I started following Barca in the 2013-14 season and we have seena great amount of changed in the squad and style of play since then. Here I am going to compare our two most recent coaches, not on the basis of statistics, but on what we really saw on and off the field.
TIME OF ARRIVAL AT BARCA
LUIS ENRIQUE: Enrique arrived in the 2014-15 season when things weren't looking so good at Barca. We had gone trophy less for the first time in six years, club legend Xavi wanted to retire and we needed two new goal keepers. Enrique convinced Xavi to stay, changed the tactics of the team.... And the rest is history.
ERNESTO VALVEREDE:Ernesto Valverede joined us in the 2017-18 season from Athletic Bilbao. He too arrived at a rather difficult period, with the Neymar transfer saga, a hugely underwhelming 16-17 season and players like Andre Gomes, Aleix Vidal and Denis Suarez unable to fill the void left by Xavi and Dani Alves.He switched formations of the team and lost only three matches in his whole first season.
TRANSFERS:I know that the managers aren't a hundred percent responsible for the transfers but it is still worth a look.
Luis Enrique signed players like Douglas, Luis Suarez, Ivan Rakitic, Thomas Vermaelen, Jeremy Mathieu, Claudio Bravo and Marc Andre Ter Stegen in his first season, with Alexis Sanchez, Cesc Fabregas,Carles Puyol and Victor Valdes leaving or retiring. From the 15-16 season,Barca was more interests in signing backup players for his main XI. In the 2015-16 season, Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal were signed, while Xavi and Pedro left and Martin Montoya was loaned out. The 16-17 transfer window had me most excited, as we signed Andre Gomes, Denis Suarez, Samuel Umtiti, Paco Alcacer, Lucas Digne and Jasper Cillesen, while Dani Alves and Claudio Bravo went the other way, along with Adriano, Marc Bartra, Martin Montoya and Munir and Vermaelen on loan deals. Ultimately, only Umtiti, Rakitic, Ter Stegen and Luis Suarez have played regularly, while the likes of Cillesen, Vermaelen, Arda, Digne and Mathieu up to an extent were fine when they played. The rest were hugely underwhelming and simply put, there went 200 million that we ain't ever getting back.
ERNESTO VALVEREDE:Valverede had a disastrous summer transfer window in the 17-18 season beginning. Neymar left for PSG and immediately, we were linked with a hundred and fifty players, from Verrati and Coutinho to Dybala, Alli,Insigne, Auba etc. In the end, we signed Ousmane Dembele,seemingly over paying for him, Paulinho, Deulefou and Nelson Semedo, while Marlon and Munir were loaned out again. The window was horrible, and as Valverede himself put it," the only good thing about this window is that it is over now" . The winter window ( whose existence Enrique had seemed to have forgotten) was much better for Valverede. Coutinho and Yerry Mina came in and Arda, Deulefou, Rafinha and Mascherano left.
Valverede had a much better summer transfer window in the beginning of this season, which is saying quite a lot, as Andres Iniesta departed. However, exciting signings Malcom, Arthur Melo, Clement Lenglet and veteran Arturo Vidal gave fans a season to look forward to. It was even better when deadwood such as Aleix Vidal, Andre Gomes and Yerry Mina( who we signed for 9 mil and sold for 21mil) were off-loaded. The only real regret would be releasing Paco Alcacer and Lucas Digne, without properly replacing either one. The following winter window saw Munir leave, while short term replacements Jeison Murillo and Kevin Prince-Boateng came in.
Overall, I think that the main difference is that Lucho was more interested in signing backup players and while EV had to sign players who could directly play in the main XI.
PROMOTING LA MASIA PLAYERS:
In the 14-15 season, Enrique played Munir and Sandro Ramirez in the senior team on many occasions, especially in the first half of the season. Players like Sergi Samper and other talents were sparingly used, and a lot of young talent was sold at the end of that season: Juan Canara, Joan Roman, and more famously, Adama Traore and Grimaldo. In the next season, Munir and Sandro were largely unimpressive, Sergi Samper played in a meaningless Champions league game and so did Wilfrid Kaptoum. Players like Gerard Gumbau were released, and in his final year, Carles Alena and Marlon were the only really players to play with the first team, and the did not have more than 5 matches combined.
