Most football supporters know the name Simon Kuper, here is an interesting article by the award winning author over the secrets to Barcelona's success.
I tend to agree with everything except the last point as various footballers have managed to get used to the Barcelona style of play, David Villa is not as prolific in goal scoring terms since he is now positioned out wide instead of being the main man but when you have Messi doing miracles every week you can't really argue.
Also Pedro is a an incredible good footballer but because he is rather low key in such a great team he never gets the plaudits he deserves but I would take him for Liverpool in a millisecond.
The original article can be seen at http://www.miostadium.com/opinions/s...soccer-success
BARCELONA'S SECRET TO SOCCER SUCCESS
March 22, 2012
We all see that Barcelona are brilliant. The only problem is understanding just how they do it. That’s where my friend Albert Capellas comes in. Whenever he and I run into each other somewhere in Europe, we talk about Barça. Not many people know the subject better. Capellas is now assistant manager at Vitesse Arnhem in Holland, but before that he was coordinator of Barcelona’s great youth academy, the Masia. He helped bring a boy named Sergio Busquets from a rough local neighbourhood to Barça. He trained Andres Iniesta and Victor Valdes in their youth teams. In all, Capellas worked nine years for his hometown club.
During our last conversation, over espressos in an Arnhem hotel, I had several “Aha” moments. I have watched Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona umpteen times, but only now am I finally beginningto see. Guardiola’s Barcelona are great not merely because they have great players. They also have great tactics – different not just from any other team today, but also different from Barcelona teams pre-Guardiola. Barça are now so drilled on the field that in some ways they are more like an American gridiron football team than a soccer one.
Before getting into the detail of their game, it’s crucial to understand just how much of it comes from Guardiola. When a Barcelona vice president mused to me four years ago that she’d like to see the then 37-year-old Pep be made head coach, I never imagined it would happen. Guardiola was practically a novice. The only side he had ever coached was Barça’s second team. However, people in the club who had worked with him – men like the club’s then president Joan Laporta, and the then director of football Txiki Beguiristain - had already clocked him as special. Not only did Guardiola know Barcelona’s house style inside out. He also knew how it could be improved.
Guardiola once compared Barcelona’s style to a cathedral. Johan Cruijff, he said, as Barça’s supreme player in the 1970s and later as coach, had built the cathedral. The task of those who came afterwards was to renovate and update it. Guardiola is always looking for updates. If a random person in the street says something interesting about the game, Guardiola listens. He thinks about football all the time. He took ideas from another Dutch Barcelona manager, Louis van Gaal, but also from his years playing for Brescia and Roma in Italy, the home of defence. Yet because Guardiola has little desire to explain his ideas to the media, you end up watching Barça without a codebook.
Cruijff was perhaps the most original thinker in football’s history, but most of his thinking was about attack. He liked to say that he didn’t mind conceding three goals, as long as Barça scored five. Well, Guardiola also wanted to score five, but he minded conceding even one. If Barcelona is a cathedral, Guardiola has added the buttresses. In Barça’s first 28 league games this season, they have let in only 22 goals. Here are some of “Pep”’s innovations, or the secrets of FC Barcelona:
1. Pressure on the ball
Before Barcelona played Manchester United in the Champions League final at Wembley last May, Alex Ferguson said that the way Barça pressured their opponents to win the ball back was “breathtaking”. That, he said, was Guardiola’s innovation. Ferguson admitted that United hadn’t known how to cope with it in the Champions League final in Rome in 2009. He thought it would be different at Wembley. It wasn’t.
Barcelona start pressing (hunting for the ball) the instant they lose possession. That is the perfect time to press because the opposing player who has just won the ball is vulnerable. He has had to take his eyes off the game to make his tackle or interception, and he has expended energy. That means he is unsighted, and probably tired. He usually needs two or three seconds to regain his vision of the field. So Barcelona try to dispossess him before he can give the ball to a better-placed teammate.
Furthermore, if the guy won the ball back in his own defence, and Barcelona can instantly win it back again, then the way to goal is often clear. This is where Lionel Messi’s genius for tackling comes in. The little man has such quick reflexes that he sometimes wins a tackle a split-second after losing one.
The Barcelona player who lost the ball leads the hunt to regain it. But he never hunts alone. His teammates near the ball join him. If only one or two Barça players are pressing, it’s too easy for the opponent to pass around them.
2. The “five-second rule”
If Barça haven’t won the ball back within five seconds of losing it, they then retreat and build a compact ten-man wall. The distance between the front man in the wall (typically Messi) and their last defender (say, Carles Puyol) is only 25 to 30 metres. It’s hard for any opponent to pass their way through such a small space. The Rome final was a perfect demonstration of Barcelona’s wall: whenever United won the ball and kept it, they faced eleven precisely positioned opponents, who stood there and said, in effect: “Try and get through this.”
It’s easy for Barcelona to be compact, both when pressing and when drawing up their wall, because their players spend most of the game very near each other. Xavi and Iniesta in particular seldom stray far from the ball. Cruijff recently told the former England manager Steve McClaren, now with FC Twente in Holland: "Do you know how Barcelona win the ball back so quickly? It's because they don't have to run back more than 10 metres as they never pass the ball more than 10 metres."
3. More rules of pressing
Once Barcelona have built their compact wall, they wait for the right moment to start pressing again. They don’t choose the moment on instinct. Rather, there are very precise prompts that tell them when to press. One is if an opponent controls the ball badly. If the ball bounces off his foot, he will need to look downwards to locate it, and at that moment he loses his overview of the pitch. That’s when the nearest Barcelona players start hounding him.
There’s another set prompt for Barça to press: when the opposing player on the ball turns back towards his own goal. When he does that, he narrows his options: he can no longer pass forward, unless Barcelona give him time to turn around again. Barcelona don’t give him time. Their players instantly hound the man, forcing him to pass back, and so they gain territory.
4. The “3-1 rule”
If an opposing player gets the ball anywhere near Barcelona’s penalty area, then Barça go Italian. They apply what they call the “3-1 rule”: one of Barcelona’s four defenders will advance to tackle the man with the ball, and the other three defenders will assemble in a ring about two or three metres behind the tackler. That provides a double layer of protection. Guardiola picked this rule up in Italy. It’s such a simple yet effective idea that you wonder why all top teams don’t use it.