Koeman’s resignation

Do you remember when Barça for the little ones did not concede fouls at home because they knew what their vulnerability was? Pep Guardiola had a lot to do with it, obsessive like no other to take care of small details. Against Athletic, the players fell on all fours over and over again, until Asier Villalibre ended up scoring the agonizing draw.


Koeman is also playing his future these months (Toni Padilla)

Those who know Ronald Koeman say that the Dutch coach is enjoying his first year on the Barça bench. After suffering a fright with a heart attack, he has learned that it is time to worry about important things. Alien to social media, he does not waste time in the intense debates that arise after each match but last a few days. His gaze is long and that is why he does not understand the disappointment of many Barcelona players with the performance of his team. Koeman believes that the season lasts a long time, that the marks are put at the end of the course and that it should be borne in mind that they have not made a sad signing. It lacks some reason.

But after the first half of the season, Koeman has failed to give stability to a project that needs it. His Barça, like the tide, is now moving forward, now retreating. And when the important appointments arrive it demonstrates a worrying emotional fragility, added to the problems of the Dutch technician to modify the course of the parties with the changes. Against Athletic, again, it took a long time to make substitutions even though his team had only shot once in the goal in 70 minutes. Marcelino García Toral won the tactical battle for him, as other coaches have done on important match days, such as Zidane in the classic, Simeone against Atlético and Pirlo in the match against Juve at the Camp Nou. The victory against the Italians in Turin is one of the few blows of authority of Koeman’s Barça after the first six months of adventure. And against Real Sociedad in the semifinals of Córdoba was played with fire. Ter Stegen turned it off.

The duel against PSG, key

The return to the Camp Nou is Koeman’s great opportunity to continue relaunching a coaching career that was withering away after an encouraging start. With the selection of the Netherlands he began to recover his optimism and Barça is now a dream come true for Koeman, despite having to speak with a provisional management board that cannot give him a single signing. Koeman, however, knows that, beyond the results, he will be judged by the evolution of his team’s game, if he wants to stay on the bench. The coach knows that football, a sometimes very cruel sport, will not guarantee that he will have a job next season unless he manages to get a very good grade this season. If his Barça face the next important dates, especially the duel against PSG, playing as he did in La Cartuja, the president who wins the elections will surely choose not to give him power next season. Now, in this strange officially frozen election campaign, the candidates are giving him public support. But if Koeman doesn’t generate consensus, changing coaches would be a weapon the new president would have to cheer the fans on and start a new cycle. There will be no shortage of candidates to occupy the local bench at the Camp Nou.

Tusquets is left without a title

After the first half year of adventure, his Barça is neither meat nor fish. He has improved in attack, especially when Messi has regained the laughter he lost again in Sevilla. Barça have won 15 official matches, but have not won in 11. And in defense it fits too well, partly because of Piqué’s loss. Koeman, making his way, seems to be betting on some young people, but not all. From time to time he gives minutes to La Masia players, but he does it more out of necessity, as with Araujo or Mingueza, than out of conviction. Sometimes it is ordered through the ball in a style similar to the 4-3-3 and sometimes it is closed in defense, more garrepa. It often seems that he will be able to face the big clubs in Europe, but when the important dates come, his Barça is more like Quique Setión’s than the proposal for the future that he should symbolize himself. The Dutch coach is playing a lot, in the coming months. And he won’t make excuses. It will depend on him if he is a coach to cover the hole of a season or if, as he did as a player, he overcomes a bad starting point to end up touching the sky.


from Cruyff’s leading student to world-renowned technician (Albert Nadal)

This Monday Pep Guardiola turns 50 years old. Half a century of a life linked to football and commitment to an idea and a school that, without demeaning all those who have also contributed to it, has been christened the cruyffista model. Guardiola, who landed at the hands of Oriol Tort in La Masia when he was 13 years old from Gimnàstic Manresa, could hardly have imagined then that he would end up being Johan’s leading student only a few years later.

