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3 Main Problems of Barcelona Were Revealed After The Defeat to Girona

The joke that Catalonia's leading team is Girona is no longer just a joke. Girona and Barcelona clashed on Montjuic in a fair duel, and the team in red and white proved more decisive. Barca is cornered on all fronts: the field and the standings.

If it were any other team in Girona's place – Alaves, Osasuna, Cadiz, Getafe – it wouldn't bother Barcelona so much. But the primary sensation of the championship is Girona, a team from Catalonia, Barcelona's closest neighbor. Losing to a neighbor in the standings and in a head-to-head match must be particularly painful for the Blaugrana.

However, the game against Girona, which brought criticism from all sides to Barcelona, did not reveal anything new globally. Xavi's team became problematic over time. Despite winning the league and the Supercup, it was unsettling even in the previous season. The game against Girona reminded everyone of Barcelona's imperfections. It reminded me loudly because the defeat was noisy.

Suppose a surprise team like the current Girona had emerged in the previous La Liga season. In that case, Barcelona might not have become the champion. It's just a hypothesis, but the fact is that now, in the 2023/2024 season, the competition at the top of the Spanish league is higher. A year ago, there was no surprise like Girona, and Real Madrid was not as fresh as it is now (even if it became more evident in the second half of the season).

Barcelona does not exist in a vacuum. The context is important, too. Perhaps during Pep Guardiola's time, Barça could afford not to pay much attention to its surroundings because they were monstrously strong. But now the situation is different. Barcelona is not a monolith. Increased competition cannot go unnoticed.

By the way, regarding the monolith talk. Last season, Barcelona had an excellent defense. Two components are essential here. The first one is a strong defense. The team was seriously reinforced with Christensen and Koundé, Araujo had an excellent season, and Balde stepped higher.

The second component is Marc-Andre ter Stegen. If it weren't for the slump at the end of the season, Barca, with ter Stegen in goal, could have broken Chelsea's record for the fewest goals conceded in the TOP-5 leagues. The German had an outstanding season. So, Barcelona's success is essentially his merit.

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Returning to the present. Ter Stegen has been absent from several games and won't be back soon, possibly due to the need for surgery. His replacement, Inaki Pena, could have had a better start against Rayo Vallecano. Still, he eventually settled in and played much more confidently. However, compared to Ter Stegen, Pena lacks the same class and status. It cannot be asserted with 100% certainty. Still, it can be assumed that Barcelona's defense feels a different level of confidence with Pena in goal than with Ter Stegen. Pena and the defenders obviously need more synergy. While it may not be Barcelona's main issue, it is essential to consider it in the absence of Ter Stegen.

Another crucial point is the exchange in the attack. Barcelona sent Usman Dembele to Paris for a modest fee, and they acquired Joao Felix in his place. The Portuguese player debuted brightly, scoring in the Champions League against Antwerp, but gradually faded. He then shone again in the match against Atletico but disappeared again against Girona.

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Regardless of one's opinion of Dembele, he could create a moment out of nowhere. Throughout his time in Barcelona, he had discipline issues. Still, he found common ground under Xavi, and the coach trusted him. Last season, the Frenchman often came to the rescue when Barcelona struggled to create opportunities through team play.

Xavi counted on Dembele and did a lot to extend his contract, but circumstances led to Dembele's departure. Felix arrived, and although he suits Barcelona's style, he only performs when in the mood. The exchange of Dembele for Felix has weakened Barcelona, impacting them when an explosive performance is needed. Still, there there needs to be someone to deliver it. Felix seeks inspiration, Yamal is very talented but still needs to be younger to play consistently, and Ferran Torres is not the one to create moments without partners. Rafaña remains active, but if he is shut down, no one else will explode in the attacking group.

Gavi could still be the engine, but he suffered a severe injury and will be out for a long time. For example, the young Spaniard may not be as crucial to Barcelona's structure as Pedri. Still, as J.K. Rowling wrote, Gavi is the dragon's heartstring. He can ignite and create chaos, and he excels at it; there are no equivalents to him at Barcelona.

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The match against Girona did not reveal anything revolutionary about Barcelona. Yes, a 2-4 score, an intense shootout – wow! But there was nothing revolutionary in football terms with Barcelona in this match. Girona lifted the carpet under which Xavi had swept all his team's problems. And everything that the Barcelona coach tried to keep secret again became apparent.

Published by Patrick Jane