New transfers might be the key to Barca’s revival this season.
It’s far too early to judge Xavi, considering Barcelona’s current situation. His performances in the Barca dugout are filled with mixed emotions as in his eight games in charge, Barca has won and drawn three and lost two games in all competitions. In the most recent fixture, Barcelona failed to capitalize their dominance into a goal against a 10-man Sevilla as they settled for a 1-1 draw in their last game of 2021.
Barcelona has scored and conceded an exact number of goals in the last four league games (6). The defence looks scattered rather than united. During counter-attacks, the defence is very fragile, and the opponents have used this opportunity to exploit the Barcelona backline multiple times this season. Barcelona was cruising into the Betis defence, but a swift counter-attack move by Betis snatched away all 3 points courtesy of a late Juanmi goal.
The Blaugrana are vulnerable at set-pieces too. Osasuna and Sevilla got their rewards as Barcelona again caught napping during set-pieces. Currently, the only defender who can put his body and soul on the line is Ronald Araujo. The Uruguayan looks promising and can lead the future generation at Barca.
Sergiño Dest and Oscar Mingueza have failed to impress, and as a result, Xavi opts to play Araujo at right-back. This move backfired very badly as Ronald Araujo was out of his position during the goals’ build-up. However, he bounced back from that game as he scored the equalizer against Sevilla and was named MOTM for his brilliance at both ends of the pitch.
Xavi believes it’s more a psychological problem than a football one. In their draw against Osasuna, Barcelona was pinned back into their half by Osasuna. As a result, the Catalans conceded a late equalizer despite having all 11 players inside the 18-yard box. Despite the lack of goals in his first few games, Xavi has cracked the code of generating spaces and attacking positions in the last couple of games. The work done in training sessions can be seen by the swift passing from the midfield and forwards.
Xavi has significant work in defence, but he believes this issue has grown since he retired at Barca. “I have not been here for six years, and there are things that have surprised me tactically. I wasn’t here, so I don’t know who’s responsible for it, but it’s making [the job] hard for us. “The large majority [of players] don’t understand the positional play. There are mechanisms that I understood from the age of 11, and we have players here that haven’t worked on them.”
He believes that Barcelona has lost its model of play, which made them one of the best teams in the world for the past decade. The youngsters have stepped up a gear in the last couple of games. They have proved their worth on the field game after game and adding to that, few of them have scored their first goals for Barca.
“You can only take your hat off for that performance from Gavi,” Xavi added. “It’s spectacular how he plays. Along with Nico, Abde [Ezzalzouli], [Ronald] Araujo, [Alejandro] Balde… they’re the future of the club,” Xavi said. Many believe that Xavi is indirectly pointing out to the veterans and captains of Barca, who need to come with goods in such critical situations.
The draw at Sevilla must have left a bittersweet taste in their mouth, but Barcelona is showing signs of improvement in every department. Besides the goal, Barcelona kept Sevilla at bay as they conceded only one shot on target and racked up seven shots at the other end. Xavi was happy with the performance and how the players competed after conceding the goal. “I think this is the Barcelona people want,” Xavi said.
The changes are visible as the youngsters are growing and competing very well in all departments, Clement Lenglet and Eric Garcia started the season wrong. Still, they looked confident on the ball in recent games and played defended well when called into action. Dembele and Abde are constant threats on either side of the pitch. With Ansu Fati and Memphis Depay set to return in January, the attack will be more lethal and threatening once they all start clicking.