Although the story had begun earlier, with Cruyff’s always attentive gaze on the young footballers in the house, it was on December 16, 1990 when Guardiola made his debut, in Cádiz, with the first team. It was the beginning of a unique communion in football, a combination that would change the history of Barça. The first pages of the club’s most romantic story were beginning to be written, which would end up excelling years later, when Santpedor’s, without ceasing to be that privileged student of Johan’s, would end up becoming the coach with the most titles, joys and pride. they would take to the windows of Barça.

Cruyff’s intuition, combined with Luis Milla’s departure to Real Madrid, opened Guardiola’s doors to the first team, in which the position of 4 it was already beginning to be a hallmark of Barça football. “From this position I had a privileged vision of the game. It was very important for us, to always find the best way out of the ball. Quickly and intelligently. He had an exquisite technique,” he recalls in a conversation with ARA Miquel Àngel Nadal. Barça’s central midfielder between 1991 and 1999 was one of Guardiola’s first roommates at Barça. “Only on the road, eh! Not every day, he wasn’t my type,” jokes Nadal, who has kept a great friendship with the coach since the years that coincided with both Barça and the Spanish national team.

“Pep, despite his youth, was a footballer who identified a lot with Barça and his environment. He represented exactly his place in what was the whole football structure of Johan. Since he came from home, the his arrival on the team was like the missing piece to finish fitting all the parts of the puzzle together, ”Nadal describes. “It was like the extension of the coach on the field, because his position was where most balls went. His main function was to choose the best option where to get the ball and, that, in the philosophy of the game “Apart from that, Pep was very demanding. He always wanted to win and he always thought about football: he asked a lot, he was interested in both his position and that of his teammates, what was the best way.” to place ourselves, what movements we could make … You saw that it was his passion “.

“Together with Sergio Busquets, he is the best player Barça has had in this position”

Miquel Àngel Nadal Barça central (1991-1999)

Nadal, who defines Guardiola as “the person who has best captured Cruyff’s message,” also recalls the importance and ancestry of the Dutch coach in that group of players who would be christened the Dream Team. “His winning mentality was entrusted. We didn’t go out to speculate. We were ambitious and we played very offensive football. Apart from being a coach that the players had a lot of respect for who he had been as a player, you saw that everything he told us he came out naturally, he believed in it. He also knew when you had to stop and encouraged you when you needed to. He was a breakthrough in many ways. “

Evolution as a coach

Guardiola would end his career as a footballer away from Barça, where he returned in 2007 to re-float the subsidiary, which had just been relegated to the Third Division. Only a season later he was commissioned by then-president Joan Laporta to take the reins of the first team to begin the most glorious era of a coach on the Barça bench. “Pep is the son of Barça and Barça was his home,” journalist and ex-athlete Martí Perarnau told ARA. “As a coach he put on the field all those tools, instruments and knowledge that he learned for so many years at the club. To put it in some way, he didn’t have to make any substantial changes in his way of understanding. What he had done as a player, he took to the field with some footballers – Messi, Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets … – who have the same football language and practice the same style “. For four seasons on the first team bench (2008-2012) Guardiola won 14 titles out of 19 possible.

As a Barça coach, Santpedor showed his commitment to an idea and a model, with the ball always as the protagonist of the discursive axis, which amazed Europe and made him one of the most sought-after coaches on the planet. . His time on the bench would continue in 2013 at Bayern Munich. “Pep is planted in Germany as the 16-year-old dwarf who leaves home for the first time to see the world. In the Bundesliga he finds himself with the icy fields of the winter months, the game on the counterattack of any team and at any time , passionate stadiums like Borussia Dortmund … And, at Bayern, a very different culture in which they speak another language, both linguistic and football “, analyzes the author of books such as Mr. Pep (2014) i Pep Guardiola. Metamorphosis (2016). “In addition, there is the circumstance that when Pep is hired, Bayern was doing badly. But when he arrives in Munich, he does so after they have won the treble and this makes it difficult to adapt.”

