102 Comments

  1. Goo
    August 30, 2011

    Wow again, Euler. What would my football education do without you.

    • ViscaCalifornia
      August 30, 2011

      Had to register with the blog, just to, well – thank you, Euler. You’re analysis here and regarding the Spanish Super Cup are profoundly insightful and much appreciated…

      I’m fascinated by the stark contrast between Guardiola’s ideation which is evidently predicated on fluidity and dynamism versus Mourinho’s touted emphasis on structure based upon strict formation.

      Looking forward to part dos. Gràcies.

  2. Ron Mexico
    August 30, 2011

    Fantastic opening salvo.

    I’m sure you’ll mention this in part 2 but when I saw the team sheet come to life on the field I was thrilled. A return to the 3 man defense! The reason I was so excited was because the purpose of a back line is to always have a spare man at the back; to deal with the attackers in a way that would favor your defense numerically. Against a 2 man front, like Villareal employs, it would be overkill to field a 4 man backline: because their strikers like to pull wide, and their advanced midfielders like to come inside, you would face the risk of being overrun in two key areas, especially if their full backs were able to push forward and support the strikers.

    By playing Sanchez and Pedro you not only reduced the risk of the full backs pushing forward, but you provided cover to the two outside defenders because of each player’s defensive acumen.

    In midfield, the additional player (afforded by the reduction of numbers at the back) helped the side avoid being overrun in the middle of the pitch by Villareal’s advanced mid’s pinching in. Essentially you would maintain a 4 v 4 in that area, and bank on your superior technique.

    In defense, Busquets played a similar role to the one he played at At. Madrid last year. Essentially a sweeper role that freed Macsherano and Abidal to stay close to Rossi and Nilmar. Not that it particularly mattered, because of the pressing and ball retention skills of the attacking players.

    Whats important in all of this is that it was the perfect game plan for Villareal. People thinking this is the system we will play predominately are, i think, misguided. Like Euler states the formation isn’t as important as the dynamics of it. 4-3-3 or 3-1-3-3. It doesn’t really matter. Against 2 strikers, sure, switch to 3 defenders. Against a forward line of 3? You probably want 4 back there. What’s great about the squad that Pep has built is that you can play multiple ways. Dynamism at its finest.

    Thanks again euler

  3. fiazhamsath
    August 30, 2011

    Can Somebody Explain me Whats this “False 9” role All about?? I am new to this Blog Sorry! 🙁

    • barca96
      August 30, 2011

      It looked to me we played with two false 9’s in Messi and Cesc last night.

        • mom4
          August 30, 2011

          @ barca96 -Messi was playing the false 9. Cesc was playing the false Messi. Duh! 🙂

          @- fiazhamsath – Better to wait for Ueler for the False 9, enganche, trequarista differentiation. Ahsan explained it well once but it’s buried in old posts.

    • August 30, 2011

      A Nine that is fake!
      Not exactly 4.5 but 7.24 or 8.55.
      I am here I am not that kind of Nine.
      Oh I am a striker now, and oh, I am in midfield now.

      Hey. Boom. I score.

      That kind of 9.

    • keith
      August 30, 2011

      in a nutshell (correct me if im wrong) messi’s role in the team is that of a striker (no. 9), but his positioning is usually closer to that of an AMC (no. 10), drawing the opposing defender out to close him down. he then makes runs into the box with or without the ball.

      • barca96
        August 30, 2011

        So Messi is a 9.5 then! Let’s leave it at that 🙂

        So what was Bojan?

        • keith
          August 30, 2011

          bojan was… a talented second striker, in a team that doesnt play second strikers?

          • blitzen
            August 30, 2011

            ^This.

            Bojan’s bad luck to be promoted into a team with Messi in it. Just didn’t suit his game as a central striker and he never looked as good playing on the wing.

          • Blau-Grenade
            August 30, 2011

            Bojan is an exceptional striker/wing player. I had the pleasure of watching him play during the time when Frank Rijkaard was the coach, when he was just 17. He was sensational. That first season he was on fire. I remember Messi being injured a lot during that time. He played exactly the same role that Messi plays during that time.
            Yes, Bojan has the bad luck of being in the same team as Messi, and playing the same position as Messi.

            Regarding Messi, his role has no definition. The Barca team last season was built around him. This year we have a couple of other exceptional players like Cesc and Alexis and the team is more dynamic. But from what I see Messi will be interchanging with Cesc in the midfield/forward role(Supercopa second leg). He will be playing winger supporting Cesc(against Porto). But Pep comes up with many interesting possibilities and the sky is the limit given his talent, and the talent that rest of the team possesses.

  4. y2k156
    August 30, 2011

    This is a review that matches the how Barca played in the match. Wonderful work.

