Throughout a major part of this season I kept reading the phrase “no midfield”.
In football, this phrase is a huge assumption that usually leads to your team’s destruction against any opponent capable of controlling midfield. More importantly, if a team didn’t have midfield it would definitely suffer terrible defeats. After all, a team can win a few matches with a bad midfield (honestly no team can, but play along) but a team can’t win a series of CONSECUTIVE away matches against very tough competition with no midfield. This phrase suddenly makes no sense.
However, to some, it does. And to others, this phrase represents a bad style of play. In other words, this phrase doesn’t represent Football Club Barcelona which happens to be a club with a glorious philosophy consisting mainly of a great attacking style of play.
What is a great style of play? What is a midfield that performs well? What is a midfield that wins matches? You’re suddenly suffering from a huge headache because of all the technical terms and the midfield related mess.
Even if you ask other football fans about Barcelona’s midfield they’ll say and I quote: “It’s not dominating the game. They’re not the same.”
But if you take this same midfield, put it in the team they support and then just watch the great performances that start to happen(like Barcelona’s performances nowadays) they would not even notice that their midfield “doesn’t exist” anymore.
It just makes you wonder. Is this really about “football” or is it about a memory of a recent Barcelona everyone (even non-Barca fans) is linked to?
This sentence represents everything you need to know about the birth of the “no midfield” phrase: “Barcelona’s midfield is not the same”. This happens to be modified into “this is not Barcelona” based on the topic being discussed.
Nothing related to Barcelona forces my attention more than a statement like “this is not Barcelona”.
A few years ago our great former coach, Pep Guardiola, implemented a style of play that was extremely dependent on midfield. The ball was being passed around in midfield until one of the midfielders found a chance for a through ball or anything similar. The amount of TIME the ball stayed in midfield with players surrounding it was enormous in every match. This is not exactly the perfect description but it truly was magical. This was labeled as “Barcelona’s style of play” and the memory of it all lasts until today.
The keyword here is memory, though.
Since we’re speaking of memories let us go back to the 2005-2006 period. We had a style of play back then too. It was also known as “Barcelona’s style of play” which is pretty ironic as it had nothing to do with Pep’s team. Edmilson was not even close to Busquets in any way. Xavi hadn’t hit his best form yet and Iniesta was young. Other midfielders like Deco were playing and they didn’t exactly play the same way Xavi or Iniesta do. Actually, that 2006 midfield had nothing to do with Barcelona’s most recent famous midfield.
The ball was actually forced onto Ronaldinho’s side as much as possible so that he could create chances. Barcelona even took every chance to counterattack and did not exactly plan to slow down the rhythm even if their style of play was full of flair and ‘sexy’ passing entertainment.
Again, this could all be proven with videos of matches in 2005 or 2006. But for stat lovers, this could be proven by the number of chances Ronaldinho used to create. On paper, Ronaldinho was in front of 3 midfielders. In other words, he was labeled as a forward the entire time. Yet, he also created most chances for Samuel Eto’o and others. Ronaldinho even went back to midfield to collect the ball himself and start something out of nothing. Does this remind you of anyone?
That specific Barcelona team was very entertaining and successful. I did not have great access to articles back then to read the evaluations of this team but I don’t remember hearing the phrases “this is not Barcelona” or “this is not Barcelona’s style of play”. Why? Simply because there was no recent memory of how Barcelona “should be”. In fact, Barcelona was praised for having a great style of play taking into consideration that Ronaldinho’s individual brilliance played a huge part in it all. Finally, there was nothing wrong with that.
Now, 9 years later, we’re in 2015 and the world of football keeps wondering: what is Barcelona’s style of play? I try to stay away from answering this question because my knowledge of what previous coaches did for this team is insignificant. But what I do know is that Barcelona’s style of play has always been about attacking football and creating as much chances as possible.
I do not really care who creates chances between our midfielders and forwards because these variables change a lot in a game of football. One day you’ll witness a match in which a midfielder causes a striker’s success (Rakitic-Suarez and other examples). Another day you’ll find your forward creating chances for your other forwards. The only thing that matters is that the chances are created.
It is interesting when people say “Barcelona’s midfield doesn’t exist and they have to depend on their forwards to create chances and score”. Let’s take a look at European and world champions Real Madrid. Cristiano Ronaldo was leading the assist records a few weeks ago. Karim Benzema, who happens to be one of Real Madrid’s most crucial players, is a forward who is also a great playmaker.
What about Lucho’s current team?
What is visible from Barcelona’s “invisible” midfield *wink* is that the ball stays much less TIME in the area between the midfield line and the final third than it did during Pep’s era. The ball is immediately moved to the forwards who happen to be extremely talented and basically know how to do their own thing. This caused confusion and riot among Barcelona fans because this is not “how we operated”.
Suddenly the use of past tense is more intriguing than ever. Some clocks started ticking in 2009. Other clocks started ticking earlier.
One has the right to prefer one style of play to another. However, a phrase like “no midfield” goes beyond just Barcelona. It crushes everything football is based on to begin with. How can a club win without midfield? Forget about winning. How can a team play a few set of passes without a good midfield?
What is even the true definition of midfield? Did we, as Barcelona fans, create our own perfect image of what a midfield should be while completely disregarding reality and how much the game changes with respect to the type of players available?
So many questions I don’t have an answer for. However, there is one question I can answer: Do we have a midfield? For me, the answer is definitely yes.
As for the color of the dress, I have no clue.