The appointment of Ronald Koeman as Barcelona head coach this summer did not seem to be one that was universally popular. The Dutchman was a Blaugrana hero from his playing days, but his coaching career has been inconsistent, to say the least. The former Southampton and Everton boss certainly made an impressive start to life in Catalonia on Sunday night, as his team hammered Villarreal 4-0 at the Nou Camp.
A fresh feeling
There was something of a fresh feeling about the Barcelona display. Whether that was just the fact that they have a new boss or whether it was Koeman’s influence on the team is unclear. However, whatever it is it was good to watch Barcelona players seemingly enjoy themselves.
There even a smile from Lionel Messi, who has not had much to smile about in the last 12 months while playing for Barcelona. Koeman even brought Philippe Coutinho out from the cold and he produced an effective if unspectacular performance.
The Brazilian has some major competition on his hands for a regular starting role, with highly-rated youngster Pedri and Trincao recent arrivals at the club. Then there is French forward Ousmane Dembele, who just needs to steer clear of injuries so he can show his true ability.
Ansu Fati a cut above
There have been so many games in the past where Lionel Messi has carried his team to victory. In those games, the little Argentinian looked a cut above the rest of the players on the pitch. However, the veteran had to give up that accolade on Sunday night, as 17-year-old Spanish international Ansu Fati took centre stage at the Nou Camp.
The youngster, who recently became La Roja’s youngest ever goalscorer was unplayable in the first half against the Yellow Submarine. The homegrown talent scored a brace in the first twenty minutes that helped his team to an unassailable 4-0 lead at half-time. He faded slightly later in the game, but that is to be expected for such a young player.
Last season he surprised many with his ability. This season fewer teams will be surprised by the youngster and maybe fewer will be able to stop the forward.
No signs of disharmony amongst the ranks
There has been so much talk of crisis and disharmony at Barcelona in recent months, which resulted in a bitter feud between Messi and certain members of the club’s board. He showed little sign of that on Sunday night. There was just a very good team performance against a side who can be tricky opponents.
New coach Koeman has never hidden his long-term desire to be Barcelona boss, even during his days as Everton boss. The Dutchman knows he has to take his chance and make himself indispensable, as he has the shadow of another former hero Xavi looming over him, with presidential elections on the horizon next year or sooner depending on the results of the no-confidence vote on current president Josep Maria Bartomeu.
Koeman may lose his job no matter what happens during his tenure in Catalonia. All he can do is keep helping his team to pick up victories and hope that it is good to keep his dream job. The Dutchman has certainly made a fine start to life back at Barcelona.
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Can Ronald Koeman guide Barcelona to success this season?