Barcelona concludes the 2022 calendar year with a frustrating draw against city rivals Espanyol, giving few things to celebrate for the club’s fans on the dawn of the new year Indeed, the Garnet and Blue remained on top of the league table, but as Real Madrid routinely beat Valladolid 2-0 a day prior, Los Blancos have equaled them in points, and just the goal difference gives them a slight edge over Madrid.
Barca News Network brings you four key points to talk about the disappointing 1-1 draw in the Derbi barceloní, in front of the filled Camp Nou.
1. Disastrous Refereeing
When talking about the game, none can proceed without a word on another scandalous performance from Mateu Lahoz. The Spanish referee, after another weak officiation in the World Cup quarter-final between Argentina and Netherlands, once again proved to be unable to control the game, which ended in a heated, card-showering affair.
12 yellows, 2 red cards and it was still not enough. Lahoz was simply unable to handle the pressure in the heated situations, and his hasty, blundering decisions really hampered the dynamics of the game. Sending off Jordi Alba with a second yellow for protests while letting Cabrera play with no card at all after the VAR check is just utterly ridiculous.
2. An old foe: Finishing
Aside from the insane refereeing, an old foe showed up yesterday to deny us from keeping all the 3 points at home and end the year on a high, leading the table with a stable 2-point lead. This old foe of ours was the lack of refined final touch. As it did haunt us multiple times in the past – even in the most important moments – it did again, and from the oppressing dominance in numbers, we couldn’t squeeze out the victory.
78% possession versus the 22 of Espanyol, 21 shots, out of which 6 found the target, against the 4 of our local rivals – just 1 (the penalty) on target – and a massive 2.33 xG versus 0.88 from the guests – it should be noted, though, that the penalty counts as 0.79.
The stats say it all. Maybe unlucky would be the best word to describe our night, and even the surprise return of arguably the best striker in the world couldn’t help as Lewandowski also missed his chance to clinch the winner like Gavi, Alonso and Raphinha failed to do as well among others.
3. Is there a deeper problem there?
Now, one would ask, what is the problem here? As we can see above, the numbers don’t lie and we were the better side. We had the chances, we had multiple opportunities to seize the victory. Maybe we were just unlucky again, but when it becomes such a chronicle issue, we have to question ourselves: is there a deeper problem there?
Statistically, we did manage to turn the score around multiple times this season and even won a game when one man down. From this perspective, we are seemingly capable of breaking a negative momentum in the game as well. Onto the advanced statistics, the finishing what is commonly concerned and was a problem again, actually balances out itself on a big sample. According to FBref’s statistics, to 34.7 xG Barcelona actually scored 34 goals, which is more than a fitting figure.
So, it might still be the right way. This game seems to back this vision, but the hectic finishing that once allows 3-4 goal fests then leaves us in such a shameful situation as yesterday, losing important points with a penalty out of nothing, really needs improvement in terms of prolificacy and consistency.
Also, the ability to control the game majorly describes this Barca side, however, these sudden moments of lapses can destroy everything that the team was working for in the other 80 minutes, which also requires full focus during the entire game not to let it slip out of hand and not to allow these rare mistakes that, eventually, can cost us much.
4. New year ahead
New year, new opportunities they say, new chances to look back at the past and try to correct the mistakes we’ve made and improve because, let’s be honest, there is plenty of things that need a change.
As we already mentioned some areas where the team can improve in the future like consistent finishing and maximized control, surmounting eventual mental gates is something that also needs a lot of training and the ‘clutch’ gene that we could see in the Champions League.
In terms of the tactical repertoire, Xavi should also focus on developing variations in the tactics that can make the team more unpredictable, like engaging the wingers more and giving them the freedom to unleash their peerless skills and or engaging the midfielders more in commanding the play with such gifted players like Pedri or Gavi. For example, we can take Lucho’s Spain as a team with a similar philosophy, or we can even learn things from Manchester City or Arsenal from the modern English version of positional play.
All in all, although we are still leading the league, there are plenty of areas to improve and such a disappointing draw can at least make us learn from the mistakes done and help to fix the issues present. Heading into the new year, we wish the team great success, good results, and, hopefully, some trophies won in the remaining campaign. Visca Barca.