The moment Ernesto Valverde announced Paulinho in his starting line-up, there was a contradiction in his intent and actions.
Going into the game, Valverde had emphasized the importance of scoring goals and many had taken this as a positive sign. The team had struggled to create chances in recent weeks and this was a sign that better things were to come.
In light of his comments, many had expected summer signing Ousmane Dembele to start on the right side of midfield. This was, however, all hypothetical as Valverde started the same line-up from three days ago against Eibar.
Not only did this mean that everyone was tired, it also meant that Barcelona were not equipped to counter effectively.
Valverde has done a lot of good in his time with Barcelona but one thing he hasn’t been able to fix is Barcelona’s lack of pace.
Apart from Jordi Alba, none of the players in the starting line-up are fast. Nelson Semedo can potentially solve that problem but even he has been a perennial figure on the bench (and he was suspended for the Chelsea game).
Barcelona have a lot of fast players who are currently riding the bench. All of Semedo, Dembele, and Denis Suarez are fast players who can facilitate counter-attacking football. This ability would have been useful against Chelsea where Barcelona chose to stay deep.
The team suffered from tired, aging legs that failed to react when Chelsea gave up the ball. It seemed as if the entire game was a futile exercise in sterile penetration. Lionel Messi was constantly dropping deep trying to facilitate some control but none of it seemed very effective.
The game could have changed significantly had Barcelona introduced Dembele or Denis. However, the only change was Aleix Vidal and he was too little, too late.
Valverde’s tactics have started to show weaknesses and as Barcelona gear up for the business-end, more will be expected from the coach.
The result may have favored Barcelona, but it was all down to some good fortune and Lionel Messi.
Valverde needs to realize his shortcomings before the opposition does.