Griezmann to Barcelona: How will Valverde's men line up this season?

By Sports Desk July 12, 2019

Antoine Griezmann is about to become a brilliant problem for Barcelona.

LaLiga's reigning champions have finally brought an end to the saga around the France star, signing him on a five-year deal after activating his release clause of €120million.

Barca have effectively been pursuing Griezmann for the best part of 18 months, having been turned down by the forward last year, who then informed the world he would be staying at Atletico Madrid via his documentary 'The Decision'.

Ernesto Valverde would have been forgiven for preferring not to have Griezmann in his side after such a high-profile snubbing of Camp Nou, but a year later - and with his own position under scrutiny after last season's Champions League failure - it is now imperative he gets the best out of the former Real Sociedad man.

Trying to squeeze Griezmann into the team will be no simple matter, though - especially if Barca also manage to bring Neymar back to the club. So, just how will Valverde go about using him? Here are three possible line-ups for 2019-20...

1. 4-3-3 - 'Old Faithful'... without Suarez

Valverde might have been criticised for not always encouraging Barca to stick to their heralded style, but 4-3-3 remains his most consistent formation, at least in LaLiga.

The right-hand side will be reserved for Lionel Messi as long as he wants it, of course, and Griezmann is unlikely to be shifted to the left. Valverde generally prefers right-footed players on that side, specifically Ousmane Dembele - and, just maybe, Neymar - who can offer a burst of speed to destabilise deep blocks of defence.

It means Griezmann would probably have to move into the central attacking role and therefore relegate Luis Suarez to the bench. A bold call it may be, but Suarez is 32 and just came off his lowest goalscoring season in four years. Perhaps the competition would bring out the best in him.

2. 4-4-2 - The key to the Champions League

Valverde has regularly favoured 4-4-2 in some of Barca's most challenging matches, particularly away games in the Champions League.

While these have proved successful to an extent - beating Manchester United away last season, for instance - their safety-first approach was not exactly a sound one in the 4-0 thrashing by Liverpool or the capitulation against Roma the year before.

Griezmann could help matters there. He is an expert in playing as part of a front two in major European ties from his Atletico days: against Pep Guardiola's Bayern Munich in 2016 he knew when to press, when to track back and how to stay cool to capitalise on rare goalscoring chances that would make up for any defensive lapses further back. Playing that role alongside Messi would make Barca formidable.

3. 4-2-3-1 - The Neymar dream

Barca are a long way from signing both Griezmann and Neymar. Indeed, they will have to raise funds and lower the wage bill by selling two or three players – or offering them in exchange – before the Brazil star's return can be countenanced seriously.

If they can get him back, though, Valverde will have the option to field an attacking unit of a strength seen nowhere else in world football.

With a double pivot using two of Sergio Busquets, Arthur, Frenkie de Jong and Ivan Rakitic, the stability in midfield Valverde craves will still be there. Ahead of them, Messi could sit as a number 10, with Griezmann to one side and Neymar to the other, and all three given licence to roam. Suarez can then keep his place at the head of the attack.

It might feel a little gung-ho for Valverde's liking, but seriously - how many teams would be able to stop a front four like this?

Related items

  • Spurs sack Pochettino: Did Tottenham make the right decision? Spurs sack Pochettino: Did Tottenham make the right decision?

    Tottenham have sacked Mauricio Pochettino, bringing an end to his five-year tenure in charge after a run of dismal results in the Premier League this season.

    Three wins from 12 league matches have left Tottenham in 14th place, albeit only three points off fifth, while they also lost 7-2 to Bayern Munich in the Champions League last month.

    Four successive top-four finishes and a Champions League final appearance will be Pochettino's lasting legacy and he also oversaw Tottenham's transition to a new, state-of-the-art stadium.

    With the debate sure to continue over whether Spurs have made a harsh call, and plenty of speculation to come over who will replace him, two of our writers argue the case for and against Pochettino's sacking.

    Tottenham have got it wrong - Tom Webber

    Spurs defied expectations under the Argentinian and he underlined his status as an elite manager by leading them to the Champions League final last term.

    While that game ended in defeat to Liverpool and left Pochettino without a trophy, their European run was combined with a fourth straight top-four finish, showing they had a leader capable of taking them to new heights.

    However, their transfer business in the close season was a source of frustration for Pochettino, and he made no attempt to hide that.

