Real Madrid ran out comfortable 3-1 winners in El Clasico on Saturday, to move six points ahead of rivals Barcelona.
Federico Valverde, Sergio Ramos and Luka Modric scored the goals for Zinedine Zidane’s side, who were beaten 2-3 at home by Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League midweek.
FC Barcelona’s decision to sack Ernesto Valverde when they were top of the league back in January has significantly backfired. Quique Setien failed to win the 2019-20 La Liga title and now Koeman’s side have taken just seven points from their first five games.
Here are three things we learned from El Clasico this weekend:
1. Barcelona lack defence
Marc-Andre ter Stegen has become one of the best goalkeepers in the world in recent seasons – partly a result of the number of big saves the German has been required to make.
Neto was unable to deny Sergio Ramos’ penalty and had little chance with the other two strikes at Camp Nou on Saturday.
That’s because the defence in front of him is fragile. Sergino Dest is only 19 years old so has plenty of time to develop. The American has a lot of technical ability and loves to get forward, but it does make us wonder whether he’s cut out to be a defender or not.
Clement Lenglet was naive in conceding the penalty from which Real Madrid restored their lead on Saturday.
There is also very little depth here for Ronald Koeman, something which will be required this season with the compact fixtures. Barcelona are currently in the middle of six games in three weeks – La Liga at the weekend and Champions League midweek.
2. Is Koeman right to drop Griezmann?
Antoine Griezmann had five excellent seasons as Atletico Madrid’s star in attack. However, the French international often bottled the big games – a missed penalty in the Champions League versus Barcelona is one of a number of occasions.
The forward’s only trophy under Diego Simeone was the 2017-18 Europa League.
Griezmann helped fire France to the Euro 2016 final, but failed to deliver against Portugal on the big stage itself. It was all well and good scoring against the likes of Iceland but he failed to deliver in the spotlight once again.
There’s no doubting he’s talented, but much was expected of him when he moved to Camp Nou last summer. 9 goals in 35 La Liga matches for the league’s top scorers last season was underwhelming to say the least. He’s failed to score in his five appearances of the new campaign.
However, Ronald Koeman dropping him for the club’s biggest game so far this season is a statement that could go either way. Will it make him work harder? Or will it make him feel victimised?
The Dutch manager has much talent in attack – Lionel Messi, Ansu Fati, Ousmane Dembele and Griezmann, it shouldn’t be difficult to get the best out of them.
3. Is Koeman the right appointment?
Barcelona have a record of hiring former players and they had great success with Pep Guardiola and Luis Enrique, who were largely unproven at the time of their appointment.
Ronald Koeman had great success on the pitch between 1989-95, scoring the winner in the final edition of the European Cup in 1992 in the middle of winning four consecutive La Liga titles.
Without doubt, he was one of the best players of his generation. But a manager? Koeman won the Eredivisie twice in five seasons with Ajax at the start of the millennium,
but went from job to job after that. He lasted one season with Portuguese Primeira Liga giants Benfica, a few months at PSV Eindhoven, Valencia and AZ, before settling down at both Feyenoord and Southampton. It was at his first English Premier League side that he began to rebuild his reputation, whihc lead to employment at Everton. However, it would last little more than a season. He wasn’t a great success at the Netherlands either.
Barcelona have certainly taken a gamble on Ronald Koeman. And whilst it only takes the right manager to turn them around, given the talent they currently have, the talented youngsters they have coming through, I am not sold on Ronald Koeman being the right man for this job.