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A reminder that Xavi’s project at Barcelona will take time and patience

Betis throws cold water on Barcelona in a critical match

FC Barcelona v Real Betis - La Liga Santander Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images

Like many Barca fans, I’m past being surprised and angry by bad results.

When Xavi arrived, it was under very challenging circumstances, with a tough run of high stake games, and limited player options.

Unlike his playing days, however, Barca fans are now clear eyed realists. The romance of the greatest generation is gone. And that can, and should, work to his benefit as he forges a path forward.

Betis is a good team, coached by a savvy world class manager in Manuel Pellegrini, who are playing with confidence (look no further than the Pellegrini and Hector Bellerin mullets), and really starting to hit their stride in his second season at the club.

FC Barcelona v Real Betis - La Liga Santander Photo by Eric Alonso/Getty Images

This was a tricky game, and ultimately luck was on their side.

Watching Xavi manage the team, however, has been fascinating.

Full of good, bad, and curious decisions, but ultimately you can’t be mad at him, because you’re seeing a manager actively try to figure things out.

In this one, he made the controversial decisions to not start Ousmane Dembele and Frenkie de Jong, likely resting them for the Bayern Munich showdown midweek.

That’s interesting because it reveals how important this year’s Champions League is to Xavi, while others may argue that prioritizing domestic games should be paramount.

Call him crazy, or disagree with his decisions, but unlike his predecessor, you can’t claim that Xavi lacks ambition and belief in his team.

FC Barcelona v Real Betis - La Liga Santander Photo by Eric Alonso/Getty Images

If Barca makes a real go of it against the Bavarians, Xavi deserves credit for setting them up for success, even if it came at the expense of a league game.

If they go down easily, he’ll have to own it.

After all, Dembele is showing that he is a one man show, coming on and registering four shots, more than any other player, in less than one half of play.

Add his presence with Frenkie from the get go, and you’re increasing your goal expectancy significantly, and the likelihood of bagging a very important three points against a rival for the top four.

For now, however, there’s no choice but to trust the process with Xavi as our fearless leader navigating through these turbulent times.

He’s putting in the work tactically and through team building, so that the players trust one another and can rebound from a setback.

The tactics are a work in progress, which was plain to see against Betis and Villarreal, but he’s already repairing the culture, and getting his players to buy into what he’s building.

The January transfer window will be fascinating, as well as the Dembele contract negotiations.

But Xavi is saying all the right things, and doing his best to make lemonade.

Dembele is showing in limited minutes why he’s holding out for the best contract he can get, and it’s clear that Xavi wants and needs him, but the precarious financial picture may prohibit taking risks on an expensive player with a poor injury record.

FC Barcelona v Real Betis - La Liga Santander Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images

But who else could the club realistically bring in that would make an instant impact?

Philippe Coutinho has shown glimpses lately of regaining his form, but ultimately Xavi will need wingers who can stretch the field.

Maybe it’s time to move Memphis Depay to the left, and find an alternative as a center forward.

These are big questions that the manager and club will have to address, and soon.

Going into the new year, the objectives for the season will be clear, and it won’t be about winning trophies, but about building the infrastructure to become a perennial winner again, as soon as possible.

Sport is already declaring “Es lo que hay”, after this disappointing result.

I disagree completely. This is not just what it is with this Barcelona team.

There’s lots of potential, and throughout this journey with Xavi, if we give him the time and patience he deserves, we’re going to see it.

And an interesting journey it’s sure to be.

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