Defending champions FC Barcelona convincingly beat 16th placed Eibar side 5-0 at the Cam Nou to climb at the top of the table yesterday. Barcelona’s ascend to the top was possible after Levante beat league leaders Real Madrid 1-0 later. In this tactical analysis, we’ll be talking about Quique Setien’s intent and FC Barcelona’s performance overall.
Quique Setien made quite a few rotations for the afternoon fixture at the Camp Nou. Barcelona made 3 changes at the defense line itself with Nelson Semedo, Clement Lenglet and Junior Firpo making it to the lineup again. Arturo Vidal and Ivan Rakitic started with Arthur Melo and Sergio Busquets at the heart of midfield, leaving Messi and Griezmann up front.
Quique Setien, strangled by lack of players due to injuries had to field a lineup that looked 4-4-2 on papers. However, the shape varied on and off the ball, depending on the shift of possession.
Whenever Barcelona were on the ball, the structure quicly transformed into a 4-3-3 as Arturo Vidal occupied the left wing. Antoine Griezmann operated from the center, whereas Lionel Messi shifted to his right wing position.
Although Lionel Messi was shifted to the right side of the pitch whenever Barcelona had the ball, Setien has always given the Argentine freedom to roam around and drop deep. That was what Messi was seen doing when Barcelona were looking dull and were lacking penetration. Messi occasionally dropped deep, to receive the ball from the backline, aiming to create an attack. Antoine Griezmann and Arturo Vidal were frequently seen making forward runs, aiming to capitalize on Messi’s extraordinary vision.
In the given instance, Messi is seen dropping deep to receive the ball from Semedo (right). Here, he spots Vidal’s drawing run and Griezmann’s potential dodge to the area indicated. The move concludes with Messi passing the ball forward for Griezmann, who creates an opportunity for a shot on goal.
While the first half concluded with a Lionel Messi hattrick, there were persistent issues with final third finishing and penetration after long possessional spells. Arthur Melo was a key in maintaining the ball within the midfield and supplying it forward in the buildup. While Busquests was used as a deep-lying midfielder to fill spaces between CBs, Arthur frequently combined with Messi, Vidal and Griezmann to create a chance. Ivan Rakitic passing it backwards was a usual sight throughout the game. Despite that, Rakitic was involved in the first and third goal that Messi scored, providing the through ball in the former and winning the ball for La Pulga to capitalize on the later occasion.
Barca’s wingbacks, Semedo and Firpo were below par throughout the game as they failed to make any significant attacking contribution. However, advanced fullbacks helped Barcelona to create width and play the ball out wide during central congestion. Quique Setien will have to worry a little about this, as top European sides will look to exploit the void created by their advanced positioning.
The second half substitutions saw Sergio Busquets making way for Frenkie De Jong, who played as an advanced DM, shifting the thrust forward. The introduction of Martin Brathwaite, the new signing, however, was influential in Barca’s play.
Barca took frequent advantage of the Danish International, as his ability to burst forward and take control of the second balls. As a result, Barca nodge up two, with Messi scoring his forth and Arthur getting a well-deserved goal. Although Brathwaite won’t compete in the Champions League, the striker can be a boost for this Barcelona side, who are missing Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele at the forward line.
Barcelona started out with 4 on the back as Gerard Pique and Clement Lenglet teamed up for the defensive duties. The full-backs weren’t much involved to do the defensive duties throughout the match, although Barca adopted a 4-4-2 without the ball.
Eibar, who have the second lowest Average Defending Distance (ADD) in Liga this season, made their intentions clear from the very minute. They were seen pressing higher up the pitch, forcing Barca to play to their wider options in their own half. As a result, the full backs and wider midfielders- Ivan Rakitic and Arturo Vidal got a healthy amount of touches in their own half after a defensive mission.
Marc-André ter Stegen was incolved in Barca’s quest to limit the press by keeping possession. The German was vital with his foot, providing the centerbacks an extra option to pass against the advanced press that the opposition carried.
As the above instance shows, Stegen moves up to provide a passing option to the central block and spots Rakitic to advance the play. Ivan Rakitic had an opportunity to beat his marker with a turn, instead he tries to play it safe and passes it back to Stegen, in quest to avoid any error. The move ends with ter Stegen building a move, spotting Vidal’s run out wide.
Sergio Busquets, played as a deep-lying defensive midfielder, virtually shielding the centrebacks. This move made them mobile enough to go wide and fill up the spaces created by advanced fullbacks. The introduction of Frenkie De Jong in place of Busquets initially caused Barca to lapse defensively, but Vidal and Rakitic holding their own half made Barca’s defense hold on to the opposition attacks. The center-backs had a decent game, considering that Barcelona still need to work on the occasional lapses that make them concede despite enjoying healthy possession.
Antoine Griezmann’s workrate was not needed this time, as wide areas were covered by outnumbering the opposition. Samuel Umtiti was brought on for Gerard Pique later, which left Barca with two CBs with just one booking away from substitution. Risky, I must say!
Barcelona’s Setien ball is finally turning up to be a reliable one and a work system. In a game where they often got the ball forward and defended quite well, Barcelona were denied 4 goals by VAR. Sergio Busquets again showed why he’s so important to Setien’s plans and Lionel Messi again proved to be the ice breaker for Barcelona. With Braithwaite providing his claim to hold on to things domestically, Barcelona now travel to Naples to contest the first leg of UEFA Champions League against Napoli.
A promising game, I hope this continues with Griezmann getting his scoring boots on. VISCA EL BARCA!