So, I was bored...The sheer lack of club football then a fine Sunday evening with nothing to do and Cholo naming a very unconventional starting eleven for him forced me to tune in for Espanyol vs ATM. I was expecting some tactical genius from him and what I got to see was a disheveled team trying to make some sense of what they want to do and it looked like everything would come apart and then suddenly I was seeing how an elite manager with cojones functions.
The pitch side reporter gets on at 23rd min and tells us Simeone is frantically waving his hand to show his players 4-2-3-1. They need to play 4-2-3-1 and his mannerism suggested he wants them to switch right now. Now remember, it was a hot day in Barcelona and everyone knew there'll be a cooling break soon but Diego wasn't gonna wait some more time when he's seeing his team getting a run for their money against the newly promoted side.
Did things change? Well not exactly, Atletico were a little steady but not the defensive rock they're supposed to be and then came a moment which could've led them in a downward spiral. A header from RDT. Oblak couldn't save them this time like he did when Embarba managed to get away a decent shot capitalizing on Savic's miscommunication. Down the tunnel went a team which no one could have seen and said that they were the league champions.
And then emerged a team with three changes and much better mentality. They were playing as if someone has filled them with energy and Lemar who was one of the substitutes looked like a man possessed. He was involved everywhere and then looked like it paid off but Suarez was offside. It looked like they have the same Suarez we had who's first touch was a coin flip. He's just being managed better. ATM didn't stop and kept plugging away and suddenly Carrasco, the Belgian Devil fought and wrestled after he was almost out of breath after a run and converted what looked like an impossible chance. The thing I mustn't forget to mention is that these 3 subs weren't defensive or attacking they were merely re-balancing.
The match proceeded and it wasn't even 70 min when ATM manager made his final sub which was a very risky tactic as a hot day increases chances of cramps which could mean you end up with 10. But let's just say luck favored the brave and ATM got 10 extra min to right the wrongs. A tired defense couldn't cope against Lemar's run and a certain Belgian again showed up with a neat one touch pass under pressure and Lemar finished with aplomb which even a strong hand from Lopez couldn't deflect out.
It was not a very satisfactory performance coming from a team that calls itself champions but what I want to impress is that I, today saw a manager who came very far out of his comfort zone. I, today saw a manager who didn't do a complete 180 at the very first moment it looked like it'll go south. I, today saw a manager who can motivate his players for real. I, today saw a manager who wasn't choosing whatever's safe or favorite. I, today saw a manager who had a plan. I, today saw a manager who realized his plan wasn't working before it could hurt them. I, today saw a manager who was willing to make some changes in his approach which didn't include going headlong into other direction. I, today saw a real manager.
Well, I shouldn't make this a habit given barca hasn't seen such a manager from the time when Bartomeu decided he wanted more control on the team and dressing room. He kept putting one puppet after another and we kept putting up with it. Don't get me wrong. Koeman is a barca legend in his own right and no one sane enough can deny that but I can't shake off this feeling that barca deserves better than this 'Awaiting for the doom' feeling we all are having when we see Bayern or any other decent fixture creeping upon us. Let's see what happens in this one. No matter what happens, now and always...