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Xavi talks Lewandowski, Araujo, Gundogan following Barcelona 2-1 Deportivo Alaves

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Photo by MIGUEL RIOPA/AFP via Getty Images

Following a defeat to Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League this midweek, Barcelona returned to winning ways on Sunday, thanks to a narrow 2-1 victory over Alaves.

Speaking after the game, Xavi Hernandez talked about the team’s mentality and the rough patch the team is going through. He touched upon various other topics, including Robert Lewandowski’s performance.

Xavi began by acknowledging the team’s positional challenges: “Positionally we weren’t bad, but we suffered a lot with lost possessions and transitions, especially with Samu.”

Despite the struggles, Xavi commended the team’s attitude, stating, “We are not in our best moment, but we showed our attitude to win a match that was going badly for us.”

The coach didn’t shy away from addressing defensive lapses, noting, “We gave away the first goal with a mistake from Gündogan, I think. And then we almost gave away a second goal straight after. It was an ugly match.”

Barcelona have indeed failed to match last season’s solidity and have conceded goals quite frequently this season. “We’re giving away ridiculous and unacceptable goals this season. That did not happen last season, and it’s the reason why we have less points,” Xavi said, about the team’s defensive lapses.

“We conceded a goal within 18 seconds. It’s unacceptable, and we have to change the dynamic,” he added.

Nevertheless, the Spaniard heaped praise on Ronald Araujo, adding, “Araujo is the best individual defensive player we have.”

Another player who impressed on the night was Robert Lewandowski as he scored a brace to help Barcelona secure all three points.

Highlighting the reliability of star striker Robert Lewandowski, Xavi stated, “Lewandowski is always there for us. We’re crossing as a way to attack a deep block. We have one of the best strikers in the world.”

Looking ahead, Xavi expressed the need for a break: “The international break will be good for us to reconnect, think things through, and improve. I’m clear that we will improve. The team showed that we can play very well today.”

As for the game, Xavi offered tactical insights, adding, “The team played well for around 35 minutes in the second half. We were organized. I told the players to calm down at half-time. I think that we played well in the first 30 minutes of the second half.”

“From the kick-off, we wanted to play vertically, with Ronald up top. We did not want to start playing from the back. Normally Gündo doesn’t lose possession like that,” he further said.

“I told the players that they had to calm down because they were all very tense. This is because of everything that is surrounding the club right now. This match had to be won with positioning and order. We needed to not rush, and associate with our teammates in time. We did that for around half an hour.” he added.

In the broader context, Xavi said, “We’re in a very sad state, the most difficult part of the season. Like in Anoeta, the match was getting very ugly.”

Addressing external factors, Xavi commented, “When I talk about Barça’s entourage, I don’t mean the fans, I mean the press. The criticism from them affects the footballers, and they don’t play well.”

“The criticism does not affect me, it affects the players. I can see it in their faces. People said I was the cancer of Barça, and now I’m here as the manager,” he added.

Xavi did not hold back, adding, “I have zero doubts that the criticism from the press is affecting the team. It happened to me as a player and I can see it now. There’s a massive wave of negativity around the team that is harming us.”

The Barça coach did not shy away from admiring the opposition, though. “We had spoken about Alavés being very good with counter-attacks,” he said.

Overall, Xavi was happy with the result and is glad to have sealed three points, before signing off for the upcoming international break

“I evaluate the match very positively. The start was bad, in which we gave away an unacceptable goal. After that, we had chances, we were organized and we were able to win the match,” he said.

“The team has some sort of tension on their minds that did not exist a month ago. We have to change our dynamic,” the coach added. “I was very soft with the players today. I think they needed affection instead of anger.”

It is clear that Xavi Hernandez is well aware of the negativity that is surrounding Barcelona at the moment. But the coach is hopeful of extracting the best from his players.

“Yes, it’s true. We’re in a bad moment. But even like that, we managed to win a match, and that has a lot of merit,” he said. “The negativity around the team and the criticism is affecting my players. Above all, the youngsters. The veterans like Lewandowski and Iñigo aren’t really affected by it.”

“I never look at the negative part of things. I only try to look for solutions to our problems. Solutions so that our players can enjoy themselves on the pitch. I can tell that they’re not enjoying now,” Xavi added.

Finally, Xavi highlighted the importance of having the right mentality, especially when it comes to competing at the highest level.

“We have to demand more from the footballers so that they give their best version. They have been able to get the courage necessary to win when things were not going well and that is also very important,” Xavi concluded.

Source: BarçaTV+

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