- Arthiac Team
Real Betis took the trip to Catalonia as they faced FC Barcelona in their own backyard in a game which saw Xavi and his boys come on the back of two consecutive La Liga wins against Espanyol and Villarreal, but it all felt gloomy over the Camp Nou as Real Betis claimed a 1-0 win.
Over the years, Real Betis have been giving the Catalan side a good run for their money in terms of performances, but results went in favour of Barcelona. This time around, it was a different story when it came to the results as Juanmi emerged from the pack to give Los Verdiblancos all three points at the Camp Nou.
Apparently, it's the first loss for Barcelona in La Liga under the Xavi era. That definitely sounds bad!
It sounds bad and it tastes sour because if you look at the way Barcelona have been performing since Xavi arrived, you could say that they have not been so convincing (let alone pleasing) in terms of their performances on the field. On many occasions, they have just managed to creep through, scrape a victory and claim all three points.
Since Xavi arrived, the hype and the vibe has been positive around the club as he clearly represents what the DNA is all about in the iconic Catalan side. On the 21st of November, 2021 - Xavi took charge for the first time as a manager of his own beloved club against Espanyol after his stint as the head coach of Al Sadd (A Qatari based club). Memphis Depay came up with the goods after scoring a penalty which was enough to claim all three points as Xavi's men held on that goal. On another day, a regular Barca side would go on and put four or five past their opponents, but they seemed to cling on to that one goal lead as much as they could.
A week later, in La Liga, they took the trip to Villarreal where they played the Yellow Submarines in their own backyard. That was a frantic game which ebbed and flowed, but the men the red and blue were probably lucky to escape a draw or a loss as Unai Emery's boys were not clinical enough in the final third. That game ended in a 3-1 win for the visitors.
With the way Barca have been playing since Xavi arrived, it was bound to know that they would eventually slip and they did just that. Fast forward one week and we have the game against Real Betis where Xavi and his boys fail to impress and build on their consecutive La Liga wins.
Before Xavi arrived at the club, it was evident that he had a lot of work to do to get this Barca side up and running this season as well as in the years to come. He may have got two winning results that has lifted their overall league position, but the cracks are still wide open at the helm of Camp Nou.
Right now, at this point in time, Barcelona are not playing as a team. They are struggling to get going, they are finding it hard to connect the dots on a regular basis. At the end of the day, they rely on individuals to come up with the goals to take this team over the line. It's the same situation that Manchester United find themselves in. They rely and depend on individual brilliance when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was in charge of the first team squad.
We are all keen to see the difference that Xavi has made to this side, but so far, it's just been four games that he has managed so far. The sample size is small for sure, but against Betis, there were little spells during the game where we could see the kind of play and vision that Xavi wants his team to play which included high intensity, high press and wide play. Wide play was used in the glory days of the club when Dani Alves and Jordi Alba owned their respective wings with Messi and Neymar alongside them.
That style of play was halted by Betis as they restricted the movement of the Catalan boys and took the game to the hosts. With Manuel Pellegrini in charge of Betis, the experienced manager is able to see the game well and ask his players to adapt accordingly, which is why Betis were able to identify the threat caused to them and overcome it.
The Barcelona manager is probably not able to get his message across to his boys clearly. Xavi needs to allow his players to play and demand a lot from them as well. It's not just about going forward and being cheeky upfront. You need to be resolute and stubborn while it comes to putting in the yards defensively.
On the other hand, Xavi is looking to make effective and efficient use of his squad by giving players an opportunity to be out there on the field. We've seen Coutinho off late and we've also seen Gavi, Nico and Ezzalzouli getting more playing minutes than what they used to get when Ronald Koeman was in charge. Obviously, more often than not, giving minutes to these young players at this stage of the season can prove costly as things may go haywire. By the time the season comes to a close, you could be in a position where you'll need to make up for a lot of lost ground. It will be difficult to make up for it as there is no sign so far that this Barcelona side can click continuously week in and week out.
Philippe Coutinho is one of the most experienced members of this squad, but injuries have kept him stalled at a point where there is a ray of hope that he could still deliver for the club like he used to back in Liverpool. His current manager is that ray of hope. He's been giving the Brazilian a few minutes on the field to prove himself that he can be worth a portion of every penny that Barcelona have spent on him.
However, we might see a lot of these fringe players getting a chance as the season progresses, but that may all change depending on the outcome of what their Champions League fixture against Bayern Munich holds for them. That game holds everything on the line for those associated with the club as they need to pick themselves up and get a win against the German champions.
Having mentioned it, that win is not going to come easy as the Bavarians will be looking to deepen the wounds of the Catalan club especially after what happened at the Ballon D'or ceremony where Lionel Messi was crowned the winner while many suggested that Robert Lewandowski deserved the award.
Bayern's Thomas Muller has indicated that the Bavarians will come strong and hit hard in their next match starting from the Champions League to send out a message to the hierarchy at France Football (French Magazine that presents the Ballon D'or). Sadly, for the Barca fans, that Champions League fixture is against their own club. Based on the results that have taken place between these two sides in the last 18 months, you can be rest assured that things will get pretty ugly for FC Barcelona.
At the end of the day, we need to be patient with FC Barcelona. We've all been blinded by their success and glory in the last decade. Things have changed and the football world has evolved where FC Barcelona are not a prime European giant. Right now, Barcelona are completely dependent on the likes of Gavi, Nico, Abde Ezzalzouli, Ansu Fati, Pedri and a few more. They are dependent on their youngsters to deliver a lot. You could say that it's not good for something such as this to happen and expect it from these youngster's in their side, but that's the REALITY.
The Reality is that this is where FC Barcelona are now and this is where they may be for a few years. The positives with this is that the youngster's are having a good exposure of the game and it's intensity at a very young age. By the time these youngster's mature, you could say that they could be world class in their respective positions.
The expectations are just so high and our suggestion is that we should probably lower the expectations on this Barcelona side. On one hand, it's good that the club are dependent on these youngsters to deliver because of the exposure they get, but keeping the levels high for sustainable periods might be a big task for the players. You may crack or excel under enormous pressure.
Xavi is doing the right thing by giving players a chance whether they are youngsters or seniors, but the chemistry needs to develop as soon as possible especially with games arriving thick and fast on the horizon, in particular, their Champions League fixture on Wednesday night against the mighty Bayern Munich.