How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the B.A.N.G.S. (FC Barcelona Tactics with Zlatan Part I)

Zlatan Karate

As we all know, in a move that seemingly inspired more controversy than Jose Mourinho’s entire career of playing mind games combined, FC Barcelona traded one of the best strikers in its entire history who happened to still be in the prime of his career for a certain Big Ass Ninja Gangsta Swede (BANGS). The particular horse that is the issue of whether his transfer was right or wrong has already been killed, dismembered, and nuked so let’s instead focus on ways in which we might expect Pep to use our newly acquired BANGS.

To quote The Johan in his latest blog:

“The signing of the Swede affects the whole team including even the goalkeeper. Valdes now has a new option available: kicking long balls for Ibra to either hold or take and attack. Same thing for the defenders and, it goes without saying; the midfielders and forwards will also have new options.”

So, what new options are we talking about here? Let’s have a look. Today we’ll start out with what he adds to one of our favorite tweaks from last season: the False 9 formation.

If you read the Barca Offside blog then you probably saw me make quite a few comments on this formation. Let’s first analyze how it works and then what Zlatan adds to it.

It’s always risky talking about formations because all the different possible shifts and variations lead to the question of whether there is any point to giving a name to a formation. I’ll let Jonathan Wilson, he of Inverting the Pyramid fame, eloquently state why there is a point: “There is, because it gives us a basic shape, but we must always be conscious of differences within systems that ostensibly appear to be the same.” Therefore, keep this in mind when I refer to formations and use diagrams. I don’t have the space to outline all the subtle differences between the systems used by many different teams but still referred to in Spain as the “doble pivote” or double pivot. If you want to go more in depth into these differences, check out some excellent Jonathan Wilson articles here and here. However, for the sake of clarity and conciseness let’s state that a double pivot system features two holding central midfield players that both protect the defense and link them up with a four man attack. In Spain they call it a 4-4-2 Double Pivot whereas in England they would call it a 4-2-3-1 (like Liverpool uses). In reality there are differences but the common denominator is in its namesake: two pivot players man the central midfield. Also, when in attack, they heavily rely on the fullbacks (FB’s) to bomb forward and provide width, confident that the two pivots will protect the centerbacks (CB’s). Our False 9 formation exploits all of these factors.

I’m on the record as calling this formation our Double Pivot killer because when we play it with Messi, Iniesta, and Xavi in form and playing at the same time there is no formation in the world with only two central midfielders (“pivotes” in Spain) that can shut our offense down. Why is this important? Because just about all of the bigger more offensive teams in Spain and England play a variation of the Double Pivot which makes this look a handy thing to have. Sevilla, Atletico Madrid, Valencia, Liverpool, and Villareal all use it although Real Madrid has played with a crazy “magic box” like 4-2-2-2 but in preseason they also used the 4-3-3 and 4-4-2 (Pellegrini’s choice at Villareal).

Fancy pants diagrams? Fancy pants diagrams:

This is how our basic 4-3-3 looks like in theory.

4-3-3This is how a Spanish 4-4-2 Double Pivot looks like (more like an English 4-2-3-1).


And this is how our False 9 Formation looked like when employed against a Double Pivot Team last season and we had possession (note: the opposing team is the black circles)-

False 9

How it works:

– Our spear tip like trident would be inverted into a V shape. However, Samu would shift to the right wing while Messi assumed the 9 but dropped back into the midfield making him a “false 9”. On the risk of going off on a slight tangent, what is the main offensive importance of fullbacks? To give you an extra man in midfield. Here, it’s the same idea. Messi gives us an extra man in the midfield. Why Messi? Because of all our forward line he was the only one with the technical characteristics (positioning, vision, ball control, passing, one touch play, etc.) to make an excellent extra midfielder. Also, he is the most dangerous player in our front line with the ball at his feet and in space.

