Categorized | Analysis, Thoughts

Tika taka, golden days and the fallibility of memory

“You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it doesn’t exist.”

The dude who said this probably wasn’t talking about the nuances of football systems of the 20th and 21st century (or maybe he was, and we just didn’t know he was prescient in that way), but the quote is good to start this shebang.

Memories are a funny thing. You can have two people witness the same event and come away with two very different memories of it. Like the most embarrassing days of my life where I wish a flying couch would just eat me — coincidentally one of the most amusing days of my sister’s. (But notably not vice versa, because I am a lady and a scholar, okay. And also a liar.)

In football, a year is a long time. Actually, the last two weeks are a long time so the past 3 years will seem like a century, the years preceding that equivalent to an age. It’s a dynamic sport where things change all the time. (That’s true for all sports really, but especially football, seeing as it’s increasingly being run by the Jorge Mendeses and Mino Raiolas of the world.)

One thing might be true in one instance won’t be the next like how Thiago Silva signed a new Milan contract then signed for PSG two weeks later. Therefore it’s not surprising we like to dub the time a coach presides over the team as an ‘era’ even if that era lasts for a couple of months rather than years. So you’ve got the Cruyff era, the Rijkaard era, and – notably – the Gaspart Era (despite him being the president).

But what’s interesting is how people remember those eras, or really, how they airbrush some things out to up the nostalgia quotient.

When people talk about the Pep era, there is a lot of reminiscing about the art but not the science behind it. There was indeed a dreamlike quality with Pep’s Barça but at its heart, it was pragmatic.

Pragmatic, you say? Yes.

As Iniesta said in 2012, though he was technically talking about Spain, it also applies to Barça in my eyes:

The other thing is that we play the way we do because it suits us. We don’t have the players to pull it off playing a different way. People talk about ‘pragmatic’ football; well, for us, this is pragmatic. It’s the way we like to play and it’s the way we believe we have the best chance of winning.

In her brilliant article from last year which I highly recommend you re-read, BFB’s Linda (@blackwhitengrey on Twitter) noted:

Pep Guardiola was a firm believer in the permanent revolution. Not as Trotsky or Mao would understand it, but in the sense of never waiting around to be figured out. In a post now lost in the mists of time, I argued at the beginning of 2011/12 at the now defunct Spanish Football Info that Guardiola’s tactical tinkering was driven by the need to keep ahead of the competition. A theory of the game, like any other theory, is weakened by an insistence on permanence and dogma. It grows stronger through being questioned and tested, and evolving to meet the challenges posed to it.

The style and philosophy of Guardiola’s Barça was no less coherent for all the changes he implemented throughout his four year tenure: The false nine, an idea he tested in his very first pre-season and later put to use in the biggest games of that season; the holding midfielder as sweeper-centerback, which found its perfect vehicle in young Sergio Busquets; going from 4-3-3 to 4-2-4 to 3-4-3 to whatever that was against Santos that involved a team made up primarily of midfielders; and increasingly, towards the end, attempting to add more verticality to the side’s forward play.

Ye olde tika taka dogma

“The problem with using a word is that everyone interprets it differently” – Johan Cruyff.

People are lazy. That’s true for me and it’s probably true for you too. (Unless it’s not, in which case, I’m sorry.) If there’s a convenient chronology of ideas that have similarities between them that has spanned over years, what they’ll do is take that and create a narrative with it, often ignoring those pesky details that get in the way of the One True Way they’re trying to construct.

So when you have the related but distinct ideas of Rinus Michels, Johan Cruyff and the Dutch Total Voetbal, Frank Rijkaard and Luis Aragones with the Spanish NTs of 2006-08, Pep Guardiola and Vicente del Bosque with Spain 2010-current, they get amalgamated and packaged under the same label: tiki-taka.  This is exacerbated further by taking this tika-taka and claiming it is the Barca philosophy.