Under Enrique, the La Masia dried up and there was a general feeling that the coach didn't really feel too concerned about it.Grimaldo himself said that he really didn't talk much to Enrique and the manager, in 2017, complained about the lack of experience in the youth academy (what did he expect, duh)
Ernesto Valverede:In his first season, Valverede did nothing with the youth academy players. Jose Arnainz appeared in 3 Copa del Rey games and scored two goals, while Carles Alena on the bench due to an injury crisis was as good as it got for the players of the B team in the league. Arnainz was sold in the summer of 2018, along with B team defender David Costas and Cucu,we held on to many other gems: Alena, Oriol Busquets, Miranda, Abel Ruiz and of course Riqui Puig(who almost joined Spurs, courtesy our brilliant board).
Val has handled the youngsters better (not well) this season,however. Cuenca, Puig, Alena, Miranda and Ballou Tabla featured in the pre-season, Wague has trained with the first team on many occasions. The club did not even sign a backup lb, deciding to trust either one of Miranda and Cucu( The latter was loaned out in the end. A handful of the B team players played in the first match of the Copa as well as the Catalaunya Cup( in Enrique's last year, he played a team with 11 first team players). Alena and Miranda featured in a dead rubber game in the Champions league, while the former has often been used in the league as well, with a beauty of a goal against Villareal. Overall,things have looked better under EV, and I hope that the b-teamers break into the first team soon.
LUIS ENRIQUE:He rotated his players and starting XI to such an extent, that people criticized him for doing so. In his first season, it wasn't rare to see Mathieu in the defence and Mascherano playing DM, Bartra at the back, Pedro, Munir and Sandro getting minutes, Neymar on the bench and so on. If I'm not wrong, he played Adriano and Montoya for the UCL R16 and Qfs first legs respectively for a good lot of time. In his second season, Enrique was forced to rotate due to a Messi injury, but the changes kept on coming. It was only in the third season that he didn't handle his team all that well. Most changes came in the mid-field, especially with Andre Gomes (enough said). He also maid rather bizarre decisions, such as playing Mathieu ( who was absolutely useless that season) at LB against Atletico at the Calderon. Still, he was one for rotation, and it was rather exciting to see the line ups he put out, week in and week out.
ERNESTO VALVEREDE:Valverede's first season saw him have a squad with about as much depth as a puddle. Early in the season, he experimented with Denis, Paulinho Aleix Vidal and Andre Gomes ( that start against Atletico pissed me off so much). This was fine, given Dembele's injury and a tiring Iniesta. However, he never really rested the one or two players who were desperately begging for it( no Suarez why would I talk about you?). Overall,the rotation was rather poor the first season, and players themselves acknowledged that they would need rest.
Ev's rotations in this season have been hot and cold. He has this strange method of mass rotations where barely 1-2 regular players are in the team, and Pique has not been rested at all(doesn't look like he needs it but, he ain't a 25 year old anymore).
EV doesn't really know how to rotate effectively, and with a squad with this much talent, it is rather frustrating for the fans.
LE introduced Barca to a new counter-attacking style in the first season. This evidently worked well in a few games, such as the first leg against Bayern where ew had only 40% of the ball. However, it seemed rather strange that the team most obsessed with keeping the ball suddenly began to play a more direct style. Also, Barca held on to the ball for 50-65% of the time in most matches, not really ideal to play counter-attacking football imo.
The team seemed to run out of ideas from the second season onwards, and the plan basically seemed to be" pass to MSN, they do the rest". This was more glaringly obvious in the 16-17 season.
Overall, LE has a great charisma and influence, but tactically, he really wasn't the most equipped manager either.
ERNESTO VALVEREDE: Valverede shifted to a 442 formation, to provide more defensive stability, and centered his team around Leo. He also deployed a higher press, not seen in Enrique's reign.
In his second season, Valverede shifted back to 433 but the whole style isn't all that different from last season,the Raki-Busi double pivot and all. This might (read as will) be controversial, but we have played more like Barca this season than in any of the last four seasons.
LUIS ENRIQUE: Luis Enrique used 433 predominantly, with Leo in the rw for his first two seasons. In his third season,he also experimented an interesting 3313 formation.
ERNESTO VALVEREDE: Valverede began the season with a 433, on one occasion (against Espanyol) playing Messi in the centre, Suarez on the left and Dembele on the right (the Frenchman made a substitute appearance).He however shifted to 442-cum-4231 for the rest of the season playing 433 only in less important matches.
Valverede shifted back to 433 this season and has stuck to it, expect that one emergency 352 formation we used against Levante.
