Possible Barcelona starting XIs with Griezmann and Frenkie de Jong
After a seemingly perennial wait for FC Barcelona and their fans, Antoine Griezmann has finally completed a €120 million transfer. This has provided some respite for the club in a period of turmoil, with there being several calls to oust Club President Bartomeu and coach Ernesto Valverde after the Champions League debacle last season.
Valverde would be scratching his head though, with the opulence of attacking talent at his disposal. Add in a possible Neymar come back to all of this and all the pressure would be on the coach to deliver with a great team at his disposal. Let's try to give a go at solving this dilemma, and have a look at how Barcelona could line up.
All lineups discussed below are created assuming the players currently at Barca remain at the club next season.
Valverde's choice: The 4-3-3
Valverde has generally preferred a 4-3-3 formation in his two seasons in charge, barring a period where he favoured the 4-4-2 in the 2017/18 season.
The defence would unarguably contain Gerard Pique and Jordi Alba, especially after a rejuvenating season last time around for both players. The toss-up between Lenglet and Umtiti for the left centre-back position would be interesting, with Lenglet the favourite as of now to keep his place. The right-back position is another conundrum, although it is possible that Nelson Semedo would make the position his own this season with Sergi Roberto being utilized in his preferred midfield position.
The midfield has an unbelievable pool of talent to choose from, with the acquisition of the mesmerizing Frenkie de Jong. Busquets is expected to keep his place at the heart of the midfield trio, and Sergi Roberto could challenge the veteran for the place. Arthur has fit in really well in the team in his first season. He will be challenging Ivan Rakitic for a regular starting spot, and I expect him to get the nod in the bigger games. Philippe Coutinho may be moved back into midfield, and Frenkie de Jong will be vying for the same place as well.
Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Griezmann and Messi, Griezmann and Dembele are two combinations of the attacking line that are gonna be debated upon. In all likelihood, the second one could be preferred at some point in the season, considering Suarez's waning ability and inconsistency in form.
Author's starting XI with 4-3-3: Ter Stegen; Semedo, Pique, Lenglet, Alba; Arthur, Busquets, de Jong; Messi, Griezmann, Dembele
Messi playing the number 10 role: The 4-2-3-1
With all the attacking prowess in their ranks, Valverde should be open to changing the formation to pack in a larger number of attacking players.
A 4-2-3-1 formation looks like a possible option, with Messi playing the free number 10 role. Griezmann could play on the right-wing with either Dembele or Coutinho playing on the left-wing and Suarez leading the front line.
The midfield would be a defensively inclined one with the attacking talent ahead of them. Frenkie de Jong, Arthur, Busquets and Rakitic would be the first choices competing for two places. Busquets and de Jong are likely to be the preferred two for the positions, providing a good balance of incision and protection.
Author's starting XI with 4-2-3-1: Ter Stegen; Semedo, Pique, Lenglet, Alba; Busquets, de Jong; Griezmann, Messi, Dembele, Suarez
All-Out Attack: The 4-2-4
Another unlikely formation that could be considered would be the 4-2-4, with Messi and Dembele/Coutinho playing out wide, and Suarez and Griezmann playing up top as strikers. Messi could also play as a striker alongside Suarez with Griezmann on the wing, as Griezmann does contribute defensively as well.
This formation could be a welcome change in Valverde's philosophy of absorbing pressure, but it is a risky choice considering the high defensive backline that Barca employs. It would also limit the attacking forays of the fullbacks.
Author's 4-2-4 starting XI: Ter Stegen; Semedo, Pique, Lenglet, Alba; de Jong, Busquets; Messi, Griezmann, Suarez, Dembele