Xavi Hernandez won his first trophy since taking over as Barcelona manager by beating Real Madrid 3-1 in the Spanish Super Cup final.
Robert Lewandowski, Gavi and Pedri were all on the scoresheet as the Catalan side stamped their authority over their biggest rivals. It was perhaps their best performance against a high-profile opponent this season.
With that being said, here are four talking points from the win.
Xavi Hernandez got his tactics spot on
Xavi has come under a bit of fire for not only his team’s inability to close out games, but some of his in-game management as well. His substitutions have tended to do more harm than good and the team ends up fighting tooth and nail to protect a one-goal lead.
Against Real Madrid, Xavi tweaked the system a little with Ronald Araújo deployed on the right to try and contain Vinicius Jr. He also opted to play with four midfielders but with allowing Gavi a bit more freedom to play on the left side of the attack. It’s fair to say those choices paid dividends in a big way.
Unlike in games prior, he waited longer before he made his substitutions and did so in a way that allowed the team to keep its shape and continue its dominance over the opponents. As far as his role as a manager, there can be no complaints.
Sergio Busquets rolled back the years with his performance
As the captain and one of the original holdovers of Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona, Sergio Busquets has come under a lot of criticism that his era at the club should have ended a long time ago. At least on this occasion, he proved there’s still quality left in those aging legs.
Busquets looked like the Busquets of old as he was dictating the tempo and making crisp passes and opening up play. With De Jong covering, he was allowed more free time and space to do what he does best and not have to worry so much about tracking back on losses of possession.
He was involved in two of the three goals. He won the ball against Camavinga which led to Gavi’s opener. In the second, it was his pass that led to De Jong freeing up Gavi for Lewandowski’s second. It was a masterclass from the 34-year-old.
Gavi and Pedri continue to prove they are the pillars of the Barcelona midfield
Much like Xavi and Iniesta were heralded during those golden years, the same can be said for Gavi and Pedri.
The former was named the MVP of the final and for good reason. He had a goal and two assists in the game but his impact on the pitch goes beyond the numbers. His intensity is a welcome addition to a Barcelona side who at times can look very passive. Gavi scraps for every loose ball and isn’t afraid to get stuck in despite only being 18 years old.
“We all know how he [Gavi] competes.” Busquets said after the game. “He’s a competitive animal, super young. At that age, most are in the youth academy. He has a bright future, but he still has a long way to go. Let’s hope he keeps on learning. Hopefully he marks an era here.”
When it comes to Pedri, he showed once again he isn’t afraid of a little pressure. When an outlet was needed to get out of a tough space or try to find space going forward, he was there with the ball at his feet trying to get out of danger and create some. Both he and Gavi could mark an era if their development continues on its current path.
Barcelona will look for this to be a stepping stone for bigger things
Going forward, the plan for Barcelona will be to play the way they did against Real Madrid. For Barcelona supporters watching, there were times where they looked like the team from the Golden Era under Guardiola. There was a passage of play where they passed the ball around for fun, not allowing Real Madrid even a whiff of the ball.
While it may not be realistic to see such a display every game, they’ll certainly be hoping to be as effective as they were tonight. Too often they failed to finish off the opponent by not putting their chances away. This time, they were clinical and still could have scored more.
By finally winning a trophy, Barcelona were able to get some weight off their shoulders.
“This title, won against Real Madrid, will give us peace of mind,” Xavi said. “We have lived through very difficult moments since Messi left, and now I hope this is the first title of many.”
The players felt that as well, which is why they took so long out on the pitch celebrating. They wanted to soak it in as this was the first title for a number of those players. It gives them confidence that this could be the start of something.
“It’s the beginning of a new era, that’s why this title is so beautiful,” Araújo said.