Tag Archives: Barca

Yin and Yang

Recently reactive football has triumphed over the more proactive style as seen under both Madrid sides. Confusing really when you consider the Spanish game less physical, more technically sound and similar to the national team style.

Whether it is stubborn to stick to a philosophy such as tiki taka varies amongst us in opinion. Nonetheless I believe Pep Guardiola is admirable for sticking to something he so strongly believes in, yet almost suicidal in today’s world. On the other hand, Real Madrid simply emulated what Bayern they themselves did against Barca last year.

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That is perhaps why Bayern fans are fuming because Jupp Heynckes did what coaches are supposed to do – get the best out of their disposal. Bayern Munichs team has great depth and their campaign in Europe last season showed adaptability to different situations. It was a change to Louis van Gaals stale possession game. No surprise then that they won the treble that season.

Tiki taka is apparently outdated, yet I believe the pure form is still just as effective as any other style of football as long as it is employed in a method it works. The question though is whether teams have the fitness to press so heavily and close spaces with intensity all season. So adaptability is hugely important to success in all forms.

Barca defense looked so bad against Bayern because of the amount of space given to Bayern to attack in when the initial press was bypassed. This space afforded was also obvious in Bayerns encounter against Real Madrid who was forced to push for a goal after lacking an away goal. The addition of Bale also meant Pep’s men were playing right into Ancelotti’s hand. Nonetheless Bayerns performance resembled what Barca are now, a team that lacked penetration and had excessive possession which at full time counted for absolutely nothing.

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That is why Diego Simeone is being sought after having Atletico Madrid overachieved way above anyone’s expectations. He has taken the physicality and counter attacking ability of his team and made them a force to be reckoned with. The ability to unite a team and get the best out of them is something all fans want.

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Ancelotti and del Bosque though underrated are also highly respected by the elite clubs for being able to do exactly this, getting the best out of a team and unifying them.

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In a world where everything is short sighted and fickle, football fans want instant results. Nowadays in football a win is a win. Mourinho was heavily criticised for his ‘anti football’ in the 1st leg against Atletico, yet had he won the 2nd leg no doubt the media would have praised him for nullifying Atletico Madrid and called it a tactical masterclass.

Though Pep may seem as if he’s trying too hard to put an imprint into what is basically a Jupp Heynckes team, I still believe that we need managers of his kind to bring a refreshing breeze in the world of football. By this, I mean managers who have a vision and stick to it.

I applaud the Brendan Rodgers and Arsene Wengers and their respective boards for giving them time and patience. In a football world where fans simply demand wins you need teams that take the initiative and play the way they deem fit. Because if we didn’t have these types of managers – football would lack the villains that are those reactive managers that do what Mourinho does.

 

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Barca – the April Fools’

Champions League is the tournament where the best clubs get to measure the extent of their capabilities and this would define Barcelona in every sense. What I saw was a team which lacked cohesiveness that was once world renowned for and one that simply couldn’t cope with the physicality of Atletico Madrid.

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It’s easy to put the blame on one figure and perhaps Messi would be the perfect figurehead. He was pushed to the right for the most part of the game by Tata Martino which puzzled me and probably Messi too. He was distant, quiet and not overly involved in the build up of Barcelona’s play which he is usually pivotal towards. Still though, it does concern me why he hadn’t run as much as he usually does but it would be wrong to simply use him as a distraction for the real issues.

What I saw today was the complete antithesis to Barcelona. A team which is managed by a strong person who continues to mentally invigorate his players – contrasted by Tata Martino who has left Barcelona in the gloom regarding his future. Then you had a team wherein each individual had a role and they were well aware of what they had to do. Unlike Barcelona: Atletico Madrid looked like a team. The opening minutes summed up the way Atletico were going to approach this game, their press suffocated Barcelona and Barca looked unstable. It’s not surprising the first goal came in the first few minutes.

Their physicality also went unchallenged because Barca simply could not match it. Now I do believe their philosophy on preferring technically gifted players works because of their style of play. However every team needs an enforcer, for instance Bayern shelled out 40,000,000 to purchase Javi Martinez. Barcelona a couple seasons ago had a rock in Eric Abidal and even Seydou Keita who Pep could push up high when he needed to.  Barca’s bench severely lacked this and this is the least physically imposing Barcelona side I have seen in many years. That is an issue which must be resolved.

Then Tata Martino finally took off Cesc Fabregas and played a more familiar 4-3-3 yet we saw a story we’ve seen Barca succumb to before. Foremost, you have to applaud Atletico Madrid for being so organised. When Atletico lost the ball they sat deep and went into a narrow and compact shape which amplified the fact Barcelona lacked ideas. They suddenly started fruitlessly crossing the ball which would make sense if Barcelona had a plan B… which they don’t. They had no tall forward to get these balls into and it made things even easier for Atletico.

ImageIn fact Atletico had many occasions where they could have ended the tie but a bit of poor luck and poor decision making meant the score line flattered Barca. Nonetheless do not underestimate what they have achieved. They beat this Barca side without Diego Costa or the elusive Arda Turan. It certainly didn’t provide Atletico excuses as they simply went on with their job and Adrian performed his role perfectly and even provided the assist for the only goal.

This season the disappointment has come from Barcelona looking like individuals told to win. This was unmasked by Atletico Madrid which Barca had no answer for. They could not penetrate Atleticos defence nor did they have a plan B to fall back to. A poor excuse was held for not coming in for a new centre back by Tata Martino which has greatly backfired due to the transfer ban. Valdes injury meant Barca could not play out from the back as much.

Atletico Madrid simply outclassed Barcelona and this is a scary thought for the nearing battle between these two at the Camp Nou for the final game of the season. Barcelona has yet to overcome Atletico this season and really don’t look like they can. If they do I can guarantee it will be down to individual brilliance.

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Lastly, a crucial El Clasico loss in the Copa del Rey final denied Barca their only real chance at winning a trophy. I would speak about this match however Real Madrid simply replicated the Atletico formula. They played in two banks of four, sat deep, played out well to start counter attacks and generally had the better chances. Barca has serious issues and will have to try their best to have the transfer ban overturned or else another trophyless season is looming.