How Barcelona and Xavi’s updated tactics could stun Man United

Xavi Hernandez already has a lifetime’s price of experiences for Barcelona towards Manchester United. However very important Thursday’s Europa League tie towards Erik Ten Hag’s workforce at Camp Nou may appear for the Blaugranas‘ instant future, it is going to merely be one other set of vibrant, passionate photographs for Xavi’s already bulging scrapbook.

The saturnine Catalan made the primary of his 151 Champions League appearances at Old Trafford in a rip-roaring 3-3 draw with Sir Alex Ferguson’s aspect almost 25 years in the past. He thought lengthy and arduous about accepting United’s supply to hitch them a few seasons later when he felt undesirable at Camp Nou and, after all, having misplaced the 2008 semifinal to United, he then produced two wins, and two assists, within the 2009 and 2011 Champions League finals towards Fergie’s groups in Rome and at Wembley.

There had been a few makes an attempt at prising the good midfielder, nicknamed “La Machina” (“the Machine”) by his teammates, away from Camp Nou, together with by Bayern Munich, who thought they’d captured him in 2014. But it is the temptation of that supply to change into the heartbeat of Ferguson’s United that he is been most frank about.

– Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, extra (U.S.)

Back in 2011, simply earlier than I wrote my e-book “Barca: The Making of the Greatest Team In the World,” Xavi instructed me about it. “There was a long time when I genuinely thought about accepting United’s offer. I needed a change of scenery and things were not going well for me at Barcelona.

“I’ve at all times felt an actual attachment to English soccer and Manchester United could be ‘my membership’ there. For an extended chunk of my profession, when it seemed to individuals like I used to be Pep Guardiola’s successor in midfield, I used to be made to really feel, by some, like an outsider, like a nasty man for taking up from the legendary captain.

“We are not good at handling change here [at Barca]. I hated all that debate about ‘me and Pep,’ and Louis van Gaal [then-Barcelona manager] wasn’t particularly tactful to put an 18-year-old kid through it. What eventually made the difference is that I’m as stubborn as a mule: I thought about moving to United, but I dug my heels in. I said to myself ‘I need to prove myself here!'”

Those two Champions League finals, by which Barcelona so comprehensively defeated United, would give delivery to a few the ultra-quotable Ferguson’s finest, most remembered expressions. Aside from his growl that Pep Guardiola’s Barca could “pass you to death,” the legendary Scot identified {that a} “mesmerising” midfield of Xavi, Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta — plus Lionel Messi, Gerard Pique, David Villa, Pedro, Thierry Henry or Samuel Eto’o at their peak — would “get you on that carousel and make you dizzy with their passing!”

It was an iconic expression for an iconic time when the 3-1 Wembley win, specifically, was handled, by the soccer group — not simply the media — as one of many all-time nice shows of soccer. Three-time European Cup/Champions League winner Graeme Souness stated: “I think everyone should be standing up and applauding.” Osvaldo Ardiles, a 1978 World Cup winner with Argentina added: “This Barca is the greatest team of all time.”

Roy Keane’s view, taking part in as Ferguson’s one-time midfield enforcer, was that “United came up against the best team ever,” whereas Ottmar Hitzfeld, who received the Champions League as Bayern Munich supervisor, famous that “this Barcelona is the most intelligent team of all time.”

World Cup and Champions League-winning coach Marcello Lippi stated it with much more authority: “There has never previously been a team which played like this in the history of football. We are watching an unique phenomenon.”

It was an unequalled and spontaneous outburst of reward from Barcelona’s friends because the Spanish aspect performed and perfected a model of soccer that each conquered and seduced the world. The level in reproducing all this, nonetheless, is to not induce nostalgia, however forward of one other Barca vs. Man United assembly, it is to distinction how in another way the Barcelona aspect coached by Xavi performs in comparison with the one which he dominated the midfield for and impressed to 2 trophy trebles, profitable such common reward.

Some of the fundamental rules stay untouched. Xavi’s Barcelona are an attacking aspect: no one in La Liga has scored extra, nor spent extra time within the opposition half. Barcelona’s press, a serious weapon, does not resemble that of the Guardiola workforce Xavi bossed from midfield: it takes place in numerous areas of the pitch, and it is fixed moderately than in explosive bursts, however opponents are discovering that it is as arduous to disentangle themselves from as United discovered it in 2009 and 2011.

Furthermore, as soon as Barca achieve possession, it is now used very in another way. LaLiga stats present that Xavi’s workforce go the ball round solely seven instances every time they’re in possession. Under Guardiola, with Xavi, Busquets and Iniesta in midfield, that “mesmerising” “conveyor belt” would zip the ball roughly double or treble that quantity per possession.

