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Three talking points from Barcelona 2-4 Girona

Xavi’s side sunk by their local rivals

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

Girona mean business

Girona beat Barcelona 4-2 on Sunday to return to the top of the table and show they really are a force to be reckoned with this season in La Liga.

Michel’s side lead the way on 41 points, have scored the most goals so far in La Liga and also have the most wins. There’s no doubt they deserve top spot after 16 games.

Few people expect Girona to challenge for the title, but Sunday’s win over Barcelona suggests they have what it takes to stay in contention and ‘do a Leicester.’

Michel’s side were deserved winners at Montjuic. They caused problems all night, had the game’s best player in Miguel Gutierrez and can now celebrate a first ever win over their local rivals.

For Barcelona there is now a lot of work to do once again. Xavi’s side are seven points off the top, have issues in attack and defense and are certainly not playing like champions.

What’s happened to Barca’s defense?

Barcelona’s defense shipped four on Sunday against Girona and, despite summer additions, continues to look a shadow of its former self.

It’s not just the backline though. There’s a passivity to Barcelona this season that Girona fully enjoyed. Too often the visitors were simply allowed to waltz through the Barca midfield and head for goal.

The absence of Gavi was really felt on Sunday. Not just his willingness to fly around the pitch and put in a tackle, but also his attitude, intensity and desire.

This was a game against a top-of-the-table rival, one that offered Barca the chance to cut the gap to Girona, a concept the visitors seemed to grap fully - unlike Xavi’s side.

Barca’s defensive structure was pretty abysmal all night and things then got very messy in the second half as Xavi made his substitutions. The hosts then ended up playing with a centre back as a right-back, a right back as a left-back, and a left-back as a centre back.

The defense was Barcelona’s greatest strength last season and a key reason why Xavi’s side won the league. Yet it’s a different story entirely this time around and one Xavi needs to address if his team are to improve.

What’s happened to Barcelona’s attack?

There are also big question marks in attack after Barcelona managed to score just two goals despite having 31 shots on target throughout the 90 minutes. Eleven of those were actually on target but unable to beat goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga.

Robert Lewandowski did score but really should have added another late on when presented with a glorious opportunity. The Poland international looked odds on to put it away, and make the game 3-3, but somehow messed up his header. Girona escaped, promptly ran up the pitch and made it 4-2. Game over.

Raphinha put in another frustrating performance, to such an extent the rumor mill is already banging on about him being swapped for Man Utd exile Jadon Sancho.

The sight of the much-maligned Eric Garcia enjoying himself against Barca’s forwards pretty much said it all and left Xavi unhappy with both ends of the pitch.

“We are angry about the defeat because we had the game in our hands, he said. “We have not taken advantage of our moments while Girona did. It was two teams exchanging blows, they took their chances and we didn’t.

“We had 30-odd shots. We have to be more clinical and we have to be more solid in defence, which was also one of the reasons for the defeat.”

His comment evokes memories of that infamous Man Utd tweet which was 10 years old this weekend: “David Moyes says #mufc must improve in a number of areas, including passing, creating chances and defending.”

Certainly the scrutiny on Xavi will be increasing after this result and questions will be being asked of his long-term future. The arrival of Vitor Roque in January will boost Barca’s frontline, but it’s simply unfair and unrealistic to expect an 18-year-old to come in and fix the team’s attacking problems.

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