– The main purpose of this formation is to outnumber the two pivots by forming a triangle of Messi, Xavi, and Iniesta around them. If you look at last season’s second Clasico, Messi always looked at Gago, the deeper lying of their two pivots as a reference, and stayed behind him but in front of the CB’s. This Magic Triangle allowed our guys to wrest control of center midfield by outnumbering the two pivots 3-2 and passing around them.

– But, what about all the other opposing players? Would they really stand around while Xavi, Iniesta, and Messi drive the likes of Gago and Lass or Carrick and Anderson insane? Well, yeah. Because we force them to and even if they go to help that just means they left an open Barca player ready to receive a pass. Let’s look at what our guys do to isolate the pivots:

  • Forwards (except for the False 9) – The opposing FB’s were kept at bay because Samu and Henry were lurking on the wings near their own goal. You don’t let guys like that go unmarked. If one of the fullbacks went to help out the pivots then they would have a wide open Barca forward on the wing near their own goal in space, possibly marked by a ponderous CB and something like this would happen [note- check out our formation ;)]

Thus, our forwards were partly decoys whose task was to occupy the opposing FB’s when we played this formation. I say partly because another of the virtues of this look is that if Messi ran at the CB’s with the ball and then passed to one of the other two forwards then they would get frequent one on ones against the fullbacks. This is how Henry frequently skinned Sergio Ramos in that second RM game. Furthermore, this look has the added bonus of preventing attacking fullbacks from bombing forward, a vital part of the double pivot attack, by forcing them to stay back and mark the forwards. If they go forward then you get something like the Samu goal from the UCL Final posted above.

  • Fullbacks: What about the two opposing wingers? How are they kept at bay? Well, our fullbacks take care of that by advancing themselves. Similar to our forwards they play decoy by forcing the opposing wingers to mark them or else leave a wide open space down the wing for them to bomb down through. Again, just like the opposing fullbacks, if they leave their man (our FB) to go help out their tormented pivots then our center-mids will see a wide open FB with acres of open grass in front of him and simply pass him the ball. Thus, the opposing wingers are also kept out of the way. Its also even easier when you consider that there are plenty of wingers who are naturally less than inclined to defend.
  • Yaya and the CB’s: The CB’s would assume their usual position, pushing the team up the field as doubling the opposing striker. Meanwhile, Yaya functions as both an outlet and a marker for the opposing “in the hole” or supporting striker. If he backtracks to help out the pivots, Yaya becomes an instant open outlet and moves up the field to form a diamond around the three opposing players and we resume our pass them to death game.

– Okay. So we can now pass them to death. What about an end product? Well, the idea of Messi dropping deep has to do with the common centerback. Said player is usually big and strong but not very comfortable venturing too far out from his box (the opposite of Barca CB’s). Thus, he is usually very reluctant to come out and help the pivots. Furthermore, this look from us will frequently get the ball to Messi an allow him to face and run at the CB’s in space. This is one of the worst nightmare’s any defender can have so their instinct is to play off of Messi so as to have more time to react when he takes off. Messi can either take them on, use the space they give him to let off some medium range shots, give the ball to the other two forwards for one on one looks versus the opposing FB’s, or wait for the other two forwards to make diagonal runs into the box and slip them some throughballs.

– Extra note: This is a very basic explanation of what goes on. Things usually get very fluid during the actual game. Messi, Iniesta, and Xavi rotate, and the ball does get played to the wing as opposing wingers and fullbacks try to help the pivots but end up leaving an open Barca FB or winger. However, this is the basic shell and rationale behind our strategy.

How Ibra Makes It Better

Remember how I said that of our forward line last year, Messi was the only one really truly able to play as a False 9? Not anymore. This is a role that Zlatan routinely filled in at Inter and Juventus and did so admirably. Although certainly not as fast as Messi, he has the vision, technique, and passing to play in midfield despite his size and natural position. How does this affect us besides the obvious “we can now play False 9 even when Messi is not playing”.

