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Clasico defeat highlights Barcelona’s midfield problems

There’s one man for the job to improve an key part of the team

FC Barcelona v Real Madrid CF - La Liga Santander Photo by Adria Puig/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

To be clear, no one covered themselves in glory in an agonizingly predictable and pitiful performance in the Clasico.

Ronald Koeman was the same old manager devoid of ideas, and incapable of finding a formula to win a big game.

Not a single player was able to impact the match in a positive way when it mattered.

If Sergino Dest had converted his chance, the game certainly heads in a different direction.

If Oscar Mingueza had made the tackle in transition, maybe his side would have lived to make a game of it.

But analyzing this match in tandem with the Atletico Madrid capitulation, a different problem has emerged that has flown under the radar of late.

Barcelona’s midfield is woefully underperforming on both sides of the ball, and with it the Blaugrana are losing what makes them who they are.

FC Barcelona v Real Madrid - La Liga Santander Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

Defensively, Barcelona’s forwards are losing the ball cheaply, and the defenders are getting bullied on the other end. But in between, the midfield is doing little to help in transition.

In the attack, the play has become painfully slow and horizontal. Sergio Busquets will occasionally play a dangerous ball forward, but Frenkie de Jong has been invisible, and questions will soon be raised regarding whether we are projecting too much onto young Gavi.

Losing Ilaix Moriba’s profile really was unfortunate.

I suppose we’ll never know what could have been with another promising young midfielder who’s wasting away on the bench as his manager ignores one of the best weapons at his disposal.

The teenagers may be the future, but right now it’s wishful thinking to expect them to be the difference makers on a weekly basis in La Liga.

FC Barcelona v Real Madrid CF - La Liga Santander Photo by Jose Breton/Pics Action/NurPhoto via Getty Images

More than ever, it seems to me that Xavi Hernandez may be the man for this moment.

It’s a risk, but like Pep Guardiola and Luis Enrique before him, Barcelona would do well to return to their roots and bring in a manager with a Barca midfielder’s mind.

Is it realistic to think this team will ever win by way of being the biggest, strongest, or fastest? No way.

But with someone like Xavi around, win or lose, you would get intensity. He would demand it, and you would see immediate improvements with the organization and purpose in possession up and down the pitch.

Who else would you want mentoring Pedri, Gavi, and Riqui Puig during their formative years?

It would be a project, but one worth investing and believing in.

But in the meantime, Barcelona is stuck with what it has.

FC Barcelona v Real Madrid CF - LaLiga Santander Photo by Pedro Salado/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

No one should expect anything to change with Ronald Koeman, but I really do hope to see better performances from Sergio Busquets and Frenkie de Jong in particular.

They are the leaders in the heart of the field, and over the course of a 90 minute game at the Camp Nou, success and failure starts and ends there.

It can be easy to get frustrated by the lack of quality from the forwards, and the fragility of the defenders, but we can’t forget to demand more from the playmakers in the middle of the pitch as well.

They are the engine that makes the team go. They are the navigators that choose the path forward.

We are crying out for direction and rhythm. For fighters who proactively win the ball back.

The midfield needs to lead and give more.

This is Barcelona after all.

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