Ernesto Valverde has not been the pinnacle of tactical reform in his time with Barcelona. From his coaching to his team selections and rotation policy, there is always something that’s not good enough.
Heavily criticised for his use of 4-4-2, Valverde has stuck to his guns and only made the occasional tweak in his rigid system.
It was surprising then, to see Barcelona play beautiful football against Sevilla albeit for just one half of the game. The coveted high-press was back and so was the 4-3-3 with a slight variation. Even the full-backs pushed higher up and commanded the flanks to perfection.
Why did Valverde switch to 4-4-2 in the second half? It could be possible that he is fiddling with Barcelona’s defensive formation to prepare for the business-end of the season.
Everyone and their mothers expects Barcelona to win by playing beautiful football. But in the latter half of the season, when Barcelona are up against some of the best attacking sides in the world, holding the defensive shape will be crucial.
Often times we criticise managers for not preparing the team enough with the formations they implement as a counter-tactic. Maybe Valverde indeed has his house in order–he’s just in it for the long haul.