Barcelona’s performance against Ibiza in the Copa del Rey took many by surprise. It wasn’t just the Barcelona fans who drew a shocked gaze at the scoreline, but a whole global audience was left to giggle about it too. While the game did turn around in stoppage time, it could well be a sign of things to come under Quique Setien.
Settling into a more technical and possession-based system than that of Ernesto Valverde was bound to take time. Every team takes a certain amount of time to tide over a similar transition. And the same can be expected of Barca, who would be a huge hit or a blatant miss under their new manager.
The win over Ibiza was perhaps a reflection of that. Despite a huge possession percentage against a side from a lesser division, the club could not carve out enough goalscoring opportunities to break Ibiza down. The high amount of possession is what Setien likes. But the low amount of creation is something he will hate.
But that has been the story of his career. And it was clear at Real Betis too. Last season at the Benito Villamarin, Setien took Betis to a tenth-placed finish. All that, despite the club having the second-highest amount of average possession per game stat- 59.4. With that high average possession, the club could score only 44 goals in the whole season- the 13th best record in the division.
There were results last season which had glimpses of attacking football at its best. Beating Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid at their homes is an example. There was an emphasis on attacking and little regard for defending. But there were honking results on the way too. The season had indeed started with a 3-0 loss to Levante. There were losses to Huesca and Leganes- things that the club would never take.
And last season was a big underachievement from the 2017-18 season. In that campaign, Betis had finished as high as sixth in the La Liga. It was hailed as an achievement, with the team scoring goals and playing very good football.
They had the third-highest amount of average possession per game-55.0– only behind Real Madrid and Barca. They did score the fifth-highest amount of goals as well- 60. But the other side of the coin is a concerning one. They also let in 61 goals that season.
There were multiple games in which they would score for fun, but would concede for fun as well. Particularly the 6-3 loss to Valencia and a 5-0 loss to Eibar. When it came off, it looked wonderful. But when it didn’t, it was embarrassing sometimes. And no one knew which performance was coming next.
For a club like Betis, that was good enough. They were happy to score goals and concede as many goals. The dominant playing style brought a smile on the faces of fans. The good results against the big boys made them happy.
But like it was against Ibiza, this can’t happen for too long at a club like Barcelona. It is certain that Setien will take a while to completely make this team his own. But there isn’t exactly a guarantee that the club will live up to its lofty ambitions and aims.
They sure will play some very good football on the way- like Betis did. But there will be some underwhelming results like the one on Wednesday. This is only just the beginning.