In a battle between David (Chelsea) and Goliath (Barcelona), David was able to prevail, resulting in a Champions League final appearance.
In their past three matches, Barcelona have not resembled the team that has dominated both Spain and European competitions. Even though they rack up an astounding amount of possession, what good is possession if you can’t score? Barcelona has become known for their possession-dominating, short-passing style, and it has successfully won them many trophies. The problem with the players they have and style they play is that they have no back-up plan. If they aren’t able to break down defenses with their passes, they just continually try and hope to eventually succeed. They also try to pass the ball into the net at times, with players afraid to take shots from distance. That is why a player like Zlatan Ibrahimovic was an asset to a team like Barcelona. If there original approach failed, they could bring on Ibrahimovic to add size. This allowed them to put crosses into the box to someone who actually had a chance of winning them.
This is precisely what happened against Chelsea today in the Champions League; Barcelona ran out of ideas when their short passes couldn’t break down the defense. Chelsea was able to get bodies in front of Barcelona and was resilient in defense. This game proved that Barcelona needs a second plan of attack. All of the players in the current squad are too similar.
In the two games that were played between Barcelona and Chelsea, Barcelona dominated in every category except goals. They had more possession, more passes, more shots, etc., however, Chelsea decided to play the exact opposite of how Barcelona plays; direct. Chelsea would defend strongly, send the ball up to either Drogba or Torres and hope for a goal on a counter. They were direct and scored three goals as a result, while having less than 20 percent of the possession. This has earned them a coveted spot in the Champions League final.
While it is impressive that Chelsea were able to stun Barcelona, I do not think that Chelsea’s style was what teams should aspire to nor do I think Barcelona will fall off the map after being bounced from the Champions League and most likely placing second in La Liga. Chelsea parked the bus, plain and simple. Even though it is an extremely negative way to play the game, it is effective. If a team like Barcelona, who love possession, want to play around with the ball without creating great opportunities, why not let them pass around, especially when Barcelona’s defense has let up goals on the counter-attack.
It would also be ignorant of anyone to think Barcelona is not a great team anymore after an off year or that Pep Guardiola is suddenly a bad manager. When you have players like Xavi, Iniesta and Messi in your side, you are still a good team no matter what happens.
During the off-season, Barcelona need to look at the squad they assembled and assess the weaknesses. Sometimes playing beautiful soccer does not result in wins and there needs to be a back-up plan. Chelsea and Real Madrid have now shown Barcelona that being direct can be a good thing from time-to-time. After all, being direct is what helped those teams beat mighty Barcelona.
Written By: Eric Stoyanov, Contributing Writer, soccerprose.com
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