1. BarcaOwl
    December 14, 2011

    Wow, Euler! This post was definitely worth the wait. Once again, it was an enjoyable read. I think you’re an excellent writer. If you ever write a book about tactics, I’d happily buy it. 🙂

  2. December 14, 2011

    Euler, you are the star. Thank you for this brilliant review.

    Most Barca followers kept on praising Iniesta after the match, but I was sure about the influence of Messi and Puyol. I have seen the match about 4 times and I am quite convinced about what I felt. Your analysis is perfect. Messi was the worst fear of Madrid, but still they didnt manage to control him because of Pep’s tactical switch. And Messi did the best use of it, especially for the first and third goal. And the first goal was the real break in this game. Our players were more relaxed after that goal, which had Messi mark all over.
    It is funny to see how Messi attracts 3 or even more players to him, each and every time he has the ball. Madrid players are really scared of him.

    Puyol – no words to describe this Tarzan. He plays with his heart. When Marcelo shows his side to Xavi’s shot (during the second goal) we can see how Puyol recieves a strong HIguain shot on his face!!!!

    Another brilliant player was Busquests. I dont have words to describe Busquests. It is a pity that he is not treated among the best 10 players in the world.

    After we were down at 22 sec, Leo, Puyi and Sergi were the three players who didnt really look bloody nervous.

    Once again thank you Euler.

  3. y2k156
    December 14, 2011

    This is brilliant post Euler. One of the best pieces i have ever read on football.

    Scoreline might have luck written on it but fortune favors the brave. And Pep/Barca were brave. In the end, Barca owned the football and was best team in the match by margin.

    Really interesting to see that Pep had tried so many things and learned from them. Masch did the Puyi role in Valencia and defense had terrible time. Pep learned from it.

    What i know is that results might not in control but Pep’s Barca will always be brave. And as a fan, thats what i want.

  4. can_we_go_Xalvies
    December 14, 2011

    So I guess all those nail biting moments us fans suffered watching Busquets playing CB really paid off in the end.

    I’m glad Euler included the moment where Abidal turned Ozil, because I remember seeing that moment live on TV, at the time Abidal and Busquets virtually switching positions seemed somewhat very odd, but It was very noticeably effective.

    So does this add another question into the mix of things, Guardiola originally preferred the creater & destroy backline duo, so now in future he may possibly look for defenders that can play central and in wide positions ala Muniesa?

  5. December 14, 2011

    This Is Devotion.

    Thanks Euler. Very articulate.

  6. BarcaGirl_Indo
    December 14, 2011

    “Just when Jose Mourinho thought he had the answers, Pep Guardiola changed the questions.” -Marti Perarnau-

    this. exactly this.
    and thank you Euler for your hard work and commitment to this blog. I read your full article. Eulertastic review.

    just finished watching Revista La Liga. Graham Hunter told us what Guardiola said to his players before :

    “Look, lads. The SuperCup came at the time when we shouldn’t ready for it. We all knew that was the game we should’ve lost. We didn’t, we beat them, we outplayed them. They gave everything, they were physically far ahead of us in August. And we still won

    Only you guys can drop the ball now. If we don’t win this, it will be your fault, because your are that much better than them.

    Don’t worry about the big Bernabeu, don’t worry about how we’ve arrived here. Play your football and you’ll win

    Pep talk. Wow. How lucky we are to have Pep as a coach.

    • Dani_el
      December 14, 2011

      Wow! What a Pep talk! Breathtaking.

  7. michalom
    December 14, 2011

    I’m interested in opinions on Pique’s performance. I think it might possibly be his WORST outing, all season long. He was pathetically weak, at least, that’s the impression I got from watching the game. Puyol seemed angry and frustrated w/ him during the game, casting death looks at him every time the pair were on camera. Your thoughts?

    • Lev
      December 14, 2011

      Don’t think Pique was weak at all. When playing 3.5 defenders against an opponent that has scored goals than us this season, you can’t expect every defender to be lord and master. Who do you think he is, Puyol? M*drid will ALWAYS create chances against any team they come up against. They are just really really dangerous.

      If anything I think Xavi lost the ball a LOT, especially during the first half. Cesc was weak also, some of the possible reasons why are very well analyzed above, but he made up for it with a golazo 🙂

    • blitzen
      December 14, 2011

      I think you watched a different game than I did. It certainly wasn’t Pique’s best performance, and he was beaten for pace far too much, but weak? Pathetic? Not at all. And I definitely didn’t see any “death looks” from Puyol that weren’t directed towards RM players.

