Antoine Griezmann’s Quest To Find Himself At Barca Continues
Updated: Nov 10, 2020
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This article got published at www.sportskeeda.com on November 10, 2020. Here's the link: https://www.sportskeeda.com/football/antoine-griezmann-s-quest-find-barcelona-continues
When Antoine Griezmann joined FC Barcelona in July 2019 from their league rivals, Atletico Madrid, for a whopping fee of €120 million, the expectations he was charged with, for obvious reasons, were lofty. Cules hoped that the World Cup winner would bring back the lustre to Barcelona’s decaying attack, fill the massive hole that Neymar’s departure created, and take some burden off Barcelona's chief creator and goalscorer, Leo Messi. And truly, such anticipations weren’t unfounded. The Frenchman had undoubtedly proved his mettle during his time at Real Sociedad, Atletico Madrid, and with his national team.
Fast forward to the present time and circumstance, it is common knowledge that Griezmann has not lived up to the sky-high expectations, rather he has been well below par. The Griezmann at Camp Nou hasn’t been a shadow of the player that he was at Diego Simone’s Atletico Madrid or is at Didier Deschamps’ France.
While there have been many rumors or even conspiracy theories, one can say, which believe that Griezmann is struggling because he is made to feel unwanted at Barcelona. These theories even go on to claim that he isn’t made to feel at home at Camp Nou because Messi and other senior players preferred a return of Neymar over his signing.
There is little that we can do to ascertain the truth value and validity of these claims and theories. However, it is pretty clear that being out of place, not at the club but on the pitch, has been one of the biggest predicaments for Griezmann, which hasn’t allowed him to find his feet in the Catalan club.
Griezmann thrives when he’s given the license to link-up play with the wide forwards and roam about freely in the hole behind the opposition backline. Ideally, he loves the role of the second striker where he can play off and connect with the leading striker. His flourishing partnerships with Diego Costa at Atletico and Olivier Giroud at France are a testament to that.
Since the Calatan side doesn’t deploy a dominating centre-forward – even more so after the departure of Luis Suarez – in their system and more significantly, Griezmann’s natural habitat overlaps with Messi’s, and displacing Messi from his position to accommodate others is a sin that no Barcelona manager would want to commit. Hence, the only remaining option for Griezmann and the manager is to adapt and improvise in order to assimilate the French forward in the team’s system.
This process of assimilation, however, hasn’t manifested till date, and even though Greizmann has appeared 57 times, scored 17 times, assisted 5 times, he is yet to belong in the club, on the field. More often than not he feels like a fish out of water.
If one thinks about the games where Griezmann, for Barcelona, has been the enchanting, dazzling player that he used to be, two games, in particular, come to mind: the 5-2 home win against Real Betis last August where he scored two crucial goals and the 1-4 away win at Villareal where he scored that delicious, Messi-esque chip from the edge of the box.
In the Betis match, the likes of Suarez and Messi were injured, hence Griezmann wasn’t just carrying the burden of responsibility, but also had the authorization of playing the relatively freer role. It is perhaps the Villareal game that the Cules might be more fond of because, on that day, due to some seemingly enigmatic reason, Griezmann found a beautiful connection with the attacking line that was led by Messi. Thus, this game hinted towards a hopeful possibility which the Barcelona fans would have desperately wanted to turn into a reality, sooner rather than later.
Now, Barcelona is seven games into the new La Liga season, but the situation still isn’t exactly merry for the 29-year-old Frenchman. Yet, what we witnessed in the latest 5-2 home win against Real Betis (again!) was promising and concerning at the same time.
In a game where Messi was rested for the first half, Griezmann found himself in the thick and thin of the offensive gameplay. He combined well with the two wingers, that is, Ansu Fati and Ousmane Dembele. By attracting defenders towards him and simultaneously holding the ball, and then releasing the ball to the two speedy forwards on either of the flanks, he unlocked a plethora of space for them to run into.
Adding to all of this, like a striker ought to be, he was in the right place at the right time, but to his dismay and perhaps a result of his feeble, meagre confidence, he missed three clear-cut chances – three chances which one doesn’t expect the player of his calibre to miss. His misery in front of the goal peaked when he missed the penalty in the 33rd minute.
In the first half, a lost Griezmann was found, but he failed to take advantage of it. However, it can be argued that missing chances, which can often be a consequence of poor form, is a better problem to have than being obliterated throughout the game.
The second half brought respite for Griezmann as he finally scored Barca’s second goal in the 49th minute. While the goal in itself was a simple tap-in, it originated from a bit of Messi brilliance where the Barca captain didn’t even have to touch the ball to create the easiest of the chances – him dummying the ball was sufficient.
Despite the goal and the through ball to Messi that led to the penalty in the 61st minute, Griezmann’s involvement in the game relatively decreased after the arrival of Messi – even though it wasn’t as less as it had been in some other matches – as he handed over his terrain to his captain.
This game left the Cules with a few questions to ponder over. Can Griezmann only blossom in a Messi-less setting? Or with a few goals under his belt and proper management, can he finally blend in the team? Only time can answer these questions, but the hope remains that the latter scenario substantialises itself into reality instead of the former.
Picture Credits: sport.yahoo.com