    Dynamics v Structure is always interesting debate. Dynamics way of doing things is the way to being the best but if the components are not there, dynamic way is much more liable to fail as compared to structure. Structural way of thinking and playing is much safer as most people understand structure. Dynamic way of doing things is much more difficult as you need people on same wavelength. Pep seems to increasingly take the team to play in dynamic way and adjust itself throughout the match to opponents. I cannot wait to see how this evolves. Hate the international break right now.

    Waiting for part 2:).

  5. Gogah
    August 30, 2011

    So glad that someone pointed out the irrelevance of these so called formations ‘4-3-3’ ‘3-4-3’ ‘3-1-3-3’ as if they are set in stone.
    Brilliant analysis as always correctly pointing out the importance of dynamics as opposed to structure in a system like Pep’s.
    wonderfully simple words “how they play” needs more attention than “how they are set up”.
    looking forward to the second part. hope you also touch upon the ‘off-ball’ movement which can get messy in this kind of a fluid lineup, but something barca appears to have pulled off rather easily.

  6. Triplo Volanti (formerly Cesc Pistol)
    August 30, 2011

    What was exciting to note was that all this fluidity was balanced, the triangles seemed to form effortlessly and at the loss of possession there were always two players near the ball due to these triangles. When a wide-forward pinched in a midfielder went wide, when Messi dropped back a midfielder lead from the center (and all of Iniesta,Fabregas and Thiago ended up there)

    It was dynamism in perfection. The most TOTAL of all total football.

  7. nzm
    August 30, 2011

    The teams that can adapt to different formations will be the most successful teams.

    Both teams played very carefully for the first 15 minutes. I think that Barca was waiting to see what Villarreal would bring to the game and, as Villarreal continued to play conservatively, Barca took control.

    It allowed Barca to then play a superb game, filled with so many variations that I think it stumped Villarreal as to what they could change to counteract what was happening.

    Villarreal did not change their tactics last night – they had some sort of gameplan, but it was one-dimensional. Even when they were 3 or 4 goals down, they were still forming 2 defensive rows, each with 4 men, in their half.

    Not that I’d have wanted to be, but if I had been Garrido, at 0-2, I would have thrown on another player or 2 up front, as then they might have had a chance at disrupting Barca’s tactics because the Barca 3-man backline would have needed reinforcement. (Instead, he subbed on 3 midfielders when 0-3 down.)

    I’m sure that Pep was prepared for that, but for Villarreal to do nothing to challenge the 3-man defence must have surprised him. I have no doubt that a coach with the calibre of Ferguson or Mourinho would have been all over that 3 man back-line, trying to find a way through.

    Euler – I love your analogy to the 3 states of water. It perfectly describes Barca’s play last night.

  8. barca96
    August 30, 2011

    And people were crying that with the arrival of Cesc, it’s going to stunt Thiago’s growth and limit his chances. Pep says, “Take that”!!
    Plays all 4 of them 😆

    • barca96
      August 30, 2011

      AC Milan are interested in signing Barcelona left back defender Maxwell (30) on a free loan. [corriere dello sport]

      Those cheap….:lol:

    • Lev
      August 30, 2011

      Thiago’s first goal was beautiful btw and golazo no.4 is the kind of goal that honestly only our team makes…amazing t’estimo Barça!

      • barca96
        August 30, 2011

        Thiago’s goal was so Messi-esque don’t you think?
        Messi does that a lot. Drag everyone one way and then take a half-full(power) shot across the goal. You would expect Thiago to pass. I didn’t expect him to take the shot. What a confidence!!

        • Blau-Grenade
          August 30, 2011

          Cesc and Messi helped Thiago get that goal. Thiago was playing for a pass to Cesc and Messi who were dragging defenders wide, waiting for Thiago’s pass. In the end the defenders covered Messi and Cesc, but by that time Thiago was at the edge of the box, and by the time the defenders realized their mistake it was too late. Thiago had to just slide the ball across the goal at that point.
          Watch that goal again and watch the movement of Messi and Cesc in that goal.

          • can_we_go_Xalvies
            August 30, 2011

            Thanks for that, just noticed it now, straight after the goal Thiago points to Cesc becuase he knew Cesc pulled back those two central defenders for Thiago to move closer to the edge of the box. Just goes to show that I was worried about how Thiago would react to Cesc being in the team and grabbing all the attention, but slowly the two are complementing each other on the field.

  9. mom4
    August 30, 2011

    Coffee in hand, I turn on my laptop this morning, get onto BFB, and find a lesson in THERMODYNAMICS! Huh?

    I look at the size of my coffee cup and realize that I had better brew some more.

    Yeah, and last year we had discussions about angular momentum after Pepe’s tackle on Dani so why not thermodynamics.

    Now could Doctor Euler please explain to me what keeps the particle in the one dimensional box? (I could handle thermodynamics but quantum mechanics was the bane of my existence)

    Brewing more coffee now.

