Tuesday, February 22, 2011

That Barcelona Theory

USSoccerPlayers writes about the Barcelona Theory:

It’s easy enough to bask in the synchronicity that is Barcelona’s regular game plan domestically and in the Champions League. In both instances, they’re usually spared the standard Major League Soccer defensive tactic of someone trying to step into every available passing lane. Instead, there’s room to move the ball around while the opposing defense tries to keep some semblance of shape.

Normally, Barcelona’s version of the Harlem Globetrotters’ Magic Circle creates enough opportunities for them to… you know… actually win the game. That didn’t happen at the Emirates Stadium in North London yesterday, and with that non-result the backlash.

Our English friends are responding as expected. Play up the home result we already know about while half-heartedly acknowledging that there’s a second game. There’s also the tendency to laugh at Barcelona’s vaunted ball movement when it meant them losing that first leg. After all, you can call yourself the superior team (hi Xavi) but it counts for little if you end up getting bounced out of the competition.

Still, it should be harder to play up Arsenal as having a convincing answer to Barcelona’s regular game. Winning a first-leg doesn’t mean beating a style. Nothing that Barcelona normally do over 90 or even 180 minutes has been left in tatters.

Barcelona remain that gifted team that puts them in the conversation with Milan of the early 90’s. It’s not just about shutting down most people’s pick for the best player in the World. It’s not about stifling their ball movement or somehow disrupting their game enough to force them into a disadvantage. It’s about throwing a different theory of what works at this level at them and getting a meaningful result.

It’s the meaningful part of result that should be tripping Arsenal up as they consider the Nou Camp next month. Arsenal took their opportunities on the counterattack, no question. Subbing on Andrei Arshavin in the 69th minute changed the game, but that’s not likely to work twice. Instead of adjusting, Barcelona kept moving the ball around. What happens when Barcelona sees they’re running out of time and make those adjustments?

All involved know that eventually that ends up with Barcelona putting that ball in the back of the net. All involved know Arsenal are the ones trying to figure out what might work twice while trying to figure out how to defend that lead. Arsenal got a result over 90 minutes, but it’s going to take another 90 to prove their point. Otherwise, this becomes a footnote if it’s Barcelona advancing to the next round.

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