Eibar 0-1 Barcelona: Three observations as Antoine Griezmann’s late goal sees off stubborn hosts

Antoine Griezmann of FC Barcelona against Eibar in La Liga
Antoine Griezmann of FC Barcelona against Eibar in La Liga | Photo Credit: IMAGO

Barcelona ended their La Liga season with a one-nil victory over Eibar on Saturday, thanks to a late goal by Griezmann. 

La Blaugrana, who rested captain Lionel Messi for this game, went home with all three points to end the season in third place and end a run of three games without a win. 

Without Lionel Messi for this game, Ronald Koeman started Trincao, Ousmane Dembele and Antoine Griezmann up front, with the latter providing the only goal of the match late in the game. 

The visitors started the game brightly but could not truly trouble their already-relegated hosts, who fashioned out the better chances in the game. 

However, in the end, Barca found a goal in the 81st minute when Dembele’s deflected cross fell to Griezmann to give Barca all three points. 

With the significant La Liga action going on elsewhere as Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid fought for the title, this game had little or no importance, save that it offered the coach the opportunity to rest some of his star players and handed some important minutes to a few youngsters. 

Here we look at three observations from the game. 

A lot of rebuilding needed. 

Barcelona need a squad and tactical overhaul to wrest the title from Atletico or Real Madrid next season. 

The team that started on Saturday comprised only a few high-quality players, with De Jong, Dembele and perhaps Griezmann, the only players that can feature in the Real Madrid or Atletico Madrid team.

Although it is a known fact that the coronavirus pandemic has made it difficult for the Spanish giants to compete in the market, however, the club must do well to spend this summer if they must stay relevant in Spain and Europe next season. 

News of the arrival of Eric Garcia, Sergio Aguero, and Memphis Depay must have sounded like music to the ears of Barca fans. Still, Laporte and co. in the Barca board need to attract quality players and revamp an ageing squad.

Two quality defenders are needed to replace the old guard of Pique and Umtiti, who has proven to be injury-prone this season. In midfield, De Jong remains the only world-class player in the Barca team. He needs a world-class partner in midfield to bring the best out of him. Georgino Wijnaldum has been mooted as a player Barca is looking to sign, but it remains to be seen if the Liverpool contract rebel is willing to switch to Barca with Koeman’s future uncertain (more of that later). 

Barca must keep Messi.

Despite winning the game and dominating the ball, Eibar created better chances throughout the game. The hosts had 11 shots, with three of them on target, while Barca had a total of five with three on target. 

Although the Catalan club are ending the season as the highest-scoring side in the league this season with 85 goals, they have time and again proven that they cannot do without their mercurial captain. 

The Argentine has 30 goals and 11 assists in the La Liga this season, meaning that he has been directly involved in 48.2% of his side’s goals this season. And despite what appears to have been a poor season for him, Messi has averaged a goal or assist every 74 minutes this term in the La Liga. Few players boast that level of importance to any team in Europe.

With his contract set to expire this summer, Laporte’s priority remains to keep the Argentine at the Nou Camp beyond this term. 

Time to sort out Koeman’s Future 

This has not been how Koeman expected his Barca reign to go. The former Netherlands coach may have won a title in his first season at Camp Nou, but he remains unaccepted by a large section of the fan base.

The former Barca defender has been put in the spotlight constantly regarding his future but has maintained that he has a contract to honour and is expecting to be at Nou Camp next season.

With Laporte not coming out to back his coach, it is safe to argue that the uncertainty around his future is affecting his team. Even transfer targets and players are only ready to commit their future to Barca when they are sure of the coach’s future. Part of the decisions that must be made in the coming days is the future of Koeman.