Xavi's Dembele-Raphinha problem as Barça coach pieces XI together


Xavi's Dembele-Raphinha problem as Barça coach pieces XI together

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Xavi Hernandez likes two wingers but it has not been that effective this season

Since his appointment as Barcelona coach, Xavi Hernández has insisted a lot on the importance of pure wingers in his side. He considers players who open up the field and grant more space to the midfielders vital, especially in matches against rivals with extremely defensive approaches. So much so that, in three of the first four games of the season, Ousmane Dembélé and Raphinha, the two players in the squad who fit this profile of a natural winger, were both selectede. Xavi's declaration of intentions could not be clearer.

During the season, however, factors such as form, opponents, injuries, bans and even luck condition a coach's thinking. On Sunday, against Getafe, the Frenchman and the Brazilian both started for the first time in LaLiga since the Santiago Bernabéu clasico, played in mid-October, more than three months ago (with the World Cup break in between). Xavi, it is evident, has changed his initial bet: either one or the other, but not both. Dembélé and Raphinha have only both started nine of Barça's 27 matches in all competitions.

In these nine games, the Catalans have scored 14 goals, that is, an average of 1.5 goals per match. The figure is even lower when compared to the team's scoring balance in the remaining matches, in which Xavi has selected wingers with a tendency to go inside -- Ferran Torres and Ansu Fati -- or has lined up four midfielders. Barça have celebrated, in these circumstances, 48 goals in 18 fixtures. The average is 2.6 goals per game, more than one higher than that registered with Dembélé and Raphinha as starters. The difference is not huge, but it is significant.

The calendar does not let up. On Wednesday, Barça will play a Copa del Rey quarterfinal against a Real Sociedad side that has won nine consecutive games and has established itself as an 'underdog' contender for the league title. It will be a life or death match and everything indicates that Xavi, once again, will not come out with the two pure wingers in the side. The numbers, without a doubt, encourage him not to do so.

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