Ronald Koeman’s first day at the office ended with high fives all around.
Did the new Barcelona manager really put out all these fires in just 90 minutes of football?
Sportsmail takes a look at the club legend’s dreamy debut.
Ronald Koeman saw his Barcelona side beat Villarreal in their first game in charge
When Quique Setien took over last January, a change in style and training was expected, but Barcelona fans never really saw it.
Under Koeman, the shift from 4-3-3 to 4-2-3-1 was clear. Against Villarreal it worked wonderfully.
Lionel Messi’s starting position in the squad is at the center forward with Antoine Griezmann, Philippe Coutinho and Ansu Fati (right to left) lined up behind him.
The idea is that no one stays too long where they are and in the carousel of movement – Messi and Griezmann in particular swapping positions – rival defenses are stunned. Thanks in part to Villarreal’s dismal pedestrian signage, it certainly worked.
The exchange of positions between Barcelona forwards caused many problems
Sergio Busquets and Frenkie de Jong played in the “double pivot” in front of the defense and Jordi Alba was granted a license to advance from the left-back at every opportunity.
The tests will be much more difficult than that provided by Unai Emery (13 defeats as a guest coach at Camp Nou in 13 games) but it was a very promising start.
He was thoughtful for the most part but it was remarkable that he was present in the technical area.
The modern penchant for No.1 seated and No.2 taking over, especially for set pieces, doesn’t seem to have reached Ronald’s world. He’s the gaffer.
The 57-year-old was a notable presence in the technical area throughout the La Liga clash
He was honest and charming after the game telling Spanish TV reporter Ricardo Sierra that his side in Ansu Fati after he kidnapped him was telling him he had done his best – this after he had to check him off after the last pre-Season Friendly of the season when he told the 17-year-old he was below par.
His substitutions were revealing. He obviously sees Pedri, 17, and Francisco Trincao, 20, as the first options to compete with Philippe Coutinho and Antoine Griezmann.
There were also minutes for Ousmane Dembele. And Miralem Pjanic will clearly compete with Sergio Busquets for the job alongside Frenkie de Jong.
Pedri (left) and Francisco Trincao replaced Philippe Coutinho and Antoine Griezmann
But for the other players, he’s made it clear – not just on Sunday but since taking over – that they might be in a better position to look for a move before next Monday. Rafinha, Junior Firpo, Carles Alena, Riqui Puig and Martin Braithwaite probably all fall into this category.
There was a handshake at the end of the game. And this time it wasn’t a blind person. Messi’s smile widened as the first half lasted.
He will clearly miss Luis Suarez who gave him more assists than any other teammate in his career. But in this fluid new 4-2-3-1 look, it looks like it will be served well.
Koeman (right) shakes hands with star man Lionel Messi after the full-time whistle blows
Sergeant Koeman did not give the players a day off after their big win.
They trained on Monday and will do so every day until Thursday inclusive, when they travel to Vigo for their second game in the new era.