Barcelona may have only played three La Liga games under new manager Ronald Koeman but doubts have already been raised about Lionel Messi’s position in the team.
The captain has been used as a false nine under Koeman, a position he has played many times before at Barcelona, but one in which he struggled to shine against Sevilla on Sunday.
Football journalist Rik Sharma thinks the tactic only works against weaker teams:
The big question for Barca to solve: What is Messi's place in this team? False 9 role is OK against weaker teams but doesn't allow him to get many clear chances/shooting opportunities, because instead of drifting into that zone, he's moving out of it.
— Rik Sharma (@riksharma_) October 5, 2020
Former Barcelona midfielder Bernd Schuster is also not sure it’s the right position for the captain. He told Onda Cero’s El Transistor programme of his concerns. He said: “Messi has me worried, I don’t know if his role is clear to him.”
Messi has played every minute of Barcelona’s La Liga campaign so far. His only goal so far has come from the penalty spot in the 4-0 win against Villarreal. Teenager Ansu Fati is the club’s top scorer currently with three goals in three games.
Follow the Heavy on Barcelona Facebook page for the latest breaking news, rumors and content!
Koeman’s Attacking Options
Koeman has stuck with virtually the same starting XI for all of Barcelona’s three matches and has opted for an attack of Fati, Messi, Philippe Coutinho, and Antoine Griezmann.
Fati has easily been the team’s star man, despite still only being 17, while Coutinho has also looked bright on his return to the club and has two goals and an assist in three starts.
Griezmann has found it tougher going despite Koeman making it clear the Frenchman will be a starter. The Dutch coach was also critical of the World Cup winner’s performance in the draw against Celta and felt he should have scored at least once.
Koeman could shake things up by bringing any of Pedri, Francisco Trincao, Ousmane Dembele or even Martin Braithwaite into the starting XI.
Koeman Praises Messi’s Contribution
The Dutch coach has spoken about Messi’s contribution to the cause and made it clear how happy he is with the 33-year-old. He singled his captain out for praise for his performance in the win over Celta Vigo at Balaidos.
“From day one Leo has trained really well, he’s played well. He’s given the maximum for the club, for the team, for his team-mates. Against Celta as captain he took on the weight to help the team, the defenders and it’s important to have a forward who can keep hold of the ball when you’re a player down.
“I think there can be no argument about his quality. He’s always been the best player in the world and now the feeling I get from him is that he gives 100 per cent every day. He deserves to be captain of this team.”
Barcelona have looked less reliant on Messi in the early weeks of the season under Koeman with Fati and Coutinho enjoying strong starts to the season. Yet the Dutch coach will still need to get the best out of Messi if his team are to challenge for silverware.