Quique Setien’s relationship with the Barcelona squad is “excellent” but the coach has said it will take longer to earn some players’ confidence than others.
Setien replaced Ernesto Valverde, who was well-liked among the veterans in the dressing room, in January and has endured a difficult start to life at Camp Nou. Barca were knocked out of the Copa del Rey by Athletic Bilbao and have been beaten in La Liga by Valencia and Real Madrid, who moved to the top of the table with last Sunday’s Clasico win.
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Reports in the Catalan press have subsequently suggested that Setien’s insistence on making a number of changes to training and the playing style utilised by Valverde has been met with resistance by certain members of the squad.
“I don’t know what the basis is for saying we don’t have control of the dressing room,” Setien said in a news conference ahead of Saturday’s league game against Copa del Rey finalists Real Sociedad.
“We are delighted with the dressing room we have found here. There are no problems. I thought it would be more difficult than it is. The players accept everything [asked of them] with an extraordinary attitude.
“Like in any walk of life, you have to earn [the players’] confidence. When you have a curriculum like many of these guys — who have been winning everything for years, doing things so well for so long — and someone new comes in, you are always looking at what they can add.
“Some [players] are convinced [by you] quicker, others can take longer. That’s part of life and my job: earning their confidence and transmitting to them that my knowledge can help. Everything happening is normal and maybe you [the media] are looking for more than there is, but there’s nothing there.”
With 12 games to go, Barca were replaced at La Liga’s summit by Madrid last weekend. Los Blancos‘ 2-0 win handed them a one-point lead over the Catalans, although Setien feels there were plenty of positives to take from the defeat.
“The players aren’t stupid,” the coach said. “We created seven chances. We had four clear chances in the first half, we were just lacking 10 centimetres here or there to score that goal. The players are really happy with a lot of things from the Bernabeu.
“Of course defeats are always painful, especially at this club, but there’s always a chance [you lose]. We have to pick ourselves up and move forward.”
A lot of the fallout from the Clasico loss has centred on Setien’s assistant, Eder Sarabia. Television images showed an animated Sarabia making disparaging comments when Antoine Griezmann missed a chance and also saying another Barca player didn’t know what he was supposed to be doing.
Setien apologised for Sarabia’s behaviour on Thursday in an interview with El Peridioco and in Friday’s news conference he explained that it was his language, not his touchline behaviour, that he hadn’t liked.
“The only thing he did wrong, which I didn’t like, was the way in which he expressed himself,” he added. “I love the character and the temperament he has, that doesn’t worry me. What concerns me is the way it was done.
“We have apologised [to the club and the players] for a series of words that should not be used when you represent a club like this. We are obliged to manage the way we do things because there are many kids watching us, so we have to be careful.”