FC Barcelona and the to-do list awaiting Xavi replacement as Head Coach

If Barcelona fans were hoping Xavi Hernández might “do a Jürgen Klopp”, this probably wasn’t what they had in mind.

While the Catalan boss led his team to the title in LaLiga a year ago, the 2023/24 campaign has been far less impressive and Xavi has now opted to mirror the Liverpool coach not by challenging for honours on multiple fronts, but by offering his resignation and announcing his intent to step down at season’s end.

A full 8 points off the lead behind Girona domestically and facing a tough Champions League test against Napoli in the round of 16, Barca have a tricky last few months under Xavi ahead of them – meaning there will be much for the new manager, whoever it turns out to be, to sort out across the summer and beyond. Here we look at the biggest tasks on hand for one of the biggest jobs in Europe…

  • Fix an unstable defence

In 22/23, while far from a free-flowing juggernaut going forward, Barcelona conceded just 20 LaLiga goals all season long at the other end – their solidity was the basis for their championship charge. Barely past the halfway point this year, they’ve already conceded just shy of 50% more than that – 29 in 21 matches.

Individual performances have played a part in this, but so too has a regularly altered back line: No player has started more than a dozen league games for them at centre-back and one of their quartet, Iñigo Martínez, has picked up multiple hamstring injuries to lessen Xavi’s options.


Add in the errors which, even back in autumn, Xavi was lamenting as the weakest part of the team and it’s clear that Barcelona have issues at the back which are extremely problematic, but definitely solvable with coaching – or a change of personnel.

  • Robert Lewandowski’s future

At age 35 and with just eight league goals to his name this term, questions have been asked of Robert Lewandowski’s enduring ability to lead the line – as well as of his contract, which has at least one more year left to run.

Partly his inability to find the net more often can be attributed to what is a stodgy attacking plan at times, as well as a rotating cast of support members providing him with service and the team being inconsistent at best in speed of play.


But despite those flaws, there is still plenty to work with. Lewandowski has the highest individual xG tally in the league this term and it’s unusual that he has underperformed his expected goals at all, let alone by almost four.

Barcelona as a team have the league’s highest xG by a distance, they have the most shots on target per game, have won the most corners and have created the most big chances this season too – what’s missing is a clinical edge and consistency in approach play.

Lewandowski can likely still return to his best finishing level, so Barcelona should for now be more concerned over the quality of second line attackers around him, with Raphinha a good example of where perhaps mistakes have been made: he has the league’s highest xA per 90 and is third for xG+xA per 90, yet has started only eight LaLiga games.

  • Managing young talent

This must not be an immediate fix for the new boss, but instead a much longer-term approach by the entire coaching team and the wider club.

Gavi, Pedro, Lamine Yamal, Alex Balde: they are excellent, genuinely class operators, but Barcelona run them into the ground as soon as their senior careers get started and end up lumbering them with ongoing injury issues.

We’ve seen it before countless times, Ansu Fati being the best recent example.

It has to stop. These young players are match-winners and should be for another decade and more, but not if Barcelona’s overuse of them is allowed to continue.


  • Overspending

Finally, the new boss is simply going to have to accept that, barring a massive-money sale of one of those aforementioned young stars, Barcelona simply aren’t a superpower these days – at least, not in the transfer market.

The club’s business five months ago consisted of free transfers and loan deals – plus a €3m Oriol Romeu transfer – and largely the same is almost certain to be the case this summer.

João Félix’s loan has no permanent option so a replacement is needed there, while defence and perhaps midfield depth both need attention too.

It will require patience and problem-solving from the dugout, with Deco as sporting director not so far having shown capability of unearthing regular gems, bringing in low-cost, high-quality players or constructing a team in any method other than a band-aid approach.

One big sale could help out a lot, but firstly Barcelona’s new boss will be desperately hoping they finish top four this season – and that job, at least, remains Xavi’s to take care of.

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