  8. michalom
    December 14, 2011

    By the way, great and very enjoyable analysis of the match! Thank you.

  9. Lev
    December 14, 2011

    Thanks Euler!

    I still think it is amazing that Marcelo and Crynaldo did not take more advantage of Dani Alves’ high employment. Because just like Dani Alves moving forward pinned back Marcelo, Marcelo moving forward would have pinned back Dani Alves, left us without any outlet on the right wing, and subsequently crowding the middle due to our limited presence on the left side of the pitch.

    The thing that amazes me most is that one usually would have a winger threaten the left back into submission, have Dani Alves as a right back and Puyol in the center covering for Dani Alves’ forward runs if necessary.

    Had all four of Puyol, Piqué, Busquets and Abidal not played near perfect game Pep’s gameplan would have been suicidal – as it is Crynaldo should still have buried us in the first half hour during which the only Barça scoring opportunity occurred because Ramos confused himself with the King’s Cup.

    What eventually won the game was our players’ mental and technical quality more than anything.

    • December 14, 2011

      Had all four of Puyol, Piqué, Busquets and Abidal not played near perfect game Pep’s gameplan would have been suicidal –

      That’s right. That’s why I emphasized transition defense as one of the key pillars and the one to make it work.

      Out of transitions Busquets can drop back, team can defend as a unit. But when play transitions with 3 at the back its very dangerous and requires all 3 backs and Busquets to work together flawlessly.

      It’s a circle – one allows the other to shine: technical quality-mentality-tactics.

  10. Blau-Grenade
    December 14, 2011

    No words Euler!!! I am speechless. What a masterclass on tactics.

  11. December 14, 2011

    New from Run of Play, and makes the point that many of us have been making, which is that it’s the system. It isn’t the simple matter of essaying to retain possession. It’s the fact that there is a system in place to maximize possession, being played by players who know exactly what to do with that possession.

    Anyhow …. http://www.runofplay.com/2011/12/14/possession/

  12. mani
    December 14, 2011

    You are a heck of a man (or underwear model) doing a heck of a job. Fantastic analysis! I’ll be honest I was desperately trying to notice the quick tactical changes and evolving structure by Pep during the game so I could read this very entry later and try to better understand your disection. I missed tons of course, but mind you I was at a very loud bar. Brilliant article.

    If you were part of the coaching staff, Moan-rinho would surely poke your eyes. Take it as a compliment 🙂

    And a bit on El Mister himself: The fact that he is able to change the structure at a whim during the course of the match is remarkable. It all seems so seamless, so fluid, that 90% of viewers, with all their PVR rewinding even, are unable to see the evolution. Our master tactician completely out-witted Moan-rinho. May he continue for years to come (until one day it’s Xavi’s turn ;)).

  13. December 14, 2011

    And in a very separate post, I have read a lot on this match, a lot on tactics, and just a lot in general. This piece is one of the best. I am personally going to Euler’s home to bathe his smoldering hands in fragrant balm and oil, to ensure that he will be fine for the next big match.


  14. mani
    December 14, 2011

    EE has really taken a mental hit. Their confidence must surely be at another low. They just didn’t seem the same monstrous side in the CDR last night as they have been all season long. Playing TB for 90 minutes was surely a way to bring his confidence back up, especially with Sevilla looming.

    Speaking from EE’s point of view, perhaps it’s best Moan-rinho is claiming luck doomed them. If his players believe as such, it would help them when they play us again. If they all truly believed that Barcelona were just far superior, then we would have an even greater psychological advantage in the next game. With that said, Moan-rinho himself should be well aware that his team/tactics were not up to par and work on improving them.

  15. December 14, 2011


  16. Momo
    December 14, 2011

    Wonderful, I’ve been waiting for this, will surely read it after my last exam.

  17. psqd
    December 14, 2011

    Thanks, it was a great read!
    This post is going to be pretty duplicative, but in the interest of process not substance.

    Some of Pep’s comments about tactics especially the one about them just being about players makes me wonder about the thought process that arrived at these tactics. I imagine Pep sits down with a few points he thinks he needs to accomplish based on his players and system every time he starts analyze the opposition and looks for the best ways to accomplish them given the other team’s tendencies.
    1. Maintain possession.
    1A. Gain midfield superiority to maintain possession.
    2. Get Messi into space.
    3. Give the defense the ability to build from the back and account for their attack with a minimum number of defenders.

