Barcelona would begin a new season with the addition of Robert Lewandowski headlining their attack in ushering in a full season for Xavi’s system to take shape. The 34-year-old Polish striker arrived with years of experience and achievements, but after switching from Bundesliga to La Liga for the sum of 42.5 million pounds, it is worth reflecting on what to expect from Lewandowski at Barca.
Historically, great poachers have always dorn the colours of the Catalan club ranging from the dexterity of Ronaldo to the Dutch headmaster Patrick Kluivert, moving on to the ruthlessness of Samuel Eto’o and the efficiency of David Villa passing the baton to the deadly Luis Suarez, Barcelona have never been short on great strikers in the blue and red colours.
It is along this path of great finishers that Robert Lewandowski would follow suit with the Pole having won the last two Golden Shoe prizes. As far as numbers go, Lewandowski has it in abundance. The current World Footballer of the year arrives at Barcelona having scored 35 goals in 34 matches for Bayern Munich last season, and his output is miles ahead of attackers currently in the Barcelona set-up.
Lewandowski has spoken about how Xavi influenced his decision to adorn the Blaugrana colours. It is not hard to see reasons for this mutual admiration. “I was speaking with Xavi and from the beginning, I know [what’s been on his] mind, his ideas. It was easy for me to decide to come to Barcelona because I’m the guy who wants to play, who wants to win, and I think that with Xavi it’s very possible.”
“He knows exactly how to coach Barcelona because he was an amazing player and now he’s also a very good coach. He has an amazing future and I want to be a part of this as well.”
Xavi is cut from the cloth of Dutch Total Football championed by Johan Cryuff where the domination of the opponent is not an option but a necessity – and having played under the tactical sophistication of Pep Guardiola, it is not hard to decipher what informed Xavi’s decision in going all out for the Polish striker despite Barcelona’s financial constraints.
Lewandowski himself is well in tune with modern football having played under successive coaches in Hansi Flick and Julian Nagelsmann respectively whose alignment of the modern pressing game is not too dissimilar of what to expect from Xavi’s Barcelona. Lewandowski has never been out of place at Bayern, irrespective of the varying tactical methods implored by previous coaches at the Bavarian club.
The 2021/22 season saw Lewandowski score 35 goals in 34 Bundesliga matches, racking up 4.7 shots per game and 21.6 passes per match, with 13 goals in the Champions League as well. In total, he would rack up an astonishing 50 goals and 7 assists in 46 appearances across all competitions for Julian Nagelsmann’s Bayern Munich as they repeated their Bundesliga dominance.
Lewandowski is not only a goal poacher, he is equally adept at link-up play, good at 1v1 situations, thereby creating chances for his teammates and ready to press the opposition. These qualities seamlessly fit him into Xavi’s method of pressing out of possession and the systemic passing of the ball to create overloads from the wings in breaking the opposition’s organisation.
There is a plan to Xavi’s vision of Barcelona, he has the La Masia homegrown talents to run the midfield and suffocate the opponent to submission. In Sergio Busquets, Pedri, and Gavi they have the most technically-adept players to dictate the flow of the game.
This is a combination of experience and youth but it is in the attack they need a consistent goal threat; an incomparable finisher of attacking moves that would distract defenders thereby freeing more space for teammates to hurt the opponent.
With the signing of not just Lewandowski but Raphinha – who is equally adept at scoring goals, assisting and contributing to the team all round play both in and out of possession – and the retention of Ousmane Dembele, Barcelona’s frontline is not just pacy, unpredictable but dynamic as well.
Adding the likes of Ferran Torres, Ansu Fati, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Memphis Depay – should they eventually stay – to the mix, then this frontline is really a concern for all Barcelona’s adversaries. From a tactical blueprint and with the qualities of the Polish striker, the reigning World Best Player should be a success for the Blaugrana, leading their attack for the next 2-3 years and cementing his place in the pantheons of great Barcelona’s poachers.
He has already made a dazzling start to life in Catalunya; after being kept under wraps in a 0-0 draw to Rayo Vallecano on opening day, Lewandowski grabbed a brace and an assist in each of Barcelona’s next two matches — a 4-1 win vs. Real Sociedad and a 4-0 win vs. Real Valladolid — and he’ll be looking to continue his impressive form as Barça pay Sevilla a visit, host Viktoria Plzen and travel to Cadiz before making the trip to Bavaria for their Champions League match against Bayern Munich on September 13.
By: Papa Ade-Ola Lawrence / @LawrencePapa2
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Quality Sport Images / Getty Images