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Ernesto Valverde’s start at Barcelona was far from being perfect. His side lost both the matches of the Super Cup against Real Madrid by the aggregate of 5-1. Additionally, Neymar departed for PSG, breaking the formidable trio of Barcelona with Messi and Suarez. The team depended heavily on this trio for much of their previous successes. However, Valverde brilliantly steered clear his team out of hot waters and made it such a hugely successful team this season.
While many might not have noticed the brilliance of Valverde, the fact is that Barca’s recent successes owe a great deal to his brilliant strategies. After the departure of Neymar, he brought certain changes in the team. He changed the traditional 4-3-3 formation of Barcelona to the 4-4-2 formation. Initially questions were being raised about this decision when Barca were seeing draws, but once Barcelona got on the incredible winning track no-body questioned his football wisdom then.
Velverde put a lot of trust in Paulinho whom many others had not. And suddenly, it started surfacing that Barcelona is no longer a team only dependent on its two star players- Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez. If the two players are not in form, it does not mean that the team is struggling. Instead the defence is also formidable enough to make matters very hard for the opposite team. This way Valverde remodelled the team that now has seen a tremendous success in both Spain and Europe.
As a manager, he broke the 19-games unbeaten run of Tito Vilanova in a season of La Liga. While his team remained undefeated for 29 games with the incredible run finally coming to an end in the first leg of the Copa del Rey against Espanyol. Barca took their revenge in the second leg though, beating Espanyol by 2-1 and hence overturning their deficit after the first loss.
Now, they are very much poised to win the Copa del Rey trophy with the tough rivals already out- Atletico beaten by Sevilla and Real Madrid by Leganes.
Lionel Messi, the five times Ballon d’Or winner, credited Velverde for the huge success of Barcelona at a recent promotional event, saying:
“Since the new coach’s arrival, he was very clear from the beginning about what he expected from the squad and we adapted fast to his instructions, …,”
The Barcelona team also has made two amazing signings of Coutinho and Mina. Leading massively over other Liga teams- 9 points ahead of Atletico Madrid and 19 points above Real Madrid, Velverde now has the option to ease Messi and Suarez into less important games.
Revamping Barcelona completely, Valverde has brought a new winning strength in the Barcelona team. So seeing the performance of Barcelona, many are already thinking of a treble this season which does not look unreachable now.