The way Barca won titles last season challenged some preconceived ideas. Xavi's Barça's attacking play was expected to stand out, which is why the defensive numbers were even more striking. The coach achieved a very solid defensive structure based on three central pillars: everyone's commitment, pressure after losing the ball, and a back four with three central defenders.
At this stage the team had conceded just one goal, whereas this season they have conceded eight in seven games. "We have to improve in that area. Last season we had a lot of solidity, everyone with generosity. But today we really did as well and we have almost the same defence. There have been two punctual, improper and clamorous mistakes," Xavi pointed out.
The coach insisted on the idea of punctual errors. Xavi publicly did not talk about structural issues, although the defensive skeleton of the team has changed important pieces this season. Koundé has moved to centre-back, a situation that has been consolidated with the arrival of Cancelo. Barça have made a leap in talent and creativity with the Portuguese, but they have added another defender with a very attacking outlook.
Opposing coaches have been quick to spot a world of possibilities at the back of Barça's full-backs. Despite the fact that when the team loses the ball they try to organise themselves in a 4-3-3 formation, the full-backs play so far forward that it is difficult for them to get to the assists. In practice, the centre-backs find themselves too often in tight situations. What's more, when Barça have the ball, Balde plays at the same height as Raphinha, in other words he plays as a winger.
Mallorca accumulated two strikers on the inside, a situation that forced Barça's centre-backs to be on top and unable to cover the back of Cancelo and Balde. This will be a constant this season: opponents will look for these situations in quick transitions after losses and Xavi has to find solutions to balance the defensive structure.
Topics with the letter