FEATURE | How Barcelona’s new signings have started the 2022-23 season

To the untrained eye, both Football Manager and FIFA are very similar games. They’re both games centred around football and are video games at their very core. You can build teams, win titles and trophies, and create a legacy on Football Manager. You can do the same on FIFA. You can buy players on Football Manager, and you can buy players on FIFA. You can also sell players for ungodly sums of money. The transfer fees on the beloved computer game might be far more ridiculous than the ones on the EA Sports classic yet no gamer would have ever come close to the summer that Barcelona just had. The Catalans are playing a different game on another level.

It is quite remarkable that the club that claimed to be, and was, as financially bereft and heading for a catastrophic collapse as Barcelona was could not only turn their finances around but do it in such a way that they are now profitable again. As if that was not enough, they also went and had arguably the best transfer window in Europe’s top five leagues this summer. The club not only strengthened their squad by adding a serious crop of players, but at the same time, they bargained and cut deals to let go of players they didn’t want.

That has left Xavi Hernández with a lean-looking outfit and despite history telling us that teams who rush through a heavy transition tend to struggle, Barcelona are going against the norm. They’re two points behind reigning La Liga champions Real Madrid while playing arguably some of the best football they have in over half a decade and are also amongst a handful of clubs in Europe that have not lost a league game yet.

At the same time, Xavi has somehow managed to ensure that his team keeps performing at the highest level while slowly bleeding in the new arrivals. Robert Lewandowski, Raphinha and Jules Koundé are the only ones who have been thrown into the starting eleven from the moment they were available, and they have responded. Koundé, while being played out of position, has shown his quality and also has three assists to his name, while Lewandowski has taken to Spanish football superbly well, scoring 11 times in just eight appearances.

Raphinha, however, has had a slightly tougher time getting on the scoresheet (one goal and one assist in seven appearances) although his underlying numbers show that the Brazilian, who signed from Leeds United, is still performing. He has the third-best xA (xG assisted) in the team while only Lewandowski and Pedri have had more Goal Creating Actions (GCA) than him. The four free transfers, on the other hand, are yet to feature consistently but given that the Blaugrana have a long season ahead of them, expect that to change. Both Franck Kessié and Andreas Christensen have adjusted well to the league and showed their quality when called upon. Spanish full-backs Marcos Alonso and Héctor Bellerín have also made their debuts.

That combined with the talented batch of youngsters that the La Liga giants have at their disposal gives them a squad that should, in theory at least, compete with the best. For those wondering if that claim is crazy, Barcelona showed exactly what they could do before a five-minute collapse against Bayern Munich in the Champions League last week. The building blocks are all there for Xavi and he has brought in the right pieces to help his cause. With some good coaching and the right tactics, the sky may just be the limit.


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