My how quickly we lose our interest in someone we had a crush on. Quique Setién was welcomed into our Blaugrana hearts as new Barça manager with hopes of joy and happy moments. Yet, just a few months after his appointment, it seems that the romance with Setién has faded and this love affair might be short lived.
Setién was the Don Juan of Barça fans who wanted a return to the Cruyff style of play that most love. He whispered lovely romantic words in our ears and won us over with his promises. We fell for it like most fall for those who come over as guests and prepare a magnificent dinner. However, with time, that romantic spell with the fans has eroded and Setién now feels like the lazy significant other whose idea of a romantic dinner is to order pizza and watch TV.
Setién’s future with the club depended on winning the league this season. Thus, any expectations of seeing the rising stars of La Masia, Ansu Fati and Riqui Puig play regularly, were dashed early on with Setién preferring to rely on the old guard and not experiment with the youth. Poor away results ensued that see the Blaugrana occupying second place in the standings behind Real Madrid. He did finally get around to featuring Puig and Fati but it might be a little too late and, in the process, managed to upset not just the fans, but the Barça players as well.
After his hiring, we witnessed the manner in how Setién manages a game along with how he speaks, which as a result, ruffled numerous feathers. The way he spoke of Arthur and his struggles at the club, coupled with other sound bites about not playing the younger players left much to desire. Recently, the video of Messi walking away from Setién’s right hand man, Eder Sarabia, while giving out instructions during a water break in the past weekend’s Celta Vigo 2-2 draw, indicated that there indeed a rift between the players and the manager. After the draw with Celta, Luis Suárez spoke to the media and shifted the blame to Setién by replying “you’ll have to ask the coaches, they analyze these situations”.
Supposedly players are unhappy with the demanding training sessions full of intensity, conducted by Sarabia. The players preferred previous manager Ernesto Valverde and his easy-going approach so this new approach is not much to their liking. It’s similar to a classroom who disliked their hard as nails teacher, but enjoyed the laid-back substitute who allowed the students to do whatever they wanted. Well, the substitute teacher is gone and the players are not too happy with new manager and his demanding approach.
Fans are upset. Players are upset. The Barça board are caught in the middle showing yet again their lack of leadership and proper planning with regards to signings and managerial hirings. However, this does not bode well for the players either. Perhaps things would be different if Suárez had not missed that sitter against Sevilla, or had Messi actually had a shot on target during his last two away matches. The team’s away form was woeful under Valverde too, lest we forget how great they looked away in Champions League second legs. So, if two managers can’t succeed in getting the team to play better and win, perhaps it’s not just the managers who are at fault.
Setién was not the first or even second choice to replace Valverde. At the moment, it’s hard to see who would want to coach this club if players tune out their managers unless it’s a big-name manager with a resume full of success. The Lakers of Shaq and Kobe tuned out Del Harris and Kurt Rambis since they were nobodies in the coaching world, yet succeeded when the legendary Phil Jackson was hired. Sadly, Setién is not a legendary coach for the Barça players to listen to, so expect broken hearts when all is said and done.