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How long can Ernesto Valverde remain as Barcelona coach?

Last season’s debacle has not been forgotten and now the team is looking very shaky

Granada CF v FC Barcelona - La Liga Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images

Ernesto Valverde survived another UEFA Champions League debacle last season, and then a Copa del Rey final loss. But just barely.

Reports at the time showed that many on the Barcelona board wanted him out right away, but the club’s president, Josep Maria Bartomeu, overruled them.

With a fresh investment in players such as Antoine Griezmann, Frenkie de Jong, and Junior Firpo, the message was clear: win.

Instead Barcelona have been off to a pitiful start by their standards, punctuated by a lame performance in a 2-0 loss to Granada. There have been some bright moments, and to be fair to Valverde, he has been without Luis Suárez, Lionel Messi, and Ousmane Dembélé for long stretches of the season. But overall, it’s fallen way below standard.

Messi’s absence is by far the most crucial; he’s only played two matches and both were very limited by a lack of minutes and an excess of rustiness. Surely the team will rebound as he gets in rhythm, but if Valverde needs Messi firing on all cylinders just to avoid a terrible start to La Liga, that’s a bad sign.

Another possible defense of Valverde is that he has learned from the past two seasons not to take La Liga too seriously, and take it basically as a long tune-up to the Champions League. Valverde completed an almost spotless two season reign as two-time La Liga champion, but he has received equal if not more attention for two Champions League crashes in crucial moments. Perhaps it’s all part of the plan to start very slowly and try out players and tactics in these matches. However, there’s no guarantee that that is actually what is happening, and confidence in Valverde to pull off something like that is low.

The dressing room was satisfied with Valverde even at the end of last season, but they are starting to turn on him, it has been reported. Still, Bartomeu does not want to be seen making a rash decision to reverse the choice he made just a few months ago,.

Another way to look at it, however, is that he made a mistake when he decided against firing Valverde last season, and he shouldn’t compound the problem by delaying getting rid of him any further.

There’s a sense of malaise at the club that will be hard to get rid of quickly, although changing managers presents the cleanest solution for that. While the players deserve a lot of the blame too, the old adage that you cannot replace your entire squad, but you can replace a manager, stands.

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