    The first one is a function of his and barca’s preference for tiki taka. As a lot of people have spelled out in the last few years, it is a preference and not a moral imperative or necessary component to success. It does, however, shape and limit tactical choices available. Further, Pep has made it clear that he views gaining midfield superiority as the primary component to maintaining possession. This again moves your tactics in certain directions given the opponent. As an aside, it also does interesting things in your relationship to width and wide players just as villa.

    In this match this meant at times xavi and busquets looking like a double pivot in possession. Iniesta being sacrificed in the first half in the name of tactical width aka space in middle. Dani being allowed to be offensive dani rather than defensive dani. There was a comment above about how marcelo could have had a similar effect, in reverse, as dani did. Which way the “pinning back” happens is a function of possession, correct me if i am wrong. But with barca in possession marcelo has to track dani, and the reverse is true. With the bulk of the possession dani is more often getting forward and marcelo pushed back. Over the course of the game this has an additive effect and “trains” marcelo to stay back.

    This is also the reason for Cesc playing in midfield as opposed to part of a front three. Finally, this could explain, along with 2, of why messi played more 10-like.

    The second is simple. Get the best player in the world enough space to work. This is facilitated by the fact that he can provide in addition to score. Looking at this game, and the effect of past clasicos as euler described wonderfully, pep decided there was going to be space between the madrid lines so that would be the best place for messi. However, from the past games he knew that if messi was the furthest forward player in the center this would allow madrid to collapse on him or force him to beat 4-5 players consistently to get to a dangerous place with the ball. So, in addition to playing messi deep you have to post up a guy in front of him who is willing to run his ass off pulling people out of position. The result in this game is messi only has to beat a couple guys before he gets into or can play the ball into a dangerous position. Luckily, asking messi to beat a couple guys consistently is doable.

    You can also see this requirement specifically in each of the shifts pep/messi have made with his positioning, obviously. However, the constant evolution and changes are about how to get it done this time not what is his best position. Messi has proven that given a little space to receive the ball is all the position he needs. It also begs the question about what happens to messi’s positioning with different finishers around him. This game was an example that he can be just as effective in facilitating scoring from deeper with finishers around and in front of him. I expect we will see more of villa and sanchez playing as more typical strikers to create and maintain that space between lines for messi. It also makes you wonder if messi could play a more important role in “replacing” xavi as either cesc or thiago.

    And 3, everybody knows how important it has been for barca to play out of the back, play it back to create space, etc. This part is the most obvious nod to the opponent having an effect on barca’s formation. Basic rule of thumb have one more guy back than the opponent has forward. This gives you cover defending, but for barca building out of the back this is also necessary to allow building from the back. In this game it looked like that meant 4 guys to anyone who treats players as integers. Pep says playing 3 would be very dangerous against madrid. So everybody thinks he has to play 4. But because he isn’t quite right or because he is being very brave, Pep either only counts ozil as a half or figures he only has to have half a guy extra back rather than a whole one. So he goes with 3 1/2 making busquets do whatever name you want to give to what it is he does.

    There is one point on the courage of valdes to continue playing the ball out after his gaff that i haven’t seen made explicitly. The coverage usually goes puyol pumped him back up and he continued to do exactly what they always do the barca way. One thing about what valdes does that allows busquets to do what he does, is that he becomes the extra man in possession. Normally people only count the outfield players when discussing matching up, hence the 4 in defense 3 in possession and the half a busquets 3 1/2. However, i would bet in pep math he counts valdes in possession, giving them 4 at the back in and out of possession. The point that i have spent too much time getting to is what happens if valdes allows himself to get spooked? Not the over reaction he is going to boot it long constantly and the midgets will never win the ball, but what if his passing had just become more conservative and he no longer counts as an extra guy in possession. Does that require an extra half a guy? Is that busquets or dani? How does that decision shift the control of the midfield?

    sorry this thing got a bit out of control.

    • December 14, 2011

      Excellent comment. I really liked your thought about Pep looking at Valdes as an extra man in posession. ie, even when Barca has only 3 at the back, Valdes acts as the 4th, a sweeper. Never thought like that.
      I also hope Sabella have watched this match. Messi as a real number 10, with strikers like Higuain and/or Aguero ahead of him should be excellent tactic for Argentina.

