The news of Lionel Messi officially leaving FC Barcelona has continued to shock the footballing world.
Barca announced on Thursday that it would not be able to re-sign Messi due to financial complications. Reality finally hit many when Messi gave his farewell press conference, where he noted that he wanted to stay on with Barca, but such a signing was simply not possible in the end.
After years of facing stark criticism of being too reliant on Messi, Barca now heads into the upcoming season with a massive void to fill following the Argentine’s departure. But for one player to immediately step in and become Messi’s successor at Barca may be an overreach, as the club currently does not have a player capable of shelling out a 45+ goal contributions campaign in all competitions.
As the news of Messi leaving the club is still fresh to many, Barca now has to turn the page and look ahead to this season, which will begin with its 2021-2022 La Liga opener against Real Sociedad.
If Barca aims to surpass expectations this season, it would surely need these three players to step up to the occasion.
Fortunately for Antoine Griezmann, he does not come into the upcoming season with a massive chip on his shoulder considering his promising performances over last season. Griezmann quieted down the narrative that he would be Barca’s next big-money flop, as he posted a formidable 32-goal contributions season, which included a two-goal showing in the 2021 Supercopa de Espana Final against Athletic Bilbao.
After two seasons filled with complaints that Griezmann can not play alongside Messi for numerous tactical reasons, the French forward will now have the opportunity to shine as Barca’s top attacking option this season.
Barca manager Ronald Koeman will have a tactical dilemma on Griezmann’s best position with the team over the upcoming campaign. During his days with Atletico Madrid and even now with the French national team, Griezmann has often found success in playing behind a center-forward upfront. This has provided Griezmann with a multitude of space in Zone 14 to either dish off passes into the opponent’s penalty box or simply roam with the ball.
Griezmann will be under hefty pressure to mirror his success from last season, and he certainly has what it takes to do just that.
There was once a time when many lauded Barcelona’s signing of Clement Lenglet from La Liga side Sevilla as a bargain deal for the Catalan powerhouse. This narrative was put to rest following Lenglet’s sluggish performances last season.
From the four combined penalties committed in La Liga and UEFA Champions League play to the numerous positioning errors while in the team’s defensive third, Lenglet had one season to forget last year.
As Barca has so far made no move to acquire a veteran center-back over the ongoing summer transfer window, Lenglet is expected to earn starting minutes over this season. And if Barca has any chance of making a title run in La Liga, the veteran French defender will need to post stout defensive showings, from avoiding any major positional errors to refraining from over-committing when defending counter-attacks.
New Barca defender Eric Garcia will surely be waiting for his chance to become a regular starter with the team, so Lenglet will certainly have to fight for his starting job this season.
Karl Rasmussen ·
If there was ever a time for a vintage campaign from Philippe Coutinho, it would surely be the upcoming season with Barcelona.
Coutinho has already been tabbed by many as the biggest flop in La Liga history. Barca went all out to acquire him from Liverpool over the 2018 winter transfer window, where the La Liga giants shelled out an astounding €160 million coupled with add-ons to bring him in.
So far, Coutinho has looked like a shell of his former self over the past couple of seasons, as injuries and lackadaisical play have dropped his transfer value by a notable amount.
For the moment, Coutinho is currently expected to stay on with Barca, so he may get another shot to feature under Koeman over this season. And the Brazilian midfielder can not let slip such a golden opportunity to redeem himself for the club.
Koeman may opt to line up Barca under a 4-3-3 setup, which could see Coutinho feature with the team as a left-winger or base midfielder. Coutinho often shined as a base midfielder during the early portions of the 2018-2019 season under now-former Barca manager Ernesto Valverde, but the tactical experiment ended due to concerns over his off-ball activity.
Like with Griezmann and Lenglet, Coutinho must deliver for Barcelona to give the team even a shot at avoiding a potential trophyless season.