Xavi has a problem: FC Barcelona’s system with 3 midfielders doesn’t work

Xavi has a problem, he can’t play with 3 midfielders. We saw Barcelona have this issue last season and it’s happening again in the preseason. 4-2-3-1 with Pedri and Oriol Romeu in the double pivot, being Gundogan the attacking midfielder. First problem, full-backs and wingers in the same vertical channel, making it easy for the opponent to defend. When Barcelona tries to progress down the wing, there are few passing lanes, with poor angles. The defense arrives earlier to give support and it’s difficult to progress the ball.

Second problem, low center-backs and deep double pivot, leaving a large gap between Pedri and Gundogan. This means that Ter Stegen ends up being the player who touches the ball the most, looking in most of these situations for a long ball. When a player receives the pass, he has to play with his back to goal and with no teammates nearby to link-up, having to play under pressure.

If Lewandowski drops to receive between the lines to generate superiority, he moves away from the zones where he’s most effective.

To try to fix it, Barcelona moves Gundogan bringing him closer to the double pivot. Against Arsenal he did so as the minutes went by, playing in the last stretch of the first half at the same height as Oriol Romeu and Pedri turning the 4-2-3-1 into a 4-3-3.

In addition, playing with the full-backs and wingers giving width and with the centre-backs open is very dangerous in defensive transitions since there are few players to counter-press, stop a quick attack or a long pass into the box.

We’ll see if Xavi insists on this idea or returns to the system with 4 midfielders in the next few games.

Other Analysis