A little over 2,000 years ago, Heraclitus, the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher, argued that everything that surrounds a person is in continuous and constant movement, change and development. This “everything” also includes football, a sport whose ideas have evolved to the present day. The modification, aimed at countering the strategy of the opponent, contributed to the progress of football in full accordance with its rules. No one is immune from change, not even big teams called to glory, where every mistake has consequences. Here’s how Barcelona and Real Madrid present themselves in La Liga 23/24, which starts today: Both Xavi Hernandez and Carlo Ancelotti set a change of direction in their teams this summer, adopting the midfield diamond formation as a pattern. to continue on the throne azulgranas and return the meringue crown.
The defending champion had to react to a last-minute setback that left a gap in attack. Ousmane Dembele has packed his bags for Paris, leaving behind the right winger he orphaned last season.
However, Xavi saw the Frenchman’s departure as a great opportunity to adapt his team to the 4-4-2 formation that had given him such good results last year. When de Tronio was the opponent, coach Coulet added another man to the main part of his team, usually in the form of a “false left winger” with Gavi. The result of the experiment was La Liga, especially against Real Madrid.
Now he has even more reasons after the arrival of Oriol Romeu to soften the loss of Sergio Busquets and Ilkay Gundogan. The German responsible for winning the last Champions League with City lands at Barcelona to ensure experience, quality and an arrival in a midfield that is presented as a real Tetris for Xavi.
In the theoretical rhombus that the man from Egar has drawn on his board, Oriol Romeu is the basis. The youth team player, who “served his military service” at the Premier and distinguished himself last year at Girona, won the whole numbers to start on the tour of the United States, in which he established himself as an important “anchor”.
Ahead of the turn, the blue garnet coach has “sweet” doubts. Frenkie de Jong, Gundogan, Pedri and Gavi have to share three places. It seems clear that Xavi will have to alternate and choose a certain midfield role depending on the opponent in front of him: Gavi is all about struggle and honor, Pedri fantasizes without avoiding sacrifice, Gundogan’s appearance and understanding of the game and De Jong is wonderful. in everything their peers stand out for.
Any of these players will be responsible for linking up with Robert Lewandowski at the top and with a second striker who could be between Ansu Fati, Rafinha or Ferran Torres, who played for the False Nine in summer friendlies.
This is the scenario that Xavi Hernandez will have to deal with as he faces the challenge of reclaiming La Liga while keeping his image in the Champions League hungry for a competitive Barcelona.
On the other hand, Ancelotti, the Catalan’s fellow bencher on the other side of the lift, has also had to juggle to make up for a tangible loss that he hasn’t had, at least this year. Karim Benzema put an end to a brilliant adventure at Chamartin and the Italian was left without his reference striker, the one who was supposed to lead the white team to the transition between him and Kylian Mbappé.
Like Xavi, the transalpine manager clearly saw his opportunity to use the diamond in midfield, especially when Florentino Pérez confirmed the arrival of one of the most popular players of recent months: Jude Bellingham. The Englishman completes a natural substitution in midfield for the triumvirate of Casemiro, Kroos and Modric. The new batch arrives stomping, and there are so many of them and they are so good that you have to make room for them.
Aurélien Chouameni, rebounding in the pre-season from the 22/23 irregular season, aims to become a staple of physical midfield like few others. Perhaps the most powerful in Europe. Apart from Kroos and Modric, who, of course, have not yet said their last word under the protection of the Santiago Bernabeu, Eduardo Camavinga, Fede Valverde and Bellingham himself will step forward to take over the baton, which will sooner or later leave the Croat and German.
Two reasons why Ancelotti decided on a sudden change of tactics: the absence of a proven centre-forward and the presence of Bellingham. “This scheme allows us to choose, have another opportunity and vary the system, rather than fix it. On an individual level, we have learned more about the qualities of Bellingham, who is a full-fledged midfielder, not a central player, and can make a difference. This must be taken into account,” he said.
The transalpian’s vision of the former Borussia Dortmund player he sees as a hook is crucial to conceive an attack without an offensive link. The Brit will have to take advantage of the actions of Vinicius and Rodrigo up front to know how to secure suitable goalscoring numbers by appearing and not occupying the area.
Some figures that “Vini” must also accept, who, deprived of the comfort of his left side, has in front of him the opportunity to take a step forward, which can again launch him to the Olympus of football or remain as he has been until now to be a great player.
Madrid will ask the Brazilian to ease the goal deficit left by Benzema, but they will need Rodrigo’s help, Joselu’s involvement and the midfielders’ participation in a “hinged” season, pending Mbappe’s arrival.