Barcelona are now eight points clear at the top of the La Liga table, and it is fair to say that while in certain games they have played very well, most of this season has seen them win without impressing too much. In a large part due to the fact that they have overcome situations of adversity.
With Robert Lewandowski missing for three games, the Blaugrana managed to find the goals to beat Atletico Madrid, Getafe and Girona without him. Now they are missing their chief creative force up front in Ousmane Dembele, Raphinha has stepped up to provide two goals and an assist in his last tow games.
The Brazilian has struggled to settle in Barcelona this season, with Dembele operating in his favoured role, but his reaction to Dembele’s absence has been welcomed by the club.
According to Sport, Xavi Hernandez asks two main things of his wingers when the team has the ball. Firstly, in terms of position, wingers should be glued to the touchline if the move is on their side, while a crossing opportunity from the other side should be met with a diagonal run into the box.
The other is that they challenge defenders one-on-one, trying to beat their market. Against Sevilla, despite scoring and assisting, Raphinha only registered three successful dribbles. He passed the ball backwards eight times and was unsuccessful eight times with his dribbling.
Last Sunday Raphinha improved in the second half, as Xavi asked Raphinha not only to go at his man more often, but also a key detail changed. The Catalan coach is keen for Raphinha to receive the ball higher up the pitch, and attack space with runs too. For his liking, Raphinha asks for the ball to feet too often and comes too deep for it, allowing the defence to set a structure.
It also mean Raphinha is dribbling against more players and from a static start, making his job more difficult. Off the ball, Xavi is delighted with him, and it is clear to anyone that he helps improve their pressing whenever he is on the pitch.