Uncompromising Quique Setien seems now to be awkwardly ensconced in a compromising situation that is not of his own doing. As the head coach and manager, he is charged with ensuring that his teams under his supervision and helmsmanship – particular the top XI – are in pristine shape and form at all times and this covers the entire scope of his responsibilities from players’ fitness, appointing and fielding the right players all the way to formulation of strategies and tactics for the pitch. Of course, he consults with the board on acquisition of new players to boost the squad.
On record, he has only managed the Blaugrana in 13 La Liga matches and already reports, if truly newsworthy, are already being issued out of Catalunya that he will be leaving the Camp Nou possibly even within the next few days if the team’s situation doesn’t turn around in the crucial games against home game against Atletico and away at Villarreal this week.
It is no secret that Josep Maria Bartomeu’s board has significantly failed to improve Barca’s squad for several years, and the telling effects are more visible now that the dominant key players are nowhere near as fit, both physically and mentally, as they once were. Which is perfectly understandable and acceptable as the onslaught of the passing of time spares no one, not even the greatest of athletes. Yet this does not absolve the board from being wholly competent and above board (pardon the pun) in executing their due diligence in managing football matters above and beyond the call of the coaches and manager. Which of course they have glaringly failed to do.
That aside, another insidious problem is still rearing its ugly head in the form of dressing room hierarchies, regardless of whether they are allowed to persist based on prior achievements or current form. This is a malignant growth that had taken root way before Setien’s arrival and made itself clearly manifest during Valverde’s tenure, leading to his ultimate removal. It’s obvious that those veteran players who are being pushed beyond their comfort zone are making their discontent with Setien and his coaching staff far too noticeable, and no longer just behind closed doors, which does not augur well for Barcelona’s future.
Under heavy crossfire, Setien spoke candidly on various key issues incidental to the dilemma and confusion at the Balugrana on The Barcelona Podcast:
“The games against Atlético, which is a great team, are always very difficult. It is normal to expect that they will make things very difficult for us, but the next games will be just as important. Winning now is decisive for us because there are fewer games left and the margin of error is already smaller. We attach great importance to the match, like everyone.”
“We have to improve and that is the only thing we must focus on. Thinking of ourselves until the last day and not of the opponent.”
“Atlético must be attacked as Barcelona has done it many times. They are a terribly solid team, which makes their goals very profitable. It will put us in great difficulties, it is necessary to have great mobility between the lines and to be successful in the short space; controlling their counterattack they are a team with very talented footballers.”
“Pauses during games sometimes come in helpful and others will be better for the rival. In Seville, for example, we could say little because we did things very well and it was only to clarify individual aspects. It is something new and allows us to point things out, but the reality is that we do not usually vary the general approach.”
“If we do not beat Atlético, the chances of winning the title will be reduced. We have to win all our matches and what will happen later we will see.”
“Player discontent? It is true that there are always controversies. It is normal that there are differences. I was not an easy player at the time either. The important thing is to convince all footballers that the idea we must develop is what we are doing. There is good communication with the players, I do not give importance to the possible discrepancies.”
“When the victories do not come, everyone takes the lead. The circus is set up like this. The relationship with the players is good, I do not see any major problem.”
“We have a lot of meetings with the players, but we focus on football issues. The situations are normal, it can change immediately if we get a more relaxed victory and better resolve some situations on the field.”
“Player power? All of us, also footballers, must give in. Not everything we would like can be carried out. This is a team and we must act as a team. We must sacrifice personal things for the benefit of the group. I have no problem recognizing that this is not new for me. It has nothing to do with footballers. It happened to me in Las Palmas and Sevilla.”
“Nothing happened between Messi and Sarabia in Vigo.”
“My future? I feel just as strong as when I arrived. I am doing everything I can to make this go well, win matches and achieve the successes that we all hope for. I am convinced that we are doing a good job, but I know that victories hide many things and defeats… There are moments and moments. You win, you enjoy; you have to feel uncomfortable when you lose.”
“The noise is up to you. I am on the sidelines. I focus on what I should focus on because I already know how all this works. I don’t get worn out on things. The players, I think, do the same thing.”
“Arthur’s situation? I am not aware of what Arthur’s mother says. I have no doubts about his commitment until the last day. He has made a commitment to his colleagues and will dedicate himself fully to achieving his goals. I have no doubts neither me nor his companions.”
“Arthur’s lineup will depend on the characteristics of the matches. The important thing is that he is willing to play to the end; for me, it is the highlight.”
Regarding Antoine Griezmann now not looking like an automatic start for Barca in recent matches, here’s Setien’s current opinion on the World Cup winner:
“Griezmann not starting? We can only play eleven. Sometimes they will play some and other times they will play others. They are all important and all the players have their options, regardless of their hierarchy.”
Well, in the proverbial nutshell, there you have it right from the horse’s mouth. It’s as good as it gets.