It’s incorrect to judge Xavi’s Barca tactics based on just one game, yet we may already mention some noticeable changes the new Blaugrana boss has introduced.
Let’s list and describe all of them.
1. Midfielders’ attacking contribution
The first few minutes of the game saw Frenkie de Jong enter the opposition box more often than usual – something we could expect given the latest rumours about his new role.
De Jong’s heat map vs Espanyol
Both Nico and Gavi were always somewhere near the box, ready to receive the ball, attempt a header or a footed shot.
Nico’s heat map vs Espanyol
2. Plenty of shots attempted
We usually saw the previous Barcelona teams playing it safe and trying to find attack-minded players in the box.
Under Xavi, the players are starting to take more responsibility and aren’t afraid to take a shot from different positions. Sergio Busquets alone attempted 2 shots, one of them being a real scoring opportunity!
Overall, the Catalans had 16 shots, 6 of them being on target. Quite a decent stat given all the things.
3. Persistent fouling
One of the core principles of the Cruyff and Guardiola eras was not to let the opposition keep the ball.
In the first half against Espanyol, Barca did everything possible to keep possession – of course, this meant acting more aggressively while tackling.
Blaugrana registered 17 fouls (Espanyol had just 9) and collected 3 yellow cards for their aggressive play.
4. Quality pressing
Barca’s team pressing is slowly becoming more effective. In the first half, Espanyol players were often forced to kick the ball out while trying to enter the opposition half through passing.
The only drawback is that the players struggle to maintain the momentum throughout the full 90 minutes, and this includes the team’s pressing.
“Reminds me a lot of Quique Setien’s first game in charge. Good pressing, progressive passing, players looking to combine with one another. Midfielders getting into the box. The foundations were there but obviously, a lot more time is needed before this team can flourish.”
5. Lots of offside calls
Barca’s midfielders and attackers were often looking for free spaces and choosing the right time for openings, but the team chemistry is yet to improve in this aspect.
Memphis recorded 3 offsides, De Jong-Nico-Gavi had one call each, but perhaps the situation improves as soon as Barca’s injured attackers are back.