Barcelona has started the 2017-2018 season on a high and the team is on a run since that frustrating defeat in the Spanish Super Cup. Ernesto Valverde seems to have settled into the Catalan life as Barcelona aims to strengthen their title challenge.
The club appointed Valverde after a frustrating final year under Luis Enrique which ended with only a Spanish Cup trophy in their hands.
Ernesto Valverde had a rather turbulent summer. The Catalans failed to land both Philippe Coutinho and Marco Verratti and lost Neymar in a world-record move to Paris Saint-Germain. Paulinho's arrival was widely criticized by fans.
The only joy the Blaugrana had was in the form of raw talents Dembele and Semedo. But to the pleasure of everyone associated with the club, the team has performed well under Valverde and stand as favourites to retain their Spanish crown from Real Madrid. Barcelona is also a strong contender for the UEFA Champions League. Let's look at the five first-team players who have improved significantly under their new boss.
#1 Paulinho Bezerra
The 29-year-old's arrival at the Nou Camp was a controversial move. Fans, already angered by a lack of silverware in recent seasons, demanded a world-class transfer move to control the midfield. The club, however, decided to invest over 40 million euros in the Brazilian attack-minded midfield man. Paulinho signed a four year deal with the Catalans and expressed his joy of moving to the Catalan capital from China.
The Brazilian spoke boldly regarding his move to Barcelona and responded to criticism by stating that he would put all his heart on the pitch and fans must wait to see him perform. Paulinho did indeed act upon his words.
The Brazilian has transformed into a beast under Valverde. If not the ideal agile midfielder a team like Barcelona demands, Paulinho has crafted himself into the ideal box-to-box midfielder for Barcelona.
Adding a necessary spark of physicality into Barcelona's gameplay, Paulinho has an eye for the goal. The poaching midfielder has been scoring goals since making his debut for the Catalans. His decent heading ability has made Barcelona a threat on set-pieces.
Paulinho scored the all-important winning goal against Getafe in the dying moments of the game earlier this season. The winner was a perfect example of the Brazilian's physical prowess and his partnership with Leo Messi, who tends to form a good bond with Brazilians.
The Brazuca is now an influential element of the Barcelona squad and receiving backing from the club's supporters only add to his confidence. Surprisingly, Paulinho is set to finish the calendar year as Brazil's top goalscorer over the likes of Neymar Jr., Gabriel Jesus and Coutinho.