Clubs, FC Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain

Barcelona dominate PSG, again.

I’ll be completely honest – the first leg of Barcelona vs. PSG was somewhat of a joke: Ibrahimovic, Saurez LuizPSG’s world class striker: suspended… Verratti, PSG’s pace-setting-midfielder: also out… Thiago Silva, PSG’s world class defender: came off early with an injury… His replacement David Luiz (fresh off an injury): did not look fit for the pace of the game. And, this caused a total lack of team chemistry, and it showed – Barcelona had 68% possession in that first matchup, and Luis Saurez made their entire defense seem (and feel) insanely ill-equipped with his spectacular goals. In summation, PSG didn’t have a proper go at Barcelona in the first leg, and this lead me to believe that in the second leg they would come out swinging. Against Chelsea, the shear tenacity of their players lead them to victory – but in this game, they were just outmatched, and outclassed.

Ever since Xavi’s been replaced in the starting lineup with Rakatic, Iniesta has experienced somewhat of a revival – and the way he set up Neymar’s first goal today is purely an example of that. Rakatic tracks back and it gives Iniesta and their defensive unit cover in ways that Xavi wasn’t able to do over the last couple years as he’s gotten older. When Mascharano plays defensive mid for Barcelona, both Iniesta and Rakatic are more easily able to attack with reckless abandon, but I believe Enrique started Busquets today because he’s a but more technically savvy than Javier at maintaining possession. But back to Iniesta… in his golden days he used to glide through defenses with unbelievable precision, and I truly thought he lost that ability as he’s gotten older, but it seems as though he can still turn on the flair. Neymar Second Goal

Over the last couple years Barca have been rebuilding… and last year, Xavi was no longer himself, Neymar was still settling into the club… and they simply didn’t have time to jell together as a team. This year, Neymar has completed his transition into a left forward, Messi has gone back to his right forward position – where he started his career – and no longer needs to exhibit the work rate of a center striker, because that’s where Saurez comes in. Furthermore, at the right forward position, Messi is more likely to come into midfield to set-up his teammates for the attack, something that he does better than anybody else in the world.

PSG have a lot to work on, they truly missed Thiago Silva again, and the injury that’s kept Luca Moura out has been devastating. He is truly a player that needs to be used more – not many players can dribble through teams like he can, and the offense needs to work through him. The next round of the Champions league will be one to watch, especially as Barca continues to roll through the competition, let me know if you think they (or another team) are the favorite in the poll below.

FC Barcelona Logo

Advertisements
Standard
Clubs, FC Barcelona

The El Clasico Review

I know I’m a little late here, but the El Clasico was unbelievably defining, not just for Real Madrid, but more so for Barcelona. They had so many opportunities to score during this match, and they will continue to have more opportunities as long as Luis Enrique doesn’t switch back to his rotational lineup. The cohesion that Barca displayed was top-notch, and Messi, despite ending the game without a goal, lit up the soccer world with his performance at the right wing/forward position (where he started his career).Messi El Clasico

While Rakatic and Mascherano ran up and down the field constantly, Iniesta was free to be a bit more creative, and while he no longer glides and shifts like he used to, he still was able to spot the correct passes throughout the game. Rakatic would support the team in attack when necessary, and Mascherano seemed content playing back in front of the center backs, leaving Dani Alves and Jordi Alba the chance to do what they do best (support up the flanks).

Real weren’t terrible… in the first half. In fact, the game should have been a draw – considering Bale was onside for his “offside” goal. That being said, for the most part, Real were lethargic, despite a moment of sheer brilliance by Benzema to setup Ronaldo with his goal. Ronaldo had one more opportunity earlier, but he just couldn’t finish as the post denied him the brace.

Real seemed to miss something this game: Isco and Modric are great players, but they’re not pacey, and they’re certainly not able to produce speedy runs like Di Maria, or just put themselves in the perfect position to score goals like James Rodriguez. And Kroos is like Xabi Alonso, but much more attack oriented (which can be good, but not against quality teams like Barcelona). Real will need James moving forward, and they will need Modric to get back to full fitness since his injury – while he has been playing well, he doesn’t look as great as he was last year. It will be interesting to see how the calm Ancelotti handles his team moving forward, especially considering Bale’s lack of form. Saurez El Clasico Goal

Barca on the other hand… Suarez is the missing link on that team – he finishes chances with such precision, and he has the pace and technique to keep up with both Messi and Neymar. I’d go as far as to say he’s just as good a dribbler as Neymar (call me crazy). Barca seem to be on a roll, and with Messi being used on the right, and coming back into midfield to help create chances, Barca truly look unstoppable at the moment.