EXPERIMENTING PLAYER POSITIONS
LUIS ENRIQUE: Luis Enrique attempted different players across different positions, most notably converting youth academy graduate Sergi Roberto to a rb and playing him as a rw against Real Madrid. Another hugely understated change was shifting Messi to rw, to accommodate Neymar and Suarez in the same XI. He also played Rafinha and Andre Gomes as rb, positions they were largely unfamiliar with.
ERNESTO Valverede: Ernesto Valverede tinkered around in rather unprecedented manner as well. He played Paco Alcacer on the right side of the mid-field, Lucas Digne at CB, Ousmane as rwb, Semedo, Roberto and Verm at lb, Coutinho at RM and even considered MATS in the mid-field during the injury crisis.
THIS IS NOT BASED ON SPECIFIC STATS BUT JUST SOME OF THE BIGGEST WINS WITH THE RESPECTIVE COACHES AT HELM.
LUIS ENRIQUE: Enrique saw some big wins at his time in the club. 4-0 real madrid, 3 goals against Bayern, Juve, Arsenal and PSG(twice) as well as a heck lot of big margin wins against smaller clubs(8-0 Deportivo, 8-1 Huesca, 6-1 Sporting of the top of my head).
ERNESTO VALVEREDE: EV hasn't really got as many big margin wins, especially against big clubs: 5-1 Lyon,4-1 Roma, 3-0 Chelsea and Juve, 6-1 and 5-0 Sevilla are the handful wins. However, against smaller clubs,we have scored a good amount of goals, such as 6-1 Girona, 5-0 Celta, 4-1 Cultural 5-0 Levante,4-0 Espanyol and 5-1 and 3-0(twice) against Real Madrid.
THIS IS ONLY ABOUT THE TIMES OUR DEGENDECONCEDED 3 OR MORE GOALS IN A SINGLE GAME
LUIS ENRIQUE: Although Enrique's side never really had serious defensive woes, we were on the wrong side of a heavy scoreline more than once- 4-0 PSG, 3-0 JUVE, 4-1 and 4-3 Celta, 3-1 Real, 4-0 Bilbao,3-1 PSG,3-2 Bayern and on the right side of a 5-4 scoreline against Sevilla.
Valverede was often saved from heavy defeats owing to his defensive tactics. However,even his side have had a few bad games, namely the 3-0 loss to Roma, 3-1 Real,5-4 Levante and 4-3 Real Betis.
RELATIONSHIP WITH PLAYERS:
LUIS ENRIQUE: Luis Enrique famously clashed with Messi in his first season, which was eventually sorted out later. He also lost the support of first team players like Iniesta and Busquets after the loss against PSG. Even B team captain of that time, Grimaldo, admitted not having a great relationship with the boss.Overall, Enrique shared a rather frosty relationship with his players, and often didn't take the first step to resolve any differences with them.
ERNESTO VALVEREDE: Ernesto Valverede has generally had the support of the board and the first team players (such as Pique and reportedly Messi). However, I won't really be surprised if some of the fringe players don't get along really well with him. Players like Yerry Mina, Arda Turan and Deulefou have no reason to have too much love for the coach.
I was impressed by how EV handled the Arturo Vidal situation. Vidal was complaining about his playing time in public, and EV spoke to him and worked out an agreement (which he later revealed in a conference) without really blowing things out of proportion. Overall the team seem to have decent undestaunders with the coach and his (limited) ideas.
LUIS ENRIQUE: Luis Enrique was always a confident and powerful presence in press conferences. He lifted team hopes and expectations and was a treat to witness on the mic. One example that comes to mind is his bullish attitude before our comeback against PSG.
ERNESTO VALVEREDE: Ernesto is the exact opposite of his predecessor. He is calm and collected, always cautious and barely gives away anything in his conferences. He is rather boring and it is possible for us fans to predict what he is going to say in the next conference.
PERFORMANCE AGAINST BIG TEAMS:
FOR ME, ANY MATCH IN THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE AND TEAMS THAT PLAY REGULARLY IN THE SAME COUNTS AS A BIG MATCH.
