Can Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde survive champions’ miserable away form?

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From Andy West
Spanish football writer
Had you seen the excursion of Barcelona to Granada on Saturday at the La Liga program, you may have called the winning team could be topping the desk at the evening’s close.
You would not have guessed that team would be Granada.
But that is just what happened, the promoted Andalusians getting a victory to depart Barca floundering in mid-table, with just seven points from their five matches.
It’s Barca’s worst beginning for 25 years, but much more worrying than the outcome was that the operation, since the men of Ernesto Valverde handled two attempts while constantly looking vulnerable in the end.
What is going on? And what is the winners do? A meltdown is examined by BBC Sport in the Nou Camp.
The first point to notice about Barca’s bad form is that their troubles have been reserved for off trips.
Even the Nou Camp has remained a near-fortress, together with Barca winning their last 12 home games and only losing twice in their own patch because Valverde arrived in summertime 2017 as manager.
Lately , however, they have been nothing short of catastrophic on the street, turning in a string of performances far often for this to become a mere coincidence.
Valverde’s men have failed to win any of the past eight games away, with Saturday’s loss at Granada following a highly lucky Champions League draw at Borussia Dortmund, in which they escaped thanks to a collection of fine saves from Marc-Andre ter Stegen, wayward Dortmund completing and the help of the woodwork.
Following Saturday’s setback supervisor Valverde confessed:»I’m stressed. Away from home people aren’t getting great results and if that happens a few times, like today, it’s a symptom of never [enjoying ] . We are not playing good games.»
For various reasons Barca are away from the comfort blanket of their own surroundings, they seem uncomfortable. So what are those reasons?
In defence of Valverde and his players, their preparation to the campaign was far from perfect.
Many players missed a chunk of pre-season because of their participation although the remaining skeletal squad embarked upon a driven programme of friendlies comprising games on three continents in 13 days.
Since the severe action started, perhaps as a result, they’ve suffered a series of accidents. Skipper Lionel Messi was sidelined ahead of the curtain-raiser at Athletic Bilbao, also there have also been absences such as both Jordi Alba, Ousmane Dembele, Luis Suarez and Samuel Umtiti.
Therefore, use players and Valverde has been repeatedly forced to shuffle his pack. Frenkie de Jong and new signings Antoine Griezmann, as an instance, have been lined up in each position in the forward line and midfield respectively — beneficial to their settling-in procedure.
Another disturbance was the Neymar saga.
The club unpleasantly public courtship of the opinion-dividing former star, which continued right until Spanish transfer deadline day in early September, was a significant distraction and produced a strong belief that the squad consists of a couple of untouchables alongside a group of gamers (Dembele, Umtiti, Nelson Semedo, Ivan Rakitic) who would have been thankfully jettisoned if a part-exchange bargain for Neymar was struck by Paris St-Germain.
Messi, specifically, is facing allegations — like those he’s frequently faced at global level — that he wields too powerful an influence over group selection and the general hierarchy, particularly given the ongoing starting XI standing of his very best buddy Suarez, despite the Uruguayan’s inconsistent form within the last couple of years.
Any power is probably unlooked for, coming instead as a of the expectations heaped on his shoulders, but the hints add gas to the idea that the Spanish champions are far from a joyful and united camp right now.
It’s indisputable that a group with quality and Barca’s depth should still be capable of beating competitions like Granada, Osasuna and Eibar.
For most observers, the very fact they’ve failed to do this can be attributed fairly and squarely to the strategic approach employed by Valverde, whose position is again coming under severe scrutiny after he survived the chop in the wake of his team’s horrible collapse in Liverpool in last year’s Champions League semi-final.
Valverde has at all times been accused of being an overly attentive coach, setting up his teams first and foremost to prevent defeat from the principles espoused since the times of Johan Cruyff. According to his critics, he places everything.
An over-reliance on Messi — dubbed’Messidependencia’ from the Spanish media — was a recurring issue for five or six years, and it is certainly true that Barca have looked bereft of ideas throughout his absence from the opening months of the year: Griezmann, by way of instance, has not managed a single shot on target during his four away games for the team.
More stressing possibly, is that Barca have the joint-worst defensive recording in La Liga, conceding nine goals in their opening five games. The home games they won (equally 5-2, against Real Betis and Valencia) were distinctly uncomfortable by a defensive perspective, along with the waters of space frequently available to Dortmund and Granada counter-attackers during the latest games was an obvious indication of a team that now knows neither how to attack or to shield.
Valverde appears particularly concerned by his midfield trio, running four different mixtures during his team’s six matches and attempting several more from the bench when they have not worked out, meaning seven players have already received significant playing time in the middle of the area — without any looking especially convincing.
Those failings have created something of a vacuum cleaner, resulting in a scarcity of sufficient support to some back four and an inability to provide a toothless attack with sufficient ammunition.
Configuring a successful midfield is the task facing Valverde, with the rest of the staff choosing itself and it is.
The bad start to this season of barca, to the back of an even worse ending to last season, is piling pressure on boss Valverde, that admitted after Saturday’s loss at Granada that he should take responsibility to the form of the team.
Valverde’s favor is counted in by two factors he is nevertheless thought to enjoy Messi’s support the same applies to the majority of match-going lovers.
Although social networking has turned fiercely against the Barca boss (any mention of the name on Twitter is followed by the word’out’), there were hardly any stirrings of discontent against him at the Nou Camp — probably as a result of the superb home form on his watch, meaning fans who attend matches have only actually ever witnessed his team winning.
That, though, could change. Patience is running out and it’ll be fascinating to see the response Valverde receives on Tuesday night, even when Barca are back in action at home to in-form Villarreal, who have already taken points this year.
In case the worst happens, there are plenty of possible replacements — the lengthy list of now available directors includes Pablo Machin, Quique Setien, Abelardo, Massimiliano Allegri, Laurent Blanc and (surely not?) Jose Mourinho. (Marcelino, recently dismissed by Valencia, is not an option because tutors in Spain are not permitted to manage more than one team in a year.)
Of those in employment, Netherlands manager Ronald Koeman would necessarily be heavily connected given his past for a playing great together with the club, as would former midfield star Xavi Hernandez, despite only starting his managerial career with a consultation at Qatari side Al Sadd. It is odds-on which Xavi will manage Barca at some point — the only real question is whether today would be.
Before long, we may find out.
Tense, belly-laugh full of awwwwww weird, and humorous
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