By 90Min
October 15, 2019

After one of the most protracted transfer sagas of modern times, Antoine Griezmann finally got his wish in the summer.

One year on from his famous 'La Decision' announcement - in which he announced his intention to stay with Atletico Madrid - he performed a corking u-turn and revealed his desire to seek a new challenge away from the Spanish capital.

In doing so, he ended one of the worst kept secrets in history, all-but confirming that he was heading to Barcelona after a near 18-month flirtation with the Catalan giants. 

Weeks later, the deal was finally done - and Griezmann signed on the dotted line for a fee around £107m.

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Since then, though, things haven't really gone to plan.

So, what's happened? 

Well, Barcelona haven't been very good for a start. They do lie second in La Liga, but have lost two of their opening eight league games. Lionel Messi has been absent through injury and Griezmann has, in all truth, struggled to fill the void.

Disappointing performances and a lack of understanding as to what his role is has made the World Cup winner look lost. Griezmann needs Barcelona more than Barcelona needs the striker, but the reality is, things may not improve for him in Catalonia.

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Firstly, the balance between Barcelona's attacking players is all wrong. 

Both Messi and Griezmann are players who need to have a lot of touches to be involved in the game, as their playing style dictates that they come to the ball, rather than running in behind and stretching defences. 

This creates problems for Griezmann. One being that Messi and Griezmann take up similar positions on the pitch, and because Messi is, well, Messi, the ball will circulate and go through him the most - causing the Frenchman to become isolated and awkward in his role. 

Manager Ernesto Valverde has tried to fix the problem by pushing Griezmann out to the wing, but this has manifested into another problem. Griezmann isn't a winger. 

The 28-year-old is instead suited to playing off another striker, operating in central parts of the pitch just like he was accustomed to at Atlético Madrid

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This season, Griezmann has only played as a centre forward three times this season and in those games he contributed two goals and two assists. But when he's been deployed as a left winger, six times in total, his output has yielded just a single goal.

Delving deeper into the detail paints an even bleaker picture, albeit using numbers that are not actually real. Understat, who collate statistics based on a number of variables, reveal that when it comes to expected goals per 90 minutes (xG90), and expected assists per 90 minutes (xA90), Griezmann is struggling.

As a winger, his xG90 is 0.17 and his xA90 is 0.05. Compare this to his stats as a centre forward, the difference is quite stark. As a centre forward, Griezmann has an xG90 of 0.38 and an xA90 of 0.20. 

The logical solution for Valverde's men would be to put Griezmann as a centre forward, but it's easier said than done when you have the quality of Luis Suárez in the team.

At the moment, the Uruguayan is a much better fit for this Barcelona team as the centre forward because he is the only player in the attacking line who is interested in making runs in behind and stretching the opposition defence. As a result, he offers balance to the side.

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El primero de muchos!!! 💙❤💙 @fcbarcelona

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With Suarez making runs in behind and sacrificing himself for the team it enables the likes of Messi to work his magic, instead of Griezmann. 

It's hard to see Messi and Griezmann co-existing in the same team, as essentially there is no need for the former Atletico man to be in the team. As mentioned previously, he relies on having a number of touches to get into the game, and that won't happen when stuffed out wide.

Furthermore, Messi and Griezmann, and even Ousmane Dembele to an extent, enjoy the ball being played into feet, back to goal. Opposition teams are now able to read patterns of play as a result, and a cohesive forward press has been a lot more effective as teams know what is coming.

Without the runs of Suarez to stretch the play and act as an offensive outlet, Barcelona become suffocated in the middle of the park - with player congestion and a lack of space meaning they are not able to shift the ball around as they would like.


Stretching the game is therefore key, and Griezmann is sadly not the man to do it. Yes, he's a world-class operator when utilised correctly, but the early evidence suggests that this bedding-in period may become an elongated period of misery. 

That is unless Valverde changes tact and discards Suarez sooner than expected - but don't bank on it.

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