Posts tagged ‘Xavi’

July 2, 2012

Euro 2012 Best XI

Coach – Slaven Billic, Croatia – Was a poor header away from beating, and knocking out Spain, before they hit on the counter and scored. Pushed Spain closer than any other side and would have gone much further but for being in a group with the two finalists.

Gk – Iker Casillas, Spain – Never really looked like conceding. Dominated crosses into the box throughout (the only consistent threat), and his distribution improved as the tournament went on which helped Spain retain the ball.

Fb – Fabio Coentrao, Portugal – Defensively sound and decisive and technically assured when Portugal broke.

Cb – Gerard Pique, Spain – Not a gargantuan display but looked his old self with good reading of the game, tackling and passing.

Cb – Mats Hummels, Germany – Reads the game extremely well and is very comfortable on the ball. Cassano spinning him was a significant, sole mistake in an otherwise utterly convincing tournament from him, but the goal was due to good Italian play at their left wing back spot too.

Fb – Jordi Alba, Spain – So natural and technical on the ball he could really play anywhere as a forward, and with Spain dominating possession that’s essentially what he could be; a later-arriving attacking option. Spain could play with no wingers and dominate the ball because of this man’s direct, linear qualities on the left. Vital.

Mf – Andrea Pirlo, Italy – Pirlo dominated games when consecutive teams failed to press him. Instrumental against England and Germany in particular, making ball retention and switching the ball look effortless. Altered the tempo of games to suit him, before meeting his match against Spain.

Mf – Xavi, Spain – Xavi was just the catalyst for how Spain were approaching games. Always the middle pass in build up play, he played much higher up in the final and pushed Pirlo so deep he was ineffectual. Provided key passes throughout the tournament and just seems to be playing football with an understanding above everyone else.

Mf – Mesut Ozil, Germany – The one attacking player in the German team that was undroppable. His movement and positioning made him impossible to track and provided a fantastic, creative link that makes him suitable for possession play or counter attacking. Finishing is the only thing his game lacks.

Fw – Andres Iniesta, Spain – Iniesta was just consistently brilliant. From the first game v Italy to the final v Italy, Iniesta was the same; creative, inventive, skilful and impossible to get the ball off. He’s perfect at keeping possession and always presses without it.

Fw – Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal – Lived up to expectation and his physical and technical prowess was matched with excellent awareness and positioning. If Bruno Alves’ penalty falls a few inches lower Ronaldo might have carried Portugal to winning the competition.

Fw – Cesc Fabregas, Spain – Fabregas was outstanding in the final, providing forward runs that defenders couldn’t cope with as well as helping maintain possession deeper. His position, a play maker who makes forward over-lapping runs, makes him unique to watch as he is as likely to play a key pass as get on the end of one.

Subs:

Gk -Buffon, Italy – brief moments against Germany were the only times Buffon didn’t look solid and dominating.

Df – Papadopoulos, Greece – Powerful and aggressive, and capable on the ball too.

Mf – Khedira, Germany – his running up and down the pitch was really good to watch. Played well.

Mf – Montolivo, Italy – Really inventive and imaginative. Got tired trying to press Spain in final.

Fw –David Silva, Spain – was reliable and consistent for Spain with being given a lot of responsibility in attack.

Fw – Balotelli, Italy – His second goal against Germany was brilliant, and his performances in general were incredible for a guy only 21.

Fw – Gomez, Germany – Despite being too static and seeing little of the ball against Italy, his three goals were all skilful ones.

June 24, 2012

Why Xavi rarely plays a cross field pass

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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.

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