Are Barcelona enduring a mini crisis this season under Xavi?

Published on 24 December 2023 at 14:30

Club legend Xavi's inaugural managerial voyage at Barcelona has resurrected the Blaugara from financial capitulation on the field in recent seasons. Last season he delivered the La Liga title and Spanish SuperCopa, as he guided the club back to silverware after a turbulent last two seasons prior. However, a U-turn in form this December has sparked newfound scepticism surrounding the club and has jeopardised a defence of the league title.


Barcelona were resounding La Liga champions last season finishing with a ten point lead on El Clasico rivals Real Madrid, where Xavi integrated the acclaimed tiki-taka philosophy famous during their decorated 21st century reign. 

After the harrowing departure of club icon Lionel Messi and the financial crisis embroiling the club, Xavi managed to shift the toxic atmosphere infecting the Camp Nou and heel the wounds between the fans and the club's hierarchy last season. He had provided a first La Liga win in four seasons, and while they endured an early group stage exit in the Champions League he had transformed the Camp Nou into a fortress conceding the fewest number of goals in 30 games ever.

They started the season where they left off in 2022-23, unbeaten in their opening 13 games with ten wins and three draws. They won three successive games in the Champions League group stage despatching Shakhtar Donetsk, FC Porto and Royal Antwerp and unlocked a new free-scoring front three consisting of summer signing Joao Felix, Robert Lewandowski and Raphinha. 

Last season's top scorer Lewandowski scored five goals in five games across September, but since has struggled to find form scoring two goals in his next fourteen games. That was the goal-machines worst goal scoring streak since 2010 when he went ten games at Borussia Dortmund without scoring a goal.


Their first defeat of the season was October 28th in a tightly contested El Clasico against Real Madrid, where Barcelona succumbed to a late Jude Bellingham brace ending their 146 game undefeated run stretching back to the last game of last season.

The shock defeat was in match week four in the Volksparkstadion stadium in Germany against Shakhtar Donetsk which signalled the start of their unravelling where Barcelona underwhelmed in front of goal losing 1-0.

The 26 time champions have been impacted by an onslaught of injuries; Frenkie De Jong sustained an ankle injury, Gavi suffered an ACL injury which has ruled him out for at least six months and goalkeeper Marc-Andre Ten Stegen has struggled with a prolonged back injury.

This inconsistency to team selection and the enforced changes of weaker replacements such as goalkeeper deputy Inaki Pena currently have fragmented the team's cohesion and momentum.

The significant blow was the title deciding clash against noisy neighbours Girona at the start of this month which reiterated the deterioration of the club's defence lately compared to their impeccable solid record last season. Girona took a five point lead above their local rivals with a 4-2 comeback win and are on course to win their first ever La Liga title.

Barcelona have conceded 21 goals in their 18 league games leading up to the new year in comparison to only 20 goals conceded in 38 games in 2022-23.

The most concerning defeat was the 3-2 capitulation against bottom of group H strugglers in the Champions League Royal Antwerp on the final group stage gameday. While Barcelona heavily rotated as a result of securing qualification with Xavi introducing academy graduates Hector Fort (17), Fermin Lopez (20) and Marc Guiu (17), it was still a damaging result of morale and emphasised the club's poor efficiency in front of goal at the moment.

The latest hiccup was a 1-1 draw against Valencia which put Barcelona five points off of the leaders while Real Madrid and Girona recorded important wins that further strengthened their title charge.

They ended the new year with a  hard-fought 3-2 win against Almeria, but with financial struggles making January signings difficult and an ongoing injury crisis it appears their temporary hardship might continue into 2024.

Written by Lewis Eadie

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