There was precious little time following Barcelona’s 1-1 draw away to Valencia on Saturday evening for Xavi to gather his thoughts before having to provide his verdict on another underwhelming performance from his side to a baying public.

And yet, the Barcelona manager was able to capture their shortcomings quite succinctly. “We must be one of the worst teams in Europe in terms of effectiveness,” he said — and nobody could really argue with the notion of his argument.

Simply put: Barcelona are not very effective. This was the third time in a week that Xavi’s team had left the field without victory but this draw felt worse than the two defeats. The visitors had plenty of chances but scored just one goal against a struggling side who have not won a league game in over a month.

Creating opportunities is not necessarily the problem for Barcelona; they had 16 chances against Valencia (eight shots on target, four off target and four blocked). Their Expected Goals (xG) measure was far superior to their hosts but that counted for little when the points were shared.

Barcelona have been outperforming their opponents in terms of xG for much of the campaign, but not in the final scoreline. In both the 4-2 defeat to Girona last weekend and the 2-1 loss against Real Madrid, Xavi’s team created better and more goalscoring opportunities.

No wonder Xavi was left to reel off a list of matches — “Mallorca, Granada, Atletico Madrid” he continued — from which his team could have taken more had they been clinical. Such profligacy has left the reigning La Liga champions third and starting to get cut adrift from Girona and Real Madrid at the top.

Getty: Europa Press Sports
Getty: Europa Press Sports

Barcelona have scored the fifth most goals in La Liga, despite leading the league in shots, passes in the final third, and possession around the opposing 18-yard area.

This squandering of chances has brought the spotlight onto Robert Lewandowski, Xavi’s only proven goalscorer. The Polish striker registered three attempts on target in Saturday’s draw, which was a greater bounty than in the 3-2 Champions League defeat against Royal Antwerp during the week when he did not shoot once.

Lewandowski has cut a frustrated figure in recent weeks. He has complained that team-mates are not trying hard enough to find him on the pitch — “sometimes we don’t play with enough attacking players,” he has previously said — but still more is expected last summer’s star signing who was instrumental in the recent title triumph.

When the former Bayern Munich striker first arrived in Spain, he scored 18 goals in all competitions by the time the mid-season World Cup came. However, after that hiatus, such prolific form in front of goal has never returned.

Lewandowski finished the campaign with 33 goals and was La Liga’s top scorer with 23 but this term he has only managed eight domestic goals so far. Barring a brace against Alaves and a goal in the Girona defeat, the 35-year-old’s barren run goes back to the end of September.

He has therefore scored in just two of his last 13 appearances for the club and has missed 12 big chances, which is more than anyone in the division and double the next most wayward Barcelona shooter, Pedri.

The dip in Lewandowski’s form has caused unease in the team. Questions about his age and whether he is finally slowing down after a career of making goalscoring look lack child’s play are arising amongst supporters.

Signing young Brazilian may be solution

Xavi isn’t blessed with any other goalgetters and hopes part of the solution may be Vitor Roque who is due to arrive in January from Athletico Paranaense. The Brazilian teenager is raw and Barcelona are using Gavi’s knee injury as a means to free up some additional salary budget in order to sign him.

Getty: NurPhoto
Getty: NurPhoto

The theory goes that if Barcelona keep creating the chances, a new hungry player should start taking them. Nevertheless, there may be something more fundamental than plugging a new goalscorer into the team that Xavi has to look at.

The manager currently oversees a team that do not play like a traditional Barcelona would do. Four central midfielders, one winger and a central striker give Barcelona a lopsided look and the numerically-heavy forward line is not balanced. They have scratched around for a rhythm in games but it remains elusive.

A lacklustre feeling around this Barcelona team only heightens when their current home games are played at a vast and rather empty Estadi Olympic Lluis Companys miles out of Barcelona city centre in Montjuic whilst the Camp Nou undergoes a facelift.

As Barcelona attempt to maintain their La Liga title defence into the new year, the need for Xavi to make enhancements of his own is clear. Since mid-September five of Barcelona’s wins have been 1-0 — he will hope after the goal drought comes the flood.