Is Xavi the ideal coach for FC Barcelona?


By: Manu Tournoux

The sensations left by FC Barcelona in this first part of the season are rather mixed. Everything is not to be thrown away of course, especially since the Catalans won the 2022/2023 Liga with a certain superiority and a good lead over the other top names in the Iberian championship, which offers a certain margin of tolerance to what the players offer. Xavi’s troops. It is therefore probably for this reason that players who are not necessarily at their best level like Robert Lewandowski or even Ronald Araujo are not criticized that much and benefit from a certain indulgence from supporters and the media. However, if there is one for whom the tide is starting to turn, it is Xavi.

The Catalan coach, who also benefited from a certain immunity especially after his failures in Europe – and this is logical given his glorious past within the club – is starting to be more and more scratched in the media or on social networks. More than certain slightly disappointing results, like this defeat against Girona on Sunday evening (4-2), there are two axes around which the main criticisms against him revolve: the game proposed by his team, as well as as his communication in complicated moments.

Xavi, closer to Simeone than to Guardiola?

It must be said that when Xavi arrived, he, in a way, sold a dream. He has always been a great advocate of attacking football, and even when he was a player, he did not hesitate to tackle opposing teams who he believed were adopting an overly cautious posture. Between his recurring statements and his status as the brains of Pep Guardiola’s team at the time, perhaps one of the best in history, there were logically certain expectations in terms of the game. It is clear that for At the moment, this Barça is not particularly pleasing. The content of the meetings is quite far from this utopian image of what Barça was. For example, it is quite common to see the team close the game a little once it is behind. The numbers don’t lie: last season, FC Barcelona won 11 matches with a score of 1-0!

Xavi is also the Barça coach whose team has scored the fewest goals in 20 years, with an average of 1.86 goals per match in La Liga. It is less than Ronald Koeman for example (2.08), or even Ernesto Valverde (2.51), and far from Tito Vilanova (3.14), Luis Enrique (2.96) or Pep Guardiola (2.71). Some even have fun saying that this Barça looks more like Atlético than what Barça should be! So inglorious, even if, once again, everything is not fundamentally bad. And unlike the vast majority of his predecessors, a strained financial situation. He cannot therefore complain about a squad which is not adapted to his desires or his style. Where a coach like Ronald Koeman, or even Quique Setién, had to deal with groups that were a little less qualitative and/or adapted to their philosophy. Another question we can ask about Xavi: which players have really progressed under his command? You can count them on the fingers of one (single) hand…

Repeated excuses

In addition to this rather average content, at least compared to what was expected, there are also certain problems in Xavi’s communication. He’s a coach who doesn’t really seem to question himself when he’s in front of the cameras, far from it. Just as he sometimes does not hesitate to use somewhat far-fetched excuses to justify poor results. “It’s a team in reconstruction”, for example, he said about his team after the defeat against Girona, which sparked strong reactions on the other side of the Pyrenees. After all, can we speak of a team which has just been crowned La Liga champion and which has not lost any major player except Alba and Busquets who were at the end as a team in reconstruction? Girona, for example, lost many more starting players last summer…

It is therefore completely legitimate that some FC Barcelona supporters are starting to get annoyed. Of course, in this industry, results are everything and if Xavi were to lead his flock very far in the Champions League for example, everything that was mentioned previously in this article would be quickly forgotten. In victory, considerations linked to the style of play are often forgotten, perhaps less in Barcelona than elsewhere, it is true. But if there is no major trophy at the end of the season and if the game offered by Xavi’s flock does not improve, the criticism will continue with full force…

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