FC Barcelona Logo

Standard
Clubs, FC Barcelona

Messi is not being played right, and neither is Barcelona

I know it’s been a while since I posted an article, and I apologize for that, I recently started a new job and I’ve been rather busy – but let’s get back to football, too much has happened over the last couple months. I’m going to start with Barcelona…

The situation at Camp Nou is dire, but it’s not as dire as the media will have you believe. Barcelona are still alive in every competition, and their team, although aging, has more than enough talent to survive another transferless window… but, the real question (and the only question) that one must ask: Why isn’t Enrique managing his players correctly!?

Luis Enrique Blog PhotoLuis Enrique’s defiance is somewhat unfounded — when has a constant rotation of players in and out of the starting lineup ever created team cohesion on the field… and in the locker room? You can make the argument that the genius Josep used to rotate players all the time, and still does at FC Bayern, but lets be honest people – he doesn’t do it after he’s figured out what’s working (except of course for his tactical blunder against Real last year in the Champions Cup). But anyway, the issue with Enrique is that he doesn’t know what’s working, and he’s not giving himself the chance to find out.

There is no doubt that the arrivals of Ivan Rakatic and Jérémy Mathieu were much needed, but it’s unbelievable that Enrique would constantly rotate Rakatic in and out the starting lineup, especially with the older, former stalwarts Xavi and Iniesta and not allow for Mathieu to get comfortable in the center of the defense in a partnership with Pique! Let me explain why…. two reasons: 1) I don’t often agree with Sergio Busquets, but Barcelona do need to be taller and more physical, so they must allow Pique and Mathieu to play at center back together, and 2) did anyone not see how effing spectacular Javier Mascherano played at his natural position, defensive midfielder this past summer at the World Cup? If he were to play in front of Pique and Mathieu, they would be an extremely fearsome and aggressive group. Furthermore, at a deep defensive mid position, Masherano would allow for Alves and Alba to do what they do best, attack from the back.

Messi and Rakatic pic for blogLet’s continue… supposing that Enrique gets his act together and plays Pique, Mathieu, Masherano, Alba and Alves the way I suggested… Barcelona still need to get there act together at midfield too, where I believe they are a still working to find a rhythm.  With Xavi and Iniesta getting older, and less mobile, Enrique needs to allow Rakatic to develop a role in Barcelona’s offense, rather than have Barcelona’s offense dictate what role he plays. Last year, when Rakatic played for Sevilla, he was one of the best midfielders in La Liga, and this year he always deserves a place in the starting lineup in every game for Barca. Because Rakatic does not possess the flair, creativity and and shiftiness of an Iniesta, he should play in front of Mascherano, where he would add height to a team that desperately needs it. Furthermore, he is young and plays with a level of vitality unseen in Xavi these days, and he would truly engine the attackers in front of him. Now to the top of Barca’s attack…

Barcelona’s attackers are lucky, they are so unbelievably talented that I don’t think it’s an issue for them toIMG_7437 speedily develop cohesion. That said, I do believe that they need to play roles that befit them, and not ones that center around what Messi wants to do. Let me explain, when Messi was rising in ranks, and won his four straight Ballon D’or trophies, he played a position that best benefitted the team. He started off on the right wing/forward in his early days (with Ronaldinho and Eto’o), and then moved to the false nine where he thrived most, and then over the last couple years has tried acting as a true number nine, which has had really unfortunate affects. Messi is best when he has space to operate with, and as a false nine under Guardiola, he dictated play so naturally that it was a role born for him, and him only. That said, last year he seemed to wonder aimlessly around the the box, waiting for his teammates to create brilliance that would unleash his goal scoring prowess — the two issues with that are clear, Iniesta no longer plays at the level he used to (so he can’t create as he used to), and in the false nine, Messi wouldn’t have to wait/rely on teammates to unleash him for goals, he would do it himself, and unleash the team around him.