    Love this blog, love this team, love Euler!

  10. can_we_go_Xalvies
    August 30, 2011

    Phew! lucky I studied fluid dynamics last semester. funnily enough water is considered incompressible, just think about that.

  11. August 30, 2011

    Just checking in from Laos to say that my Barça shirt gets tons of chants everywhere. Even on the Mekong River in between Laos and Thailand. So wonderful.

    • blitzen
      August 30, 2011

      Hope you are having a great time! If you didn’t catch yesterday’s game, you are in for a treat when you get home!

      • barca96
        August 30, 2011

        Congrats Isaiah!!
        Where else are you gonna visit in South East Asia Isaiah?

    • mom4
      August 30, 2011

      Awesome pic! I love our goal celebrations. So much different than the push your teammates away and take the glory all for yourself celebrations that you see elsewhere.

  12. Barka
    August 30, 2011

    Wow, that’s a great and long review Euler. This is only the first match of la liga, I hope you don’t feel burnt out after a month or two!

    Also, is Kxevin going to write any review this season? While I don’t always agree with him, I miss his passionate opinons and well thought out ratings which can provoke good debates. Seeing (some) people calling Kxevin biased all the time is kind of funny too 🙂

  13. Helge
    August 30, 2011

    Wow, what an introduction, Euler.

    For me, as a student of physics, this was probably the best introduction ever. I’ve seen water at its triple point during my lectures, it seems so unreal – almost from another world. Comparing Barca’s new tactics to this phenomenom is priceless.
    Hats off!

    The analytical part is awesome, as always.
    To describe the dynanism of all the different structures that the Barcelona players assumed during this match, you need to be a master in fractal geometry. It might seem chaotic at firt glance, but if you look closer at it, it looks wonderful.

    “The diamond formed, broke up, broke into triangles and then reformed somewhere else on the pitch.”
    Playing like Barca is like watching through a kaleidoscope 🙂

    • Eklavya
      August 30, 2011

      Yeah, the introduction was really awesome. Especially those studying physics.

  14. Barcaleya
    August 30, 2011

    Euler,

    You, yourself, are a wonder.

    Thank you once again for this beautiful review.

  15. justsayin
    August 30, 2011

    Speaking as a realist, the main reason we win games is because we have an amazing team of talented players with a smart coach, period. Yes, it’s fun to analyze the different formations and how they helped to win the game, but at the end of the day Barca is just a superior team – far and above any other team in La Liga – and so we’re just going to win most games. Because each Barca player is a team onto himself, we’re going to win when we’re down to 1 real defender or midfielder or forward, when we have less training time, when we have longer travel times, when it’s raining, snowing and when it’s sunny. Of course, the ball is round for all teams, so we will occasionally lose. If we’re honest, the cards are stacked. It’s a once in a lifetime moment to see a team gel like Barca is doing at this very moment in time and because of that, it’s hardly a competition anymore.

    • Helge
      August 30, 2011

      The decisive part of your first sentence is with a smart coach, albeit I would say a smart coach is not enough, the coach has to be on the same level of genius as his best players are. Rijkaard was also a smart coach, but believe me, we would be nowhere near where we are now, if the exact same amount of players had been coached by Rijkaard over the last 3 seasons.

      So analyzing the system is not only fun, it underlines what distinguishes this unique team from any (or almost any, I didn’t watch Cruyff’s Netherlands, for instance) other team in the world. And that’s not the pure talent of the players.

      • htMillBay
        August 30, 2011

        I would disagree and agree w/justsayin at the same time. I agree because you need very talented and a very smart coach to implement brilliant tactics. I disagree because it is not enough to say that Barca has players so talented that they can play whichever way whenever and still win most games. Football is full of talented players. I don’t think that Barca has the most talented 11 players in the world individually. Fortunate to have the best forward in Messi and arguably the best mid in Xavi but other teams like EE and MU are not far behind. Perhaps the best technique, but EE players and a lot of EPL players are more athletic. In a way, Barca’s technique, Pep’s coaching and his tactics compensate for the athletic weaknesses of FCB players.

  16. August 30, 2011

    The way we played last night was totally immense, I still can’t stop thinking about it. The movement, the passes, the running, the pressing, the track back, the ideas, the thru balls…the coach, the players, the team.

    I cannot stop thinking about it. It’s too good, and it is also true. It did happen last night, at Camp Nou. Football displayed in a form of celebration that takes you off your seat and your breath away. This game is so epic that it has etched it’s motto in the stone of history that reads “Total Football of Barcelona, 2011”. Amazing.

    We were flatout unplayable last night. Total domination of the game. Villareal could not do a single thing without the ball, and when they had it, they couldn’t do a lot of things either. We crushed them with out system, form, shapes and state.