  • Zlatan does not have the speed or destabilizing ability of Messi. However, he is still one of the best dribblers in the world with the ball at his feet and can still run at the CB’s. The other thing to remember is that he has a great medium range shot (better than Messi’s at this point) which will provoke the CB’s to come out to close him out in part to take away space for a shot and in part because they may not respect his dribbling as much as they do Messi’s. However, this would leave two forwards one on one behind the centerbacks and Zlatan has the vision and the quality to get them the ball in position to do some damage. Think of it as yet something different to drive the defenders even crazier.
  • Remember how I said that the other two forwards were positioned partly as decoys but also to get one on one versus the FB’s? Now with another player to play as False 9, Messi can occasionally stay ar right forward when we go to the False 9. With all due respect to Henry and Samu but it’s not the same thing for them to get one on ones than it is for Messi to get a one on one with the FB. When Zlatan runs at the CB’s and draws them in, the fullback marking Messi will be shitting his pants worried that Zlatan will get the ball to Messi in space and a one on one situation. If the opposing left winger tracks back to help out the fullback then Alves can simply make one of his trademark overlapping runs and be played into the box by Messi. Its an awesome situation for us.

False 9 w Ibra

Zlatan is also an improvement over Samu on the right wing in this formation. Why? I love Samu but a Samu on the wing is not the same thing as a Samu in the box. He is a player that loves it when his teammates put the ball into an open space and he can run towards said open space and shoot or possess the ball. He was never at this best with the ball at his feet and a defender in his grill. It’s not necessarily bad; it’s just not his style. He is a master of seeking out spaces and running into them for his teammates to get him the ball.

On the other hand, Zlatan, although not his Ajax or Juventus self anymore still has enough explosion and a large enough repertoire of tricks to break down a defender one on one on the wing and, if that’s not available, he has superior vision and passing to get the ball to a teammate. I truly don’t get why people said that Samu was good on the wing and Zlatan is not. Samu selflessly assumed the thankless decoy role and did it as well as he could without complaining. Hell, being himself he even popped up to score the winning goal in the UCL Final when Evra over committed and left him open. However, look at the games when we used this option and you will see a largely anonymous Samu especially in relation to Henry who was playing the same role on the other wing. Look at the second leg vs. RM or the UCL Final before and after the goal. He took on the role because it helped the team but it was not optimal for him and it showed. Like I said, its just not his style. I’d be lying if I said it was optimal for Zlatan either but I do think he is a relatively much better fit for it than Samu.

That’s Part I folks.

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A diehard culé since the Rivaldo/Figo Judas days, I am also a rabid Argentina and Boca Juniors fan despite definitely not being Argentine. Read more articles by me by clicking on the name-link.


  1. yogi
    September 10, 2009

    Excellent article Hector. Looking at our past results, you have nailed how we do it. I do think that more and more teams this year will cede entire half to us and just mass in defence aka chelsea. This compresses the field too much and does not give us space. I think we will do well but i doubt if we will score as many goals.

  2. messi_fan
    September 10, 2009

    Wow, great article. Thanks for helping us to have a better understanding of Barca’s footballing tactics. I especially liked the diagrams and the reference to the first Champion’s League goal.

    Btw, I like how Yaya was the only one to have his name spelled out 🙂

  3. September 10, 2009

    Yogi- Exactly. That’s comes up in the next installment 😉 .

    • September 10, 2009

      The first thing I thought of was The Bus. If you play a “Triple Pivot” you might just get away with a 1-0 win on the break against us, but only if you’re super disciplined and have the technical skill to play a lot of defense. Shakhtar played it well, closing passing lanes and rarely opening up at all, but they were also not facing Barcelona’s first team and certainly weren’t facing it with Zlatan fully integrated.

      So, essentially, Chelsea did manage to create a way to stop us, but then we got Zlatan and it’s a different ballgame, but one that has the same fundamental rules.

      Hmm. Part 2 should be fascinating. Great work as always, Hector.

  4. Han
    September 10, 2009

    When is part II coming? Thanks for the nice article yet again.

    I heard somewhere close to Valdebebas that Marcelo and Arbeloa are already wetting their pants at night. After reading flo flo’s bible( the 8 commands) Bedwetting and Shitting in your pants was originally meant to be the ninth until Pellegrini heard about his FB’s.

    btw: I admire your simplicity in writing these pieces.

