How can Xavi accommodate Lewandowski, Rafinha, Dembele and Aubameyang?

How can Xavi accommodate Lewandowski, Rafinha, Dembele and Aubameyang?

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17 Jul 2022
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Barcelona are amazingly active in the market: they extended the contract of Ousmane Dembele, reached an agreement on the transfer of Rafinha Diaz from Leeds and finalized the transfer of Robert Lewandowski (Bayern have already confirmed).  Others on the team include Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Ansu Fati, Ferran Torres and Memphis Depay (although his departure seems likely). Obviously, no layout will fit all of them, but let’s try to find an option that will fit the maximum number of attack stars without looking ridiculous from a balance point of view. Before we dive into tactical fantasies (today it is such a genre, not analysis / analysis), a couple of notes:

  • don’t take it too seriously. This is just an attempt to give a quick and interesting answer to an intriguing question; 
  • Of course, criticism of the proposed version is welcome. Better yet, offer original ideas in the comments.

The situation 

The most rational way is to take last year’s 4-3-3 Xavi as a basis (it’s not only about the location, but also about the roles within the scheme) and try to find places for new stars there. It is within the framework of this option that Rafinha/Dembele and Aubameyang/Lewandowski turn out to be direct competitors, especially if we take into account not only positions, but also functions. The Barça manager will either have to rotate players (if so, he gets arguably the two most heavily manned positions in the world) or invent a new idea. Let’s assume the second scenario and try to get into the head of the Catalan. Lewandowski and Dembele are in their favorite positions. Rafinha and Aubameyang are adapting, but they have the right qualities and experience. Rafinha finds himself in the role of the right lateral – he is hardworking enough to work out behind the opponent on the flank to the stop (Marcelo Bielsa’s personal game teaches this). But in the dominant style of Barça, in most episodes this will not be necessary. Aubameyang as a left winger – it was in this role and in this formation that he gave perhaps the best stretch at Arsenal. The one that brought him a fat contract, and Arsenal – victory in the FA Cup through the key goals of the Gabonese. His obvious preference is to play in the center of the attack, but with 3-4-3, the effectiveness almost did not drop, even when he started from the flank. The amount of work without the ball at 3-4-3 is also convenient for Aubameyang. When playing in four defenders with Pierre on the wing, there was an imbalance, and in 3-4-3 everything was relatively safe. He didn’t have to go too deep – the bulk of the work came from pressing (after moving to Barca, Aubameyang is extremely motivated at this stage).

The details

In general, the role suits him without the ball – he can play it even better than in a similar scheme at Arsenal. Embele keeps width on the flank and breaks opponents in isolation (as close as possible to his current role). Aubameyang in the possession stage is paired with Lewandowski. If the opposition is defending high, Barça play through Aubameyang’s speedy openings. If they sit deep, then the presence of Aubameyang will slightly free Lewandowski, who in this scenario will be the main threat. The pair may be complementary. Can we expect something similar from Xavi? Quiet. Hybrid schemes do not scare him, but, on the contrary, attract him. For the Catalan, the main thing is that the principles of positional football are observed – the described plan takes this into account.  Of course, there are also disadvantages. Barça are losing momentum from last season. 4-3-3 with different flanks worked great – on the left, combinational triangles with wide powers of Jordi Alba, and on the right, isolations under Dembele / Traore. In the new version, for example, there will be no such conditions for combinations on the left, but the individual qualities of the stars can be revealed and coexist. There will also be one less spot in central midfield, although the position is heavily manned. 

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