January 18, 2022

the time of the first Clasico and the first assessment for Xavi in ​​the semifinals of the Supercopa de Espana

He is no longer the fresh successor to Ronald Koeman. It has already been two months since Xavi (41) arrived on the Barça bench and,over time, the leniency of the first steps withered away. Excitement and curiosity are not enough to gag the urgency of the rebound, even more when you have to guide through the half-light a cador used to measuring the competition. The former midfielder has the opportunity, Wednesday, January 12, to publish his first blow to the head of the Blaugranas for his first Clasico as a coach, on the occasion of the semi-final first leg of the Spanish Super Cup in Jeddah (Saudi Arabia).

His side, already knocked out of the Champions League and unusually sixth in La Liga, are in desperate need of it to finally kick off a new round. Because since the end of the 2018-2019 season, that of his last Spanish league title and his last success against Real Madrid, Barça has only tried to camouflage the erosion of his greatness. The imbroglio Ferran Torres, recruited for more than fifty million euros but not yet registered due to financial problems, was one of the last scorers.

After a chaotic start to the season, even more so than the previous one, a savior was expected. Crowned with his glorious years as a club player, Xavi was hired on November 6 to restore the magic of a golden era that was not so distant yet, but for which the club leaders are already nostalgic.

A feeling stoked by the departure of Lionel Messi for Paris this summer, which undoubtedly influenced the recent decision to bring back the former glory Dani Alves despite his advanced age (38 years). The Brazilian had left Europe in 2019 by embarking on the route of an end of career all mapped out, with a farewell tour in his country.

The rivalry with Real Madrid is always a good indicator of Barca’s hierarchy and dynamics. And the shock comes at a time when the progress of the Xavi method is not yet evident. Since his return to Catalonia, he has posted a fairly neutral record of 5 wins, 4 draws and 2 losses in 11 games.

In two months, we have especially seen the difference in level between his team and Bayern Munich in the Champions League (0-3) and his inability to beat opponents widely within his reach Osasuna (2-2), with a defeat against Betis in passing (0-1).

The person concerned tried to defend his record at a press conference last Friday: “Neither Betis, who beat us, nor the teams that drew against us, were better than us. Only Bayern were superior to us“. His team, however, conceded a worrying draw in Granada the next day (1-1) and the speech changed content:”We lacked authority. We lost some very silly balloons. It’s our fault. We must do our self-criticism and above all do better to win the matches“.

If we have to compare his Barça with that of Koeman this season, there are slight signs of improvement. Her team loses less (18% of matches: 2/11) than their predecessor’s (38%: 5/13), but they don’t win much more (45% against Koeman’s 38% wins this season), and must face Real. And even if there is better in the game according to the figures, FC Barcelona currently remains as far from the best European teams in the 2021-2022 financial year as it is by its standards.

Made with Flourish

In this infographic, each statistical category is expressed as a percentage of the best score achieved by a European Top 5 team this season. Thus, Barça de Xavi’s 1.3 goal per game represents 37% of the maximum score achieved by a team this season, in this case Bayern Munich’s 3.8 goals per game. With the exception of possession of the ball, the Blaugranas are doing a little better under Xavi than under Koeman, but everything remains well below the level posted by Real Ancelotti.

Above all, the young coach gives off the impression of groping. Since his first outing on November 20, he has used a total of 26 La Liga players. Only three coaches (out of a total of 110) from the 5 major European leagues used more players during the period: Andrei Shevchenko with Genoa (30), Stefano Pioli with AC Milan (27) and Mauricio Pochettino with Paris (27). He also used four different tactical devices in 11 games, making an average of 3.6 changes in his eleven between each La Liga game, more than Ronald Koeman (3.1).

While he has yet to find the winning recipe in his new role, Xavi knew how to bring down Real Madrid when he stepped on the pitch. He has won the Clasico 17 times as a player, which makes him one of the five footballers to have beaten the Merengues the most in the 2000s with Dani Alves (19 times), Sergio Busquets (19), Gerard Pique (18) and his ex-teammate Lionel Messi (19). “Clasicos, I’ve seen them all in color, he confided on the eve of the match. We lost matches where we were favorites, and vice versa. Barca are under construction and Real are in very good shape, but that doesn’t mean anything. It’s a first final. A big test to see where the team is at“.