Let’s preface this rant by saying that Ronald Koeman has done some very good things this season for Barcelona, all of which have been talked about previously in this column. For that he certainly should be applauded.
However, when he’s needed to step up a level coaching wise, he’s proved time and again that he isn’t up to it.
Partidos decisivos del Barça esta temporada:— Edu Polo (@EduPolo) May 8, 2021
Final Supercopa ❌
Vuelta semis Copa vs Sevilla ✅
Final Copa del Rey ✅
The game against Atletico Madrid on Saturday afternoon represented the last chance for the Dutchman to really stamp a mark on this side, but instead we were treated to the same old, same old.
Anyone with half a brain could see that Ronald Araujo needed to start this game. That’s in no way a knock to Oscar Mingueza, who’s been performing well above the level expected for the most part in 2020/21.
It’s more that Araujo’s pace and power are ideally suited to this top of the table tussle.
That wasn’t the only poor decision that Koeman made of course, because his in-game management, insofar as he was allowed to be involved because of his suspension, was abysmal.
In an attacking sense, Atleti weren’t up to much - as three games out of their last six away from home - where they hadn’t scored - would’ve evidenced for Koeman.
A great team though they are, the Rojiblancos were there for the taking.
And yet, a fierce Messi shot in the first half followed by a couple of half chances in the second, were all that Barcelona had to show for their ‘efforts.’
Once again, Koeman’s substitutions were far too late. Dembele only had 15 minutes to show what he could do and didn’t touch the ball for the first five of those.
Further, why was he putting Sergi Roberto on ahead of Riqui Puig? Barcelona needed spark and inventiveness at that point, not a player who will look for the safest option every time.
The result, and manner of it, has potentially made Joan Laporta’s decision to relive Koeman of his duties at the end of the season that much easier.
In all of the biggest games this season in La Liga and the Champions League he has failed spectacularly, and this one can be added to the list.
All he needed to do was inspire his troops to a win to put things in Barca’s favour, Real Madrid’s results notwithstanding, and he couldn't even do that.
With Neymar having put pen to paper with PSG, the chances of Messi joining him there have increased.
Having a manager like Koeman behind him for the next year at least is likely to be enough for the Argentinian to pack his bags.
His sigh at the end of the game as Dembele blazed over a header when completely unmarked, suggested that Messi knew the game was up.
It should be for Koeman too.