Xavi: “If we don’t win titles, there will be consequences.”
Barcelona manager Xavi Hernández pulled no punches in his pre-Villarreal press conference.
He had known it since the beginning: the 2022-23 season was going to be more than just what happened on the pitch. And he knew as well that October could determine it all; Halloween would not be reduced to just a single night this year.
Barcelona face Villarreal tomorrow (20th October) in a game that could have the potential to make or break the season. Losses against Inter and Real Madrid have sent the Catalan outfit’s expectations regarding success crashing back down to earth, and boss Xavi was left no room for doubt in his messages pre-game.
“Of course”, Xavi replied when asked if he would understand it if Barcelona decided to sack him. The mood is low around the Camp Nou but the manager did not back down. “This is football. The people in the street put up their fists to me in support. Now we have to continue and face up to reality but I’m always positive. I won’t lie to you. Barça is about winning and achieving titles.”
Tension at Camp Nou?
“The situation is not the best. We started brilliantly but this doesn’t stop me. We have to go step by step. We must try to improve. Between success and failure there is sometimes very little. They’re small details but we have to do more things.”
Xavi, despite the tension, reaffirmed his commitment to the club and the season: “I am a culé and I won’t stop. Nothing will stop me. I will keep working hard and I will give everything. I will work hard to show to the players that the objective is still to win titles.”
“I must be honest with the club, the players and fans. I am still very excited. Everyone is supporting me, it feels like a family member has died with all the messages I have received. There is no such thing as a transition year for Barcelona. We have to go for titles. If we don’t, there will be consequences and maybe they are for myself. I don’t want to look for excuses.”
The manager, as well as accepting the disappointing situation, highlighted that the errors did not have a singular cause: “they come from errors in the team, structure, defensive line, high pressing, tactical adjustments - various tactical tweaks we have to do. How to attack and defend better. We try to detect and fix them. There is a lot to improve.”
“I don’t think [it is a mental problem]. We were ourselves until the last moment and the game could have ended up 2-2. Madrid are a great team. They are the League and European champions. They played a low and mid block and were happy to defend and hit us on the counter.”
The upcoming game
Villarreal arrive at Camp Nou having only conceded 3 goals in 9 matches. Xavi recognised Unai Emery’s talent as a coach and spoke about how difficult the next match is in a line of crucial games. “They are one of the most complicated teams in La Liga. We admire them, they do things very well”, he explained, “it will be difficult but after losing in the Clásico we are now playing at home and we have to get the three points.”
“The team is fine. We trained especially well today”, the boss assured. “We have to change the dynamic and that happens by winning tomorrow. There will be changes to refresh the team. There are player with a lot of minutes in their legs.”
What to do with Busquets?
Sergio Busquets, whose contract is up at the end of the season, has been the subject of a lot of criticism this season due to his role in the team as an ageing metronome. Added to that his poor attempt at stopping Madrid’s first goal in the Clásico and it becomes understandable why he has come under more scrutiny than ever. “His contract finishes, that’s a fact and we will see what happens during the season, how he feels and what level of performance he has. It’s a very personal situation for him.”
Xavi, as well as highlighting that Busquets is not yet close to a new deal, pointed out the less than ideal options that are in the squad to perform his role: “we have Frenkie [De Jong], Kessie or we can try a centre-back. That’s why Busquets is important.”
“There will be games in which he plays less and games where he doesn’t play”, Xavi continued, “but he is still vital. We have a healthy dressing room. There is a good atmosphere and a sense of positivity.”
Questioning the style of play
The famous style of play was questioned, with Hernández insisting the ideas are in place and the team is working hard every day to improve. “We play with our idea. Against Madrid and Inter the game was played how we wanted. We were the protagonists, shooting closer to goal and with a high defensive line. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. We have clear ideas and the players are comfortable with them.”
Questions were asked about referees, as Xavi’s behaviour was questioned during the Inter game. “I complained a lot on the day of the Inter game and it didn’t help in any way. At the end of the day it’s the referees job and they have to be thought of as honest. I always believe that at the end of the season everything evens out. Let’s see if it does.”
Barcelona play Villarreal tomorrow (20th October) at Camp Nou.
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