor man-management. The criticism is not wrong completely but yet, here we are trying to explain why the coach deserves due respect for his role.
And what better day to do it than on the day when he turns 55? So, without further ado, here are the arguments we present.
(Note: Even though we have given some points to support Valverde, doesn't mean he is flawless. We understand he has his limitations too, but that shouldn't be the reason to hate on him and undermine what he has done.)
#5 Taking over the team following a poor season and winning the domestic double against all odds
Let us rewind the dates back to when Enrique resigned. The Copa Del Rey was the only trophy that the Blaugrana were winning. The league, the UEFA Champions League, everything else was won by their arch-rivals Real Madrid. Then came Valverde and his losses in the Spanish Super Cup to Madrid.
At that point, did anyone seriously think that Barcelona would win anything at all? At least I didn't and you are probably lying if you think you did. It is normal to doubt the team in that situation. Already coming off a poor season, with no major additions in the summer transfer window, and Dembele injured early in the season, and yet Valverde approached each game with caution and almost won the league unbeaten.
Barcelona lost only 5 matches in total in the 2017/18 season -- twice to Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup, once to Espanyol in Copa Del Rey, once to Roma in UCL, once to Levante in the league. The only losses that matter truly are the Clasico and the one to Roma. In fact, Valverde's 2017/18 is undermined due to that one game where his decision to sit back was not correct.
But whatever you say, he deserves his credit for his work in the league. Barcelona lost the league in 16/17 due to losses to bottom-half opponents than top-half. Valverde had a plan for each game and won the league. A domestic double in the debut season is a major achievement, although the approach in the Champions League must have been better.