    – We evaporated into steam when we attacked, uncatchable.
    – We turned into ice when we defended, solid and cold in our tackles.
    – We melted back down to water when we did what we do best, ball circulations.

    Imagine Garrido was preparing this game position by position. Meaning, Zapata would face Abidal and Pedro. But they went here and there. Sometimes Iniesta, sometimes Alexis, sometimes Messi or Cesc. You can’t adapt to so many things, huh? We changed our forms so rapidly that they couldn’t even imagine.

    Other than some of the goals and Victor Valdes’ golden moments. My best moment was when we were caught on our backfoot. Mascherano made a great sliding tackle to work the ball loose. Only to see a Submarine player to cross the ball to the weak side of the pitch, Thiago tracked back, jumped high enough to head the cross away, chased the ball, slid tackle to slow down Villareal’s attack again.

    It’s only a sample of last night’s great display. A center midfielder that does so much to keep the shape of the team even. Balancing out defense and offense. Each player did what is left off to do, completing tasks which wasn’t done, keeping the totality of things. They all knew full well what was asked of them to do, and they all did it with a purpose.

    We should really celebrate for this team.

    • Nik
      August 30, 2011

      My best moment was when we were caught on our backfoot. Mascherano made a great sliding tackle to work the ball loose. Only to see a Submarine player to cross the ball to the weak side of the pitch, Thiago tracked back, jumped high enough to head the cross away, chased the ball, slid tackle to slow down Villareal’s attack again.

      If I’m not mistaken, I think Thiago initially gave the ball away during that sequence. It was good to see him run all out to get it back.

    • Helge
      August 30, 2011

      That scene from Thiago, whether he gave the ball away in first instance or not, combined with all the brilliant passes and dribblings that have already been praised in various medias, makes Thiago my MotM!
      Although almost everyone was damn good yesterday.

      And I feared Cesc might hinder Thiago’s development and reduce his playing time *shame on me*

      • Xingxian
        August 30, 2011

        The fact that Thiago gave it away made it the most beautiful for me. I was STILL chiding him to the TV screen when my father said “Isn’t that Thiago tracking back?” and I thought “wait, but he was all the way up th-” and his attempt to atone for his mistake turned me admonitions into wild cheers.

  17. Blau-Grenade
    August 30, 2011

    Wow Euler. You are an unbelievable writer. Each article you write is a piece of wonder. You are a philosopher(equating states of matter to play), a scientist(states of matter), a historian(past historical references), a sports fanatic and a genius.

    I bow down to the greatness of thy. You put everything into context. I was wondering how such a dynamic team like Villarreal, who played champions league, collapsed under Barca. I had no clue what happened yesterday, or how it happened. It all comes to focus now after reading your article.

    I don’t want to take anything away from the genius of Pep. One thing I want to mention though, which is the injury to one of their players, I think it was Borja Valero, towards the end of the first half, which caused the loss of one of the midfield players on the field. This was the time when Barca scored the second goal, which effectively finished the match. I think Villarreal were a little unlucky in that aspect a little. He was injured and off the field, compared to injuries that usually get treated on the pitch. He was subsequently substituted on the 50th minute, but, the match was over at that point.

    I saw a significant loss of energy in their play after that goal was scored. The Villarreal players seemed to have given up after that goal.

  18. astrosa
    August 30, 2011

    Fantastic read as always. Respect. You will be the premier English language chronicler of the contemporary Barcelona era, someday.

  19. barca
    August 30, 2011

    Amazing review, eagerly waiting for part 2. This kid Sanchez is impressing me every time he plays. Not only he has attacking ability but also look at his defensive qualities! Dude can tackle and press. With Cesc another tackler in our disposal, we are not only great attacking wise but also solid defensively. And sMasch is getting close to playing like Puyol, performing those last ditch goal-saving tackles. He also went forward couple of time like Puyol does when he plays like a right/left-back.

  20. Worddriven Bozo
    August 30, 2011

    Euler, that was a wonderful review — not only a tactical mastery, but a nice flowing mode of expression.

    But please. Do me a favor. Memorize this:

    When “its” is used as a possessive (as in, “the structure lost its shape”), there is NO comma.

    When “it’s” is used as a contraction (short for “it is” — as in, “it’s annoying to see a word misspelled over and over again”), it HAS a comma.

    Thank you very much for your attention to my request. — Word

    • nzm
      August 30, 2011

      I agree with your intent; however, it’s called an “apostrophe”, not a “comma”. 🙂

    • August 30, 2011

      I’m sure he does know the difference. Please keep in mind he writes these — honestly — in the dead of the night after watching the game multiple times. He doesn’t have the time to go over every detail and edit the post.

      And as a general comment, for some people there are certain words they spell wrong over and over because they think it’s the right spelling. For example, one of my high school English teachers always spelled the world ‘their’ as ‘thier’. Every single time.