    • Tutomate
      September 10, 2009

      What is this FloFlo’s bible stuff? Why are they crapping in there pants?

  5. pulpo
    September 10, 2009

    Love the analysis Hector. Cannot wait for part II which hopefully will discuss the the real issue here, can busses be broken through, or gone over in the case of Ibra and his height. I have to say, this is the main issue which has yet to be solved by any of the top clubs, and I have a feeling Pep find a breakthrough this season- he certainly has the tools. Im talking about busses which cannot be lured out with passing(7/8 in the penalty area alone aka Chelsea), and excluding set pieces.

    Do you think we will start seeing set pieces like in basketball- rehearsed coordinated movements or ‘plays’. This would make sense as the scarcity of space around the penalty area is not unlike a basketball half court game. Although this may not have the same improvised action which makes football beautiful, it sure beats lobbing the ball into the box and hoping for contact.

    • September 10, 2009

      It will. Ibra is the key piece in that department. Also, the likes of Keita and Maxwell also have vital roles.

    • September 10, 2009

      Every professional club has set pieces that they run. I don’t know how complex their signaling is to confirm which particular play they’re doing is (or how many each team has, though I’m sure it varies wildly), but they obviously communicate it somehow.

      Barcelona obviously has to use very creative set pieces, but the Sporting match showed that we have the aerial capability to break through a large number of small time buses. The question is, of course, as posed before, can we do it against a Chelsea who has the talent to play effective anti-football for 90 minutes and grab a goal on the break?

    • September 10, 2009

      Of the three headed in goals from set plays, Guardiola said only one came from a rehearsed play that came off successfully. The rest were improvised. “Here’s the cross. Go get it!”. He also said that in the second goal vs the EE in last season’s 6-2 (the Puyol one), only Carles and Xavi knew what the play was going to be.

      • Alexinho
        September 11, 2009

        That’s awesome about Puy’s goal, but I don’t think I like that fact.

  6. BA
    September 10, 2009

    excellent article, no doubt it’ll be very illuminating.

    however, i do have a quibble: who is *F*A? isn’t that chap’s name Eric?

  7. September 10, 2009

    The PDF snapshot tool sometimes takes parts of letters or shapes out.

  8. September 10, 2009

    Here’s an interesting note on Chygrynskiy: he scores quite a few goals for a defender. According to Wikipedia, for Shakhtar he scored 10 goals in 134 games (7 in 88 league matches). Compare that to Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique:

    Chygnasty: 134 (10) = 1 goal every 13.4 games.
    Puyol: 444 (7) = 1 goal every 63.44 games
    Pique: 26 (1) = 1 goal every 26 games.

    Obviously Pique’s sample is very small, but I still think its suggestive because Pique is generally up front for corners. If we use Chygnasty against La Liga teams (since he can’t play in the CL), we’ll have yet another big ass header target for Xavi/Messi/Pedro! to aim at. Imagine a moment when we have Keita, Yaya, Chygnasty, and Ibra all in the box at once. Who do you mark? Then toss in Dani Alves’ odd runs from the side and Henry’s positioning at the edge of the box and we’ve got some serious goal-threatening firepower.

    And we’ll pass you to death. Wow.

  9. September 10, 2009

    Yeah absolutely brilliant read! yet again Hector! It will be interesting to know if this allows us to “break the bus” like the others mentioned above.

    I get the feeling Ibra was brought in for that purpose solely. We haven’t played an ultra defensive team yet. Bilbao and gijon tried to come at us but our possession and attacking prowess forced them to stay on their heels. Shakhtar was a good defensive test. Although the pitch was a major disadvantage for us, Shakhtar were defensively as good as chelsea were last season. We might have broken them down with iniesta and all our players fit and ready.

    Getafe won’t be the test either cos they like to play their attacking game (love the teams that do). Inter might seem like the first defensive test we’ll have but the way they played against Milan suggests otherwise.

