The midfielders have recovered the leading role in Barcelona since the conquest of the Super Cup. Pedri, Busquets, Frenkie de Jong and Gavi were in the line-up that defeated Madrid and the fans remembered Guardiola’s good times at the Camp Nou. The Manchester City coach today went so far as to affirm that his ideal eleven would be the one made up of “half eleven” after defeating Santos in the 2011 Club World Cup final.
The Catalan coach was inspired by Cruyff’s dream team. And no one forgets that the philosopher’s stone of his team was the center midfield personified at the beginning by Milla and at the end by Guardiola himself. That figure has evolved over time with very different footballers until reaching Busquets. The question now is whether it is convenient to renew the Barça captain —his contract ends on June 30—, or, on the contrary, it is necessary to sign a player who can play his role —the example would be Zubimendi—. The alternative would be to vary the game mechanics and give up the midfielder as an identity piece of Barcelona. The question is complicated if one takes into account that the priority right now would be to fit a player like Frenkie de Jong into the midfield.
It is not just any matter if you take into account the role of the Dutch player in his team and at Ajax. De Jong is not exactly a 4. He does not have the positional game that distinguishes Busquets and instead is distinguished by his mobility, driving and arrival, very grateful in the vertical game that Xavi wants. The coach, in any case, would like Busquets to continue for another season —and therefore postpone his desire to travel to Miami and play in the MSL— while he solves the enigma of the midfielder, decisive in Barcelona football.
Xavi has lined up the four midfielders in the matches against more demanding rivals such as Atlético in the League and Madrid in the Super Cup. The result has been optimal since they added two victories after penalizing the only league defeat when they had two wingers at the Bernabéu. The trident formula, mythologized since Neymar, Luis Suárez and Messi won the Champions League with Luis Enrique in Berlin in 2015, expired the day the Brazilian paid 222 million to leave for Paris Sant Germain.
Barcelona has squandered that fortune to want to find a replacement for Neymar. The Raphinha-Lewandowski-Dembélé variant has not worked in the most demanding events and has even had its difficulties to prevail in games like the one last Sunday against Getafe. The situation invites to recover the fourth midfielder -in the style of Iniesta- or the striker capable of pressing and unbalancing like a midfielder -the referents could be Villa or Pedro-.
“We will assess depending on the game” answers Xavi when asked if he prefers to play with four midfielders or three forwards. “We have several alternatives and it is about the opponent not knowing how we are going to attack. Both seem valid to me”, the Barça coach stressed. Despite the fact that he hasn’t won at the Camp Nou for 32 years, the visit of Real Sociedad invites us to think that Xavi will once again arrange the line-up that won the Super Cup and, therefore, will have Pedri, Busquets, Frenkie de Jong and Gavi . The question is perhaps how he will deploy them on the field because sometimes Gavi and sometimes Pedri, the two decisive players in Barcelona’s last victories, get off the hook.
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