Barca’s philosophy is this: we own the ball. We do quick, instinctive and intelligent things with it, and when we lose the ball, we win it back as quickly as possible. Within that, sometimes there will be short passes, sometimes long passes. Sometimes there will be a quick three pass sequence to a goal, sometimes twenty passes. Sometimes it will be more vertical, other times more horizontal.

What I think has happened is people are mistaking the radical tika-taka of Spain 2010-12 as Barça’s philosophy. It’s not surprising given how many Barça players play for Spain, but one thing you should keep in mind is that just because something is similar, doesn’t mean it’s the same. Barça is not Spain and Spain is not Barça, even if Xavi plays for both.

While Spain has used possession as a defensive technique to rest their players during the rough-and-tumble of a game, Barça largely does not (unless it is a tight or otherwise brutal game). And while it’s true that Barça have always favored possession football, keeping the ball, these long passing sequences that you see now are an anomaly. It hasn’t been this way for Barça for thirty years, ten years, or even five years.

Take the famous 2005 Clasico at the Bernabeu when Ronaldinho got a standing ovation. All three of those goals were scored in what would be classified as “direct, counterattacking football” of the type that confounds “tiki-taka” purists today. It’s like Rafa Marquez never played for Barça.

The indignant cries of a loss of identity when someone plays a long pass or doesn’t have 60% possession is a little rich considering that every Barça preceding this one has played a comparatively more direct style — even Cruyff’s Dream Team.

Football is about systems and the players available to play those systems. The team changes as the players change and therefore the systems change as the team changes. This isn’t a bad thing, but rather the natural course of the sport. The team adapts to the players it has. When Keita played LM instead of Iniesta, he didn’t do the things Iniesta did, because: 1) he can’t and 2) he has his own qualities that he brings to the table.

Some aspects of the style Barça believes in, that is taught through every youth level except Barça B, is something that will not change and is non-negotiable. But others, as Linda says, must evolve to meet the demands of competition. When a philosophy becomes a rigid ideology is when the issues arise.

Change is not only inevitable but necessary

In football today resting on your laurels means you will lose. If you stand still in a race, people will catch and pass you eventually. You have to evolve to keep up with the competition.

But even if you do try to keep the team exactly the same, it won’t work.  Players don’t stay forever. Some leave for another club, others retire. The question of the club is how to make it so that the new players coming in can seamlessly fit into the style constructed. Not only that, but how can the team effectively use each player’s unique skills to their maximum?

A midfield of Van Bommel-Xavi- Deco is not the same as Busi-Xavi-Iniesta or even Yaya-Xavi-Iniesta, but different isn’t bad. In this case, it’s actually better. That’s what evolution is.

But you have to have the guts to try. Busi at the beginning made lots of errors (those backward headers, man…) but now? He’s imperious. Probably our best player this year along with Valdes.

With variety there’s potential for innovation. You can update a template without throwing it away. Windows doesn’t stop being Windows because they changed from XP to Vista (ok, bad example because Windows 8 sucks)

if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.

To expect Sergi Roberto to do Xavi’s job is to invite disappointment to egg your house. To expect Tata’s Barça to play like Pep’s Barça is to invite it to deface your lawn.

Song can’t do the job Busi does, not only because Busi is a monster who has supernatural positional awareness, but also because he was signed to be a Mascherano-esque centerback. (Because Arsene Wenger told Tito that Song could play there. Wenger: the ultimate puffy raincoat wearing troll). That hasn’t happened so Tata has moved him further up field to try and use the strengths he displayed at Arsenal. (Songinho, anyone?)

Neither Tito nor Tata now have the players Pep had. Even Pep didn’t end up with the players he had earlier in his Barça reign. But change invites innovation. Who would have thought two of the cornerstones of Rijkaard’s Barça, Ronaldinho and Deco, leaving would have led to so much success? Right now, we have Neymar, Alexis, Cesc, Busi which won’t be the same as Henry, Eto’o, Yaya, Gudjohnsen, but who’s to say it can’t be great in its own way?

