After an inconsistent start to the season, Barca’s season finally seems to be on track. Over this short but improved period of form, there has been a new addition to the starting lineup- Martin Braithwaite. Whilst Barca has been on a winning streak for only the past three games, there has been a major turnaround in the feeling amongst fans and players recently.
In this article, we look at how Braithwaite’s inclusion in the starting lineup might prove to be the turning point for Barca’s season.
The number 9 conundrum-Solved?
Barca have seen a shift in formation this season. Deviating from the classic 4-3-3, Koeman has elected to play a more attacking 4-2-3-1 formation with multiple players in between the lines and one up top.
However, Koeman usually played either Messi or Griezmann in that center-forward role. However, both Messi and Griezmann often like to drop deep to collect the ball. With either Coutinho or Pedri( or even both) in the starting lineup, Barca often had too many players in between the lines with none up top.
Here are the average positions for Barca in their recent 3-1 loss in the El Clasico.
As we can see, the team does not have a focal point who can keep the opposition center-backs busy. It became too easy for the Real Madrid defense to shut down Barca attacks and hit them on counters.
However, we look at the average positions for the players in their recent Champions League fixture against Dynamo Kyiv.
As we can see, the presence of Braithwaite pins the opposition center-backs and gives the likes of Pedri and Coutinho the freedom to drop deep to collect the ball, which suits their natural game, along with Griezmann’s and Messi’s natural game. As a result, Griezmann did score after coming on as a sub in that game, and he has been scoring in three consecutive games as of 3rd December 2020.
A mobile and strong centre forward
Braithwaite is not just a center forward for the sake of it like Kevin Prince Boateng was during his poor tenure at Barca in the 2018-19 season. His strength allows him to hold up the ball and lay it off to his other teammates. He is also very strong in aerial duels and is a very quick player who can get in behind defenses.
Considering the fact that Braithwaite was brought in as an emergency signing last season, he has been remarkable so far. While he does not have the finishing ability of a world-class striker like Lewandowski by any means, it is his mere presence that helps the players around him.
Although Barca might go for Depay in the transfer market to boost their number 9 options, it would be a wiser decision to invest that money on a young center-forward later, given the economic situation at Barca and Braithwaite’s red hot form.
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