Xavi finds the solution to the defensive woes of Barcelona – report


Barcelona's Spanish coach Xavi attends a training session at the Joan Gamper training ground in Sant Joan Despi, near Barcelona, on January 30, 2024.
Photo by PAU BARRENA/AFP via Getty Images

Across the first half and beyond of the season, FC Barcelona looked quite defensively vulnerable. Conceding not just regularly, but often at inconvenient moments of the game and sometimes even within the first minute. Unlike the Barcelona of last season, this season’s team seemed to have forgotten the art of defending.

In terms of their main asset, the La Liga-conquering Barça of last season was defensively surreal. However, this succeeding team is far away from the defensive levels shown in the previous season. Fortunately for Barcelona, Xavi seems to have understood the problems they were facing.

As highlighted by SPORT, Barcelona have regained some semblance of their defense from last season. However, to understand what Xavi did to fix it, it must first be understood what was going wrong. The very beginning of the problem starts from positional tweaks, even though Xavi attributes it mainly to individual errors.

While the latter have been uncharacteristically common this season, even the structural changes had their impact. Jules Kounde returning to his preferred center-back role, and the inclusion of two offensive fullbacks in Joao Cancelo and Alejandro Balde, completely imbalanced the team’s defensive structure.

However, with Balde injured, Xavi has instead only now looked at Cancelo to be deployed as a traditionally offensive fullback. Moreover, Kounde has returned to playing as a right-back mainly, a position that offered Barcelona a lot of defensive cover last season, and is looking to do the same this season as well.

Another key change that Xavi needed to make was to the pivot position. Sergio Busquets was present last season to provide both experience and quality as the team’s primary pivot. However, in his absence, Barcelona have greatly struggled. Thus, Xavi has finally gone and placed his bets on Andreas Christensen to provide the cover Barça needs.

His defensive contributions and ability to make good disruptive decisions have helped Barcelona a lot this season. Over the course of the last five games, Barcelona have only conceded two goals. Moreover, when only the last three games are looked at, the Catalan giants have conceded zero goals.

Even Marc-Andre Ter Stegen’s return from injury has been a great boost. Both confidence and quality have been restored within the back line knowing that their number one and captain is now behind them to bail them out. It has now truly helped Barcelona regain their defensive solidity.

A lot of the praise for this goes to the tweaks made by Xavi with the likes of his defensive line and his pivot. However, there is also another factor, one that hardly anyone saw becoming as relevant already. That factor is 17-year-old Pau Cubarsi, who has brought back the Barcelona DNA to the defensive line, and has been an absolute joy to watch both as a defender and as a technical maestro on the ball.

Raafay Humayun
Raafay Humayun
Raafay Humayun is a life-long fan of FC Barcelona and an avid enjoyer of all things Blaugrana. Having fallen in love with the club for the way they defined football for him, he now spends his time watching games, analyzing the happenings in them, and digesting any and everything related to his beloved Catalan club. He also writes as an author for Barca News Network hoping to deliver the latest updates to his fellow ‘culés’.

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