Xavi wants to break Barcelona’s defensive mentality, but he has to tread carefully

Even Real Madrid was imposed a beautiful stranglehold on LaLigaRace for the title, it’s fascinating to see and hear Xavi Hernandez’s early attempts to coax and even mock the reaction from Barcelona, when they are seven places behind and 18 points behind their arch-rivals. To put it mildly, Xavi was bold, even risky, with his vocabulary.

When Bayern beat Barcelona in Munich last week, taking the Spanish giants from Champions League in the group stage for the first time since 2003-04, they had an important service when Thomas Muller Confusingly, but precisely, the truth is that the Camp Nou team don’t have the physicality or fitness to play the trademark football needed at the elite level right now. The immaculate, haughty, demanding World Cup and Champions League champion commented: “Barcelona can’t stand the intensity of our competition. Technically, they still ‘have a lot’. , great players on both a technical and tactical level. But they are not capable of playing with maximum intensity at the most demanding level of European football.”

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It’s not just a simple truth; it also gives Xavi an olive branch. The incoming Barcelona coach could have said something like this: “I have inherited a squad that has both injury and fitness problems; I am reshaping our entire approach to football. with competitive intensity; I’ve significantly upgraded my health department… But to expect a big change in fitness mid-season when we play three times a week, mostly week out, is unrealistic.”

To replace, he flatly disagrees with Muller and began to unpack his feelings about the lack of psychological strength, confidence and attitudes of some of his players.

The ground is rough and dangerous.

After giving an absolute lecture to the team both at half-time and full-time in Bavaria, the Catalan coach spoke ahead of Sunday’s 2-2 draw at Osasuna about seeing an “inferior” Barcelona against Bayern, and about how he feels he is fighting against the “defensiveism” that has become so pervasive at his club.

“My squad here has a better level than what we are showing” Xavi said. “I watched Barcelona’s season before joining, but now I want to say that the players have fallen more than I thought. It is more a matter of mentality than football. Here excellence is not about excellence. must have been a 6- or a 7/10 performance. Against Bayern are failures in football, but I think what caused us the most was the psychological aspect.”

It was then following a dramatically improved performance against Osasuna in Pamplona when (also true) Barcelona gave up their chance to win and, according to their coach, ignored the specific tactical demands he had on him. hit them on Friday and Saturday, he continued his theme of players shrinking under the ongoing tension.

“We are in a negative move,” said Xavi, “one that will cost us to get out. The positive and negative side is that the 17, 18 and 19-year-olds themselves have been playing. make the difference here. They’re the big changemakers for us, so we have to ask much higher for some of the other players.”

It was an interesting speech from Barca’s fledgling boss, one that certainly describes some of the difficulties. Frenkie de Jong, Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Oscar Mingueza, Philippe Coutinho, Sergino Dest, Luuk de Jong and others are going through right now. But the risk of highlighting confidence issues, or hinting at the fragility of his team, is substantial.

Tell the players, as a group, that they are psychologically shaken and carry the threat of some of them, out of pride, completely off; it also runs the risk of causing some underperforming people to sink deeper into whatever subconscious pleasure they are feeling. Saying such things in public need not be the product of frustration and anger, and choosing which locker room “truth” to reveal in the media is a dangerous path. significant – one of the benefits that, if you get the message, timing and impact right, has the potential to catalyze (in a good way) while the negative can be catastrophic, lasting and divisive, Act as nectar for your enemies.

For anyone who has followed Xavi or Barcelona closely for the past quarter century, this psychological matchup is doubly interesting.

Xavi burst onto the Barcelona team as a midfielder at the age of 18, extremely talented and about to win the Under-20 World Cup with Spain in Nigeria. But his first club game was a loss in the Spanish Super Cup first Mallorca. His first Champions League campaign included being eliminated in the group stage to Bayern Munich and Manchester United – echoes of this season – and while that squad, led by Louis van Gaal, won the Spanish title in Xavi’s first season, both he and the club subsequently went on negative spiral, with Barcelona not winning a single title for the next six years.

Let that number spin around in your brain for a moment. Sseason ix.

