Antoine Griezmann has finally made his Champions League debut for Barcelona, but it wasn’t the best of games for the enigmatic Frenchman attack-wise. However, there’s a lot that he can bring to Barcelona’s Champions League campaign that Barcelona fans can be excited about following his long-drawn-out transfer for €120m this summer.
Griezmann was a crucial part of the rise of Atletico Madrid to their current status in Spanish and European football during his five years at the club. With Griezmann in their ranks, Los Colchoneros reached a final, a semi-final, and a quarter-final. The only time they missed out on advancing past the group stages, they went on to win the Europa League in the same season. in the final match, Griezmann put in a man of the match performance and was named the MVP of the competition at the UEFA Awards later that year.
In Griezmann’s five-year stint with Atletico, he scored 19 goals and provided seven assists in the Champions League for them since September 2015. Griezmann world-class abilities coupled with Atletico’s stern defence helped the Frenchman develop into the player he is today and that Barcelona will enjoy for the next few years.
Against Borussia Dortmund on the opening day of the Champions League group stages which ended in a goalless draw, Griezmann started in an attack alongside Barcelona’s teenage wonder-kid Ansumane Fati, and Luis Suarez, and played the full 90 minutes of the keenly contested encounter in which Barcelona couldn’t produce much despite their many forays into the penalty area of Dortmund.
However, what Griezmann could not contribute in attack, he did in defence.
He was seen throughout the match covering for Jordi Alba a lot of times and helped Barcelona defend from the front by pressing the Dortmund defenders into making hurried decisions to play the ball out quickly, as opposed to their usual playing style of playing to break down teams.
Barcelona have not been the best in away matches in the Champions League, losing to teams who are willing to attack and not play Barcelona at their own game. Griezmann will be an asset for Barcelona when it gets to the stage of the competition where they are more likely to face such teams.
Griezmann’s ability in the air will be of great help to Barcelona in the Champions League. The Frenchman has great prowess in the air despite his height disadvantage. He is adept at following the flight of the ball and positioning himself where the ball will descend, a fact that is backed up by his many headed goals for Atletico. Barcelona have never been the best team in set pieces, preferring to play most of their corners and distance free-kicks short in order to work the ball into the box. With Griezmann, Barcelona have an option in the box for headers from corners and freekicks, and this was seen in the match against Dortmund, where six of Barcelona’s eight corners were played long with Griezmann connecting with most of them in the air.
A very versatile attacker who can play across the attack, Griezmann can help Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde with tactical issues as he can choose a number of formations in which the Frenchman would slot into comfortably.
Lionel Messi has had the bulk of the goalscoring burden for Barcelona in the competition and with Griezmann now in the Blaugrana ranks, there is a lot to look forward to in the Champions League this season.