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is the key to Barça’s success in the midfield

BarcelonaBarça in the post-Messi era have had to learn to attack together again. The Argentine has been the only Barça player to be able to get out of an increasingly poor script in recent seasons. Praying for Messi’s inspiration was the solution to many games in which, contrary to Barcelona’s culture, he ended up weighing more in the result than the game. Without the 10 and with the emerging talents still at a tender point in his career, Barça have looked for new paths to the rival area. One of the most important resources has been the center: there is no team in Europe that has scored more goals than the Catalans (15). The key is Ousmane Dembélé. The Frenchman, on the other hand, has made the fastest path to the opponent’s goal and is already the player with the most assists in the league (11).

There are mainly two ways to interpret the focus: either it is done for lack of creativity and gameplay, or this resource is used as an alternative. Messi’s tendency to play more and more focused led Barça to attack in the middle lane. Without the imagination of the Argentine, Barça has made the center one of the main resources. It is the third team in Europe to exploit this route the most, only behind Cologne and Manchester City. Since Ernesto Valverde arrived at the Camp Nou, Barça have had an average of ten goals per game, this year it is fifteen. The most positive thing is that feeding the offensive game with centered results in the fact that Barça is the team that has scored the most goals, fifteen, and shares the first position in the ranking with Inter Milan and the Stadium Rennais. The second most converted player in the league is Atlético de Madrid, with nine.

From Koeman to Xavi: less focused, but of higher quality

Since Xavi sat on the Camp Nou bench, Barça have scored three times less per game than Ronald Koeman. However, quality is what makes the difference. The game with the most attempts was against Granada, still with Koeman on the bench: the team made 40 crosses in the area and Ronald Araujo ended up finding the goal in a header. It was the climax of a thick game team and little automation. Although with the Dutchman the team scored three headers, with Xavi there are already eleven. In this respect, a key name emerges: Luuk De Jong. The striker has been the author of five.

Football is a sport of contexts and moments. The player on loan from Sevilla looked like a countercultural player: inaccurate with the ball at his feet and even less fine in front of goal. However, Xavi has offered him a role in which Dutch is important. He has reduced his playing time and defined him as an emergency striker. Now, Barça focus better because this resource is a way of generating voluntary danger and not a resource due to the lack of goal-scoring routes. Luuk’s last three goals, all in added time (Espanyol, Athletic and Levante), have given Barça four points.

Jordi Alba gives Luuk De Jong time to get rid of the defense and the Dutchman scores the winning goal.

Of the eleven goals scored by Barça during the Xavi stage, more than half of the assists came from the right wing. Unlike the left wing, Barça has optimized very little on the right wing in recent seasons. The lack of creativity was due to the variable position of Messi and the role of the sides, a Sergi Roberto focused more on possession than attack and a Nélson Semedo who never managed to have a consistent performance.

Dembélé has been the footballer who has best palliated Messi’s farewell in creative terms. Xavi has simplified his life: the flight is open in the band and ready to face when he receives the ball. The interpretive margin must be assumed once he has the ball at his feet. And the midfielder who has best grasped Xavi’s plan is Pedri. The Canarian, when playing as a right winger, tries to connect with Dembélé when he interprets that the Frenchman will receive the ball in a favorable situation to face his defender. Xavi has limited French football, trying to hide his weaknesses and strengthening his strengths. In the left sector, Jordi Alba has been able to adapt to the type of side that Xavi asks for: with more presence in internal positions than reaching the bottom line. Hospitalet, without Messi, has reinvented his attacking football and, according to Soccerment, is the second footballer in the league to deliver the most valuable passes. In addition, it has already accumulated eight assists.

There is life without Messi. Or at least that’s what Xavi’s Barça are showing. Barça have once again competed back to their origins: attacking in a choral way. And the new paths have Dembélé as a key piece. The Frenchman, who specializes in finding order in chaos, is the main architect that Barça have made the centers a valuable weapon.

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