Barcelona prides itself on being judged by style of play as are results but coach Ronald Koeman struggles to get results on both counts and his position is in jeopardy after the 1-1 draw with Granada in La Liga on Monday.
And the Catalan team was satisfied with achieving one point thanks to a header goal in the 90th minute by Ronald Araujo, but the most important thing was the direct approach of Barcelona, after abandoning his distinctive method based on passes and switching to sending crosses into the penalty area.
Barcelona sent 54 crosses into the penalty area against Granada, 45 of them from open play, more than any other team in a single match in one of Europe’s five major leagues this season.
Burnley, the English club, is second in the list of the most crosses, and shares the colors of his shirt with Barcelona, but his direct style of play contrasts sharply with the Barcelona traditions instilled by Johan Cruyff and Pep Guardiola, the two greatest coaches in the history of the Catalan club.
And the Spanish newspaper Marca asked on its main cover, “Is this Barcelona?”, and described the team’s performance as “very bad”, adding that the team had “abandoned its style.”
And if the heavy loss against Bayern Munich 3-0 last week in the Champions League has indicated that Barcelona is no longer able to compete with the European elite, then the draw with Granada, who has not achieved any victory so far, was more worrying, a sign However, Barcelona no longer has the tools to smash even ordinary local teams.
Koeman defended his plans, including involving defender Gerard Pique in the attack and ending the match with four defenders and two attacking hearts, saying that the team members and Granada’s defense from the depth did not leave him with many options.
“We can’t play tiki-taka if there are no spaces,” Koeman said, referring to the popular description of Barcelona’s preferred playing style under Guardiola.
Barcelona missed six players due to injury, including the young Pedri, the player who has the greatest technical capabilities and is still in the club after the departure of Lionel Messi.
“We know it may not be the football that is Barcelona, but Barcelona is not what it was eight years ago,” Koeman added.
The coach is walking a fine line and has a troubled relationship with President Joan Laporta, who publicly revealed his reservations about the Dutch coach at the end of last season before deciding to keep him.
Barcelona’s financial problems are now playing Koeman’s favour, as the club will struggle to pay his termination fees if he is sacked and the club finds the money to hire a successor.
But the football-style situation that the club president and fans do not like – only 27,000 of the 40,000 tickets available for Monday’s match were sold – and his poor results look unsustainable.
Former Barcelona player Xabi Hernandez, captain of the midfield in the glorious era under Guardiola and Cruyff’s student, may be the most popular choice among the fans to take over, but he is still in the early stages of his coaching career and this year signed a new contract with Al Sadd Qatar that runs until 2023.