    • December 14, 2011

      Well said! Agree on your points.

      You got across well how the components have to fit together to produce the system as a whole.

      Thanks for the thoughtful comment.

  18. barca96
    December 14, 2011


    ZonalMarking should recruit you. Or maybe not…

    • GoIniesta
      December 16, 2011

      Funny, I was thinking the same about the ZonalMarking thing.

      Incredible analysis with such clarity and insight. Made even better with still shots to illustrate your point! Hats off!

  19. blitzen
    December 14, 2011

    I read the whole thing! *proud* 😀

    Loved it.

    • December 14, 2011

      Not as proud as some toiling scribe is of you!

  20. December 14, 2011

    uh, teacher, teacher…

    Did you mean to say “… a 4-3-3 to 3-1-2-3-1. In a sense, Barça played most of the match with 3 ½ ATTACKERS. (or forwards)?

    …or did you mean to repeat yourself?

    I’m hanging on every word, so I want to make sure I get it.

    • December 14, 2011

      Did not mean to repeat myself. Thanks for catching that. Moved the sentence and forgot to erase it. Fixed now.

  21. mom4
    December 14, 2011

    More beautiful when explained. Thanks, Euler!

  22. Gogah
    December 14, 2011

    Wow! Quite a lot to take in for one sitting, i just wanna talk about two things today.
    You keep saying that because of the front 5 pressing there arose an enormous space between lines. Inside their own defensive block. But why didnt the defense stay compact as a unit. surely mourinho knows that. In effect it also helps employ the off side trap which they definitely want to do given how dangerous barcelona’s own attack is.
    why wasnt the madrid defense told to stay compact? defend as a unit and attack in a stretched manner. or is it that the players became too reactive because of nerves? we will never know.
    and this is my problem with these sort of elaborate tactical reviews. there are a lot of teams that have defended well against us by staying compact and letting us have the ball in not so dangerous positions. In fact that is the key to containing this crazy barca team. they can run around all they want and run into each others positions all the while interchanging like some bees at work, but that does not hurt you. what hurts you is what happens around the box. and therein lies the key doesnt it? if you are not willing to win the ball back these guys have just soo much posession. and that is not expected in the Bernabeu.

    but what u could throw light on is
    why wasnt madrid compact? isnt that one of the main characteristics of a mourinho team? does that mean staying compact in defense automatically equals having low possession?

    just like pep said before the match and its true that he didnt tell the players anything new. just the same ol find spaces, be proactive, maintain numerical superiority, use width, stuff. he must have outlined some positional details he wanted his players to maintain. but all this 3-3-1-3 and 3-4-2-1 and 3-2-2-2-1 is simply a reflection of what happened on the field because of following the above principles. It ultimately makes for boring reading i must say with the most respect to you. being the brilliant football analyst and writer as i know you are, i would love to read an article about a modern trainer’s qualities. how much of it is tactics and what does it take to make the players put all that theory and concepts into practise on the field with parameters like physical conditions, nerves etc?

    The second thing i just want to put out there is my absolute bewilderment at the very common perception floating these days that madrid is the second best team in the world. i mean, how did they earn such a place. its not like they have played the likes of man u, chelsea, now man city and napoli consistently in the recent past. We can never know that EE are a more effective team. so how exactly dis this happen? is it only because of mourinho, or tb or is it a wonderful marketing result. its quite sad most battles against madrid (with other teams too), the battle is already half won before the match..just sad. or is it because they are BARCA’S main rivals? i just feel they have done nothing to earn the no.2 spot in the world and quite pissed at how that is almost accepted as the truth even here at bfb.

    really sorry to bore everybody with this long ramble.
    but i guess, what better writer’s article to post such a long comment on than Mr. Euler’s eh?

    • Lev
      December 14, 2011

      Nobody has “earned” the no 2. spot really. EE are the no.2 by default because they are the only team that has managed to scare culés.

      Man U – the turkey at Barça’s Christmas party after EE gave us 4 very, very tough games. Besides, they didn’t even make it out of their CL group (always a tough thing to do when you are facing the mighty Basel)

      Man City – they are just starting to become a big team. Didn’t make it out of their group either.

      Chelsea – trailing Man U and Man City in the league. Nuff said.

