Xavi talks Pedri, Frenkie, Araujo, Cancelo, Balde, Yamal ahead of Barcelona vs Alaves

Barcelona head coach Xavi
Photo Courtesy: FC Barcelona’s Official Website

The clash against Deportivo Alaves will be crucial for Xavi and Barcelona. The Catalans have seemingly lost their way in recent games and have struggled heavily. Barcelona will thus hope that Sunday can bring back good sensations and help Barça rediscover their identity.

Ahead of the game, Xavi Hernandez spoke to the media in his customary pre-match press conference and addressed several pressing matters. Topics such as Balde’s performances, recovering Barça’s identity, and the frustration within Barcelona were all discussed.

The coach even touched upon his future at the club as criticisms began to pile up for the Barcelona legend. With close to 24 hours left until kick-off, Xavi and his Barcelona side will look to leave a strong impression against Alaves at the Montjuic Stadium.

The main highlights of the presser are as follows:

Xavi started his presser with his thoughts on the match against Alaves which is scheduled to take place tomorrow. The Barcelona head coach was confident that the team can recover its form in this match:

“With the utmost enthusiasm and a desire to rediscover the game. We have played two games without playing well, and we must recover it. We have to organize ourselves more and be more faithful to our identity. We have a very tough and rugged team in front of us.”

Xavi also discussed the UEFA Champions League game against Shakhtar and identified the main problem faced by the team:

“The mental block comes because we are not well organized. I think there is a football problem that is mental. The block comes because we are not well positioned on the field; let’s hope to change it, and everyone can see it.”

The game against Alaves is the last before the November international break starts, but Xavi said this break does not influence the team’s training in any way:

“I think we have trained well and analyzed the mistakes correctly. The schedule turned out this way, and we knew that the players would go with their national teams; it doesn’t change anything.”

Xavi has been facing increased criticism for the last few weeks, which is natural at a club of Barcelona’s size and stature. Several issues he is facing in his role as the Barcelona coach were also discussed in this press conference. Xavi claimed that he is now used to such criticism:

“You have criticized me all my life. We are at a point where we have to accept criticism; we come from two ‘bad’ games, and we have to be honest.”

However, Xavi confessed that Barcelona’s losses have impacted him, particularly because he is a Cule at heart:

“It affects me threefold. I am a Culé from birth, and when we don’t win, we suffer. But there’s no problem.”

Xavi did not believe the current period to be his worst at Barcelona, and also identified the worst point in his career on the Barcelona bench:

“It has nothing to do with it; my worst moment was last year in the Champions League elimination. Honestly, we haven’t been good in these two games; it’s a small bump but not a crisis. I’m fine and calm, nothing like last year’s situation.”

The Barcelona head coach insisted that he is focused on eliminating the problems being faced by the team, rather than getting lost in the debate surrounding him on the media:

“I haven’t heard the noise from the media for four days. The important thing is to diagnose what is wrong with the team. As Reixach said, half applaud in favor, and the other half against; that’s the Barça environment. I focus on that.”

Xavi was asked about his relationship with the Barcelona hierarchy, and the coach reassured the reporters that he enjoys the best of the relationships with the high officials at the club:

“We always talk after the game. We are very united with the president, with Deco, and with the entire sports management. He is a very positive person even more than me. The president is with the team and has always shown us a lot of confidence.”

When asked whether he has received any notice because of the poor form of the team, Xavi negated that this has been the case for now, but confessed that such a notice was received last season:

“I don’t know; I’ll tell you in June. It happened last year; there were many criticisms, and in the end, we won two titles.”

Xavi also commented on his coaching style, and claimed that he was neither soft nor hard on his team:

“I am the coach of Latigazo. I am not one to shout; I try to convince with ideas. We come from winning a title last season; it’s a matter of convincing the players. I am not a coach of a firm hand or a soft hand.”

On how he plans to change the team to react to this run of poor form, Xavi commented:

“To organize them, return to what has made us win titles, dominate the game, and demand from ourselves what we did well before.”

The former Barcelona midfielder agreed with the reporters that the team has not been at its best for the last few games, but remained adamant that it is not a problem stemming from the attitude of the players:

“In Hamburg, we played a bad game, but the attitude has never been lacking. There is a very healthy group; we are a family and are on the right path. This team is eager to win.”

Xavi’s four man midfield system returned very useful dividends during the last season. However, the inclusion of new players this season has made him return to a 4-3-3 formation. The Barcelona head coach however agreed that he is looking to consider some alternatives in the coming days:

“I think it’s time to tweak things and consider some alternatives. It’s the coach’s and the players’ time to reconnect. We must recover the order.”

The team has missed important midfielders like Pedri and Frenkie de Jong for too long, and Xavi also provided an update on the condition of these two players:

“Frenkie will be available against Rayo, and Pedri is at 100%.”

Xavi disagreed with the notion that team was lacking in offensive firepower, and put his trust in positional play to outscore the opponents

“We must recover positional play, everyone in his position, and from there recover our football.”

Despite his age, Lamine Yamal has been an important player for Barcelona this season, and Xavi showed an intent to keep on using him in the upcoming games as well:

“It will be important whatever he plays. Despite his young age, he can make a difference; we will use him for sure.”

Robert Lewandowski returned to action after around a month off with injury against Real Madrid, but he has been far from his best in the matches the team has played since that time. Xavi identified the problems that might be keeping Lewandowski from being at his best:

“He is at 100%, he feels this lack of positional play. We haven’t attacked well or supplied Robert the way we always do. I insist; I think it’s a lack of positional play.”

Xavi did not express a need for a change in the team, and reiterated his commitment to meritocracy in his team:

“I believe more in performance; from day one, I put in those who are in the best form, regardless of the name. I think you’ve seen that I’ve always done that.”

Xavi did not believe the locker room leaders had anything to do with the poor form of the team, and took whole responsibility to come up with solutions to the team’s problems:

“The captains, that’s what they’re there for. There is a great atmosphere in the locker room; that’s not the problem. The problem is mine, and we need to find solutions.”

Xavi did not provide any update on Araujo’s injury, but still praised him in this presser:

“He is a great captain, and it is a guarantee to have him.”

Inigo Martinez has regained his fitness, and is taking an important role in the team since the last few weeks. Xavi also praised him for his abilities:

“Iñigo has shown that he is a leader, reliable, with many virtues. It was my request, and for me, it’s a very positive signing for the group.”

Balde has also been at the receiving end of some criticism in the last few days, but Xavi defended the fullback while agreeing that he will have to improve further:

“We value him a lot; he, like the rest of the group, needs to improve, and I am delighted with Balde.”

Marc Andre Ter Stegen, who is the first captain of the team, spoke after the loss to Shakhtar and claimed that he is unable to identify the main weakness of the team, but the group will have to improve. Xavi reacted to his comments in this presser:

“He’s one of the captains and understands the demands of this club perfectly. I think there have been many games that we had under control, but due to our mistakes, we couldn’t pull them off. It’s time to react, on my part and on the part of the players.”

Joao Cancelo has become one of the most important players for Barcelona since his arrival at the club, and Xavi recounted his utility to his team in this press conference:

“He’s a very good alternative and offers us many options. He can play on the left, as an interior, or even as a winger. It’s good to have a player with this versatility who can adapt to so many positions.”

Source: Mundo Deportivo

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