Barcelona Situation has changed for some players
Quique Setien was appointed as Barcelona head coach on Monday, which has thus brought with it a lift of beneficiaries and victims in the Blaugrana squad.
The 61-year-old made clear that he will be looking towards the club’s academy, with the likes of Riqui Puig training with the first team in the first three training sessions under Setien, something that was not always common for the much-discussed Barcelona prospect under Ernesto Valverde.
“Riqui could do with being at Barcelona B,” Valverde said when asked about the 20-year-old.
In fact, Riqui Puig has made hints that he would be willing to depart Barcelona if it meant getting regular football elsewhere.
“If I don’t get any minutes in the first team, I’ll have to make a decision,” the midfielder stated.
These words did not sit well with those inside the club because Riqui Puig is exactly the type of player Barcelona should be promoting; someone who is the epitome of the La Masia DNA.
“Like Xavi [Hernandez] and [Andres] Iniesta, I must wait for the opportunity,” he said one month after his previous statement.
However, the playmaker’s fortunes did not change after as he remained an afterthought for Valverde. The closest he came to featuring came when Barcelona travelled to Milan for their final Champions League group stage match against Inter, which had no bearing on the Catalans’ future in the competition, yet Riqui was left out of the heavily rotated side.
Since Monday, though, the situation has changed dramatically for Barcelona‘s starlet. The appointment of Setien brings a great responsibility for Riqui, who is happy with the change of coach.
Now, he sees the chance of becoming a member of the first team as being more attainable, particularly following Carles Alena‘s departure on loan to Real Betis. January will therefore be an important month as Riqui looks to establish himself and prove that he does not need to find minutes elsewhere.
The new coaching staff want to take care of the footballer, aware of his potential and the need for him to train with world-class players on a regular basis, which is a real declaration of intent with regard to Riqui‘s short-term future at the club.
For some time, the Matadepera-born midfielder has believed that he has done enough to get more of a chance, thriving whilst playing for Barcelona B, but these next few weeks will be decisive if he is to assert himself as a first-team player.
Riqui will now be hoping to be included in Setien‘s first squad list for the match at home to Granada on Sunday night, and his chances of doing so have been increased after not being named in Barcelona B‘s squad on Wednesday. It’s a sign that Setien is considering him for Sunday.
Another player who is likely to benefit from Setien‘s appointment is Arthur Melo.
The Brazilian has never been an undisputed starter for Barcelona, despite his style of play hypothetically fitting perfectly with the club’s philosophy.
Arthur has been dealing with problems in his pubis, which have become a headache for him, but he has returned to training with the group and his return seems to be close.
Valverde asked for more verticality from Arthur during his time at the helm and this campaign has shown that he can be more direct when it comes to making decisions, something Setien will want him to continue.
Sergio Busquets has seen his position in the side come under threat this season, but he will likely see his status improve under the Santander-born coach.
On the opening day of the season at San Mames, Valverde dropped Busquets to the bench in favour of Carles Alena, Sergi Roberto and Frenkie de Jong, yet Setien has always made clear his admiration for Busquets, who will no doubt be untouchable in midfield.
One of the challenges ahead of Setien is recovering Ousmane Dembele and Junior Firpo.
The Frenchman’s direct approach is more in line with what the technician wants from his wingers, but it will be down to Dembele to show his new boss what he can do once he returns from injury in February.
Junior, meanwhile, worked under Setien last season at Betis in a left wing-back role, however it seems unlikely that he will be able to usurp Jordi Alba in the line-up, so Setien will have to manage the 23-year-old carefully.
A question for the future will be what happens to Emerson, who is currently at Betis and worked under the orders of Setien for six months, yet Barcelona have an agreement with Los Verdiblancos for the right-back to join the club in the summer of 2021.
Sergi Roberto has shown that he is solid in that position, while Nelson Semedo has also featured regularly.
It remains unclear if Barcelona will be able to bring Emerson to the club prematurely, but when he does eventually arrive, with Setien having a contract until 2022, the Brazilian will be able to work alongside a coach who knows him inside out.
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