The 'Wembley Hero' saw his dream come true against Nastic but there's a lot of work ahead of the new season
Ronald Koeman's Barça passed their first test of the preseason against Nastic. The Dutchman needs to introduce a new system in a short period of time and hasn't even had the full squad to work with yet. Miralem Pjanic only resumed training on Saturday and there are still issues to be resolved with outgoings in the squad too.
Koeman fulfilled a dream by leading Barça out as their new manager but the rest of the circumstances surrounding the club are far from ideal.
The game against Nastic was the first step in preparing the team for the first LaLiga match of the season against Villarreal.
1.- Leo Messi REMAINS THE FOCUS OF THE PROJECT
This is arguably the most important aspect of the sporting side. After a couple of weeks where Messi's future was up in the air, the assurance that Leo would stay means the team needs to be built around him. He started against Nastic, despite training less than the others, and was handed the captain's armband once again. He was on the right-hand side of the attack but was handed the freedom to move across the forward line.
2.- FORMING a connection between messi and griezmann
Koeman needs to find a way for Messi and Griezmann to work as a unit. Antoine needs to take more responsibility on and off the pitch but without Leo losing any either. He handed the penalty to Griezmann against Nastic as a good gesture. In the match, the Frenchman played as the focal point of attack but will be more comfortable playing just behind the main striker. Although Coutinho and Pedri both looked good in that role too.
3.- The chance to reintroduce Coutinho AND Dembélé
Dembele and Coutinho were first signed to offset the loss of Neymar when he joined PSG ofr €222m. However, that rush to replace the enigmatic Brazilian didn't help either player's causes as too much was expected too soon. With injuries and a complicated transfer market at the moment, it's time for Dembele and Coutinho to establish themselves at the Camp Nou. It's now or never. Ousmane played the opening 45 minutes after the best part of the year on the sidelines and demonstrated the qualities he can bring to the side. Coutinho's smart linkup play was crucial to Barça's tempo in the second half. Both players got on the scoresheet.
4.- OPTIMISM WITH Trincao AND Pedri
The glimpses of quality that Trincao and Pedri showed against Nastic is further proof Barça needs to opt for youth and talent. Pedri got the opportunity to play alongside his idols and played a role in the opening goal. Trincao's confidence was a welcome addition to the attack as he looked to get at - and beat - his marker. Only Ansu Fati really has that style of play in the current Barça squad. They could offer vital contributions off the bench if Koeman decides to retain them this summer.
5.- LA MASIA IS ALIVE AND WELL
Koeman's return has already brought a fresh light on La Masia and it's most promising graduates. The Dutchman has made it clear he won't look at someone's age but rather their ability and work ethic. Ansu and Riqui Puig have already made their next step forward and Carles Aleña would like to stay this season. All three are capable of playing at the highest level and show that the club should turn to La Masia before they search the market.
6.- IDENTITY: POSSESSION, HIGH PRESS AND OPEN WINGS
Those are the three characteristics wants to bring back to FC Barcelona. There were two completely different XIs fielded against Nastic but both were tasked with playing the same way. The image of seeing Barça pushing higher and higher up the pitch to win back the ball was a welcome return. Whoever was in the number 10 position always had space to generate quick attacks and exploit the width the team had in the final third.
7.- RETURNING TO 'el juego de posición'
To fully recover Barça's dynamism, the fitness levels must be much higher. That is of course difficult due to the short time the players have had training under Koeman. The young players helped maintain the tempo but they'll need to move the ball faster and turnover possession much quicker going forward. The early signs were positive though.
8.- A DOUBLE PIVOT FOR THE 4-2-3-1
Ronald Koeman doesn't appear to be someone who is uncertain of what he wants to do, nor do Barça have time to wait and find out what works and what doesn't. He opted for his trusted 4-2-3-1 and used a double pivot. Miralem Pjanic, Frenkie de Jong and Sergio Busquets are the main trio who will alternate between those two roles.
9.- BraitHwaite and the wait for a new '9'
Now that Luis Suarez is no longer an option, Braithwaite is the only natural striker in the squad. Griezmann played there in the first half but it's clear his favoured position is just behind another forward. Braithwaite works hard and finds space but he isn't a top level finisher. He could provide important cover across the forward line but for a team with aspirations of winning leagues and European trophies, an elite striker is absolutely necessary.