Waking up on Sunday to see the post on the accidental “discharge” by Nike littered all over Twitter, which all but confirms the Coutinho deal, crowned up of a very lovely Christmas season for Barcelona fans. After the knockout punch from PSG (Verratti L and Neymar’s shocking decision to leave), Liverpool’s insistence on not selling Coutinho regardless of his willingness to leave, humiliating loss to Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup and Dembele’s injury only on his full debut, Barcelona looked doomed to have a bitter Christmas.
Bartomeu, who almost lost his seat, Soler, Fernandez and others in the club’s sporting department were under immense pressure. Messi and Iniesta delayed their contract renewals and there were talks of them leaving. Valverde turned the tide around and Barcelona went into Christmas with a “joyful noise”- 14 points ahead of their main rival. They ensured it was a silent night at the Bernabeau for Madridistas.
With the Coutinho deal reportedly being close to happening, it will not be out of place to discuss the impact he’ll make in the Barca team. My thoughts are encapsulated in 6 points which I’ll talk about below.
1. Bring back our Flair
Even with the wins, there have been rumblings from a section of Barça fans about the lack of style and finesse in their play. Luis Enrique’s work with the Barcelona team in his reign triggered the appetite Cules have for flair and Samba football. Neymar, as hated as he is now, cannot be forgotten easily because of the joy he brought to the Camp Nou anytime he stepped on the ball and especially during counter attacks. Hiss loss left a lacuna in the team that is yet to be filled. Coutinho is one of the most exciting attacking midfielders in the world. He posses the skill set to, at least, cushion the effects of Neymar’s loss and bring back a little samba to Barça’s football.
2. Less burden on Iniesta and Messi
On his day, Iniesta is absolutely unplayable. He has already played 1233 mins already this season which is massive for a 33 year old, and that could take a toll on him in the latter stages of the season where he will be needed the most. Coutinho, who wouldn’t be able to play in the UCL for Barça, will greatly relieve him of every week La liga duties. This will in turn keep Iniesta fresh for crunch UCL games that will come up. Coutinho also comes with a lot of creativity which will allow relieve Messi of some midfield duties and allow him concentrate on the attack.
3. Reduced pressure on Dembele
The talented 20year old kid had a rough start to his Barçelona career. According to the surgeon who operated him, the injury may have been caused by pressure on the player to succeed and justify his price tag. With Coutinho joining the grey, the attention will now be shifted away from him. This will allow him enough time to adapt, gel, learn and develop in the team.
4. Room for more Formation tweaks
Valverde is an experienced tactician and his ingenuity has helped Barça overcome the storms that was supposed to drown them stylishly. He is described as a “out of the box coach” especially with the success of his 4-4-2 formation. It is left to be seen how he will set his team up with Dembele now available but with Coutinho, he sure has more chances to explore his coaching arsenal. Some of the available options are.
4-3-3 (Iniesta playing the Xavi role, Coutinho playing the Iniesta role. Messi, dembele, Suarez in attack)
4-2-3-1 (Busquets and Rakitic as pivots, Coutinho as a 10, Messi and Demblele flanking him, Suarez as the striker).
5. Rebuilding continues
Rebuilding during successful spells is easier said than done in big teams where, at least, a trophy must be won every year. Till date, Barça have not been able to replace Xavi after several attempts. Those bought either couldn’t fit or got tired of waiting for him to retire. The patchy spell under Martino gave Barça the chance to commence their rebuilding and it’s been a slow and steady success. From Marc Andre Terstegen replacing Legendary Valdes, Umtiti replacing Mascherano , Semedo replacing Alves , Dembele replacing Neymar and now Coutinho to replace Iniesta, the core of the team will have another five years to dominate Spain and Europe.
6. Removal of dead wood
In a bid to rebuild, Barça have done a lot of experimental buying leading to a plethora of substandard players who add nothing but numbers to the team. Players like Gomes, Deulofeu, Dennis can now be offloaded when Coutinho comes in.
Bartomeu had a rough past year and he knows he has to appease the Camp Nou fans; signing Coutinho will go a long way.
Written by Ewuola Olushinaola Taiwo, follow on Twitter @shinaspeaks