    While Tanguy Ndombele was a club-record signing from Lyon and Giovani Lo Celso provided another creative option in midfield, there were no other additions capable of immediately pushing the team forward.

    Spurs let Kieran Trippier go and did not sign a replacement, leaving them exposed at right-back, while Danny Rose was seemingly retained against Pochettino's wishes.

    By failing to give the 47-year-old the backing his work deserved, Spurs have now shot themselves in the foot twice and will only have themselves to blame if things go backwards from here.

    Tottenham have got it right - Patric Ridge

    Given what Pochettino has achieved during his time at Tottenham, the decision to cut ties seems a ruthless one when viewed in isolation, but that would not be taking into account what has been a dismal 2019 for Spurs on the domestic front.

    In this calendar year, Tottenham have taken just 40 points from a possible 90 on offer in the Premier League, winning 11 matches, drawing a further seven and suffering 12 defeats.

    Their poor form was, of course, masked by an incredible run to the Champions League final, but it is easy to forget Spurs were heading out in Amsterdam until Lucas Moura took matters into his own hands in a match that could easily have gone the other way.

    Looking only at their league results this term, three wins from 14 league matches would be enough to get many managers in the top flight sacked. Why not Pochettino? 

    While it is fair to say Tottenham did perhaps not back him as they should have done in the transfer market, the club did spend big. It is hard to imagine he did not have the final say on who was brought in.

    Was a creative force such as Lo Celso, for example, strictly necessary when it was so obvious Tottenham lacked a quality right-back or alternatives up front – weaknesses that were exposed in humiliating fashion by Bayern last month?

    The situation with Christian Eriksen has not helped, but again Pochettino must take his fair share of responsibility; looking back, any players dallying over signing fresh deals – see also Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen – have been ostracised during his time in north London. Is this the wisest approach when Tottenham have not had the squad depth to be able to cope with key players sitting idly by?

    With the Premier League seemingly wide open – at least outside the top four – this season, Tottenham could not afford to delay any longer and, on the back of a five-match winless league run, they desperately need a fresh source of inspiration.

  • Wales, golf, Madrid... in that order – Bale celebrates Euro 2020 qualification Wales, golf, Madrid... in that order – Bale celebrates Euro 2020 qualification

    Gareth Bale risked incurring the wrath of Real Madrid with his celebration of Wales' Euro 2020 qualification.

    Wales – semi-finalists at Euro 2016 – booked their ticket to next year's European Championship with a 2-0 win over Hungary on Tuesday.

    Aaron Ramsey's double in Cardiff ensured Wales leapfrogged Hungary and clinched the second automatic qualifying spot in Group E.

    Bale and his team-mates celebratedly wildly post-game, with the former Tottenham talisman particularly catching the eye.

    Tipped to leave Madrid and criticised for his priorities amid his love for golf, Wales fans have adopted the chant, "Wales, golf, Madrid", which has been heard during the international break.

    And on Tuesday, Bale was seen celebrating in front of a Wales flag with the words: "WALES. GOLF. MADRID... IN THAT ORDER".

  • Spurs sack Pochettino: Battle of the Bridge, Champions League comebacks among highs and lows Spurs sack Pochettino: Battle of the Bridge, Champions League comebacks among highs and lows

    Mauricio Pochettino arrived at Tottenham as the club's eighth full-time appointment since March 2001.

    Juande Ramos secured silverware during his tenure, winning the League Cup in 2008, while Harry Redknapp qualified for the Champions League two years later.

    Still, they were the good times. Club legend Glenn Hoddle came with great expectations that fell flat. Frenchman Jacques Santini did not last too long. Andre Villas-Boas failed to pan out. Tim Sherwood did make the gilet popular, but Spurs still decided to dispense with his services.

    Then, in 2014, Pochettino turned up. The former Argentina international had shone at Southampton, quickly dispelling the doubters who felt Nigel Adkins had been harshly sacked.

    There were plenty of positive moments during his tenure, but also some difficult times. Following the news of his departure on Tuesday, Omnisport picks out a few of the highs and lows of Pochettino's reign.

     

    LOW: THE ONLY WAY IS UP

    "There is an abundance of top-class talent at the club and I am looking forward to starting work with the squad," Pochettino said following his appointment.

