I cannot speak for the entire fan base, but only for myself. I am not looking forward to Ernesto Valverde’s tenure as manager of Futbol Club Barcelona. As many others have said, it is the safest choice of all of the managers available. I do not feel that “safety” is what we need right now. It can be argued, that hiring former assistant manager Juan Carlos Unzué, would’ve been a safer choice, but he has only managed two other times.
In 2010/2011 he managed Club Deportivo Numancia in the Segunda División. They finished the season in tenth place with a second round elimination in the Copa del Rey. In 2011/2012 he managed Real Racing Club de Santander in the Primera División. Unfortunately, they finished dead last in the table and were relegated. However, they did get a win Copa del Rey Round of 32, before losing in the Round of 16.
From 2013/2014 to 2016/2017, he has been the assistant to Luis Enrique. At Celta de Vigo for one season, then at FC Barcelona for the last three. While I feel a clean break from the last managerial staff was needed, it remains to be seen if Unzué’s tactics differ from Lucho’s and could’ve been helpful to us moving forward.
As far as Valverde is concerned, while his work at Athletic Club Bilbao isn’t bad, it isn’t great either. I understand their policy in recruiting Basque only players means he can only do so much, with so little. For a while he was seeing great results, the 2015 Supercopa de España being his crowning achievement.
Others will argue that, a Barcelona team missing Neymar because of the mumps, tired from playing 120+ minutes (in 80° weather with 50% humidity) in the 2015 UEFA Super Cup, with only three days between that game and the first leg of the Supercopa, were bound to lose in such a fashion. On the flip side, it can also be argued that, no matter the outcome of Barcelona’s last game, or the quality of their depth, they should have never lost the Supercup, whilst putting up one goal in the process.
Wherever you stand, you can’t deny Ernesto was the only manager to bring Bilbao a title in 30+ years. However you may feel about his results, he was and still is the only manager to be successful, in terms of trophies, under Athletic Club’s ‘cantera’ policy, where they only use homegrown players from the Basque Country.
Could this have played into his tactics? Maybe. He has employed a 4–3–3 at Olympiacos and Valencia, but used a 4–2–3–1 during his tenure in Bilbao. Barcelona’s philosophy has never called for a double pivot, it’s not a tactic that maximizes Sergio Busquets’ skills well.
If you decide to abandon the traditional three-man midfield in favor of two defensive midfielders, at least one of them should be able to control the tempo of the match. None of the midfielders we have currently can do this. This isn’t a slight to Andres Iniesta, we all know of his quality, but his age makes it difficult to get the best out of him 2–3 times a week.
Not only that, but besides Marco Verratti and Jean Michaël Seri, we haven’t been linked with any true, young 6s. It’s either some Brazilian or a talented player that doesn’t fit our team philosophy.
Which is what annoys me the most about Ernesto Valverde. He has no spine. Out of all the reasons the club board will tell you he was brought in for: “He has the Barça DNA”, “His work with Bilbao was great”, “Familiarity with La Liga” etc. etc., what they won’t tell you is that he’s not the type to speak out against the board or the media.
After having someone like Luis Enrique around for three years, they’ve decided to go with a coach who will make their lives easier. Lucho’s hardheadedness sometimes worked to the detriment of the club, but it also worked to our benefit. When the board members run over each other to do something stupid, it was great to have someone who’d say “No”. With Valverde, we won’t get that, it’s someone who will fall in line.
That’s why transfer links like Lucas Lima, Paulinho, Bellerín, João Cancelo, Dani Parejo and Ander Herrera, are allowed to flourish. Valverde won’t speak out against Technical Secretary Robert Fernández or General Manager Pep Segura.
What good is a coach that won’t take a good look at his team, analyze its needs and make sure he gets the players he needs? Why take a back seat and let other people look for players they want and then hope they fit? It’s not a good sporting strategy. It’s not how you want to supplement the greatest attacking trio in the history of club football. It’s not how you go about a transformative summer after seeing your greatest rivals win the La Liga/Champions League double whilst retaining the Champions League trophy. Last but not least, it’s not how you plan for a team when you’re about to spend €600m to renovate your stadium, increase capacity and hope to bring in tons more revenue.
Valverde is just another symptom of the board of directors ineptitude. My beef isn’t personally with him, but I still wouldn’t want him at my club at any point. My beef is with the people who signed him for this job. That’s another article for another time. I’ll be watching the team obviously, because win, lose or draw, I bleed blaugrana, but I’m not excited for much this summer, better yet this season.