      Napoli – my favorite team in Italy (read: the only team I don’t dislike), but uhmm….really???

      Milan / Inter / Juve – haven’t really made much noise outside of a weak Serie A the last couple of seasons. Inter was done for after Mourinho anyway.

      The case could be made for Bayern. Interesting to see how they would match up against EE, but I still think EE is stronger.

      Cronaldo, Benzema, Di Maria. Ozil, Xavi Alonso. Pepe, Ramos, Marcelo. Evil Mou on the bench. Kaka and Higuain coming off of it. Threatening to take the league of off the world’s best team. Beat the world’s best team in the final of the Copa de Rey last year.

      I think Euler pointed out why EE didn’t stay compact. Something about having the attacking players pressing like crazy. The defenders sit deep as to not risk getting killed when we break the press.

      You could translate it as fear.

      Other teams can press like you say against Barça and have success but that is also because they have nothing to lose. It might work or we might slap them with our little hand. And nobody will say a thing when the latter happens, other than Barça is a great team. Coaches won’t get sacked, teams won’t get murdered in the news.

      Mou does not want the little hand. Neither does anybody else in M*drid 😉

    • December 14, 2011

      But why didnt the defense stay compact as a unit. surely mourinho knows that.

      I covered that in the piece. He didn’t want his backline to play as high as it would have been required to stay compact given where his front line defeders were.

      I’m sure he knew. He just didn’t want to take on that particular risk with his defensive line. Given how far up the front line defenders were they would have had to play a fantastically high line to stay compact.

      That would have put them at risk for getting beat behind the defensive line – especially if Messi could find a way to get some acceleration.

      Extremely risky strategy to play the backline that high.

      The other reasons was their system of man marking with zonal cover. The defenders have to position themselves with respect to the attackers within their zones. They can’t readily prioritize positioning themselves with respect to each other.

      The whole point of tactics is that all managers have to make trade offs. No one can have everything. There is no perfect system.

      So the main job is given your players, their talent, fitness and mentality, how do you put them in the best position so that your team’s weaknesses are minimized and strengths maximized.

  23. Lev
    December 14, 2011

    ” There was a comment above about how marcelo could have had a similar effect, in reverse, as dani did. Which way the “pinning back” happens is a function of possession, correct me if i am wrong. But with barca in possession marcelo has to track dani, and the reverse is true. With the bulk of the possession dani is more often getting forward and marcelo pushed back. Over the course of the game this has an additive effect and “trains” marcelo to stay back.”

    That was my comment. I had not thought of that.

    Still though, I remember clasico’s in which we had a winger AND four defenders instead of Dani Alves and three defenders + busi in which Marcelo caused us enough problems coming up. Keep in mind also that another risk of this strategy was that both our central defender and our Busi defender aren’t the quickest of all.

    Also we are “lucky” that Ronaldo is merely Ronaldito whenever he plays us (would use the Portugues diminitive but that would be blasphemy 😉

    Anwyay you are making a good point though, and the match would prove you right! 🙂

    • psqd
      December 14, 2011

      Lev, think you might have to get more intense in the analysis of the who and where RM’s possession occurred in this game versus others to be explicit in answering the marcelo question. The other aspect in this game was sanchez drifting laterally. That may have effected the amount of freedom Marcelo was given or felt he had in this game. I think possession and dani’s freedom are important to consider. Dani was more free to mark marcelo and/or the space marcelo would move into because puyol was marking ronaldo behind him. Unrelated, I liked how this allowed dani to come centrally. His recovery defense is great and since he wasn’t just chasing straight back down the line he demonstrate this.

      For example, we have said busi was 1/2 a defender and the average position supports that. But comparing the first half to the second half it looks much more like 3 at the back in the second half. His position was more forward due to increased possession in the second half, even though it was 15 minutes or so before he pep moved to 3 + busi at the back. If RM had kept more possession in the second half we might have been saying that busi was playing CB and puyol RB rather than RCB.