  21. blitzen
    August 30, 2011

    BarcaGirl_Indo: I think that line up surprised Villareal. it ruined their game plan. they didn’t know who, when, and where to mark or press.

    Euler: The system was so highly fluid and dynamic that the question of formation became almost completely secondary.

    This pretty much sums it up. When the official Barça lineup was announced, my Twitter timeline dissolved into a hilarious mass of confusion and panic. No one knew what Pep was doing, or what his plan was. But the plan was “there is no plan”, not in a formal sense anyway. The plan was to keep the ball circulating as quickly as possible with almost the entire team pressing at once. Don’t lose the ball and don’t give the opponent a second to breathe when they have it. Everyone moving all the time. This is essentially the same plan Pep always has, except with the intensity ratcheted up like never before.

    This explains why Fontas, our only other pure defender, was not given a start. He is excellent in his way, but his on-the-ball skills are just a notch slower than the players Pep did start. Same with Villa. Amazing striker, but not quite at the one-touch level as the rest of the team. They would have slowed the ball circulation down and given Villarreal opportunities to take advantage. I actually wish Pep had left Villa on the bench for the whole match. Not that he was bad when he came on, but he was unnecessary. The game was more than won. He should have given those minutes to Sergi Roberto or Bartra.

    I also love the way Pep has effectively silenced all the doubters (including many in this space 😛 ) who thought Cesc would stunt Thiago’s development. Looks like they can both play after all. And Sanchez! I am amazed at how he has immediately gelled with this team. Fabregas we already knew would fit in, with his La Masia and NT credentials, but Sanchez looks like he has been playing with this team for months, if not years. When he took off for the goal with the ball at his feet, he took a split second to check if there was a player in a better position, even though he must have already known he had a good chance to score. That told me everything I need to know about him right there. No wonder Pep wanted him so badly.

    • nzm
      August 30, 2011

      It’s possible that there was never an intention to bring on Villa, but once Pedro received a knock and couldn’t continue, he did appear. At this stage, the experienced player was given precedence over the “novice” first team players. Villa actually didn’t receive much ball, as they mostly played on the right after he was subbed on. He did find time to go offside though! 🙂

      That goal from Sanchez started with his movements way before he received Thiago’s assist. He ran in from the sideline behind the Villarreal defensive line, circled back in to be onside, ran back to receive the ball, drew in the defenders, passed backwards and then turned to run forwards to receive the assist. He created the gap in the defence to run into. I think that this is what Pep sees in him. Sensational stuff.

      • nzm
        August 30, 2011

        Meant to add, Villa was also good in defence by breaking up some of Villarreal’s movements.

  22. say2
    August 30, 2011

    not only this team has players and coach from out of world.it has its fans also from out of world.
    once again great review euler looking ahead for the second part

  23. Brosep
    August 30, 2011

    ahhhhh so that’s why there are so many awesome Brazilian fullbacks!

    this game was a masterwork. you’re entirely correct in noting the victory on a systemic level rather than, although not in exclusion of, an individual level. Villareal had no mechanism, defensively or otherwise, for coping with what Barca brought to the match. The question of whether Villareal, as players, played well or poorly is irrelevant – they weren’t really invited to play.

    Did anyone else notice some negative reactions to Thiago’s goal? Messi and Guardiola in particular looked somewhat less than pleased. Guardiola, rather than happy (as he would be later when Messi scored his first goal), seemed to applaud only dutifully and through gritted teeth. But who can claim to understand Pep?

    I missed this over the summer – the feeling that Barca is pulling out all the stops. You get the impression FCB doesn’t *really* care about the SuperCups as much as it cares about any single Liga match. I’m looking forward to at least 37 more games of a passionate Barcelona.

    • Jnice
      August 30, 2011

      Did anyone else notice some negative reactions to Thiago’s goal? Messi and Guardiola in particular looked somewhat less than pleased. Guardiola, rather than happy (as he would be later when Messi scored his first goal), seemed to applaud only dutifully and through gritted teeth. But who can claim to understand Pep?

      Pretty sure you aren’t reading the situation right. I’m sure Messi and Pep were happy. There was nothing to be unhappy about. Cesc and Messi dragged defenders away from Thiago, whose first intention was to pass. Because of that, he had the space to fire off a great shot. 1-0, everyone is happy.

    • nzm
      August 30, 2011

      Guardiola’s first-goal celebrations do tend to be more subdued – perhaps in recognition that there is a lot more of the match to be played and anything can happen. The most excited that I see him get about 1st goals is against RM and in CL games.

      With Fab’s goal, he was more open, because it was Cesc’s first La Liga goal.

      With Sanchez’ goal, I think that he was more annoyed that Alexis took off his shirt. I’m sure that the player got reprimanded for that, later!

