Barcelona will be without the services of their record signing Ousmane Dembele for quite a while now. To add to this, the Frenchman’s possible replacement Gerard Deulofeu is not playing well. Frankly, once an Evertonian reserve wouldn’t be able to play regularly for a club like Barcelona. So, we are here to look for certain systems which Valverde can apply and not rue the fact that his possible “Neymar replacement” is absent.
Well, the 4-3-3 formation has been one which has taken the Catalans to new heights in recent years. Valverde also started his tenure playing this system. The idea must have been to play Dembele on the left replacing Neymar. But, in the absence of the Frenchman, he can deploy Denis Suarez on the left or play Paulinho in a further role. Against Eibar, he played with Messi as a forward supported by D.Suarez and Deulofeu. But, despite Messi carrying his team through, the front three was dysfunctional.
In fact, Paulinho was linking up well from that number 8 position mainly with the Argentine maestro. So, an option of Messi, L. Suarez and D. Suarez/ Paulinho might not be bad if the manager wants to continue with the favoured 4-3-3.
4-4-2 (Diamond): –
The 4-4-2 diamond is another very option if Valverde needs midfield solidarity. The Messi-Suarez partnership up top might not be a bad idea for certain games. Reliance on fullbacks to bomb forward will also be good with Busquets sitting between centre-backs. This will enable Barcelona to dominate midfield and also help likes of Iniesta, Paulinho to influence the game centrally and pick out Messi/Suarez with the little through-balls.
This system will also allow more ball playing from the centre-backs with a more midfield-centred formation. The only worry is if the fullbacks are caught high up on the counter, they may well be exposed. But, both Semedo and Alba are quick to run up and down whenever needed. This system might not be a plan A, but sure can be a backup.
This 3 at the back system is becoming a trend for managers whenever they need a plan B or a good defensive performance, especially in the Premier League. This might also be a good variety for Valverde to have whenever he has to explore more wide play from his fullbacks. We all know Semedo is more comfortable playing a wing-back and Alba would also love to play as an attacking wing-back, so placing them in a 3-4-2-1 formation might not be a bad idea.
This will also give a defensive stability with 3 centre-backs and Busquets sitting in front of them. The box midfield will give free roles to Messi and his forward partner Paulinho/Rakitic/D.Suarez to provide the supply for the striker.
In fairness, Barcelona have a good enough squad to challenge in La Liga. It is in the Champions League where subtle tweaks are required to be flexible and effective. Valverde knows he cannot rely on players like Deulofeu, A. Vidal too much in big games. Subtle tweaks in systems and getting best players on the pitch will be his primary objective. He has brought the work ethic back in this team, bit more quality and Barcelona are on their way to being best again.