      as far as CR is concerned he definitely wasn’t at his best/most efficient, but as Kxevin and others have said…against top competition things are going to be tougher. And i know he missed a couple that people expect him to score. I would argue a couple things about that. First, they don’t go in unless you put them on goal AND they get past the keeper. You can’t count muffed shots as should have been goals unless they are open nets. It is weird to me that it is easier to say that shots that weren’t put on goal, a la CR, are counted as points taken off the board more often than great shots that were barely stopped, a la messi and casillas. Further, I would argue that CR while not his best, wasn’t that far off. A quick look at his shooting stats on soccernet have 30-40% of his shots on goal depending on the competition, closer to 30 in the CL and 40 in La Liga this season. They have him as 2 for 7 in the clasico or 29%. So really not different from what you could expect from him in a CL game. Yes, the ones he missed may have looked easier/more open than normal, but they were that aberrational. I think it is part of the abnormal expectation people have for him, which run of play and others have talked about. People expect him to pull off the exceptional stuff that he does with an irrational and unsupported frequency. For example, i don’t think he has scored from a free kick yet this year and the number of pk’s he scores skews his scoring efficiency, and the perception of it, from the run of play.

      • Lev
        December 14, 2011

        I wasn’t answering the Marcelo question, I am asking it, lol 😉 But like I said, the game (which I have not analyzed either having only seen it once) would have proved you right because Marcelo was pinned back. What I am saying though is that just as we played bravely with our chosen strategy, Mou could have asked Marcelo to come up more as well. As it is I don’t remember him being involved in any(!) attack, an extreme which points more towards choice / assignment than opportunity.

        As for Ronaldo, I think the stat that counts percentage of shots on goal are irrelevant. A shot can be on goal but weak or from a hopeless position. A shot could have just missed the post (or hit it, actually I think they don’t count as “on goal” either) and make me wipe the sweat off of my forehead. What I am saying is that he had two excellent scoring opportunities which he absolutely fluffed and could have generally created more danger for us.

        I think that 49(or whatever?) goals last year do not do not make expectations of playing a lot better against one’s archrival irrational and unsupported. If he is the best player of a very strong team (which he is), then a lot should be expected of him. Luckily for us he usually underperforms when we face him, but that still doesn’t make him less of a threat when drawing up the tactics.

      • Ryan
        December 14, 2011

        He had 53 goals last year, just like Messi.

  24. blitzen
    December 14, 2011

    If you want to see how differently our RB operates than our LB, go to the Liga BBVA player comparer and put Alves up against Abidal. Some of the stats made me laugh out loud. Even taking into account that Abidal spent some of his minutes at CB rather than LB, the difference is amazing.

    For one thing, Abi don’t dribble. Even though he did in the example in Euler’s post, the stats on the site show him attempting 1 dribble (and completing none) to Dani’s 21/11. He fouls and is fouled a lot less often than Dani, and both passes and loses the ball a lot less. Dani loses the ball so much more because he plays so far forward. Abidal is a monster at recovering the ball, along with Mascherano (although Puyol & Pique will both improve that stat with more minutes played).

    Anyway, I just found it interesting.


    • Dani_el
      December 14, 2011

      Someone pretty critical of Alves would argue if his 5 assists are worth his 80 lost balls this season. I would say yes, we need that assymetrical fulback/wingback on our backline.

      • blitzen
        December 14, 2011

        80? I’m seeing 123 lost balls when I look at it.

        Anyway, you know who the king of lost balls is? Messi. He has lost over 200 balls so far and only recovered 15. Not worth it, right? 😉

      • Dani_el
        December 14, 2011

        Yes, I forgot to mention that 80 was the difference between Abi and DaniAlves. Still if someone attacks more it’s usual he lost more balls. And I would say again; yes, it is worth it.

    • December 14, 2011

      That’s remarkable. Totally different forces.

      But part of the reason why this works in the system is that Iniesta plays center-left.

      In a sense, Dani’s job is to compensate for Iniesta playing on the other side of the pitch. Because Iniests is in front of him Abi doesn’t get as forward.

      This is also why I wanted to pick that moment from the match. It’s true – Abi rarely ever dribbles. But that just showed how structured Mourinho’s defense is around short passing. If you can beat the first defender it opens up enormous space. Even if you are only Abi!

      • December 14, 2011

        Well, Abidal always does his “fakes” (he looks like he’s going pass a long diagonal ball but he actually turns and continues down his flank a bit more) to which tend to own the opposition player 95% of the time. Are those not counted as dribbles?

