Has FC Barcelona Coach Xavi Hernandez Finally Found His Best Line Up Afer Real Madrid Super Cup Humbling?
Xavi Hernandez has possibly found his perfect formation and tactical approach for FC Barcelona after they lifted the Spanish Super Cup on Sunday.
The Catalans trounced eternal enemies Real Madrid 3-1 in the final in Riyadh, with a performance that felt like it marked the dawning of a new era under the head coach while that of Lionel Messi was finally put to bed.
With a talented squad at his disposal that has a potent mix of experienced world class stars such as Robert Lewandowski and young prospects such as Gavi and Pedri, everything points to Xavi being able to usher in a new dynasty at Camp Nou where Barca will no longer take a backseat in Spain and Europe as seen through a turbulent past few years not helped by the financial turmoil the pandemic brought.
If Xavi is to pull this off, however, he has to decide how he sets his team up with his line up and formation last night pointing to him having finally found the perfect formula.
When the past couple of starting XIs against opposition from the capital have been announced, many have jumped to the conclusion that with four midfielders selected, Xavi had opted for a 4-4-2 with two strikers.
In the 1-0 win against Atletico Madrid that put Barca three points clear in La Liga eight days ago, Pedri functioned as a false left winger to great effect which means that Barca still in essence honored their 4-3-3 hallmark with Ansu Fati the target man and Ousmane Dembele to his right.
In the 3-1 destruction against Los Blancos, however, Robert Lewandowski operated as a lone striker while fellow goalscorers Gavi and Pedri switched from right, to left, to the middle in a 4-2-3-1 that baffled Carlo Ancelotti’s men.
However Xavi decides to move forward, one of the most common conclusions from the win that brought Barca their first taste of silverware since Messi left is that Frenkie de Jong works best with someone by his side.
On this occasion it was captain Sergio Busquets, who was De Jong’s partner rather than occupying the spaces behind him as a pivot while Pedri and Gavi were allowed to play more advanced and wreak havoc.
“I’m so pleased,” Xavi said post match. “You know I care a lot about how we win. Sometimes we win but we are not sharp, or we don’t play as we expect to, and I can’t go home fully happy.
“The ‘how’ is always our motto, what we plan around. The day before the match we thought about how to create overloads with four midfielders. Gavi could not read it any better. Pedri, Sergio Busquets and Frenkie de Jong phenomenal too in that regard,” he added.
Allowing fans to reminisce about the height of the Tiki Taka era Xavi led with Andres Iniesta and Messi in the early 2010s, Barca toyed with their overmatched foes at times with fluid death-by-passing football that destroyed whatever remained of an anonymous and clueless Madrid midfield.
With four talented technicians in the center of the park and a strong back line, Xavi can interchange his wingers as Lewandowski continues to score for fun.
He has appeared to have dropped on the blueprint for success, but it remains to be seen if he sticks with it.