Since the beginning of the season, I’ve been very vocal about my expectations and criteriums for this new Barcelona. Xavi needs to improve the team. It’s as simple as that and it’s objective number one. Not much has changed since; I would rather sack him on the basis of not achieving that objective than on a potential lack of silverware. At the end of the season, this Barcelona team will likely be crowned champions of Spain. But they are not playing like champions. Not even close to it.
Their individual quality, even when they’re out of form like they are now, is such that they have the ability to steamroll LaLiga and win the title while not playing particularly well. All season long, many have lauded the team for winning while playing badly but I’ve been saying that is not a good enough foundation for the future. Playing badly but winning is something that can work occasionally. Something that can be a last resort. But it can not be a long-term formula for a team like Barcelona. They are not built for it. Mentally, physically or tactically.
And sure, you can say that on an individual level, the team wasn't good enough tonight. In fact, you could say that for almost every iteration of their starting XI and the bench since the injuries to players like Pedri, Dembele and De Jong. Such absences will inevitably have an effect on the team’s performance and not a single squad on the planet is immune to it. After all, it’s challenging to play champagne football when your striker trips over the ball, your midfield is flat and the wingers are far from their brilliant best. All of that matters. But again, it shouldn’t be an excuse. No, let me rephrase: it isn’t an excuse.