  25. Dani_el
    December 14, 2011

    Thank you Euler, this was a great read. Finally I understood this game tactically, it seems that Pep owned Mou in so many ways, that it must be frustrating.
    The article you told us in the last post about Cesc is out, I don’t know it would be good for us if he adapts to well and starts passing the ball time and time again, I like his directness.
    Well I leave it here, someone already post it on the last thread, but just in case:

  26. December 14, 2011

    I still think it is amazing that Marcelo and Crynaldo did not take more advantage of Dani Alves’ high employment. Because just like Dani Alves moving forward pinned back Marcelo, Marcelo moving forward would have pinned back Dani Alves, left us without any outlet on the right wing, and subsequently crowding the middle due to our limited presence on the left side of the pitch.


    It’s a key point you’re touching on.

    This is basically the risk you take in playing Dani that high up against an attacking LB.

    Which way will the match up go in terms of its dynamics?

    If it fails and Dani gets pinned back – Barca are in big trouble because then their right flank is compromised and their left flank as you point out. That means no width. Which makes it easier to press.

    So the first reason why Dani was successful – is that he’s Dani. He just knows how to do it and has the skills and positional intelligence to do it.

    In the past he’s driven CR and Di Maria back into their own halves.

    The big issues though is possession. Its why Pep is so focused on it and why the notion of Barca engaging in “useless” passing misses the point.

    As long as you can keep possession – then you can force the attacking LB into doing what he’s not as good at – defending.

    This is why Barca damages Marcelo over and over. He just has to spend much more time defending then he usually does. The flaws are magnified.

    And then a snowball or domino effect starts. Barca have the ball. RM depends on Marcelo to help them maintain possession and get CR the ball. Marcelo is pinned back – which means its harder for them to retain possession or build play to CR, etc.

    Its a viscious cycle that takes on a life of its own.

    The other reasons were Barca’s movement. Sanchez and Messi especially went wide right. This means Marcelo has to keep an eye on two attackers. Which is going to make him more conservative.

  27. OSBAG
    December 14, 2011

    WOOOOW!!! I have a question for you euler (and am inclined to believe the answer is yes)
    Your piece is like a storybook version of a movie only the movie came before the novel.
    I have been checking back here all week for it and must say the wait was worth it. The reviews help us understand what planning goes into each match and appreciate our WOWVELOUS team better.
    I was nervous going into the game but was strangely calmed down by their early goal cos i knew that would only serve to ignite our guys. Big thumbs up to the team and fans alike. The league strugglo has just started

  28. Dani_el
    December 14, 2011

    Marca according to its usual objectivity has taken two long articles, one describing how our strikers don’t have the same performance in their NT’s. And of course being Villa the only one that can’t be named on that article (for his amazing contribution to Spain’s NT), Marca has said that Barça intent to sell him this winter.
    Someone in Japan ask Pep about this make-up sell of Villa, and he was pretty clear in his response:
    “Marca Lies”.
    He also said that most players will be on the team for next season, including Villa. This could be taken as his intent of staying with team for one more year! I hope so.

  29. December 14, 2011

    Time for some gifs to complement this post. [credit: barcaforums – Gnegneri + iNfRaSoNiC]

    El Capita


    Abi’s dribble

    oh yes




    Pique breaking some ankles


    Pep after the third goal


    Kay, that’s it. I’m done.



    had to do it

    • Dani_el
      December 14, 2011

      Iker LOL. I really like see him upset. It means we’re doing things right.

      • blitzen
        December 14, 2011

        I know! I don’t hate the guy or anything, but the more upset he gets, the better I feel! 😛

        How’s your lip-reading? What’s he saying?

      • blitzen
        December 14, 2011

        Never mind, I can make it out myself: “puta madre!”

      • Dani_el
        December 14, 2011

        You nailed it! That’s exactly what he said 😀

      • blitzen
        December 14, 2011

        He should watch his language. Doesn’t he know children watch these games? 😆

      • Dani_el
        December 14, 2011

        Apparently, he doesn’t care if children watch.
        Naa just kidding. He seems a good guy, must be hard for a player like him, to see how his greatest rival is better at the game time and time again. And him being the only canterano on the field, it seems that he’s the only one there that really feels what madridismo was like before. The values and whatnot. I really think that we being better than them for now, is a question of philosophy, of a style of playing, they have a great cantera, once Mou goes or Mendes goes, and they realize that presenting opportunities to canteranos pays up, we may see things change.

