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Five keys to Barcelona’s improvement since Xavi’s resignation

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Photo by FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images

Following the defeat to Villarreal in late January, Xavi announced that he would leave Barcelona at the end of the season. Between that event and the date of writing, a lot has changed at the club.

For once, they have gone on a 12-match unbeaten run and also have one foot in the UEFA Champions League semi-final after beating PSG on their own turf. 

For what it is worth, it seems that Xavi is off the blocks and between January and April, he has worked on several different strategies and each of them has worked wonders.

A sudden surge in defensive greatness

Last season, Barcelona let in just 20 goals, but the story is entirely different this season, largely aggravated by Marc Andre-ter Stegen’s injury woes. 

But with the coach’s impending departure, there came a turnaround: the return of the German stopper, Pau Cubarsi’s breakthrough, and Jules Kounde’s stellar performances on the right side, all combining to restore Barça’s defensive solidity.

Over the last 12 games, they’ve only conceded nine goals, despite facing Napoli in the Champions League round of 16 and the tough match at the Parc des Princes.

A makeshift pivot and advanced Gundogan

Andreas Christensen found a new role under Xavi. (Photo by ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP via Getty Images)

In early February, Xavi surprised everyone by deploying Andreas Christensen by slotting him as the pivot against Alaves, and the tactic paid off handsomely.

Remarkably, he utilized Christensen in that role for eight matches with minimal issues, barring some discomfort during training before the Atletico Madrid game, which sidelined him from the starting lineup. 

After making a recovery, he returned to action, albeit briefly, against PSG, once again operating in midfield. It seems likely that he will retain this position on the field for the upcoming match against Cadiz.

Xavi’s strategic move to position Christensen as the pivot has had a significant impact as it has enabled Ilkay Gundogan to unleash his full potential, granting him greater freedom on the field. 

This newfound liberty has empowered him to make more daring runs and establish stronger connections with Robert Lewandowski. 

Fewer injuries

Despite Alejandro Balde and Gavi being sidelined for the rest of the season, Barcelona haven’t had as many players dealing with injuries in recent weeks. 

Whether it is due to a less demanding schedule in terms of matches or other factors, Xavi has not had to deal with as many injuries. 

In fact, he is now heading into the most crucial part of the season with a relatively empty treatment room, aside from the two long-term absentees.

Veterans are playing at their best

Jules Kounde is in top form. (Photo by ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP via Getty Images)

It is to be noted that despite the gravity of the fixtures, several Barcelona players have reached this stage of the competition at their peak performance. 

Most of the squad has openly voiced their hope for the coach to rethink his decision and ultimately stay on as manager. 

As such, Robert Lewandowski, Kounde, Raphinha and even Sergi Roberto; are all in fine form of late.

Fans are now aligned

Xavi made his announcement with a couple of goals in mind: to clear up any confusion in the air and to stop the endless speculations about his future. Moreover, he also wanted to spend some time with his family before taking a new role.

Earlier, the fans had already expressed their discontent by softly booing during a match, but now the atmosphere has settled, and there is a sense of optimism in the air. 

Additionally, it is no secret that the club’s top brass is keen on Xavi staying on board. Although the manager is open to thinking, he wants to get things done his way if he decides to continue.

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