    Highly insightful read once again Hector!

  10. Miguel
    September 10, 2009

    good stuff hector! you articulate what the flies circling in my head do during a game really well & are very meticulous about it. thanks for putting us up on game: i’ll have to read more of that inverted triangles guy & i can’t believe i didn’t have cruyff’s blog under my bookmarks. the dutchman also talks about how on set pieces & corners ibra draws out so many defenders because he’s considered such an aerial threat that it thus leaves a shitload of space. i remember during the second clasico pique muscling in and getting the center backs’ attention leaving puyol unmarked to head in that second goal. that’s what i’m expecting to see more of.

    cronyaldo was definitely right in blaming sir alex for the champions league final. it was as if the coach had never seen barca play with a false 9. what did he expect messi to do playing up against evra?

  11. ooga aga
    September 10, 2009

    give me two normal old goals over one karate kick goal.

    still wait to be encantado…

    but good read hector. sounds good on paper.

  12. poipoi
    September 10, 2009

    wow… new look!! btw… what is the wallpaper in the back of the blog???

  13. September 10, 2009

    Hector, completely awesome!

    I loved Jonathon Wilson’s book and would recommend it to anyone. Now I’m starting to think that someone named Hector should write the “Barcelona Tactics Book”. I would buy it!

    Keep up the insightful commentary.

  14. Carles P
    September 10, 2009

    Great article Hector. I am reading J. Wilson’s book and I am digging the insightful read. This is just adding to the knowledge.

    Keep it coming…

    BTW- I like the new layout.

  15. Miguel
    September 10, 2009

    ha! i’m gonna start writing txikidracula on my term papers. “your mind is the second thing to go.” fuck it.

    going back to that 4-2-3-1 article you referenced, hector, it was interesting to see dani alves play the “ramires” role in dunga’s formation. interesting as in: dunga’s throwing another defender in? you fucking kidding me?…but it is dani alves after all. his pressuring the left back lead to a really bad pass by a shaken chile goal keeper & brazil/nilmar’s second goal. can’t wait to see ibra on the receiving end of dani’s crosses like in the first goal.

    this paragraph made me lol ala bojan…
    “The evolution of that system to 4-2-3-1 has come about by pulling one of the centre-forwards back and wider, while one of the trequartistas shuffles a little wider – and in Ramires’s case deeper – on the other side to accommodate him. Robinho is thus a forward playing to the left (as Riva did), whereas a European version of the system would have a winger or a midfielder (or a defensive forward) there. So far in this tournament, there has been no sign of him feeling any sense of defensive responsibility.”

    maybe robinho’s lax defensive contribution is a product of dunga’s system and he isn’t just a lazy fuck??? …nah.. he’s still a lazy fuck.

    • Jnice
      September 10, 2009

      Dani actually had two assists in the role he played yesterday. I think Maicon/Alves is the best combo Dunga could use on the right wing. When Maicon decides to bomb forward, Alves can drop back, and not that much is lost and vice versa. Alves is faster than Elano and a better defender than Ramires. That position should be his ticket into the starting XI.

  16. Achraf
    September 10, 2009

    Hey is chygnasty available for the getafe game cuz iv seen no post about him starting training but im guessin thats cuz he’s away on break hope he’s available.

  17. poipoi
    September 10, 2009

    what a nice read hector! zlatan has a lot of skill and can play as a false 9 but I don’t think he can do as well as Samu on the wing, samu runs, fights and even scores at times in that position… hope this season keeps a lot of surprises for the cules.

    one silly thing I’d like to add is that the double pivot doesn’t even exist when don andres has the ball in his feet, he can dribble both guys at the same time without even sweating and make a sick pass to one of the forwards 😉

    btw hector… what can you say about kaka playing in counterattacking teams ( EE is one for sure 😉 ) vs Barça, you know we don’t keep too many guys in our own field. Has he played well against us with milan??? I have no idea about the subject

  18. eklavya
    September 10, 2009

    I’ve added myself as a fan of this site.I’m the guy next to the Godfather poster 🙂

  19. Sumit
    September 10, 2009

    That is an amazing overview of the Barca tactical strategy. You rock Hector!!!

