Griezmann to Barcelona: How will Valverde's men line up this season?

By Joe Wright 12 July 2019 847
Griezmann to Barcelona: How will Valverde's men line up this season?

Antoine Griezmann is about to become a brilliant problem for Barcelona.

LaLiga's reigning champions have finally brought an end to the saga around the France star, signing him on a five-year deal after activating his release clause of €120million.

Barca have effectively been pursuing Griezmann for the best part of 18 months, having been turned down by the forward last year, who then informed the world he would be staying at Atletico Madrid via his documentary 'The Decision'.

Ernesto Valverde would have been forgiven for preferring not to have Griezmann in his side after such a high-profile snubbing of Camp Nou, but a year later - and with his own position under scrutiny after last season's Champions League failure - it is now imperative he gets the best out of the former Real Sociedad man.

Trying to squeeze Griezmann into the team will be no simple matter, though - especially if Barca also manage to bring Neymar back to the club. So, just how will Valverde go about using him? Here are three possible line-ups for 2019-20...

1. 4-3-3 - 'Old Faithful'... without Suarez

Valverde might have been criticised for not always encouraging Barca to stick to their heralded style, but 4-3-3 remains his most consistent formation, at least in LaLiga.

The right-hand side will be reserved for Lionel Messi as long as he wants it, of course, and Griezmann is unlikely to be shifted to the left. Valverde generally prefers right-footed players on that side, specifically Ousmane Dembele - and, just maybe, Neymar - who can offer a burst of speed to destabilise deep blocks of defence.

It means Griezmann would probably have to move into the central attacking role and therefore relegate Luis Suarez to the bench. A bold call it may be, but Suarez is 32 and just came off his lowest goalscoring season in four years. Perhaps the competition would bring out the best in him.

2. 4-4-2 - The key to the Champions League

Valverde has regularly favoured 4-4-2 in some of Barca's most challenging matches, particularly away games in the Champions League.

While these have proved successful to an extent - beating Manchester United away last season, for instance - their safety-first approach was not exactly a sound one in the 4-0 thrashing by Liverpool or the capitulation against Roma the year before.

Griezmann could help matters there. He is an expert in playing as part of a front two in major European ties from his Atletico days: against Pep Guardiola's Bayern Munich in 2016 he knew when to press, when to track back and how to stay cool to capitalise on rare goalscoring chances that would make up for any defensive lapses further back. Playing that role alongside Messi would make Barca formidable.

3. 4-2-3-1 - The Neymar dream

Barca are a long way from signing both Griezmann and Neymar. Indeed, they will have to raise funds and lower the wage bill by selling two or three players – or offering them in exchange – before the Brazil star's return can be countenanced seriously.

If they can get him back, though, Valverde will have the option to field an attacking unit of a strength seen nowhere else in world football.

With a double pivot using two of Sergio Busquets, Arthur, Frenkie de Jong and Ivan Rakitic, the stability in midfield Valverde craves will still be there. Ahead of them, Messi could sit as a number 10, with Griezmann to one side and Neymar to the other, and all three given licence to roam. Suarez can then keep his place at the head of the attack.

It might feel a little gung-ho for Valverde's liking, but seriously - how many teams would be able to stop a front four like this?

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Joe Wright

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