Just one year ago, Xavi asked his players to be more ‘rebellious’ in attack. More individual inspiration, more creativity. “We are aware that we have to generate more. Sometimes we have to go off script: shooting, individual plays…”, the coach said.
To this day, that remains the biggest criticism of Barça. With space, the Blaugrana do find their way. When they don’t have it, they lack the unpredictability to unsettle their opponents. The games against Getafe, Cádiz and Villarreal serve as examples.
In the first two, the Catalan side found it extremely difficult to penetrate the defensive spider’s web. In La Cerámica, on the other hand, Xavi’s side took advantage of the spaces to dig deep.
The arrival of Joao Cancelo and Joao Felix has altered the game in a big way. If there is one thing they share, apart from their nationality and agent, it is their ability to improvise.
Often, their decisions are far removed from those that most of their teammates would make. As Xavi asked, they go off script. For better and, of course, sometimes for worse.
The Joaos are electric and direct, virtues that Xavi’s team had been crying out for. The game against Betis was enough to confirm this. Cancelo moved inside the box like a striker, while Felix capitalised on his interventions like few others: he opened the scoring and set up Lewandowski for the second goal with a great dummy.
In a team that is obedient and worked to control everything, the audacity of Cancelo and Felix is the spice needed to shake things up. When the excess of order turns Barça into a flat team, the appearance of the two is like shuffling all the cards again. Like hitting F5 on a stranded boat.
Balances are everything and this Barça was too inclined towards correctness. Towards the predictable. Hence the Joaos are a huge boost to the team.
But, as the saying goes, to break the rules you first have to know them. In other words, for their spontaneity to shine, the work and rigour of Christensen, Oriol Romeu, Gavi, Ferran and company is essential. Taste is in the variety. And the key.