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Ronald Koeman’s newest interview with Mundo Deportivo

Ronald Koeman, Head Coach of FC Barcelona addresses the media at the Ciutat Esportiva Press Room / IMAGE: MIGUEL RUIZ / FC BARCELONA

The Dutch manager goes over important subjects about the club, including the current state of things with the first team.

Are you satisfied with the performance shown by your team so far?

“In general I am happy. First, I feel very comfortable, well, in the work that we are doing. Also, we are changing things about the team, like trying to play with more intensity. There are many things that we are on the right track. I’m not happy about the last games, in which we have lost a lot of points in LaLiga, but in general yes. We are at the beginning. We must improve in many aspects and continue on the path we are taking.”

Last summer the team was remodeled. Are you happy with the group you are working with?

“In general, yes, but many factors are involved, such as the club’s financial situation. I work with the players I have, but if you ask me if it is the ideal team for me, I have my doubts. You can always improve things. In some positions we are quite limited and it depends on the situation of the club. With Ramon Planes we always talking about the future, which players we can sign and where we need more, but knowing the moment the club is going through financially, you can’t ask for much.”

You are talking about the lack of defenders and strikers. If possible in the winter market, are you in favor of new signings?

“I have already said several times what we are missing. If there are possibilities, we will try to search, yes.”

When talking about the signing of a striker, Depay’s name comes out above the others, although many do not consider him a pure ‘nine’. Why is this an ideal player for you?

“First, it is not the time to talk about players who are not here, for me it is not good. It is true that his name has come up and he has played every game as our ‘nine’ in the Dutch international team. Everyone can have their opinion, but he is not here and we will see what can happen in the future.”

In the images that the club’s media distribute every day, Umtiti is seen working with the group every day. Can it be a ‘signing’ for you in winter?

“It may be, but I think this player is still physically missing something. He is training but in certain aspects he cannot do everything with the group. In a while, if he’s okay, he’s one of the squad and he’s a center back. It always depends on the performance and on your physique if it is useful for us or not.”

You have established 4-3-2-1 as a system. There are opinions that criticize it and don’t see it clearly. Do you still trust this system?

“Yes, for the moment yes. But don’t get obsessed with 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3. If a player advances his position a little, one system is the same as the other. Today a system is important, but it also has to be highly variable. We play 4-2-3-1, but sometimes we play with people like Ansu or Dembele on the wing, sometimes with Pedri on the wing who is more of a midfielder … I think the objective is to look for more variable things from this system.”

So you do see 4-3-3 as an alternative during games.

“Yes, as well. Against Dynamo Kiev we have changed the system for midfield. It depends on the contrary. We put Sergi Roberto at ‘8’. A system has to be highly variable. Once again, you don’t have to get obsessed with the system because if a player goes lower or ahead more it may be another system. We must analyze the opponents, look for advantages and weak points of our opponent. Leo’s position indicates other positions. So, it’s about looking for the best for the team.”

Speaking of Messi. You have expressed your satisfaction with the Argentine

“Of course. I spoke with him the first day quite frankly and I have never doubted him. I watch him train every day and he enjoys playing. I said the first day that he is the best player in the world and of course I prefer to have the best player in the world on my team. As I said after the game against Betis, if he is good he will always start.”

Griezmann, on the other hand, has not hit the ground running

“You need a little more confidence and scoring goals always gives that confidence. It cannot be said that he does not work, he works a lot, but he may feel a little more free when he is with his team by spending a lot of time with them and always playing in the same position.”

Is the injury that Ansu Fati suffered against Betis and that he will be out for the next four months a hard blow for the team?

“Yes, of course, we will lack for a while a good player, on the wing, who can play as a ‘nine’ and who has shown great performances. On the other hand, you have to accept it and assume it, you have to give other players opportunities. Hopefully soon he will get well and recover from his operation.”

Dembélé has gone from being transferable in the last transfer market to having many minutes. What have you seen in him to give him this prominence in recent games?

“Above all, the player himself is physically better, he has trained hard, he has done extra sessions. Being in good shape, his quality cannot be disputed. He had not been physically well for a while. And if he is not, he cannot give the performance necessary. Little by little he has gotten better and he is a fast player, who has goal, who can play on both wings and has ‘one against one’. I am very happy with how he is working lately.”

Can Dembélé be the solution to the loss of Ansu Fati?

“Yes, but also with Ansu Fati he has had his games and his minutes. Of course, now that we are missing Ansu, Ousmane has to show his quality, as he’s been showing lately.”

You have made some statements about the VAR that have cost you a federative file, but are you in favor of the VAR?

“Yes, I am in favor of VAR, especially in matters of clear plays, in which there is no discussion, such as offside … I am not so in favor of intervention if there is a clash or a grab. These are things that have happened in football and that will happen. With VAR, you see everything and it is not good to intervene in all kinds of actions, which are more subjective.”

You almost always go to see the B team. What do you expect from them?

“Above all I am there to have opinions about young people who are playing in B and therefore we know that their next step is the first team, although it is a step that is not easy, because of the level. We are there, with my ‘staff’, to meet them in case we need a player one day, for a game or a training session, talking to their manager, García Pimienta. It is having reports on them and knowing well how grassroots football is doing.”

Have you set any specific goals this season?

“We could say that we are changing things, that we give young people opportunities … but in the end being at Barcelona means fighting to win important things.”

Who is the player who has surprised you the most?

“Especially for not knowing him more, Pedri. I knew that Barça signed him from Las Palmas and had seen images of his game, a bit, but I don’t think anyone expected his improvement, his career so far. At 17, playing and training with the best players at Barça with the level he is giving is to be happy.”

Are you afraid that the electoral situation will condition your future?

“No, because it is not up to me. The only thing in my power is to play well and win games. I can’t say anything about other things, I already know they’re there. I already knew when I signed a two-year contract for Barça that maybe in January, March or at the end of the season we were going to have elections. There are candidates and we will see who is going to be president and how he thinks about the coach or other positions in the club. I am not afraid, I sleep soundly. If I do not sleep soundly, it is because of the result we made the day before.”

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