It’s an obvious statement to make, but that’s a game that Barcelona would’ve lost under Ronald Koeman.
At times there was about as much direction from the bench as the Dutchman seemed to muster, though Xavi rode his luck and eventually saw his side do enough to see the game out.
Indeed, there were large parts of Saturday night’s game that were a very tough watch indeed for Barca fans.
Play was disjointed and not at all fluid, and once the Yellow Submarine pulled one back, it appeared that the only winners, if there was to be one, would be the home side.
Bringing on Oscar Mingueza rather than Sergino Dest also appeared to be an odd decision from the coach though it’s possible Xavi has been conditioned by the issues that occur when rushing players back.
Reintroducing Ousmane Dembele gradually for example, is exactly the right way to be going about things, and with the expected addition of Dr. Ricard Pruna to the medical team, perhaps persistent injury concerns will once again become a thing of the past.
It would be easy to be overly critical, however, this is a project that is still in its infancy and there was enough to be happy about across the 90 minutes.
What seems obvious is that Xavi already has the buy in from his players that Koeman never did, and that’s a great basis from which to build.
As with the Villarreal test there will be bumps in the road along the way, and the important thing to note is how his young players bounce back from any disappointments.
Clearly, most of them have what it takes in terms of skill set to wear the blaugrana with pride, but what sort of mentality do they have? How long will the disappointments linger?
At least in Xavi they have a coach who perfectly well understands what’s necessary to succeed, both on and off the pitch. Maybe he’s a lucky coach too, and that’s certainly no bad thing.
Ultimately, playing eye-catching football with young bucks is all well and good, but at this stage all that matters is getting results and climbing back up the league table.
With over half of the season still to go, there’s plenty of time for more expansive fare further down the road.
For now, let’e enjoy the fact we’ve won two in a row for the first time this season, and a first away win to boot.