Barcelona have completed the signing of two centre-backs in a single window – Andreas Christensen and Jules Kounde -, which takes the CB count in their team up to seven as it stands.
While both Samuel Umtiti and Oscar Mingueza are expected to be offloaded, there is a decent chance at least one of them will end up staying at the club ahead of next season.
Either way, with so many starter-level centre-backs, Xavi is planning a change in tactics for the 2022/23 season. According to AS, he wants to deploy a 3-4-3 next season, mirroring the style he used at Al Sadd often.
This would include, as reported, Jules Kounde on the right side of the defence, with the freedom to rove ahead, Andreas Christensen on the left, and finally Ronald Araujo guarding the defence centrally.
The midfield, surprisingly, is not a diamond, but rather a flat four, with wingbacks on each side. Sergino Dest is best-placed to start on the right owing to his pace and dribbling ability, while one of Jordi Alba or Alejandro Balde take over duties on the left.
There will be two midfielders in the centre, but given the low defensive work-rate on their shoulders, Xavi could opt to use Pedri or Gavi with a slightly more defensive player like Sergio Busquets or Franck Kessie.
Finally, since it’ll largely be a traditional front-three, we can see any three of Robert Lewandowski, Raphinha, Ousmane Dembele, Ferran Torres, and Ansu Fati together.
Barça Universal’s take
There are a lot of things that do not add up, at all, in this report. For starters, it makes very little sense to deploy one of the best 1v1 defenders in the continent centrally. In a three-man defence, there is no doubt Araujo will start on the right.
Further, since there is not a single left-footed CB, it would be ideal to use Jules Kounde on the left. Of the three, he’s most comfortable on the ball, and can easily carry the ball into midfield on his weaker foot.
Not to forget that Barcelona currently have seven central midfielders (including Miralem Pjanic) gunning for a starting spot. It makes very little sense to opt for a double pivot without also using an attacking midfielder to cover the third space.
Both Pedri and Gavi are capable of playing in an advanced role while also adding defensive depth to the team. It would also allow Franck Kessie and/or Frenkie de Jong to be used as part of a double pivot – where they are most comfortable.
Finally, a 3-4-3 flat does not make sense for Barcelona if they pursuing the signing of Cesar Azpilicueta. He is capable of playing as a centre-back, but with Gerard Pique and Eric Garcia available, it seems unlikely he will form the last line of defence.
At 32, Azpi does not have the legs to play as a wing-back regularly. While is crossing is still pin-point, the Spaniard might cannot fall back as quickly anymore