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What can fans expect from Hansi Flick’s Barcelona?

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Hansi Flick is now officially appointed as the new head coach of Barcelona.

The German replaces a dejected Xavi Hernandez at the helm, who was shown the door with an incredible lack of dignity and professionalism.

Hansi Flick is an elite coach with a trophy-laden resume, credited with building an incredible Bayern Munich side that won a historic treble and an impressive sextuple during his short stint at the club.

While a degree of pessimism may have set in at the club due to the mismanagement of the whole managerial switcheroo by Joan Laporta, it’s time for fans and players alike to look ahead and rally behind the new coach in the dugout.

Not to mention, Flick brings with him a fresh perspective and a different tactical style that hasn’t been seen before at Barcelona.

So what changes can fans expect Hansi Flick to roll out at the club? Let’s find out.

The System

Possession-based attacking football is the trademark style of the playing model at Barcelona. Hansi Flick knows that and is a firm believer in the ideology himself.

The difference lies in how the possession is used.

While playing out from the back and patiently probing with the ball to generate space in the opposition’s half have been the hallmarks of Barcelona’s unique playing style, Flick’s teams are quite direct in their approach.

A new era at the club. (Photo courtesy: FC Barcelona)

The German lines his team up in a 4-2-3-1 shape. Efficiency and verticality are the two distinguishable traits of his team. Instead of using the ball to open up space, his players are tasked to exploit any space with incredible urgency.

Barcelona’s tactical identity implored them to use the ball to generate space. However, with Flick in charge, he asks his players to do the same albeit through their movements with devastating effect.

Flick’s system is a hybrid model – the traditional positional play prevalent at Barcelona infused with the German school of ‘Gegenpressing’.

He applies the basic principles of positional football to implement a press-resistant structure in the build-up and then uses vertical passing to break lines quickly and attack the opposition’s goal with sheer pace and directness.

The goal is to arrive in the final third of the pitch with utmost urgency – be it a defence-splitting pass through the middle or a long ball in behind the opposition’s defensive line. If there is space, the players will look to exploit it on their discretion.

With such emphasis on verticality and pace, Flick’s teams are pioneers of expansive, swashbuckling attacking football which often comes at the expense of bypassing the midfield entirely to set the forwards free as quickly as possible to wreak havoc.

It also must be said, that due to Flick’s high-tempo and direct approach to football, his teams generate a ton of turnovers. This is where an important feature, and possibly the most impressive, comes into play.

Flick believes in the ‘high-risk and high reward’ strategy. He implements an intense Gegenpress system with a high defensive line focused on counter-pressing and regaining the ball back as quickly and as high as possible after losing it.

It means that although he commits a lot of the players to pressure and risks leaving space in behind, his team is relentless in their pursuit of recovering possession.

All in all, a refreshing change from the usual at Barcelona.

The Belief

A change in the training methods can be expected. (Photo by DANIEL ROLAND/AFP via Getty Images)

Flick’s model is based on effort. The same one that produced his legendary Bayern Munich team that made the most sprints out of any team in Europe and consequently outran their opponents on their way to the treble in 2020.

Barcelona have experienced the physical prowess first-hand when they shipped eight goals in a nightmare Champions League encounter that no fan can ever forget.

Intensity and work rate are non-negotiable and a major component of his cultural orientation, championing work ethic and discipline.

So, while some clear changes are expected to be brought to the patterns of the play on the field, Barcelona should gear up for some serious ones off it too.

Flick places a lot of faith in the belief, ‘You play as you train’. As a result, it’s fair to assume that the intensity and workload of the training sessions at the Ciutat Esportiva are set to upshift gears drastically.

A major tweak as it could be, a demanding training regime would be welcomed by open arms as it has been an underperforming area for Barcelona for quite some time now with their inefficiencies well-documented on that front.

Moreover, Flick is renowned for his emphasis on physical development, having transformed a number of players in the Bayern squad into literal powerhouses, improving performance as a consequence.

These changes would do Barcelona a world of good. Their lack of intensity and physical fragility in training and matches has been a recurring shortcoming and one that needs an overhaul to compete in line with the requirements of the modern game.

The Players

While Hansi Flick attempts to ring in the changes at Barcelona both stylistically and culturally, it’s important to take a look at the players who could assume increased responsibility and even benefit from the German’s impressive man-management skills.

For starters, Gavi and Alejandro Balde certainly are exciting prospects under Flick, who is known for developing players with physical attributes as impressive as their technical ones.

The biggest beneficiaries of Hansi Flick’s arrival? (Photo by PAU BARRENA/AFP via Getty Images)

Balde is especially tipped to unlock his true potential with Alphonso Davies’ emergence as a quality full-back and one of the best in the world a clear reference point.

Even Robert Lewandowski, who has had a below-par season by his own high standards with inconsistent and rather dreary performances, is set to be reunited with the coach who brought out the best out of him at Bayern Munich.

The Polish international had a different level about his game under Flick, scoring goals at a ridiculous rate and with devastating consistency. So much so that he found himself as the sole-runner for the Ballon d’Or in 2020 which was unfortunately not given.

Flick’s arrival may also prove to be a godsend for Frenkie de Jong. Certainly a player with a unique skillset and impressive physical capabilities, the Dutchman has found it difficult to fit into the rather traditional set-ups at Barcelona.

Deployed in the pivot role, a position of immense influence at the club, De Jong has, at times, been restricted from showing his true value to the team and therefore finds himself considered dispensable.

However, if given a chance in Flick’s midfield, a pioneer of the double-pivot, he can flourish in the all-action engine in the middle of the park. With his incredible ability to carry the ball and emit fierce intensity off it, the Dutch international could thrive.

Not to forget, the youngsters coming through La Masia could excel under the stewardship of the German tactician.

In addition to Lamine Yamal, it is Fermin Lopez who is touted to assume a greater role in the squad under Flick due to his valuable goalscoring prowess, darting movement and impressive work-rate, quite similar to Thomas Muller.

With a tactical revolution on the cards, combined with a promise of a cultural overhaul and tapping into the potential of key players and profiles, things are looking bright under Hansi Flick.

Time for Barcelona to get excited again.

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