Barcelona head-coach Ernesto Valverde has had a difficult time this season. After receiving a lot of criticism in his first campaign as the club’s manager for deploying the infamous 4-4-2, Valverde has reverted to the more dynamic and attacking 4-3-3 with the rise of Ousmane Dembele.
Barcelona’s performance against Espanyol was one of their best in recent games, with the players battling for possession in the dying moments of the game, despite being up 4-0. Several B-team players got the chance to showcase their talents midweek in the Copa del Rey, including the likes of Miranda, Carles Alena, and the current golden boy, Riqui Puig. Fringe players like Denis Suarez and Munir also got the opportunity to impress their coach which was paid off with minutes in the Catalan Derby.
Ernesto Valverde’s employment had three major variables: defensive solidarity, high-pressure, and youth promotion. These three factors were responsible for the coach’s fantastic reputation at Athletic Bilbao and part of the reason why fans were all positive about his appointment.
While the coach’s first season was a little chaotic with the unexpected departure of Neymar to PSG, he managed to win the double by eliminating the left-wing from the equation entirely and shifting to the 4-4-2. This season, however, the coach has reverted to the traditional 4-3-3 and has overseen the development of the likes of Riqui Puig and Alena on a regular basis. If the Derby is anything to go by, then the high-pressure that Valverde is so famous for, could be returning to Barcelona.
The defensive issue remains, despite the consecutive clean sheets, with Sergio Busquets playing well below his usual standards. However, the last two results have been very encouraging and should give the fans plenty of hope in the coming weeks.