“We are now being judged according to a level of performance which is almost impossible to reach. But we’ve earned the right to be judged that way. It’s a double-edged sword – the better you play the better you’re expected to play all the time. When it doesn’t happen then people start asking questions. We’re not complaining, we wish things had gone that well for the last 50 years that the expectations had always been so high. But maybe people don’t appreciate the difficulty sometimes.” – Andres Iniesta

Question of the Day: is playing a more direct style a loss of identity?

Awesomeness of the Day: Cruyff explains his diamond formation.

Related Posts with Thumbnails

42 Responses to “Tika taka, golden days and the fallibility of memory”

  1. sebanovic says:

    “Advertisements again?!”

    Love cruyff. Thank you for the wonderful article and footage, Kari.

    • Kari says:

      No problemo, sebanovic! I could listen to Cruyff talk all day. You can just see how much enthusiasm he still has for the game and it’s lovely to watch. Too bad he doesn’t have his own program or something, though I know he used to write columns for a Catalan paper.

  2. busi_16 says:

    Great read Kari,
    You’re right, change and evolution in every team is inevitable and necessary. I just wish the board gave Pep the resources and time to truly change into a 3-4-3 in his last year. It really would have been great to see.

    • Kari says:

      Yeah, same here. What Pep was doing towards the end of his run was building a new template for us to use. My hope is we’ll see him come back in 2016…probably, if Laporta runs and gets elected. Who knows? Maybe Laporta’s election promise, amongst other things, will be to bring Thiago back a la Cesc.

      Well, it’s just a pipe dreams right now, haha

  3. Jnice says:

    To expect Sergi Roberto to do Xavi’s job is to invite disappointment to egg your house. To expect Tata’s Barça to play like Pep’s Barça is to invite it to deface your lawn.

    I like that.

    I’m very critical when it comes to football at times, but I admit to being surprised by just how much stock people have been putting into the possession and long ball stats this season. Part of this surprise comes from the fact that many of the most vociferous critics were the same people who talked about Barça needing to add variety and diversification to their play. Taking into account the fact that Martino doesn’t have the players needed to truly diversify the play and formation, you can’t fault him for trying to something.

    Nice post as usual, Kari.

    • Kari says:

      Thanks, buddy.

      Yeah, same. Plus I get pretty upset when I see players give away the ball cheaply or are too loose with possession, but I get why it’s necessary for the team to play more direct play. So when people are saying we’re “throwing away 30 years of tradition” (seriously, a journo said that) just cos the possession stats went down… crazy. Don’t agree at all.

      • njwv says:

        Saw this on twitter. Belongs here.

        Cules the last 5 years: “No plan B. We need a plan B. Where’s the plan B?”
        Cules now: “Why are you changing the plan!”

        And yeah, that’s on top of forgetting how Rafa, Dinho, and Eto’o used to run the break.

  4. Jafri says:

    “The problem with using a word is that everyone interprets it differently” – Johan Cruyff.

    It’s difficult to even ask if playing more direct is a loss of identity when it’s so hard to get any two people to agree on what that identity even is. And Barcelona have transitioned from game to game – and within games – in terms of how direct they play, how attacking they are, how deep they sit, how much they press and etc. So when everything is in such constant flux, what is identity anyway?

    It also makes no sense to pick out possession as Barcelona’s defining credo and surgically attach it to them with such vehemence that the second they average less than 50% possession in a game it becomes a sign of the apocalypse. It’s simplistic. How can the barest football stat define a team? It’s also a pretty number we turn to as some idealistic proof of superiority over the other team.

    Idealism is the provenance of the football fan. As idealistic as Pep was, he would have taken an ugly route one punt out the back from Valdes to Messi to win a scrappy Champion’s League final 1-0 in a heartbeat. And it would have been a part of our identity too. Because no matter what style we play, the fact that we played it makes it part of our identity.

    • Kari says:

      Think I get what you’re saying. A team on the field is very dynamic, so they won’t always have the ball and if they face an opponent who also wants the ball, possession is always going to decrease; plus, it’s not like the team should be judged by how long they’ve had the ball, but rather what they’ve done with it.

