Barcelona: Gerardo Martino's First Job Is to Fix the Pressing Game

Sam Tighe@@stighefootballWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterJuly 23, 2013

Photo Courtesy of The Guardian
Photo Courtesy of The Guardian

Barcelona have moved swiftly to appoint their new manager, with the BBC confirming Gerardo Martino as the new man at the helm.

It was important to recover quickly after the sad news of Tito Vilanova's continued cancer treatment, and in Martino the club have found a man who subscribes to the identity and playing style of the club.

He inherits a side who, despite having recently won La Liga with an astonishing tally of 100 points, represent a veritable wounded animal. Bayern Munich took them apart to the tune of a 7-0 scoreline in the UEFA Champions League, and fresh questions were raised over the side's over-reliance on Lionel Messi.

The truth is, Barca fell apart on the Continental stage due to three reasons, not just one.

Messi is the best player in the world, so of course his absence is going to be more than noticeable, but the lack of a pressing game and self-belief were just as alarming.

The Paris Saint-Germain tie—in which they scraped through thanks to the away goals rule and some genuine profligacy on les Parisiens' part—served as a microcosm of their issues.

No energy, no pressing, no one was touch-tight.

For all his strengths as a manager, Vilanova was not the pure tactical tinkerer that Pep Guardiola was, failing to make the appropriate tweaks and changes for the big games that could tip his side over the edge.

When the pressing game fell away, no one repaired it, and that's the chief concern for the incoming Tata Martino.

Luckily for Cules, Martino studied under Marcelo Bielsa at Newell's Old Boys and plays a brand of football similar to El Loco's. His furious pressing game and preferred 4-3-3/3-4-3 formation, summed up studiously by Euan Marshall, should fit right in at the Camp Nou.

Although the methods borderline exhausted his Newell's side this past season, Ed Malyon of The Mirror points out that Martino was working with a budget version of Barca.

Imagine what he could do with a world-class version?

A lot of what he did at Newell's can be translated straight to Catalonia: Deep-lying midfielder dropping into the defensive line to form a three, attacking and defending in numbers, pressing with intensity and power, a former midfielder—Ignacio Scocco at Newell's—playing as a lone striker.

Martino will reinvigorate this side's energy, and that in itself will aid the defence. At full fitness, Newell's conceded just six goals in their first 15 games, crafting one of the finest defensive records in the league.

Will the new manager decide he needs a new centre-back, or believe he can protect what he has by changing his midfield?



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