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How do Barcelona solve a problem like Ansu Fati?

Still a long way from his best

FC Barcelona V RCD Espanyol - La Liga Photo by Gongora/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Saturday afternoon’s Catalan derby played out pretty much as expected for the most part - Mateu Lahoz’s pathetic refereeing display aside.

The official should never be allowed to set foot on a football pitch again.

In any event, the added spice of having Robert Lewandowski available for the Blaugranes didn’t seem to spur the visitors on, particularly in the first 45 where Barca’s 10 shots to Espanyol’s one evidenced the home side’s dominance to that point.

Only once they were awarded a soft penalty did Barca’s city rivals look to make a game of it.

Xavi Hernandez’s side were otherwise reasonably good value for a victory in a match which had a real pre-season feel to it.

Barça were content to keep ball, occasionally stepping up the pace as required. They weren’t fantastic but neither were they awful. They were better than the scoreline suggests shall we say.

FC Barcelona V RCD Espanyol - La Liga Photo by Gongora/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Sadly, some decent patterns of play notwithstanding, they weren’t able to properly rattle a team that were there for the taking.

A player that could previously take full advantage of most goalscoring situations was once again found wanting.

Xavi wants Ansu Fati to show his true colours in the second half of 22/23, but he was a yard off the pace throughout his time on the pitch, and rarely troubled his marker.

Early in the second half, a half-chance from a Sergi Roberto knock-down would’ve normally been manna from heaven for Fati.

Not on this occasion.

Controlling simple passes from team-mates strangely also appeared to be beyond him at times too.

That reticence to make life difficult for his opposite number evidenced his continuing lack of confidence and perhaps a tendency to overthink things at the point when he should be unleashing Exocets as he did pre-injury.

FC Barcelona v Athletic Club - LaLiga Santander Photo by Pedro Salado/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Clearly, one of Xavi’s biggest tasks is to tap into Ansu’s mindset and, somehow, manage to help him get back to somewhere approaching his best.

That sort of form that will see the youngster as a fixture in the starting line up.

Should he not be able to shake himself out of his current funk, whisper it quietly, but maybe the No.10 will find his best position in the squad is coming on as an impact sub.

Giving him the benefit of the doubt, if we take this as a ‘first game of the season’ type scenario, perhaps Ansu has another 4-6 weeks within which to get the old spark back.

If it continues to desert him, however, there surely won’t be any arguments as to having Raphinha, Ousmane Dembele or Ferran Torres as the starting wide men.

A real shame for Ansu if that happens, but the team must always come first.

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