Football Features

‘He has woken up at last’ – It’s finally coming together for Barcelona in wake of 3-0 Eibar win

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 14:12, 19 October 2019 | Updated: 10:45, 21 October 2019

In an open, expansive afternoon of football, Barcelona beat Eibar 0-3 at Ipurua.

Everyone played well for the Blaugrana as their on their fourth win on the spin. There was a positive return for Samuel Umtiti, a masterful display from Frenkie de Jong in midfield, Messi and Suárez looking sharp and Jordi Alba being fit and relentless. The star of the show, however, was new signing Antoine Griezmann who was involved in all three goals as the Barcelona trident all got onto the scoresheet for the first time. The Frenchman bagged a goal, assist and pre-assist.

Griezmann has endured a strange start to his career at Barcelona. First there has been rumours of a lawsuit based on when he agreed to sign for Barcelona, then there’s the fact that Barcelona have been great at home and godawful away. That has been reflected in his performances, where he’s only shone and scored at Camp Nou.

On the road, Griezmann has really struggled. In truth he’s struggled at home bar the Real Betis game where he was allowed to play up-front. It’s not that Griezmann has been a liability, he’s actually been incredibly solid and selfless. He has tracked back, following runners and winning possession. He’s been everyone you could ask for from, say, a young player from La Masia.

But he’s Antoine Griezmann, not Carles Perez. And when you sign for Barcelona the people demand some stardust – especially if you cost €120m. So even though he was solid and playing in a position that is completely alien to him – no one was happy. That he remained an unused substitute against Sevilla was quite damning.

In his defence, there were mitigating factors beyond the position. Barcelona’s system was a work-in-progress, so the midfield was finding its best shape and structure. In attack Leo Messi wasn’t fit or was recovering, having his own personal pre-season during competitive action, so the attack was shambling around trying to find a rhythm. And most crucially, Jordi Alba spent a significant chunk of time out injured.

Alba is Barcelona’s width on the left, and so with him on the sidelines (and then his back-up Junior Firpo also getting injured) the team suddenly needed a whole different role from Griezmann as a left-winger. With no full-back overlapping him, the Frenchman ended up playing further wide than he’d like and that dulled his attacking impact.

But now the midfield has found their best alignment, Leo Messi is fit and firing, and Jordi Alba is back on the left. All this has meant that Barcelona are more cohesive and sure of themselves, which has in turn given Griezmann the freedom needed to truly express himself.

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At Ipurua Griezmann showed all of his usual commitment and discipline. He tracked back, he was involved in the build-up, and never once looked like a square peg in a round hole as he often has this season. Positionally the presence of Alba allowed him to play more out of the half-space, coming infield to link with a fit again Messi and the rampaging Luis Suárez.

But Griezmann hasn’t forgotten his striking instincts either, and showed this on the first goal with a delightful diagonal run from outside-to-in, moving behind the defence as Clement Lenglet’s long ball exposed the Eibar high-line. Griezmann kept his composure and rattled a shot in off the near-post to give the Blaugrana the lead.

He continued to play well into the second half when, after an attack was breaking down at Luis Suárez’s feet, Griezmann salvaged the situation with a delicious first-time flick outside into the run of Leo Messi who finished superbly.

Having already bagged a goal and assist Griezmann threaded the eye of the needle with a stunning through-ball to cut the Eibar line apart and put Messi in – this could have been his second assist but Messi squared the ball for Luis Suárez, denying Griezmann three direct goal involvements. But anyone with eyes could see that the Frenchman was essential, rather than a passenger watching Messi and Suárez carry the side as he has been in the past. He was a full participant in the Blaugrana dominance.

Barcelona have needed Antoine Griezmann to show his true self, and many doubted that he could playing on the left. But the Frenchman was excellent against Eibar, showing his goalscoring skill, his sharpness of mind in the penalty box, and his vision and technique to spot a killer ball. This was a performance worthy of Griezmann’s true status as one of the best player’s in the world. Antoine Griezmann has woken up at Barcelona, and the Blaugrana’s opponents may not be happy that he has.

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