clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Tactics: Quique Setién changes Barcelona’s style

The new coach brought a new way of playing in a very short time in charge

FC Barcelona v Granada - La Liga Santander Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

FC Barcelona is a different beast under Quique Setién. The former Real Betis manager has given Barcelona’s style a facelift, without necessarily changing personnel. Out is Ernesto Valverde’s more cautious approach, and a return to an even more possession-focused style is in its place.

Valverde’s Barcelona already dominated possession nine times out of ten, but Setién’s men take it a step further. They made more passes last weekend than any other team since the Pep Guardiola and Tito Vilanova years. This Barça is all about control. Granada were happy to step off and park the bus, and they did so pretty successfully, to be fair. But they were undone in the end by a Lionel Messi strike after a great bit of build-up play.

Setién didn’t necessarily pick a team too different than Valverde would. With Arthur just coming back from injury, and Luis Suárez and Frenkie de Jong out, the choices Setién made were logical. Yet, even with a two midfielders known at least as much for their industry as their ability on the ball, Barcelona kept the ball very effectively. Ivan Rakitić and Arturo Vidal did their jobs, although you feel Setién is looking for a moment to go back to Arthur and De Jong as starters.

The only real novelty is that of Riqui Puig. The youngster had been kept out of the main team by Valverde, but Setién immediately brought him into the fold. That paid dividends as Puig was great in his role off the bench.

Setién also tinkered with the team’s shape. It’s a matter of debate, actually, whether he changed the formation or not. There were two ways you could have read the lineup, as a 4-3-3 or 3-4-3. That depends on whether you saw Sergi Roberto as a defender or as a conservative fullback. In truth, perhaps he played something of a hybrid role.

Jordi Alba was given license to motor forward, while Roberto stuck by on his side. Antoine Griezmann was on the left, but with Alba in support, he was cutting inside constantly. Meanwhile, Ansu Fati, on the right side of attack, gave the team width as Roberto did not usually go up to provide it.

Interestingly, Sergi Roberto and Samuel Umtiti almost had mirror image heatmaps and passmaps. This suggests that they were both playing as central defenders. Both Roberto and Umtiti have guile on the ball, able to bring the ball up or pass it to build from the back.

This level of control meant that Granada had almost no chance creation to speak of, since they barely ever had the ball. Their only opportunities came when they were able to pressure Barcelona’s defense into turnovers. This means that the better Barça get at playing from the back, the more secure they’ll be. Under Valverde, they simply conceded too many goals. Possession is as much a defensive as offensive tactic in this case.

The question for Setién is whether his team can do it against better teams. To be fair, Granada are hardly pushovers. They were 10th heading into this match and had beaten Barcelona in their last meeting. Still, Valverde’s problem was not against midtable teams at home. We will see how Setién’s team handles better teams, and particularly, good pressing teams away from home.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Barca Blaugranes Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of Barca news from Barca Blaugranes