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Xavi needs to inject more urgency into Barcelona’s play

Laboured at Alaves

Deportivo Alaves v FC Barcelona - La Liga Santander Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

The performance at Alaves wasn’t anywhere close to being acceptable for Xavi, Joan Laporta or Barcelona’s supporters.

The hosts did next to nothing in the game, especially in the opening 45 minutes, but Barca couldn’t take advantage and that’s a real problem.

At half-time, the stats showed the visitors had enjoyed 72 percent possession.

Possession-based stats are all well and good if there’s actually an end product of course, and time and again that wasn’t provided.

Sergino Dest certainly didn't cover himself in glory after being handed a surprise start by Xavi, but he was hardly the only one who deserved criticism.

Deportivo Alaves v FC Barcelona - La Liga Santander Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

Captain Sergio Busquets arguably had one of his worst games in a Barca shirt. His passing was off, positioning nowhere close to as good as it normally is and, dare we say it, he was something of a liability.

Ditto Frenkie de Jong who is really suffering from a crisis of confidence at the moment. One moment in the second 45, when he tried to control the ball only for it to escape his attentions, is symptomatic of how things have been going for the Dutchman of late, and his late match winner doesn’t change that.

Lest we forget that Alaves have the third worst defensive record in La Liga, and yet they kept the Blaugranes at bay right up until that 85th-minute intervention.

Ez Abde did at least try and stay on the front foot, but he remains very raw at present and needs to pick and choose his runs in order to ensure that his forays into opposition territory are successful incursions.

There was no real urgency to Barca’s play for long periods. Indeed, Barcelona were predictable, laboured in their work generally and far, far too slow for the most part in Vitoria.

Athletic Club v FC Barcelona - Copa Del Rey Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

That, more than anything else Xavi does, has to be the first thing that is sorted in order for everything else to - hopefully - drop into place.

Risk brings reward, and that isn’t necessarily done by pumping long, aimless balls up to the strikers and hoping that something will happen against a well-drilled outfit playing a low block.

Maybe Xavi also needs to take a look at himself too. Tactically, the visitors didn’t really offer anything different, and that’s on the manager.

After 14 games in charge, his record is actually on a par with Ronald Koeman’s.

That’s where the comparisons should end of course, unless there isn’t an upturn in a number of different areas.

Goals for, goals conceded and popping the ball around to make the opposition work are all facets of Barca’s play that must be improved.