As Barcelona prepare to face their toughest La Liga challenge of the season so far, there are several intriguing aspects ahead of the clash.
Firstly, will Lionel Messi be able to focus on the clash after gloriously leading Argentina to the World Cup finals?
Secondly, will the players who were away on international duty have enough energy left to make an impact against a tough Atletico squad at the Wanda Metropolitano?
But thirdly, it gives Barcelona fans an opportunity to dissect the performance of a player who just this past week has again been linked with a move to Barcelona, Antoine Griezmann.
There are several aspects to Griezmann’s game that could make him an outstanding addition to the team. Firstly, he is a natural goalscorer, he scored 16 goals last season and has two goals and an assist in five La Liga games so far this campaign.
At Atletico, he is the key man up front and therefore defences pay special attention to him. However, if inserted into a line-up with a combination of Messi, Luis Suarez, or Ousmane Dembele, surely Griezmann’s goalscoring record would only increase? In addition, the pure quality in Barcelona’s midfield, from Andres Iniesta to Ivan Rakitic, would also help increase the forward’s goalscoring tally. In short, he will bring goals.
Another important factor that cannot be understated is Griezmann’s ability to track back. When studying Atletico games, Griezmann is often seen chasing down opposing center-backs and pick-pocketing opposing midfielders to start a counter-attack for his team. This sort of defensive mentality and aptitude would fit in perfectly with the Barcelona team accustomed to pressing.
However, there are two drawbacks to the possible signing of Griezmann. Firstly, the impact it would have on Messi. While the two players are different enough, they do share distinct similarities, such as being on the ball and initiating their team’s attacks.
This could potentially cause a problem that has been encountered by the Argentina national team and Paulo Dybala. Dybala, a player very similar to Messi, said, “It is not easy to play with Messi because we play the same way.” While many took the remarks as an insult, Dybala was simply speaking the truth.
Any team in the world does not have enough spacing for two players who play so similarly to occupy the same pitch. If a move for Griezmann progresses, Ernesto Valverde will have to first ensure that the balance currently found in the squad remains.
The second potential drawback is similar to the first, but centers around another player in the squad, Luis Suarez. One of Griezmann’s greatest assets is his flexibility and he has played as a center-forward. Rumors this past week have centered around Suarez’s edgy relationship with Valverde due in part to his positioning, his poor start, and rumors linking Griezmann as a possible replacement may not help.
Suarez will turn 31 in January but is still a world-class player and somebody who motivates his team-mates to great feats. Ensuring that the Uruguayan picks up his form and stays happy at Barcelona is integral to the success of this season and the future as well. A possible solution lies in allowing Messi to move into a False 9 position (more towards the midfield), placing Griezmann on the left/right wing, Suarez in the center, and either Dembele, Gerard Deulofeu, or Denis Suarez on the other.
Ultimately, if Barcelona do decide to move for Griezmann, they can sleep well knowing that his world-class talent will certainly improve the squad.
If a move progresses though, it is key to understand that simply buying talented players doesn’t make an effective squad. It is imperative to buy talented players who can integrate and improve the squad as well! Visca Barca!