“The club has been on the crest of a wave for many years and we are not used to this,” Pique said. “We all need to make an effort to give stability. We can complain or pull in the right direction. Let’s not look for friction because this doesn’t help anyone.”
In one breath, Koeman seemed to disregard Barcelona’s possession mantra and criticize his players after the draw with Granada. “What are you expected to do if you look at our team? Do you want to play tiki-taka?” Koeman was referring to tiki-taka, the name given to the style of play popularized by Pep Guardiola.
However, a 3-0 win over Levante on Sunday has boosted the mood, at least temporarily, ahead of a week that will be used to determine whether Koeman remains in charge after the international break.
Even at this early stage, a loss in either game would be a devastating blow to Barca’s chances in both competitions and might persuade the board that change is required.
Yet a better combination of results could also earn Koeman some breathing space, even if it appears clear the Dutchman is not the long-term choice of club president Joan Laporta.
And while the two-week international break might seem the preferable moment to make a change, a new coach would then be plunged into three games against Valencia, Dynamo Kiev and Real Madrid, meaning a potentially turbulent start.
The better scenario both for Koeman and the board would be that the team recovers, in a similar way to last season when an uncertain first few weeks gave way to a gradual gathering of momentum.
There were certainly reasons for optimism against Levante, who rolled over for the kind of morale-boosting victory ideally suited for the start of a testing week.
The biggest cause for enthusiasm was the return of Ansu Fati, the inheritor of Lionel Messi’s number 10 shirt, who raised the roof by coming on after 10 months out through injury and then sent the fans ballistic by scoring in the 91st minute.
Even before Ansu’s introduction, the crowd were admiring the performances of the 19-year-old Nico Gonzalez and the 17-year-old Gavi in midfield. Luuk de Jong and Memphis Depay scored the opening goals to suggest the summer transfer window was not entirely a backward step.
Barca also scored early, which allowed the players to operate more freely and avoid the unpalatable tactics witnessed in recent weeks when the team has been searching for a goal.
Levante, though, were generous opponents and Koeman cannot expect the same from Benfica, who are unbeaten, having won 10 of their 12 games so far this season, with the scrap to join Bayern in the last 16 – which also includes Kiev – far from clear-cut.
“We are Barcelona, we are going for La Liga and the Champions League and all the competitions we are in,” said Fati on Sunday. “All the teams want to win everything but we are Barca, we have to fight.”