Legs and Yellow Cards: Why These Things Matter

I’ve harped on this before, but apparently it bears repeating. Sport is reporting that Peruvian national team midfielder Ranier Torres, a 29-year old who plays for Universitario in Peru, is promising to put the boot in hard against Messi. Specifically he has claimed that he wants to imitate Luis Reyna’s 1985 Peru-Argentina man-marking of, probably not coincidentally, Diego Maradona. For his part, Maradona remembers the game for being kicked, rather than for being shut down.

In one part of the video of that day (below), you can see Reyna clearly yanking Maradona down by the hair (play starts at 2:22). Reyna also clubbed Diego to the ground with hard tackles from behind on a rather continuous basis. Reyna got a yellow card in the first half, but arguably could have received a second one on several different occasions before and after that.

The reason this is important is not because I’m saying that Torres will channel the hair-pulling or the kicking of Luis Reyna, but rather that it’s even up for debate as a legitimate tactic against other players. I have no problem with what Almeria did against Barça on Saturday–man-marking Xavi and Iniesta was fairly brilliant as the final scoreline suggested, though 1-0 was still flattering to a clearly worse side–but to pull a Malaga/Weligton and just stomp and throw your elbows is far from okay. It’s anti-futbol to the extreme; it becomes no longer a question of tactics, but of injuries.

I’m all for tougher players who don’t whine about non-existent fouls (cough Tom Brady cough), but when the entire tactical approach of a team is “kick the man”, it removes both the spectacle and the fun from the games. I’m not saying that because I want Argentina to win, but rather because I want the better team on the day to win. That doesn’t mean being Bruce Bowen, it doesn’t mean doing to Messi what was done to Maradona by Goikoetxea, and it doesn’t mean that refs should look the other way. I want Peru to win, actually, but I want them to do it through collective and individual brilliance, not by smashing their opponents physically. Do that by out-running them, by out-thinking them, by out-playing them, but don’t get cynical and don’t turn a game into a war. It’s not acceptable, no matter who is on the receiving end.

Sevilla defeated Real Madrid not by chopping them down everywhere they went, but rather by out-playing them. By finding a tactical weakness in Pellegrini’s approach. Malaga couldn’t do that, so they chose to attempt to injure Messi, then Pique. Almeria went about it correctly, but didn’t have the quality to win, which is okay because they still put in the effort (though I still would like them to come out and play, but that’s suicide, so you can understand why they didn’t).

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Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in Germany with his wife and daughter.


  1. ooga aga
    October 6, 2009


    que vaya a la mierda el tres pelos torres

  2. Miguel
    October 6, 2009

    i’m not one to post goal.com articles but this one i found pretty funny:

  3. ooga aga
    October 6, 2009

    yeah in the rec leagues or in the pick-up games here in town, when someone comes in with a hard tackle we say “dude chill! i got a day job!”

    guess messi cant say that.

    el lameculo tres pelos torres no puede parar el fenomeno que es el messi

  4. El Tel
    October 6, 2009

    Let’s just hope the ref for that match has heard Torres’ comments.

  5. Helge
    October 6, 2009

    Well, I think we all agree on that topic.
    The ref should have a closer look on Ranier Torres and the only way to stop this “tactics” is to show players with his intention a red card and a ban for 3 or more matches. But this red card is being shown far too seldom, or far too late. I hope the ref for the Argentina match does a better job than the one against Malaga.

    An excerpt from Sid Lowe:
    “Barcelona struggled more than normal against Almería after coach Hugo Sánchez told Chico to do a man-marking job on Xavi Hernández. Xavi admitted he’d never had anyone follow him so intently before. Barcelona won 1-0 thanks to a wonderful goal from Pedro. But Guardiola insists that other coaches shouldn’t go getting any bright ideas: he says has the solution to man marking.”

    Is that true? Does Pep already have a solution? I wonder where Sid got it from…

    • Jnice
      October 6, 2009

      Pep said it after the match. It will definitely involve Yaya moving up and taking the reins, which is something he should have done last match. As soon as Yaya touched the ball, he created space for Ibra to exploit and get that excellent shot off. Pep took too long to bring on Yaya and Keita, IMO. I think he knows this and won’t make that mistake again.

    • Tutomate
      October 6, 2009

      Guardiola said in the post-mat h interview that man marking only opens up wider lanes in the places you want them to by taking the marking man out of the game. He just said we didn’t do it effectively he talked about ” pases al interior” I guess he means that Xavi could of went to the wing taking a opponent out of the middle and therefore that mans absence would open the game to inside passes.

      Maybe Hector can elaborate or Ramzi basiclly someone other than me. 🙂

    • Hector
      October 6, 2009

      You just about nailed it, Tomate. I’m preparing a brief post on this for today to explain more thouroughly.

      • Helge
        October 6, 2009

        Ah, okay. Now that’s good news 🙂

  6. Lumi
    October 6, 2009

    He could have a Solution and i think that was what he wanted to use towards the end of the match by bringing in YAYA and Keita. Or except he wants the Players to trade tackles for tackles

  7. Kxevin
    October 6, 2009

    I think that we saw a hint of the solution at the double insertion of Pique and The Yaya. Both excel at encroaching into midfield space, and The Yaya is, of course, the World’s Biggest Attacking Midfielder. So the problem for an opponent becomes do you stay home on Xavi, or do you realize the danger presented by an attacker with a killer long shot, or the ability to make the smart pass.*

    *Plus he can hide Messi inside his shirt, and drop him off inside the box.

    • Blow-Granite
      October 6, 2009

      LOL!!! The Messi comment is too funny!!!

  8. Lumi
    October 6, 2009

    Just a little off topic but don’t Ya’ll think Isaiah should suggest an Opinion poll on the blog on whom we want come Next year Suarez or Cesc

    • Blow-Granite
      October 6, 2009

      I second that. The poll can be much broader in scope, including stuff such as, which position they should play, who they should replace in the current team, or just be a super sub … etc etc.

    • Ciaran
      October 6, 2009

      Bring on both.
      Suarez would add a lot of depth to the second forward positions, allowing Ibra & Keirrison to cover the center and Messi, Bojan, Pedro and Luis Suarez for the wide positions.

      As for Cesc, Xavi turns 30 in January, as does Keita, so there does seem to be a space opening. It’s not an argument as to who is better but Cesc certainly brings more of a goal threat from deep and it’s always good to have variety.

  9. Ciaran
    October 6, 2009

    The problem with that match is that Busquets, currently, is just not good enough. If the Yaya was playing from the start I don’t think we would have struggled so much. There were wide open spaces that Busquets just didn’t move into. Even if Pique had started it would have been different. Everyone saw the amount of space that Marquez had and couldn’t use. Pique has become far more adept at bringing the ball out of defense and even carrying on his run into the opposition danger area.

    There are a few other options available to counteract such man-marking tactics. The most important tactical variations come from some unlikely players… Keita, Yaya, Iniesta, Pique & Maxwell.
    Starting Keita and moving Iniesta to the left wing allows the two to interchange, and also creates room for an overlap of Maxwell – should he choose to.
    Starting Yaya allows Xavi to drift further from the center without leaving a gaping hole in the middle of the park.
    Starting Pique gives the team an extra midfielder and pushes our opposition maybe 10yards further back on the pitch

  10. Kxevin
    October 6, 2009

    True, Ciaran, it’s why I said in the review regarding Maxwell … one word, three syllables: o ver lap. 😀

  11. Lumi
    October 6, 2009

    I still think Bringing the 2 of em will do more harm than good honestly

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