It’s been clear since the start of the season that Xavi Hernandez and Barcelona have been pursuing a more offensive style of play, but it has come at a cost. Characterised by the inclusion of Joao Felix and Joao Cancelo in the side, Barcelona have become more creative, but far less solid.
Diario AS note that Xavi was always opposed to the signing of Felix, and only ended up accepting his arrival due to the insistence of Joan Laporta and Deco. In spite of his explosive start and some solid performances since, Felix’s influence has continued to decrease since. He is on his worst goalscoring start to a La Liga season through 13 games, and has not scored in 11 games.
While Felix no doubt makes Barcelona more unpredictable as an attacking outlet, he is also unable to press as much as alternatives (Gavi, before his injury, Ferran Torres, Raphinha). Equally Cancelo is proving to be a risky choice at right-back. Barcelona’s defensive numbers have dropped off a cliff from last season, while Cancelo is averaging 16.5 ball losses per game.
Xavi was keen on signing Cancelo, and had requested his presence last season, but the addition of the two Portuguese stars has impacted negatively on Alejandro Balde’s output on the left side. Cancelo’s offensive impact has also gradually decreased since the beginning of the season, with Xavi attempting to move him around against Real Madrid, Real Sociedad and Alaves in order to maintain his impact without exposing the Blaugrana defensively.
Now with Gavi’s injury, Xavi’s defensive headache is set to become even more severe, following the loss of his pressing capabilities. Xavi must now decide whether to alter his system more permanently, stick with a 4-3-3 and try to perfect the press, or consider dropping one of them in favour of a more cohesive effort without the ball.