Barcelona drew criticism for yet another woeful Champions League performance.
New manager, same performance from Barcelona. In the time that Quique Setién has been in charge, aside from retaining more possession, very little has changed as their flaws were on full display against Napoli.
The Catalans managed to leave the San Paolo with a 1-1 tie where they’ll the advantage at the Camp Nou. But the result left no one feeling satisfied.
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In his postgame comments, Sergio Busquets took a shot at the board for poor squad planning. He picked up a yellow card and will be unavailable for the return leg.
Former manager Fabio Capello criticized the team’s “Messi-dependencia,” stating that the side was too static and waiting for Messi to pull them out of the fire.
The thing is, they are both right.
For all the talk of the team returning to a style of play pre-Valverde, the team was set up eerily familiar to when he was in charge.
All the veterans started with the caveat of Arturo Vidal playing on the wing. A move tried out against Eibar with little success and more of the same this time around.
For such a small squad, the rationale should be to utilize what one has at their disposal and get the best out of one’s players. But that was put aside for a weird tactical shift meant Lionel Messi needed to drop deep get the ball.
It meant Frenkie de Jong needing to make runs into the box when that is not his game. It meant that Antoine Griezmann was isolated and saw little of the ball in the first-half.
It also meant that they needed to rely on a pair of full-backs in Nelson Semedo and Junior Firpo with the latter producing a shocker of a game and being at fault for the Napoli goal. Semedo’s saving grace was finally being able to get in behind the defense and set up Griezmann for the equalizing goal.
Again, all the same problems we’ve been seeing all season. There is no pace up front and the one player who can provide that, Ansu Fati, was left on the bench.
The fact of the matter is this Barcelona side is filled with a poor mishmash of old and young players and players who simply are not good enough. When a team is poorly constructed, it does not matter who the manager is. A style or philosophy only works when the right set of players can carry it out.
At the moment, Quique Setién does not have that. That much was evident even under Valverde.
The Camp Nou has been a fortress for Barcelona no matter the competition. But with Sergio Busquets and Arturo Vidal being suspended, it’s going to be another game where they are short on options. Barcelona are not favorites to win the Champions League. The match against Napoli shows why.