HomeSoccerAnalysing Antoine Griezmann’s time at Barcelona

Analysing Antoine Griezmann’s time at Barcelona

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Antoine Griezmann was Barcelona’s marquee signing last summer after the Catalan giants paid his buy-out clause of €120 million to their La Liga rivals, Atlético Madrid. Despite being so close to a move to the Camp Nou in the summer of 2018, Griezmann finally agreed to join the Blaugrana family a year later, becoming the club’s second-most expensive player after Philippe Coutinho.

Burdened with the weight of playing Neymar’s role in an attacking trio alongside Lionel Messi and Luis Suárez, Griezmann has been a subject of continuous scrutiny from both fans and pundits since his arrival in Catalonia.

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Considered as one of the longest-running transfer sagas of the last decade, Antoine Griezmann’s move to Barcelona was surrounded by all kinds of confusion. Just like his transfer soap opera, the Frenchman’s role in the team was equally as bewildering. 

Where was Griezmann going to play? How can you squeeze both Messi and Griezmann in the same line-up? Has Barcelona made a mistake by going after Griezmann instead of re-signing Neymar in?

With several questions looming on the horizon, the 29-year-old had the task of not only shutting his critics but he also had to hit the ground running, given the hefty sum Barcelona paid to lure him away from Atletico Madrid.

So, as Antoine Griezmann heads into his first year anniversary in Barcelona colors, we have tried to analyze his performances for the current La Liga leaders.

The systematic flaw

With Lionel Messi and Luis Suárez pinned down as regular starters, it was evident from the beginning that Antoine Griezmann had no other options apart from playing in the left, a position in which he last played in 2013, during his Real Sociedad days.

Previously, Griezmann mainly occupied the central role at Atletico Madrid, often drifting to the right to cut inside and look for the final ball or going for the goal himself. Well, to put it simply, a position which is occupied at Barcelona by their blue-eyed boy, Lionel Messi.

The 29-year-old often looked isolated on the left-hand side of the attacking third, and more often than not failed to be on the same wavelength with Barcelona left-back Jordi Alba, who is known for his runs down the left flank.

In 33 appearances for the Catalan giants this season, the Frenchman has started on the left-hand side of Barcelona’s attack on 23 occasions, scoring eight goals in the process. Whereas, he has managed to score on six occasions while playing in a much more central role in just 14 appearances.

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Antoine Griezmann is known for his ability to drop deep and link-up play between midfielders and forwards. He is not a player who can play on the shoulders of the last defender or a wide winger who can go past defenders with his sheer trickery and pace. And for the time being, it seems like it is more of Barcelona’s fault for not extracting the most out of a player of Griezmann’s calibre.

While asked to reflect on his playing style back in November, the versatile forward replied,

“I don’t know how to dribble. I like to take one or two touches at pace. I like that the ball comes out cleanly and to shoot at goal.” 

Antoine Griezmann

A disjointed connection with Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi has been the main focal point of Barcelona’s attack for over a decade now. And the La Liga champions’ attacking game generally flows through the mercurial Argentine’s movements on the field. So, to put it in simpler words, if one doesn’t have good on-field chemistry with Lionel Messi, his performances are bound to suffer.

Antoine Griezmann has failed to establish a solid on-field partnership with Lionel Messi until now. The on-paper dynamic duo has lacked cohesiveness, exchanging very little between themselves. So far this season, the pair have often been nullified and kept quiet by the big teams, and as a result, Barcelona have suffered as a unit going forward. Surprisingly enough, in their first four Champions League games together, Messi and Griezmann only managed to find each other on 18 occasions.

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When asked to comment on his on-field relationship with Lionel Messi, Antoine Griezmann himself explained how tough it has been to create a new bond with the legendary Argentine.

“He is not someone who talks a lot and neither am I. It’s difficult. But he has been injured a lot so it is difficult to make this connection, to improve it. We are two good guys, nice people, and I’m here to help anyone on the team.”

Antoine Griezmann

Change of systems

For both Real Sociedad and Atlético Madrid in the past, Antoine Griezmann was often part of a system which thrived on counter-attacking football. Mainly at Atlético Madrid, under Diego Simeone’s management, Griezmann was at the peak of his prowess while playing as a perfect team player, flourishing in a floating role attached with exclusive amounts of defensive duties. A tight defensive organization of Los Rojiblancos often soaked all the pressure before releasing Griezmann, who with his immaculate first-touches, more often than not, found the natural strikers with his sleek through balls.

Meanwhile, at Barcelona, he has been asked to perform a specific role to accommodate the club’s playing style, which in turn, has affected his game brutally. First Ernesto Valverde and now Quique Setien, both gave Antoine Griezmann a wide role in the left-flank, which is far different from what he has been accustomed to. Besides, Barcelona’s position-based football philosophy is very contradicting to counter-attacking football, which the 29-year-old has ingrained in his DNA for years now.

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Although it would be unfair to call Antoine Griezmann a flop, given he has only been at Barcelona for a little over nine months, one can certainly make an argument of the Frenchman not being able to make the necessary changes to his game to fit in Barcelona’s playing style.

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