Valverde’s Barcelona may not be pretty but they are effective


Ernesto Valverde could be forgiven for wondering what he has done wrong. Eight games played, eight wins secured, 24 goals scored and just two conceded and yet still not everyone is happy.

After Wednesday’s narrow win over Sporting in the Champions League, accusations of his side being “boring” arose which he was quick to play down, but the suspicion remains.

Yes, the game in Portugal will not live long in the memory, and yes it was not a great performance, but an away win and a clean sheet in Europe’s top competition should not be dismissed.

It is often said in football that it’s the sign of champions to win when not playing well, and while it is way too premature to be talking trophies, that is exactly what Valverde has them doing.

Interestingly Barcelona were the team with the most completed passes in the Champions League on Wednesday, but the lack of ruthlessness in attack was evident.

The problems up front are neatly highlighted with a quick look at Barca’s top scorers this season. Top of the pile is Lionel Messi with 12 goals in all competitions, next on the list? Own goals with four.

The loss of Neymar is one factor, the failure to sign their top summer targets is another, Luis Suarez’s awful form is a third and the unfortunate injury to Ousmane Dembele is a fourth, but despite it all Valverde has his side flying high.

And while it may not be pretty right now, it is pretty effective. Defensively, Barca are superb as six clean sheets in their last eight games proves.


FC Barcelona v Juventus - UEFA Champions League

Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images

Of the two goals Barca have conceded this season, one was an absolute thunderbolt from Gaku Shibasaki in the 2-1 win over Getafe.

Valverde is building the team on strong foundations, Marc-Andre ter Stegen looks formidable in goal, Samuel Umtiti more of a bargain every time he plays and Jordi Alba and Nelson Semedo have been key at both ends of the pitch.

The defence is certainly outshining the attack which, aside from Messi and Andres Iniesta, has looked far too predictable at times and lacking in spark.

But despite all that, Barca are still far and away La Liga’s top scorers with 20 goals from six games, the next best team are Real Sociedad with 13.

Barca put five past Espanyol, three past Juventus, six against Eibar and another three at Girona, yet the suspicion that Barca are only a Messi injury away from disaster lingers.


Barcelona v Eibar - La Liga

Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

The fixture list has been kind but, as they say, you can only beat what is put in front of you and that is exactly what Barcelona have done.

Meanwhile, others have dropped points, Atletico Madrid drew at Girona, Sevilla were held by Espanyol, Madrid have won only three from six.

Valverde went into his first season at Camp Nou after a crazy summer, with morale around the club low and after a heavy aggregate defeat to Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup.

A pragmatic approach is therefore perhaps understandable and while it may not be pretty, it is still early days, and who would not have taken this start if it had been offered before the season began?



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