La Liga

Messi missing, Pique crocked - Barcelona are in a generational crisis

Ronald Koeman's men are now a full-blown disaster and he knows that there's precious little way to fix what is a dire situation

12:22pm on Sunday 22nd November 2020
Paul Macdonald

Barcelona have played this game already this season.

Despite dominating the ball and territory, they are unable to break down the opposition, nor do they even look remotely capable of doing so. Lionel Messi is marginalised, Antoine Griezmann substituted, and the game ends without three points.

It's staggering how similar this 1-0 defeat against Atletico was to the loss in Getafe, and to a certain extent the draw in Alaves. A cheap goal is conceded and then the team sets up a comfortable low block and asks Barcelona to break them down. They were found wanting.

Messi's disinterest at what is going on at Barcelona could not be more pointed.FC

And goals don't get much cheaper than this. Only Marc-Andre Ter Stegen will know how he ended up 45 yards outside of his goal attempting to tackle Yannick Carrasco, giving the Belgian an easy tap in on the stroke of half-time.

But the response, rather than the error, highlights the endemic issues in attack. Messi may have been just off the plane after his trip to Argentina for South American qualifying, but his disinterest in what is going on at the club at the moment could not be more pointed. At this point it's difficult to see a conclusion which sees him remain at the club next season.

Griezmann is edging further into lame duck territory, incapable of providing anything to the team and for every step forward he takes confidence-wise, there always seems to be two steps back. To say that this isn't working would be an understatement, but everything he is doing is safe. 25 passes, 24 completed, none of them key, expected assists (xA) of zero. He isn't creating, he isn't scoring, he isn't doing much of anything.

And while Messi is still trying to dribble and create as much as a mere mortal - four completed dribbles, three key passes, xA of 0.45 - you have to watch the body language and the attitude he is taking towards these situations to know this is a man whose love for this club has dissipated.

And as if things couldn't get any worse for Ronald Koeman, who has already had to deal with the long-term loss of one of the season's few bright sparks, Ansu Fati, Gerard Pique's knee injury looks bad and could be worse.

The initial prognosis is a knee sprain, which means a minimum of two months out. But a scan could prove worse and see Pique missing for the season. For a team lacking a leader and with Clement Lenglet now the only fit central defender, this is a club which has descended into full crisis mode.

And given their financial situation, there's precious little money available to procure a replacement. Frenkie De Jong has deputised at centre-back and will likely have to do so again, a monumental waste of his talents and a situation that highlights just how mismanaged Barcelona have been.

Make no mistake, Atletico won here by playing within themselves and Diego Simeone got his first league win ever against Barca. One of these teams is a title challenger. And it isn't Koeman's team.


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