What Do Now??: Barcelona 2021-2022

Zososoxfan

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Koeman is out, Xavi rumored to be coming in.

I saw this video of Xavi explaining his tactics. Unsurprisingly, its Pep-ball through and through: Five channels in attack, high press without the ball.

Its a big step up from Al-Saad to Barca but I think he'd be a good choice given where the club stands right now.

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3yR5B8viTWQ
So much respect for Koeman--Culer through and through. That being said, I don't think too highly of him as a manager.

Xavi is probably coming one stint too early, but at this point I think he'll benefit the club regardless. That's premised on the idea that he's given at least 1 and ideally 2 full seasons to build his project. IOW, this year is about treading water (i.e. finishing top 4) and figuring out what they have in house already. Next season should be more transition, clearing out bad contracts and bad player-club fits, developing young talent. Then hopefully in '23-'24 Xavi has the club in a position to add 2-3 starters (with at least 1 being a world class at his peak talent) and ready to contend for real.
 

bosox4283

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I've just read that Kun Aguero will be out for three months due to the heart problem he had during/after last match. Really tough break for him and the team. I hope he ends up OK.
 

OilCanMDS

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Xavi official.
I think I am in the same boat as most fans in feeling like this is an exciting development for the team, but I'm still doubtful that there will be any significant impact this season. In the Celta game, the difference in quality between when Barca did and did not have Fati on the field was apparent. The same can be said for Dembele in the Dynamo game. I am sure Xavi will get the most out of the midfield, but in the Celta game I thought Nico, FDJ, and Gavi looked good while Balde looked pretty poor at LW versus Fati. I know Balde is a LB and he will hopefully not see much time at LW in the future, but there really aren't any other players on the team that can play LW or RW on this team other than Depay, Fati and Dembele. I can't think of a way Xavi can overcome the lack of wings with the system he wants to run, but I hope he can figure out something to keep the team afloat until players start to come back.
 

Zososoxfan

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Aguero officially retiring due to heart condition. In the 1.5 matches he played this season, he actually looked like he had a lot to contribute. It's a shame.

Xavi has officially thrusted Barca into the 3ATB shape trend in a 3-4-3 and has delivered on his promise to start the youth movement in earnest. Even with Pedri (19) and Ansu (19) out, Xavi is rolling out Nico Gonzalez (19), Gavi (17!!), Demir (18), Balde (18), and Ez Abde (19) on a fairly consistent basis. Add that to some other young but more established talent in FDJ (24), Araujo (22), and Mingueza (22) and you can see that Barca are comfortable making this season about development. Some of that is due to injuries (Alba, Roberto, Braithwaite, Aguero) but I think those teenagers are going to continue getting chances even as the squad gets healthier.

This also bodes poorly for Dest (21), Garcia (20), and Puig (22), who haven't seen an increase in PT along with their young teammates. It's also rather striking and somewhat silly that Barca's team-building has this incredibly young squad paired with some serious elder statesmen in Pique (34), Busi (33), and Alba (32). Really big gap in that 22-29 age range, also known as the typical prime for footballers.

I have to think that Xavi has the green light to basically promote the entire La Masia and see if they have any gems and also build the value of players in the transfer market but who may not be part of Barca's future. The problem is that Xavi has to simultaneously chase a top 4 finish and the UEL trophy for next year's UCL money. But if and when top 4 is no longer attainable, I wonder if Xavi will staple the 30+ contingent to the bench.
 

bosox4283

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I'm 100% not a doctor -- I wonder how bad the condition is given that Aguero retired given that there are some athletes, like LaMarcus Aldridge, that have retired but returned after being diagnosed with a heart issue.

I saw Aguero play once, maybe in 2007, in a Madrid derby. He was my favorite Atletico player then, so I've always liked him and enjoyed watching him succeed at City.

His loss is tough for Barcelona, as his experience and skill were needed.
 

Zososoxfan

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I'm 100% not a doctor -- I wonder how bad the condition is given that Aguero retired given that there are some athletes, like LaMarcus Aldridge, that have retired but returned after being diagnosed with a heart issue.

I saw Aguero play once, maybe in 2007, in a Madrid derby. He was my favorite Atletico player then, so I've always liked him and enjoyed watching him succeed at City.