      With Messi’s first goal of the night, he was delighted, mostly because it was Messi’s 100th goal at the Camp Nou. He wanted it, and Messi really wanted it – you can see the effort that he made to get that ball into the net once he rounded Diego – and shot with his “weaker” right foot! 🙂

      I did notice Messi’s “non-reaction” to Thiago’s goal. I think that he expected Thiago to pass to him, as he was open. (But offside too, I think, as Thiago ran out of options with 5 defenders enveloping him.) However, he soon shrugged it off and was the 3rd player (behind the closer Cesc and Pedro) to join the celebratory huddle.

      • blitzen
        August 30, 2011

        He looked offside to me, too.

        And if anyone has any theories about a “lack of feeling” between Messi and Thiago, they only need to look at the two of them celebrating Messi’s second goal (Thiago assist). Lots of love happening there. 😀

        • Xingxian
          August 30, 2011

          I noticed Messi not celebrating and I watched it several times carefully and in context I’ve come to privately (willfully choose to, though I honestly believe it’s the most likely) believe that he wasn’t upset with Thiago for making an error in not assisting, he was too dumbstruck with what just happened. He was still ‘What? Really? OUR little Thiago scored like that from there here now what huh?’ while dumbly wandering over to give him his hug. There didn’t seem to be any scowling or bitterness in Messi’s reaction, just confusion.

          • mom4
            August 30, 2011

            Just rewatched. Messi was the fourth person to come over to congratulate Thiago and join the pile of celebrants. And he did it with a big smile and a big hug. Not to worry, y’all.

    • August 30, 2011

      At 1-0, the game is not settled, thus his celebration is subdue. When it’s 2-0, he can celebrate more. So, when you see Pep sit down at 4-0, you know why. There were games which Pep merely clap his hands when the fifth goal came.

      Pep is all about winning games.

  24. August 30, 2011

    Guys. I have huge news. I know some of you thought it would improbable, nay, impossible, but it’s true.

    Saul has fudged off to Alcorcon on loan until the end of the season.

    Ce-le-brate, good times, c’mon!

    Also, Eid Mubarak for anyone who is celebrating! Barça has given you Saul to Alcorcon as a present!

    • Extreme barca fan
      August 30, 2011

      Even better Hleb is rumored to be joining wolfsburg.

      • August 30, 2011

        It’s a day that keep on giving *cries happily*

        They read my ad on Twitter yesterday.

  25. Nik
    August 30, 2011

    One of my favorite parts about Pep’s tactics yesterday was how it was impossible for Villareal to predict who was going to make a run into the box. Usually, it’s just one of our front three, with Iniesta darting forward every now and then. But yesterday, everyone was taking turns making runs into the box: at one point it was Messi, at another Thiago, Fabregas, Iniesta, Sanchez, Pedro. Villareal’s defenders had no way of predicting who was coming at them.

  26. blitzen
    August 30, 2011

    Does anyone have the full remarks Villarreal president Fernando Roig made after the match? I read the “killing Spanish football” comment, but the way it was presented it almost sounded like he was blaming Barça for being too good (rather than a badly organized league).

  27. rocky
    August 30, 2011

    I have been loitering around this site for over an year now… thought I’d acknowledge the amazing reviews of Euler!
    These reviews have made me feel closer to Barca and love their way of playing. Thanks for writing such amazing stuff.

    Privileged to be watching them through this era in the sport. Waiting for the part 2

    Cheers.

  28. Eklavya
    August 30, 2011

    If I could write as well , I’d write one long comment praising Euler.

  29. August 30, 2011

    Good post, Euler. Lots to say about barca’s match, and will do soon. But I’ll spare some time to talk about villarreal who were disappointing last night. not only because Barcelona were brilliant (they were) but also because they helped it.

    Even before the kickoff, there was a demonstration about the Liga’s mismanagement. One of the best teams in the league and a Champions’ league horse is still without a sponsor, not because they don’t want but because they didn’t get any realistic offer.

    And even before the beginning of the match, Villarreal received a very confusing news, Barcelona’s selection. They had absolutely no idea who will play where and how. In that, they were not prepared tactically and mentally to take what Barcelona will throw on them. The key was to customize the tactics based on what Barcelona provides. Or so we thought.

    Barcelona played what was –on paper- a 3-4-3. But the triangle of Messi-Cesc-Iniesta and the floating functionality of Thiago made it inaccurate to call the selection 3-4-3. The false nine was both Messi and Cesc each at a time. In the other hand, Sanhez and Pedro were the players responsible of creating width on the flanks.
    Barcelona’s tactics in offense were very systematic.. Ball circulation thru the flanks to stretch Villarreal’s defense moving the fullbacks far from the center, while the lethal offense operated centrally. The triangle Iniesta-Messi-Cesc were responsible of tempting center backs to step forward to check the floating false nine (Mainly Messi) creating a space behind the defense line, then one of the other two players in this offense trio make the run inside (Mainly Cesc) receiving a pass from Thiago or Iniesta. Names changed and interchanged positions but the roles were standard.

