Monday, October 17, 2011

Positions Don't Exist

There were a couple of interesting comments on Barça and the evolution of modern soccer earlier this week. First, from Phil Ball:
Cesc Fabregas succeeded in England because he chose to operate in an area that was neither midfield nor forward, in the no-man's land 'between lines', as the Spanish say. He wreaked havoc there for several seasons, especially when he was joined by others who also prefer this zone, like Samir Nasri and more recently Jack Wilshere. Sometimes it was hard to see just what Fabregas' secret was, but it was an ability to switch direction, pass accurately long or short, and never signal to defenders what his real intentions were. Simple but true - and it can't be taught. Now he's joined a Barcelona side that possess two supreme exponents of the media punta art, Andres Iniesta and Leo Messi, and has consequently added to the destructive weaponry that the Catalans can unleash on almost all who attempt to oppose them.
I read somewhere recently that Barcelona are playing a 4-6 formation, or at times 3-7 (depending on how you want to define Dani Alves), without a striker. Seven midfielders? Yes - I would buy into that theory. David Villa and Pedro often operate like midfielders, with the proviso being that they will run into the forward space first, before the others. But the term 'midfielder' is misleading in a system like Barcelona's. Their fluidity of movement, often using three media punta players who flit and fly around the more static Xavi in a sort of hypnotic, unpredictable dance, simply destroys defences that have grown up on the idea that the opposition will consist of a set of players whose movements and zonal play will be more or less limited to specific areas of the pitch.
Second, and illustrating the first, Racing coach Héctor Cuper:
"They have everything, they've broken the mould. To add something new, I'd say they are a team without equal. At times the forwards are in midfield and vice versa, and the defenders become the most dangerous forwards. "Can anybody tell me whether [Sergio] Busquets is a defender or midfield player, whether [Lionel] Messi is a winger, striker, midfield player, or plays just behind the strikers, not to mention [Javier] Mascherano. I've always said that perfection doesn't exist, but Barca are the closest I've ever seen."
Lastly, the back-and-forth between Messi and Iniesta that set up the first goal against Racing was insane. Messi's finish was also sublime.

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