      I like that Barca do quick, intelligent things with the ball. I don’t think that will change, but boxing the team in with simplistic perimeters like how many passes the team made and possession does more harm than good.

      Barca have played plenty of scrappy games. In fact, a large chunk of our away games in Europe under Pep were as the million 1-1 or 0-0 draws we’ve gotten can attest to.

      • Jafri says:

        Yeah, and my point was that the scrappy 1-1 and 0-0 draws are as much a part of our identity as the glorious 8-0′s are, and we should embrace all aspects rather than trying to pick and choose the ones we like.

  5. Jafri says:

    To carry on our conversation from the last article Kari, the 3-4-3 is, as I understand it, Euler Approved ™. However I’m not too convinced about it because the 4-3-3 in attacking formation works rather well:

    Pique – Mascherano
    Busquets
    Xavi – Iniesta
    Alves – Alexis – Messi – Neymar – Alba

    Whereas the 3-4-3 in attacking formation would be:

    Pique – Mascherano
    Busquets
    Xavi – Iniesta
    Messi
    Alves – Pedro – Alexis – Neymar

    Which is about the same thing really, (More chaos in front) but comparatively much weaker in defense I’d think. Not worth the tradeoff for me.

    • I don’t know what conversation you guys were having earlier. So forgive me for this. But the key for any formation to be success is to find the best players to fit in it.

      Just because we have so much attacking talent, we don’t have to stick everyone in the formation. When you mentioned Chaos, whether you mentioning it for us or for our opponents? The line up you have may create more chaos for us rather than opposition as all our attacking players are playing in over lapping positions without a clear cut role defined.

      We have seen almost this happening earlier when Henry and Ronnie played together. Their natural roles were about coming from the left and playing them together destroyed both of their rhythms.

    • I do agree with you about the lack of Defensive guarantee in this formation. I mean this formation is fine only if we assume the opponent to simply stay there. What if they play a compact 4-5-1 with the lone striker playing wide on right or left. One simple over the top ball would drag the entire formation out of shape. Once dragged out this kind of a formation will introduce more confusion than anything else.

      Every great teams had one thing in common – balance in shape. That we are missing out at times here.

    • busi_16 says:

      Currently playing two at the back will make us susceptible to alot of counters so in playing two attacking fullbacks will be suicide for us in the big games. I think playing Neymar on the left wing is limiting his effect on the game(even though he is incredible there) as he is much more effective towards the center in combination with Messi. This leaves a lot of space for Alba to drive into and add width in our play. Playing Alba means that our RB must be conservative.

      so the line up will look like:

      Montoya-Pique-Mache
      Busqets
      Xavi-inesta/fab
      Alexis- Messi-Neymar-Alba

      with Messi and Neymar interchanging and having free roles

    • Kari says:

      The 3-4-3 would be so much better if we could find a player to add more structure on the left hand side. If we’re going to have Alves bomb forward, the left’s gotta be solid or there will be an imbalance. I’ve pretty much repeated this ad nauseam though.

      I know both Pep and Cruyff loved the 3-4-3 but yeah, I agree with you, the tradeoffs associated with it are a big(ger) risk with this squad as it is.

      The good things about 4-3-3 is that Alves and Alba are more in line with Iniesta and Xavi than the forward line. Helps us recover the ball, though if the opposition team is good at playing between the lines, it kinda sucks (re. the inevitable counters)

      • Jafri says:

        The advantage of the 3-4-3 is that we can have a true 9 as a reference point with Messi coming in from behind – like vs Milan last CL.

        However, considering the tradeoffs involved, I’d really rather see tweaks to the existing 4-3-3, like the Verticalidad Tata’s been introducing. I’d also like to see them stretch the pitch by passing back and then looking for quick passes upfield vs a transitioning defense. I think it should be a good alternative to our usual method of pushing 8 players against a packed and set defense and being vulnerable to counters.

