MADRID (AP) — After a full year to adapt to his new club, Antoine Griezmann was hopeful of a breakthrough season with Barcelona.
He came in looking to show that he can still meet the high expectations of his transfer from Atlético Madrid, even though the much-hyped partnership with Lionel Messi and Luis Suárez never produced the results everyone expected.
The trio never clicked, and Griezmann endured a lackluster first season with the Catalan club.
His chances of succeeding improved this season after Suárez departed and left him as the team’s most experienced forward other than Messi. It gave him the perfect opportunity to take a more prominent role in attack.
But three games into the new season, there are no signs of a turnaround for the 29-year-old Griezmann. The Frenchman has yet to produce a good performance, being held scoreless and being substituted by coach Ronald Koeman in every match so far.
Instead of gaining a bigger role, he has been losing space to some of the team’s youngsters and newly signed players.
He disappointed again in the team’s 1-1 draw against Sevilla in the Spanish league on Sunday, being replaced in the 61st minute by 20-year-old Francisco Trincão, who just joined the club.
Griezmann had been substituted by the Portuguese forward in the 78th minute in the opener against Villarreal, when it was 17-year-old Ansu Fati who thrived by scoring two goals in a 4-0 win.
Fati also scored in the 2-0 victory at Celta Vigo, when Griezmann again didn’t finish the match. He was Koeman’s first choice to leave the field when the coach had to put in a defender because of a red card to Clément Lenglet before halftime.
Koeman promoted several changes after replacing Quique Setién following the team’s 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich in quarterfinals of the Champions League. Griezmann had not been among them, though, and was kept as starter on the flanks.
But it was unknown how much more time he would get from Koeman, who wasn’t happy with the missed chances by Griezmann against Sevilla.
“The substitution the other day was a tactical one,” Koeman said. “Ansu Fati gives you more depth, more speed, and we needed that while playing with a man down. (Griezmann) had his moments today, he had a couple of chances and should have scored a goal from them considering his quality.”
Koeman said he was happy with Trincão’s work so far, saying he gives the team a fresher look, and didn’t guarantee Griezmann as a starter after Barcelona returns from the international break. Koeman also has Ousmane Dembélé and Martin Braithwaite available for the attack, and more players could arrive by the end of the transfer window.
Barcelona, three points behind league leader Real Madrid with a game in hand, resumes its campaign in two weeks at Getafe.
“In the end, these are decisions that we have to make,” Koeman said. “Each player has to perform as best as possible.”
A little over a year ago, Griezmann was throwing glitter into the air to imitate Lebron James’ chalk toss routine in the celebration of his first goal with Barcelona, raising expectations about his future with the club.
Now, he is just trying to keep his spot in the starting lineup.
More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni