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Ernesto Valverde Turned Barcelona’s Midfield Into A Game Of Russian Roulette



After the Anfield debacle in 2018/19, Ernesto Valverde was under pressure from Barcelona supporters, and he couldn’t have wished for a worse start to the 2019/20 season, and amidst all the pressure to correct matters, the former Athletic Club coach has turned the Blaugrana’s midfield into a game of Russian roulette.

Having options to choose from is usually something which a coach welcomes, but with Los Cules having significantly strengthened in the midfield with the additions of Arthur Melo and Frenkie de Jong over the past two years, Valverde is now somewhat overstocked in midfield.

Rafinha Alcantara was dispensed with and sent on loan to Celta Vigo, whilst Andre Gomes was allowed to make his loan move with Everton a permanent transfer, yet still, Valverde maybe has too many options to choose from.

Now, this wouldn’t necessarily be an issue if the Catalan giants had started the season perfectly and had a settled trio in the middle of the pitch, but with results have been a real mixed bag, the Spanish coach doesn’t know which combination of midfielders he can trust.

Valverde hasn’t used the same midfield three in more than two consecutive matches this term, and in just six matches in all competitions he has already produced four different combinations in the middle of the pitch.

At their absolute peak under Pep Guardiola and Luis Enrique, Barcelona’s midfield was the envy of world football with the consistent selection of Sergio Busquets, Xavi, and Andres Iniesta being as good as what any team has put together throughout the sport’s history.

Let’s just put this into perspective, Cesc Fabregas couldn’t get into that team on a regular basis, Cesc Fabregas, one of Arsenal‘s greatest ever players.

The problem for Valverde is that there is no such reliable combination of midfielders in 2019, and there are positives and negatives for each player:

Sergio Busquets

Even though there has been a clear decline in his performance level in recent times, the veteran still seems fundamental to the system. Curiously, he didn’t play against either Granada or Athletic Club and Barcelona lost both of those games.

Frenkie de Jong

The Dutchman has perhaps been the shining light of the campaign to this point. He has started in six matches this season and is the only guarantee in Valverde’s selections, and rightly so. Whilst he has looked tidy in possession, he is a victim of a team that doesn’t quite know how they want to play. He has yet to play as well for Barcelona as he did for Ajax.

Sergi Roberto

After years of playing as a wing-back, the Spaniard has finally been given a chance in his preferred midfield position, yet he has remained as inconsistent as he was on the flank.

Arthur Melo

The Brazilian missed the first matches due to injury, and he played stunningly well against Osasuna and Borussia Dortmund. He is always neat in possession and makes Valverde’s Barcelona look like a Barcelona we all recognize, yet the Spanish coach elected not to use him when he was at his best moment in the defeat to Granada, a decision which was beyond comprehension.

Ivan Rakitic

A victim of the transfer carousel that never really span. Ever since he refused to consider a move to PSG in the summer, the Croatian has been ostracised and has barely featured this term.

Carles Alena

He has been both seen and unseen. From being a starter in the opening LaLiga Santander match, the La Masia graduate has been left in the stands and on the bench. Without an explanation, he has been taken out of the first team’s list of options.

Arturo Vidal

The Chilean is an emergency resource for Valverde. He is a player who could have been sold in the summer but a deal never materialized and he is now paying the price. Only when things are absolutely catastrophic is Vidal seen as a viable option.


Source: Marca

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