Ernesto Valverde Tells Antoine Griezmann to 'Get in the Game More' for Barcelona

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistAugust 17, 2019

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Antoine Griezmann has only started one league game for Barcelona, but he's already being challenged by his manager to do better.

Ernesto Valverde called on the former Atletico Madrid forward to get more involved in games after Griezmann disappointed during Friday's 1-0 defeat away to Athletic Bilbao in La Liga.

Valverde addressed Griezmann's uneven performance and identified where the Frenchman can improve, per Sport (h/t Sky Sports): "We expect a lot from all the players and he has to look to get in the game more."

Griezmann started on the left flank with Luis Suarez through the middle until the Uruguayan was withdrawn with a muscle injury in the first half.

FC Barcelona @FCBarcelona

[INJURY NEWS] Tests carried out on Saturday morning have confirmed that @LuisSuarez9 has an injured right calf. His recovery will dictate his return to action. https://t.co/QeXdD3gMii

Suarez going off saw Griezmann spend more time through the middle, but Valverde believes he can get involved from anywhere: "If he is close to the box he can finish, he moves well, but you have to dominate the game for that to happen. Putting him on the left, we knew that he will look for goal, but we have a left-back and players who can take the game."

Valverde's confidence is well-founded since Griezmann's pace and intelligent movement mean he can exploit gaps wherever they appear across a defensive line. He thrived on the left for Real Sociedad before becoming more of a central presence with Atleti.

While he struggled in the opener, Griezmann wasn't helped by Suarez going off, nor by fellow forward Lionel Messi missing out. Messi was rested while he deals with a calf problem, per Matt Maltby of the Daily Mirror.

Inevitably, the Blaugrana struggled for ideas without their creative and goalscoring talisman.

Valverde emphasised what being without Messi means: "We're not all like him, and we have to learn to cope when he's not there."

Part of staying strong sans Messi has to involve playing to Griezmann's strengths. He thrived in a counter-attacking game for Atleti, but he will need time to get used to Barca's possession-based style.

It's time Griezmann may not have, with his boss already turning up the heat. Ironically, it's Valverde who may be under the greater pressure after overseeing collapses against AS Roma and Liverpool in the UEFA Champions League in each of the last two seasons.

Losing at San Mames has increased the animosity from sections of Barca's support toward Valverde.

However, his domestic record maybe deserves more respect:

Ben Hayward @bghayward

Lots criticising Ernesto Valverde, but to put things into perspective, that was only his fifth loss in 77 league games as Barcelona boss. And two of those came after the title had already been won... #AthleticBarca #Barca

Valverde's best bet for restoring some goodwill will be to trust Griezmann to regain his scoring touch in a Barca shirt, starting with the home opener against Real Betis on Sunday, August 25.