All that glitters is not gold: Xavi Hernández & the optimisation of the Barça project

For all their shiny new toys, Barcelona are a team that's far from being fully assembled. Tactically and structurally.

With the defeat in El Clásico, Xavi has now had the worst start of any Barcelona coach with 50+ games since as early as 2001. 50 games, 28 wins, 11 draws and 11 defeats amount to a 56% win rate. Quite clearly, for a club of Barcelona’s aspirations, it is severely lacking. But it’s also lacking in context. We all knew Xavi’s rise would be challenging and long. To rebuild a team like this, essentially from top to bottom, overnight, is nigh-impossible. Rome wasn’t built in a day, after all.

But there’s much more that goes into this. Xavi needs time, yes, but how much will he get? How much should he get? A lot will obviously depend on the results because without results, Barcelona can’t survive, neither financially nor sportingly. That much is clear. “Barça’s history has demands of us, not of Madrid. Our history for 40 years, when Johan (Cruyff) came, set a bar: to win by playing well. If we don’t play well, we’re not happy. That’s how we Catalans are,” Xavi explained back in April. Nothing much has changed in that regard since that statement. Barcelona still need to win and Barcelona still need to win by playing well. However, currently they’re neither winning nor playing well. There is one common denominator in this conversation, though - squad optimisation. The issues, however, are multi-layered. Let’s start with the first one: tactics.