FC Barcelona is undoubtedly going through one of their worst playing phases under Xavi Hernandez. In the two years that the Spaniard has coached Barcelona, they have not felt as stale of a team as they do now. The desperation to play properly is now at an all-time high.
Over the last two games, in particular, this lack of creativity and effectiveness became quite clear. The win against Real Sociedad saw Barcelona struggle from the very start. A heroic contribution got Barcelona all three points, but it simply is not enough.
Moving forward, they just recently lost to Shakhtar Donetsk in the UEFA Champions League. It was a must-win game for Barcelona that would have guaranteed progression into the knockout stages.
However, La Blaugrana must bounce back now, and SPORT has highlighted five tactical changes Xavi may now opt for in light of the rather dull displays recently.
Solidifying the defense:
Barcelona managed to be the most dominant team in Spain last season mainly due to their defensive rigidity. The Catalan giants were among the best defensive sides in European football and they reaped the rewards. This season, it has been the polar opposite.
To counter this, Xavi could opt to deploy three central defenders simultaneously. As he did against Real Sociedad, this shape provides a better chance of nullifying the opponent’s goal-scoring chances. Ronald Araujo, Inigo Martinez, and Jules Kounde are all complementary to each other in this setup.
Singular offensive fullback:
By allowing three central defenders to play within a back-four, Xavi can opt to deploy one offensive fullback. Both Joao Cancelo and Alejandro Balde are great offensive providers by talent, but by utilizing only one of them, Xavi can simultaneously also allow a better defensive shape that will likely concede less in theory.
Gavi and Pedri:
Now that Pedri has fully recovered and has returned from his injury, he must be used properly. His influence within the team is vital and the way he plays ensures Barcelona maintain control and create much better chances.
However, partnering him up with Gavi on a more consistent basis could be crucial. The two youngsters are very unique profiles, but they complement one another quite well. Gavi’s tenacity coupled with Pedri’s understanding of pausing the play could be a clever way to dismantle opponents.
Oriol Romeu is understood to be at a bad spot right now. His performances as a pivot have declined in recent times. Moreover, Ilkay Gundogan does not have the physical strength to play as a pivot on a regular basis and is much more effective as a line-breaking interior.
As such, Andreas Christensen could be the one Xavi opts to give a chance to. In the event that Araujo, Martinez, and Kounde occupy the defensive slots, Christensen’s only way of entering the team would be to be used as the side’s primary pivot.
The Lewandowski problem:
Despite being given many chances to recover his best version, Robert Lewandowski continues to struggle. His finishing and presence in front of the opposition goal seems to have diminished, and his movement is much more stagnant.
Moreover, the player even struggles to properly assess decisions in the build-up and even often hinders his own team in counterattacks. As such, Xavi could choose to let him rest for a while and give the younger forwards a more leading role within the team.