2014-15; PSG- 3 wins and one loss
Real Madrid- 1win and 1 loss
Atletico Madrid-4 wins
Bayern Munich- 1 win and 1loss
Ajax, APOEL and Man City- 2 wins
Sevilla-1 win and 1 draw
2015-16; Real Madrid-1 win and 1 loss
Atletico Madrid-3 wins and 1(costly)loss
Roma- 1 win and 1 draw
BATE- 2 wins
Leverkusen-1 win and 1 draw
Valencia- 2 draws, 1 loss and 1 win(7-0)
Sevilla-1 win and 1 loss (which began the 38 game unbeaten streak)
2016-17; Real Madrid-1 draw and 1 win
Atletico Madrid-2 wins and 2 draws
Man City-1 win and 1 draw
Celtic and Moenchengladcach-2 wins each
PSG-1 win and 1 loss
Juve-1 loss and 1 draw
Sevilla-2 wins(if I'm not wrong)
2017-18; Real Madrid- 1 win, 1 draw and 2 losses
Atletico Madrid-1 draw and 1 win
Juve- 1 win and 1 draw
Olympiakos- 1 win and 1 draw
Sporting Lisbon-2 wins
Chelsea-1 draw and 1 win
Roma- 1 win and 1 loss
Sevilla-2 wins and 1 draw
Valencia-3 wins and 1 draw
2018-19; Real Madrid-3 wins and 1 draw
Atletico Madrid-1 draw(so far)
Spurs-1 win and 1 draw
Inter-1 win and 1 draw
Sevilla-4 wins and 1 loss
Lyon-1 draw and 1 win
Overall, EV seems to have greater success in bigger matches than LE.
PERFORMANCE AGAINST SMALL AND MEDIUM TEAMS
THIS IS HUGELY IMPORTANT AND GREATLY UNDERSTATED OFTEN.
LUIS ENRIQUE: Luis Enrique's side were often guilty of dropping points against relatively weaker opponents, especially in his last season. Some of the losses are 1-0 Soceidad, 1-0 Celta in the 2014-15 season, 4-1 Celta, 1-0 Soceidad in his second season, 4-3 Celta, 2-1 Alaves,2-0 Malaga and 2-1 Deportivo in his last season and several other draws as well. Such losses at crucial junctions of the season threatened to hamper with the team's title charge in the 15-16 season and cost them the League in the next season.
ERNESTO VALVEREDE: Ernie has played some mind numbing boring football against the smaller sides, and we have escaped with a draw atleast on many occasions only thanks to the genius who goes by the name Lionel Messi.
2-1 Leganes, 4-3 Betis, 2-1 Levante, the last one insignificant however, this season, 5-4 Levante and 1-0 Espanyol,the latter again didn't matter as we made a comeback, the only major hiccups against weaker sides.
LUIS ENRIQUE: Enrique did not give Messi the special treatment that he deserves and got under Pep. He wanted every single player to fight for a place in the starting XI, and didn't see eye to eye with his best player during the first season. He shifted Leo to the rw position to accommodate Suarez in the first team, a role under which Leo flourished and won the Ballon d'Or in 2015. However, the real problems were off the field. There was always a certain tension, which blew up when Messi lost his temper after not being awarded a foul in training. Enrique did not personally speak to Messi and instead did it through the team psychologist, who Messi again didn't see to the eye. It even led to rumours that Messi was leaving for Chelsea,fuelled further when the Argentine followed Felipe Luis and Courtois on social media. Ultimately, veterans like Mascherano and a team WhatsApp group resolved the issue.
Enrique moving Messi to rw came back to bite him in the third season, when he was heavily criticized for not bringing the best of Leo, and the Argentine's dropping far too deep into the middle of the pitch.
LE was never all that close to Leo, and it really wasn't surprising when the Spaniard wasn't on the guest list for the Argentine's wedding in 2017.
ERNESTO VALVEREDE: Valverede built his team around its best player. He gave Leo absolute freedom in position and no defensive duties, sacrifing the team structure for Leo. This move paid off as Leo was in absolutely stunning form the first season, carrying his form into the second season as well, until a thigh injury slightly hampered his rampage. Messi has enjoyed some amazing football, and has saved the team on several occasions, single handedly.
Messi spoke about Valverede's tactics in pre-season 2017-18, calling his plan "interesting" and "A system his side hasn't played so far". He also lauded Val moving him to the centre of the attack, with Suarez on the left and debutant substitute Ousmane Dembele on the right, while also acknowledging the fact that Enrique never switched his front three.
Messi hasn't spoken in public about his manager, but there were reports that he was happy with Valverede and wanted him to continue coaching.
Here's a final two part question for y'all:
1. Imagine this is the end of the 16-17 season. Enrique has offered to stay for one more year, while Valverede has also expressed his interest. Would you still take EV, if you are able to foresee the results and performance of the team until the 5-1 win against Lyon(Answer yes or no)
2. At the end of this season, Enrique offers to return to the club for a second spell. He is the only other realistic option, other than EV staying.Would you take LE( YES OR NO)
Answer in the comments below.