This here is an ode to box crashing, the lost art.
The above video (brilliant, alias11! Brilliant!), a spectacular Messi moment, has him essentially owning the core of the Panathinaikos defense in a run that should have added an assist to his already gaudy totals.
And yet, it didn’t, which is good in way, becuase it gives Guardiola a chance to say “See? You guys suck!”
More critically, in bigger matches, you will only get a few real chances to score and you have to take full advantage. Grabbing those moments can be the difference between winning and going home when you get deep into a tourney like Champions League.
Let’s break this sucka down:
–When Messi heads for their box, it’s obvious what he’s going to do. It’s also obvious that Panathinaikos is going to wall him off, which means that at the end of it, he will be looking to pass.
–Alves stands there, Villa actually runs away from the goal and Pedro! isn’t quite sure what to do.
So at the moment of the pass, Alves, Pedro! and Villa are forming a triangle of futility. It’s one of the many gifts of the voracious Eto’o, that ability to put himself where the ball is going to be, by hook or by crook. If you pause the video at the moment of the pass, both Villa and Alves have acres of space to run into. Perhaps Villa is thinking that Messi will work the cutback. Alves just looks stunned, though he’s probably seen those about 1,000 times in practice. And P! lets himself run into a position of ineffectuality, though it’s clear that there is no way in hell that ball is going to get through to him.
It’s the virtue of the near post run. When you have an dribbling, attacking wonder such as Messi, who destabilizes defenses as soon as he enters the pitch, it is crucial that our other attackers realize the value of taking advantage of his chaos. Messi does it all the time, witnessed by his goal against Panathinaikos, in that very same match:
Look at how he is constantly watching Adriano to see what he is going to do. Once it becomes obvious that Adriano is going to square the ball, Messi wastes no time in putting himself in a position where he at least has a shot at the goal. This means getting his body, or at least a foot, between his teammate and the defender, because he knows that you won’t get an easier scoring chance than a square ball on the doorstep. Messi has knocked in quite a few of those, just as Eto’o did when he was here. They’re easy goals.
They’re also goals that Bojan Krkic has a knack for, with his quick, slippery movements.
Are such things linked to a striker’s instinct? Maybe. Villa is a striker, and he didn’t do it. It’s one of the many quibbles that I have with him. P! should know the value of an easy finish, as such things put him on the map last season, as well as timely goals in abundance.
No, those goals aren’t pretty. Hell, Messi just bundles the ball over the line, really. Yes, it’s a beautiful team goal, but hardly an exquisite finish. Nonetheless, it counts the same on the score sheet.
With the players that we have and what they can do with a ball when turned loose on the defense, we simply must develop the ability to crash the keeper. Watching Messi create a highlight reel dribble doesn’t help the cause, nor does it help Messi. It’s a lot of effort and potential risk of a hard foul. The result should at least be a shot on goal. Look at the dribble video again, and ask what might have happened had Villa taken advantage of the defender whose full attention was on Messi, to run into the open space created by the movement of the three defenders. Probably a tap-in.
We don’t have a great many offensive flaws, but that reluctance on the part of players not named Messi or Keita to follow up dribbles by getting to the mouth of the goal is, to me, one of them.