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Tactical analysis: How Antoine Griezmann will fit in at Barcelona

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The Frenchman would bring something special

Atletico Madrid v Arsenal FC  - UEFA Europa League Semi Final Second Leg

The transfer window in La Liga has not even opened yet and the Antoine Griezmann transfer saga has already begun. After months of speculation that Griezmann will no doubt leave Atletico, reports as of late suggest that he is heavily weighing the option of either staying or moving on to Barcelona. If he were to leave, it would be a major club-altering move for Atletico.

The French international has been with Atletico for four seasons and he has already established himself as one of Europe’s top forwards. With 112 goals in 209 appearances, the value that he brings to Atletico is immense and arguably irreplaceable.

While this potential transfer could cause a major setback for Atletico, it would be a major victory for Barcelona.

Bringing in a versatile forward like Griezmann to play alongside Messi would be special to watch. While there might be internal question marks surrounding his play style and how he would fit in with team, his talent could elevate and improve the team’s quality and performances on a consistent basis.

With analyzing Griezmann’s unique play style, his growth as a player can be credited to playing under one of the best coaches in Diego Simeone.

While Simeone is widely recognized as a tactician genius for Atletico’s defensive play, he has been able to get the best out of his forwards as well. Simeone’s style does not feature a complex system but rather a demanding one where players must be able to shift into different roles. He looks to adapt his players to cover multiple areas on the pitch and work cohesively as a unit. This has been evident by the evolving style of the Spanish international Saul Niguez, who has been able to successfully play as a traditional central midfielder and also as box-to-box midfielder who has a duty to both attack and defend.

In the case of Griezmann, his play style has radically developed as well. While the focus has been entirely on his goals and outstanding finishing qualities, his playmaking skills have gone under-the-radar. Just this past La Liga season, Griezmann accumulated a total of 41 chances created and nine assists. The 41 chances created is far behind Messi’s La Liga-leading 87, but it is still impressive considering Atletico’s defensive style with less than an average 50% of possession per game.

Whether it was out wide as a winger or as a striker, Griezmann’s playmaking ability is unmatched and would be a much-needed addition to Barcelona. From his vision on the pitch to his unselfish mentality, the manner at which he plays with is truly a coach’s dream.

As seen in his assist to Vitolo against Celta Vigo in March, Griezmann is capable of picking out the perfect pass.

His play style and what he could arguably become at Barcelona could potentially be similar to that of David Villa. In just three seasons with Barcelona, Villa emerged as one of Europe’s top strikers with 48 goals in all competitions while also winning eight trophies. Now this is not to imply that Griezmann will be the next David Villa but rather the playstyle and value that he could bring to the team could be strikingly similar. For instance, Villa’s playmaking ability. Most notably under Pep Guardiola, Villa flourished as a creative playmaking forward - the ability to move out wide and play as a winger while also being able to position himself in the box to be a center forward goal-scoring threat.

In similar fashion, Griezmann can implement aspects of Villa’s game into his own if he ends up joining Barcelona. As an exceptional dribbler with excellent movement in space, Griezmann would elevate his game to new heights. As a forward, he can potentially be a consistent 30-40+ goal-scorer per season with the high-percentage chances that he will receive from the likes of Messi, Coutinho and Dembele.

Just imagine world class goals like his bicycle kick goal against Roma on a consistent basis.

Now in terms of how exactly he would fit with Barcelona would be based entirely on the major decisions to be made over the summer in the transfer window. The board has to ultimately decide on decisions such as the future of Luis Suarez and if they will bring in a top midfielder. If Luis Suarez stays and the board adds a quality starting midfielder, Valverde could explore a 4-3-1-2 with Messi in a central attacking midfielder role and Griezmann playing alongside Suarez as the two strikers. The traditional 4-3-3 is also favorable option with a potential rotation between Suarez and Dembele.

Regardless of the formation and position to which he would play under, Griezmann has proven time and time again that he is adaptable. Griezmann can alternate between a traditional striker and a deep-lying center forward or winger that plays behind the adjacent forward. As a notable goal-scoring threat, his presence would cause havoc to opposing backlines.

Griezmann is also a player that can control possession and dictate play in space, which would be a near perfect match for Barcelona. Under Ernesto Valverde this past season, Barcelona continued to emphasize the importance of maintaining possession to control the overall pace of the game. The notable flaw for Valverde’s tactics is that the team relies too much on Messi to play as a forward, attacking midfielder and a controlling midfielder. With Griezmann, he can help maintain a strong flow to the game with his playmaking ability and lethal runs on the flank.

The options are truly unlimited if Griezmann comes in. Even if Griezmann joins Barca, the job will undoubtedly not be done in terms of improving the squad. The team is still in need of a world class midfielder who can help take the load of Messi in terms of controlling play and creating multiple goal-scoring chances per game. Whether it will be Thiago, Christian Eriksen or Miralem Pjanic, a central midfielder should still be among the top priorities this summer. Overall, bringing in Griezmann would be the start of something special for the next few years.