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What will Hansi Flick bring to Barcelona?

Xavi Hernandez is no longer Barcelona’s head coach. As embarrassing and shambolic the process with which the outcome has come about, it is a reality that fans and players alike will have to accept and move on.

It is also no longer a secret that Hansi Flick has been handpicked by Joan Laporta to lead the club forward and despite the pessimism that may have set in due to the bitter taste left by Xavi’s departure, it is worth taking a look at what the German coach brings to the table.

FC Bayern München v Paris Saint-Germain: Round of 16 Second Leg - UEFA Champions League

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Starting with the basics, Flick is set to revolutionize the model of play at Barcelona which champions possession. “Take the ball, Pass the Ball” has been the motto behind the unique style of the club for eons and one that needs modernizing.

For far too long, Barcelona have been guilty of ignoring the ideological developments in the game. With Flick at the helm, the club is moving forward in a new direction, in line with the requirements of the modern game which call for intensity, work-rate and physicality.

Contrary to Barcelona’s usual style of patient build-up, Hansi Flick relies on a quick and direct style of football with more emphasis on getting the ball in the final third as clinically as possible to generate high-scoring opportunities.

A model centered on effort, it produced his legendary Bayern Munich team that made the most sprints out of any team in Europe and consequently outran their opponents on their way to the treble in 2020.

Yes. The same Bayern side that Barcelona were unable to cope with and slammed eight goals past in a nightmare Champions League encounter that still hurts to this day.

Barcelona v Bayern Munich - UEFA Champions League Quarter Final

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Flick’s teams line up in a 4-2-3-1, quite similar in essence to how Xavi used to organize his troops during his time at the club. In fact, he implements some of the basic positional play principles to better regulate the ball in key areas.

However, the verticality and sheer speed with which his team carry out their attacks is frightening and a refreshing change from the usual at Barcelona.

With such emphasis on verticality and pace, Flick’s teams are pioneers of expansive football which often comes at the expense of bypassing the midfield entirely if it means the forwards can be set free as quickly as possible to wreak havoc.

Now due to such a direct approach to football, his teams generate a ton of turnovers. However, Flick’s high-intense pressing system and suffocating gegenpress ideology focused on counter-pressing and regaining the ball back as quickly and as high as possible after losing, means his team are relentless in their pursuit of recovering possession and proactively control the number of transitions they concede.

Such a system of football calls for an incredible level of athleticism and physicality, a trait which has been severely lacking at Barcelona due to their inclination towards developing technical footballers.

And so as different and uncanny as it will be to see the heavy metal style Flick’s teams play grace the Camp Nou (or Montjuic), that won’t be the only change brought to Barcelona.

FC Bayern Muenchen - Training Session

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The German is a firm believer in the belief “you play as you train”. As a result, the intensity and the workload of the training sessions at Barcelona is also set to go up a notch quite drastically.

A major tweak it may be, but the demanding training regime should be welcomed as Barcelona’s inefficiencies on that front have been well-documented. As former Bayern midfielder Javi Martinez has pointed out, Flick is not going to cut any slack, especially with regards to physical training.

“Flick’s way of playing is total Barça. He is a very clear coach, he always tells you what he thinks to your face. He is calm. You have to mess with him a lot to get him angry,” he said.

“In the locker room he first calms everyone down and then speaks. Flick’s training sessions are intense, but they are always with the ball. In Germany we all trained in the afternoon with a physical trainer and that’s where all the players changed. It’s a different culture.

“Flick’s way of playing is total Barça. We played with him in the Pep style, with the centre backs and the ball coming out from there.”

The intangible aspects of this move seem to have more upsides too.

The untapped potential of this team could be availed under the stewardship of the incoming manager. The likes of Gavi and Alejandro Balde may well be key pieces of the sporting model under Flick and with his history of developing players with impressive physical attributes, it is worth finding out what he can do to elevate their game.

FC Barcelona v Getafe CF - LaLiga EA Sports

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Not to forget, Flick has experience running a club burdened with expectations and at the mercy of politics at Bayern Munich which makes his case even more impressive.

Even the transfer priorities at the club may change. Flick’s team doesn’t require a traditional pivot that Barcelona were crying out for in the season gone by. Due to his style of football, we could see the limited funds directed towards acquiring a world-class winger to dominate the left flank with pace and directness instead. Even Frenkie de Jong, credit to his unique skillset, could end up staying after all.

With a completely new school of thought set to be taught at Barcelona complimented by the necessary changes set to be enforced to bring that vision to fruition, it’s an exciting time to be a Barcelona fan.

The unnecessary noise and mess caused by Laporta in his moment of madness to sack Xavi may be too much to ignore at the moment, but it can be argued that it was a decision that was probably in the best interests of the club, one that may prove to be prudent once the dust settles.

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After all, Barcelona are getting their hands on an experienced and elite coach, with a trophy-filled resume that is tipped to offset a total revolution at the club.

It is not taken for granted that Flick will be successful. Far from it. Moreso, his disastrous spell in charge of the German national team calls for cautious optimism.

But at a time when the club is in need of inspiration, it certainly couldn’t hurt to place their faith in modernity for once.

It’s time for the decision-makers at Barcelona to back their new manager and usher in a truly new era of ideas at the club. If all goes well, Flick could very well be remembered down the line for having an almost Johan Cruyff-esque impact on our playing culture, setting up the club with a long-term blueprint for success.

Hansi Flick, you once destroyed us, but now you will help us.

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