Real Betis have been the most entertaining team to watch in La Liga this season, with scores of 4-4, 3-6 and 3-5. The problem is, as enjoyable and enthralling as their games are, the daring style of play employed by Quique Setien does not always mean that the result goes their way.
The fact they are the sixth highest scoring team in the League but have conceded nine more goals than they have scored shows there are serious problems in defence. The 3-2 loss at Celta Vigo on Monday highlighted how vulnerable they can be to systematic pressing, with two of the goals coming from players being caught out in possession. This is down to some of the players being unsuitable for Setien’s style: they are being asked to play out from the back and despite trying to adapt, some of them do not look comfortable.
The signing of Marc Barta from Borussia Dortmund is therefore a significant one. As a product of La Masia, Barcelona’s youth academy, the centre-back is no stranger to playing the kind of football that Setien is looking for. His spell in Germany was not easy – the Catalan made a real connection with fans and brought into the passion of the club but struggled after the bombing of the team bus in April of last year, in which he suffered severe injuries to his hand.
Under new Coach Peter Stoger, who is aiming to solidify Dortmund’s back line, Bartra was deemed surplus to requirements, especially after the arrival of Manuel Akanjii. The fact that the club made a ‘big concession’ on the transfer fee indicates how much he meant to the Black and Yellows.
"I can hardly put into words the moments and feelings that I had in the last year and a half,” Bartra said regarding his time in Dortmund. “I would never have thought it possible to receive that much love and support from one of the best football families in the world. I gave everything at every moment. We were able to get a cup again after a few years and celebrate the triumph together. I'll never forget that moment.”
But is Bartra the answer to Betis’ defensive woes? There is no way that he is going to solve all of their problems but the Spain international will certainly go some way in remedying them. Zouhair Feddal and Aissa Mandi do not inspire confidence at the heart of the defence, but a partnership of the former and Bartra could be a good combination there. At the moment, the backline looks too nervous when playing the ball out, and a natural ball player like Bartra will make this process easier and more effective, thus minimising the number of mistakes and goals conceded.
It looks like Betis are giving Setien what he wants, which is the signing of top level footballers who fit into his system. That is exactly what Bartra is, although it will take much more than solely him to make them a real force under Setien.