Listen, the difference Xavi has made since his appointment as Barcelona manager is there for all to see. His arrival birthed a new life into Barcelona and resuscitated the dead atmosphere in Camp Nou.
Since his appointment, only Real Madrid has gained more points than Barcelona in La Liga. This change in fortune prompted Joan Laporte to make a desperate move to back him by selling the club’s future to save the present by investing a lot in the team in the summer transfer window.
However, since the start of this season, Xavi has been making some baffling decisions allowing someone like me, whose closest chance to being in his position is by playing Football manager on my Samsung phone question is ability.
Barcelona have played well against inferior opposition in the La Liga but have been exposed against Bayern Munich, Inter Milan and Real Madrid in the El Classico, the three toughest teams they have played this season due to Xavi’s ineptitude.
Let me start with the attack, I have been surprised that Xavi has reluctantly decided to play Ousmane Dembele and Raphinha at the same time. These two favours playing from the right wing, why play both when you can have Ansu Fati or Ferran Torres on the other side?
Xavi’s best attack is having Dembele or Raphinha on the right, with Ansu Fati or Ferran Torres on the left and Robert Lewandowski spearheading the attack.
This offers balance; with Raphinha or Dembele providing the width and Ansu Fati or Ferran Torres running inside between the full-back and center-back serving as the second striker. It was not surprising that Barcelona looked more dangerous when these two came on against Real Madrid in the El Classico though I will prefer Ansu over Ferran on the left and here is why.
Ansu Fati has 2 goals in the La Liga this season, the same as Dembele and one more than Raphinha despite the two playing more minutes than him. It is also more interesting that Ansu has an expected goal of 2.7 which is more than any Barcelona forward not named Lewandowski. This shows how dangerous the Spaniard can be when in the opposition half. He is Barcelona’s most dangerous weapon besides Lewy.
Another area that Xavi has been unable to find the right balance is the midfield. He has favoured the Spanish contingents of Busquets, Gavi and Pedri, a combination that has proved ineffective especially against top opposition.
Barcelona’s best midfield especially when playing against top opposition should be Pedri, Kessie, and Frenkie De Jong.
This is 2022, you can’t keep playing a 34-year-old Busquets as the deepest lying midfielder and the one saddled with the responsibility to shield the defence. It is time he joined Pique on the bench and allow Frenkie De Jong to come in.
Frenkie De Jong has won more tackles and recorded more successful pressures than the old man. Busquests is one of the best passers of the ball at his peak but Frenkie has completed more passes than his older teammate this season, why does Xavi keep playing his former teammate?
I love Gavi but when you have experienced players like Franck Kessie in the team, he should be warming the bench. Kessie brings physicality and intensity to the midfield. He also offers balance by allowing Frenkie De Jong to bump forward while he provides cover with Pedri playing as the most advanced midfielder.
This is not to ignore what he can also offer himself in the attacking third. He had 7 goals in all competitions for Ac Milan, which was more than any other Barcelona midfielder.
What about the defence?
When everyone is fit, Xavi’s preferred four are Kounde, Araujo, Garcia/Christensen and Balde which I have no issue with for now.
However, in big games, I feel Jordi Alba should come in for Balde. He provides experience to a back four that would have no Gerrard Pique, its most experienced defender. It should be Balde or Alba with Marcus Alonso coming in when those two deserve a rest.
Ultimately, if Xavi does not find the right balance as soon as possible, he will be a goner. While he remains jobless, these players that he favours will keep their job. It is time he looked beyond old alliance, Spanish allegiance or whatever sentiment he has at the moment.
He needs to make big decisions by playing either of Raphinha or Dembele at the same time, Keeping Busquets on the bench and give Gavi, his Spanish compatriot more time on the bench.
Joan Laporte has taken a lot of risks and he would not hesitate to kick Xavi out if he fails to get the best out of this squad because he has his legacy on the line.
I hope Xavi listens to the hunter’s whistle before he goes astray.