Quique Setien Should Exit Despite Barcelona Champions League Triumph
Setien, who represents a lack of clear direction for the club and a weak personality, should not be the head coach at FC Barcelona come next summer, even if the team wins the prestigious Champions League
After a disastrous title defense in Spain which saw Real Madrid become La Liga champions for the 34th time in their history, FC Barcelona now look forward to ignoring the hurt caused by an abysmal league campaign and focusing on the Champions League. Under the command of Quique Setien, they now look to win a trophy which has evaded the club for almost five seasons.
Setien has been at the club for half-a-season. Not even that, exactly. He was brought in to replace Ernesto Valverde, who was sacked in January 2020. However, the board did not even have a plan regarding who they were going to appoint when Valverde was shown the door.
They went for Setien, who was the third choice for the job after Xavi, Pochettino, and Ronald Koeman rejected the position. A life-long admirer of the club and its way of playing football, a self-proclaimed Cryuffista, Setien, even if he knew he wasn’t the first choice, was visibly happy during his presentation as the coach.
Quique Setien with Josep Maria Bartomeu and Eric Abidal during his presentation as the manager of FC Barcelona in January 2020 (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)
He was known for making his teams play attractive, possession-based football, as he did during his time at Real Betis UD Las Palmas, and CD Lugo. It was something that is a must for anyone who wants to coach FC Barcelona. The majority of the fans were content, or even happy regarding his appointment, and all was well for a while.
Things were supposed to change at the club, gradually if not drastically. However, that wasn’t the case. After a few games under him, Setien started to show the same weaknesses that his predecessor showed for two-and-a-half years.
Setien played three-at-the-back formations during his time at previous clubs. This was especially the case during his time at Real Betis. He was expected to do the same in Barcelona as the team needed a change from the way they played under Valverde.
And he did do so. In the first game in charge against Granada, he lined up in a traditional 4-3-3. However, during the build-up in possession, he pulled Roberto back and pushed Jordi Alba high up the pitch making a back-three. This wasn’t a traditional back-three and Barcelona usually did use a makeshift back-three to build-up. But this was much closer to what a traditional back three would play like. Then against Valencia, after the game against Granada, Setien used the same method. But, unlike in his first game, he lost to Valencia by a 2-0 scoreline.
Everyone expected Setien to keep trying to change things around and mold the team into playing a back-three system. However, he buckled under the pressure to win games. He reverted back to the 4-3-3 and has never tried to change that ever since the loss.
The team has also been stuck in more or less the same situation in regard to mobility on the pitch as they were under Valverde. After some games of activeness during his first few games, the team returned to the same way of playing lethargic football, especially during the second halves of games.
This shows a weak personality midst of a team that is high on player power and a board that is solely focused on immediate results and big statements in the short term. He did not even commit to a method he had used in the past and was very successful even against Barcelona while at Real Betis. Abandoning your principles in the face of difficult situations is not the kind of manager that Barcelona needs, especially not right now when everything is chaotic and there is no sense of unity in the team.
The effect of this also shows in the long-term plans for the club. A weak personality cannot lead a rebuild project for a team like Barcelona, or even build the foundations for such plans. Setien has a contract that runs through till June of 2022. That’s two more vital years for rebuilding a team which is frankly out of depth, out of shape, and out of time.
To be fair to him, he has given chances to players like Puig, Araujo, and Fati. However, the circumstances in which he gave them the chance matter. Fati was already in the first team and was playing well, so giving him chances was not a revelation of any sort. However, Puig and Araujo were given chances only when the team seriously lacked depth. Frenkie de Jong’s injury led to Puig getting the chances he got, and similar was the case for Araujo, who was in the team because of the injury to Umtiti and there was no one else to cover for the first-choice CBs Pique and Lenglet.
If the senior players had been fit, Setien would not have given the youngsters the chance that they got because of the pressure to field players on high wages. He would not have made the bold decision to actually play youngsters instead of players like Rakitic. The powers that be, who are blatantly in pursuit of immediate success, would not let him do that even if he had such wishes.
Another reason why he should not be kept beyond this season is that he is not a long-term solution. He came in for a contract that lasts just two-and-a-half seasons. He is not a manager who can handle big personalities well and cannot lead the club during a rebuilding phase.
This team is in need of a major overhaul in terms of players and the way of playing. Setien can not do the big task of rebuilding the team amidst the presence of this board and all the player power that everyone can see.
Setien will have one season left when Bartomeu's board will leave in the summer of 2021. That means, he will have an even more difficult job managing the team under a different board, considering he will not have the backing of the future board and will have only one season left at the job. That would especially be that case with Victor Font if he wins the presidency, as Font already prefers Xavi to lead his footballing projects at the club.
Setien would want to win the Champions League, like any other manager competing in the competition. However, that should not be a reason to keep him at the helm the next season. Setien should be relieved of his job at the end of this season, whether it be on a high by winning the Champions League, or on a low by finishing the season without a major trophy.