Intriguingly, in the winter of 2002-03, the club’s chief executive, Javier Perez Farguell, carried out a thorough internal examination and concluded that the club had an “anti-psychotic”. . He also calculates that “with little impact, low marketing and sponsorship”, players like Xavi could be spent. He even allowed at least one middleman I know to look for a new club for the young midfielder.

“Defensive mentality” is essentially a phrase from 2002 that has surfaced in the past week, summarizing the unrest Xavi says he is currently trying to avoid/cure the club he has been at. inheritance.

Meanwhile, as a player, Xavi received boos on the pitch when he replaced club hero Pep Guardiola. The club’s atmosphere was toxic, debt was heavy, and the first team consisted of Dutch and South American players who were out of date, although the club did nothing smart to deal with the reality. this.

Reminds you of what?

The point is: there are similarities. Xavi has been in this situation before, and he survives thanks to two central traits: he’s incredibly talented (like Gavi, Nicolas Gonzalez, Ansu Fati, Pedal, Abde Ezzalzouli, Ronald Araujo and Alex Balde), and he was so stubborn that he simply refused to be kicked out of the club he was so interested in. We are dealing with a guy who is now more than just a talented coach, an excellent communicator and a follower of the exact same brand of football that his emerging young players used to be. These were taught to play during their academy years. But will his “shock therapy” approach of speaking openly about the psychological and confidence deficits in his squad work?

There are many examples of how to try to deal with the mood / confidence / winning mentality of a challenging team.

What about Xavi’s mentor, Guardiola himself? His point of view is basically “I need time, but as soon as possible we have to create teamwork. That’s the most important thing. Then you can work on tactics, but first we have to create things. something special between us.”

Unai Emery, winner of four Europa League titles at two different clubs (a competition that Xavi and Barcelona are now required to win this season, was drawn against Napoli in the knockout playoffs – at two different clubs is a good guide.

VillarrealThe coach believes that “the main thing is knowing how to gain the trust of the players: lead, set an example, apply what you ask of them… dedication, commitment, respect, fair treatment by… all of that leadership. Your players will believe and follow an idea if they are convinced of it. That involves management, teaching and discipline.

“Trust is built day by day. It’s hard to establish an atmosphere of trust and it’s also very easy to break. You do a hundred things where you create trust, but only with one place you create it. trust, you can ruin another 100.”

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Alejandro Moreno has a say on Barcelona’s exit from the UCL group stage for the first time since the 2000 season.

Maria Ruiz de Ona has been a sports psychologist at Athletic Club, specifically in their academy, for many years and is currently affiliated with Aspire Academy in Doha. “The first important step, if we want to transform and improve organizational culture, is to have a common language: What does ‘competition’ in this club mean? What is ‘success’ in this club?“she speaks.” And that process occurs not only on the pitch but also in the club’s lobbies, in the dressing room, in meetings, in conversations between players and coaches.

“Football needs coaches who understand that their role is not to put 11 little ‘warriors’ on the field, who understand that these ‘warriors’ have emotions: they think, decide, learn. That understanding from the coach creates a different kind of relationship.”

In terms of harsh language and uncompromising nature, Xavi is a few degrees less intense than his former teammate, former coach and longtime friend, Spain coach Luis Enrique. During his successful career, La RojaThe team’s coach has always kept a sports psychologist, Joaquin Valdes, literally. Whether in training sessions, press conferences, interviews or meetings, Valdes is like an extension of the Spaniard’s personality – he always listens, evaluates, advises and provides service. for the players who will or will not make Luis Enrique’s success.

The Spaniard himself also thinks that “since Xavi took over, I have seen an improvement – maybe not what the fans expect to see, but it will take time. When you there was a team whose performance was too far from their potential, the principal cause was confidence Xavi took over a team whose players had very little of it because a few months earlier, and the rebuilding of the Confidence is not something you can prescribe: it takes time and patience.”

Wise words. And perhaps the advice of Xavi, deeply shocked and openly frustrated with the psyche of some of his new students, could help with the digestion.

https://www.espn.com/soccer/barcelona-espbarcelona/story/4547131/xavi-wants-to-break-barcelonas-defeatist-mentalitybut-he-must-tread-carefully Xavi wants to break Barcelona’s defensive mentality, but he has to tread carefully

Jake Nichol

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