How can Ernesto Valverde kickstart Barcelona's attack?
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Barcelona's attempt to reunite with Neymar Junior dominated this summer's transfer headlines. Unfortunately for the Catalans, striking a deal with Paris Saint-Germain proved impossible. Looking elsewhere to significantly strengthen their attack, they lured Antoine Griezmann from Atletico Madrid.
Griezmann's capture represents a masterstroke. The French forward is the type of player Barca need to improve their Champions League chances. While his arrival is no doubt a big boost to the Blaugrana, the team's offensive play is yet to positively transition this season.
As a matter of fact, Barcelona have failed to impress going forward since the new campaign kicked-off. There's more than one reason. Lionel Messi hasn't featured due to a calf injury. Luis Suarez lasted only 37 minutes in La Liga opener against Athletic Bilbao and has been sidelined since.
Ousmane Dembele's injury nightmare continues. The Frenchman was ruled out for five weeks after he also picked up a knock at San Memes. That left Griezmann as Barca's sole established attacker. He showed his class by scoring a brace on Camp Nou debut against Real Betis but he's been largely silent otherwise.
Apart from the 5-2 win over Real Betis, Barcelona's attack has failed to put up a convincing performance this campaign. The results have been affected. A 1-1 and 2-2 away at Athletic Bilbao and Osasuna respectively put them eighth in the table, five points behind leaders Atletico.
It implies Ernesto Valverde has a lot of work to do to turn things around. Having yet to keep a clean sheet, his defence is a worry. A fully firing attack will help ease those concerns.
Fortunately, Valverde will be boosted by both Messi and Suarez' returns following the international break. With Griezmann alongside the duo upfront, the gaffer is able to put out his strongest attack as he aims to overcome a slow start to the season.
So, how will Barcelona's offence function best?
Messi, as usual, will lead from the right flank. He is showing no signs of slowing down. Determined to add to his 603 Barca goals, the Argentine's return is bad news for La Liga opposition. He will be supported by Suarez, who'll continue as the main striker.
Griezmann will likely occupy the left flank to complete the Catalans' three-man attack. There may be a twist, though. The Frenchman performed well playing centrally against Real Betis. This could inspire Valverde to tweak his formation. He can use the 4-4-2 diamond setup, deploying Messi and Suarez as the two forwards while utilizing Griezmann just behind.
Dembele, upon his return, can be used as an impact sub. He will help change games, punishing opposing defences with his pace and trickery. Alternatively, Valverde can start him on the left-hand side in the 4-2-3-1 setup. Suarez as the lone frontman, Griezmann behind and Messi on the right.
In a crucial match at home to Valencia on Saturday, Valverde will hope his attackers deliver a phenomenal display. This game could witness Messi, Griezmann and Suarez deployed together for the first time. Looking further, Barcelona's season is heavily reliant on the trio's chemistry.