Xavi arrived at Barça with a list of topics to discuss with the squad. “It’s not discipline, it’s order,” he clarified. And, in his first talk with the staff, he resorted to hackneyed meritocracy. “Those who are better will play,” he stressed. In Xavi’s 13 games as coach, the outfield players who played the most minutes were Busquets (1,128), Piqué (1,013), Araujo (1,003) and Jordi Alba (972). The winger forced himself to play 30 minutes against Bayern and missed the games against Osasuna (injury) and Mallorca (covid). In the rest, he participated in all.
“I understand the criticism. The shots go to the sacred cows and they have to understand that too. The commitment of the veterans is spectacular, but now it depends on the performance. Until recently we didn’t have many alternatives”, explained the Catalan coach in the run-up to the trip to Vitoria to face Alavés (9:00 p.m., Movistar Partidazo).
The problem for Xavi is that while at the back he has alternatives for Piqué —Araujo, Éric García, Mingueza, Lenglet and Umtiti— and the position of central midfielder can be occupied by De Jong and Nico, on the left side he only has Balde, affiliate player. And the youth squad has only played 392 minutes at Barça B. For Xavi, then, it’s Jordi Alba or Jordi Alba. In fact, when the full-back was not available, the coach had to change the system (Osasuna) and improvise with Araujo at full-back (Mallorca).
Since Alba signed for Barcelona in the 2012-2013 season, the Barça technical secretariat has only sought competition for him three times: Mathieu (2014-2015), Digne (2016-2017) and Firpo (2019-2020). In the same period, twice as many right backs were hired, Aleix Vidal, Semedo, Wagué, Douglas, Dest and Emerson. In addition to the return of Alves. According to sources from the sports management, Alba is a loved guy in the locker room but he doesn’t take the competition well.
Alba screamed to heaven when she read in the press that Barça was following in the footsteps of Juan Bernat and Theo Hernández. It wasn’t easy for homegrown players Grimaldo (Benfica), Cucurella (Brighton) and Miranda (Betis) either, who had to find a life away from the club. Alba shows off his chest in attack: 1.6 chances created per game compared to 1.7 last season.
However, it punctures in defense. He accumulates an average of 18 losses per duel, when the previous year his statistic was 14.5 and in 2017-2018, for example, it was 12.5. “His commitment is impeccable”, defends Xavi. It happens, in any case, that the coach runs out of patience and the sports management is already working on a substitute. Alba won’t like it, but they don’t care anymore. “The little boy is no longer[por Messi] [POR MESSI]to protect it”, they conclude from the sports area.