Luis Enrique needs to realize that above all else. Alejandro Sabella realized it going into the summer’s world cup — he let Messi be the creator and the scorer, and reaped the benefits from it (so did Di Maria and Higuaín) as they reached the final against Germany. Furthermore, I mentioned this before, we all saw how Sabella unleashed Mascherano at the defensive mid, position, a role that he plays better than anyone else in the entire world. Enrique needs to realize this, and allow for Messi to take a similar role at Barcelona, where he’s lucky to have better attacking talent than that on Argentina this summer. He must be the Luis Saurez pic for blogmagician, and the scorer. As far as I’m concerned, as long as Messi plays the false nine, Neymar, Saurez and Pedro are all interchangeable at the left and right wing, and attacking mid position behind the false nine and in front of Rakatic. Basquets, Xavi, Iniesta all have great experience off the bench, and the young starlet El Hadadi is also worth a bench spot to add a spark when needed… But I don’t think he will have to, if Barcelona plays as I described. Otherwise, his players, his career, and his Barcelona team, will continue to underperform. The time is now to create cohesion, especially without the ability to buy players through this, and the next transfer window… If he fails, players will continue to grab at their head… If I were on the Barca board, I’d beg Alejandro Sabella to coach the team, he got the best out of Messi and Mascherano on Argentina, and could surely do the same for Barcelona.

Do you agree with my tactical ideas for Barcelona? Please let me know in the comments section below! I’ll be sure to respond! And feel free to answer the poll question below.

FC Barcelona Logo

Standard
FC Barcelona

Biting Barcelona!

Saurez Barca pic for blogHere is the question: Is Luis Suarez exactly what Barcelona need? I truly don’t know, but I also don’t doubt Suarez’s ambition and drive as a player –  he’s been the best player in the premier league for the past two years and considered a top five striker in the world… but does he fit into Barcelona’s team? Let’s examine…

When Zlatan Ibrahimovic arrived at Camp Nou I was very Zlatan Barca pic for blogexcited, I thought his technical prowess and height would be extremely helpful on a team with a bunch of shorter and faster players, and that he would finish off their moves both on the ground and in the air. Upon Zlatan’s arrival at Barca he was considered a World Class striker (he still is now), yet he didn’t fit into Barcelona’s scheme. He is extremely physically gifted, but his style of play didn’t fit in with his team’s. He was an individual amongst team players that had grown up together at La Masia, Barcelona’s youth academy. Ultimately Zlatan didn’t end up finishing moves on Barca’s attack, but rather, he ended up slowing them down – and because of this, he left the club a couple seasons later. In other words, Samuel Eto’o was a better fit than Zlatan in Barcelona’s system. That said though, it’s worth noting that Zlatan wasn’t a good fit for other reasons as well – supposedly his personality didn’t mesh well with Guardiola’s, plus – the team wasn’t his, it was Messi’s, and I’m sure this was a point of contention for both players…

La Masia pic for blogAnyways, let’s examine Suarez in comparison: 1, For the first time in a long time La Masia graduates will not be dominating Barcelona’s first team this season, so Luís Enrique won’t have an issue with fitting him into a system, but instead he’ll be able to start fresh and create his own system of play that hopefully will benefit Suarez as Barca look to move past Tika-Taka and into new waters. 2, Saurez doesn’t seem to have much of an ego, he knew Liverpool was Gerard’s team and he respected that, so I don’t think Messi will have an issue with him but rather, they’ll drive each other to play better. Furthermore, when Saurez is on the pitch he always plays the game with a stern love, determination, and anger – an anger that I think will benefit Barca and drive their players to new heights and breathe life into Barca’s fan, especially after last years terrible campaign. 3, Saurez fits in culturally, and will have no issue transitioning to the Spanish lifestyle – plus being Uruguayan, he speaks Spanish, and this will surely benefit his ability to get to know both his teammates and fans better.

Now, while that all sounds very positive, the question remains whether or not he can fit in at Barca tactically? Now, this is a really difficult question to answer considering that we don’t know what tactics Luis Enrique will employ this year – if he employs a 4-3-3 as Barca has for the last decade, It’s difficult to say where Messi, Saurez and Neymar would fit in as they are all best in a center forward position. Neymar thrives in a free roaming attacking mid/striker role for Brazil, and Saurez thrived at Liverpool playing in e two striker formation with Sturridge supporting his attack… and, Messi has set many scoring records playing as a center forward for Barca over the last couple years.

