27 Jul Xavi ‘surprised’ by Arsenal’s preseason intensity
Ferran Torres briefly got Barca — who wore a white kit for the first time in 44 years — back into the game late on, only for substitute Fabio Vieira to restore Arsenal’s two-goal lead in the 89th minute.
“It was a good game for the fans but not so much for the coaches,” Xavi said in the post-game news conference.
“It was up and down. You could tell Arsenal are much further down the line than us [in preseason]. That said, we were far too soft in defence.
“There were positives and negatives, though. I said to Mikel at the end of the game, it was like a Champions League tie with the intensity they put in.
“It was not normal for a friendly, but I understand everyone wants to win. For us, it was our first friendly and we went into it off the back of loads of players having had a bug.”
Asked if the intensity of the match had surprised him, he added: “Not ours, but Arsenal’s, yes. It is not normal to play with so much intensity, making tactical fouls.
“Everyone wants to compete, but it is a friendly. They were playing with another level of intensity. We took it seriously but the main reason [for losing] was the difference in rhythm and match sharpness.”
Arsenal coach Arteta agreed the game had been intense but not that it was limited to just his team.
“It got really competitive for a friendly match,” he said. “Football belongs to the players and after the first tackle [from Barcelona] and their first goal, you could see a change.
“Playing in front of 70,000 fans helps [motivate the players], but at times I think it got a bit too much for a friendly.”
Xavi said events on the pitch will not affect his long-standing relationship with Arteta, though.
“We have had similar careers,” he said. “We were both kids at Barca and we played together. I wish him all the best and I respect him very much.
“Arsenal deserved the win. Speed and fitness were the main difference. With the ball we were good, but we were bad in defence.”
Therefore, Wednesday’s match at SoFi stadium was the first chance for Xavi to take a look at this players this summer, with the Barca coach fielding a different XI in each half.
The Premier League runners-up will now return to England for their final preparations ahead of the start of the new campaign, which begins for them on Aug. 12 when they face Nottingham Forest on the opening weekend of the 2023-24 season.