The motive? Well not like Guardiola, Xavi desires the ball moved ahead, vertically, with rather more fast intent; he does not consider that fixed circulation of the ball earlier than making an attempt to divide and conquer the opponent “sets” his workforce in the proper positional order. Instead, this iteration of Barcelona locations a excessive worth on profitable the ball and then immediately blitzing their opponents with both sharp, ahead passing or driving runs from midfield through Gavi, Pedri or Frenkie de Jong.

There was an instantaneous throughout Barcelona’s win at Villarreal, which put them 11 factors away from Madrid on the prime of the desk, when Gavi, on the break, handed to a free teammate. Xavi, doing the identical touchline dance that any annoyed supervisor may have recognised, leapt about in fury earlier than indicating, with blistering readability, that he’d needed his younger midfield prodigy to drive on the retreating Villarreal central defenders with the ball at his ft. He did not need him to go.

We are speaking nuances and particulars, however issues are very totally different.

Xavi would possibly name it model 2.0. The concepts he performed beneath are being “updated” and imposed to suit what the 43-year-old believes is a distinct footballing panorama. These days, Xavi feels rival groups are much less usually damaged aside by fixed, mesmerising use of possession, and extra undone once they’re caught at velocity, making an attempt to re-organise after being pressed and robbed.

If, as we titled the movie of my Barca e-book, Guardiola’s period was “Take the ball … pass the ball,” Xavi’s period is much more about “Take the ball … burst forward at the opponent!” The concept is that it is up-tempo, up-field and even up within the air, which brings us to one of many two issues that most likely stands out most of all.

First, when Xavi was taking part in for Guardiola, it was completely prohibited for the keeper as well the ball lengthy from aim kicks. At all prices, Barcelona handed it out from the again within the hope of dragging the opponent’s entrance line in the direction of them and creating house in behind. Goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, whereas beating Villarreal, repeated the tactic that had stood out like a sore thumb towards Real Madrid in Barcelona’s latest 3-1 Spanish Supercopa win: he would hold kicking the ball lengthy for diminutive gamers like Gavi and Pedri to attempt to compete for towards considerably taller rivals, with Barcelona then making an attempt to win “second” or “third” balls when the aerial problem resulted in free possession.



How ‘intimidating’ Ten Hag is bringing again Man United’s worry issue

Mark Ogden and Luis Miguel Echegaray clarify how Erik ten Hag’s managerial presence is lastly serving to Manchester United again to the highest.

Two examples: Gavi is small at 5-foot-8, however he is in LaLiga’s prime 10 midfielders in relation to profitable aerial duels (24), and he has received a whopping 63% of the jumps for the ball he has contested with opponents.

The different factor is that no one in LaLiga has received the ball within the rival’s half greater than Pedri (42). Ter Stegen hoofs the ball upfield, Gavi leaps for it, Pedri picks up the crumbs. It was totally unthinkable when Xavi was Guardiola’s midfield normal, however it’s totally efficient proper now. At least in LaLiga, anyway.

Before Sunday’s 1-0 win, Barcelona hadn’t “lost” the general ball possession to any workforce. Villarreal received that individual duel with 54% of the ball, although the Yellow Submarine had extra passes, and extra correct passes, than Xavi’s workforce as effectively.

Back when Barcelona commonly put Manchester United to the sword, any such stats could be the reason for wailing, gnashing of enamel and beating of chests amongst followers. Now, with an 11-point lead on the prime of the desk (and 17 video games left) plus the Spanish Supercopa already safely stashed within the trophy cupboard, it barely raises an eyebrow as a result of Xavi’s workforce is profitable.

After the Villarreal match, Xavi stated “we are in a good, perhaps perfect, moment in defence, the intensity the high pressure.” Zero point out of possession or passing, or certainly something about use of the ball.

Instead, Xavi was all about angle, mentality and about what to do when Barcelona do not have the ball. “We are in the best moment since I came here as a coach,” he stated, including that “now we have to change the mentality for the Europa League … we have to show our best level against Manchester United.”

I’m wondering: does he imply that towards a workforce used to being pressed, and that’s delighted to be requested to win bodily, aerial duels, dwelling for these athletic, aggressive contests each weekend within the Premier League, the “change” Xavi may be referring to could contain transferring Barcelona’s method again, a little bit, in the direction of the Guardiola concept?

Should we anticipate Barcelona to take the ball and go the ball at Camp Nou on Thursday? We’ll simply have to attend and see.

Source link

Related Articles

Back to top button