    • December 14, 2011

      Good stuff! GIFs are really amazing things. Does anyone know how they are made? I have no clue. (I guess I should just Google than then,duh lol)

  30. December 14, 2011

    OT – This was briefly talked about on Twitter but I don’t think anyone mentioned it here:

    barcastuff: The new contracts B defenders Bartra and Montoya state that both will be part of the first team next season. A loan is not possible [md]


    Thoughts? It’s not an official statement,though, but I guess it’s pretty clear that Maxwell will leave. Dunno what it means for Fontas :-/

  31. blitzen
    December 14, 2011

    So I guess the next question is, who will Pep play tomorrow? It is tomorrow, right? I suspect Puyol will sit this one out, especially if he was suffering some discomfort in the Clasico. Villa must start, and probably Pedro will too. I think we have a good chance of seeing this lineup:

    Alves Mascherano Abidal Adriano
    Xavi Busquets Thiago
    Pedro Messi Villa

    But I am probably completely wrong as usual.

    • December 14, 2011

      Tomorrow? CWC semifinal? At 5:30am EST?


      • Blau-Grenade
        December 14, 2011

        Yes the game is 5:30 EST. Ill be waking up early for it.

      • mani
        December 14, 2011

        *shakes fist at Japan for having an ungodly timezone.

        Sigh. Looks like I’ll be up a couple of hours before work to watch this. Atleast they’re showing it on theScore here in TO.

        The final is also at 5:30am (on Sunday). There go my hopes of catching up on sleep this fin de semana.

  32. Lev
    December 14, 2011

    Thank you Euler for replying to all the posts! (not to mention the article which was great).

    Regarding Marcelo…I would venture to say that Messi and Alexis’ movement destabilized him more than our possession.

    2 reasons:
    – we did not have more possession than usual yet like I mentioned before I do not recall even one moment where Marcelo came up to support the attack (not saying he didn’t but his impact was nil). This to me is very extreme taking into account that during every previous game we have at least 1 player attacking his flank and often Dani Alves coming up to threaten even more.

    – I don’t know the stats but I think we had about 60% possession, right?

    Even with 60% of possession that still leaves 40% of possession to M*drid, it is not as if they tried to defend whenever they had the ball.

    Take into account that our largest spells of possession came after breaking M*drid’s will in the 2nd half and our problems in maintaining possession for the first 25 minutes and you can see what I’m getting at.

    I don’t want to bore people harping on about the same thing! I am just really trying to get to the bottom of why he stayed back so much – whether it was all down to Barça or whether he was instructed to.

  33. Miguel
    December 14, 2011

    Favorite part:

    But it was the way the system was constructed that allowed the players to translate the inner resources they possessed into execution on the pitch and do so as a brilliant, collective whole. That’s what tactics are always about.

    OT: Oh, and since I don’t has the Twitter anymore, someone send this to @runofplay for his “Creatures of La Masia” series:

    • BarcaOwl
      December 14, 2011

      Gah! Miguel, that’s possibly the most horrifyingly cute baby animal I’ve ever seen. Is that a vulture chick?

      • Miguel
        December 14, 2011


  34. adopted cule
    December 14, 2011

    What made this Clásico so special – was that it was the culmination of all that experimentation, risk taking, hard work and complete belief in his players.

    ^^This is what many have been trying to say all season. I am no football historian, but I suspect that what causes so many cycles of great teams to come to an end is the belief that their system, implemented by world class players, will never be caught. Pep is attempting, it seems, to create a system so fluid and dynamic that it cannot be pinned down and caught. The only way to achieve this is to take risks and make mistakes. Playing the 4-3-3 this year would have put Barcelona in position to contend for another year, but the twin devils of aging players and players becoming complacent within the system would have eventually caught up to the team.

    An evolving Barcelona team, one that seems to be at the very beginning of another cycle instead of at the end of the last one, must be a disconcerting thought to the rest of the world.

    OT–Newborns have a way of disrupting the pattern of life and I do not have the time nor energy to keep up as I once did, but I just wanted to say that I miss regular participation in the community. Hope everyone is well and the team can manage to overcome this amazing challenge for the league title. Cheers to all.

    • December 14, 2011

      Cheers! Congrats again on the baby!

  35. lyd
    December 16, 2011

    Brilliant, Euler!
    Such an eloquent review of a breathtaking match!

    Pep surely justified all the trivial and the non-trivial experiments he has made this season.

  36. Renata
    December 17, 2011

    Thank you very very much for this review, Euler.

Comments are closed.