FC Barcelona – Commentary: The swan song for Xavi came too soon – Barça ahead of a great year

FC Barcelona beat Real Madrid in the Supercopa and Xavi secured his first title as Barca manager around 15 months after taking charge. There was a lot of criticism last year, but the swansong for the former world-class player came too soon. A comment.

In the world of football, coaches often don’t have time to implement their ideas. The carousel spins even faster, especially with the top clubs. The example of Thomas Tuchel at Chelsea showed how quickly you can be fired from the Champions League winner. The situation is a bit different with Xavi and FC Barcelona – and yet he faced massive criticism.

The former Champions League winner took over his ex-club in 2021 in a difficult situation. It didn’t go well sportingly and there were serious financial consequences. Last summer, a kind of spirit of optimism finally emerged. The Catalans managed to strengthen the squad around Robert Lewandowski’s king transfer. But Barcelona didn’t seem to really get going – and so what often happens far too quickly happened: Xavi’s swan song was already in the works in many places.

After his first 50 competitive matches, he was only 25th in the club’s internal rankings with only 63% of matches won. There have been many bankruptcies, especially internationally. The Spaniard has just two wins and two draws in eight Champions League appearances. In six Europa League matches, there have also been just two wins and three draws. Barça lost three times without scoring against FC Bayern. The only two successes in the premier category were celebrated against Pilsen.

FC Barcelona: Xavi embarks on the title hunt with a paradigm shift

Devastating, one might think. But the contrasting program is underway in the Primera Division: Barcelona have lost just one game there this season and are three points clear at the top of the table. What was missing so far was a convincing victory against a big club. With the Supercopa triumph, Xavi achieved this for the first time in impressive fashion.

What’s particularly interesting is a paradigm shift in the way the game is played. Barca are synonymous with possession football like no other club. In recent years, however, it has become increasingly toothless. Xavi strives to make Blaugrana football more dynamic and flexible – with a strong focus on defence. His side have conceded only six league goals. It was foreseeable that his adjustments would take time. Against Madrid, however, he was shown on the weekend where that can lead.

Barca defended against the ball compactly, smartly and aggressively in crucial midfield areas. The opponent was sometimes allowed to hold the ball in less spectacular spaces so as not to be stretched vertically too much. The ball possession phases against his own ball were then played out very efficiently and precisely. Real Madrid played each other in phases and had virtually no idea in possession of the ball. At first Barca were looking for a counterattack, after the lead they handled it wisely and added decisively.

FC Barcelona: will 2023 be the year of Xavi?

Xavi isn’t trying to turn Barca into a counter-attacking team. But he serves more aspects of football than his predecessors and thus makes the team stronger in the long run. Given the past few years and the major changes in the squad, no one could have expected him to make FC Barcelona a candidate for the Champions League title in a very short time.

However, the progress is undeniable. The mix of young talent and experienced world-class players seems to fit. And with the clear win against Real, Xavi has now secured his first major success. For some, it may have come too late. Others reportedly fired the 42-year-old in October.

The thing is, Xavi now needs to perform internationally, especially in the Europa League, where he failed disappointingly last season. He has so far failed to provide this proof of employment. But after the swansong last fall, it looks like 2023 could not only be his year, but also a very successful year for FC Barcelona. As is often the case, this farewell came too soon.

FC Barcelona: ranking in La Liga

place team Sp. doors differential pt.
1. Barcelona 16 35:6 29 41
2. real Madrid 16 36:16 20 38
3. Real Sociedad 17 26:18 8th 35
4. Atlético Madrid 17 24:16 8th 28
5. real villa 17 20:13 7 28
6. Real Betis 16 19:13 6 28
7. Osasuna 17 17:16 1 27
8th. athletic club 17 25:17 8th 26
9. Rayo Vallecano 17 24:20 4 26
ten Majorca 17 14:16 -2 22
11. Girona 17 26:27 -1 21
12. Valence 16 23:18 5 19
13. Almeria 17 18:26 -8th 18
14 Spanish 17 21:26 -5 17
15 to obtain 17 16:24 -8th 17
16 Celt of Vigo 17 17:28 -11 17
17 Real Valladolid 17 13:25 -12 17
18 Seville 17 17:26 -9 15
19 Cadiz 16 11:27 -16 15
20 momentum 16 10:34 -24 4

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