FC Barcelona: An Irresistable Force of Nature
Some four weeks ago, I published an article indicating the loopholes in the Catalan defense. Ironically, ever since then, Barca have only conceded two goals in all competitions and have even become more destructive in attack.
Teams in Barcelona's way have been given lessons in football and most of these lessons have been tough days in class. So what is Barcelona doing right? How has it become more lethal than an F5 tornado?
The Three Musketeers
The front line has been totally unforgiving in front of goal. The three of them have together, up to date, found the back of the net on 85 occasions:
The Frenchman, who struggled to click into the system last season has really made the left forward position his own this season. Linking well with Eto'o and Messi, he has shown shades of the brilliance he was known for in his Arsenal days.
The current pichichi in La Liga—who almost left the Nou Camp last season—has been instrumental in attack, bagging 26 goals in the league alone and has found his way back to the throne as arguably the most lethal striker in world football.
Undoubtedly the world's number one by miles, 'Little Lionel" has been breathtaking so far, while littering the season with some of the finest solo goals. His unrivaled dribbling and creativity has set platform for his involvement in 51 Barcelona goals thus far (32 goals + 19 assists).
It is often the offensive three who get all the attention but the truth is that Barcelona's midfield has been the most key factor in the dismantling of opponents. All three members in the middle of the park have brought three distinct factors to the play of Barcelona.
While he has been occasionally criticised for being too involved in attack while being a defensive midfielder, the versatile Ivorian has settled down in recent times and has given the midfield what can be seen as the solid factor. This certainly has helped the defense leak less goals while offense has not been compromised.
Being at the very heart of the Catalan play, Xavi is certainly the main component in Barca's possession keeping strategy. Constantly finding passes; both long and short, back and forth while making sure that the pitch is stretched as wide as possible, he certainly gives Barcelona the control factor.
Possessing many of the attributes of his compatriot Xavi, Iniesta also give the extra gas in the midfield to fuel the attack. His phenomenal intelligence and vision allows him to read the motion of the attacking teammates while providing some simply delicious through-balls.
But his ability to run at defenders and dribble past then allows him to give the midfield the final attribute, which is the dynamic factor.
In view of the recent displays of defensive excellence, one can't help but wonder what has been re-adjusted and what has improved in defense:
Certainly the most improved Barcelona defender in recent weeks. Being the tallest in defence, he has been very instrumental in eliminating the aerial threat posed by opponents while his positioning has been very good.
One lacking component in the beginning was his passing abilities which constantly gave away possession to oncoming opponents. But, it is surely his constant improvement in delivery that is making him more confident and stable in defense while linking well with the wide players.
Identified as the Barcelona player who has three lungs, Dani Alves never seems to get tired, no matter how hard he runs. His forward runs are still part of his game, but it is the backtracking that is now even more impressive.
Every time defensive duties arise, Alves is becoming more and more available, and due to his pace and strength, few, if any left wingers will outrun him.
Captain Catalonia has suffered some injuries recently, but when he is available his presence is surely felt. His sharp concentration and aggression make up for the lack in height he has against tall strikers.
At times duty calls him to full back position and although not as effective as his centre-back position, he certainly does do the job as good as other natural fullbacks. He has epitomised this attribute in the recent mauling (4-0) of German club Bayern Munich.
Unity And Solidarity
Another secret to Barcelona's 'fortunes' has been the fact that they are more united than ever before. Yes, everyone knows their job, but there is also an element of unity where players help each other in both defense and offense.
This is why they are scoring so many and conceding less, but all this is brought together by the following link.
The true perfectionist, Guardiola is never content with Barcelona's improvements and does see even more room for improvement. His gestures and body language throughout games are usually well perceived and his disciplined, no-nonsense approach easily flows to the rest of the squad.
Although many are critical of his rotation policy, it creates a sense of equality amongst the players, knowing that they are just as valued as the other team members.
There is no doubt that Barcelona are showcasing some of the most symphonic play in the recent memory in the beautiful game. Their possession (mostly between 65% and 75%) frustrates and demoralises opponents and creates a sense of control and stability in the team.
Whenever Barcelona are in the mood and everyone knows their place, the fans shout their hearts out, and opponents know that it's only a matter of when and how many the Catalans will score.
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