Xavi has a few questions as the international break goes on, namely about how to set up his defense.
He has plenty of talented players, who can occupy multiple positions. But it’s not clear who his preferred starters for big games will be, or where they will play.
We can assume that Ronald Araujo will feature, but the question remains: as a center-back, or a right-back?
Against Deportivo Alavés, the Uruguayan played as a right-back, with Jules Koundé in the middle of defense.
What took place probably made him regret this choice as Samu Omorodion scored a goal in the opening minutes, and in general was proving way too much for Koundé to handle. Frankly, Omorodion was beating Koundé with alarming regularity.
At half-time, Xavi had had enough. He swapped Koundé and Araujo around. The result: Araujo handled Omorodion well, while Koundé got an assist from the right-back spot. FC Barcelona eventually took the win, 2-1.
The Frenchman played mostly on the right last season, but it’s understood his preferred post is center-back. However, his display in that particular match did not bring a lot of confidence.
To be fair, he has only just recovered from an injury and was playing better beforehand. Still, it’s possible that Xavi could be thinking about using Koundé less regularly as a centerback.
João Cancelo, who plays mostly as a right-back, can then slot over to left-back. That, however, leaves Alejandro Balde on the bench. The youngster has been praised ever since he erupted into the team. But some have questioned his recent form.
You could play with both Cancelo and Balde, which may have been part of Xavi’s plan. But having two attacking fullbacks at the same time could leave the defense a little bit exposed.
Iñigo Martínez and Andreas Christensen have played well when given a chance and that opens the door for one of them to start as a center-back. Then, you could push Koundé over to right-back, and play either Cancelo or Balde on the left.
It’s definitely a possibility, and basically what Xavi used successfully in the second half against Alavés. There are some, however, who think that having both Cancelo and Balde at the same time is the optimal course. Their speed and ability on the ball is matched by very few fullbacks in the world. Koundé may recover form and play better alongside Araujo in the middle of defense. Certainly, that was the original plan. Is it too soon to abandon it? I leave that question to you, the reader.