Despite all the talk that Xavi was the man who would come in and teach Barcelona how to play football again, he did just the opposite last Saturday against Villarreal.
The tiki-taka icon was meant to usher in a new era of short, silky passes and possession dominance. We saw it for 15 minutes on Saturday, after which Xavi apparently decided he was tired of it.
After seeing Ez Abde, Memphis Depay and Gavi almost all score within the first seven or eight minutes, Xavi decided to give up trying to score and focused solely on defending.
He cut Abde’s wings and asked the teenager – who was Barcelona’s smartest forward at the time – to man-mark Villarreal’s left-back Alfonso Pedraza, and commissioned provisional right-back Eric Garcia to do the same with winger Moi Gomez.
Not only did it not work, but it killed absolutely all the speed that Barcelona had. They had been dominant for the first 15 minutes, and the other Xavi made this change, everything disappeared and Villarreal could easily have scored three or four goals in the first half.
Garcia was asked to follow Gomez literally everywhere. Already out of position on the right, the Spaniard ended up in the heart of the midfield due to this mission, which left Pedraza with an ocean of space in front of him and only young Abde who tried to stop him.
Unsurprisingly, Abde struggled with that task. He is not a defender and has barely played any senior football. Why Xavi thought it would be a good idea is anyone’s guess.
The tactics were not as obvious in the second half, but the injury happened at that time. Villarreal had wind in their sails and Barcelona looked incredibly nervous and insecure.
That uncertainty was punished by Samu Chukwueze, and it looked as if Villarreal would continue to win the match before a simple long ball from Marc-Andre ter Stegen allowed Memphis to save the day.
The relief in Xavi’s face was obvious, and Philippe Coutinho’s late penalty only reinforced that. The boss knew that his side had taken a profit that they probably did not deserve because of him.
Xavi reacts to Frenkie’s goal? pic.twitter.com/5B2SEn05pV
– FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) 27 November 2021
The hope is still great for Xavi, but he will have to learn incredibly quickly that such changes can not fly in Barcelona, or in the professional game at all. He saw his team dominate the match and chose to disrupt it for no reason at all.
Barcelona should have lost this one. They were just lucky to meet a team from Villarreal who were just as shaky on the hill.
There is still a lot of work for Xavi to do.
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