Barcelona still miles away from Bayern
Barcelona’s Champions League clash with Bayern was always going to provide a good yardstick of where Ronald Koeman’s side are right now and the answer is: simply miles away.
It’s been 13 months since Bayern handed out that THAT thrashing and while the Bundesliga champions didn’t score eight this time around the gulf in class between the two teams was painfully obvious.
FT | Bayern win!— SofaScore (@SofaScoreINT) September 14, 2021
As our Attack Momentum graph clearly shows, the visitors were in complete control of the 2nd half, adding two more goals and registering an easy win.
A disheartening loss for Barcelona – Bayern were on a whole different level tonight.#BarcaBayern #FCBFCB #UCL pic.twitter.com/9kbMZ3BZsf
Coach Ronald Koeman set his team up with three central defenders but saw his side completely dominated by Bayern. For large parts of the game you got the feeling it was just a case of trying to keep the score down.
Koeman muttered afterwards the defeat was “difficult to accept” and spoke longingly of his injured players, while Gerard Pique was far more sanguine, “it is what it is. At the end, we had a lot of kids on.”
The result was not a surprise, indeed it might have been better than many feared, it’s the approach to the game and the performance that will rile fans. We all know Bayern are contenders, but Barca may struggle to get out of the group playing like this.
Not a single shot on target
One of the real low points of the match was the daming stat that Barcelona didn’t manage a single shot on target throughout the 90 minutes. Not one. Nada. Nothing. Zilch. Bayern had seven and would probably have had a few more if they’d ever needed to get out of second gear.
0 - Barcelona have failed to register a shot on target in a Champions League match for the first time since at least the 2003/04 season. Muted. pic.twitter.com/ETY5whGnAv— OptaJose (@OptaJose) September 14, 2021
Obviously injuries are a factor for Barcelona right now. Don’t forget Ansu Fati, Ousmane Dembele, Martin Braithwaite and Sergio Aguero all missed the game. Barca will surely be a different proposition when their sidelined attackers finally return to action.
Yet it wasn’t entirely clear how Barcelona planned to hurt Bayern either. Sergi Roberto offered nothing going forwards, Memphis Depay was left isolated, while Luuk de Jong knows he’s not going to be a regular starter and showed exactly why.
Araujo’s a monster, Eric’s a worry
Defensively Barca were kept very busy, which is never a good thing, but did allow us the chance to see Ronald Araujo showing what he can do up against some of the best attackers Europe has to offer.
The Uruguay international seemed to thrive and enjoyed himself up against Robert Lewandowski and Leroy Sane. He also pulled off a superb tackle at the start of the second half to deny Alphonso Davies too.
It was a different story altogether for Eric Garcia. We all know he’s a great passer of the ball but does he have the physicality, speed and aggression needed to succeed at the top level? As a La Masia boy we all hope so, and yes he’s still only 20, but his performances since coming back are a bit of worry.
Gavi and Demir cheer up the Camp Nou
All in all, there wasn’t too much for the almost 40,000 Barca fans to enjoy on Tuesday night but the sight of Gavi and Yusuf Demir arriving late on to make their Champions League debuts for the club did perk up the Camp Nou.
The energy and desire was plain to see from both youngsters and gave supporters something to cheer about after seeing their team so comprehensively outplayed for so long.
If there’s any hope to cling to right now it’s the raft of youngsters who featured against Bayern and the fact that Ansu Fati, watching from the stands, could be back to join them soon.
Alba's not going to make the 90 here, meaning youngster Balde will take his place. Barça will end game with six players 22 or under on the pitch:— Samuel Marsden (@samuelmarsden) September 14, 2021
There was also a lively debut off the bench from Alejandro Balde who replaced Jordi Alba. The left-back had been a doubt before the game with illness and a niggle but eventually succumbed to a hamstring problem - would a braver manager have started Balde over Alba?
Will Koeman last the season?
Tuesday’s match was only Barca’s fourth of the new season but already a ‘Koeman Out’ banner has been spotted at the Camp Nou. There might be a few more next time out after a comprehensive defeat to Bayern.
The Dutchman’s boastful pre-match comments that “thanks to me this club has a future” did not got down well with supporters who will have been disappointed further by what they saw on Tuesday.
Koeman may be willing to hand youngsters game time, and deserves credit for that, but there’s still no evidence he is man who can mould a squad that’s flawed but full of promising young talent into a successful side.
- 0 goals— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) September 14, 2021
- 0 shots on target
- 47% possession
- Sitting back
- Counter-attacking style
Not the same Barcelona. pic.twitter.com/Xa68aLoB1L
Under Koeman, Barca has now lost a Champions League home opener for the first time and overseen three consecutive home defeats in Europe for the first time in the club’s history. Those defeats follow a run of 38 games unbeaten at home over seven years.
Reports after the match claimed that Joan Laporta held a meeting with Rafael Yuste and director of football Mateu Alemany after the match which lasted until the early hours of the meeting. Sacking Koeman seems unlikely right now but you can’t help but wonder already just how long he’ll last.