Needing an injection of energy, Ernesto Valverde decided to switch systems as Barcelona were a goal behind Inter Milan in the UEFA Champions League. Just a few minutes into the second half, as Inter were clearly the better team, Valverde took off Sergio Busquets and introduced Arturo Vidal instead.
It wasn’t just a personnel change, but a formation change. Barça moved from a 4-3-3 to a 4-2-3-1 shape. Essentially, the midfield flipped from Busquets behind Arthur and Frenkie de Jong, to Vidal in front of Arthur and De Jong. Valverde explained later that he was looking for someone who takes more risks and was more “chaotic.”
Vidal eventually got the assist, although it was quite unorthodox. It was more about a stunning volley from Luis Suárez than anything tactical necessarily, although still Vidal’s positioning to supply the cross is not something you’d expect form Busquets.
Apart from the goal, however, Barcelona grew into the match after the formation change. Ousmane Dembélé also livened things up after replacing Antoine Griezmann, who still looks far from comfortable as a winger.
The second goal came because Barça countered a counter attack and found Inter with less men behind to defend. Messi was the genesis of the goal, and once again Suárez had the killer instinct to finish. Although interestingly, Vidal was there in that attack, helping Messi with a decoy run up the right wing.
Was this a one-time thing or is this something that could be used more often? The team could lose a little solidity by not using someone who breaks up play like Busquets, however, Arthur and De Jong can try to make up for that as Vidal can help cut off supply earlier. Busquets would probably head to the bench, although he could be used in place of Arthur or De Jong.
Who would Vidal’s substitute be to play in the hole? Perhaps it should be Griezmann. While that would decrease solidity as well, that role does suit him perhaps a bit more than the winger role he’s been tasked with. Playing more centrally is something he’s used to, and with his workrate he can help without the ball as well.