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Barcelona lost the chance to win what could have been their first title in almost two years. This was a heavy blow on the Blaugrana as they were leading before the 89th minute against Athletic Bilbao only to succumb to a set piece situation yet again.
A few minutes away from victory and they lost it. Although Ronald Koeman may have brought a bit of added intensity, the team is lacking in many facets and it is clear that Barcelona needs to fix some issues to win a title this season or in the near future for that matter.
One of the things that need to be fixed in the team is that the head coach, Ronald Koeman has to prioritize the collective over the individual effort. We have seen many situations already this season where Koeman showed that he favors the individual effort over the collective effort. He has succeeded in boosting the level of players such as Frenkie de Jong, Antoinne Griezmann, Pedri, and Philippe Coutinho to an extent.
However, the collective effort continues to suffer as there seems to be no game plan or tactic for the team to follow as a collective. The team only press in a few facets of the game and when they do press, there is no organization. The teammates are not understanding each other’s moves because the system is not there.
The next thing that needs to be fixed is the favoritism and bias adopted by Ronald Koeman. It is clear that Riqui Puig brings a spark to Barcelona midfield but he keeps leaving him out despite always Impressing whenever he is subbed in. Every touch, every move, and every pass is very intentional and has a high tendency of creating danger.
Puig’s body twist and turns are a joy to behold and he is perfect for the traditional style of football Barcelona is known for. Against Athletic Bilbao, it was clear that Puig was needed to break the compact defensive lines of the opponent but he wasn’t introduced until extra time. Players like Riqui Puig and Pedri need to be the mainstay of Barcelona midfield for years to come.
The third thing that Koeman needs to fix is how and when he should make his substitutions. Hardly has Koeman made any meaningful impact on a game through his substitutions and this is something very worrying. He often prefers to bring his substitutes very late in the match when they have very little time to make any impact.
A coach needs to read the situation better than the ordinary spectators and be intentional about his substitutes. A substitute should be brought on based on the condition of the match and what the match needs at that particular time. Koeman usually brings takes off midfielders and defenders and brings on attackers whenever the game is not going well. Is that a plan B? Under what structure are the substitutes operating? What is the role of the substitutes? These are questions that are begging for answers in the Koeman era.
Against Real Madrid earlier this season, Barcelona ended the match with only one midfielder on the pitch. Against Athletic Bilbao, he brought his substitutes too late in the match when it was clear that the team was not playing well despite going into the lead twice.
The coach must identify these issues and make necessary corrections because Barcelona can’t afford to keep making the same mistakes over and over again. The team keeps falling prey against high-intensity teams and this is very unacceptable. Ronald Koeman surely has a lot of work to do.