When Ernesto Valverde came to Barcelona, few knew what he was capable of doing. There was a general idea that his teams could press (due to his tenure with Athletic Club) but little else was known about his tactical style.
Ernie started his time at Barcelona with a two-legged defeat to Real Madrid. It was not what Culés had in mind when they thought of Valverde. His switch to a 4-4-2 was also subject to backlash from the fans.
A few months later, and the fans are comparing Ernie to former coach Pep Guardiola. So what’s changed? Well, for starters, Ernie is incredibly calm in the face of trouble. The Basque has coaxed an incredible second-half performance from his team on numerous occasions this season. His teams may not be perfect on the go, but they adapt and take home the three points.
Even his infamous 4-4-2 has been received with applause for being capable of adapting to quick-transitions. Even players like Aleix Vidal have had a decent run with the team under him.
Ernie has used the B-team fairly regularly. When called upon, his judgement has been immaculate and more often than not, Barcelona makes the right squad selection.
He may not be the charismatic enigma that is Pep, but he brings a quiet air of assurance that few coaches have had in Barcelona’s recent past. With Ernie at the helm, there is a sense of calm even when the team is down.
Ernie has shown the astute tactical nous that fans at the Camp Nou crave. Last night’s double substitution that replaced both full-backs was another display of that ability. Valverde has endeared himself to the club and fans despite not being the first choice. That hasn’t happened by chance.
For what it’s worth, Valverde has shown that he’s a bet for the future.
Should Barcelona want a long-term coach, Ernie would be a good choice.