Barcelona finally appointed Xavi as their man at helms. With the appointment of Xavi Hernandez as Barcelona coach, there is a lot of excitement. Everyone is excited to see what Xavi does with this set of Barca players. Xavi will be expected to turn things around for this Barcelona team right from its mentality to physicality. He will have come up with fresh ideas and old Barca philosophy.
With a new approach and Xavi’s way of doing things, some players are rightly expected to break out of their shells. While some expected to fall off the pecking order and eventually fall out of favor.
Here in this article, We look at some winners and some losers from the Barcelona squad after the appointment of Xavi Hernandez as their head coach.
The player who will be most benefited from Xavi’s arrival will be Dembele. Dembele’s stay at Barca has been not an easy ride. Since the day he arrived, injuries have derailed this astonishing player. Funny enough say but Dembele gets a new coach every time he returns from injury. The former Dortmund man has never been settled at Barcelona and might find a savior in form of Xavi.
Xavi has brought in their own medical staff and strength and conditioning coach which might prove a game-changer for Dembele. Xavi has often expressed his fondness for the 24-year-old and has manifested a certain penchant for players of his profile. This can be evident from Xavi’s words at the presentation (as Barca coach) when asked about Dembele.
“Dembele, well prepared, can be the best player in the world in his position, he has the qualities to make a difference at Barça and to become a world star.”
It is easy to understand why Xavi shows faith and believes in Dembele as his (Xavi) entire gameplay is based on having quality wingers at both ends of the field. Throughout his stint at Al Sadd, the wide players have played a major role. They have often stretched out and pushed back the opposing defense. As a result of that, it creates an ample amount of pressure and chances to score. Now, at Barça, the quality of options out wide is richer while still being far from ideal. Barca already lacks in this department and now injuries made matters worse.
Now when it comes to wide play Ousmane Dembele is almost unmatched when he is fit and in full flow. The Frenchman thrives when glued to the touchline. From here he can show his ostentation and rapid change of pace and direction which never fail to place the defender on the back foot. His rapid acceleration helps to repel the opponent’s backline which in turn generates plentiful space between the lines. This creates pressure which results in mistakes from the opposition and to Barca’s advantage.
Thus Xavi will have a big task at hand to get the best out of Dembele and to keep injury-free. For 24 year old considering his price tag, this is a make or break for him.
2. Riqui Puig
Known as the forgotten man under Koeman. Puig will have sye of relief seeing Xavi at helms. The 22-year-old spent the past two years languishing on the bench, with no backing whatsoever on Ronald Koeman’s part. Puig Barca’s career might be rejuvenated. It is no surprise why everyone sees Puig as the next big thing. He unique ability to break through tight situations and provide that one killer pass. Puig brings energy and constant action, speeding up the tempo and being a continual nuisance for the opposition.
But for Koeman, this was of insignificant importance and he thus ignored the 22year old. For almost 15 months Puig lived a life of reject. He was never given opportunities. He was criticized for lacking the physical aspect of his game. Xavi’s appointment could come to Puig’s rescue. The 41-year-old has claimed that previous performances will be of little importance. This means that everyone will now have an equal crack and chances to stake their claim at a starting spot. Can Puig impress Xavi to get a spot in Eleven only time will tell?
3. Sergio Busquets
Regarding as one of the best defensive midfielders of this game. Busquets have struggled from the past few seasons at Barca. Busquets is a player who can thrive when played to his strengths. We have seen Busquets getting outpaced and out-matched these days when playing for Barca. On the contrary, when you see him play for Spain he is almost untouchable in that midfield. Busquets for Spain becomes a different beast altogether.
Let’s dive deep into this in Spain Busquets is played under a well-oiled system of 4-3-3 surrounded by quality players. At Barcelona, he has quality around him but lacks a system that plays to his strengths. Barca since way back lacked a proper system. One after the other, Ernesto Valverde, Quique Setien, and Ronald Koeman have failed to construct a system in which Busquets would blossom. Now with Xavi’s arrival, things will hopefully change.
With Busquets being his former teammate Xavi knows his strength and weakness and he would certainly get the best out of Busquets. Hopefully, we will see old Busquets back in Blaugrana colors soon.
1. Luuk de Jong
Luuk De Jong and FC Barcelona is certainly a mismatch made in heavens. LDJ from nowhere looks like a Barcelona player. His style of play is not that of Barcelona. Yet the Former Barcelona Manager Koeman insisted on getting him. Koeman got Luke on deadline day on the loan deal. Koeman went on extend of saying Luke is better than Neymar while defending his signing when questioned upon.
The 31-year-old Dutchman is suited for a system that plays on the counterattack. His strengths are aerial gameplay; Converting crosses put forth into goals. He is a classic Poacher. Luke’s stay in Laliga has not been that good, leave apart his Barca stay. Since joining Sevilla back in 2019 Luuk’s career graph has slide downwards. For Sevilla, he was 3rd choice Centre forward.
Since joining Barca Luuk has been ineffective in all aspects. He is not that mobile striker who will press at possession loss. Luuk has often been used as a last resort at the club. Since the arrival of Xavi and considering his style of play it’s evident that Luuk’s spell at Barca is outnumbered. Barca might cut the loan deal short in January itself.
Coutinho’s Barcelona career has been utterly disastrous. The €135 million that went down the drain with his signing have caused colossal damage to the club. While the Brazilian has done little to nothing even to justify a quarter of that price tag. The general impression is that no matter who is in charge, the 29-year-old is living on borrowed time. Signing Coutinho was an error itself. Coutinho has never impressed Blaugrana irrespective of the manager in charge.
The former Liverpool man struggled at Barca ever since he joined as he no fixed position of his own. Coutinho isn’t fully a Barcelona winger nor he is a typical Barcelona midfielder. His situation at Barcelona is a case study subject in itself. He was already falling out of favor now after his refusal for salary reduction matters has become worst. Now with Xavi’s arrival, he will bring a clear system and philosophy with him. Coutinho doesn’t seem to fit in Xavi Barca neither as a winger nor as a midfielder.
3. Marc-Andre Ter Stegen
Seeing this name in this list might have raised some eyebrows. Ter Stegen has often been considered untouchable at Barca. Stegen has been instrumental in Barca’s success over the years. But if closely watched Ter Stegen has struggled a lot since the past few seasons. He has not been the same Stegen airlines that used to bring top-notch saves. He is committing silly errors and conceding easy goals.
Two consecutive knee operations are most likely the main culprits behind his downfall. But to his credit, Stegen has already had sufficient time to return to his best. Right now, it simply looks like a complete comeback is out of the 29-year-old’s reach. With Xavi’s arrival, everyone will have to start from scratch and no one is untouchable anymore.
If Stegen fails to impress the coach, out of favored Neto is waiting in line. Also considering Xavi’s fondness for La Massia 2 graduates are patiently waiting for their turn. Inaki Pena and Arnau Tenas are regarded as the best goalkeepers so far coming out of Iconic Barca Academy. These 2 can easily replace Ter Stegen in starting 11 when called upon. Xavi’s evaluation will be based on pure merit, which means that competition will be in abundance. It is now or never for the German.
While it holds true for the discipline part that contributes to a much more efficient display of football especially with Barcelona, it also will really depend on the players readily taking to understanding their game requirements individually. And while Xavi may do his very best, it’s the players at the end of the day that need to stand up to the task at hand.
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