Many Barcelona fans have been calling for the sack of head coach, Ernesto Valverde, with this well researched and meticulously written article, takes a detailed look at the costly mistakes that should cost Valverde his job as Barcelona coach and how he has led the team to its present poor state.
For two seasons in a row, Barcelona threw away a three-goal lead in the champions league both in the quaterfinal and semifinal. Going by the shamble displays against Liverpool at Anfield in 2019 and Roma at the Stade Olympico in 2018, does Valverde really deserve to continue at Barcelona?
Well, does it really matter? Under Valverde, Fc Barcelona have won the La Liga titles back to back and making the final of the Copa Del Rey back to back winning 2017 with a thumping of Sevilla at the Wanda Metropolitano but when you crash out of Europe in such a ridiculous manner two years in a row, it inevitably begs questions of the manager.
Ernesto Valverde has no doubt done a lot of good at Barcelona, most especially in the 2017-2018 season when the club was at free fall after Neymar’s controversial departure, he stabilized the club and helped it getting back to its world class state. Valverde has also made several mistakes, some costlier than the other.
- Over Reliance On Lionel Messi And Lack Of Tactical Approach: It will be very harsh on Ernesto Valverde to say he is over reliant on Lionel Messi as every coach from Pep Guardiola to Tito Vilanova to the most recent Luis Enrique were all reliant on Messi even in the Argentine national team. That’s not a problem when you depend on the GOAT but Ernesto Valverde has no plan B. Under Valverde, there is nothing in the attack that doesn’t depend on Messi. On his days, Messi is unstoppable which is usually the case almost every time but on days when the opponents swarm him like bees on the ball as both Roma and Liverpool did, then the mighty FC Barcelona turns into a meek kitten. This is what caused elimination of the club in 2017 and 2018 as well as 2014 to Atletico Madrid if we are to be realistic. Nowadays the tactic is pass to Lionel Messi and pray for a miracle.
The Tactical approach is utterly disgusting, in Camp Nou where teams are usually scared to press Barca and are forced to play a passive type of football, Barca plays like a mighty lion, but plays like a cat away from Camp Nou. It is as usually like Valverde sets his team up to lose the match, here Barcelona plays like a meek house cat.
Teams are no longer scared to play Barca. Take Liverpool for example, a team without two of their top players in Salah and Firmino, still managed to beat Barcelona 4-0. Teams are no longer scared to Barcelona away from home simply because the coach is scared to take risks away from home. Valverde hates doing anything that exposes the team to risk. And whilst that made him the perfect candidate to pick 2017/18 simply because the team needed a coach who was going to stabilize and bring balance to the team and turn it into a competitive side again.
So, when the 2018/19 season began with Coutinho, Dembélé and Malcom at his disposal as well as a fully integrated Nelson Semedo, this was the time to unleash the attacking prowess Barcelona really has! But… no. It was the same old same, culminating in a repeat of Roma disaster. He won’t learn, it has been proven he won’t learn, he won’t inspire. Case in point: the 5-1 Clásico win over Real Madrid was basically heading down the Roma route in the second half. Los Blancos had pulled it back to 2-1 and had gone full-on press to kill Barça – except this time Valverde did bring Dembélé on. He also brought Semedo on and moved Roberto into midfield.
Guess what happened? Dembélé went on one driving run up the middle of the pitch and boom, it was 3-1, then 4-1, then 5-1 with Dembélé himself getting the assist. Roberto, now in midfield, assisted the other two. A masterpiece of a performance and a clear and shining example that taking a risk, trusting pace and getting Roberto out of right-back are all good things.
- Using Players In The Wrong Position And Having A Mid-Table Team Mentality: ErnestoValverde is an average coach when managing a mid-table team with less expectations, unlike Barcelona where it is expected to win the treble every season, very unrealistic right? But when the team keeps playing like a Sunday amateur team and crash out of the Champions League in such manner season in season out, then big questions must be asked of the coach.
Some players are so versatile that they can adapt to any role in the team and succeed, take Lionel Messi for example, he can play as a winger, a striker, an attacking midfielder depending on what the coach wants from him but it is not just down to the genius of the player, the coach also plays a big part in that. On the eve of El-Classico in 2009, Pep called Messi and explained how he was meant to play as a false 9 and also instructing both Eto’o and Henry who were natural strikers on how to play as wingers. David Villa a striker was signed by Barcelona in 2010, Pep trained him on how to play as a wide player and he excelled wonderfully. Valverde got Coutinho and now Grizemann, plays them as a LW, you see mostly they lost on the pitch. A coach asking something different from a player is a norm in the game but as the coach, you should be able to train the players on how to adapt in such conditions. Both Coutinho and Grizemann are world class players but under Valverde they look a shadow of themselves.
