Ernesto Valverde has been named the new manager at FC Barcelona. He takes over one of the most talented squads in the world, but one that only brought home the Copa del Rey while Madrid claimed a La Liga title and is in the UCL finals. It's a bit odd to talk about Barcelona on boards these days because this squad has several world class players, including Leo Messi, but when Cules discuss the disappointment of last season's results, other Cules and supporters of other clubs point out that you can't win a treble every year. I'm here to say that the bar is set very high for this club and has been since the early 2000s. A season without a La Liga title or a trip to at least the semis of UCL will be considered a disappointment. Being in the same league as Madrid makes it harder on both clubs to reach the levels they aspire to, and honestly, that makes it fun. I have a pretty big crush on this year's Madrid squad, but also look forward to them losing some real talent and depth with Morata and James likely to move on. With Isco and Asensio really coming on at the end of the season though, it's not clear at all whether there will be much drop off unless Benz or CRonaldo decline precipitously due to age. Nevertheless, most Cules (including myself) expect some sort of transfer splash this summer with CM and RB the two clear areas that need improvement (RB more so IMO). Last year's squad had a couple of positive developments such as Umtiti emerging as an heir to Masche at CB, the viability of Sergi Roberto as a first team player, Ter Stegen cementing himself as a top 5-10 keeper, and other lesser definitive improvements too (Neymar's continued maturation, Vidal playing well before his horrific injury, Denis looking competent, etc.). However, those positives were overshadowed by weak performances by Busi, Iniesta, Rakitic, Suarez, and pretty much all of the backups. Gomes stands out as particularly bad business considering his hefty price tag and dull performances. Paco Alcacer had trouble integrating into the squad at first, but did finish the season on a high note. My binky Denis looked wonderful combining with Messi although in limited minutes. Arda unfortunately fought injuries all year at a time when he could've provided a lot of value. Rafinha also dealt with some tough injuries and Mathieu is likely on his way out. Back up keeper Cillessen looked very good and will likely stay at least another season, although I suspect he will be the starter for the Netherlands NT and will get plucked following the WC. I honestly don't know much about Valverde. I was hoping for Allegri (was never happening), Tuchel, Sarri, Sampaoli (who honestly might be here after the WC if he does well and Messi likes him), or even Pellegrini for a short stint. Nevertheless, as Lucho showed, with this much talent on the squad, many managers could likely lead this squad to great success. Valverde's primary job is likely to rebuild the midfield of this team and particularly, how they combine with the forwards. I've been debating elsewhere the shortcomings and symptoms of this year's squad, and while almost everyone agrees that Messi really missed an aggressive RB like Dani Alves and that the MF lacked creativity, not everyone agrees why this happened or how to fix it. With Messi starved for service on the RW, he frequently set up camp behind Suarez and left the RW empty. Barca never really figured out how to establish a threat on that wing, although I'd argue that Denis was good enough combining with Messi and Suarez that he was the best option. Rafinha is overly dominant with his left foot, Roberto never felt comfortable pushing that far up, Rakitic is excellent as the third player in that space, but not the second, Iniesta was injured for the most part, and Gomes was a disaster. I happen to think very highly of Arda and I think he would've been excellent on that wing, with Messi in the middle, however that leaves the two MF behind Messi (e.g. Busi and Rak/Roberto/Rafinha) with a lot of defensive work to do. The other big weakness of the squad was its lack of depth. Honestly, I blame Lucho for not giving guys like Denis and youngsters more run. He also pretty much never sat Messi. I'm sure Messi makes it hard to sit him, but as the manager you have to make tough calls. When Vidal went down, I thought Lucho should've tried to get more creative, for instance by trying Digne and Alba as FBs in the same squad (one of them has to be passable enough to play on their off side). Instead, Lucho switched to a sloppy 3-4-3 that had some success, but ultimately left the team very vulnerable. In order to fund the transfer of a CM and/or RB, I expect we'll see the sale of Mathieu, Arda, and perhaps Rafinha. Rakitic could also be on the move since presumably a CM will be brought in, but as I explained above, I think Rak is still world class and the system really hurt him. Iniesta really needs to show last year was a one-off, otherwise next year could be his last for the Blaugrana.