  20. lovelymofo
    September 10, 2009

    Hector you talk so pretty! Awesome article. I don’t think it can be said too many times – all you guys are excellent at giving us a deeper understanding of Barça’s beautiful game.

    The other day I was going through some of the matches I recorded (DVR), trying to decide which ones to keep. Naturally, I want to keep all the ones in which we kicked ass and the two matches against EE. I got to the matches v Chelsea and thought, I’ll delete both of them, since I have the second half of the second match saved on my computer. But then I started to think, of all last season’s matches, I bet Pep looks at the Chelsea matches the most. And I thought of coming on here and suggesting that you all do some additional analysis on what changes or tactics Pep might employ in order to beat park-the-bus teams. But I don’t need to, since you’re pretty much doing this by going over what BANGS brings to the team.

    Nifty title by the way! 😀

  21. Aeneas
    September 10, 2009

    Yay! This is always the best part of my week.

  22. Hilal
    September 10, 2009

    Fantastic piece! I cannot wait to see Zlatan when he is properly integrated, when we are taking full advantage of his strengths and when he really understands our system. If it works the way Pep and all the rest of us hope it does, well i dont think any team will be able to stop us. It was hard enough last season and it took a hundred million pound bus to even come close, but even that couldn’t stop us in the end.

    I hope that having a bus breaker like Zlatan will motivate teams to come out and play a little more. If they are going to lose either way, bus or no bus, they might as well have a go at it….thats the way i would think anyways.

    Regarding Argentina, I was left a little dumbfounded after watching the game yesterday. I think it would have been more challenging for Maradona to make Argentina sink so low than it would have been for him to do well. Some of the subs he made, its almost like he was trying to make sure they lost. His starting lineup and formation was bad enough but omg did he know how to make it worse. Clearly the players have lost faith in him already because quite frankly they were all crap. Gago was all over the place and one of the worst performances i have seen from Macherano. Was Aguero even playing? Messi just didnt seem like he wanted to try. Just awful. Such a shame as well because I really dont see them qualifying now and even if they did i dont see them beating any half decent team with Maradona in charge. I suppose the one positive to take from this is that next season we will have a fit, rested, hungry Messi.

  23. September 10, 2009

    I’m a fan of the blog on facebook too! I’d like to buy some shares too. don’t want to miss out if this becomes as big as google. 🙂

      • Kxevin
        September 10, 2009

        Don’t think y’all have to worry about that. 😀 We’re good, but we ain’t that good.

        • alo
          September 10, 2009

          I’m becoming a fan this instant – longtime follower of the blog (previous icarnations included), and I thank everyone here (commentators included) for elevating FCB discourse for all of us!

          • September 10, 2009

            Kevin that’s what Larry Page and Sergey Brin said too! 🙂

  24. Flippy
    September 10, 2009

    Hector, what if an opponent was to play a 4-3-1-2 like Inter?
    CM CM CM
    str. str.

    With three pivotes the triangle would be put to nearly useless and yaya will have to contain the playmaker, and perhaps one of the opponent striker could keep Alves at bay. But even if we played maxwell and alves, the opponent could get a cross feed the playmaker who would then give the strikers the ball…in Inter’s case the playmaker would be Sneijder and the strikers would be Eto’o and Milito, all a deadly combination…

    • Alexinho
      September 11, 2009

      I’m sure Hector’s on it; that’s two mentions of that particular problem.

      Of course there are many formations out there and though the double pivot 442 is surely popular, we have other versions of our 433 that we can throw at them. I’m sure.

  25. khairallah
    September 10, 2009

    i was just quite surprised to figure out that ghostface killah is actually a rapper ( i’m not really that into rap, so that could explain my ignorance), but anyway i must say that i think the nickname suits iniesta much better. For one thing, he has more of a ghost face and surely is more of a killah..

