Matchday three fixture of the UCL saw two historically familiar sides lock horns. Barcelona and Dynamo Kyiv have history. In 1993, current Barcelona boss Ronald Koeman played as a defender in Johan Cruyff’s Barcelona when they faced Dynamo Kyiv in the round of 16. In 1997, a 21-year-old Andriy Shevchenko, first left his imprints in the UCL when he scored a first-half hat-trick against Louis van Gaal’s Barcelona in the Camp Nou. That season Dynamo aggregated a 7-0 win over Barcelona in the group stages.
Nevertheless, both sides have come a long way since those days. Barcelona came on the back of a sloppy draw away from home against Alaves in La Liga. Dynamo Kyiv were coming off the back of a draw played against Ferencvaros in the past UCL matchday.
Barcelona had three changes in their lineup compared to the one they played against Alaves in La Liga last weekend. Sergiño Dest came in place of Sergi Roberto. Clement Lenglet didn’t play and instead, Frenkie de Jong took up the centre-back role, and Miralem Pjanić came in to cover up the double pivot place of de Jong. Pedri played in the central role behind Antoine Griezmann and Messi shifted to the right-wing position in place of Ousmane Dembélé.
Dynamo Kyiv also had several changes in their lineup compared to the one they put up against Dnipro-1 at the weekend. Artem Shabanov played in the left-back position in place of Oleksandr Karavayev. Gerson Rodrigues also came in place of Benjamin Verbic.
Barcelona in possession, and Dynamo’s compactness
Barcelona looked to build from the back. The four-man backline sometimes got converted to a two or three man backline.
Here we see the two man backline of Gerard Pique (in black circle) and de Jong (in red circle). Jordi Alba (in indigo circle) and Dest (in orange circle) are much higher up the pitch.
Whenever Dynamo pressed a bit higher up the pitch, Barcelona resorted to a three-man backline for building up. In the above image, we see the three-man backline of Pique, de Jong, and Dest.
Most of the time, Barcelona looked to attack from the left as it’s shown in the graphic below.
Going forward, Barcelona relied on short passing by occupying pockets of spaces in between the Kyiv players. The Kyiv players actually invited pressure from Barcelona as they never tried to press them during their build-up. They let Barcelona have the ball and then formed a compact structure in front of the goal.
The structure Dynamo formed was way too compact for Barcelona attackers to go through it, as Dynamo at times defended with 8-9 players excluding the goalkeeper.
Inside the box, Barcelona’s shooting, and sometimes overplaying, once again caused all the problems as it has been happening game after game this season. The lack of a true no.9 is severely affecting the cutting edge of Barcelona’s attack.
Also, Dynamo’s way of forming the cage around the Barcelona forwards inside the box was also one reason why Barcelona were not able to find the final pass. Dynamo committed their whole team back in defending which resulted in cutting down all the possible passing lane for Barcelona.
Dynamo in possession and Barcelona’s high line
Dynamo only had 40% of the possession share and looked to attack centrally almost all the time as it is seen in the image below.
Whenever they recovered the ball near the halfway line they looked to counter-attack from the flanks using Gerson Rodrigues and Viktor Tsyhankov. That’s where the 9% attacking threat in both the flanks, respectively, originated from.
The reason for that being that Barcelona maintained a very high backline that Dynamo beat a few times using swift counter movements. Below are the average positions of Barcelona players. Observe how high up the pitch everyone is.
Only Clement Lenglet (no.15) is slightly lower because he came in at the 74th minute and until then Barcelona had gotten a bit defensive to hold onto their lead.
When Dynamo won the ball inside their half or they won a goal kick, they looked to build from the back using a three-man backline, with one of the central midfielders tucking in to be the extra passing option.
Moving forward, they still relied on fast passing and agile movements as Barcelona’s defence was slow and their press was disorganised.
Barcelona’s lack of systematic pressing
A team’s press is an indicator of the team’s overall quality and confidence. For a press to be initiated and effected perfectly, a team must press as one single unit. For Koeman this has been a matter of serious concern. Barcelona don’t press as a unit, it’s every man for himself.
This was the reason Real Madrid were able to slice through them so effectively. This is the reason Barcelona haven’t been able to convincingly win any game. They have scrapped to win games even against relatively lower quality opposition.
Here we see Gerson Rodrigues with the ball trying to push Barcelona back. Supryaga (in red circle) and Tsygankov (in orange circle) moving ahead but no Barcelona player pays attention to them. There are four Barcelona players trying to cage Rodrigues but no one actually marks Supryaga or Tsygankov, which not only ends up leaving two big spaces in front but also Supryaga came inches close to equalising had Marc-Andre ter Stegen not saved it.
Here we see the Dynamo counter-attack that led up to the goal. Observe the Barcelona players’ shape. They are all out of position. No proper defensive shape. No structure in the press. It results in a huge space in front of Dest, Pique, and Lenglet. Shabanov has the ball. Verbic (in black circle) runs into space, Shabanov plays the ball to him. Verbic then lays it off for Tsygankov (in red circle) to score.
Barcelona’s lack of shape while passing also resulted in their passing getting completely out of order. We can see that in Barcelona’s pass map.
This also indicates that Koeman relied on individual quality to make things happen rather than having a sound tactical plan in place.
A goalkeeper’s show
Both, ter Stegen and Ruslan Neshcheret had a fantastic outing. Both of them showed some really high-quality goalkeeping.
Neshcheret made a total of 11 saves, including a wonderful Leo Messi free-kick save. seven of those were reflex saves. He was also brilliant with the ball at his feet, making a total of 34 passes. 32 of those 34 were accurate, earning an accuracy of 94%.
Marc Andre ter Stegen who was making his first appearance this season put on a mesmerizing performance. He deserved the clean sheet but Barcelona’s defence was too slow and their shape way too much out of order, which resulted in ter Stegen getting exposed quite a lot of times.
Nonetheless, ter Stegen did save six out of the seven Dynamo shots on target. five of them were reflex saves. He also defended six out of the nine shots taken against him. And also engaged in one defensive duel in which he won the ball.
He was outstanding with his feet as well, making 23 passes with 100% accuracy.
It wasn’t the most aesthetically pleasing game in the UCL this matchday. Barcelona scraped out a win, nevertheless, and have now won three out of three in the UCL. Their performances, though, have left them with more questions than answers. A lack of striker is already hurting them. The absence of Coutinho has resulted in a lack of creativity in the centre of the park leading up to a disheveled pass map.
Both Pique and Lenglet are very slow to track-back. This results in Barcelona’s defensive shape getting completely out of order.
For Dynamo Kyiv, their style of sitting back and scoring in the counter haven’t yet given them any favorable results in the UCL. They just have one point in the UCL out of the possible nine. They have lost two and drawn one.
Both teams will be looking to win their league fixtures over the weekend and solidify their positions in their respective leagues. And both the managers, Ronald Koeman and Mircea Lucescu, will get into their tactical boards to figure out a solution for their respective squads. They will have a long international break after the weekend to find answers.