In favor, Guardiola found in Bayern players eager to learn from the stamp of the Catalan coach, such as Lahm, Kroos, Boateng and Alaba. “Unfortunately, Thiago’s injuries make him unable to help spread this way of playing,” Perarnau adds. “Pep also adapts to players who do not have this profile, such as Robben, Ribéry or Müller, and makes a very important move: he places the sides inside, helping the midfielder and creating a line of three with which he breaks the rival counterattacks “. After dominating his main rival, Borussia Dortmund, and winning the Bundesliga with authority, Guardiola signed in 2016 for Manchester City.

“With Messi fake 9, Pep surprised. But the concept already existed. His great contribution to football is playing with the sides inside “

Martí Perarnau Journalist and former athlete

“In Manchester he is no longer the Pep who only knows Barça’s style in depth: he has already applied several variants thanks to his time in Germany. Apart from studying a lot like the Premier League, his first year in England was “It was a complicated course, but during which he learned a lot from another type of football,” said Perarnau. “It was a difficult course, with other circumstances in the process of making the team to measure.” “In his second year he would win the Premier League, breaking the 100-point record and continue to add titles. He has also had obstacles, but he has accumulated experience that allows him to speak very rich football languages ​​and master many variants, which he exposes according to matches.”

It is in Manchester where Guardiola will turn 50 this Monday. Al City, with the complicity of Ferran Soriano and Txiki Begiristain within the structure of the club, as well as the confidence of President Khaldoon al-Mubarak, is living its longest stage on a bench: in November it renewed until 2023.


the hot notes of the Super Cup final (Xavi Hernández Navarro)

A final trailer. Jordi Alba gasped, for lack of passing lines, every time he had to serve as a winger. Messi, a starter despite the inconvenience, appeared very little. Pedri, surrounded by opponents whenever he received, was not right either. In two weeks in Bilbao, Marcelino has made Athletic an uncomfortable team. With a couple of clear ideas, and after beating Real Madrid in the semifinals of the Super Cup, the Asturian coach won the tactical battle against Koeman, who did not do too much to prevent his Barça from waiting at home less talented rival. What exactly did Barça play in the first final they played in a year and a half? To survive? Victory would not have justified such a poor proposal. Defeat, he portrayed it.

Frustrated turning point. Granted, the Spanish Super Cup does not have the glamor of the Champions League, but it is impossible not to see in the defeat of Barça in Seville (from Duckadam, a city of lost finals) features that evoke the triad of European defeats (Rome , Liverpool, Lisbon) of the last courses. Against Athletic, Barça made children’s mistakes on set pieces, just like at Anfield or Olimpico. They also suffered the effects of a physical inferiority and a lack of plan more typical of the times of Setión than of the Koeman era. Messi, present in the three painful precedents, also found no holes. After Villalibre’s goal to go into extra time, the 10 not only did not gather his teammates to try to lift their spirits, but ended up expelled, a victim of the purest impotence. I had never seen a red one. He has noses that the first one has arrived in what could be his last final as a culer …

The best center of the staff. To draw some positive conclusions, Araujo’s performance minimizes Barça’s penalty for not being able to advance Eric García’s arrival in the winter market. When Piqué was seriously injured, the arrival of the Martorell center-back became even more necessary, but the Uruguayan’s step forward has reduced the drama. Araujo is taking advantage of the opportunity to the point that right now he is and not Lenglet the benchmark of the team. Imperial in aerial play and correction, he only has to improve – in relation to his teammate on the axis – in the ball output, an art that develops over time. It is no coincidence that in less than a year it has quadrupled its market value. However, he will not be able to sustain the entire defensive line.

