He gave a brilliant performance as part of a midfield three against Betis on Saturday
On Sept. 4, SPORT explained that Barcelona midfielder Gavi was essential for Xavi at the moment. He could not conceive of his starting XI without the presence of the academy graduate, a vital player to maintain balance in the team, as Oriol Romeu can be in the pivot position.
The Barça coach was full of praise for the player at the end of the game against Real Betis on Saturday.
"It's a guarantee to have him," he said. "He can play inside or as a playmaker closer to the box. It's very difficult to take him off the pitch. He gives us soul, intensity, character. He is practically the heart of the team. He is a sensational person and a sensational footballer. I'm delighted with him."
And Xavi is not without reason. With neither Pedri nor Gündogan playing, Gavi returned to the inside position and, further back than usual, he played a truly great game against the team where he took his first steps in football. He ran as usual, he never tired of recovering balls, of making the Betis players uncomfortable, but also, in attack, he knew how to distribute the ball to his teammates with good judgement.
The statistics show that he had a passing success rate of 96% (55/57) and that he was one of the players who was most involved in the game with 73 interventions. Defensively, he won seven duels and even one aerial duel despite being only 1.73m tall and committed four fouls.
But the figure that best explains Gavi's importance for Barça is that he stole seven balls from the Betis players, a key role in initiating dangerous moves. Without that pressure and without those recoveries, many in the opposition half, Barça's attacks against the Andalusians would not have been so many. One of the keys to reaching the opposition goal regularly is to win the ball back and Gavi is a master at that.
He is the heart of Barça and he spreads the message to his teammates. Despite his shyness and youth, he is a leader on the pitch. He doesn't give in to anything or anyone. It is impossible to see him refusing a duel.
If the system changes?
At the start of the season, many predicted that with the arrivals of Romeu and Gündogan, Gavi would be the midfielder sacrificed in the starting line-up. He did not start against Getafe but that was due to physical discomfort rather than a purely technical issue.
Xavi is proving with facts (and minutes) that for him Gavi is almost an immovable player in the team. It remains to be seen over the next few games whether the change to a 4-3-3 formation with a pure front three will be consolidated or whether the coach will alternate it with the four midfielders.
If Joao Félix remains in the XI, there are only three positions in midfield and, given his characteristics, it is very unlikely that Xavi will do without Romeu, the anchor of the team.