Xavi ‘surprised’ by Arsenal’s preseason intensity

Barcelona head coach Xavi Hernandez said he was surprised by Arsenal‘s intensity and tactical fouls as the LaLiga champions were beaten 5-3 by the Premier League side in Los Angeles on Wednesday.

Robert Lewandowski and Raphinha twice gave Barca the lead, but goals from Bukayo Saka, Kai Havertz and a Leandro Trossard brace took Arsenal out of sight.

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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.”

Barca were due to play Juventus last weekend in Santa Clara but the game was postponed due to a stomach virus which affected 14 first team players.

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.

Ilkay Gundogan and Oriol Romeu both made their debuts after signing for the club this summer, while there were also minutes for youngsters Fermin Lopez and Lamine Yamal.

Arsenal, meanwhile, have already played three friendlies since returning for preseason, drawing with Nurnberg, beating and MLS All-Star team and losing to Manchester United.

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.

Barca have two more games to come in the United States. They play Real Madrid in the Clasico in Dallas on Saturday and then close their tour against AC Milan in Las Vegas on Tuesday.

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