Resting Messi, playing Paulinho & 4-2-3-1 - welcome to Valverde’s pragmatic Barcelona - Goal.com

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Resting Messi, playing Paulinho & bore draws - welcome to Valverde’s pragmatic Barcelona

Nov 22, 2017 22:53:43Main
The Blaugrana boss surprisingly left the Argentine on the bench at Juventus and is stamping his authority over this team. So far, it has worked well

Ernesto Valverde is doing things his way. The Barcelona boss appears to be unconcerned by outside interests and even in playing pretty football. He just wants to get results and, up until now, his pragmatic approach has been extremely effective.

It is not easy to coach Barca. Gerardo Martino was attacked by the media after his side had (slightly) less possession that their opponents in a league game against Rayo Vallecano, despite winning 4-0, while Luis Enrique almost lost his job following a spat with Lionel Messi, after which he left the Argentine on the bench.

Barcelona 10/11 to beat Valencia

That Messi plays when he wants is a seemingly unwritten rule at Camp Nou, but Valverde left the five-time Ballon d'Or winner out of the starting XI away to Juventus on Tuesday in a surprise selection, as Paulinho - a player Barca fans did not want but the coach did - played as a false nine in Turin.

And then there is the formation. Barca over the years have stayed true to 4-3-3 or 3-4-3, but Valverde has mixed it up this term, playing 3-5-2, 4-4-2 and 4-2-3-1 as well as the traditional system.

Quite clearly, the former Athletic Club coach is uninterested in what others think he should be doing. 

Juve Barca score

In La Liga, it has worked well. Barca lead the Primera Division by four points and are already 10 clear of their fierce rivals Real Madrid after 12 rounds of matches. And in the Champions League, they topped their group by three points coming into the match against Juventus.

That was despite a goalless game away to Olympiacos and there is the feeling with Valverde that he is happy with a draw in Europe when it comes to difficult matches on the road. And that same sensation was all apparent in Turin on Tuesday.

With Messi left on the bench as Valverde looked ahead to the crunch clash against Valencia at Mestalla on Sunday night, Luis Suarez cut an isolated figure up front and the Uruguayan only touched the ball just 14 times in the first half.

Paulinho, meanwhile, had his moments. However, the best thing about the Brazilian so far at Barca has been his chemistry with Messi and there was none of that with the Argentine watching from the sidelines in the first 45 minutes.

Ernesto Valverde

Miralem Pjanic Paulinho Juventus Barcelona

Messi replaced Gerard Deulofeu after 55 minutes and came close to breaking the deadlock with a free-kick that fizzed just over the crossbar. Suarez was off target with another effort, but Juventus probably had the better chances and this was not vintage Barca.

It has not been for some time, but it is working. The Blaugrana have conceded only four goals all season in La Liga and have let in just one in the Champions League - and even that came when they were 3-0 up at home to Olympiacos.

With Messi in the team and other technicians such as Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets, there will always be something to admire when Barcelona play, but Valverde is not a stylist and he is unconcerned with aesthetics.

That can be a dangerous game at the Catalan club as Louis van Gaal and also Luis Enrique found out in their tenures, but as long as it brings trophies, the fans will be happy enough for a while. And after the double defeat to Real Madrid in the Spanish Supercopa, this season has exceeded all expectations for Valverde's new pragmatic Barca, who have now recorded back-to-back 0-0 draws in the Champions League for the first time ever.

If even Messi is happy to sit out on occasions, the Barca boss clearly has the players on his side. He is his own man and this team is being built very much in his image. So far, so good.


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