After a transfer saga that lasted well over one year, Barcelona finally got to officially announce their new marquee signing Antoine Griezmann a couple of days ago. The Frenchman signed for the Catalan club who paid his release clause of 120 million euros after chasing his services for a year. Antoine had infamously snubbed a move to Barca last year in his La Decision documentary and stayed with Atleti for another season. After what was a rather disappointing season with Los Rojiblancos where they crashed out of the Champions League after being 2-0 up against Juventus in the first leg, Griezmann made his mind about joining Barcelona and once his release clause dropped to the current value after July 1, Barcelona paid the full amount and signed him up. He was officially presented at the Camp Nou yesterday and began training with the first team today.
With Messi, Suarez, Dembele, Coutinho and Malcom already present in the squad and with the club actively trying to re-sign Neymar from PSG, it goes without saying that the attacking department at Barcelona is now saturated with quality after Griezmann’s signing and they might need to offload a couple of players. So far, the names of Coutinho and Malcom have been making the rounds but Barcelona should also consider phasing out Suarez if they are signing Neymar back.
In any case, we will try to see how Griezmann can be accommodated into the lineup with the current players that they have.
In the 4-3-3 system:
Ernesto Valverde played a 4-3-3 system with Suarez, Messi, Dembele or Suarez, Messi, Coutinho last season. In this system, Griezmann can slot in and take Coutinho and Dembele’s place on the left flank where he used to play for Real Sociedad. He can even be the target man and give rest to Luis Suarez in games although Griezmann hasn’t fared extremely well as a classic number 9.
Griezmann’s versatility and link-up play will be a very important asset for Barcelona as the French World Cup winner is a really intelligent footballer and can adapt to a role anywhere on the pitch. Smart on the ball and bearing good associative play, Griezmann will be ideal in rescuing Messi from his creative burden as Antoine is great at creating chances. This will allow Messi to play further forward, a positive sign for the player and the club who are becoming more Messi-dependent with time. This was especially evident last season where both the creative and scoring burden lay on Messi’s shoulders and on the odd games he failed to live up to that, Barcelona suffered.
Ideally, Griezmann- Suarez- Messi and Griezmann- Messi- Dembele are great lineups, both with its own pros and cons. This will see Griezmann being utilised as an interior forward in the same mould as David Villa when he signed for the club in 2011. The second lineup can also see Messi moving to his False 9 position, the position which allows him to be closer to goal and score more and relieves him of the burden of creating chances.
In the 4-4-2 system:
Valverde used this system extensively in his first season at the club where Dembele was injured for a long time and hence Messi and Suarez led the lines. This also gave him defensive protection.
In the same mould, Suarez and Griezmann can lead the lineup with Messi dropping back to advanced midfield. Griezmann has played his best football with both Atletico and France as a second striker in the presence of Diego Costa/Morata and Giroud. The presence of Suarez attracting defenders will free up space for him and Messi to exploit.
In an experimental 4-2-3-1 system:
To fully utilise the attacking firepower Barcelona now possess, Valverde could also shake things up and go with a completely different lineup although this leads to a loss of balance and could be detrimental for the defence. In the 4-2-3-1, Frenkie de Jong/ Arthur and Busquets could form the midfield duo while Messi, Griezmann and Dembele play ahead of them with Suarez leading the line. This is unsustainable in the long run and trying to accommodate Neymar into these systems will be another major issue.
It is clear Barcelona need to offload players. Their best bet is in letting go of Coutinho and Suarez (if Neymar is signed). While this will restrict Dembele to the bench primarily, Messi being on the wrong side of 30 is also another quandary that can be dealt with by playing Griezmann and giving Barcelona’s talisman rest during non-important games.