This is not your classic Barcelona, and not the team most of us expected when Xavi began the job as manager.
It’s not beautiful. It’s not exciting. But it’s working.
Something that’s functional, and structurally sound.
What more could you ask for after years of crisis and uncertainty?
When the defense was leaking goals, and the team was surrendering points cheaply game after game.
Some of these matches are borderline boring, but it’s refreshing.
The margins are small, there are moments when the team is simply getting lucky, and yet the victories never seem to be in doubt.
As the season progresses, Barcelona has become less dependent on their superstars.
Robert Lewandowski is in a goal drought in La Liga, and no one seems to really notice.
Ousmane Dembele, arguably the most dangerous player on the team, is out, and the team quietly marches on.
Pedri and Gavi continue to shine, but aren’t expected to be the saviors.
This team is organized and calm at the core, knowing the goal will come. And after that, there is complete trust in the defense to hold down the fort.
I had no idea that I loved defense so much. These days, I’m showing up to see what Ronald Araujo will do.
I’d love to be entertained. Goals are great, and I hope more are scored soon. After all, there is formidable attacking talent on this team.
But in the short term, this is exactly what Barcelona needs to be. Consistent in the most important ways. Frustrating to opponents who have gotten used to poaching cheap goals against a fragile back line.
Not used to seeing a Barcelona team that puts hard work above a sense of entitlement that superior talent will simply get the job done in the end.
Against Villarreal, that one goal was a thing of beauty, and it’s not an anomaly. It’s been the Barca way for some time now.
Play in possession and be patient. Press your opponents high, win it and go.
Jules Kounde was the man to start things out with a stellar interception. But Gavi was right there to win the second ball, and Pedri and Lewandowski finished it off with yet another display of their chemistry in front of goal.
But that wasn’t the only example of Barca playing this way, even though it was the time it resulted in the goal.
All four midfielders were working their tails off.
With Sergio Busquets out, Frenkie de Jong put in an industrious performance, showing there’s more than one way to play the pivot. Franck Kessie played deeper, and won’t make the highlights, but did well in the role that was given to him.
Raphinha and Lewandowski struggled on the day, overall, but still had their moments of danger. In the absence of Dembele, two forwards seems to be enough. The value is really coming from the additional midfielder, which is keeping the team organized on both sides of the ball.
This team has matured a lot since being knocked out of the Champions League.
Since the World Cup, Xavi has kept things simple, and that’s the sign of a young manager who’s gaining wisdom.
There will be plenty of time in the future to evolve and play with beauty.
In fact, that part of the game will be second nature to these players if things continue to click collectively, and their trust in one another deepens.
It’s amazing to see the way they’re celebrating these wins, even when they didn’t perform particularly well.
These are players who understand that winning is all that matters, and it cures everything.
They are united, and they celebrate all their accomplishments big and small.
They are ready to take on a very in-form and confident Manchester United.
This will be a big test, but I predict they’ll continue to go about their business with a calm professionalism.
And that makes me calm as a fan.
For that, I am very grateful after everything culers have endured.