With everything that has been going on in the Barcelona camp, the performance against Villareal CF feels like a breath of fresh air for the Culers. One of the key changes that Quique Setien had made was changing the formation allowing the trio of Messi, Suarez and Griezmann to fit into their preferred roles while being together on the pitch. However, this was only one game against a team which was though in form, not a formidable opposition for the likes of FC Barcelona. Keeping that in mind here are some formations that could work for this team.
This is the team that Setien used in Barca’s clash against Villareal. Ter Stegen naturally started in goal with Gerard Pique and Clement Lenglet in front of him. Jordi Alba and Nelson Semedo provided not only the defensive width but the only width in the team. Busquets in his natural holding role, would act as a third center back and provide a passing option at the back while attacking. LCM Sergi Roberto and RCM Arturo Vidal provided cover to the attack particularly in the wider regions. Completing that diamond was none other than the maestro Lionel Messi. Linking up with that mid-field looking to make something happen in that final 3rd, all the while dragging players out of their position is something Messi not only does quite well but also enjoys. With Messi bending the shape of the opposition and opening space it allows the 2 strikers in front of him: Suarez and Griezmann to exploit that space. The most crucial part of this formation is that all members of the MSG trio were playing in their natural position. Messi would drop deep into the mid-field, Suarez an out and out number 9 and Griezmann playing off of Suarez as a second striker.
The changes in this line up that Barcelona fans would like to see is Arturo Vidal swapped out for Riqui Puig, since Vidal has been somewhat fixed in that starting line up for very valid reasons, he has looked somewhat complacent and less effective. This might be due to the fact that he is 33 year old has lost his physicality to play the full 90 minutes like he once could and put pressure on the opponent team. More so Puig has been looking excellent and with magnificent performances against Celta Vigo and Athletico Madrid has, shown that he is ready for a first team starting berth. This would also allow Vidal to come in as a sub in the later stages of the game and give the team a jolt of energy that we know he possesses.
The problem with this formation is that it relies heavily on the full backs to provide width in attack and leaves the defense exposed for counter attacking. This is a problem which the team has been suffering from for a long time due to lack of natural wingers.
In my opinion, this formation will suit FC Barcelona the best keeping in mind the squad that we have. Starting between the sticks would be the outstanding Marc Andre Ter Stegen. In the back three it is a tricky affair since Barcelona is running short of center backs. There are 3 possible cases for that back three:
Case I: Lenglet-Pique-Araujo
This would be a traditional all centre back, allowing the other players to move forward with ease knowing they have a solid back line.
Case II: Lenglet-Pique/Araujo-Semedo
With teams with pacey wingers, such as Bayern Munich and Real Madrid, who can break fast and make runs behind the defense Semedo can prove to be a valuable asset.
Case III: Lenglet-Busquets-Araujo
Given Pique’s age it would be impossible for him to play each and every game at the highest level. Busquets can play as a make-shift centre back like Fernandinho is doing for Manchester City and Yaya Toure had done for FC Barcelona itself.
In the LM role Jordi Alba and Junior Firpo both can thrive, and even Ansu Fati is an option. In RM, Sergi Roberto can play a crucial role. Other options would include Nelson Semedo and Ivan Rakitic who sporadically played in that role for Ernesto Valeverde’s 4-4-2. In central mid-field for the 2 spots, Setien has an assortment of options. The ideal would be Riqui Puig along with Sergio Busquets. While Busquets gives you composure and steadiness, Puig will give you dynamism and a drive to take initiative. Other options would include Rakitic, Arthur and Arturo Vidal.
The front line would look very similar to that of what Setien played against Villareal: The number 10 role occupied by Messi linking up that mid-field and attack, Griezmann as a CF and Suarez as the out and out number 9. When Messi is to be rested, Puig can take up that number 10 role quite well as we saw for the last 30 minutes Puig was on the pitch. As for the striking options, Martin Braithwaite and Ansu Fati can create competition for Suarez and Griezmann.
With the title race almost wrapped up and Barcelona set to finish second this season, the Barcelona Manager can now afford to experiment with his squad and find that perfect combination of players and tactics to compete in the Champions League which they haven’t won in the past 4 seasons and for a club like FC Barcelona that is a disturbing figure.