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Messi and Griezmann not connecting on the pitch

Antione Griezmann and Lionel Messi have spoken openly about their being no problem between them, although when we consider their onfield relationship...

Los delantero del Barcelona, Antoine Griezmann y Leo Messi.

Antoine Griezmann's Barcelona career is still yet to really get going. The prolific striker that we remember at Atlético Madrid is trying to adapt to his new team, but things are not happening for him the way he'd like. The Frenchman is looking to play in teammates with a first-touch pass, sacrifices himself in defence, and even forgoes some of his own strengths in order to accommodate the playing style of Barça. But Griezmann has failed to find any consistency, leaving a good impression, for example, against Betis and then almost nothing against Inter Milan. And it's his partnership with Lionel Messi that could be one of the main problems that he needs to solve.

Griezmann's Messi puzzle

"Obviously we have no problem," Messi told reporters. "There is a good relationship between everyone; we are united."

Griezmann had also stated publicly that the two of them were building their limited conversations, and everything was good. However, words will only take this so far. Fans may be pleased to hear their two stars talk positively about a potentially worrying situation, but that will not be enough if there connection doesn't carry over to the pitch. Thus far, suggestions are that it is not.

Barcelona forwards passing statistics in Champions League 2019/20

TotalMinutesTotal PassesPass %
Ansu Fati89.5925/2986.21

A number of statistics point to a lack of understanding on the field of play. Of course, that could be to do with the individual attributes of the players, just as it could be down to how Ernesto Valverde chooses to use them. Considering the two Champions League group games that we have witnessed, Griezmann has played four passes to his Argentine teammate (two per game), while Messi has returned that favour five times (two against Borussia Dortmund and three versus Inter Milan). Considering that they have been posted on opposite wings, therefore often using an intermediary to exchange the ball between each other, maybe that is normal. It's also worth noting that Barça's number 10 only featured for a little over half an hour in that first game.

Messi continues as link man

It is, however, striking to consider Messi's interconnection with other players. Let's take Ousmane Dembélé, for example, who saw less than half an hour in the second of the Inter game after returning from a considerable time out. He received five passes from the Argentine, that's five in 28 minutes compared with the 5/97 ratio of Griezmann, and playing in the same position. The heat map clearly shows the activity difference based on time on the pitch.

Los mapas de calor de Messi, Griezmann y Dembélé contra el Inter de Milán.
Full screen
Los mapas de calor de Messi, Griezmann y Dembélé contra el Inter de Milán.

Look at the match against Dortmund, which ended 0-0, we can see that Griezmann gave Messi just two passes in the 34 minutes that they shared, no different to that with Ansu Fati when the youngster was on. This is insufficient for a forward that the club spent 120 million euros on in the summer (not to mention that 300 euros of course!).

Passes between Barcelona players in Champions League 2019/20

Game 1 (Dortmund)MessiGriezmannSuárezAnsu FatiDembélé
Messi to02100
Suárez to33040
Griezmann to20310
Ansu Fati to01300
Dembélé to00000
Game 2 (Inter)MessiGriezmannSuárezAnsu FatiDembélé
Messi to031005
Suárez to53000
Griezmann to20200
Ansu Fati to00000
Dembélé to20100
Total in UCLMessiGriezmannSuárezAnsu FatiDembélé
Messi to051105
Suárez to85040
Griezmann to40510
Ansu Fati to01300
Dembélé to20100

The dream trident of Messi, Griezmann and Suárez that had blaugrana fans salivating at the start of the season, still needs time to gel many will say, especially with the Argentine's delayed entrance and niggling injury. That said, with the stuttering campaign and unconvincing performances to date increasing the questions being asked of Valverde, how long do they have to prove that MSG is not actually a bad mix?


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