        The other type of team we come against are the big bullying types, the ones that come out and press and harass ferociously (Bayern, Athletico, various EE iterations) – and it’s a much harder game then because we get pushed off the ball incredibly easily and get overpowered. Can’t think of a good way to counter this, except greater ball rotation and off the ball movement – which unfortunately is almost impossible to do unless we’re at peak fitness and form.

  6. providence says:

    Some aspects of the style Barça believes in, that is taught through every youth level “except Barça B”

    Eusebio got trolled :)

    Great analysis kari, Great Cruyff Video too :)

  7. fotobirajesh says:

    Thanks for these two (including the last one, didnt get time to comment)posts Kari. Also mucho gracias for the Cruff video.
    I would like to forward these two articles to some stupid journalists here (in India. We have terrible personals reporting on football, for almost all the media. I suspect if they even watch the matches)

    Pep thought our players were horrible without the ball. In that era, we were pressing brilliant, but Pep also knew that pressing will take a lot of steam out of players. So keeping the ball was the best. In the 11-12 season, remember, he was trying to stay ahead of every body and it was like impossible to predict our first team. But it went overboard (may be) and we looked like we didnt have a set first team.

    Tata is now credited for using so many different players in as many games. And, inspite, our players looked tired in big games (classico). The more direct we are, the more our players will run and press, tiring them further. Also the passing distances / the space between three lines is much more than Pep’s time. Having said this, I am not against directness too.
    Dont know, I wanted to answer you, but I am getting confused. Its complicated.
    After the first 25 minutes or so, we played excellent against Getafe, for me it was the best Barca under Tata. I am hoping this coach wins big time for us.

    • Kari says:

      We have terrible personals reporting on football, for almost all the media. I suspect if they even watch the matches

      Haha, that happens in a lot of countries, I hear.

      The question of direct vs identity is an interesting one. I don’t think it’s mutually exclusive. Like, we can have the ball, but we just are more vertical than horizontal, if you know what I mean. That’s not a bad thing. Just different, which we obviously need right now.

      Pep did a lot of tinkering in that season, but I don’t think the majority of cules actually remember those things. Feels like so long ago even though it’s only been roughly two years. Weird, how memory works.

  8. Kxevin says:

    I would like to print out enough copies of this post to make a baseball bat-sized cudgel, sufficiently stout to thwack folks upside the dome the next time they start blathering about “Pep did this, and Pep did that.”

    No, not because I “hate” Guardiola, but because understanding needs to come regarding this team, which I believe has the stuff to accomplish great things. The comparisons are endless. There was a Xavi interview recently, in which he said:

    “Obviously, we miss things from him, as (we do) the other managers who left the club. We have another coach, we had (Tito) Vilanova last year and Tata (Gerardo) Martino this season.

    “Each person has a different way to work. Guardiola had his way, Vilanova too and Martino as well. All of them are good managers and we were lucky with Guardiola because we made history.”

    The headlines, however, were “Xavi: Barcelona miss elements of Pep’s methods.”

    I often joke that if this team were to win a Treble this season, people would say “Yeah, but Pep’s team’s Treble was better.”

    Martino is, like most disciples of Bielsabub, mentally restless. 17 different starting XIs in 17 different Liga matches makes that restlessness clear, as he searches for the right lineup, and tinkers with players based on rotation and opponent.

    Watched the Classic again yesterday, just because it was such a wonderful game. Aside from that Benzema strike, and the loss of possession by Messi that opened up the defense, it was one of the best matches the club has played this season.

    Hats off, Kari, for making it all make sense and putting it in one place.

    • Kari says:

      Thanks, Kevin!

      You know, I didn’t mention it, but I think the way the media’s been treating the post-Pep era has a lot to do with how the team’s seen right now. Well, duh. But what I mean is, those headlines of interviews (like the Xavi one you cited) and the little throwaway sentences here and there when talking about Tito or Martino… it’s almost subliminal.

      • Kxevin says:

        Exactly. And culers too often can’t think for themselves, so the headlines drive the narrative. I recall the wailing and rending of garments that accompanied losing possession against whoever in the hell that was. I said to someone, “Um, we beat them 1-4.”

