Match Points: First Match in the Xavi Era starts with a win vs Espanyol

A tough match is what most of us expected last night. However, some people expected Xavi and Barcelona to trash Espanyol. But that’s not the case with Espanyol this season, as their defense is strong. Moreover, Xavi isn’t a magician, and he can’t change everything in two weeks. It will take time and quite few changes. But overall I think we can move on from this match with a good feeling.

Good Points

Naturally, we won the game, so we will start with the good points. The last 20-30 minutes should not make us forget the start of the game, which was great. The team looked sharper, with more ambition and belief. However, the players couldn’t keep up the pace for 90 minutes, and at some points couldn’t keep up with the high line of defense.

  • Gavi with probably his best game in the first team of Barcelona so far. Against Espanyol, Xavi put the youngster in the left flank, preferring him over Coutinho. And the wonderkid didn’t fail to impress. A great pass by him caused the penalty that eventually won the game for Barcelona.
  • This is the number of times the high line of Barcelona stole the ball in the defensive half of Espanyol. Most of these turnovers happened in the second half. One of the missions of Xavi would be to keep this pace for 90 minutes.
  • Abde and Ilias offered a fresh look at our right wing. Ilias has enormous talent, but yesterday he looked nervous. But then Abde replaced him, and looked great. The winger that arrived from Hercules last summer came in, and was able to dribble past Espanyol players 6 out of 8 times. The most in the game. And for a player that only played in our worse second half, that’s great. Unfortunately, both Ilias and Abde can’t play vs Benfica. Abde isn’t registered to the competition, while Ilias got a red card in the last match of the UYL.
  • Busquets, Frenkie and Nico did great, and thanks to them we had the ball most of the game.

Bad Points

  • After good and intense 60 minutes, we had the last part of the game to remind us how much work there is to do. The team got tired at some point, and started going back. And when Espanyol had the ball, only luck prevented Xavi and the team from conceding.
  • Mingueza with one of his worst matches since arriving to the first team. Not sure what happened there, but he kept making mistakes that he shouldn’t make.
  • Coutinho came on and tried few good things. However, he very fast returned to be the passive and ineffective Coutinho that we know. There’s not much margin left for him, and I think he knows that. The best thing might be to part ways in January.
  • I love Riqui, and I follow him for many many years. I want him to succeed and I think that the coaches treated him unfairly. But he’s already 22, and he needs to step up, and fast. With Nico, Gavi, Pedri, De Jong and others, there might not be room left for him soon.

Bottom Line

The Xavi era begins with an important win in the ‘Derbi Barceloni’ vs Espanyol. I had a special feeling before and at the start of the match. However, a change will take time. We have to be patient.

Next we have Benfica on Tuesday, in the most important game of this season so far. It will be super important to win the game, although the team will once again miss some of our best players.

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