Valverde, en el banquillo blaugrana

Valverde, in search of the right balance

OPINION

Lionel Messi said it at the end of the game against Athletic Club. Barcelona lack defensive security. It's a weakness they have had since the start of the season. While they have scored goals, they have also suffered in defence, which was one of the strengths of their identity under Ernesto Valverde. They've only kept two clean sheets in the league -- in their first two games. Since then, they have suffered. 

The setting has changed for the coach. Not only is more than the league required this season, but he's asked his team to play 4-3-3. A change of system and a change of objectives. It's not easy to adapt but it's the battle which the coach is immersed in. To find a new Barça that will be just as solvent, reliable and safe.  

During this transition, Valverde's lost a key element: Paulinho, who added balance to the team. The absence of the Brazilian is important because his physical work and his willingness to work in defence provided a platform for those further forward, who don't have the demands of defending and focus on attacking. The injury to Ousmane Dembele was taken advantage of to find that point of union between the attack and the defence, with the bet being taken on 4-4-2. 

Barça have leaked eight goals in La Liga. There are only two teams worse in the top 10. A detail that gives Messi reason. Recent poor results are a result of that defensive instability and Valverde has to find the solution to the puzzle that he has in his hands. The new players need time to adapt, as I wrote in my previous article. Arthur's playing in Europe for the first time, Vidal's not Paulinho and Malcom has started off on a bad foot because of an injury. But that doesn't mean the demands will be any less because this is Barça. 

Valverde must help them settle in but where the responsibility really lies is with the players that best know the style of play. They need to give a little more to help give the sensation that the team is more solid. In definitive, more of a group because Barça's problem is not one person. It's everyone. And they all must make a huge effort to move forward. They have to run forward, but also back. 

The schedule is tense. These weaknesses have arrived in games which weren't supposed to be as demanding as the ones to come. The reaction must be quick because errors from now on will take on another dimension. It's also true that it's a golden opportunity for Valverde to show that he's found the way back to making Barcelona competitive and reliable, as they were last season. I have faith in Valverde's leadership and in the players, who have provided us with a lot of joy. Now it's up to them to turn things around. However, we have to say the glass is half full, we're only in October and the team is top of the table. 

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