Analysing Xavi Hernández’s performance: Barcelona 6-2 Real Madrid

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When we talk about that Barcelona performance at the Santiago Bernabeu, our minds cherish the re-introduction of False nine to the world by Pep or Henry pocketing Ramos, Puyol kissing the captain band after scoring the monstrous header etc.

Of all this, we often forget the guy who made it possible to destroy Madrid. The guy who assisted four times in a single game in one of the biggest game for Barcelona that season to extend their lead above Real Madrid in the table. We will be studying all the assists which Xavi made during that night with detailed analysis.

Data study:

We tried to get some available data from Statsbomb.

Barcelona vs Real Madrid 2009 05 02 Pass Map
Barcelona pass map

If you observe this pass map, the red ones(Dani Alves, Messi, Xavi) represents higher xG. Barcelona’s chances of scoring goals increased due to the trio.

MessiXaviIniestaPasses

Since Messi was almost the part of Barcelona midfield with his false nine role, you can observe how the trio dominated the mid-third region with their passes. This was possible because Madrid midfielders weren’t able to restrict Barcelona midfielders progression.

Xavi – Game Analysis:

Xavi’s role at Barcelona was a mix of 6 and 8. Due to his multidimensional play, he used to gel in any role according to the situation. His fluidity in the midfield helped Barcelona predominately in connecting defensive third to mid-third. Mostly Xavi Hernandez used to act as a double pivot with Yaya Toure/Busquets to carry the ball forward. But in this game, he was a bit more offensive in his play.

Xavi’s assist to Puyol(1st assist):

Henry won the freekick just outside the 18-yard box. Xavi was the one who was about to take the freekick. In the box, Barcelona had this situation:

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4v4

At the back post, it was a 4v4 situation. Toure was marked. The 3v3 had Puyol, Pique, Eto’o marked by Higuain and 2 Madrid players respectively. Eto’o had one marker on him.

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Pique man-handling

Too strangle Puyol’s marker, i.e. Higuain, Pique distracted them both and dragged them back and made Puyol free.

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Puyol getting into space.

To make space for Puyol, Yaya made a run to the near post with Puyol making an arc or curved run into the vacated space to connect the resulting header and blasted it ferociously past Casillas. Below video will help to understand the above scenario:

Creating deception through Body movements:

Very few footballers are able to master such skills and trick the opponent into doing a certain thing while the aim is to achieve something else. Xavi Hernández is one of the footballers to efficiently execute such moves with ease. Below example will help understand it:

Xavi Hernández is in action to receive the ball

Xavi Hernández is in action to receive the ball. Xavi has his back to his marker who makes a run towards him in order to stop him from moving ahead.

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His marker is with the intention that Xavi will stop the ball and then either he will pass or make a dribble. So the marker slows down.

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But Xavi never touched the ball. He just let the ball flow through him and then initiated the dribble. This way, his marker got late, and Xavi progressed ahead.

Xavi’s 2nd assist:

This was a simple mistake from Lass. Lass received the ball from the CB. Here, he put his left foot on the ball, and Xavi was just on his blindside. The touch was too heavy, and as a result, the ball rolled a few centimetres ahead of his right foot. Xavi jumped on the ball, snatched it, passed it to Messi who scored to make it three on the night.

Delaying the opposition:

Here, Yaya receives the ball and passes it to Xavi Hernández. When Xavi has the ball, his obvious pass will be to Alves, but Alves didn’t have any passing option. In this scenario, if Xavi was to pass to Alves and by mistake, if the ball was lost, then the player behind Alves could have used all the space on Alves flank.

To avoid this, Xavi made a backwards dribble. This was a trigger for Yaya to not stay static and move ahead. Once Yaya was in the centre, Xavi passed it to Alves and Alves then gave a diagonal ball to a free Messi in the centre.

Xavi’s incredible assist to Henry(3rd assist):

Madrid had possession which was collected by Valdes, and he distributed it quickly. Due to this action, Madrid’s defence was disorganized at that moment and was on the brink of starting to structure the back. Xavi spots Henry and makes a perfect through ball over the Madrid defence and in behind the large chunk of space left by Madrid due to high defensive line.

Henry made a perfectly timed run. Ramos, on the other hand, wanted to play the offside trap but was unsuccessful due to Henry’s timing. Casillas had no option but to leave his position and try and close down Henry, but Henry cheekily scored the goal.

Final Assist of Xavi Hernández:

To add the final nail to the coffin. Xavi’s 360° spin eliminated both the Madrid defenders and Messi was free to score in 1v1 position against Casillas. Heinze instead of checking on Messi got busy to read Xavi’s move and easily got delayed when Xavi laid it off to Messi.

Conclusion:

Years after that historic victory. While speaking to La Vanguardia, Xavi said:

“That feeling of superiority in the Bernabeu as in the 2-6, I never had in my life”

It is now five years since Xavi Hernández departed for Al Sadd and Barcelona are yet to replace the Catalan magician. With Xavi hoping to manage Barcelona in the upcoming year’s, it will be interesting to see how he manages the talents which Barcelona have at their helm.

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