Barcelona still seems to be planning on making a significant acquisition during the summer transfer window. Even though they haven’t made an official bid, Manchester City’s Joao Cancelo’s arrival has been referred to as a “matter of time” this week.
If Cancelo does indeed move to Barcelona, Xavi Hernandez will finally have access to a capable and seasoned right-back. Although many young and talented players have come and gone, none have genuinely demonstrated that they can play at the highest level since Dani Alves initially left.
Sport note that in order to adapt to the team, Xavi will probably need to change his mindset. Cancelo will either need to perform tasks comparable to those performed by Alejandro Balde on the right side, as Jules Kounde and Ronald Araujo have done in the past, or he may go inside to join the midfielders.
When playing Cadiz on Sunday, Barcelona started with three defenders and played Balde further forward; however, if he were to employ in a similar manner, Raphinha or Lamine Yamal would have to be replaced as the wide right player.
One of the options that has perhaps been suggested less is a return to a more classic 4-3-3 formation, with full-backs streaming forward. So far Xavi has found his side unable to cope defensively with the setup that saw him have so much success as a player.
However, with the likes of Cancelo, Gundogan, Pedri, and Romeu, he will have several players capable of holding onto the ball under pressure. It seems likely that one of Yamal or Raphinha will continue, thus it may be that Cancelo does not have a fixed position. He could alter his position depending on whether those wide players move inside or stay close to the touchline and should be intelligent enough to read the game in real time. The problem may be that if Cancelo does go outside, only Romeu, or the deepest midfielder, will be left with the two central defenders to cope with counter-attacks behind the ball.
De Jong has also demonstrated that he excels in a double pivot that enables him to advance but struggles more as an “interior,” which might have a huge impact on the team’s midfield strategy if last season’s notion is abandoned.
Whatever system Xavi employs, it appears that he will ultimately sacrifice bench players or deploy one or two players in a position other than the one in which they typically flourish. There is no doubt that Cancelo brings up a variety of choices for Barcelona. It is a headache Xavi will appreciate, and there is no doubt that injuries will frequently deprive him of all of these options.