It has taken three games for Ernesto Valverde to settle on a decent formation, with Lionel Messi now stationed in the familiar false 9 slot.
Starting off with the classic 4-3-3 in the first leg of the Supercopa de Espana, the coach was inclined to shift to a 3-5-2 after the 3-1 defeat but found no greater luck in that nor in the 4-4-2 that he ended up on at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.
Thus it was the 4-2-3-1 that Valverde elected for as LaLiga kicked off against Real Betis and the players found it far more comfortable, pressuring the opponent with greater ease and fighting for the whole 90 minutes.
That put Messi into his previously favored false 9 role and whispers of the Argentine’s goal threat during the Pep Guardiola era came back as he hit the woodwork on three occasions.
Elsewhere, Sergi Roberto showed his ability to be a substitute for Andres Iniesta as the playmaker enters his later footballing years, although the youngster faces great competition in the midfield.
At the head of the attack, Paco Alcacer worked hard and pushed, playing a key role in the second goal, but lacked a genuine presence in the area upon his first start of the season.