        “Yeah, but you can see the beginning of the end as the team deserts Pep’s principles!”

        Almost broke my jaw with the facepalm.

        • Peter says:

          In my experience Culers would rather believe the worst. So it was:
          “We lost possession!!! Against RAYO fcking VAllecano! LOUD NOISES!!!”

          And nevermind that Rayo a few weeks later had Real boxed in and cowering as they finished 3-2 at Santiago Bernabeu.

          But yeah, whenever someone tells me “oh noes, we’re abandoning the Way Of The Ball!”, I ask them to count the passes that led to Villa’s first goal in his first Classico.
          Then count the passes leading to the second.
          Then count how many passes led to Eto’o’s goal vs United.
          Then count the passes to Messi’s goal in the same match.

          Finally, just when they’re vulnerable and reeling from the revelation, tell them to count the passes leading to Iniesta’s Goal.

  9. kosby says:

    Love the effort you guys are putting into these pieces ! Like somebody else commented, feels almost like old times. Guess its true for BFB as well as FCB :)

    I think this post reinforces what this blog has been saying for sometime now, that things need to be shaken up a bit if we have to continue to adapt to our opposition and maintain superiority. It seems that Tata is very clear in his mind about what he wants to do with this team and the way he wants to help “evolve” the team.

    We have already had posts talking about this and I wanted to reiterate the brilliant job he has done with Pedro and Alexis. The wonders a little bit of confidence can do !

    Oh and Neymar…its Samba time again at Barca. I confess that I never watched football until Ronaldinho made it impossible to resist any further. Neymar seems to bring back some of those memories.

    AND the best player in the world is gonna be back in a week woot woot !

    Once again thanks Kari for your excellent post :)

    • Kari says:

      Thanks for reading, kosby!

      Ronnie was magic, man. Wish he had kept his level up a little longer, but oh well.

      2014, besides being the WC year, will see the return of Messi and when you combine that with Neymar, Alexis, a confident Pedro…. Exciting for sure!

  10. Kxevin says:

    Let’s look at the second half of the season:

    – Fresh Messi
    – Fresh Valdes
    – Rested Xavi
    – Rested Neymar
    – Iniesta coming into form
    – Pedro surging
    – Sanchez bubbling with confidence, work ethic
    – Bartra ready to play

    I am optimistic. You don’t wish for injuries, but the timing really could not have been better. Fresh, key, fit players ready for Atleti and City.

  11. Kxevin says:

    It’s the usual trust nothing until an official word or dude is standing in front of the crest, but Sport reporting deal on Ter Stegen, with player and club. Only timing of announcement being sussed out.

    Also a deal with Bartra is all but done, and Montoya’s agent ASKED to reopen talks with the club. Let’s take care of family bidness.

  12. nzm says:

    Great article to follow on from the last one, Kari.

    I think that to just think of Barca as a “tiki taka possession team” is doing it a disservice. It is far more comprehensive than that.

    What Barca did was make the Midfield more meaningful. By that, I mean that the midfield players have far more purpose now than they did, say, in the early 70s when I was watching English football & almost every ball from the back was a high & long pass over midfield.

    Back in those days, the midfielders were there to support the forwards and bang the ball forward in the hope that something would come of it. I.e. all balls were lumped to the front. Poke and hope.

    What Barca did was to integrate the whole team into a flowing path for the ball. The midfield became the metronome, either slowing the game down or speeding up the attack. Before it was the backline that would hold the ball, often passing back to the GK to boot long; now it becomes the midfield that governs the rate of play.

    Short passing began to mean something, rather than simply being a tactic that ultimately lead to the ball being passed back to the GK to be sent aloft & up the pitch. Play now builds from the GK, through the backs and to the midfield who then determine which way the ball should be played.

    That doesn’t mean that the long balls should not exist in a Barca game, because there are still times when play dictates them. In recent times, Masch is an artist at them; Pique is becoming quite adept this season. Cesc and Ini both possess the ability to put in a good medium range lob pass.

