Five matches spread over two tours and the Joan Gamper trophy, without Super Cup or another official competition match. Five matches cannot serve to draw conclusions but they leave clues. How will Barcelona 2019-20 play? What intentions has Valverde shown?
System: new parts, identical work
With the double disappointment of Champions and Cup last year and the summer in between, one of the possibilities was that Valverde decided to change the game system. But the Blaugrana coach has chosen not to vary his idea. These five meetings have served to confirm that Barcelona will attack and defend the same as last year. An attack in which the extremes are going to receive interior positions and in which a double effort is requested from the sides for depth and withdrawal. Nor has the way of pressing changed but it has qualified it. The team has been arranged in a line of four, another of five and the tip. From here, it is one of the interiors who jumps to squeeze and place the 4-4-2 defense. A pressure that, with the return of Messi, is expected to be pure again, leaving him and Suarez released above.
Goal: Ter Stegen and a substitute
Despite the march of Cillessen, few changes under the arch. Net, the new substitute, showed in the first meeting against Naples his main virtue, the defense of the goal. He and Ter Stegen have distributed the minutes exactly (225 for each) and, with two goals conceded, they have also matched records. But despite this, the roles are very differentiated. Ter Stegen will be the undisputed holder. In addition, the injury of the Brazilian goalkeeper will make it Iñaki Peña, a huge future squad, who starts the league as a companion.
Defense: the casting Lenglet-Umtiti
The first line already presents some puzzle. The status of the sides has changed. On the right, Semedo has won gallons and will be the owner. The repeated refusal to sell and the fact that Valverde himself has declared Sergi Roberto midfielder leave him a free track. On the other hand, on the left, the arrival of a promising Junior Firpo gives competition to the position. With this horizon, the thing is clear. They will play Semedo-Piqué-Alba, and the mystery is given in the left-handed center. With 248 and 225 minutes respectively, Valverde seems to have done his particular test between Umtiti and Lenglet. Although Umtiti's feelings were good on the tour of Japan, his meeting against Naples has left doubts again. Today, everything indicates that Lenglet takes the casting.
Core: De Jong plus two
Although it has been the area with less clues, one thing does seem obvious: Frenkie de Jong will be a starter yes or yes. And it will be by active or passive. Because if Valverde had any doubts with him, the Dutch player has been responsible for expressing with his huge performance that must be a fixed. De Jong has played 249 minutes, being the third most used Blaugrana. Of these, 45 have been as a support interior, 47 as a left interior and 157 minutes as a pivot. Whether as a pivot or as an interior it will be structural. In any case, a trend has been appreciated. Valverde wants to accompany him with another interpretive medium, either Sergi Roberto or Rakitic. That is, someone who occupies the space when the Dutch leaves the area. Another sign, he and Busquets have just coincided on the lawn 24 minutes.
Barça gave 654 passes with 58% possession against Naples, with De Jong, Sergi Roberto and Aleñá
Perhaps the most marked retouching has been given in the figure of the third medium, the left interior. Here there is a very revealing fact, 403 of the 450 total minutes of the preseason have been distributed between Riqui Puig and Carles Aleñá. That is, two half-points. Something that is a novelty and a step towards an attempt to have more ability to break lines. While it is true that Arthur and Arturo Vidal have not had parties to break this rule, it is at least symptomatic. On the other hand, the best match of the Blaugrana came from the hand of a very dynamic combination with De Jong, Sergi Roberto and Aleñá. Barça won a 58.4% possession (the highest of the whole preseason against European teams – not counting Vissel Kobe -) and a record of 654 passes. In the middle, De Jong and two more.
Forward: the plan is Griezmann on the left
Messi's injury has not prevented Valverde from showing his intentions above. Antoine Griezmann, with 279 minutes, has been the most used footballer in this preseason. 152 were playing nine. Just until the incorporation of Luis Suarez, since the remaining 127 of the French have all been on the left. Not a single minute on the right. So, the trend is evident. In San Mamés they will play Dembélé-Suárez-Griezmann but Valverde's plan goes through a Barça with Messi on the right and the former on the left. Dembélé will be left to change games, for the rotation or for the space that his performance is conquering. Capacity has. Of course, the front comes in a good tone: the three have seen goal and accumulate five goals in total.