Ernesto Valverde

3 Reasons Why It All Went Wrong for Ernesto Valverde at Barcelona

Barcelona decided to part ways with manager Ernesto Valverde last evening and appointed ex-Real Betis coach Quique Setien as the new head coach until June 2022.

A disappointing start to the season and multiple unsatisfactory results over the course of the campaign was too much for the board and the fans, and last week's Supercopa de España semi-final defeat to Atletico Madrid, where they let a 2-1 lead slip in the final ten minutes was the final nail in his coffin.

In his debut season on the Barcelona bench, Valverde inspired the club to the domestic double but the defending champs look a shadow of their former selves this season. 

Valverde won a total of four trophies in his time as manager, while he also posted a 66.9% win ratio. However, the now-former Barca manager was never far from speculation regarding whether he would keep his job until the end of this season.

Here are the three reasons why and where it all went wrong for Ernesto Valverde at Camp Nou.

3. Woeful, defensive performances

The Catalans began their La Liga defence in the worst possible way, losing 1-0 away to Athletic Bilbao on the opening day of the season, and things got worse from then on, with Barcelona winning just two of their opening five league matches.

It hasn't helped that they seem to have one of the most fragile defence in the top four right now. Barca have conceded 23 goals in 19 games in the La Liga, while Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid have conceded just 12. 

A midfield of Sergio Busquets, Frenkie de Jong and Ivan Rakitic should be producing better performances, but they have laboured in games this term. Losses to Athletic Bilbao, Granada, and Levante plus draws at Osasuna, Real Sociedad, and Espanyol are unbecoming of a club of Barcelona's stature, and that was bound to reflect on Valverde's role at the club.

2. Champions League failure

After losing on away goals to Roma in the quarter-finals of the Champions League in 2017 despite winning the first leg 4-1 at the Nou Camp, further ignominy came last season when Valverde's side surrendered a three-goal advantage to lose 4-3 on aggregate to Liverpool in the semifinals.

Described in the Spanish press as a “debacle”, “tragedy” and “historic failure”, the writing seemed to be on the wall for Valverde from that point. His domestic success was ultimately soured by those European nightmares. Where Pep Guardiola lifted the Champions League twice in four seasons, Valverde was unable to build a side with such mental fortitude.

Valverde had two full seasons to achieve European success, and for every one of the protests about his style of play, a Champions League triumph would have given him a stay of execution until the finish of this season in any event.

1. Lack of a signature playing style

If there's one thing that's been consistent at Barcelona all these years, it's been their possession style of play. Pep Guardiola's 'tiki-taka' laid the foundation and other coaches build on that, leading the club to greater heights.

But under Valverde, the Spanish giants looked a completely different team at times. The former Barca manager won 97 of the 145 games he was in charge, and boasts of lifting the La Liga twice, and the Spanish Super Cup and the Cope del Rey once each.

However, he was regularly chastised for his uninventive and down to business style, with his "security first" strategy getting under the skin of supporters and opponents. Barcelona have been known to play intelligent, beautiful football, but there was a clear lack of that finesse this season, and having watched their precious side labour to victory on several occasions over the last three seasons, fans would be hoping the new man in charge can revert to the more expansive and aesthetic football that they are used to.