    We’re now seeing teams beginning to pressure our midfield a lot more to the point where the holding play sometimes isn’t effective, because if the ball gets taken off Xavi/Busi/Ini, (when the backline is up high), then Barca is in all sorts of defensive trouble.

    The opposing teams are adapting to play Barca. This means that to maintain one particular style of play – i.e. whatever the tiki taka is that everyone believes is the way Barca should play all the time – becomes too predictable.

    What worked 3 seasons ago has now been analysed by other teams who have found a way to play Barca to nullify them – and that’s to close down the Barca Midfield. If a team puts 2 players to press Xavi when he plays, that disturbs Xavi’s rhythm because he doesn’t have time to hold the ball, nor does he have time to make a meaningful pass. Same with Busquets. And we’ve seen on several occasions in recent times that when Messi, Xavi or Busi lose, or are stripped of, the ball in midfield, the high backline that Barca plays often doesn’t have time to adjust for the sudden attack.

    As Kari points out, expecting other players to play the same as Busi or Xavi for example, is not going to happen. They have their own particular skill-sets to bring to a game where they may be needed to offset the tactics of the opposing team.

    Evolve or die. Martino has inherited an incredibly talented team, but perhaps not all the players would be his choice. What he has to find is a way in which the Barca players remain effective & competitive.

    He undoubtedly had to adapt some of his tactics and ideas to suit the players that he has, and he is also challenging some of the players to add to their skill-sets.

    I love what Martino is doing with Busquets which is something that I did expect to see with Busi last season, and that’s to see Busi more involved in the attack phases of Barca’s game.

    I love what he’s done with Alexis – allowing him to play in the Alexis style as he does for Chile.

    I love seeing Pique become defensively more effective at clearing out balls with headers from corners.

    The team will always be Barca – whatever way in which they play will be the Barca style. I don’t see the physical stature of most of the players being able to play more physically as can the likes of City and Bayern. The team just needs to be able to adapt to smother whatever the opposition team brings to the game.

    • Kxevin says:

      And notice how the lob pass to a forward has become the possession relief valve. When things start getting too crazy or tight in the middle, you can lob a ball forward to Sanchez or Neymar, who feed a fullback, who feed Busquets, and the whole cycle begins anew.

  13. blitzen says:

    This is a very excellent article, and all fans of football (not just FCB) should read it. And thanks for the Cruyff video, much awesomeness!

  14. Kxevin says:

    There will never be a more eloquent depiction of the value of an Abidal type (or even SHUDDER! Abidal himself) than this video, vs Levante. The club determined that this dude couldn’t play?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hcestizGByI&feature=youtube_gdata_player

    • teddy says:

      As he would say,

      _I want him to be so sick of the sight of me that he has to move somewhere else on the pitch to get away._

      We used to have defensive stability back then with Alves, Puyol, Pique and Abidal since only Alves loves bombing forward with Pique occassionaly going forward too. With current set of player, (I assumed) Alves, Pique, Bartra, Alba, with both fullback love going forward, while Pique and Bartra also do that from time to time, we don’t really have someone dedicated like Abidal to do the cleanup. Not saying that Abidal doesn’t going forward as well, but with his pace and positional awareness at the back, leave us secure all the time.

      I do believe with our current crop of players. Defensive ability is as much as discipline as any other attribute.

      Kev,
      iinm, you did say that Bartra and Pique is Tata’s first choice CB pairing, right? (correct me if i’m mistaken). What’s your opinion on Bartra not getting a little bit more playing time. Now, I’m not saying he’s not given the chance, but Tata himself admit that CB is the position he is going to rotate less. So if both of them are his first choice, shouldn’t Bartra is allowed a little bit more playing time, to build up his understanding and consistency with Pique?

      Not complaining, just wondering.

  15. Jim says:

    Okay, it’s 2014 here in Scotland. Best wishes to all here and our families.

    This space really is special in that it’s about the only place I know where I’m not alone in thinking we could well be watching the best team in history. Let’s hope we prove it in a few months time :)

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