    However, Tottenham's standing compared to the other big clubs was laid bare in the first month of the new boss' debut campaign. Liverpool were the visitors, with Spurs hoping for the chance to make something of a statement, but Brendan Rodgers' Reds blew them away with ease by winning 3-0.

    It was Spurs' first loss under Pochettino and they went on to miss out on Champions League qualification by six points. 

     

    LOW: THE BATTLE OF THE BRIDGE

    There was no denying Tottenham's vast improvement between Pochettino's first few months and 2016, when they looked to challenge for a maiden Premier League title.

    Crucially, though, when they needed to kick on with the finishing post in sight, the going became too tough. Spurs squandered a 2-0 lead at Chelsea in an ill-tempered London derby to come away with a 2-2 draw, therefore securing a famous success for Leicester City.

    "It was a good lesson for us, we are the youngest squad in the league, we feel very proud and our supporters need to feel proud too, we have massive potential for the future," Pochettino said in the aftermath. Such was their collapse down the stretch, they eventually finished third, 11 points behind the Foxes they had been expected to catch.


    HIGH: SAYING FAREWELL TO THE LANE IN STYLE

    Having seemingly established themselves as top-four regulars, Spurs looked to further consolidate their new-found status by moving to an extravagant new stadium.

    In Tottenham's final outing at the more modest White Hart Lane in May 2017, Spurs downed Manchester United 2-1 in front of a crowd enjoying both their team's success and also the chance to be inside the venue for one final time. A glamourous new era seemed to be on the horizon, with Pochettino steering the Spurs ship expertly.

    The result made sure they went unbeaten at home for the first time in a league season since 1964-65 as they finished in second place. It was a wonderful way to say goodbye to their famous home.

     


    HIGH: UNITED FALL AT OLD TRAFFORD

    In August 2018, Pochettino was among the favourites to replace an under-fire Jose Mourinho at United.

    Pochettino helped inflict more misery on the Red Devils with an emphatic 3-0 win at Old Trafford, a result that also pushed his claims for the job. Kane and a Lucas Moura double did the damage, making it United's worst start to a league season since 1992-93. 

    Yet when Mourinho eventually left United before the turn of the year, Pochettino stayed put. Now a free agent, rumours of a move to the north-west will no doubt grow in the coming weeks and months.


    HIGH: EURO VISION SECURES FINAL SPOT

    After three games of their campaign in Group B, Tottenham appeared on course to slip out of the Champions League. By June, they were appearing in the final.

    Pochettino engineered a remarkable turnaround just to make the knockout stages, where they stunned Manchester City in the quarter-finals thanks to a hotly disputed goal from Fernando Llorente in an eventful second leg at the Etihad Stadium.

    There was more drama to come in the last four, with Spurs scoring three times in the second half in Amsterdam to stun Ajax. Lucas Moura was Tottenham's hero, completing his hat-trick in additional time to seal their progression on away goals. A jubilant Pochettino shed tears during wild celebrations with his players.


    LOW: MISSED OPPORTUNITY IN MADRID

    Admittedly appearing in a Champions League final hardly feels like a disappointment during the Pochettino era.

    Still, there was an air of frustration at how they approached what proved to be a tepid contest in Madrid, with fans bemoaning an apparent lack of attacking intent as a half-fit Harry Kane struggled to make an impact.

    Mohamed Salah's early penalty gave Spurs an uphill struggle and Divock Origi wrapped things up late on. Liverpool had barely made it out of second gear but kept their opponents quiet to prevail in an all-English final that will not live long in the memory. 


    LOW: BAYERN BATTERING AMID HOME STRUGGLES

    Pochettino had hinted he could leave his post prior to the Champions League showpiece, his future seemingly based on the club's progress in the off-season transfer window.

    While new faces arrived, their form in the early stages of the 2019-20 campaign has been poor - and that is putting it kindly. In the Premier League, Spurs have picked up just 14 points, their lowest tally after 12 games of a campaign since 2008-09. There was also a 7-2 home loss to Bayern Munich in Europe, the embarrassment exacerbated by an Arsenal academy product – Serge Gnabry – scoring four times for the visitors.

    A 1-1 draw with Sheffield United turned out to be Pochettino's final game in charge. There is still time for Spurs to turn things around, of course, but it will have to be with a new man at the helm.

© 2018 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.