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Are Barcelona going backwards under Xavi this season?

The Catalans are struggling

FC Barcelona v Deportivo Alaves - LaLiga EA Sports Photo by Urbanandsport/NurPhoto via Getty Images

It’s often said that a brilliant football player does not a good manager make, and the reverse is also true.

Sir Alex Ferguson for example, was a player that wasn’t anything special but remains the greatest manager of the modern era.

Pep Guardiola is going some way to disproving the saying and Zinedine Zidane deserves a mention too, albeit his managerial career hasn’t really had any longevity at this point.

Xavi Hernandez was the finest of midfielders for Barcelona, but he’s certainly been found wanting as coach of the club.

One has to take his circumstances into account of course. It’s unfair to judge him against Guardiola’s standard given that he’s had to work for the best part of his two years with one hand behind his back.

FC Shakhtar Donetsk v FC Barcelona: Group H - UEFA Champions League 2023/24 Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

However, hand on heart, no one can say that he’s actually improved any of the first-team during his tenure thus far.

There simply isn’t enough progression in technical and tactical aspects and one of the players that’s most obviously stagnated in terms of development is Alejandro Balde.

His pace and energy are the same now as when he broke into the team - as is his woeful final ball. Why can’t the technical staff at the club see that?!

There are plenty of other examples that don’t need to be detailed here, suffice to say that this Barca variant appears very reactive rather than proactive, and that’s on Xavi and his backroom team.

Furthermore, the team are letting in too many goals, points are generally less than they have been at this stage in a campaign and just two per game scored is far less than expected against some accommodating opponents.

There isn’t even the excuse of not having the right standard of players in situ anymore, because, frankly, the likes of Joao Felix, Ronald Araujo, Robert Lewandowski et al will all get in most squads with ease.

FC Barcelona v Real Madrid - LaLiga EA Sports Photo by David S.Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

It’s about getting the maximum out of the squad every week. Knowing which players can win Barca their games against certain opponents and choosing an XI accordingly.

Having an idea on how subs might affect proceedings rather than just throwing them on at 60 minutes in most games whether the team are winning, losing or drawing.

Finding the one tactical aspect during the game that you know will help win you the game rather than letting things play out and ‘see what happens.’

Understand that there has to be other ways to play against teams which have a low block and play on the counter - rather than just sitting back and hoping the team will work it out eventually.

Effecting play. Actually doing something that changes the course of a match.

These and so many other things can still be levelled at Xavi after two years and that simply isn’t good enough.

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