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Three areas that Barcelona could still improve under Xavi

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Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

Fifteen months into his stint as the manager of FC Barcelona, Xavi Hernandez has done a sterling job. Having taken over at a time when the club were languishing in mid-table last season, the 42-year-old has turned the Blaugrana into title contenders.

Indeed, Barcelona are sitting comfortably atop the La Liga table this term, with a five-point gap over arch-rivals Real Madrid. They also beat the Merengues to lift the Spanish Super Cup – the first trophy of the Xavi era. The Catalans are also in the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey.

The only blemish so far has been the early exit from the UEFA Champions League both last season and this season.

Xavi has also brought about major improvements in players – Ousmane Dembele is enjoying his best phase at Barcelona, Ronald Araujo’s ball distribution has improved, Pedri and Gavi look much more polished and Alejandro Balde has absolutely erupted.

While there are a lot of positives from Xavi’s time in charge of the club, there remain some areas that Barcelona still need to improve to reach the gloried heights of the past.

1. Killing off matches

One major issue that Xavi’s Barcelona have faced this season is the fact that they have found it hard to kill off matches. Oftentimes, the Catalans have seen their levels dip in matches after taking the lead or in the second halves.

The manager himself has highlighted the issue on several occasions while interacting with the media. While it was not an issue against Real Betis last time out, during matches against Real Sociedad and Girona, to name a couple, Barça were cutting it too close to comfort.

“We lack aggression in front of goal. In the end, you win 1-0 and at the end, the opponents have that chance. We can’t give away these advantages. It’s a good game from us, but it looks like we score the first goal and that’s it. We have to go for the 2-0,” Xavi had said after the win over Sociedad.

Barcelona have shown that they are, more often than not, a cut above their opponents. But they need to start learning to close the doors on the opposition for good in matches.

2. Goals from outside the box

Goals from outside the box is an area of concern for Barcelona (Photo by Fran Santiago/Getty Images)

Ever since he took over the reins of the team, Xavi has stressed that his players must take risks and take more shots at goal from outside the box. While that has improved to a certain extent, the Blaugrana continue to be reliant on Robert Lewandowski’s prowess.

So far this season, Barça have scored just one goal from outside the box in La Liga. While it has never been an area of strength, given that there have been problems breaking open defences at times, adding another weapon to the arsenal in the form of long-distance strikes would bode well.

At the same time, direct free-kicks are another area Barcelona need to improve. The Catalans have not scored a single goal from a direct free-kick since Lionel Messi’s strike against Valencia in May 2021. That is a damning statistic and one that needs to be set right.

3. Player management/rotation

This one is an area that Xavi needs to work on, rather than the players. It is often said that great teams have great depth within the squad. While Barcelona have a well-rounded roster with two options for almost every position on the pitch, the manager has not always made the best use of it.

Players such as Franck Kessie, Eric Garcia, and Ansu Fati have not received enough opportunities for them to get some momentum and rhythm going, while Pablo Torre was also underutilised before being sent to play for Barça Atletic.

It is understandable from the manager’s perspective that it is best not to tinker with what is working, but when the team are playing a game almost every three days, effective rotation of players becomes important, while also avoiding any unrest or frustration within the squad.

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