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Antoine Griezmann: A necessary asset for Barcelona?

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How the World Cup winner could fit in a the Camp Nou

Club Atletico de Madrid v Real Valladolid CF - La Liga Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Following the latest transfer buzz, Barcelona fans worldwide are expecting French forward and World Cup winner Antoine Griezmann to arrive at the Camp Nou this summer.

While this would be a widely-approved deal, it would also have the potential to cause complications. The rumoured return of Neymar to Barca, as well as the fact that Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele still make up the front three, could make it difficult for each star to accumulate the playing time they want. The question in this regard is whether or not Griezmann has the versatility to play in a position that accomodates his potential team-mates and secures his place in the squad?

Reflecting on his last season at Atletico, Griezmann found himself playing in four variations of attacking roles. Typically, the Frenchman was featured as one of two strikers in a traditional 4-4-2 formation, however upon looking deeper into this role, it becomes apparent that he switched between playing the role of the target man and providing support to his fellow striker. This already shows his well-roundedness up front, which resulted in rewards such as an assist in Atleti’s 1-1 draw against Barcelona at home as well as an assist against Valencia in his side’s 1-1 draw in their La Liga opener. In total, Griezmann managed eight assists in La Liga, which was the eighth most in the league.

RCD Espanyol v Club Atletico de Madrid - La Liga Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images

This means that should Barca retain their current 4-3-3 formation, Griezmann could fill in as a striker in Suarez’s absence as well as play as an attacking mid in a modified version of this formation, namely the 4-3-3 attack. This would see Griezmann slot in as an attacking mid behind Suarez, thus providing him with the opportunity to act as both a supplier for the front three and a shadow striker. This would also allow Messi and Neymar to slot in as wingers without complications.

While the 4-3-3 attack would effectively see Barca’s three center mid lineup be dissolved, this would not necessarily be an issue. As things stand, it is very rare for Arthur, Arturo Vidal and Ivan Rakitic to appear on the field at the same time, while Carles Alena is still very much a young backup option. Additionally, Vidal is not a permanent starter, while rumours of a Rakitic departure are also being fueled. This leaves Sergio Busquets as the only indisposable holding midfielder, while the second center mid spot would be available for one of Alena, Arthur or Vidal to occupy, most likely on a rotational basis.

Club Atletico de Madrid v Valencia CF - La Liga Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Should such an approach not be taken, there are also wide roles that Griezmann could fill. During his sole performance as a right wing against Alaves last season, Griezmann bagged an assist which helped Atletico to an emphatic 4-0 triumph. On the international stage, Griezmann has featured frequently on both wings in a French jersey. During Euro 2016, the forward’s performances on the right wing saw him bag three goals, while his sole appearance as a right winger during the 2018 World Cup saw him net one against Australia in France’s opening game. He also featured on the left wing throughout France’s 2014 World Cup campaign.

Andorra v France - UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifier Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

This means that should the Neymar deal not go through, Barcelona will have a winger to fill his spot, as well as a backup option for Dembele, which is necessary considering the youngster’s injury record. Furthermore, Philippe Coutinho’s expected departure would water down Barca’s options on the wing, thus making a Griezmann arrival all the more welcome.

Griezmann has proven his versatility with an impressive record as a center forward, winger and shadow striker to boot. His well-roundedness is something that the Blaugranes could certainly make use of considering the uncertainty of their attacking lineup next season, while his adaptability would allow Barca to make use of Suarez, Messi and Neymar without much cause for lockerroom drama.