Barcelona now have two natural right backs and left backs but in the last match they lost to Levante, Valverde decided to play Roberto who is a midfielder as the right back and Semedo who is a right as left back, that begs the question why did you sign Junior Firpo from Real Betis and promote Moussa Wague from Barcelona B team? The answer is very clear, he doesn’t trust the players, and this is down to having a low mentality.
Lack of a winner mentality is part of what is destroying Barcelona. As a coach, you should be able to throw use the press as a tool to your advantage, throw underperforming players under the bus, use the press to motivate your players and pass information. After losing to Liverpool last season, in the press conference he was asked why did Barcelona lose and his reply was ‘IT IS WHAT IT IS’, how can a coach managing a historic club like Barcelona say such. It is obvious he as a low mentality in managing a club as big as Barcelona. It shows that this is a manager unwilling or incapable of facing his own flaws and growing as a coach. He will never rectify the mistakes he’s made.
- Lack Of Pace: Ernesto Valverde really doesn’t give a thought to having a pacey player in the attack in important matches. Today where everyone knows the power of pace and uses it as a deadly weapon, look at Kylian Mbappe during the France successful world cup campaign last summer or Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling in Manchester City domestic treble, has shown that having pace can become a weapon of mass destruction.
Last season, Barcelona had 2 of the fastest speedsters in the world on the team, Malcom and Dembele, two sonic boom wingers that could provide Leo Messi the kind of passing options he hasn’t had in Barcelona since Neymar left for PSG. Coutinho is a great player but he lacks the pace to carve out high pressing team, Luis Suarez well, he hasn’t had the pace from the onset. Lionel Messi has lost the blistering pace he once possessed due to age factor. Jordi Alba and Semedo are the only players left to create width for the team and still must defend.
The problem, when playing against teams who defends and pressure highly is, Barcelona is prone to counter attack, they play from the centre which is quite easy to defend and no runs in behind the opposing defence. Without pace, Barcelona’s attack is easily contained by a side that presses intensely. Well, not easily, but the Blaugrana basically have to conjure up perfect passing attacks to break through the lines because any time they play a through-ball to, say, Luis Suárez behind the defence has more than enough foot speed to close them down and get the ball away.
- Arcane Rotation And Lack Of Faith In La Masia: Football is a squad game, need for squad depth is so important and cannot be over stated. You can’t play same starting IX week in week out, hence need for rotation and to be very honest, every manager does it, some occasionally and others to an extent. When Valverde rotates, it most times defies common sense and logic.
When you have to give several starters a rest, most managers would pick a home game as the advantage of playing in front of your own fans will mitigate missing some star men. But not Valverde! Oh no, he saves his biggest rotation games for away from home! And when his side predictably struggles in the face of oppressive opposition fans and a team that is giving Barça the game of their lives, he has to bring on his starters anyway!It defies belief, really. As does the way he manages the fitness of certain star men. Arthur, for instance, is carefully game-managed. This being his second season in Europe means that by now he’s basically been playing non-stop for a year-and-a-half. So, to avoid burnout he never plays more than 60 minutes. Smart, but Luis Suárez, a 32-year-old striker who cannot handle playing his 100mph style of play,… plays every three days. Barcelona have back-ups, but Valverde doesn’t care to use them, burning out his stars over the course of a long season meaning that even with a week’s rest, they still have trouble physically competing with a side like Liverpool.
As Barcelona’s coach you have access to the best youth academy in the world, La Masia, But Ernesto Valverde within his first 2 seasons as refused to promote any player apart fromCarles Alena to the first team. Until this season when he promoted Ansuanne Fati and Carlez Perez who have both taken La Liga by storm. It shows the problem isn’t with La masia but with the coach. Take Riqui Puig for example, the star jewel of La masia hasn’t played a minute in the senior team this season, Alena since he played the first 45 minutes in the opening day of Laliga hasn’t played a minute, Mousa Wague the right back who was promoted to the senior team hasn’t played a single minute yet Sergi Roberto as played in RB position over 4-5 matches.
If Barcelona wants to move on from his stale football and get back to playing beautiful stuff that the world envies, then they need to sack Ernesto Valverde as soon as possible.