It was Barca’s first loss at home in any contest since September 2016 and the manner of the defeat was really impressive.
Real Betis battered Barca for much of the game and ended with a commendable 48 percent ownership, a feat few clubs can match at Camp Nou. At no stage did Betis trail.
Now, however, the man who masterminded Betis win is responsible for the champions.
Quique Setien was announced as the successor to Ernesto Valverde after his unceremonious sacking on Monday, with the 61-year-old apparently hired because of his soccer ideologies being closely aligned to those of Barca.
Despite being held in high esteem by many for his doctrine and championing of Barca icon Johan Cruyff, there remain enormous reservations regarding his adaptability and if he truly is the ideal man for the club in the long-term.
If he’s to be an ideal match, there are a couple of things he wants to address in a clan that some feel has lost its own identity.
A non-negotiable shape of the job that the most vociferous critics of Valverde will take that he more than fulfilled through his intervening years in charge – get the best from Messi. In theory, Setien’s possession-based soccer should make him the perfect match for Barca, and therefore Messi. However, his teams — specifically Las Palmas and Betis — had as much of a reputation for a chaotic approach that bordered on all-out assault as they did for controlling possession. Betis specifically played some rip-roaring soccer at a blistering rate, but playing break-neck speed will not always be the case for Barca, who frequently have to be methodical to break down deep-sitting competitions. Messi should nevertheless be expected to flourish, but where Setien chooses to use the 32-year-old along with the other stars of an aging group will be crucial.
Throughout the 2016-17 LaLiga season, Setien’s Las Palmas squad had 14’cantera’ goods inside. While this might be more easily expected of a club having a significantly smaller budget than Barca, he continued to get the most out of the academy when at Betis. Francis, Fabian Ruiz, Loren Moron, and Junior Firpo — with whom he’s reunited — were prominent figures under Setien in the Benito Villamarin. Barca’s famed La Masia has been less successful lately years however there are certainly talents coming through with the likes of Ansu Fati. A simple early win for Setien would be encouraging Riqui Puig into the first-team, with the slick — albeit diminutive — midfielder ready for the step up. Do not hesitate to see adolescent Pedri also join with the senior squad when he formally joins from Las Palmas at the end of the season.
Signal a Suarez substitute
Luis Suarez is set to miss most — if not the rest — of the season following knee surgery, leaving Barca with a substantial hole to fill. It is likely Antoine Griezmann will be requested to take a central place, but past him, their choices are more or less restricted to Carles Perez. Therefore, Barca are reportedly considering bringing in a different ahead, with Girona’s Cristhian Stuani apparently among the most likely arrivals. But the burly Uruguayan isn’t an archetypal Setien striker — Chimy Avila of Osasuna is. The Rosario-born forward is thought to be being tracked by Barca, as the Argentinian is enjoying a fine season. A feisty competitor, Avila’s nickname’Chimy’ comes from his dad’s conclusion he is”hot like chimichurri”, a popular South American sauce. Small, fast, agile and constant, comparisons with Sergio Aguero are clear, and his release clause is a rather modest $25m.
To be honest, attaining league success in isolation might not be good enough to maintain Setien at a job for long — just request unmarried LaLiga winner Valverde. No, Setien will need to do more. He will essentially have to win LaLiga while playing soccer and win the Champions League to make an extension to his contract, which ties him to the club until 2022. However, as was made abundantly clear by Josep Maria Bartomeu in Setien’s presentation, the duration of a contract could be irrelevant if certain expectations are not met. “Setien has signed until 2022, but there is also a caveat that there could be a change,” the president said on Tuesday. “Valverde had a contract before 2021 [before 2020 with the option for a different year] and we saw there is a change.”
Prevent a Champions League collapse
Perhaps the biggest issue that the fans had with Valverde was humiliating collapses in consecutive Champions League campaigns. The following year they did go a step farther, however, the end result was much the same — a 3-0 defeat of Liverpool at Camp Nou was after by a 4-0 Anfield annihilation from the eventual champions. The concerns some may have of Setien relate to his teams’ defensive capabilities, as this emphasis on attacking left Las Palmas and Betis vulnerable in the back. While he will have a larger calibre of player at Barca, if this aspect of his group is to be exploited, it will probably be at the latter stages of the Champions League.