In an absorbing afternoon of football, Barcelona beat Getafe 2-1 in La Liga.
In the latest of many difficult tests in Quique Setién’s Barcelona baptism of fire, high-flying Getafe came to the Camp Nou. The Madrid side were third in the league and had won their last four games without conceding a goal. They had the third best defence in the division (behind city rivals Real Madrid and Atlético) and their coach José Bordolas has long been a thorn in the side of Quique Setién.
This game shouldn’t have been easy, and it most assuredly was not, but there were many signs throughout the afternoon’s play that Barcelona are on the right track under Setién despite some underwhelming results.
Under Quique Setién, Barcelona have only won by a margin of two goals (or more) just once. A Copa del Rey thrashing of Levante is the sole show-stopping result under the Spaniard. Otherwise they’ve lost twice and then won four games by a single goal margin each time.
If you were just looking at the final score you would wonder if Setién has had much effect at all, but the displays have shown that enormous strides are being made to rehabilitate Barcelona back to their former selves. They improving with every game (more or less).
Today against Getafe they started on the front-foot as Getafe sat off them, but then Bordolas’ men engaged their ferocious high-press and that, combined with a lenient referee saw the Blaugrana getting dominated in their own back yard.
Getafe were snapping in on Barcelona, robbing them of the ball and then running at their defence repeatedly. They were causing major problems and the Blaugrana had no answers, whether through their midfield or their attack. They even put the ball into the back of the net although VAR correctly ruled it out for a blatant elbow to the head of Samuel Umtiti.
Under Ernesto Valverde this match would have seen Getafe’s dominance continue to the point where they either won, or missed enough chances for Barcelona to fluke their way to a win via the individual genius of their forwards.
Lionel Messi's game by numbers vs. Getafe:
• Most shots (6)
• Most take-ons completed (5)
• Joint-most fouls won (5)
• Most chances created (3)
• Most shots on target (2)
An assist in each of his last six games in LaLiga. 🎯 pic.twitter.com/33jBAoquOC
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) February 15, 2020
With Setién at the wheel, however, Barcelona continued to pass the ball through Getafe’s press. They got caught, sure, and sometimes the ball was simply being knocked out for a throw, but at no point did the Blaugrana revert to kicking it long as they often did under Valverde. They were not going to be cowed, and eventually the midfielders did find their rhythm and as the half-hour approached, Barcelona had wrestled control of the game back.
They were steadily building their attacks, they missed a couple chances, and then conjured a magical goal that saw Samuel Umtiti step out from the back, find Leo Messi and the Argentine dropped a gorgeous flick behind the Getafe defence for Antoine Griezmann to score superbly. 1-0, and suddenly the whole rhythm changed.
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The Blaugrana made it 2-0 soon after as they built a nice attack down the left and Junior Firpo crossed for his other full-back Sergi Roberto to finish clinically. Barcelona closed out the half on the front-foot and began the second period in the same manner.
In fact for one hour, Barcelona looked wholly in control. But this is still a work-in-progress after all, and when Getafe pulled a goal back thanks to a world-class finish from Angel (rumoured to be a target for Barcelona‘s emergency signing in the wake of Ousmane Dembélé’s injury) the whole mood of the game changed yet again.
Barcelona tried to reassert their control over Getafe, but they were tired and you could see some of the players resorting to the methods of Ernesto Valverde too easily. Hoiking it clear, playing it wide to the full-backs (allowing them to be pressed against the touch-line). Barcelona did see the game out in the end, but mostly thanks to a miraculous juggling save from Marc-André Ter Stegen and numerous defensive interventions from Gerard Piqué.
Antoine Griezmann scores his first LaLiga goal for Barcelona since December 2019.
His run of five games without a goal comes to an end. pic.twitter.com/E355m5ogyd
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) February 15, 2020
Barcelona‘s biggest problem was their inability to find a third killer goal. They could have finished Getafe off multiple times but they just couldn’t find the finish to several quality counter-attacks. Antoine Griezmann shanked a couple of glorious chances off target whilst Leo Messi had a game-high six shots and yet again failed to score.
On the face of it, Messi‘s profligacy explains why Barcelona have found it so hard to put teams away. They’re used to Messi doing that for them. But the Argentine has now gone 33 shots in La Liga without a single goal and has started four consecutive games without scoring for the first time since 2014.
Messi is still contributing, of course (his sumptuous assist broke this game open after all) but this game has shown that the team cannot keep relying on him to score all their goals. The others have to step up, and not just to score two or three, but three, four, five. They have to be able to thrash teams without their Argentine talisman.
Under Quique Setién, Barcelona have come a long way in a short space of time. They are definitely on the right path and are looking so much more like their old selves, but there is more work to be done if they are to reach the heights only Barcelona are able to scale; marrying form with function in a festival of football.