Barcelona's big week: Three games which could decide Koeman's future
Bayern Munich opened up Barcelona's defence in the Champions League, and old wounds with it.
It was a footballing exhibition from the Bavarians on Tuesday, and one for which Barca paid full entry price, as spectators rather than participants.
And like any good exhibition, the Blaugrana left asking themselves existential questions. They have to decide, as a club, what they want. Which path should they follow?
Staying on their current road looks set to bring the Catalans a bleak and joyless season. Beating teams of Bayern's ilk seems impossible, so the Champions League is out of the question. Their last three home matches in the competition, against Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern, have seen them lose by an aggregate score of 10-1.
The club expected to fight for La Liga at the very least, but even that has been cast into doubt by Barcelona's shaky performances. Real Madrid and Atletico have stronger squads than them, whille Sevilla have a better chance than ever before following their summer reinforcements.
To make matters worse, Barca have Pedri, Jordi Alba, Ansu Fati, Sergio Aguero, and Ousmane Dembele out of action, depleting an already sub-par collective.
And tactically, things are no better. The plan coach Ronald Koeman chose against Bayern, his 3-5-2 system, was plainly a 5-3-2 in reality. An 8-2, at the worst of times, with Memphis Depay and Luuk de Jong left woefully stranded up front.
There was no way for Barca to connect with their attackers, so great was the gap between the midfield and the front line, so deep the defence had sunk.
Koeman was hired for his Barcelona glory days as player, rather than his managerial accomplishments, and it is showing. It explains, if not actually justifies, president Joan Laporta's controlling stance.
The chief has, per local reports, insisted Koeman play a 4-3-3 system, which he has used in the league until now, although the performances against Atheltic Club and Getafe were weak.
Being kept on this leash by Laporta angered Koeman, and they have bickered across various media appearances and interviews, although both have claimed their relationship is still intact and "fluid".
The tension between them does not help matters on the pitch, with the fracture between the Pep Guardiola-esque 2009 football Laporta wants, to make himself a homecoming hero, and Koeman's pragmatism and fear hybrid.
Fans feel it too, and players like Sergi Roberto suffer when that negative energy gets turned in their direction. The Catalan defender, about to sign a new deal on a reduced contract to help the team out, faced whistles after he was withdrawn against Bayern after being given a chastening evening playing catch-up to Alphonso Davies and Leroy Sane.
Pedri's thigh injury might give the Catalan a chance for redemption in his preferred midfield role, although teenager Gavi showed enough fight against Bayern to get the Camp Nou crowd chanting his name on a night where there was not much else to sing about.
The next three matches, all within the space of a week, could then be pivotal for Koeman's future and the nature of Barcelona's season. League games against Granada, Cadiz and Levante: three bullets for Koeman to dodge.
Per some outlets in Spain, lose any of those games and Laporta swings the axe. Such a choice would only be suprising because if it was going to be made, it should have been made in the summer.
Nothing Barcelona have shown this season has been surprising or shocking, it is still the same team with the same deficiencies and no Lionel Messi. The obstacles to firing Koeman were the cost and the lack of a clear replacement; both problems which have not changed greatly.
Koeman's sacking is not being discussed, according to club sources, but everyone else is talking about it, so that is not likely to be true.
Unless Laporta takes action or the youth are given time and opportunities - and not just as a PR stunt with the team two goals down and thoroughly outplayed by Bayern - this could end up being a wasted, barren season for Barcelona.
A ghost year, before their next chapter starts. Or ghost years. It is not easy to climb back to the top.