Barcelona’s defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt was not their only defeat last night. The garnet and blue also lost arguably their most exciting player this season in Pedri, who according to various sources, might miss the rest of the season through injury.
In this quick piece, we will explore how Barcelona can cope without Pedri.
1. Making (better) use of Nico Gonzalez
Nico Gonzalez has been more of a fringe player than his quality is worth. The Spaniard has been underutilised despite a sensational start to life as a Barça player. The absence of his namesake Pedri should be the ideal avenue to revive his relevance.
Without Pedri, Nico can partner Frenkie de Jong and Sergio Busquets in the central midfield. He can be useful given his offensive nature, and impact on the ball as one of his biggest facets.
2. Making use of Riqui Puig
Riqui Puig was expected to be the main protagonist in the central midfield in the 2020/21 season. Ronald Koeman had a strong preference for Pedri last term, resulting in the 22-year-old falling into irrelevance. His absence now could be the reason for his revival.
Alongside de Jong and Busquets, Puig can be a source of immense creativity. His often criticised impulsiveness in attack could be used to the benefit of the team.
In every game that he has played this season, the Barça number 6 has shown immense creativity, and a desire to always change the game. As a result of this, Puig should be given the get-go in Pedri’s absence.
Most of Barcelona’s next games, bar that against Villarreal and Real Sociedad, are against bottom table opposition. As such Barcelona have no need to be afraid of his weaknesses.
3. Barcelona can shift to a 4-2-3-1
Barcelona are a club that prioritises playing with a trio of midfielders at all costs. Despite this, the garnet and blue will need to make some sacrifices if they want to consolidate a second-place finish, one of those being changing the system.
The 4-2-3-1 is similar in some ways to a 4-3-3, with the most striking difference being the presence of a double pivot. The midfield can allow for more rotations and dynamism all the same.
One option in the midfield would be to play Sergio Busquets with Frenkie de Jong, and with Riqui Puig as a mediapunta. This is the 22-year-old’s best role, one which could reap great rewards if ever Xavi Hernandez makes use of it.
Alternatively, Barcelona could opt for a midfield of Busquets and Nico Gonzalez in the double pivot, given the latter’s similarities to de Jong. In the more advanced role, Pablo Gavi can feature as the team’s ‘10’, a role he is more than secure enough in doing.
The best part about this formation is that Xavi does not have to play three midfielders at all, especially in game when he needs more offensive depth.
Memphis Depay can easily slot in as an attacking presence behind the striker, and would thrive with so many runners in attack.
Similarly, Xavi can experiment with two centre-forwards up top in the form of Ansu Fati-Auba, Torres-Auba, or Fati-Luuk de Jong in a formation that can move into a 4-4-2.
Losing Pedri is always going to be difficult, however, there is always a way in which the team can grow from this ordeal. One of these ways happens to expand the team’s tactical repertoire, making them more dynamic as a unit and prepared for when things go awry.