It was a hard-to-watch game at the Camp Nou on Sunday.
When the final whistle blew, the look on Memphis Depay’s face said it all.
Frustration. Relief. Anticlimax.
In spite of scoring a beautiful game-winning goal, and running around all corners of the pitch to impact the game in any way he could, there was a feeling that the Catalan giants played small and conservative against an inferior foe.
Momentum was on their side after an impressive team goal within minutes of the opening whistle. Kudos to Sergi Roberto for standing up to the doubters.
But instead of putting their foot on the gas and flexing, Barcelona played on as if their moment of quality was a fluke.
It didn’t take long for Getafe to pick apart the defense for an equalizer.
Such a shame to see the lack of confidence when there was an opportunity to go into the international break with the wind at your back.
That’s something Ronald Koeman will need to ponder before his team confronts the mighty Bayern Munich on September 14th.
We want to do more than avoid embarrassment. We want to see true team spirit.
What have we learned, if anything, from these early results?
One definitive answer: Memphis has answered the call
For the players who were healthy and rested enough to play in the first three games, it was the opportunity of the season to demonstrate their value to the team.
Only one player beyond a shadow of a doubt seized the moment, and that was Memphis Depay.
Ultimately, as a forward, if you’re not scoring goals, you’re not doing your job.
Memphis scored two spectacular goals that single-handedly captured points to keep his team top of the table, and relieve pressure on his manager.
Aside from the productivity, we’ll all be hoping his confidence is contagious.
A confident player gets touches. He takes his chances. His teammates look for him.
Compare that to Antoine Griezmann, who looks uncomfortable on the wing, and as a result is getting few touches on the ball, and literally no chances in front of goal. In fact, in the first three games, he’s had exactly 0 shots on goal.
Ronald Koeman needs to make an adjustment there. If he can succeed with the French national team, there must be a way to get more out of him in Barcelona.
But for now it looks like Koeman is buying time until Ansu Fati returns.
Memphis has bailed him out for now, but will need his manager to find a way to uplift the supporting cast.
Lots of questions left unanswered
Koeman’s extremely conservative approach to seeing off Getafe was a bit embarrassing.
Forward number one comes off, defensive midfielder goes in.
Forward number two comes off, center back goes in.
This is not Barcelona football, but clearly the manager is focused on not repeating the early mistakes from last season.
Fortunately, the decision worked out this time, but it also sends the negative message to his team that he doesn’t trust they can finish off games.
What an opportunity it could have been to get Yusuf Demir’s feet wet with a like-for-like substitution. Instead, all the momentum he generated from the preseason is surely all but gone.
We can all cheer on young Gavi and Nico, but what an insult to keep Riqui Puig on the bench when he’s earned those minutes on merit.
This type of management may have been enough to buy time for his preferred players to rest and recover, but it will come back around to bite the team in the long run.
All the players on the roster need to believe that they are valued, and when their number is called, which could happen at any moment over the course of a long season, that their manager has confidence in them.
There is no guarantee that Ansu, Dembele, or Sergio Aguero will be the answers.
At this point, however, it looks like Koeman is putting all his money on the return of players who have been out for an extended time.
In the midfield, Frenkie de Jong, Sergio Busquets, and Pedri are on track to receive all the minutes their legs can handle.
In the defense, there’s a mix of hope and uncertainty.
One position Koeman has really tested is right fullback where we’ve learned there are two very solid options, and the competition is likely to continue.
Emerson looks stronger defensively, but Sergino Dest is working hard, and finding a way to contribute offensively.
Barca needs a complement to Jordi Alba on the right side.
Dest is routinely squaring up defenders, and whipping in dangerous balls. The American will be feeling good about where he stands going into World Cup qualifiers.
The center-backs are a mixed bag.
Gerard Pique will need reinforcements.
Clement Lenglet and Samuel Umtiti are the backups’ backups.
Ronald Araujo has moments where he looks truly world class.
Eric Garcia is a big question mark. Great technical ability, but is he big and fast enough to provide the protection this team needs?
At the end of the day, Koeman must take responsibility and show bravery in front of his players.
If the coach manages a game out of fear, his players will surely feel it.
If he wakes up and realizes how blessed he is to be managing a team with so much talent, his players will respond to that as well.
Instead of complaining about having too many players, see it as a chance to get the team playing hard and competing for their minutes.
The Bayern Munich game will be a symbolic milestone.
Has this team grown at all under his leadership?
Three games into the season, we’re left with many questions, and few answers.
All eyes are on the Dutchman.