The Spanish media was awash with one name on Friday, Antoine Griezmann. On the eve of the Madrid derby, the story broke that the Frenchman had agreed terms with Barcelona ahead of a January move. The timing of the story suggests it was used to disrupt Atlético ahead of the Madrid derby by linking their star player away from the club but there does seem to be an element of truth behind it. At €100 million, Griezmann has a relatively low buyout clause compared to other world class forwards so the deal is doable regardless of the Atlético hierarchy.
Griezmann is a striker gifted with many talents. He can cross, he can hold the ball up, he can play and get on the end of through balls, he is a very good distance finisher and he has a strong positional sense. Originally playing on the wing during his Real Sociedad days, Diego Simeone got the best out of the Frenchman by moving him central and allowing him to play as either the number nine or the second striker. Griezmann has flourished in both roles but does seem to prefer having a strike partner alongside him.
When it is just Griezmann leading the line of his own, he can sometimes be victim of being marked out of the game. Defenders can double up on him and make it hard for the likes of Koke or Saúl Ñíguez to find him. However, if you introduce the likes of Kevin Gameiro into the equation, this allows Griezmann more space and he becomes more dangerous.
If Griezmann were to join Barça, it would throw up the question of what formation do you play presuming everyone is fit. Perhaps the most natural would see a return to the 4-3-3.
In this formation, Messi would play central but would act as false nine and allow both Griezmann and Ousmane Dembélé to cut in so they can occupy the space created by Messi. This would also reduce the risk of Griezmann being marked out of the game as defenders can not afford to solely focus on him when Dembélé and Messi carry such a large threat.
Another option would be to play with a 1-2 in attack with Messi operating in the hole behind Griezmann and Suárez.
This plays into Griezmann’s preference to play with a strike partner but does limit the width provided to the team. It would ask a lot of Jordi Alba and Nélson Semedo who would be required to play as wing backs. This could work though as it would be similar to Neymar’s time at the club with the Brazilian also showing a tenancy to cut inside and leave the wing play to Alba. Another problem of this is the dropping of Dembélé for Suárez. If Suárez continues with his poor form at the start of this season, Ernesto Valverde will find it tough dropping their €105 million wonder-kid in the place of him.
A third option would be to deploy a formation popular in Europe but rarely used by Barça. The 4-2-3-1 is a favourite of many top coaches but not one we have commonly seen at the Nou Camp.
This again puts Messi in the hole but also uses Griezmann as the central striker. The Frenchman can pin the defenders and allow Messi a run at goal or hold the ball up and bring Dembélé into play. This formation also provides width unlike the last one so may be a more sensible approach but the main concern would be if Barça would be overrun in midfield. Against the big teams you suspect they might with just a double pivot in there.
Speaking about the player on Friday, Valverde kept his cards very close to his chest.
"Griezmann is a great player, one of the names being talked about but for now I have the players that I have,"
"In the future, we will see. Of course, the club, like all clubs, is open to doing business in the January window, even though we're happy with what we already have. We're not going to close the door on anything.”
At 26 years of age, Griezmann is entering into the prime of his career and Barcelona could do a lot worse than signing him.