Eight signings, Robert Lewandowski as the superstar, but likely to be sent back to the Europa League for the second time in a row: Barcelona’s 3-3 fiasco at the Camp Nou against Inter Milan after losing at the San Siro (1-0) has shook the Catalan capital. High expectations with many signings, and perhaps, not enough improvement. What has gone wrong for Xavi, formerly praised by fans for lifting the mood of the club after Koeman’s exit?
A wound in a wound-ridden body, Barcelona’s 3-3 against Inter Milan, Brozović and Lukaku-less raises question about the team’s. And above all, Xavi’s ability to survive in the European elite: How could something like this happen? How do Barcelona end up with a back-line composed of Marcos Alonso, Gerard Piqué, Eric García and Sergi Roberto, in 2022? Injuries, at first, might raise an eyebrow: It’s indeed true that Barcelona did lose Jules Koundé and Ronald Araújo to the international break. Meanwhile Andreas Christensen was absent after an injury in the first encounter in the San Siro. But is that enough to explain Barcelona’s depressing woes?
A short answer would negative. Whether injuries or VAR, excuses on Barcelona failing to crush Inter Milan are far from satisfying. Barcelona’s starting eleven remained superior on paper in comparison to Inter’. Furthermore, the budget spent through the summer by Joan Laporta and Mateu Alemany leaves a bitter taste on culé lips, given the high expectations. Barcelona not only purchased several signings, many rumoured to have been directly requested by head coach Xavi Hernández. But it also sold several TV rights, such as Sixth Street . Moreover, they took a loan from Goldman Sachs in order to afford the said signings.
Champions League is different
If the signings seemed sufficient in La Liga – as Barcelona are first, but only by little, as Real Madrid trail behind by little – and a Clásico awaits the two archenemies next Sunday, potentially a title-deciding tie. In Europe, however, the scene looks grim for Barcelona: The only win so far was against Viktoria Plzen, and even that victory was far from convincing – the alarm bell has rung, without a doubt.
A double-clash, and Inter’s gun pointed at Barcelona’s head. Despite the mentioned theoretical advantage on paper from a collective point of view, the first encounter (at the San Siro) quickly became a dangerous ‘domination’. A false comfort, where Barcelona illogically accepted the terms of its opponent: Deadly counter-attacks, through the wings and the center, as Barcelona’s key puzzle pieces were torn apart: Inzaghi had thrown his Javelin, and Xavi suddenly saw Kryptonite. It seemed unbreakable. It seemed. In the first clash, the issue had been Barcelona’s advanced positions leading to promising counter-attacks with much space in what remained of the defensive block, hence explaining Inter’s unique goal: Barcelona’s creativity block lead to little penetration despite holding much territory. The second half, however, promise new signs. For the better, or, for the worst.
As lined out by Football Journalist Albert Blaya Sensat (@/Blayasensat), Xavi decided to add one more man to the front line, in hope of better play between the lines in comparison to the first leg. Unfortunately, that perfect scenario appeared rarely: As such, Barcelona remained with similar struggled to the San Siro game throughout the first 70′. Verticality, as lined out by many, remains the major trouble around the Xavi question.
This is not what Xavi wants to see
How could someone like Xavi Hernández, the player known for controlling rhythm better than anybody, manage a team that seemed to display the entire opposite, from over-the-top verticality to chaotic situations like Barcelona’s endings, ending with two of Lewandowski’s goals?
A player that was isolated, and perhaps the most critical, is none other than Barcelona veteran Sergio Busquets. In 2022, it has been made clear to many that if the Spaniard is to play, coverage will be needed. With two fatal mistakes and a distribution that isn’t up to his standards, fans question his role to the team – equally so for Piqué, though to a lesser extent – do they really being more benefits than harm to this team? Both had major responsibility in Inter’s goals, goals that seemed the consequence of a mash-up between another PTSD breakdown and un-explainable, maybe even childish mistakes? Sergio Busquets, in fact, was more isolated than ever.
Two centre-backs behind his back, but a few meters separated him from Gavi and Pedri – positioned high, between the lines: Did Barcelona try to burn steps, by placing its two, teenager interiors, in spots where they often were unreachable. Even Pedri – as good as he is, and he indeed was an exception to the rule – could not shine as much as usual (though his performance remains decent, despite the mess). Gavi, with character, but lacks the technique – and hardly can be blamed, also found it hard to print his footprint on the pitch. Shouldn’t Xavi also carry responsibility for his recent set-ups, despite the injuries?
Very Tough situation
Barcelona bled. And left a few feathers – It’s today unlikely to see Barcelona make it to the Champions League’s Last 16. A shame for Barcelona in terms of finance. With high investment come high expectations, and with high disappointment comes high questioning. There was a general trend of Xavi having improved Barcelona’s dynamics. But the past months has, in a justified manner, brought more doubts than ever on the former Barcelona player.
Will Joan Laporta will trust him to overturn a rather dire situation? It is an evaluation that will have to be re-taken at the end of the season. Yesterday, fans expressed their outrage. The fresh blood, the stain on the shirt isn’t to be forgotten . And that, even if Barcelona are to win La Liga – an uncertain event. An uncertainty on many front that will hover over Barcelona’s heads for the next months. That of course if we won’t see immediate improvement in the next months.