  26. Helge
    September 10, 2009

    This article seems to be too good and too long to read it now, shortly before going to bed. I’ll read it once I have some more time for it.
    The greatest joy is the joy of anticipation 🙂

  27. Soto
    September 10, 2009

    Interesting article, Hector. And I think you have started to answer my question about having two offensive fullbacks/wingers, i.e. Alves and Maxwell (I asked this in the comments of “Corred, Cabrones, Corred (Part I)”. I really think that beyond the addition of Ibrahimovic, that the overlapping offensive plays from both fullbacks will really stress the opponents, especially when they park the bus. A parked bus needs to be stretched as thin as possible so that you can bust through (playing at home helps provide the room to do this).

  28. Ciaran
    September 10, 2009

    Excellent article Hector.
    A few people mentioned the triple pivot a la Inter or Chelsea.

    In situations such as that I think that a few subtle changes could make a lot of difference.
    – – – – – – Valdes – – – – – –
    Alves – Pique – Puyol – Abidal
    – – – – – – Yaya – – – – – –
    – – – Xavi – – – – Keita – – –
    Messi – – – Ibra – – Iniesta

    That formation should be well capable of mixing it up with the likes of Inter and Chelsea, especially in the away legs, where it would be a modified 4-4-2 with Iniesta dropping deep.
    If we were chasing a result, or if Iniesta or Xavi wasn’t available, we could put Bojan on the left, or the right wing and move Messi, in order for there to be another great crosser on the wings.

    • Aeneas
      September 10, 2009

      Don’t forget Maxwell as an option.

  29. Colin
    September 10, 2009

    Thanks for the knowledge Hector. This article makes me appreciate even more what a rare and special talent Messi is, and how important his education in the FCB youth squad was. The world of difference between how Guardiola and Maradona use Messi is amazing.

  30. September 10, 2009

    Ahhh. Great points, guys.

    Remember that this is just a Part I and thus devilishly intended to keep you guys on a hook for the next ones.

    -The 4-5-1 or 4-3-x-x- formations that we saw from the likes of Chelsea and Valencia last season were definitely the most effective antidotes against us. No doubt. We have to break those down consistently.

    – The importance of having something like this particular look (False 9) available is that if we score first, this is the offensive minded look many teams know. Its so ingrained in Spanish football that it won’t surprise me to see a few sides try it when we visit them. For instance, in a two legged CL draw, we go up 3-0 in the first leg and in the second, the other team will be forced to go all out against us.

    – Soto: That’s spot on. You have to stretch the field as much as possible in order to open as much space as possible which is something we could have done a better job of against the likes of Chelsea. I did notice in the few games we’ve had this season that we are seeing much more of our two fullbacks advancing simultaneously than we did last season when usually only one but not both would. Ironically, this makes us seem closer to a 4-2-3-1 double pivot ourselves. However, more on that in the next part.

    • September 10, 2009

      Hector, we’ve been talking about breaking down the bus through out this string. However, how will the team handle concerted pressure in their own penalty area. One notices that when an opposing team is actually in our defensive third, we do look frantic. There was a spell in the final against Man U wherein they played us at our own game and held and passed the ball for the best part of 5-7 minutes and we look a little flustered running around frantically! Perhaps it’s one of the risks we take playing this system.

      In the game against Gijon too, they had a golden opportunity to score before us.

      • September 11, 2009

        That’s a whole other issue right there, Reagan. Its like Pep said once: “We need the ball. Without the ball we are nothing”. The fact is that all of these fancy tactics are dependent on us getting the ball back and dominating possession. It is our philosophy. That’s why I started out with ball pressure. The first few minutes of the UCL Final was one of the few times during the year when we could just not retain possession and we got flustered.

        We dare other teams to play our game and most refuse but every now and then along comes one that does. That said, I do expect to see a significant improvement in set piece defending this season. Partly because of Ibra and partly because our chemistry and communication should be better by now.

