Barcelona’s form continues to rapidly drop as the Blaugrana failed to win or score for the third straight games and saw their lead at the top of the La Liga table go down to 11 points thanks to a 0-0 draw away to Getafe on Sunday. Barça played horribly again and deserved very little from the match, and with two very difficult games ahead they could easily find themselves in trouble in the title race.
Note: Applying the labels “winners” and “losers” is not intended to be a judgment on the talent or character of any of these players. It’s just a simple way to grade their performance in a single game. No disrespect is intended.
Pedri, Frenkie De Jong and Ousmane Dembélé: The least said about the performances of the players who were on the pitch on Sunday, the better. And that speaks volumes to just how badly the three injured players in midfield and attack are missed. It’s simply undeniable just how much better this Barça attack is with Pedri, De Jong and Dembélé. There’s so much more creativity, invention and poise, and without solutions being provided while they’re absent (more on that later), it is paramount that they return as soon as possible if Barça want to avoid any trouble in the title race. Sometimes you’re more appreciated when you’re not around, and the three most creative forces in Barça’s squad have never been more valuable as they are now.
Xavi Hernández: I’ve refrained from criticizing Xavi too much in the past, especially because analysis done in the heat of the moment often misses perspective, but it’s impossible to not notice that the coach is doing a really bad job right now. Even though the three injured attacking players are crucial, there is simply no excuse for the team to look this bad without them. And a lot of the blame falls on Xavi’s shoulders.
Starting two left-backs against a back five was a remarkably terrible idea, and he waited 25 minutes in the second half to make substitutions to undo his mistake when he should have made them at halftime. Or better yet, he could have selected a lineup that made sense.
The refusal to give minutes to the likes of Pablo Torre and Angel Alarcón when the attack looks so out of whack is really hard to understand, and it’s sad to watch Robert Lewandowski having his impact brutally minimized by the system when the entire gameplan without Pedri, Frenkie and Dembélé should be to feed one of the greatest strikers of all time the ball as much as possible and in as many different ways as possible, not just with aimless crosses that force the Pole to fight against three tall center-backs for 90 minutes.
Xavi is what I like to call a “Plan A Coach”. When everyone is available and he can plan for an opponent with talented players who can make a difference, the team can legitimately look unstoppable. But the moment adversity hits, whether it’s with the opposing coach making adjustments in-game or especially when players are injured, Xavi shows no ability and, more worryingly, no willingness to change and try something different, like a different formation or playing youngsters who are talented, hungry and ready to prove their worth.
Stubbornness and inability to think on the fly quickly derailed Ronald Koeman’s run after a very promising start two seasons ago. If Xavi doesn’t realize the error of his ways soon, he might face the same fate.