Posts tagged ‘barcelona’

June 24, 2012

Why Xavi rarely plays a cross field pass


A number of times against France, Spain would win possession in the middle of the pitch, or in their own half and after a few interchanging passes between the Spainish midfieldiers the ball would often fall to the feet of Xavi with Arbeloa breaking down the right and in an abundance of space, barely being tracked by Clichy, who either hadn’t yet covered from a push on of his own, or had tucked inside too much when he was defending, which would happen frequently as Spain’s control of the ball is often in such tight and concentrated areas. However, Xavi would look up and see the option, yet sparingly use it. Often he’d play a short pass to Xabi Alonso, who would be much more likely to do it himself, but Xavi almost couldn’t bring himself to do it.

The reason for this is a nod to Barcelona’s fluid system, where Johan Cruyff and Pep Guardiola have conditioned this new age Barca into moving as a team collectively, rather than relying on individuals to further attacks. The small passes ensure that the team, step by step, move cohesively towards the opponents goal. The reason for this is two fold. Firstly, it is the total football vision of attacking, every player interchangable and every player working as one unit, one unit with the shared understading of moving the ball with short passes until a player is presented with the easiest shot possible. The second is that it contributes massively defensively. By moving the ball such small distances, the ball is never far away from the mass of players, where the players are grouped. This means that if possession is conceded, or even if it is retained, the shape of the team is never stretched and so attacks are more fluid, and defensively they never lose possession in an area where there aren’t a large group of players that, by pressing hard, can get the ball back as quickly as possible.

There are a few exceptions to this. Firstly, if the ball is a final ball that puts a striker in, then it is a more risky ball that cuts through the defence perfectly to put an attacker through and will be taken even if it stretches the side, as it will result in a goal scoring chance. Secondly, Dani Alves is used in a kind of cross field pass for Barcelona. However, the crucial difference is that the Barca entourage quickly move over towards him to regain that shape, whilst Spain on the other hand are not as quick to do this or as understanding of this concept, and so a cross field ball isolates the wide player more and loses that fludity and cohesion.

Hence, when Xavi looks up and sees Arbeloa 20 yards away to his right, where Xabi Alonso would slice a ball perfectly out to the flank, there is a response in the Barcelona captain, conditioned by hours and hours of training for the past 21 years, which tells him the pass should be a short one, to keep the side’s shape and honour the idea of fluidity above all else.


June 19, 2012

Cristiano Ronaldo is not …

Cristiano Ronaldo is not the second best player in the world, he is the 12th. The first 11 are the Barcelona players

-Sandro Rosell, Barcelona president on Cristiano Ronaldo. Rosell may be over-estimating Gerard Pique’s unconvincing season however.

Pique: Better

May 26, 2012

I didn’t invent anything…

I didn’t invent anything. I’m just part of a process that started before me and will continue after me

Guardiola when suggested he had put together the best football team the world has ever seen

May 12, 2012

The Philosophy

The philosophy of Barcelona has to be bigger than winning or losing a championship

Arsene Wenger on Pep Guardiola’s resignation

April 25, 2012

Guadiola Gets It Wrong Vs Chelsea


I don’t necessarily think you have to posses a towering number 9 at all for Barca to add another dimension. I’m not sold on that personally.

Rather, I think that as long as you have variation on the pitch in the build up and in other areas, you don’t need that number 9. Theres nothing legitimate about pushing Pique up top, or Keita. If Barca play 4-3-3 like the devastating past few years last night, then the match would have been an entirely different one. Busquets holds, Pujol and Pique at centre back playing on the half way line, pushing Alves up wide to support Cuenca and cause an overload and give Drogba problems, who surely must be thinking that defending is the easiest thing in the world given how little he was exposed when he tucked in left-wing (which his ego categorically does not need).

Same on the other flank, Adriano could have pushed further up to create space on the wings, seeing as Chelsea are compact and denying space in the middle. Also, the 4-3-3 would be anchored by Busquets, not by Xavi as has been suggested in discussions, which would be suicidal when you’re dispossessed. This would leave you with decent numbers against a counter. A wide centre pairing of Pique and Pujol with Busquets centre and in front of them I think could cope with an on rushing Drogba and Ramires, and lets not forget Dani Alves is normally extremely competent at getting back himself, with Adriano being sensibly aggressive.

The Mascherano at centre back thing makes sense in La Liga where teams generally offer little from a number 9 and much of his defending is going to be on the ground, which he is extremely adept at. However, against a physical striker like Drogba who is there solely to disrupt you in the air and jostle on the ground, i literally have no idea why Mascherano was selected for the match up here in both legs, when Pep should have sacrificed playing out from the back in exchange for a player that could compete with Drogba better.

Barca wish to have one fluid movement of players, one fluid formation, this is Guardiola’s ideal and this is what he’s being striving for this season; little or no specialised players and one fluid formation of midfielders throughout the pitch. However, the reality is that this does not work against teams equipped and geared to counter attack you with power whilst parking the bus. You need specialised centre backs at the very least. Unless you’re going to have 100% possession then you need specialist centre backs when the team pose a physical threat.

The most confusing thing is that Barca attempted to attack after going 2-0 up, when keeping the ball for the victory is bread and butter stuff for champions. Barca themselves i recall kept the ball away from Man Utd as easily as imaginable in the ’09 final, with Carrick Scholes and Giggs pretty much waving a white flag to the midfield carousel. However, Barca this time did not do this. I have no idea why, I personally would have Pujol and Mascherano exchange passes a thousand times if it meant the score staying the same, or dragging Chelsea out of position so you could expose them. This is really basic stuff though and surely Guardiola is aware of it.

Interestingly, I wonder if the managers were switched for the tie last night who would progress and i overwhelmingly think it would be Di Matteo, who himself mastered this victory over Barca, which was helped by both Guardiola’s naivety as well as a sizable amount of luck in both legs. Which brings us lastly to whether you can completely eradicate luck from a match, which you can’t, you simply play the percentages so to speak, choose the smartest option that gives the BEST CHANCE of victory, and im not sure Barca did that in either leg.

Guardiola himself said “That is football, you have high periods and then you have low ones”, however you can’t help but feel this was an avoidable low.