His loss is tough for Barcelona, as his experience and skill were needed.
No idea about the specific condition, but I have to think his age and being in the twilight of his career had a lot to do with this. He's got a son (Diego Maradona's grandson) who's probably 10-11 years old.
 

bosox4283

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AS is reporting that Cavani will be heading to Barca. This move seems prudent to me -- a more experienced striker that replaces Kun and keeps Luuk de Jong off the pitch.
 

Zososoxfan

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AS is reporting that Cavani will be heading to Barca. This move seems prudent to me -- a more experienced striker that replaces Kun and keeps Luuk de Jong off the pitch.
Yeah, that's a solid move that should help stabilize the squad. If the kids can feed Cavani service in the box, he should convert at his usual less-than-it-should-be clip but still put in ~10 goals. I also think Cavani is warrior hardworker type and Xavi feels like this team needs more of that mentality.
 

Zososoxfan

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Barcelona squeezed out a 3-2 victory over Elche on Saturday. But the big story is that 3 youngsters put in the goals, and Gavi's was a work of art:

https://streamff.com/v/5MGyB7

Ferran Jutgla made his debut and scored the opener, and Nico Dominguez came on as a sub in 85' to snatch away the winner.

A stiff test follows with Sevilla this week to close out the calendar year.
 

OilCanMDS

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Barca looked pretty good against Sevilla considering where both teams are in the standings. Barca was the better team for most of the game, even before Sevilla went down to 10 men.

Ferran Torres is rumored to be a done deal for January, and Dembele has supposedly agreed to terms on an extension. With the improvements in the formation and movement under Xavi, I'm excited to the attack in the second half of the season with Pedri, Gavi, Fati, Depay, Dembele and Torres. I'm still concerned about the defense and the mid defense, although Busquets has looked much better over the last month. It's difficult to tell so far if the defense has lapses due to talent or poor understanding because a lot of goals conceded seem to come from unmarked attackers or defenders making poor challenges when they need to play safe.
 

Zososoxfan

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With Coutinho off to Villa (WOW), Torres can now be registered. That's a huge upgrade. Moreover, Laporta and Mateu said that they wouldn't try and make any other moves unless and until that was complete, so GAME ON!
 

Jimy Hendrix

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Barca have been hateful to watch since they went down to 10. Should actually be down to 9 and wasting time horribly.

Just got punished for it all with the equalizer and I hope they lose in stoppage time.
 

Zososoxfan

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Barcelona taking on Real Madrid in the Supercopa, hosted in...Riyadh, because of course.

Ferran Torres getting his first start for the Blaugrana flanking Luuk de Jong, Dembele on the other side. Gavi got the start alongside Busi and Frenkie in the middle. Pique and Araujo in the middle, Alves and Alba at FB just like old times. Once Barca get Pedri and Ansu back, you can start to see the potential for a better squad.

Pretty even match so far, Barca having more of the ball and in good positions. Trying to win it high as well, but Madrid getting the best 2-3 chances.
 

Zososoxfan

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What a match. Even though Madrid are through 3-2, I'm incredibly encouraged by that performance. Pedri looked incredible and Ansu wasn't far behind. Nico gave the team a huge lift of energy when he came in, and Gavi looked like the real deal for the first time to me (not saying he hasn't done it before, but I hadn't seen his play merit the hype yet). Araujo was a beast, and MATS had a terrific performance.

Weird that Frenkie was taken off at half, as you'd expect him to be helping in this effort. Xavi has said that he was surprised at how bad FDJ's spatial awareness was when he arrived, and getting FDJ up to speed has to be top priority. Dembele created a lot of danger today but he's also incredibly frustrating and wasteful. He has the ball jump on him more than I've ever seen any other pro, and his shooting is dreadful. Ez was bad tonight, but Mendy is a terrific LB. Once again aging legends Alba and Busi show they can't hang for a full match against elite competition. They need to be challenged.
 

OilCanMDS

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What a match. Even though Madrid are through 3-2, I'm incredibly encouraged by that performance. Pedri looked incredible and Ansu wasn't far behind. Nico gave the team a huge lift of energy when he came in, and Gavi looked like the real deal for the first time to me (not saying he hasn't done it before, but I hadn't seen his play merit the hype yet). Araujo was a beast, and MATS had a terrific performance.

