Barcelona’s capture of former Real Betis boss Quique Setien was a sudden occurrence. While reports were circulating about Ernesto Valverde’s potential sacking the hiring of Xavi, that never worked out. While names like Ronald Koeman and Mauricio Pochettino did draw links, it turned out to be Setien after everything.
The former Betis boss left the Benito Villamarin at the end of the previous season. It came after Betis had finished tenth in the La Liga, followed by a sixth-placed finish in the 2017-18 season.
But like Pochettino, Koeman or Xavi, Setien too has a certain list of pros and cons for the job at the Nou Camp.
- Restoring the playing style
During his time at Betis, Setien was known for a high-pressing and possession-oriented brand of football. In the 2017-18 season, The club found the back of the net 60 times– the fifth-best in the division. They had the third-highest amount of average possession percentage, only behind Barca and Real Madrid. They also had the third-best passing accuracy that season.
This is the sort of identity Barca fans have been yearning for, as compared to a more pragmatic approach under Valverde. If there’s anything that Setien is sure to restore is the club’s lost identity. He will get them to play an attractive brand of football.
- Big-game mentality
Setien’s Betis side was known to be a giant-killer at its best. They could beat bigger sides while playing a good brand of football, scoring goals on a consistent basis.
Last season, they beat Atletico once, losing in the first game. They beat Real Madrid away home, while they managed to beat Barca at the Nou Camp in an enthralling 4-3 game. In the UEFA Europa League, they had a hand in ousting Rino Gattuso’s Milan from the group stages of the competition.
They were at their attacking best against the bigger sides. They like to go all guns blazing and while it led to disastrous results in the first season, it came to plan in the 2018-19 season.
- Nurturing players
Setien is known to bring the best out of technically sound players. This led to the emergence of Giovani Lo Celso and the rise to prominence of Fabian Ruiz in the 2017-18 season. He also had a hand in making Junior Firpo the player he is today. The likes of William Carvalho and Victor Camarasa have ignited their careers under Setien himself. In the twilight years of his career, Joaquin regained form under Setien himself.
As things stand, Barcelona have no shortage of technical players. More than that, they need the nurturing of talent to ease out the transition after Lionel Messi. Setien will help the club in doing that by taking players like Frenkie de Jong. Arthur, Ansu Fati to another level.
- Formational flexibility
Under Valverde, Barca took a lot of criticism for not being tactically flexible enough. But Setien is known to be flexible, when it comes to different shapes.
Towards the end of the season, Betis were either playing a 3-5-2 or a 4-3-3 under Victor Sanchez. When Setien took over in the summer of 2017, he did start with the 4-3-3 that the side he was used to. As time went on, the team became flexible with shapes. Towards the middle of the season, Setien was using a 3-4-3 shape, followed by some transitions to a 4-4-2 and a 3-5-2 as well.
That 3-4-3 shape did carry on for the 2018-19 season, but Setien would also often use a 4-2-3-1.
- No flexible system
The biggest downgrade of Setien is how many goals his teams can score. They can fail to manage games and being pragmatic- something Valverde’s side could often thrive on. As much as his attacking approach is fascinating, they are disappointing at the back many times.
In the 2017-18 season, Betis let in 61 goals- the fourth-worst record in the division. Because of that, despite scoring 60 times, their goal difference fell to minus one. And that isn’t a promising sign at all. Even last season, Betis conceded 52 goals while scoring 44. This leaky faucet was the main reason for them finishing low in the table.
If it will improve with a better set of defenders is anybody’s guess.
- Stepping into big shoes
The task of managing a club like Barcelona is no child’s play. The club boasts of towering personalities and the expectations are certainly huge. One big criticism of Valverde was his inability to take Barcelona to European glory. Having won the La Liga for many years now, the club is hungry for European success. Valverde couldn’t do that.
The approach Setien takes tactically may not be feasible for taking them far in Europe. It leaves them open at the back- something that isn’t promising for a long European campaign. But it could be a case of giving him time to be pragmatic once he imposes his style.