At the beginning of the season and again now, much was made of Barcelona’s summer signings. With a January transfer window that has yielded Philippe Coutinho and Yerry Mina, Barcelona will look to integrate them into the squad slowly but confidently.
Over the summer, the departure of Neymar looked like the end of an era, but started off a new Barcelona cycle within a 4-4-2 formation and a much more cohesive unit. The main cause of the current cohesion in the squad, paired with their defensive prowess and offensive creativity might be Barcelona’s stealthiest summer acquisition in a while… Ernesto Valverde.
When Valverde inherited the team, it seemed as though the season was doomed from the start with two difficult defeats in the Spanish Super Cup to Real Madrid. Barcelona seemed to be reeling, but their shining light stepped up to the plate.
Utilizing his tactical knowledge of footballing formations and how to use his best players, Valverde began to switch from the traditional 4-3-3 formation into the 4-4-2. Making this decision was certainly questioned, especially after some early season draws.
In addition, Valverde placed his trust in a man that many in Barcelona didn’t, Paulinho. Suddenly, it became clear that this Barcelona side were no longer a team completely reliant upon its front two of Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez. If the two were struggling, you better believe that the defense was making life difficult for the opponent as well. With his integration of new signings and a formation switch, Valverde remodelled the side and Barcelona have continued their dominance in both Spain and Europe.
Moving forward, Valverde’s side is undefeated in the league and the manager just broke Tito Vilanova’s record of 19 games unbeaten in a La Liga season. While pundits and fans haven’t been quick to applaud Valverde’s efforts so far this season, they must start taking notice.
With the January transfer window soon coming to a close, Barcelona have announced two exciting signings, in Coutinho and Mina. With a commanding 11 point lead over Atletico Madrid and a 19 point lead over Real Madrid, Valverde has the opportunity to ease both players into games that do not come with a lot of pressure.
He has positioned the squad to compete for three trophies this year and improved Barcelona’s depth significantly to the point where five or six spots in the lineup are under constant competition.
Looking ahead, Barcelona face Espanyol in the second leg of their Copa del Rey fixture and if Valverde can overturn the 1-0 aggregate score, Barcelona will be in pole position to win the trophy. With Real Madrid losing to minnows Leganes and Atletico handily beaten by Sevilla, Barcelona are surely favorites if they continue to the next round.
Valverde has been demonstrating his tactical and positional prowess throughout the year. What started as a season without hope, has suddenly become a season where fans are beginning to think of a treble.
While Barcelona’s signings have been great this year, we must give credit where credit is due. And that credit is that the best signing of the off-season was not a player, but the manager himself. Visca Barca