Antoine’s empty hands. Griezmann cost more than $ 120 million to decide major matches. And he was on the verge, despite the poor collective performance, of justifying part of the effort in the Super Cup. If the day of the Real Sociedad, with Messi injured, provided assistance for De Jong, in the final against Athletic, with the 10 on the pitch, he scored two goals as a professional finisher. Too bad they were useless. Williams, with a goal in overtime, erased his smile suddenly. Pay attention, by the way, to the Basque’s career against Barça. Last year he was the executioner of the elimination of the Catalans in the Cup. And this year he has raised the bar to give his club the second title in six years.


Barça lose their heads and bounce back from the Super Cup (2-3) (Toni Padilla)

The journey through the Barça desert continues. In Seville, the city where he had lost the Cup in 2019 against Marcelino’s Valencia, Koeman’s team was left with a silly face and lost the Super Cup against Marcelino’s Athletic (2-3). A final that seemed to be won, but Barça did not know how to protect the treasure that were the goals of Griezmann, one of the few footballers who knew how to live up to a match in which Barça did not deserve to win. Emotionally unstable, soft on defense and with no ideas on offense, Barça were on the verge of winning by playing poorly. But not like that. And he ended up losing the roles as Messi, sent off in the last minute of the match. The image of a hurtful defeat. As much by the result, as by the script and the game of the equipment during good part of a end where the Basoues, sometimes hard in defense, had more heart.

Winning a penalty shootout in the semifinals had sparked the adrenaline of a hungry Barça. Hungry for titles, hungry for glory. But the euphoria of the semifinal did not last long and hunger turned to anguish. Koeman’s team was caught in the defensive web of a reborn Athletic with the change of coach. Marcelino’s first game on the bench for the Basques, against Barça in San Mamés, turned out to be a testing ground that allowed the Asturian coach to improve his defensive system. And Athletic managed to get absolutely nothing to happen for 30 minutes. Only Ander Capa, with a shot that tested Ter Stegen, broke the monotony of a match that Barça started as if they had no esma, as if they had given him kryptonite. And that played Messi, recovered from his physical problems. But Marcelino knew how to isolate both the Argentine and his great accomplice, Pedri, well enough from the game. Barça got lost in the labyrinth of the Basques, waiting for someone to pull a thread to get out of the trap.

And the thread, of course, was pulled by a Messi who did not have the day. But the Argentine knew how to find Jordi Alba alone in the band in one of the few mistakes of the disciplined Basque defenses. And with a bit of luck, after a rebound, Griezmann managed to beat Simón with Barça’s first shot between the three posts. But what Jordi Alba gives you in attack, Jordi Alba can also take you out on defense. The winger always goes face to face, attacking. And sometimes they win his back. If scoring a goal just before the break seemed like a psychological blow for Barça to the Basques, Athletic Club did not take even 60 seconds to tie and leave Ronald Koeman with a slap in the face. Williams invented a pass to the back of the Barça defense and Óscar de Marcos overtook Ter Stegen, after escaping the surveillance of Jordi Alba. As in the semi-final against Real Sociedad, after giving the first blow, Barça was forced to start again. Then chewing sand.

A scare with Raúl García

Koeman, to try to give balance to his team, sacrificed Sergiño Dest already at halftime and brought in the right winger Mingueza. The idea was to be able to tie in short the always naughty Muniain and, incidentally, give back order to be able to risk attack. Barça needed their most talented players, but Messi, Pedri and De Jong were still in a cage. Griezmann did appear, touching the ball judiciously every time he got a space in the front. But Dembélé did not help him. The extreme is how Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, a footballer with two faces. And in La Cartuja the Frenchman didn’t get one right. He was not the only one. The tactical battle between the two teams was accompanied by a lot of individual mistakes, bad controls and passes to the emptiness of the giant stadium of La Cartuja, where the desperate cries of the two coaches resounded. And also the cries of happiness and frustration of the Athletic players when they celebrated the second goal, the work of Raúl García after finishing off a cross from Muniain, who had won a foul precisely from Mingueza. But the VAR caught the Navarrese offside for a short time and pardoned Barça. A few minutes later, not even the VAR would save a defense that suffers too much with side centered face.

