All is not lost this season, although it certainly feels like after a devastating week.
Now is the time to do some serious thinking about how we got to this point.
Since his arrival, Xavi has not hesitated to take on the responsibility that comes with the power of being Barcelona’s coach in a time of crisis.
His greatest traits were his infectious sense of confidence and relentless positivity, instilling faith in both the fan base and the Barcelona board that he can lead the team to the top now.
In the transfer market, it is fully supported.
Joan Laporta and Matteo Alemani, who shouldn’t escape criticism here either, fought to get everyone he asked for, and got rid of the people he was so determined to leave.
Xavi’s leadership qualities are commendable. Barcelona desperately need to believe in themselves, and so far, they have.
However, the coach’s tactical decisions are now under serious scrutiny. Surprisingly, this is the area that many have expected the most, with comparisons to Pep Guardiola and Luis Enrique, where many current and former players have praised him, especially compared to his predecessor.
At the heart of the field issues, particularly in the most important games of the past month, is Sergio Busquets.
Xavi showed an intense love for other Barcelona legends, and his former teammates, Gerard Pique and Jordi Alba.
We had to believe he would give the same treatment to Sergi Roberto, but instead of telling him to go ahead, insisting the club not renew his contract, Xavi kept him, while forcefully firing youngster Sergino Dest, who still had the potential to improve under his tutelage.
Why was it so difficult for Barcelona to leave the past behind?
First, it was the contracts that Josep Bartomeu handed over to the sacred cows.
But if management were willing to pressure Frenkie de Jong, Ousmane Dembele and others to dramatically restructure their contracts, and more than happy to put heavy pressure on others to find a new club, why wouldn’t they. Same thing with Busquets?
Because Xavi relies on him to be the centerpiece of his team.
He called him up again against Real Madrid, even after he was directly responsible for why Barcelona was effectively eliminated from the Champions League at the hands of Inter Milan.
Xavi, like many coaches before him, Busquets became dependent on the team.
Like Messi before him, Busquets gives you a false sense of security that all is well.
Barcelona dominate most of the time with Busquets in the midfield. He’s the first to get the ball out from behind, who controls the tempo, and who has the penetration.
Except for one big, glaring problem that’s been flashing over the past half-decade. Sergio Busquets has always been on the field at many of the fiascos in the biggest games on the world stage.
For every humiliation, Busquets, Pique, Jordi Alba and Sergi Roberto stared at the ground in shame.
The 8-2 match against Bayern Munich was supposed to be a wake-up call.
The captains even volunteered to be the first to turn away if asked.
Perhaps Ronald Koeman should have listened. Perhaps Xavi should have stepped in and had the courage to do the same, but in Busquets’ case, no one, not even Luis Enrique with the Spain national team, saw that despite his unique brilliance, the Spaniard might be a relic of the past holding their teams now.
Sergio Busquets is in the final year of his contract, so at least there’s a ramp to get out and if Xavi does the right thing and make him part of the spin, rather than being unbreakable, we’ll be able to enjoy and appreciate him. The time he left in the colors of the Blaugrana.
But if he keeps holding on to his Busquets after the game, things could get ugly, as many customers started turning on the manager and player.
With all the drama swirling around Frenkie de Jong in the summer, and Xavi’s willingness to let him leave for the right price, perhaps he should have prioritized finding a way to restructure the squad in a way that makes them less dependent on Sergio Busquets.
With Frank Casey and Nico free signature too, there were in-house options to try.
Instead, Xavi spent pre-season using Frenkie as centre-back (which could have come in handy this week), and the start of the season sidelined Casey completely.
Does anyone else think 4-3-3 is out of date?
It wouldn’t be a huge jump to try a 4-2-3-1 with Frenkie and Franck as centerpieces, and Pedri or Gavi at 10. Heck, Gavi could even play off the wing, which would allow overlapping defenders like Alejandro Baldi.
You can go crazy and try 3-4-3 if the center back is still healthy. There’s a lot of tactical flexibility out there with whomever you choose as the flip-flops. Ferran Torres and Ansu Fati were built for just that. Gavi and Pedri can try it too.
The frustrating part as a fan is seeing that the more things change the more they stay the same.
Same faces, same formation, same somewhat predictable tactics.
Xavi deserves the pressure he’s feeling right now.
He asked when he learned that Barcelona are selling themselves to fund the ability to win titles this season.
This team is built to beat Bayern Munich and Real Madrid in the world. Surely he should have a huge advantage over Inter Milan.
There is still plenty of time to move away from Busquets, and steer the team in a new direction that will put him in a position to compete for the La Liga, the Copa and European titles, even if that’s not what we all wanted.
Xavi deserves a chance to weather this storm and show his ability to learn and beat the team. Mikel Arteta with Arsenal is an example of what can happen when the club has patience. Unlike Arsenal, Xavi doesn’t have much time on his side given the circumstances at Barcelona.
He needs to show his ability to adapt when things don’t work out.
So far, he hasn’t.
Against Villarreal on Thursday, one thing is certain, and that is that Sergio Busquets cannot be in the starting line-up.
The future begins now, and it’s not a part of it one way or the other.