    Villarreal didn’t react properly to that and instead handed their throat to Barcelona. First thing they should have done was to defend deeper and narrower. When Barcelona approach Villarreals’ defense third, it was unacceptable not to have any presence in the box for the submarine defenders. In all the conceded goals, Villarreal defenders were caught tracking the attack rather than defending it.

    In the other hand, Villarreal lacked the aggression needed on this level. I’m not talking about Mourinho-istic thug-ness. Still, if you watch Thiago’s goal for example, none of the five players surrounding him was there to make a tackle or interception. They got caught in the possession mill and ended up sleepwalking.

    Offense wise, They should have moved Rossi to play as an attacking midfielder leaving one striker upfront. His presence there assisting the two midfielders will help his team generating attacks through the flanks where 3-4-3 struggles most.

    Alright it is long already. will save some for later.

  30. adopted cule
    August 30, 2011

    There is much speculation that these tactics were used specifically because of the players available and the opponent. Many others believe this to be a natural evolution of Pep’s vision and that we will see a similar approach in future games. With a full squad available and against opponents unlikely to be able to play on equal footing regardless of formation, Pep may choose to play a conventional 4-3-3 simply because the less often he shows this kind of attack to future opponents, the more it will seem that these were makeshift tactics born of specific situational needs. In addition, the less often Barcelona play this way, the less footage future opponents will have to devise tactics to neutralize this style. Thus they will be unprepared on two fronts.

    It would not surprise me to see Guardiola have the confidence in both his vision and his players to go out and play in variations of this theme the entire season, basically saying, ‘I don’t care if you know it’s coming, you still can’t stop it’, but neither would it surprise me if he only unleashed this kind of attack when he really needed it.

  31. August 30, 2011

    I’m proud to say I read the whole post. (Thanks for making it 2 parts!) I see my post-match Kxevin ratings icecream addiction being replaced by a tactical analysis sandwich.

    Water analogy is perfect.(and all this time I thought Barca was so like iodine…able to (be)sublime at any moment.)

  32. Josep
    August 30, 2011

    What’d we learn from this game?

    Cesc is a vanity purchase and just here to warm the bench.
    Cesc on the bench is pushing Thiago down the pecking order, he should be loaned out.
    Last year’s first versus last year’s fourth ends in 8-2 its considered a great game. Unless it’s in Spain, and it ends 5-0 then it becomes a two-team league. Completely lopsided. Unfair.
    Pep only wins because he’s handed this great team. His history in the transfer market is bad. ZLATAN!!!!1

    I get tired of reading about the unfair TV money. I mean unfair is the wrong word. don’t madrid and barcelona DESERVE the lion’s share? I mean they are the two teams in Spain.

    It should be distributed more equally, but the word unfair is improper. It’d be unfair to the big two if they got less, and do they not do any research, those brits? Isn’t there a deal in place for 2014?

    @jnice
    I think what Brosep meant to say was Mazinho was clearly mad when Thiago scored because he used his left foot. He let Pep and Messi know this and they shared his distaste.

    • blitzen
      August 30, 2011

      Also, Valdes is a crap goalkeeper who can only make saves because Spanish cheats are too busy diving for a penalty to take a real shot. Let him try making saves on a wet night at the Britannia! Utterly classless!

      • Eklavya
        August 30, 2011

        Just because he got lucky only once doesn’t mean he’s suddenly the best goalkeeper in the world! Look at him, he doesn’t even bother yelling at his defense like a real hard English shotstopper keeper would do because he knows it was his fault the striker even got the shot off because he wasn’t commanding his area properly!

    • Barcaleya
      August 30, 2011

      Hahaha. Too funny.

      Agree with everything 😀

  33. blitzen
    August 30, 2011

    So Hleb is off to the Bundesliga for the third time, is he? Excellent news. We get a little money and a very large burden off our shoulders. One of the worst transfer failures in recent Barça history (let’s not mention Ibra, OK?). Why did it all go so wrong? 😥 😈

    • mom4
      August 30, 2011

      We’ve Hlebbed Germany? Isn’t that an act of war?

  34. kinukinu
    August 30, 2011

    Euler, can you teach a class so we can all attend?

  35. Renata
    August 30, 2011

    I’ve been reading this blog for a long while, but today I finally decided to register so I could thank you, Euler, for the wonderful reading time. After each match I keep checking the blog so I can read the amazing, enlightening things you have to say. Gràcies!

