Xavi's first game as Barcelona's manager: A game of two halves, of joy and fear.

From the first minutes we could see a valuable disposition in which Xavi instructed his wingers to stay wide, while interiors were utilised to progress through the center. Gavi did not always stay wide as he often tucked in, as Alba compensated for his movements.
Barcelona's build-up remained consistent through the left-wing while the right-wing was only used in rare occasions. The right half-space overload was notably through permutations of Frenkie, Depay, Gavi & Nico.
Alba was preferred as a ball carrier to force Espanyol in mistakes.
Barcelona utilized Gavi as a strong 1v1 contender on the left-wing in advanced zones after Espanyol lost control of deep spaces on the wing through Barcelona's overloads. Gavi here ran past his marker and is about to enter the box. This is a pattern that should be remembered.
Barcelona excelled in their counter-press as all centre-backs had marked Espanyol's forward. As a consequence, Barcelona could regain possession close to the half-way line in most cases. In most cases Garcia was found higher up than Piqué, in and out of possession.
This can be explained due to Garcia's weak 50/50 win-rate. Xavi preferred to have Garcia engage in the 50/50's to ensure Piqué would always cover behind and find it easy to recover the ball – without necessarily running much.

In possession, Garcia struck goldmines.
86 completed passes for only 6 failed, that was Eric García yesterday. He reached advanced players like Memphis and Gavi with his passes. He could find Nico between the lines, too.

Barcelona found yesterday in García the reason behind his transfer. A monster on the ball.
A classic example of what García managed to do during the game. It doesn't look at first sight that Gavi can be reached within one pass.

Espanyol was too deep to press him, but they were not compact enough to disrupt the pass. Deception is a huge factor in breaking the lines.
García found Frenkie in the box on multiple occasions. That is also how Xavi had said FdJ should be more involved in the final third: Yesterday was the reality. FdJ was hyper-active. In a good way.

García reaches him and the rebound goes to Memphis with a solid shot.
This also explained the relative shorter distance between the players that was found yesterday in relation to Koeman's instructions: Regaining possession is much easier when you're closer to your teammate.

This is why Barcelona's counter-press felt infinitely better.
There was immediate reaction in defensive transitions, too. Barcelona used to either bully the ball-carrier to drop deep inevitably.

Yesterday, Barcelona found themselves more structured, w/ two lines of four men regaining possession quickly.

An organized block.
Through the earlier mentioned permutations, Barcelona always had their midfielders & forward using decoy runs to disorientate the defense.

FdJ usually roamed behind his markers, Depay dropped deep as the false nine, while Nico received in the middle of Espanyol's lines.
This is something the team missed previously. Those runs were rare when García or Piqué had the ball. It's much easier to disorientate when the ball isn't there yet, as the opponent has to focus on multiple potential receivers (overload on the left) & on the ball.
Despite the right-wing was not a primary source of thread and/or influence, Barcelona showed on a few occasion that they can indeed circulate the ball from the left to the right in the space of a few passes.

Nico roamed towards the left but sometimes did link to Ilias.
I'm hopeful to see more of this in the future, whoever the right-winger and right-back may be. In this situation, Nico could have had more influence by dispatching the ball to Ilias more often. With that said, Mingueza also failed to take advantage of the space given.
Mingueza all together had a horrible game, failing to properly close spaces in the second half. More importantly, he made very little use of the space available on the right when found in possession.

Hopeful Xavi will insist more for ball circulation on the right in the future.
Barcelona concede the first occasion through a dangerous switch, which found Garcia in a losing 1v1 situation as his man was already behind his back once he noticed – it was over. Thankfully, Barcelona ran as a block together and the threat could be halted.
This is a classic since Sétien's era, and in this case, I believe this to be a result of a lack of attention. Piqué & Garcia are found around the same height, where I believe the former should have been deeper. This is a horizontal issue, mostly just through inattention.
Barcelona also created chances that did not seem as straight-forward. In this case, there are decoy runs (Depay), but there's FdJ standing in the middle while Nico receives the ball.

This short distance creates surprises for the opposite team and leads to a shot. Patterns.
The first half was marked by Barcelona's dominance. On the ball and off the ball, the team mostly limited Espanyol, to not say suffocated. Issues started around the first substitutions, notably when Gavi, and eventually Busquets were subbed off.
This meant that Barcelona lost two key midfielders for profiles that were focused higher up the pitch, as Coutinho and Riqui came on.

These are players that break balance for the opposition, but not players that will ensure their own team's balance.
This is why Barcelona slowly started to concede more and more chances as the minutes went by. With FdJ not exactly able to do this type of decision-making, Barcelona not only was tired physically, but suffered the mental issues seen under Koeman: Panic in the last minutes.
Examples include when Coutinho takes a shot in additional time instead of keeping possession, which was an issue that many had: What to do.

However, unlike Koeman, Xavi did not sub on Lenglet which I am sure would have happened under the Dutchman: He would have been scared.
The mental toil was noticeable but was outside of Xavi's control. However he sent a strong message:

Play with the ball and advanced with it.
Suffer on the pitch until the last minute. Because it's Barcelona. Because this is what you do here.

And that is a change.
Though Ter Stegen did not have *that* much work, I believe his performance was positive, aware and mostly responsive.

Remains only for Mingueza to most probably see the bench should performances like yesterday continue. Too late on most challenges, too little on the ball.
Note on Alba's performance: Decent to not say good, but also heavily impacted by certain factors:
-Heavy insistence through the left while Espanyol was quickly overwhelmed
-Gavi & FdJ's roles translated into less duties for Alba, saving his energy for key situations.
The most notably changes to me remain that the team moved as a block and not as independent units. A lot of coordination (esp on the right), and rarely misunderstanding (apart Nico + Memphis a few times).

But it's mostly positive. Barcelona can be happy of what they did.

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