In a raucous afternoon of football in La Liga, Barcelona threw away a three-goal lead against Celta Vigo to draw 3-3.
This was the archetypal “game of two halves” as the Blaugrana dominated the opening period, taking an impressive three goal lead only to be wrecked by injuries to key players Ansu Fati and Nico Gonzalez and then see that lead clawed back by Celta after the break, culminating in Iago Aspas’ heroic 96th minute equaliser.
It brought Sergi Barjuan’s interim era in charge to a disappointing end while also setting the stage quite perfectly for Xavi to come in and take the reigns. This was a game which showcased the immense talent currently flowing through the halls of the Camp Nou, while also making plain the frailties and flaws that new coach Xavi has to fix.
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For his part, Xavi is excited to be at the club. Speaking pre-match, Xavi said he had: “very good feelings, really excited to be here, I’ve come back home. Really excited to start, to know the players, to talk with them.”
“This was my dream, and now the dream come true,” he added. Emphasising the fact that as much as this appointment is a dream come true for the fans, it’s also the case for Xavi himself who has been a Barcelona man all his life.
Xavi is fully aware of the scale of the task at-hand, however. “Of course it’s a big challenge, but I am ready, we are ready; all the technical staff, to start immediately.” Xavi knows that hard-work will be required, and it’s a view shared by Frenkie de Jong.
Speaking after the dispiriting draw against Celta, De Jong said: “We’re all very excited about Xavi’s arrival and we’re going to work very very hard.”
De Jong’s views were echoed by team-mate and compatriot Memphis Depay: “He have a lot of experience in top football and I think he will bring that experience into the team. I’m excited to work with [Xavi], and I think he can lift our spirits,” but Memphis did not shirk the responsibility the players have to themselves: “we have to lift our spirits together, as also the players you know. And speak about things, and have conversations to have more results in the games.”
And if you watched the game against Celta, you would understand why Memphis spoke about players needing to lift their spirits but also needing the experience of Xavi.
During their second-half collapse in Balaidos there were countless moments where Barcelona were crying out for someone to take control of the game’s tempo. To slow things down and insist that, rather than try to engage Celta in a shootout, Barcelona play the game at their tempo on their terms.
5': Celta Vigo 0-1 Barcelona
18': Celta Vigo 0-2 Barcelona
34': Celta Vigo 0-3 Barcelona
52': Celta Vigo 1-3 Barcelona
74': Celta Vigo 2-3 Barcelona
90+6': Celta Vigo 3-3 Barcelona
Barcelona let a three-goal lead slip right at the death.
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But no one stepped up to assume that role, and you can assume that’s a hangover from the Ronald Koeman days where quick, direct play was the order of the day; even though Barcelona didn’t have the players needed for that and that idea runs counter to everything that made Barcelona one of the greatest sides in the history of the game a decade ago.
That is what Xavi must bring back to Barcelona, he has to remind them who they are and how they are meant to play. So that the next time an opponent pressures them instead of wilting or folding then are able to stand firm and simply keep the ball. Drain the life out of the opponent through possession and walk away with a 0-3 win, instead of limping back to Catalunya crestfallen after a 3-3 draw.