The goal disallowed at Athletic served to stretch the ears of a Barça that finally settled around the ball and closed an Athletic that plays everything in the counterattacks of Iñaki Williams, who collided more than once with an imperial Araujo. The young Uruguayan central defender was one of the few who took a step forward in a final with little football, without Koeman being encouraged to make further changes. And yet, Barça seemed to have the cup in their hands when Griezmann dressed as a hero with 15 minutes to go and finished off a cross from Alba. The Frenchman, playing the role of fake well new, slipped inside the area to beat Simon with a cross shot. Once again, Alba became Barça’s can opener. And in the second shot on goal, Griezmann scored the second goal. Unai Simón had not stained his gloves to make stops, but to catch the bottom ball of the net.

Williams decides

The final seemed decided, but Barça is a work in progress, a team still with doubts that reminds him of the fateful nights of recent years. And almost in the last play Asier Villalibre equalized again in a lateral foul badly defended by a Barça that has one of its heels of Aquilles in the plays of strategy. The goal brought the final to an overtime that started in the worst way, when Iñaki Williams invented a beautiful goal by sending the ball to the only place where Ter Stegen could not reach. The German could not act as a hero, he could not help a team that began to desperately attack the Basque defense, already with Riqui Puig on the field alongside Pjanic. A sterile domain, with Athletic taking advantage of Mingueza’s mistakes to go wrong with cons that hurt as much as needle punctures. A slow torture that was punishing a Barça that could have tied thanks to a shot by Griezmann. But the Frenchman is so unlucky that not even scoring two goals in a final is the hero of a club doomed to chain two years without winning titles, while Koeman, thoughtful, wonders how he missed a Super Cup that would have reinforced. Instead, it returns weakness of Seville.

Messi’s unprecedented loss of roles: the hot notes of the Super Cup final


The Super Cup graduates Araujo and Mingueza in a rejuvenated Barça (Albert Nadal)

Marc-André ter Stegen, for his decisive stops both during the match and in the penalty shootout against Real Sociedad, and Riqui Puig, for marking the decisive throw and coming out of ostracism, were the two names for Barça who they monopolized all the headlines after overcoming the Super Cup semifinals. But in a choral sport such as football, other players, until recently almost unknown to the general public, also signed a notable performance. These are Ronald Araujo and Óscar Mingueza.

The Uruguayan center-back, who reached the semi-finals after suffering an overload in his hamstring muscles in his right thigh, started out as a partner with Clément Lenget. Araujo is demonstrating the qualities that the current technical secretary, Ramon Planes from Lleida, saw in him to insist on taking him to Barça. Planes already had the Uruguayan defender under control before entering work for Barça. He has been following the player since he saw him make his debut in the Second Division of Uruguayan football with CA Rentistas, when he was 17 years old. Araujo’s strength and mentality were key factors in capturing the attention of the technical secretary, who was convinced that the power station had to be taken to Barcelona, ​​where the branch began to be set on fire. Real Madrid were also interested in him, but the white proposal came late, a few days before the final signing of Barça closed in exchange for 1.7 million euros more variable in August of the year 2018.

After the frustrated signing of Eric García at the gates of the closing of the last transfer market, the long-term loss of Gerard Piqué and the dubious physical condition of Samuel Umtiti have opened the doors of the first team to Araujo. The Uruguayan, who has 13 appearances this season (nine in the League, three in the Champions League and one in the Super Cup), has become the leader of the defense, even ahead of Clément Lenglet, who has had some ups and downs this course. Araujo has a black spot in his brief but promising history with the first team: the mistake he made in the draw against Eibar at the Camp Nou in the last game of 2020. After the match, the Uruguayan did not he hid and wanted to give his face: he explained that he cannot make mistakes like the one of that day, proving that wounds make him grow. Personality exercise at just 21 years old and a handful of matches with the Barça shirt.

