Ernesto Valverde has left Barcelona having won five prizes but not many hearts.
He was none of their own and didn’t have the’Barca DNA’.
His style of play wasn’t based on ownership and high-pressing but rather a more balanced and cautious approach.
When he lifted back-to-back league names, fans and the club’s hierarchy weren’t entirely happy with his methods. In his replacement, Quique Setien, a difference in ideals won’t be an issue.
The 61-year-old trainer is known to be an admirer of Johan Cruyff and fell in love with the Dutchman’s doctrine when confronting Barcelona as a participant. It is no secret that his own approach is heavily influenced by the same.
Setien is a purist and given how he changed Las Palmas and then Real Betis in the past several decades, he’s the ideal man to restore the thoughts that Barcelona have strayed from but remain historically associated with.
Here we look at what that means for certain members of this squad. .
If there’s one constant for each manager that has inhabited the Barcelona dugout during the past 15 years, it is that Lionel Messi is the central figure of the group’s attack. Over the course of his career, his influence on the team has only grown more pronounced and Setien would not have it any other way.
He is, after all, a massive fan, even saying that he will “cry forever” the day the Argentine retires.
Already chief playmaker, Messi’s function is only going to be eased by the new supervisor’s approach. He’ll still drift into central regions from the right flank but is very likely to see even more of the ball and exchange moves with his team-mates more often.
There is also bound to be more movement from his side, which makes it easier for him to make opportunities or push into space. Setien’s high-press benefits Messi as well who is more suited to competitive and organised closing down instead of having to keep shape and maintain position.
The consequent turnovers will also present him chances to exploit the opposition’s defence at the transition as opposed to painstakingly having to dismantle a minimal block.
Setien is also a massive fan of Sergio Busquets, even asking him to get his top after a match. The midfielder obliged with a message accompanying it that read:”To Quique, with admiration and appreciation for your way of visiting soccer.
So it is fair to say Busquets will stay first choice since the midfield anchor. Frenkie de Jong’s ability is also sure to be appreciated by the incoming boss and the same is true for Arthur.
The Brazilian midfielder has drawn comparisons to Xavi awarded his range of passing and manoeuvres on the ball. He seldom misplaces a pass and recycles possession masterfully, which makes him perfectly suited to Setien’s style of play.
Despite impressing since his arrival last season, Arthur has apparently fallen from favour in the present campaign, only emerging nine times in La Liga. The prospect of obeying three top class ball retainers in one midfield should prove irresistible for Setien though so expect the 23-year-old to line up alongside Busquets and De Jong.
This however could spell the end for Ivan Rakitic and possibly Arturo Vidal as well, who’ll have his playing time limited at the very least.
Given that Setien is the guy who gave him his chance at Real Betis and developed him into one of the greatest full-backs in the league, would he make the step up sooner?
Barca’s new coach is not likely to drop a seasoned professional like Alba with such haste, however, particularly if the Spain international is still going strong.
Having said that, Junior may at least be afforded more opportunities than the 10 appearances he has made this season.
Setien enjoys his full-backs to push high up the area and create width in attack with the wingers or broad forward occupying the half-spaces. Therefore, the requirements on the full-backs are high and Alba, while more than capable of this fashion, could be afforded more rest.
The 30-year-old could then be paving the way for Firpo to select the area more often and slowly succeed him.
Barcelona fans have been advocating Valverde to provide Riqui Puig first-team chances but to no avail. Setien, on the other hand, will probably be impressed with the gifted midfielder who’s apparently tailor-made for his brand of soccer.
With the Blaugrana dominating possession, Puig’s dribbling and imagination through the middle should come to the fore during cameos late on in games or on the occasional beginning.
Meanwhile, Jean-Clair Todibo — though connected with a loan move to Schalke — could see some game time also. The centre-back is fast and exceptional at playing the ball from the back, traits that Setien will wish to integrate in his back-line.
Carles Alena has gone out on loan to Real Betis however expects his participation to grow too on his return in the summer. Together with Luis Suarez out for months, Setien will have no problems using teenaged sensation Ansu Fati in his front while Carles Perez will get chances also.