Andrés Iniesta is one of the best players in the world. Period. He has the "it" factor, an ability to create scoring chances for others out of nowhere. He can also enter the box like few midfielders in the world, ready to strike and score important goals, like this one, for example.
Iniesta plays in such a high level that any performance not in the "spectacular" standard is considered a bad day by Andrés. In fact, many Barcelona fans and other football analysts argue that Iniesta is not playing like he usually does at the beginning of this season. They try to use different arguments: some say he's too old and declining. Others say coach Luis Enrique has sacrificed Andrés in order to implement his system, and that led to a bad start by Barça's number 8.
I, personally, have two letters for the critics: B.S.
Andrés is not old. He's not even close to being at the stage of decline in his career. And yes, Luis Enrique's new tactics have changed Iniesta's role on the team. That is why we are not seeing the same Iniesta of years before. That's because we are looking at a new, improved version of Andrés.
With the arrival of Lucho, a new system was implemented in the Catalan side. And three players in particular are the heart and soul of this new system. Sergio Busquets is the anchor, the player that links defense and offense and makes the engine function. Lionel Messi is the boss, the guy who finishes the plays started by Busquets. The third one is Iniesta. He's the new Xavi.
"Wait, isn't Ivan Rakitic the new Xavi?" Nope. Rakitic is Rakitic. The reason why we loved him right away is that he plays within himself, doing only what he knows, not trying to do something he is not comfortable with. Iniesta is the new Xavi because he's the most special part of the midfield. He's the different guy. He's the guy who can make a simple play become something spectacular in any moment. But he's also the guy who needs to keep the engine running while nothing special happens. He needs to help Rakitic in the creation department, something he didn't need to do when Xavi was there every night.
The new Iniesta plays closer to midfield than to the box. He is not the second left-winger anymore. Now he is the actual left midfielder, and he's the guy feeding the strikers and the full-backs who overlap him. It doesn't offer him the same glory as the previous role. But it's even more important to the team than before.
That's why he's the captain. He has become the de facto leader of the midfield, the technical reference. The next Xavi. And Iniesta has embraced that role with open arms. But the good news is: he can still be the killer, the guy surprisingly entering the box to receive a ball and score. Just understand, he's not supposed to do that every game.
So, if you're looking for the old Iniesta, watch this video over and over again. You won't be seeing much of that for a while. Learn to appreciate the new Xavi playing on the left. Andrés is still the God of Mids. He's just a different god now.
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