Mingueza takes advantage of opportunities

In fact, if Araujo has not played more it is because he already suffered an injury that left him out of action for a month in November. This loss, together with the same conditions that catapulted the Uruguayan to the first team, gave the opportunity to add prominence to Mingueza, a footballer who has gone through all categories of football training at La Masia. Although Mingueza is central, the injury of Sergi Roberto -who is expected to return between the end of January and the beginning of February- and the discomfort of Sergiño Dest have also opened the gap for him to add minutes as a right-back.

In fact, one of the first times Ronald Koeman saw Mingueza live playing an official match was on the first day of Group E of the Second Division B, at the Johan Cruyff Stadium, which pitted the subsidiary against Gimnàstic de Tarragona. In the season of its debut with the first equipment it accumulates the same participation that Araujo this course: 13 (nine in Liga, three in the Champions and one in the Supercopa). Although the Uruguayan has played more minutes: 1,013 against 905.

Whether out of urgency or necessity, both are counting on Ronald Koeman in a rejuvenated Barça. The team that in the duel against Bayern Munich in Lisbon was close to 30 years on average came out with an eleven against Real Sociedad that did not reach an average of 26 years.


Koeman will no longer look the same as Riqui Puig, right ?: the hot notes from Real Sociedad

Ter Stegen fa de Messi. Without his best player, Barça was ashamed. You couldn’t tell. And less against one of the best-matched teams today. The change of drawing had led Barça to play better, but we only had the test with 10 in the equation and with Pedri as the main partner. With the captain unavailable, the Canary did not connect with a match that had excess of chaos. Dembélé became more involved and Griezmann did not know how to play the role of playmaker that touched him. Without Messi emerged the other out of this team. He wears gloves, is German and not only stopped two penalties in the final round, but saved his team from losing after 120 minutes with spectacular stops.

Discovering new facets. De Jong has scored three goals since Koeman brought him closer to the area with a very warm 4-3-3. Barça are discovering the arrival of the Dutchman, who has already surpassed his goals from last season. At the end of a very awkward first half against Real Sociedad, a header in a top position undoed the initial equalizer. De Jong still does not govern the wide area as expected, but in return he is getting used to deciding otherwise, paying more homage to his compatriots like Van Bommel or Cocu than to Sergio Busquets, whom in theory had to replace.

A catwalk penalty. What De Jong achieved just before the break he twisted himself shortly after the restart by committing a silly penalty, but a penalty in the end. The former Ajax player rejected with his elbow a lateral cross from Real when he had enough time to correct the position of his arm. The referee followed the current fashion and had enough of a slight hint of voluntariness to point the eleven yards, from where Oyarzabal, who is the best penalty kicker in the league, once fooled Ter Stegen. In the second, the German got it right.

The responsibility of a veteran. After seeing that Trincão was not able to contribute too much as a shocker, Koeman had to put Riqui Puig in overtime. The Dutchman would have preferred Depay’s place in Matadepera to the team, but as the club has no money he had to use it in an emergency. Once again, the young midfielder showed that he has enough quality to play for Barça, that his ostracism doesn’t quite match what he leaves on the pitch. Not only did he add one more march to the three-quarters of the field, but he resolved the responsibility of the last penalty with the serenity of a veteran. Will Koeman finally look different?


Stéphane Peterhansel and Kevin Benavides, the kings of the Dakar

The 43rd edition of the Dakar has come to an end. A different, complicated and exceptional edition that has taken the riders to the limit and that ended this Friday with the arrival in Jeddah of all categories. Despite the joy of having finished this complicated edition, the death of the French pilot Pierre Cherpin, after five days in a coma, has saddened the atmosphere.

