Thursday, February 17, 2011

Two Barca

I was fortunate enough to procure a ticket for Arsenal vs. Barcelona last night, my first visit to the Emirates.

Having watched Barca mesmerizingly complete their 684 passes, it’s clear to me that football played this way is elevated to an art form. Remarkably they contrived to lose the match nonetheless.

Just to put those passes in context, if you assume that the ball is only in play for 70 minutes and that Arsenal had 40% of the possession, then it implies that when Barcelona had the ball (for 42 minutes) they completed 16 passes per minute or one every 3-4 seconds.

I suspect the current Charlton side complete about 16 passes per half (particularly if it’s the first one).

The best player on the pitch was actually English, Jack Wilshere looking absolutely at home amongst world class opposition.

Who says England can’t produce technical footballers? (although one imagines he wouldn’t have flourished at any other club)

However the predictable 4-4-2 formation which England continue to persist with at international level, looks remarkably staid compared to Barcelona's fluid 4-1-3-2 formation (which rapidly becomes 2-1-5-2 when attacking).

Their full backs (Alves and Maxwell) are so quick and proficient, the team is able to do without wide midfielders altogether.

If they lose possession with the full-backs caught upfrield, Busquets just steps back from his role protecting the defence and joins Pique and Abidal to form a solid trio.

By providing the width in this way, Barca can crowd the central midfield area with the likes of Iniesta, Xavi, Pedro and Messi (when he drops deep).

They are all gifted enough to play wonderful triangles all around the opposition, thanks to having one or even two spare men at all times.

When opposition defenders are inevitably tempted out of position, gaps are created in behind for the likes of Messi and Villa to exploit. It’s truly astounding to watch.

Their refusal to waste possession cheaply, for example by shooting speculatively from distance or delivering merely hopeful crosses, meant that they didn’t win their first corner until late into the second half.

This is an amazing statistic for a team that possesses such a goal threat, and puts to bed the idea that penalty shoot-outs should be ended, in favour of deciding drawn matches on the basis of corners.

It’s rare to see Arsenal outpassed in this way, and some of the technical deficiencies of the likes of Eboue and Walcott were exposed at times.

However to their credit they kept believing and took advantage of some Barca profligacy in front of goal to actually win the tie.

On the rare occasions that the action waned enough to warrant less than full attention, I did begin to daydream about Chris Powell turning the Addicks into a League One version of Barcelona.

With their athleticism, who better to control each flank from defence to attack than Scott Wagstaff and Matt Fry (or a fit Kelly Youga)?

Jose Semedo would be cast firmly in the Sergio Busquets role, slotting seamlessly into central defence as needs require.

Alan McCormack even looks like Iniesta, so he can play the neat triangles with Therry Racon and Johnnie Jackson in front of Semedo.

Just ahead of them, Kyle Reid or Nathan Eccleston would provide the foil for Bradley Wright-Phillips to play off the shoulder of the last defender, David Villa style.

No wonder there's a 20,000+ crowd mooted for Exeter.


At 9:35 PM, Anonymous Chris said...

If we play poorly and lose on saturday after the huge publicity push the club has made, I shudder to think what out next league attendance will be when prices go back up to full.

Anyway, Barcelona, I can only imagine what it must be like to have a team like that to follow around every week. Even when you lose it's a moral victory. *sigh*

At 6:51 AM, Blogger Dave said...

What a horrible away kit though?

At 6:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was fortunate enough to watch Barcelona demolish Real Madrid 5-0. This Barcelona team is truly superb to watch. It is the finest footballing teams, I have ever seen. A joy to watch.

I know the comparisons between Barcelona and Charlton are tongue in cheek, but I think you give Matt Fry, too hard a time. He is a CB playing at LB. He has adequate pace for the CB role.


At 9:58 AM, Blogger ChicagoAddick said...

It's ok. Slater and Jiminez are waiting for the window to open so they can buy Barcelona's best player just like we did once before!

Btw, did you see Arsenal made 801 passes yesterday against Orient?


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