FC Barcelona vs Real Sociedad
FC Barcelona vs Real Sociedad is never an easy match. Score lines of the recent seasons is a proof of the statement. This encounter was no different either. A 4-1 score line in favor of the Blaugrana saw them leave the pitch in a much better mode. The performance still has lots to talk about and improve.
Both teams like to control the game’s tempo with the ball at their feet. And a chaotic first half proved that none of the teams had their way.
The loss of Busquets compelled Xavi to field a different approach. Xavi lined up a 3-2-4-1. It a quite an unusual line-up. Eric, Christensen, and Araujo played as the three defenders. Frenkie de Jong and Pedri were the double pivots. Upfront. Balde and Dembele operated as wingbacks. Ferran and Gavi took the middle spots. Lewa played as the lone striker.
Xavi deployed Ferran as a second striker. While the position looked good on paper, Ferran did little to prove a point. While his movements were good, much more is expected from his chemistry with other players and his shooting. Opting for Balde instead of Alba was a good decision. Balde’s smart run and Lewa’s movements delivered Barcelona the lead in the match.
The system had drawbacks that Real Sociedad exploited and held back Barcelona‘s attacking transitions. De Jong’s incapability to play as the lone pivot meant that Pedri partnered him in the double pivot. This meant that Pedri was largely absent from his natural position. His absence in between the lines indicated that the ball progression was erratic. Even then, Pedri was our best progressor of the ball. Frenkie had a decent game overall. He had the freedom to make runs and arrive at the box.
Xavi deployed Balde and Dembele as wingbacks was a risk that Xavi took. Balde was impressive with his performance going forward while also getting back to defend when needed. Dembele, however, is not a natural wingback. His natural tendency to attack ahead left spaces between him and Araujo, which both David Silva and Isak exploited.
Xavi made some critical decisions past the hour mark that changed the game’s momentum. Ansu replaced Ferran, and Raphinha came in for Balde. Ansu and Raphinha were influential for Barcelona’s three goals in quick succession. Dembele shifted to the left wing while Raphinha took the right side. This was an essential switch as Dembele went to score the second goal for Barcelona. A silky back-heel pass from Ansu fell onto the feet of Dembele, who ran into the space and scored with his left foot. Ansu would again assist Lewa for his second goal. The gem also scored a calm finish to end the game with two assists and a goal.
The defensive aspect
FC Barcelona fielded a back three with Eric, Christensen, and Araujo. Araujo was again lost in the back three. His incapability to play the line-breaking passes was a problem Barcelona faced. Defensively he was better. Gavi and Lewandowski were our press initiators. Lewa was also very effective in inking our plays to the wingbacks. He even shifted to the left side at times. The defensive partnership of Eric and Christensen dealt with the La Real attacks with a firm foot. Their distribution was astute. A back three did guarantee Barcelona a numerical advantage when building from the back.
Barcelona, however, failed to control the tempo mainly because of Real Sociedad’s aggressive pressing. After halftime, Xavi opted for a change in approach. Instead of playing long balls and mindlessly passing among the interiors and wingbacks, he asked the players to wait for the space to open up and be quick and direct. This worked along with the substitutions. Busquets was definitely missed. Barcelona needs to find a suitable successor for Busquets.
Overall, Xavi’s innovative game management and the chemistry between the individuals gave Barcelona the much-needed win.
Follow our Twitter for regular football news and updates.