An excellent month for the Spanish side can be essential for success for what’s left in the season.
By: Emmanuel Mendez
After a very unconvincing start to the season, FC Barcelona has found their old rhythm of play at the helm of manager and former player, Xavi Hernandez. Xavi was announced as manager on the 5th of November after the sacking of former manager Ronald Koeman.
Barca struggled to get points in La Liga and was battling in the 6th-10th positions while also failing to make it out of their Champions League group and dropping down to the Europa League. Xavi won his first game in charge against Espanyol 1-0, but the deficiencies were still there, as the team struggled to play well. Xavi is very familiar with the ‘Barca style’ as having lots of possession and the ‘Tiki-Taka’ playstyle.
He struggled to have his team convert chances, and it was even more challenging when critical players like Memphis Depay, Ansu Fati, and Pedri were injured. He wanted to sign more players for depth in the squad and bring some quality into the side. The January transfer window was essential for Barca to improve drastically.
Barca signed four players, which included the return of Dani Alves, Ferran Torres, Adama Traore, and Pierre Emerick Aubameyang. Those four players have impacted the Spanish side in the best way possible. Dani Alves, 38 years old, shows his defensive and attacking qualities in the right-back position.
Ferran Torres is an exciting young prospect who came from Valencia and transferred to Man City, has great dribbling and positioning, and who can play as a striker and on the left. Adama`s pace is a great choice in any team that punishes the opposition defenders on counter-attacks, and his crosses are key to Barca strikers like Luuk de Jong and Auba.
Aubameyang is a great striker who struggled in his former club Arsenal this season, but Xavi has managed to bring the old Auba back after starting to score goals again. Xavi improved players like Sergino Dest and Ousmane Dembele, who has contract extension talks with the club. Luuk de Jong, who before was seen as not a good option, has also transformed as a critical player for Barca in decisive moments.
Barca`s academy players from La Masia have stepped up their game like Ronald Araujo and Gavi. Frenkie de Jong has seemed to get his form back, and Pedri has played unbelievably well.
In February, the first game that showed this improvement was the game against La Liga champions, Atletico Madrid, who themselves are having a tough season. Barca showed no remorse and won 4-2 at home.
Atletico took the lead early, but it was all Barca. Dani Alves scored 4-1, and Atletico would get a goal back from Luis Suarez. Jordi Alba scored a screamer to tie the game, and then Gavi would score 10 minutes later. Araujo scored for 3-1 before halftime, and many fans noticed a change in this Barca squad.
Barca drew 2-2 to Espanyol a week after thanks to a last-minute goal by Luuk de Jong. Barca was impressed but still struggled, a bit, which was expected since there were new players to get used to in the group. Barca’s different options on the bench were relieving for many fans, and Barca was finally avoiding losses and climbing the table.
In the Europa League, Barca had to play Serie A challengers Napoli. It was a challenging game on paper, and drew 1-1 at the Camp Nou. Barca played well but wasn’t clinical in front of the goal. They had 21 shots, and five were on target. The second leg made up for the misses as they thrashed Napoli 4-1 away from home. Jordi Alba, Pique, Frenkie de Jong, and Aubameyang got on the scoreboard and showed that they could perform like that again.
The four-goal trend continued in the league after beating Valencia 4-1 and Athletic Bilbao 4-1. Aubameyang scored a hat trick in the Valencia game. The Athletic Bilbao game showed how great the players on the bench could help kill off a game when Dembele, Luuk de Jong, and Depay scored after coming on.
These impressive wins led Barca to third place in La Liga. Their goal this season is to qualify for the Champions League. Barca hopes to make a good run in the Europa League and win a trophy. Xavi doesn’t believe it’s impossible to win the league now.