The old coach was ultimately let go when he went five matches with only one win. Extenuating circumstances (one was against Real Madrid, another was a loss to Atlético in which Barcelona played well, one was Real Sociedad at Anoeta, and one was a derby against Espanyol) be damned.
This is, ultimately, how we we got to Quique Setién.
The truth is Barcelona’s form since his appointment has been shaky. His pattern of two wins followed by one loss is simply not good enough for Barcelona, although his circumstances are very much unfavorable and beyond his control.
With injuries to Luis Suárez and Ousmane Dembélé, plus the sales of first-team players and starting B teamers, Setién might have one of the weakest Barcelona squads in years.
He’s trying to make the team adapt to a new philosophy without having a pre-season, or even the January break to talk it over.
In effect, this is his pre-season. In particular, the team has the ability to a pseudo “training camp” in the coming two weeks before a trip to Naples to face Napoli in the Champions League. Barça host Getafe and Eibar in the meantime, but there are no midweek games and no away trips to contend with.
His team has shown signs of improvement but that will probably not count for much if he oversees a poor result in Europe in two weeks’ time. Realistically speaking, he probably won’t survive the season if Barcelona continue to only get, essentially, 2 points per match. His only wins so far have been against midtable sides, and one against lower-league opposition. Even their wins have usually been labored,
Of course, the latter match was different than the first. Against Valencia, Barcelona struggled mightily and could have lost by more. Against Athletic, it was probably somewhat of a fluke that they lost. That sort of progress can be called a moral victory for the time being, although it likely won’t be considered that anymore if the team is still in the same place come end of the season.
Setién has arrived at not just a disadvantageous position, but perhaps the most disadvantageous of any Barcelona coach in a long time. That affords him patience, but like all resources, it has its limit. Regardless, right now, the most logical thing is to give Setién time.
Last weekend’s match against Real Betis felt like it might have been a turning point. Barcelona were in losing positions twice before ultimately winning 3-2. Another loss would make Setién’s record look even worse, and in particular, the fact that the team would have lost all three away trips against top-level opposition would be hard to forget.
Instead, there was a feeling of elation and relief, and yes, hopefulness. Setién’s job is far from done; he has to continue drilling this team. Everyone knows improvements are needed, and perhaps he’ll be able to deliver. Perhaps not. Either way, you can only fully judge with time.