Koeman silences the doubters but bigger tests await Barcelona

It was, perhaps, one of the most keenly awaited debuts in La Liga for many a year.

After such a disastrous end to their last campaign, the football family wanted to know how the ‘new’ Barcelona would fare under Ronald Koeman.

It’s fair to say that the team did everything asked of them by their coach, and then some.Villarreal didn’t put up much of a fight in truth, but that’s not to take away from the quality of Barca’s performance.

They scored four and were it not for Sergio Asenjo, they could, quite conceivably, have had eight.

There was much to admire about Barca’s play too, not least their hunger and willingness to win the ball back.

That’s something which completely disappeared under Quique Setien, and was a marked difference.

Ansu Fati was the undoubted star of the show, scoring twice and winning a penalty which Lionel Messi converted for a third goal in just over half an hour.

It was almost as if their swagger had returned. Balls were pinged around at will, first touches were almost always on point, short and long range passing was accurate in the main.

Perhaps the one criticism that could be levelled is that Antoine Griezmann wasn’t found on regular occasions throughout the 90 minutes.

The Frenchman made some wonderfully timed runs, but each time he found himself in acres of space the ball went to the left and his frustration before his late substitution was evident for all to see.

Of course, we are only one game into the Koeman era, and no conclusions can be drawn yet.

Within the week the Catalans will have also played Celta Vigo at Balaidos, a ground where they’ve struggled in the recent past, and Sevilla at the Camp Nou.

Both of those matches present an immediate test for the Dutchman, not to mention the return of the Champions League and other high profile games on the horizon.

The Christmas break is probably the ideal moment to gauge just how well Koeman has turned things around at the Camp Nou, though any bigger challenges will still be to come.

At least we will have some understanding of the level of respect the coach has, whether his clear ideas have been implemented well, whether Messi and his team-mates are receptive to the same, and how well placed Barca are to compete on all fronts.

Messi wanted a ‘winning team,’ and if he feels that he has that by then, there may even be a chance he stays beyond this season.

That could end up being Koeman’s biggest legacy.

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