  36. Calvin
    August 30, 2011

    While Guardiola emphasized the dynamic play of the team as instrumental, and this was likely the predominate factor in Barcelona’s dominance, Guardiola also implemented some fantastic structure changes for the match. A 3 man defense has always been particularly effective in stifling 2 man striker teams. On the opposite note a 3 man defense typically struggles against a single striker system with two dedicated wide players – not only does the defense have 2 extra men at the back instead of 1, but it is also constantly in danger of being over stretched and leaving holes in the middle. For this reason it’s unlikely this will become Guardiola’s full time formation, there are just too many teams that use the 4-2-3-1 that a 3 man defense would struggle against.

    Ramzi mentioned the other really interesting structural change Guardiola made which was playing Pedro and Sanchez very wide and expecting them to maintain width almost all the time. This is a departure from 3-4-3’s or 3-1-3-3’s (or whatever you want to call this formation) that have been used in the past. In the past the outside attackers have been more forward type players, players who can create and score chances. Pedro and Sanchez both fit in this category, but they played much wider than their historical equivalents. This took maximum advantage of Villareal’s lack of width by pinning back their full backs. It also stretched Villareal to the max when we had the ball and created space for our numerous attacking midfielders to exploit in the middle.

    It’s interesting to note that this is a move Guardiola wouldn’t have felt comfortable making in years past, and it’s the addition of Sanchez that makes it possible. Last season Pedro was the only forward on the team that is truly suited to maintaining width from the front (except Jeffren, who didn’t really count). Messi likes to play centrally these days, Villa and Bojan are players who are best starting wide and making central runs – and this isn’t conducive to maintaining width from the front. Guardiola remarked this summer that they chose Sanchez instead of Rossi because Sanchez was a true winger, and now we can see why Guardiola wanted another winger in the squad.

    On a different note, playing Thiago directly opposed to Cani was an act of genius. As Cani spends more time moving wide than his counterpart this was the area in the midfield that was going to have the most open space. Thiago’s ability on the dribble and his ability to pick a killer pass when given time on the ball made him the perfect choice. It paid off well too – Thiago scored after a fantastic dribble through an open corridor of space, and then played a phenomenal assist to Sanchez from an open position. He even put in a very workmanlike defensive performance – it’s hard to imagine a year or two ago people were saying that Thiago didn’t work hard enough in defense.

    • Xingxian
      August 30, 2011

      “it’s hard to imagine a year or two ago people were saying that Thiago didn’t work hard enough in defense.”
      This is easy for me to imagine.
      Thiago: I don’t work hard enough in defense, eh!? I’LL SHOW YOU!! I’LL SHOW YOU ALL!!!

    • blitzen
      August 30, 2011

      it’s hard to imagine a year or two ago people were saying that Thiago didn’t work hard enough in defense.

      This is actually quite an interesting point. I don’t know if you have ever read Thiago’s player profile on the official site, but in last year’s description as a B team player there was a note that he was “not asked to defend” or some similar phrase. I remember it specifically because it struck me as very odd at the time and not in keeping with the Barça philosophy that everyone defends and everyone attacks. If anyone knows anything about this, I would love to hear it.

      If you look at his current profile, there is nothing of the sort, and I don’t believe for one second that Guardiola would have a player in his team that didn’t work as hard at defending as the rest of the team. We certainly saw the evidence of Thiago’s defensive contributions on Monday.

      • ciaran
        August 30, 2011

        My understanding was basically, with the B team, he was never played as a DM, always playing the most advanced of the three midfielders.
        Technically, he is on par with a forward but tactically he is on par with midfielders. My guess, with any other team he would be a trequartista behind 1 or 2 strikers.
        Last night he definitely played the Xavi role, making 108 successful passes out of 120 attempts according to the official site. He is also the bravest midfielder we have which could be construed as indiscipline but maybe it’s just the Brazilian coming out.

        • blitzen
          August 30, 2011

          It doesn’t matter where he was played, it is that they went to the trouble of adding to his profile that he wasn’t asked to defend. That is very unusual, bizarre even. No one put in Nolito or Soriano’s profile that they didn’t have to defend…because they did. Everyone did. That’s how Barça plays football.

          Smells of Mazinho to me.

  37. Barcathegreatestever
    August 30, 2011

    Put the best player in the world in the middle. Surround him with the best playmaker in the EPL for the last 8 years, the Copa Italia player of the year, the hottest European U21 player, the Balon d’ Or runner up, the most recent Captain of Argentina, the European player of the year runner up, then sprinkle in a defender with arguably the best individual ball control, a Keita, and a Pedro, then demand they press like hell and have fun. ” If you don’t have the players no amount of tactics are going to work, and if you have the players, any tactic will work”

  38. ciaran
    August 30, 2011

    Has anyone seen the players’ average positions for this match? Or has someone a link to one?

  39. Vj
    August 30, 2011

    Excellent analysis, which should come naturally for a guy named Euler.

    re:Hleb. How do we sell a guy AND keep paying his wages? #epicallyHlebbed

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