Luis Enrique pic for blog 2Luis Enrique has a lot to think about. That said, if I were to guess, Messi would stay at center forward, Neymar would take left forward, and Saurez the right. If I were to pick a starting lineup though, I would use Saurez in the middle, Messi on the right as he used to play very effectively as a right forward during the Eto’o days, and Neymar in a free roaming left wing/attacking mid role. In this way Neymar can help lead an attack from midfield as he does for Brazil and also utilize his playmaking to feed Messi and Saurez, almost in a way that allows them to be a striking partnership.Ivan Rakatic would play attacking mid with Iniesta and if Barca knew what was good for them, they’d employ Mascherano at defensive mid and rid Busquets of that duty as I don’t believe he has the ability to disrupt the opponents attacks. Behind the midfield, Barcelona need to bolster their defense with a new Center back, especially as Marquinhos’ transfer has been halted by PSG management for now.

I’m excited to find out how Saurez fits in at Barcelona, but I’m even more thrilled at the prospect of Barca deviating from their Tika-Taka ways with their new manager and players. But back to the original question: Will Saurez fit in and be a success at Barcelona? I say yes. Let me know what you think in the poll question below.

FC Barcelona Logo

Standard
FC Barcelona

Puyol’s replacement? Who should Barca buy?

It goes without saying that soccer has changed a lot over the last decade, it really has evolved to a point where attacking football is now sometimes viewed as the newest and best form of defense. That point is purely evident by taking a look at the most successful club and international teams over the past decade, Spain, and FC Barcelona.

Center Back Pic for blog

Both teams employed a Tika-Taka system that kept possession of the ball and gradually tired out their opponents to a point of submission (leaving very little for their own team’s defenders to do aside from passing the ball forward to their midfielders). All that being said, it seems Tika-Taka may have ran it’s course as evidenced by Spain’s failure to defend against the blistering pace of Brazil’s counter attack at the confederations cup, and Bayern’s humbling loss to Real’s similarly rough and tumble yet somehow systematic counter-attack in the Champions league semi-finals this year. Furthermore, both losses have pointed out something more interesting than the supposed death of tike-taka: The death of the pure defender, a player so sound that he alone can stonewall a counter-attack (or any attack) through brash ingenuity.

The pure central defender is hard to find these days amongst those considered to be some of the Puyol Blog Picbest at that position…  Vincent Kompany, Pique, Thiago Silva, Ramos, David Luiz, Koscielny (Dislaimer: Yes I know two are Spanish, and two are Brazilian, and perhaps Hummels is pushing slightly) are all very technically sound, and, in some ways, lack that killer defensive instinct inherent to central defenders that dominated the game throughout the 2000’s… Puyol, Cannavaro, Nesta, Maldini, Thuram, Sol Campbell, Lucio, Walter Samuel…

In short, I miss all of those players a lot, and not because they are legends, but because they all represent an era that now almost seems ancient to the modern footballer, and football fan… and that hurts. (But, because football is so enigmatic decade to decade, I think we’ll see a new reliance on defense, and a new generation of pure defenders… or at least I hope). 

Going out on a limb here, I’m going to make the claim that had a healthy (and young) Puyol been on Spain’s 2013 Confederations cup squad, they would have beat Brazil… Here’s why: Puyol’s brilliance is derived from many qualities, but one quality that stands out far more than the others is his ability to purely and instinctively defend (without any desire or want to attack). And, purely relying on his defensive instinct, he saved both Barcelona and Spain on countless occasions with his last ditch tackles, positional awareness, and most of all, brash ingenuity.

Aside from Terry, Vidic (who are old and practically done), Georgio Chillieni and I hate to say it, but maybe even Pepe (when he’s focused and decides to be ultra-defensive and doesn’t flail around on the ground as if he’s on fire after being nudged ever so slightly by another player), I’m unsure if I can name many other players as purely defensive as the aforementioned ones that ruled the 2000’s… and this brings me to another discussion… Who should Barcelona buy to plant next to Pique in the center of their defense? It’s a perplexing question because I’m of the belief that they need someone purely defensive, although there really aren’t many players that fit that mold anymore (as is the point of this article). But, I can say that I wouldn’t try to sign David Luiz because they need someone more defensive-minded.

A couple of  candidates that I would suggest, Holger Badstuber, Matts Hummels, Eliaquim Mangala, Marquinhos (If you have a suggestion, let me know in the comments section)

FC Barcelona Logo

Standard