Barcelona could have a new manager by November
Ernesto Valverde has the support of the board. Club president Josep Maria Bartomeu negotiated a new deal for the Basque coach midway through last season, before Barcelona crashed to a humiliating exit from the Champions League at the semi-final stage.
Then, there were calls to sack him. But the board came to Valverde’s rescue by reaffirming support for his leadership. Unfortunately, the players have not got behind the ex-Culé with the same vigour. This conflict has been exacerbated by Barça’s poor start to the season.
Barça lost the season opener to Athletic Bilbao, and fell to a crushing 2-0 defeat to the newly-promoted Granada. It was no one but Marc-André ter Stegen who kept Barça from losing the Champions League opener against Borussia Dortmund too.
As for performances of individual players, Sergio Busquets has got off to a very poor start to the season. Ivan Rakitić has looked rusty after falling out of favour, while €120 million signing Antoine Griezmann has been non-existent on the pitch despite starting all matches.
The 16-year old Ansu Fati has exploded onto the scene with some fantastic displays of goalscoring prowess but he cannot be relied upon to step up against top opposition. On the other hand, Lionel Messi and Ousmane Dembélé have proven to be injury-prone.
Frenkie de Jong and Arthur have been the shining lights for Barça in midfield, but that is about it when it comes to sustainable positives. Carles Pérez got off to a flier after winning a call-up to the first-team squad, but the spark has fizzled out since.
It is clear that Valverde is failing to make his new group of players gel. He hasn’t been able to extract anything from Griezmann, one of the world’s best players. With Coutinho, the player was to blame. With Griezmann, it is Valverde who must face the music.
The fact that Valverde has lost the trust of his senior players became clear as Gerard Piqué decided to publicly rail against the board recently. Unless the former Barça forward manages to turn the club’s fortunes around, the board will be under increased pressure.
The fixture-heavy month of October will be decisive when it comes to Valverde’s future at the helm. The month begins with a crucial game against Antonio Conte’s in-form Inter Milan, and will end with the Clásico at the Camp Nou.
In between, there will be more matches of importance, including the trip to Slavia Praha and a home league game against Sevilla. Unless Barça manage to get a positive result in all of these matches, Ernesto Valverde will certainly be booted out.