Xavi Hernández is beginning to have a problem: every day he looks more like his caricature. After getting only four points out of fifteen (one out of twelve against those who counted) and being eliminated in the first round of the Champions League, the Catalan coach did not stop repeating how cruel this competition had been with Barcelona, giving him an aura of injustice to everything that had happened to them. At times, he gives the feeling that Xavi can never lose and that all that self-criticism that he preaches comes to nothing or is limited to the “individual errors” of the players. The system is perfect by definition, so it can’t be his fault.
To this is added a very pernicious notion that surrounds part of the club’s environment: “We are a team in formation.” No no no. A team in formation does not sign a 34-year-old striker as a star and does not mortgage a good part of his future income to fill the squad with presumed stars. A team in formation does not show the voracity that this Barcelona has shown in the transfer market, the only one capable of competing with the English clubs and their powerful checkbooks. Barcelona has acted this summer to win now, not to form anything.
Even if we accept that this Barcelona of hundreds of millions of euros in transfers is a team that is learning, we would have to ask ourselves exactly what they have learned. How is this Barcelona better than, say, the one that won 0-4 last year at the Bernabéu? What team idea is there now that wasn’t there six or seven months ago? Does Barcelona know what it plays and what it wants to play for the next five years? When exactly is this roster of billionaires being formed?
Let’s get to the point: it is clear that Lewandowski’s bet is not the bet of a team for the future but for a very urgent present, but what about the rest? The axis of the attack, for better or for worse, continues to be Ousmane Dembélé, a brilliant and desperate player whose commitment to the club was in question for much of last year. He always gave the feeling that the Frenchman stayed because he didn’t find the magical offer that his representative kept promising him. Is the Barcelona of the future going to be a team of individualistic wingers who decide on the counterattack or go overboard with their dribbling in exchange for losing numerous balls and breaking the rhythm of possession in attack?
We are not clear. One thinks of Xavi and the partnership he formed with Iniesta and one might think that the future would go more through Pedri and De Jong. What are Pedri and De Jong better at now than a year ago? Do they have greater importance in the team’s game, has Xavi struck a key that his predecessors would not have touched? It does not give that feeling, but the opposite. The canary complained yesterday that the first step to improve was to stop losing balls all the time. That is an attack on the float of the collective game. The team plays badly because it plays anxiously. The club and the environment transmit their anxieties on the field and the coach cannot find a way to stop the drift.
Because let’s remember that Barcelona was already in crisis when they fell in the quarterfinals or semi-finals three years in a row. Imagine now that it doesn’t get past the group stage. And it is not worth repeating the “group of death.” Bayern has won one Champions League in the last ten and has lost its great reference this summer. In the Bundesliga, and that is to say, they are second after eleven days. If any team can play the trick of the formation, it is precisely them. The two clashes against Barcelona have resulted in five goals for and zero against. These are not individual errors, it is not bad luck and they are not specific issues. It is pure and simple inferiority.
As for Inter, champions of Italy two years ago and seventh in the current standings, they have spent half the league without their star, Lukaku, and even so they have scored four goals in two games against Barça. Four goals that probably could have been many more, at least at the Camp Nou. Inferiority, again. Barcelona is leaving this Champions League with its head held high and the fight against the elements -Ceferín, the referees, bad luck in the abstract, lack of forcefulness, individual errors…-, that is, Barcelona he goes to the Europa League for the second consecutive year without having learned anything at all.
Cruyff used to say that “they don’t know why we won, how are they going to know why we lost”. The same could be said of Barcelona today, only Xavi does know why they win. They win because they are the ones who play the best, period. It is an axiom that he is not willing to discuss. You see wingers trying one-on-three, Lewandowski as an island in the box and midfielders with tremendous distances between them, but you have to assume that’s playing good football. He sees the miracles of Ter Stegen day yes and day too, but he has to assimilate that this is defending well.
No, Barcelona don’t play football well. Perhaps in the Spanish league and at times, but the Spanish league is not the best mirror against which to measure yourself right now. They have so much quality up front that they can put an end to the resistance of any rival other than Real Madrid in ten minutes. Now, when that difference in talent is evened out, Barcelona is still a minor team. Of the five “big” games he has played this year, he has tied one (in discount) and has lost four. He has scored four goals and received twelve. That is not “training”, that is disability. Can it be reversed? Of course, but from realism. Living in fantasy is not serving any purpose.
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.