Barcelona have been boosted by a seemingly minor change that could have a major impact on their season.
After Hector Bellerin’s departure to Sporting CP, the Blaugrana were left without any ‘natural’ right-backs. Despite that, Xavi Hernandez claims he is comfortable relying on Sergi Roberto, Jules Kounde and Ronald Araujo in the position.
Undoubtedly the most defensively solid of the trio is Kounde, but Xavi tried to avoid using him on the right as much as possible before the World Cup. He was aware that Kounde was not pleased about being used outside of his preferred central defensive position – supposedly one of the key reasons he chose Barcelona over Chelsea in the summer was the promise of being used as a central defender.
However Albert Roge of Relevo reports that Kounde has returned from the World Cup with a different attitude. The Frenchman is now comfortable operating as a right-back, saying “it is very important to know in advance what role you are going to have and that allows you to focus on these new tasks.”
Kounde played right-back during the World Cup for France, and struggled at various points, but has been rock sold there for Barcelona, alongside Ronald Araujo and Andreas Christensen.
Good on the ball and adept going forward, Kounde excels defensively and showed as much against Real Betis, putting in a heroic block on Sergio Canales.
The shift in Kounde’s attitude is important for Xavi. It allows him to use Kounde there without thinking and form a consistent back four. While Sergi Roberto has played well there so far this season, there is always a lingering doubt about his defensive prowess in the biggest games. Kounde provides the security that will give Barcelona faith they can maintain their excellent defensive record in La Liga.
Whereas it is difficult to get the best out of player who is uncomfortable and unhappy in a role. Yet with a content Kounde there, even if still maintains he prefers the middle, it gives Barcelona their best right-back since Dani Alves left in 2016.