  31. ooga aga
    September 10, 2009

    sorry for doing this….

    iniesta on playing against Samu: “Será extraño porque hemos vivido juntos muchos momentos buenos y otros no tanto. Para mi ha sido el mejor delantero que ha tenido el Barça. Lo ha demostrado siempre y todo el mundo se queda con esa faceta de Samuel. Le deseo lo mejor ya que le aprecio mucho y tengo una muy buena relación con él”

    “It will be strange because we have lived many moments together, some good and some not so good. For me he has been the best striker that Barca has had, he has demonstrated this always and everyone remains with this facet of Samuel. I wish him the best since I appreciate him very much and I have a very good relation with him.”

    so sue me for being sentimental…

  32. jnelson
    September 10, 2009

    Awesome post Hector. Can’t wait for part II!

  33. katalini5
    September 11, 2009

    awesome post! complete with diagrams and everything. did anyone else see the stories of all the inter fans and players getting uppity over zlatan’s recent comments on his contribution to their success? i mean, i get their defensiveness, but come on guys, he was the inter team for awhile there and not admitting it just looks bitter. esp when coming from players like mancini who have enjoyed most of their inter games from the bench. the game this week should be quite the treat!

  34. Alexinho
    September 11, 2009

    Loving these tactics, I’m glad you got to the part about when we have the ball (“Hammertime”). The diagrams with the thoughts and arrows are much easier to understand, and dare I say your writing is much easier to digest. Perhaps the last one was just too long…

    But what about all those games where Messi was darting in from the right, not playing nearly all the time in that “hole?”

  35. kirsten
    September 11, 2009

    nice one hector,maybe we shud start paying u a fee for the lessons.crazy how in CL final last year Ferdinand,vidic and carrick just didnt know how to contain our false 9, messi.he was in-between them and causing so much damage.i hope BANGS can play that role to full effect. I hope u get to break down our 3-4-3 attacking formation next time, with the FB’s pushing up the wings,CB’s going a wide and yaya/busi filling the vacant CB does changes the diamond in the middle of park and the passing triangles we are fond of, and how that that make us vulnerable?Again it restrict xavi to play the deep CM and not bn able to supply the final pass for the forwards,i.e. the shaktar game.

  36. Roja-N
    September 11, 2009

    Hi Hector…a brilliant piece as always. While the strategies outlined above are fantastic, i do wonder how we may have to adapt the same in case some of our starters are unavailable. While your article assumes the strongest possible first team and given the lack of (experienced?)depth, do you think that Pedro!, the kid and the others have what it takes to unsettle FB’s in one on one’s? I assume that they will not yet be ready for the false ‘9’…although will look forward to that in a few years time 🙂

  37. September 11, 2009

    Thanks guys and great point all.

    – Alexinho: I did realize the previous article was too long so I am shooting for tackling less at a time in this one. There will probably be more than two parts to this one because of that same reason.

    – Kirsten: Sure, the next one (or one after that- I haven’t decided 😀 ) will feature our more conventional formation and how Ibra will change its dynamics.

    – Roja-N: That’s a good point. The False 9 is not some revolutionary invention by Guardiola. It has been done before. Hell, Inter pulled it off regularly with the likes of Zlatan, Stankovich, and Cambiasso or Zanetti. What makes our version special is the players. Specifically Xavi, Messi, and Iniesta who made the middle of the field unplayable for opposing teams. With Ibra comes the possibility of maybe running it without Messi but trying to do it without Xavi and Iniesta would drastically reduce its effectiveness.

    • Soto
      September 11, 2009

      Okay, that brings up a good point. What ARE our options when Xavi and Iniesta are both unavailable? This is not an impossible scenario, considering the crazy schedule and possibility of injuries.

  38. At a recent computer expo (COMDEX), Bill Gates reportedly compared the computer industry with the auto industry and stated, “If GM had kept up with technology like the computer industry has, we would all be driving twenty-five dollar cars that got 1000 mi/gal.” :: Recently General Motors addressed this comment by releasing the statement, “Yes, but would you want your car to crash twice a day?”

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