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How will Barcelona's new-look attack line up after Aubameyang, Traore & Torres transfers?

15:00 GMT+3 02/02/2022
Barcelona attack GFX
Barca's new trio of forwards might not be at the level of the famous 'MSN' at Camp Nou, but they give Xavi options for the rest of the season

Earlier in the season, Ronald Koeman bemoaned Barcelona's lack of attacking options, blaming a lack of forwards for the club's poor form.

Now, though, Koeman's successor, Xavi Hernandez, has 10 players he can call on upfront to rescue the team’s season after a January transfer window focused on adding players to both create and score goals.

Xavi’s aim between now and the end of the campaign is to earn Barca a top-four spot and qualify for next season's Champions League, with the Blaugrana having been knocked out of Europe’s premier club competition embarrassingly early in December, netting just two goals in six group-stage games on their way to elimination.

Koeman was largely deprived of wingers Ansu Fati and Ousmane Dembele, plus strikers Sergio Aguero and Martin Braithwaite, because of injury, and was sacked after a toothless 1-0 defeat by Rayo Vallecano in October.

“We need to strengthen the team, above all in attack, that’s evident,” said Xavi after joining, and the club obliged in the January window, signing Ferran Torres, Adama Traore and, after a dramatic deadline day, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, as well as adding wing-back and creativity hub Dani Alves.

Xavi now has a rather different problem to Koeman; he must find the best way to fashion a new-look attacking trident from the many options he has at his disposal, with even the oft-mocked loan signing Luuk de Jong having hit good form in recent weeks.

While it cannot live up to the legendary ‘MSN’ trio of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar, Barcelona should be significantly more deadly in the second half of the season.

Torres was the first forward Barca brought in, spending €55 million (£46m/$62m) to bring him back to Spain from Pep Guardiola’s tutelage at Manchester City.

And egardless of how the attack is structured, he will be a fixture among the final three.

The winger has learned how to play as a false nine for both City and Spain, which in turn has dramatically increased his goal output since the early years of his career at Valencia.

It looked likely he would continue in a similar role at Barca in the coming months, but that was before Aubameyang’s arrival.

Xavi was keen to add a new central striker in January, despite De Jong’s resurgence and Braithwaite’s return from injury, with Juventus’ Alvaro Morata his top target.

However, with the deal too complex to pull off, given his parent club Atletico Madrid are embroiled in a battle for the top four with Barca, they activated the back-up plan of Aubameyang.

Arsenal were happy to release the Gabon international from his eye-wateringly expensive contract, and Aubameyang - who has long harboured the ambition of playing in his mother’s homeland - accepted a significant pay-cut to come to Camp Nou.

Real Madrid was his grandfather’s club, but even though a move to Santiago Bernabeu never came about for Aubameyang, he can still make waves in La Liga by getting Barcelona back to their prolific best.

Frozen out by Arsenal in December and stripped of the captaincy, there are some doubts over both his mentality and a potential drop physically, but it was not long ago that Aubameyang was one of the world’s finest strikers.

Xavi is believed to have spoken to the forward, who, once up to fitness, is expected to start regularly through the middle in Barcelona’s new attack, with Torres to his right.

Traore’s chances of regular minutes have, however, been impacted by Aubameyang’s arrival, as the on-loan Wolves winger could have played off the right with Torres as false nine, had Xavi not got the striker he hoped for.

Traore comes with an option to buy this summer, and like he was at Molineux, may now be used more off the bench as an explosive game-changer than as a regular starter. He can help Barcelona extend leads, by bursting downfield to kill teams off on the counterattack.

Xavi has also shown he is not afraid to use a three-man defence, with four central midfielders and then three forwards ahead of them; a system that would give Traore a good chance of playing on the right, with the whole flank his playground, while he has the legs and physicality to get back and help defend.

On the left is where Xavi has his biggest doubt, at least while Ansu Fati is out injured. Memphis Depay could join Aubameyang and Ferran for a ‘FAM’ attacking trio, if the Dutchman is willing to play wider than his preferred central role.

Aubameyang has also been used on the left-hand side by Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta at times and is another option there, with Torres taking the central role, and Traore on the right flank - a ‘FAT’ attack, unlike the lean and mean trio which comprises it. 

Torres could also play on the left in this set-up, and he has already demonstrated his finishing skills from that side of the box with his goal against Athletic Club in the Copa del Rey.

Midfielder Gavi has sometimes been used on the left, but those days are likely to be over now, given the other options at Xavi’s disposal. Likewise, Barcelona B players Ez Abde and Ferran Jutgla will see their minutes eaten into greatly by the new arrivals.

Dembele, meanwhile, will remain frozen out of the team until further notice after refusing to sign a new contract or leave in January.

Braithwaite is now behind Aubameyang and De Jong for the No.9 role, but the iron-willed Denmark international is determined to succeed at Barcelona, so will be offering maximum competition to those in his spot.

That is what Xavi wants, after he insisted that his team is run on a meritocratic basis. That means the door is not closed to any player who finds their best form and can help get the club back on track.

While the ‘MSN’ was untouchable, Xavi will tinker with his new weapons, until he finds the combination that makes Barcelona dangerous again.