Stéphane Peterhansel has returned to being the proper name of the test. Monsieur Dakar has lived up to its nickname and has returned to reign in the race thanks to its ability to control the situation and its regularity with the Mini. While his main rivals, Al-Attiyah and Sainz, have made mistakes, the Frenchman has managed all the stages, including the last, in which he started with a margin of more than 15 minutes overall. Despite not winning the 12th stage – which was celebrated by Sainz -, the third position ensured that Échenoz-la-Méline signed his eighth title in the car category. With this victory, there are now fourteen editions of the Dakar that Peterhansel has on his list, counting the six titles in the motorcycle category.

On two wheels, a new name is added to the list of Dakar winners. Kevin Benavides got his first win and signed the second consecutive title for the Honda team. The Argentine’s direct rivals, such as Toby Price, Joan Barreda and Nacho Cornejo, have left the race due to accidents in the last stages and, with the road to victory, Benavides has not hesitated. The Argentine, who has won two stages in this edition, is the first driver in his country to win the Dakar Rally in one of the two main categories.

“I’m happier than other years”

After not getting the best position of all her participations, the driver Laia Sanz has acknowledged that “it has been a very tough Dakar”. “The result is not what I would normally like, but I am happier than other years. It has been very difficult for me to get here. I have certainly not made the result that other years I would look for, but I think I can be happier than other times. next year, ”he said. The Catalan finished for the eighth time in a row in the Top 20 and has completed all her participations in the Dakar (11).


Ter Stegen’s hands lead Barça to the final (Toni Padilla)

Without Messi, the Barça hero was the only player who did not wear Barça, Ter Stegen. In Barça’s first round of penalties since 1998, Koeman’s team qualified bravely for Sunday’s Super Cup final, when they will aim to close a two-year injury without titles. It was necessary to reach the penalties after tying an even match. And then it was Ter Stegen, with two stops, who offered Riqui Puig the chance to score the last penalty, the final. Barça are dreaming again.

And that without Messi Barça became a little smaller. With the Argentine it is like playing one of those games in the school yard where you have chosen the best player in the class for your team. Mentally, you feel stronger. And right now Barça still need the best player in history. And, in fact, the improvement of recent weeks had been built around the footballer from Rosario, who had to watch the game from the stands, going cold, wondering if his teammates would give him the first final in two years. Without him, the Royal Society faced a team that lost the joy of the last days, even though it knew how to compete. This is the importance of being called Lionel Messi. His absence in a match conditions the fate of 22 players, because it changes the rules of the game.

Aware that in front of him was one of the rivals who takes better care of the ball in the league, Koeman decided to be more prudent than other times, leave Sergiño Dest on the bench and bet on Mingueza, a center, on the right side. With Araujo back in the center of the defense, Barça gave up being brave. To Koeman, from time to time, it happens to him. Instead of being bold, he becomes a result-oriented, prudent technician. And to face the Super Cup, instead of evolving his team to an aggressive 4-3-3, he asked De Jong to help Sergio Busquets in a double pivot for much of the game that could not avoid two clear chances of the Royal Society. Without Ter Stegen, a lifeline twice against Imanol Alguacil’s team, the Basques could have left Barça against the ropes in an entertaining first half with chances in both goals.

Unable to be stable, Koeman’s Barça left part of the credit they had recently won in the League on the cold turf of the Nuevo Árcangel. Busquets was everywhere and Araujo became a giant, but Pedri did not have the day. And Dembélé was again that player impossible to understand, who surprises with a great individual play, or makes a run of 50 meters to help defend a rival attack, but just at the worst moment he decides that he has done enough and leaves Mingueza alone against two opponents. Braithwaite, on the other hand, was a shadow. Neither balls came to him nor did he generate much space. However, one of the few times he did so allowed Barça to hit a formula that is starting to be a classic this season for the first time. Frenkie De Jong continues to enter from the second line with the same passion that a rock star takes to a stage, ready to eat the world. And a cross from Griezmann took advantage to beat Remiro head. Barça was not well, then. Not bad either. He wasn’t dominant, but they didn’t dominate him either. Basically, Barça was still trapped between the past and the future it wanted to build, mixing moments of creative play with moments when it lost momentum. A team where who commanded more was Araujo, because Griezmann leaves details but does not seem ready to play the role of leader. And when final stages are played, leaders are needed, like Ter Stegen.

