There is a certain divide in the Barcelona camp between who Ernesto Valverde trusts and who he doesn’t, as evidenced by the coach’s disparity in picking players off the bench.
Tuesday’s draw at Chelsea was a classic case of Valverde’s habits, as he brought only one substitute on during the initial 90 minutes.
After an hour, Aleix Vidal replaced the ailing Paulinho in a clear tactical change but no others were made until stoppage time, and Andre Gomes’ late arrival condemned Ousmane Dembele to the bench for the second match in a row.
Against Eibar it was much the same, with Philippe Coutinho brought on midway through the second half before Vidal got 20 minutes and Nelson Semedo just the final five.
Furthermore, the previous game against Getafe, which ended 0-0 at the Camp Nou, saw Andres Iniesta introduced along with Dembele, ahead of another of Valverde’s trusted men, Paulinho, coming on for the final ten minutes.
It means that Denis Suarez, Gomes and Dembele are finding it increasingly tough to get on the pitch, which is odd for the French winger given that he is the club’s second most expensive signing.
Just back from injury, his lack of action shows how Valverde is yet to warm to the 4-3-3 formation many had predicted Dembele to fit into, despite Barcelona being a goal down at Stamford Bridge and the coach sending his player out to warm up for a prolonged period.
Another attacker who hasn’t been called upon in the past couple of matches is Paco Alcacer, who started in the draws with Getafe and Espanyol and has now dropped back into his familiar position, outside of the coach’s trusted circle.