Barcelona are, by no means, a force to be reckoned with this season. They have been outplayed several times by teams boasting of a much thinner squad, and inarguably less-talented players.
For the longest time, under Pep Guardiola, Luis Enrique, Tito Vilanova, and even Ernesto Valverde, Barcelona were scoring goals for fun while maintaining a steadily healthy defence.
However, Xavi’s side, especially last season, became famous for their defensive resilience, with the B.A.C.K. back quartet. These, of course, were, Alejandro Balde, Andreas Christensen, Ronald Araujo, and Jules Kounde.
Over the course of 38 games in the league last season, Barcelona scored just 70 goals, which is less than two per game, but conceded a record-breaking 20 goals, while maintaining a bizarre 26 clean sheets.
Nobody expected the trend to continue across this season, though, with criticism laid on Xavi for over-relying on the defence, and the reinforcements in other positions on the pitch, like Joao Cancelo, who by no means, is a defensive fullback.
Unfortunately, though, Barcelona have not only become worse defensively, they cannot even outscore their opponents.
One goal wins
Barcelona have won 12 games this season out of a possible 17. Two of these, possibly the best performances under Xavi’s regime, were 5-0 wins against Real Betis and Royal Antwerp.
However, nine of the other ten wins have been by a single goal. Be it a high-scoring game like the 4-3 win against Villarreal, or a game where they were bailed out last minute like the 1-0 wins against Real Sociedad and Athletic Club.
But, is Barcelona’s attack underperforming or is it an issue of the lack of service to the goalscorers in the team?
Well, numbers suggest that Barcelona have created the second-most clear-cut big chances in the league so far, with 44, which amounts to more than three big chances created per game.
Barcelona have missed 26 of these chances, scoring only 18. Robert Lewandowski is responsible for six of them, while Raphinha, Ferran Torres, Fermin Lopez have each missed three each.
Joao Felix and Lamine Yamal are also at two, which is more than the number of goals they have had this season.
A variety of creators
Barcelona do have a variety of creators at their disposal, though, arguably more than last season, where the burden was largely on the wingers.
Raphinha and Ousmane Dembele had created 26 big chances between them, while Robert Lewandowski and Pedri had racked up 11 each. Jordi Alba is a huge absence form the wing, to be fair, as he was responsible for 12 of them, while playing only 24 games.
This time around, Barcelona also have the services of Ilkay Gundogan and Joao Cancelo, who are regarded as highly nuanced creators in their own regard.
The former has pulled his weight fairly enough so far, creating 3.28 xA and five big chances, which is the most in the team.
However, the fall off after that is steep. Frenkie de Jong has missed the last two months due to injury, but is still second on the list with 1.58 xA and one big chance created.
Pedri and Lamine Yamal have set up four big chances each, but Raphinha is only at two so far this season, while Alejandro Balde is at one, even though he ended last season with six assists to his name and seven big chances created.
While it is evident that Barcelona do lack solutions sometimes on the pitch, they do have the personnel across positions that can come up with solutions.
Some of the players may be underperforming, like Balde and Raphinha, but their profile is still integral to the team.
The team, as a collective, needs to work on their finishing, especially when the defence is no longer strong enough to bail them out of of tough games.