As a new season gains momentum, the inevitability of suspension and injuries to first team players poses a problem for any coach. Raphinha has served his first suspension of the season. Pedri is already out injured.
A team without enough squad depth will suffer the most. And in today’s footballing world top teams who aspire to clinch the biggest prizes must have a squad stacked with the right amount of top talent.
In spite of the fact that FC Barcelona did great business in the summer transfer window, bringing in a number of proven players of a high level, there still remains one position light on skilled options. That position is the defensive-midfield position.
Sergio Busquets’ departure last season meant bringing in his replacement this term was imperative. A number of options were explored over the summer transfer window. Yet, eventually, Oriol Romeu was chosen to fill the void.
Xavi is pleased with the signing of Oriol Romeu. But Xavi is also the first to recognise that Oriol Romeu is but a short-term solution. The former Girona player is on the wrong side of age 30. Therefore, FC Barcelona would have to go into the transfer market and acquire a defensive-midfielder for the long-term.
Lack of squad depth in the ‘Pivot’ position
For now, Oriol Romeu remains the only player in the Barça squad who is a natural defensive-midfielder. Of course, other players such as De Jong and Gundogan could do decent jobs inheriting that role. However, in the short-term, Xavi sees Andreas Christensen as someone with the personality to excel in that crucial position. Christensen enjoyed a splendid first season with Barcelona. His high level plus consistency ensured he was an indisputable starter for Barça last term. It is a huge surprise to absolutely no one that Xavi Hernandez raves about the Danish no end in his press conferences.
Word emanating from the camp of the Barça technical team, according to MD, has it that Xavi is clear in his mind Christensen could be valuable to the squad as back up to Romeu in defensive-midfield this campaign. The arrival of Inigo Martinez and the presence of Kounde, Araujo and Christensen himself means Barça’s centre-back options are brimming with quality.
Christensen – A serious option for the Pivot role?
At 27, Christensen has played as a center-back for most of his footballing career. It was only on vanishingly few occasions that he featured in defensive-midfield for the Denmark and Chelsea youth teams. But those days seem like a lifetime ago. Could he do a decent job in Oriol Romeu’s absence in a high-stakes game? Will Xavi Hernandez prefer using Christensen in low-stakes games in order to give rest to Romeu at some point in the season?
Christensen may have the physical attributes to excel in that pivot role. He may have the sixth sense to plug the gaps and snuff out dangerous attacks in the heart of midfield. He may have the positional and spatial awareness so needed to thrive in the middle of the park. But until the Danish plays and excels there, we may actually not know if he’s a good fit for that role. Like Eric Garcia before him, Christensen may be the latest central defender Xavi deploys in the defensive-midfield position.