Weird that Frenkie was taken off at half, as you'd expect him to be helping in this effort. Xavi has said that he was surprised at how bad FDJ's spatial awareness was when he arrived, and getting FDJ up to speed has to be top priority. Dembele created a lot of danger today but he's also incredibly frustrating and wasteful. He has the ball jump on him more than I've ever seen any other pro, and his shooting is dreadful. Ez was bad tonight, but Mendy is a terrific LB. Once again aging legends Alba and Busi show they can't hang for a full match against elite competition. They need to be challenged.
I was really encouraged by the game. I think the team looked really dangerous and cohesive when Pedri was in the game. The defense continues to make plays that make me wonder if the players are bad, make bad decisions or are just being put in bad situations, but there's still improvement there.

A lot of people seem to be down on FDJ, but I think a lot of his lack of production comes down to the lack of offensive talent in front of him. His game has never really been creating offense, and I think his strengths are reading the other teams' attack and picking out forward passes from the back. I think that last year when he kept going in between CDM and CB was the best he has looked at Barca. Maybe the best spot for him is at CB until Busquets is ready to be benched or move on. He could be good in a double pivot with Pedri in front of him and Busquets, but I'm not sure I want Gavi benched right now with the way he's been playing for the last month (ignoring the constant yellow cards).
 

Zososoxfan

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I just stumbled on a new Barca blog called BarcaFutbol and I'm very impressed. The 2 writers are very much into the new world of football metrics but combine it with observational analysis. I found 3 of their first pieces very interesting.

Re Nico Gonzalez and FDJ:

Imagine if the likes of Paulinho or Arturo Vidal had the technical quality of a LaMasia graduate and you essentially get Nico González. He’s big, fast and strong while also having great control, awareness and technicality of diminutive and agile midfielders. And if the importance (and success) of the aforementioned duo is anything to go by, Nico’s future seems bright, to say the least.

Barcelona generally always have two types of midfielders occupying their interior positions. One, usually the left one, is more creative and enjoys a freer role. The other, usually the right one, is more of a box-to-box presence that combines physicality and technique very well. Nico seems to perfectly fit the latter role, far more so than De Jong does at the moment.

That doesn’t mean there’s no place for De Jong in the squad. Even though he’s been shaky in the single-pivot position, he does seem to have all the characteristics of a good deep-lying midfielder who could eventually replace Busquets. Yes, that role might limit him at first but with Nico on the pitch at the same time, Frenkie would be free to roam and advance from deep since Nico would be there to cover and drop for him when necessary.
I'm READY for Nico to start every match from here on out after reading that!

Re Pedri and Gavi:

While both tend to drift wide when necessary, Pedri is more centrally-focused and also the one bursting forward far more. Comparing their stats recorded by Wyscout in the last calendar year, Gavi has averaged 1.71 touches in the box per 90 compared to Pedri’s 2.31. Similarly, Gavi’s 2.13 successful attacking actions (shots, crosses and dribbles) lag behind Pedri’s 2.46.

But when we isolate dribbles from that equation, suddenly Pedri’s 1.97 can’t match Gavi’s 2.57. The situation with offensive duels is not even a contest - Gavi sits at 10.71 per 90 while Pedri can only boast with 6.63. To many and without proper context, this could easily lead to a wrong conclusion. You see this is not so much about how many but rather where.
Super interesting comparison between 2 young and incredibly promising players. Pedri is such a G.

And finally, the blog did a deep dive on the decline of MATS. The whole thing is worth a read, but they ascribe a lot of his recent issues to his foot surgery last year. While MATS is also displaying a mess with his fundamentals, my takeaway is that the club need to seriously consider bringing in someone to challenge him for real next season, in case he doesn't bounce back.

https://barcafutbol.substack.com/p/nico-gonzalez-and-frenkie-de-jong

https://barcafutbol.substack.com/p/pedri-and-gavi-co-existing-in-xavis

https://barcafutbol.substack.com/p/the-anatomy-of-the-rise-and-fall