Koeman’s last time on the bench?
Another draw and another drab performance from Barcelona means the pressure is still very much on Ronald Koeman going into Sunday’s match against Levante.
Rumors of interest in Xavi and Roberto Martinez simply aren’t going away and Koeman will know he’s on borrowed time at the Camp Nou currently.
It’s thought Koeman will still be in the job on Sunday, although it’s by no means guaranteed, but he won’t be on the bench after collecting a red card for something he said against Cadiz.
Indeed it’s not out of the question that Thursday’s match may have been Koeman’s last on the Barca bench as another passive, predictable and toothless performance against Levante could well spell the end.
Barcelona may remain unbeaten in La Liga after five games, despite a ton of injuries, but look a long way off being title challengers under the Dutchman. Tellingly, Koeman’s win rate as Barca manager is now at 60% - the lowest since Frank Rijkaard in 2008.
Frenkie adds to Barca’s problems
We all know that Barca’s injury situation is making a tough job even harder for Koeman but he’ll face another blow on Sunday with Frenkie de Jong missing through suspension.
The Dutch midfielder was sent off after collecting two yellow cards in the space of a matter of minutes in the second half, although it looked a harsh call by referee Carlos Del Cerro Grande who has previous when it comes to Frenkie.
- Frenkie de Jong gets sent off for the 2nd time in his career, after 2 yellow cards in a 2-2 away draw in La Liga against Espanyol on 4 January 2020. The referee that day was the same as today: Carlos Del Cerro Grande. #CadizBarça #LaLiga— Gracenote Live (@GracenoteLive) September 23, 2021
De Jong even won the ball in the second challenge but the ref seemed to think it was reckless lunge and so out came the red card.
Pedri is not expected back for Sunday’s match and the loss of De Jong too means Koeman will need to rethink his midfield again. Nico Gonzalez came off the bench against Cadiz and will fancy his chances of starting at the Camp Nou.
Memphis fizzles out after bright start
Memphis Depay could, and probably should, have won it for Barcelona late on but wasted a great chance on the break when he dragged a shot wide.
It wasn’t the only opportunity the summer signing had, indeed he looked the only Barca player who really wanted to score, but he couldn’t find a way past goalkeeper Jeremias Ledesma.
Memphis enjoyed a superb start to his Barcelona career, with two goals and an assist in his first three matches, but just seems to have fizzled out a little bit in the last few matches.
His dip in form comes at a bad time with Barca still without Ansu Fati, Ousmane Dembele, Sergio Aguero, and Martin Braithwaite, while Luuk de Jong has failed to make any impact whatsoever.
8 - #FCBarcelona have scored 8 goals after their first five games this season in #LaLiga, the lowest figure in this stage of the competition since 2003/04 season (5). Scarce. pic.twitter.com/nQuOPxSr46— OptaJose (@OptaJose) September 23, 2021
The good news is that Fati is expected to be back in the matchday squad for the visit of Levante on Sunday which should give Barca a boost and hopefully help revive Memphis.
The two players appear to have struck up a good relationship off the pitch already which will hopefully translate into an exciting partnership on the pitch too.
Barcelona finally manage a clean sheet
One of the few positives from Thursday’s game was a first clean sheet of the season for Barcelona on the sixth attempt. Goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen deserves praise after doing his bit with a string of decent saves to keep out Cadiz.
The German made a crucial stop at the start of the second half from Alvaro Negredo and then did well to deny Salvi late on after Riqui Puig had managed to gift the ball to Cadiz after coming on as a substitute.
Ronald Araujo was once again dominant at the back and is fast becoming one of the first names on the teamsheet. The Uruguayan’s speed is refreshing to see but he’s also improved so much in possession. The center-back also simply refuses to be dribbled past.
⚠️ | QUICK STAT— SofaScore (@SofaScoreINT) September 24, 2021
Ronald Araújo has now played 2092 minutes in LaLiga since his debut on 6 Oct 2019 without getting dribbled past even once.
No other outfield player in the top 5 leagues with at least 2000 minutes played since Araújo's debut got dribbled past less than 5 times. pic.twitter.com/Ewz2gPV3ry
This was also something of a makeshift defense. Barca were forced to make changes with Jordi Alba and Alejandro Balde still out through injury. Sergino Dest was once again employed on the left and offered some good and bad moments with Oscar Mingueza putting in a typically solid shift on the right.
Gavi enjoys his full debut but Demir struggles
The one big surprise on the teamsheet, and a pleasant one it was too, was the sight of Gavi being granted his first start. It was a deserved reward for the 17-year-old who has enjoyed some bright cameos off the bench and picked up a first assist against Granada.
The teenager, who became Barca’s youngest debutant in La Liga this century after Ansu Fati, enjoyed himself in Cadiz with a typically energetic display and will surely go on to enjoy plenty of minutes this season.
It was a different story for Yusuf Demir who struggled to get involved and only lasted 45 minutes as Koeman opted to switch things at half-time by sending on Sergi Roberto for the second half.
Injuries have meant that a lot’s been asked from Demir, who don’t forget was originally signed for Barca B, in the opening weeks of the season and patience will be needed with the talented Austrian youngster.