Another international break with many questions, and one seemingly obvious answer.
Ronald Koeman’s Barcelona has turned toxic, and a new leader is needed.
Although not all the financials are transparent to the public, we know this would be a costly change. Koeman knows it too, and seems to be using it as a weapon in his media proxy war.
The situation with the team is challenging, but it’s not an impossible puzzle to solve.
It will start with bringing in a coach who understands the importance of positivity in the way you talk, and the way you manage games.
Truly, it could be an interim manager who comes at a low cost if that’s the only possibility.
Laporta doesn’t want to get the decision wrong, which could be more of a motivating factor than even the 13 million that Koeman would be leaving with, so why not go with a short-term, low-risk option?
Instead, in a bizarre turn of events, perhaps just to quiet down the talking, Laporta gave Koeman his backing, and sporting director Jordi Cruyff sat next to the Dutchman in the stands, in an awkward and unconvincing display of unity.
There will be time to honor our legends when the storm has passed, but for now Barcelona has space on board only for those who are willing to fight and put the we before the me.
Watching the players, not all is hopeless.
For 20 minutes, they looked equal to, if not better than, Atletico Madrid.
But this team is fragile and lacks resilience.
Part of that is losing belief in themselves, and it explains the inconsistencies. When they are fired up and getting things going, the momentum can carry them to a dominant performance, as we saw against Levante.
When the pendulum swings, however, and the opponent gets the upper hand, there is no grit or plan to see them through and turn things around.
Defensively, the problem is well known. Absolutely no ability to defend a counter attack.
Part of this is down to the players who lack the character and physical qualities to instinctively get the job done. It was alarming to see the team play with two defensive midfielders on Saturday, and neither one of them was able to provide cover in any meaningful way.
But it’s also a matter of structure, and planning.
Where were the tactical fouls? Only one yellow card the whole game?
If you’re going to play a high line with 70% possession, this is basic game planning. Take away the counter attack, commit the foul.
Koeman’s heart and mind are not in it. He is defiant now, and there is no coming back.
His players look lost and need direction, even the young ones who continue to fight hard.
The phrase “death by a thousand passes” has been turned on its head.
Laporta should recognize this when considering a replacement.
There is a big difference between tiki-taka, and tiki-taki.
Tiki-taki is when you have 70% of the ball and create no real opportunities in front of goal because you are using possession as a crutch.
Tiki-taka is Pep Guardiola’s maximum intensity, take the ball pass the ball quickly, win the ball back instantly mentality, that disorients opponents.
Perhaps that’s no longer the way to go, but at least know the difference, and don’t deride what it stands for.
This is not just Koeman, it’s a continuation of what we saw with the cautious coaching from Ernesto Valverde and Quique Setien.
Eyes are on Joan Laporta.
The vast majority of people in Koeman’s shoes would do what he’s doing. Take the money, wait to be sacked. Even when all hope of doing a good job is lost.
Many gave Laporta the benefit of the doubt when he kept Koeman on in May.
Many understood the difficult decision to let the best players go over the summer.
Patience is thin, however, and he needs to find a way to bring in a new manager now, under whatever conditions he feels is right.
This is his problem now 100%. The buck stops at the top.
No more scapegoats.
Barcelona cannot resign themselves to this reality.
The time for change has arrived. The president must figure it out.
Give this team a new lease on life, and prove you are the president and leader this difficult moment requires.