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Player Analysis

Marc Guiu and a case for more minutes: Should Xavi trust the 17-year-old over Lewandowski?



Photo by JOSEP LAGO/AFP via Getty Images

In times of depression and doubt, La Masia invariably emerges as a beacon of hope for FC Barcelona.

While it is normally the rise of twinkle-toed midfielders who tend to steady the ship for Barcelona, this season, a new face with a distinct profile has blossomed from the ranks, going by the name of Marc Guiu.

Barça, this season, have been caught in a bind with results and performances as unpredictable as a ship navigating through treacherous waters.

But the one certainty, that has always provided a sense of relief among fans, is the potential on display by homegrown youngsters.

And in the brief moments Guiu has had on the pitch thus far, he has shone bright, injecting a refreshing dose of youthfulness.

A distinct profile

Guiu could not have chosen a better way to announce his arrival to the first team. Scoring an 80th winner against Athletic Bilbao back in October, he stamped his name on the scoreboard merely one minute after coming on.

Call it luck if you may, but the moment the youngster stepped on the pitch, he offered Barça a profile in attack they had been craving for so long: a mobile attacker of space.

Electric. (Photo by JOHN THYS/AFP via Getty Images)

Executing a run-in behind the Basque defense, Barcelona immediately reaped the rewards of Gui’s presence as an outlet number nine.

Such actions on the last line had long been missing on the pitch but showcased how important his role can be in a squad that is largely ball-dominant, with a preference to have the ball nestled at their feet rather than exploiting unguarded territory.

But apart from the Spaniard’s fantastic intuition, his finish did not disappoint either. He slipped past the Athletic Club defense, taking a single touch, and then deftly directing his shot off Unai Simon’s thigh and into the goal.

After a lengthy hiatus, as he was busy participating in the Spanish Under-17 team to prepare for the World Cup in Indonesia, Guiu proved his dream debut was not just a fluke.

Against Royal Antwerp, most recently, he could not seal the win this time but reconciled with the back of the net once more after a terrific leap and header off a 90th-minute set-piece.

He is not a link-up striker or a false nine; Guiu is a physically gifted and vicious striker who is powerful, quick, and direct, qualities Barcelona could really make do with right now.

Ready to displace Lewandowski?

As unfair as it may be pinning the blame entirely on one individual for Barcelona’s recent form, Robert Lewandowski is beginning to show that his decline in front of goal is not merely a purple patch; but a recurring theme.

Lewandowski, inside the area, is still capable of scoring great goals. However, his presence in the opposition box has dwindled considerably.

And the great dilemma for Xavi is knowing that he possesses a great finisher, but a player who cannot fulfill two great requirements needed by a Barcelona forward: voracity in space and greater aggressiveness.

Against FC Porto in the Champions League, Cancelo was able to produce a masterclass, and the team’s improvements in the second half managed to save face.

Even so, in an end-to-end game, Barcelona’s striker hardly had a shot the entire game, even though they created opportunities and had room to run in behind.

Has age finally caught up to Lewandowski? (Photo by PAU BARRENA/AFP via Getty Images)

With the halfway point of the season approaching, it is completely fair to ask the question of whether the Polish talisman has merited a starting position.

The question, fair to say, already found its response when Guiu replaced Lewandowski against Antwerp and scored a potential match-winning goal.

Despite the huge contrast in experience, Guiu’s fundamentals as a striker deem him worthy of greater involvement.

Xavi’s preference for a direct playing style coincides with Guiu’s traits, who may not be the most elegant in possession but will guarantee a goalscoring threat.

The 17-year-old interferes little in the game directly, yet his pursuit of constantly blitzing past the last line makes the midfielders very comfortable. Moreover, Lewandowski’s tendency to drop excessively has also not always had the most positive outcome.

As such, moving forward, it is not a far fetch to claim Guiu is ready to acquire the keys to the starting XI.

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