Category:

Tactics

March 22, 2015 / / El Clasico

mathieu

This is the part where the joy dissipates into a blizzard of muttering, whining and beating on unfavored whipping boys. But I am impatient with that kind of stuff, so permit me to present a wee bit of perspective at the end of a fascinating, tiring, fraught day.

As one of my favorite Twitter accounts posted, Classics are to be endured, rather than enjoyed. If you are a supporter, you don’t enjoy them. You can’t. There’s just too much in it. You fret, you scream, you pace, you sweat, the anguish is almost a palpable thing in the room. But this was an extraordinary match for so many reasons.

This was really a tale of two matches and two very different sets of tactics. Barça started out the match in the wide-open, let’s do this style that lets Messi, Neymar and Suarez do their thing. The danger in that approach, however, was multifaceted. That style of play takes a lot of energy, because there is a lot of running. Spaces are bigger, passes are longer, runs are more constant. The sharpness and awareness necessitated by this style means that if any part of the machine isn’t at all sharp, things are going to look a mess.
Read MoreBarça 2, RM 1, aka “A tale of two matches.”

January 29, 2015 / / Analysis
January 20, 2015 / / Analysis
January 19, 2015 / / Analysis

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Depor is no longer Super Depor.

In a trip to an opponent wallowing around the bottom of the table near the relegation places, the visit to La Coruna wasn’t really on anybody’s list of important fixtures, even as it was a huge one for many reasons.

Barça’s home form has been formidable and away form dodgy, to be generous. Fraught and uncertain, road woes have been the tenor and tone of this season, from a scoreless draw with no shots at Malaga to a pair of losses. The most recent loss against La Real in January was also the one that set the “crisis” bells ringing, in a match result as overblown as it was unsurprising. The team always struggles at the Anoeta. Why would anything more be expected from a group its supporters expect so little from?

All of this made the Depor visit crucial for the first team, particularly in light of all the Liga title rivals having already won. That Barça pasted Depor wasn’t as noteworthy as how Barça pasted Depor. In addition to the half-speed drubbing, it was clear in yet another match that this was a team with a system, a way of playing. After all the snarling that Enrique didn’t have a clue and didn’t have an XI, he repeated a lineup:

Bravo, Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Alba, Busquets, Iniesta, Rakitic, Neymar, Suarez, Messi
Read MoreDepor 0, Barça 4, aka “The revolution continues”

January 16, 2015 / / Analysis
"Do it like this, not like that."
“Do it like this, not like that.”

This is weird.

Yesterday’s fascinating Copa match came in the wake of a recent conversation that in the here and now of 140-character blasts, self-curated football knowledge bases and the YouTube immediacy of the modern game, a patient, long view is not only unrewarded but unwanted. (As an aside, this piece by Seb Stafford-Bloor on that very thing, is essential reading.)

Back in the day, someone could call for patience and there was no choice, really. So when events transpired to make that person seem like a seer, it was cool. Today, nobody wants to admit they don’t know, so everyone acts like they know.

And as I was watching the away leg of the Copa tie vs Elche, a dead rubber in which Barça already had an insurmountable lead and even the Elche coach said before the match, “I know what I’m supposed to say, but this is impossible,” I got to thinking about the long view and its unrewarding nature.
Read MoreElx 0, Barça 4 (9-0 agg), aka “Is that something visible taking shape?”

January 12, 2015 / / Analysis
January 11, 2015 / / Analysis

To say that today’s match against Atleti is huge would be an understatement. Is it even bigger than the last time Barça faced them at the Camp Nou, with the Liga title at stake?

Quite possibly, because there is more at risk than a championship here as you get the feeling that the club is tottering on the brink of an abyss. A loss to Atleti is the absolute last thing the team needs right now, as well as the last thing that the club needs right now.

Diego Simeone is relishing the challenge.
Read MoreEverything to play for

January 4, 2015 / / Analysis

lrenr

The match between La Real and Barça today was one of the strangest I have seen in some time, for a number of reasons.

Most noteworthy for me is that this was the match that assembled every last dysfunction that this club has, and dumped it into a cauldron. We can talk about mitigating circumstances, chances created in the first vs second half, etc, etc, but the fact that Barça is a dysfunctional team linked to a dysfunctional club is, for me, beyond dispute.

But in a way, there is beauty in all of that failure in the same way that not being able to complete that last rep in the gym makes you stronger. Pain and misery, self-flagellation are party of any process that improves anything, because you have to fail before you can succeed. The problem, of course, is that you have the right clothes and all the instructions. It should be easy, and what if at the end of all of this failure is … more failure? Who wouldn’t opt for the ease of success and the comfort of the familiar?

You see it in the gym all the time, the people who do the same workouts with the same weights, always completing the sets and strutting to the locker room with a grin. “Another one rocked.” I always seek failure. Put another way, if I get to the last rep of a set in an unruffled state, THAT is when I have failed, because I didn’t push hard enough.
Read MoreReal Sociedad 1, Barça 0, aka “Choosing your path”

December 10, 2014 / / Champions League
November 13, 2014 / / Analysis
(Photo by Miguel Ruiz, FC Barcelona)
(Photo by Miguel Ruiz, FC Barcelona)

An interesting quote from Sergio Busquets should, if it hasn’t already, spark some thinking among those who follow, cover and are otherwise interested in Barça.

Busquets said, simply enough, that the best Barça and Spain are never to return, that tactics and the game have caught up.

This isn’t news to anyone who has been paying attention, or reading the writings of some of us who wonder about the nostalgia, and pervasively perpetual quest for The Way. But accepting that isn’t even the biggest challenge. That hurdle is a much simpler, and rather difficult one:

Accepting THIS group of players and its coaches, and getting our minds around the reality of how this team needs to play to manage success.
Read MoreThe job of Luis Enrique, aka “What the hell to do with these leftovers?”

November 1, 2014 / / Analysis

celmess

“This will be an interesting week. Hunting season is open,” said Luis Enrique, referring no doubt to the massive upheaval that is expected after two losses in a row, both in pretty much the same manner when you really think about it.

— Opponents won challenges, got to loose balls, outfought Barça
— Chances not taken that can console those who crave consolation
— No evidence of a real system, a real way of attack
— Key players not on form

It feels like I have been typing this much more than usual these past few months dating back to the end of last season, but full credit to Celta and the damnable keeper of theirs. The better team won today, successfully taking one of the few chances it had and converting it beautifully. It was a deserved win, a victory forged from effort, talent and more than a little bit of luck, an alchemy that describes almost every victory by a team.

Many will seek consolation in the same libation, Retrospect, that they quaffed in the aftermath of the RM defeat. Then, it was “If Neymar doesn’t rush his chance and Messi converts, it’s 3-0 and a different match.” Today, it’s “If we just don’t hit the crossbar and their keeper doesn’t come up huge, it’s 4 or 5-1 and we cruise.”
Read MoreBarça 0, Celta Vigo 1, aka “Hunting season is open”

November 1, 2014 / / Analysis