Barcelona Tactics

I discovered a fantastic video about Barcelona’s tactics.  Some of these I described earlier, but I am not nearly the astute follower that the creator of this video is (although there is some stuff missing, particularly about how Guardiola drills his players to see the pitch as 8 squares and each square must be filled at all times.)  But it also shows that for all the plaudits Messi (deservedly) gets, the goals and the wins are truly a team effort.

Taking the content of this video as a whole, this goes back to something that I have been saying for quite some time, the style that Barcelona plays is more than just a series of tactics.  Rather, tiki-taka is an entire philosophy, a completely unique way to see and play the game, just as Total Football was.  Spain’s victory at the World Cup was in a way a redemption of the Holland team of 1974.  Barcelona : Spain 2010 – Ajax : Holland 1974.

Sometimes, just sometimes, the universe is kind.

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Soocer Lunatic Of The Day: Jack Rodwell

Everton starlet Jack Rodwell is currently playing at the U-21 European Championship.  Obviously he was a little touchy about being played off the park by Spain the other day (despite earning a draw.)  Nevertheless, one does have to live in reality.  Unfortunately, Rodwell proved that he does not and came up with this gem:

You look at our senior side, we have some of the best players in the world. . . .  Gerrard, Lampard, Terry, Ferdinand, Rooney, the list goes on. If they were in the Barcelona squad I’m sure all of them would start.

This right here encapsulates everything wrong with England’s attitude.  It’s this idea that, contrary to reality, they breed world-class players.  This goes for the media and fans as well.  Rather than take a good look at the serious failings of the English program, the English repeatedly call themselves world-class and take it as a given.  Need more proof of this insufferable arrogance?  At the beginning of last season, Steven Gerrard infamously declared Joe Cole better than Messi.  (Even the English laughed at that one.)

But let’s examine Rodwell’s statement.  The starting lineup of Barcelona is Valdes, Alves, Puyol, Pique, Abidal, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Pedro, Messi, Villa.  Which of these would Lampard, Rooney, Gerrard, Ferdinand, and Terry replace? For an instant, let us forget that most of the Barcelona players grew in an academy, were trained to play a certain style, and have elevated that style to an art.  Let’s forget that seven of these players started for Spain in a victorious World Cup campaign (and Valdes was on the bench, although not even an Englishman would dare claim a world-class goalkeeper.)  Let’s forget that just last month Barcelona thrashed a Manchester United side that Rooney and Ferdinand played on.  And let’s forget that Terry, Gerrard, and Lampard are well past their primes and fading faster than LeBron James in the fourth quarter of a big game.

Ferdinand is not even the best center back on his team.  Neither he nor Terry would have any chance of breaking up the Puyol/Pique pairing which is right now the world’s strongest.  Neither Terry nor Ferdinand is a second coming of Baresi.  And John Terry has a history of causing some serious problems, something Guardiola would not put up with (see: Ibrahimovic, Ronaldinho, Deco).

Gerrard and Lampard are (or were) decent midfielders, but which one exactly would start in place of Xavi or Iniesta?  I mean we are talking about two of the greatest currently active players–two of the top five.  They absolutely dominate the midfield in a way that Lampard and Gerrard could only dream of.  (If Rodwell had said Paul Scholes in his prime would fit into Barcelona that would be a completely different story, and he would even be right.  One of the reasons England is so abysmal in international competition is because Scholes was pushed out when the team should have been created around him.  Instead England preferred the completely unworkable Lampard/Gerrard combination, and Scholes retired all too early.)

And finally Wayne Rooney.  Rooney may be the one of these five who could make the Barcelona bench, but he would not get much farther than that.  He would have to replace either Messi, Villa, or Pedro.  Messi is clearly not going anywhere, and really neither is Villa–at least not for Rooney.  Pedro is largely considered the weak link, but that is only because he scored fewer goals than his teammates.  The Pedro disparagement does not take into account the space he creates with his runs and the way that he frees up Messi.  Pedro is also a big game player.  He scored the first goal in the Champions League final last month, and his tying goal near the end of the 2009 World Club Cup was the reason Barcelona won that competition.  Pedro is still the only man ever to score goals in six different clubs competitions in the same year.  Pedro’s game also fits neatly into the Barcelona pass and press system; Rooney’s does not.  Big guys do not do so well at Barcelona.  Pedro was the preferred player to both Thierry Henry and Zlatan Ibrahimovic last season.

This is the curse of the English; they cannot come to grips with their mediocrity (some would say this goes well beyond sport.)  The rest of the world sees them yelling into the night that they are still the best in the world, all evidence to the contrary, and despises their arrogance.  It’s really a sign of inadequacy.  Hence Andy Grey’s now infamous remark in which doubted that Barcelona could bet Stoke City at the Britannia on cold Wednesday evening.  This arrogance and willful blindness are probably the main reason why England underachieve.

USA v. Guadeloupe Analysis: I Give Up!

The US played their final group stage match against Guadeloupe.  It seemed like a no-brainer that the US* would win. And they did.  1-0.  To Guadeloupe.  Guadeloupe is a nation that cannot even compete in the World Cup because it’s really France, and therefore is not a FIFA member.  The best Guadeloupe/Guadeloupe-heritage players (Thuram, Henry) played for France.  Not to take anything away from the Guadeloupe Football Team, but this is the kind of opponent the US should demolish easily, particularly when Mexico is regularly putting five goals past opponents. This match was a perfect opportunity to send a message, and it did: “we suck.”

I had never understood why fans of other national teams would jeer their players off the field such as when the English fans did after the World Cup match against Algeria or the Brazilians regularly do.  Now I kind of get it.  It comes from an anger of disappointed expectations unfulfilled promises.  The US team has shown such a paucity of ideas and spirit in this past three matches, that my national pride has been wounded.  I suppose that for the growth of the game in this country, this is a good thing, although the more results like this the less the growth.

I have come to the conclusion that no outcome in this tournament will be good.  Even winning the Gold Cup will be a disaster for the US because it will paper over the very deep cracks that have appeared.  Bob Bradley’s job would be safe, he can continue to pick his pet players, and everyone involved in US football can pretend everything is hunky-dory.  Meanwhile the inevitable disaster of World Cup 2014 is looming on the horizon.

Footnotes:

* The US needs a decent nickname.  All the cool countries have nickname.  Even England has a nickname.  The only ones I can think of are “Yanks” (which I hate), “Yankees” (which is too baseball), and “The Red, White, and Blue” (which seems too long).  Anyone out there have any ideas?