The first game of the Setien era was settled by Lionel Messi’s solitary goal, a low scoreboard but with some exciting changes. The game seemed like Setien’s first manifesto as Barcelona coach, making it clear the main principle of the team is having the ball. Since Pep Guardiola’s era ended, more or less, Barcelona haven’t been as obsessed with possession. From the first moment they were obviously determined not to lose the ball under any circumstance. So much so, that it seemed at times the team had forgotten they had to look for goal.
They lacked fluidity and finishing and speed, but there were some good first touch combinations and 82.6 per cent possession - the third highest in registered history in La Liga - and over a thousand passes. It would be unjust to reduce the game to that, because the second principle was as important as the first. The return of La Masia. He started Ansu Fati, he brought on Riqui Puig and eight cantera players featured in total.
Setien promised changes and they have happened at record speed. There’s a long way to go. Messi is still too alone, and with Suarez there is less depth. But we saw the start of something.
Setien’s first midfield will not, probably, be what we see going forward. Rakitic-Busquets-Vidal isn’t the best to execute what he wants. Riqui Puig came on and changed the game. He played like he had been shining at Camp Nou all his life. Why didn’t he debut earlier? We’ll likely see him much more in the coming weeks.