Evolution Of Barcelona’s game and its weaknesses.
The way FC Barcelona play has over the past three or so years has wowed people over and has left their opponents bewildered. Their entire style of play centres around one core aspect- Possession.
Barcelona can keep possession better than any other team in the world. It’s a very simple concept, For the other team to score, they need to get hold of the ball. As long as Barcelona have the ball, the other team is helpless. This style of football developed as a result of the shortcomings of "Total Football" developed by Rinus Michels , manager of Ajax in the seventies. When Johan Cruyff, who played for Ajax moved to Barcelona, he brought the style of play with him, and led to the formation of the so called dream team.
Now in the 1974 world cup final the Netherlands played West Germany. During the tournament, the Netherlands had coasted through their first and second round matches, defeating Argentina (4–0), East Germany (2–0) and Brazil (2–0) and were seen as tournament favourites. In the final, Cruyff kicked off and the ball was passed around Orange thirteen times before returning to Cruyff, who then went on a rush that eluded Berti Vogts and ended when he was fouled by Uli Hoeneß. The referee awarded the penalty and teammate Johan Neeskens scored from the spot kick to give the Netherlands a 1–0 lead with 80 seconds of play elapsed, and the Germans not even touching the ball. Cruyff's playmaking influence was stifled in the second half of the match by the effective marking of Berti Vogts, while Franz Beckenbauer, Uli Hoeneß, and Wolfgang Overath dominated midfield, enabling West Germany to win 2–1. The match showed one fatal flaw with the system of Total Football. The German team was compact and rigid and broke with pace. ( It is advisable to watch the match). Total Football was vulnerable to the extremely direct style of play employed by the Germans. Cruyff was denied a world cup and when he returned to Barcelona as a manager he built upon total football and developed a system that included the positional interchangeability of Total Football, but used a more conventional system while defending. Often a sweeper was employed and a 3-4-3 formation was used. This system won Barcelona their first European cup/ champion’s league in 1992 and one of the most important member of the dream team was a certain Josep Guardiola. Guardiola shared a close relationship Cruyff, which bears resemblance to the relationship shared between Xavi and Guardiola. It only seems natural that after retiring, Xavi will manage Barcelona. Guardiola played as holding midfielder and when he returned to coach the Barcelona first team, he brought his ideas with him. The team under Frank Rijkaard had plenty of flair with Ronaldinho at the center of things. Under Guardiola the team became more disciplined and pressed higher up the pitch and focused on keeping possession. In the 2008/09 season Barcelona won the treble playing their possession style of football coupled with high pressing. In the 2009/10 season, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic coming in for Samuel Eto ( worst deal of recent times in my opinion) Barcelona became a tad bit more direct. However thanks to a certain Inter team under Jose Mourinho, they only won one trophy that season. In the 2010/11, with Villa replacing Ibrahimovic who shared a feisty relationship with Guardiola, came the next stage in the evolution of Barcelonas style of play. Villa a pure striker was employed on the wings and Messi was played as the false No.9. That season Barcelona won the league and the champions league, but lost the copa del rey (that night at the Mestella). This season Guardiola has reverted back to Cruyff 3-4-3 system in order to counter teams who press high up the pitch ( 3-1 loss at the Bernabeu in the league). But on closer inspection of Barcelonas style of play, especially now with Adriano playing in place of Abidal, the following formation is seen:
The WW system
The wing backs push very high up and almost act as extra midfielders. In all probability this is the system Guardiola will use in the next classico. This system has some obvious benefits which include a very strong midfield as with Messi dropping deep, you essentially get a 6 man midfield. However the defence is vulnerable to quick direct play , the same weakness that led to Cruyffs team being beaten in the 1974 final and the same thing that Real Madrid have in abundance.
Exploiting this weakness
Real Madrid must learn from that world cup match. A physically fit and quick side must be selected and the team must be well drilled together and trust each other. All of this will happen naturally as the squad play together.
This would be the ideal team if such a system were to be played. Under this system, Madrid would surrender the majority of the possession and remain compact and when given the chance break with pace. Mourinho may use this if Madrid can get an early goal against Barcelona.
I am currently working on a series called "Know Thy Foe" which predictably deals with Barcelona.
So What do you guys think. Let me know in the comments.