It has been rumoured that Quique Setien Solar was Barcelona’s SIXTH choice to replace Ernesto Valverde. That’s a pretty hurtful thing to see and hear in the media, and all the 61-year-old can do is prove any doubters wrong by helping the Catalan outfit to successfully defend their La Liga title at the very least.
The former Las Palmas and Real Betis boss has only been in the job a matter of weeks, and already the knives are out following a 0-2 defeat at the hands of Valencia, as well as being knocked out of the Copa del Rey by Athletic Bilbao.
But they were both sandwiched either side by victories, and lest we forget Setien is having to make do without any new major signings to replace the long-term injured duo of Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele.
Barcelona may not be fancied to retain their title, with Real Madrid now the odds-on favourites according to the latest outright La Liga betting prices, but with just three points separating the two sides you can rest assured that Lionel Messi and co. will not be giving up the ghost just yet.
So what has Quique Setien brought to the table that gives Barca fans reasons to be cheerful…or otherwise?
Thinking Outside of the Box
The 4-3-3 system favoured at Barcelona is less a tactic and more a way of life – it is culturally ingrained in the heart and soul of the club from the youngest of academy players right through to the senior starting eleven.
This dates back to the Johan Cruyff years in the 1990s, and so it’s something of a surprise that in just his first game in change Quique Setien opted to do something out of the ordinary.
He played a variation on a 3-5-2 formation, with Ansu Fati deployed as a right wing back at times and Jordi Alba doing likewise on the left. Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann played as strikers, loosely speaking, but their progress was hampered by a lack of support from the centre of midfield.
The subsequent 0-2 loss to Valencia that followed was perhaps a wake-up call for Setien that that’s not how they do things in the Barcelona way.
Unsurprisingly, he switched back to the tried-and-tested 4-3-3 for the visit of Levante to the Nou Camp, restoring Messi to his favoured right-wing role and switching the precocious Fati onto the left, where he is arguably at his best.
Samuel Umtiti, Sergi Roberto and Arthur were all dropped (or ‘rested’, if you prefer) as the new manager looked to stamp his authority on his new squad.
A comprehensive 2-1 victory followed, with Barcelona winning the expected goals count 3.38-1.10, and so perhaps for Setien it was a case of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ The game against Bilbao was certainly a case of missed chances rather than any fundamental issues with how the team played. As such, we don’t expect him to make too many changes – be it tactical or in terms of personnel – from now until the end of the season.
Setien may have signed a long-term contract, but there is no doubt that his position will come under scrutiny if Barca don’t kick on now from here until the end of the campaign.