And the Royal Society knew it. The Bailiff team, with that staple of teams that almost never play finals and want to dream, was closing Barça in their area in a loose second half start of Koeman’s men. Finally, Mikel Oyarzabal, the man who does not usually miss penalties, equalized by transforming one after a few hands of De Jong inside the area, without imagining that a few minutes later Ter Stegen would return the blow stopping him ‘ there is another. Barça had to start again. And despite Koeman’s team running out of gas, the coach, instead of making changes to avoid reaching overtime, seemed to accept it and just let Trincão in for Braithwaite. And the party slowly headed towards the end. Towards extension. Towards all or nothing.

The art of penalties

And now yes, Koeman opted for Riqui Puig and Miralem Pjanic to put one more gear and avoid penalties. And although Ter Stegen saved Barça with a non-powered flight after a long shot from Zaldua, it was Koeman’s team that carried the weight of extra time, with Araujo imposing to cut the Basque counters. And they were not few, as Januzaj, initially a substitute, martyred Barça with his talent, with two very clear goal opportunities that could have avoided penalties. But that would have avoided being able to make the figure of Ter Stegen bigger.

The German goalkeeper, a giant, stopped the first two shots in the Royal Society, one of them in Oyarzabal. The other to Bautista, who had come in just to kick the penalty. And, touched, the Basques surrendered to the penalties despite De Jong and Griezmann also missed theirs. Dembélé, Pjanic and a Riqui Puig who decided to shoot the last one, proving all his character, opened the doors of the final, against Madrid or Athletic. A match in which Messi may be able to return. A match where Barça could lift a cup again, gaining momentum to leave the memory of the dark days away. And in part, thanks to Ter Stegen. The man who did not hide in Lisbon, apologizing. In Córdoba, fortunately, he did not hide.

Koeman will no longer look the same as Riqui Puig, right ?: the hot notes of Real Sociedad – Barça


“I kind of laugh when they say we didn’t train”

Jon Aspiazu , Barça’s second coach at the time Ernesto Valverde, has reviewed his time at the Barça club just one year after his dismissal. “It was not the right time, we went first and we had passed to the next round of the Champions without losing any match of the group stage, but the club decided to give a steering wheel to the technical direction of the team and we had to leave “, he explained in an interview in the program What are you playing at! of SER Catalunya.

Valverde’s second denied that the team did not train well, one of the reasons Éric Abidal , then technical secretary, justified the dismissal of Valverde and his staff. “I kind of laugh when they say we didn’t train. It’s also true that Barça is a special team and has, for many years, a very specific way of working, and the players compete every three days and put on in form playing, “he explained.

Aspiazu has talked about the discovery of Ansu Fati, who made his debut with him and Valverde on the Barça bench. “We had injuries in the first team, he was playing in the branch and we went to see him. When I saw how he played the first ball I was already look like a special guy. We said to ‘ Ernesto that looked good and in the first training of the Ansu with the first team he told us: “The Ansu stay with us “.

The assistant coach of Extremadura, who is currently without a team and focused on interests and hobbies beyond football, has also been asked about the shipwrecked of the team in the Champions League. “We only lost two games Champions “But yes, they were expensive,” he said Aspiazu in reference to the hard defeats of Rome and Liverpool. “The match was much more evenly matched than the final result. But the last goal was so decisive and so out of the ordinary that it was an incredible burden,” he said specifically about the defeat in Anfield . “We went to that game with more fears, even though some players had said to Valverde, ‘Mister, but how do you think we can lose?’ ‘I’m the coach, I have to anticipate all the options,’ was the response. “