Araujo leads by example
There are very few positives to take from Monday’s shambolic showing but Ronald Araujo’s performance is certainly one and continues the Uruguayan’s fine start to the new season.
Ronald Koeman partnered Araujo with Eric Garcia in central defense, with Gerard Pique actually left out for once, and offered fans a glimpse into the future.
| Ronald Araújo vs Granada.— Barça Buzz (@Barca_Buzz) September 20, 2021
• 1 Goal.
• 81 Touches.
• 64/68 Passes.
• 5 Shots.
• 1 Dribble Completed.
• 11/13 Duels Won. (Most)
• 2 Clearances.
• 10/12 Aerials Won.
• 1 Interception.
• 5 Ball Recoveries.
• 0 Fouls.
• 0 Times Dribbled Past.
What. A. Performance. pic.twitter.com/zBbi2yR69J
Araujo led by example and was deservedly named man of the match after the game. The 22-year-old was superb at both ends of the pitch and hauled Barca level in the 90th minute.
The youngster was perhaps a little unlucky not to score earlier. A strong header in the first half was well saved by Luis Maximiano but Araujo simply kept on going and just refused to accept defeat.
The defender wasn’t done there either. Minutes after his goal he found himself racing down the wing in a bid to try and tee up a winner. It wasn’t to be for Araujo but not for the want of trying.
Koeman gets desperate
Araujo’s heroics may have kept Koeman in his job for another couple of days after a performance that will surely spell the end for the Dutchman at the Camp Nou.
Koeman’s starting XI looked promising with Alejandro Balde, Yusuf Demir, Garcia and Araujo all starting but his team got off to the worst possible start by conceding an early goal.
After that it was just pure chaos which became more desperate as the minutes ticked away, and Barca ended up firing crosses into the penalty area in the vague hope something might happen.
54 - @FCBarcelona have made 54 total crosses vs Granada CF, their second highest tally in a single LaLiga game since, at least 2005/06 (after 55 vs Málaga in Novembert 2016). Bombing. pic.twitter.com/WwegUTpT33— OptaJose (@OptaJose) September 20, 2021
Sergi Roberto hit the woodwork, Luuk de Jong came on at half-time and missed exactly the sort of chance he’d been brought on for, while Gerard Pique was thrown on as an emergency striker. And we all watched on with a mixture of horror and disbelief at what was happening.
It says a lot that Araujo was the team’s most dangerous attacker, and Koeman’s desperation was made plain when he even sent on Riqui Puig for his first minutes of the season.
Koeman defended his tactics after the match and once again pointed to his lack of options, particularly in attack. We all know the coach is having to deal with a host of injuries to key players but he simply has to do better than this.
Bad luck for Balde
Talking of injuries, Barca lost another player on Monday with Alejandro Balde going off with a back problem in the first half of his La Liga debut.
It’s a tough blow for the 18-year-old who had looked set to profit from Jordi Alba’s absence and get a chance to impress in the first team this week.
Barca have not confirmed how long Balde will be out for but it seems unlikely the youngster will feature at Cadiz on Thursday night when the team return to action.
Sergino Dest looks set to take over at the left-back slot after filling in on Monday. The USMNT star actually looked more comfortable on the left against Granada with Oscar Mingueza coming on to take his position on the right.
Gavi grabs first assist
It may have been a tough night for Balde but another youngster, Gavi, grasped his chance of more first-team minutes with his first assist. The 17-year-old’s energy and desire have been refreshing to watch every time he’s been introduced and were on show again on Monday.
This time though there was some end-product to appreciate too. Gavi’s cross for Araujo was simply begging for the defender to head home and the Uruguayan duly obliged.
Gavi becomes the youngest player to provide an assist in La Liga since a 16-year-old Ansu Fati against Valencia back in September 2019. Amid all the bleakness on show on Monday, and there was a lot, there’s still a crazy amount of young talent in this squad.
You have to wonder if Koeman will be brave (or desperate) enough to start Gavi next time out against Cadiz. The youngster certainly did more in his 30 minutes on the pitch than Philippe Coutinho, the man he had replaced, had done in the previous 60.
What now for Barcelona?
Unsurprisingly, Barca’s draw to Granada has only fuelled speculation about Koeman’s future at the club. No sooner had the final whistle blew than reports were flying about that the club have already decided to part ways with Koeman but just need to find a replacement.
Gerard Romero was busy on Twitch coming up with a big list of names, while Koeman was still at his post-match press conference telling reporters he was “tired” of answering questions about his future.
And this is the tricky part. Barca won’t want to bring in a stop-gap option but may find it difficult to tempt their top targets. Roberto Martinez is reportedly on the list but will be busy dreaming of lifting the World Cup with Belgium.
Xavi will inevitably be mentioned but has already turned down the job once because the timing wasn’t right and signed a new contract with Al Sadd in May keeping him at the club until 2023.
More names will surely come out in the coming days as Barca consider what to do next and where to go from here. A lack of alternatives may keep Koeman in the job for the time being but it seems only a matter of time now before Barca part ways with another coach.