On the best afternoon Xavi As coach, Barça ruled Atlético with the ball and resisted without the ball when they were left with one less, the impact of the four winter signings was immediate. Three were starters. And decisive. Each in their own way.
Alves displaying amazing hyperactivity. He played traditional right-back in the line of four when the team took shelter in the 4-3-3, he also assumed the role of central midfielder, as if he were Cancel (City) or before lame (Bayern), innovations brought in its day by Guardiola, wherever it goes. And the Brazilian veteran (38 years old) even had time to disguise himself as a fake winger or midfielder.
Alves over here, Alves over there. An assist (at 1-1, Jordi Alba’s monumental left-footed shot), a goal (at 4-1) and intervention in the creative process at 2-1 (pressure before Adama’s center on Gavi) and at 3-1 (His was the free kick that Piqué headed to the crossbar before Ferran Torres’ first shot missed and Araujo then holed in).
Adama Traoré had a huge impact, to whom Xavi should not have explained too many things because he knew the theory by heart. “I have sucked the Barça DNA”, the winger who played winger stressed later.
He did not go to look for the ball but had the patience for it to reach him. And when it arrived, it sowed terror in Atlético to such an extent that Simeone, once it was verified that Hermoso could not (after two minutes it was already seen), he moved Carrasco, one of his most valuable pieces, from the right (he started from the end) to the left to put a toll on the former Wolverhampton striker.
“I have sucked the DNA Barça”
Adama, Barça player
There were no barriers because Adama, astute in reading the match, was always clear that the ball would come in handy for him to accelerate and overwhelm. It is enough to see the 2-1 play to understand the decisive influence of the Barça winger.
Not only because of his precise center from the right after outwitting Hermoso, but because that acceleration pushed Atlético into his area – he had up to eight players protecting the nervous and unstable Oblak -, unable as he was, in addition, to detect little Gavi (he measures 1.73 m), flying over Vrasljko (1.81 m), Giménez (1.85) or Savic (1.88 m). Adama intimidated with his dribbling, intelligent as he was at all times waiting for the moment to launch his endless bodywork.
With a chameleon-like Alves (“Dani was the one who gave us superiority from the inside”, Xavi later recounted) and an extremely academic Adama, the figure of Ferran Torres, who once again played as a nine (the position where he performed best with Guardiola in the City), it did not have so much brilliance, but it was capital for Barça. His movements, sometimes invisible, generated the necessary spaces in those wild 50 minutes in which he swept Atlético.
Four goals, three from defenses
In less than an hour, and despite Carrasco’s 0-1, Xavi’s team scored four goals. And none with the signature of a pure striker. Three were from defenders (Alba, Araujo and Alves) and one from Gavi, a midfielder demon, who also likes the false winger’s clothing wonderfully.
“I love the tactic, I grew up in the middle and it seems that everything goes back to the beginning”
Alves, defense of the Barça
Ferran was not seen (just one shot outside, as soon as the match started), but Barça appreciated his ability to integrate into the collective fabric of the passing circuit and also keep the two central defenders very entertained (Giménez and Savic ), in addition to messing up Koke and Rodrigo de Paul with their descents to the center of the field.
There, in the “square”, as Xavi calls it, Ferran connected with Frenkie de Jong, Pedri, Gavi and even Alves. “I love tactics, I grew up in the middle and it seems that everything goes back to the beginning,” admitted the Brazilian, reconverted, even in his national team, as a removable midfielder, necessary for the ball to flow with the necessary speed to detect to the extreme patients to make the field wide and large, as the figure of Aubameyang allowed.
Barely half an hour of the game remained and with one less was Barça, but the former Arsenal striker found oil with his solitary gallops into space in which he forced fouls, necessary for the rookie Xavi to get away with it against Simeone. Winning with your style. With the ball and “sweating” without it.