Herculian Effort as Barcelona Drop Three PointsBy: Pedro | September 12th, 2010
â€˜A Hard Knockâ€™ states the cover of Sport. â€˜Crashâ€™ â€“ El Mundo Deportivo depiction of the face to face collision between Pique and Calatayud. Itâ€™s not a sight you see often, and words of cataclysmic and poor image have been used sparingly during the past two years of Guardiolaâ€™s reign. Hercules becomes only the third team to defeat Barcelona with a 2-0 margin in two years of league, cup and European action.
The FIFA Virus
Every international break brings back the discussion of the FIFA virus only transmittable between players who have been called up for national team duty. Logic dictates that the worst sufferers are always those who must travel far and wide for their national team duties. No fewer than 10 players were required to make the round trip to and from Argentina. Barcelona has a certain adverse relationship with international breaks. Recently, itâ€™s become exacerbated as the club continues to send 7 individuals to the Spanish national team alone. As if winning the World Cup and participating in European qualifiers isnâ€™t enough, free time is used playing promotional friendlies across the Atlantic.
Yet, this is the world of modern football: Barcelona has only accumulated 4 wins from the last 17 games played after an international break.
But, the FIFA virus does not cause players to concede goals, miss sitters or commit defensive mistakes. Neither does the initial team selection but it can be significantly influential. Often a coachâ€™s most visible display of influence is via team selection. An approach can be defined by the teamâ€™s selection. The fall out criticism has been identified as a lack of respect to Hercules â€“ outlined by the use of all three newcomers in the starting XI with the inclusion of Abidal at center back and Bojan up front.
But thereâ€™s no such thing as disrespecting your opponents when the selection was chosen in order to present a good image and performance. Josep doesnâ€™t have the benefit of two weeks of full training with his first team roster; instead, he is given the benefit of having the worldâ€™s best talent and the task of balancing mental and physical preparations in order to extract the most out of the squad during the key sequences of the season.
In 2008/2009, the task was to modulate physical and mental preparation in order to present the best Barcelona image from May to March on all three championships. 2009/2010 required the inclusion of the World Club Competition when not attempting to defend three other trophies. This edition calls for a keen consideration of World Cup participants, with some having been used more extensively than others.
We always demand the most out of the players who start on any given weekend. Until Josep decides to take a vacation and leaves Luis Enriqueâ€™s B squad with the task of facing first division or European outfits, there is no disrespect towards the opposition. There are only compromises based on the need to balance out season-long preservation and acute quality performances.
A Well Deserved Anomaly
9 times out of 10, the opposing defense is penetrated from an early attack; slowly bludgeoned by waves of attacks over a period of time or desperately unlocked by supreme individual talent.
An occasion such as Herculesâ€™ victory is worth noting for the following principles:
Vigoâ€™s men had to exercise a perfect defensive performance for 90 complete minutes. This required the task of dealing with penetration through the defensive-midfield line and via width. Guardiola insists on disciplined width, particularly when the going gets tough. Logically, a defensive shell cannot usually be stretched length wise unless the opposition intends on breaking the defensive harmony, which is why making the game as wide as possible is imperative. Vigoâ€™s answer to this was to let the defensive players naturally stretch so they can remain close enough to Villa, Messi and Adriano to confront and contain. The central core was charged with the task of staying cohesive in order to reduce the number of viable pockets for Barcelona to use â€“ a challenge Vigoâ€™s men triumphed in spades.
However, the true challenge is to come out unscathed during the key circumstances where the defensive structure does falter. This usually requires the cooperation of your opposition and a solid outing from your goalkeeper. In this case, both Barcelona and Calatayud were more than willing to play their part.
Barcelonaâ€™s insistence on width came in lethargic motions. Diagonal exchanges that merely switched the attention from one side to another but did not alter the immediate tempo. Forays into the middle proved useless, particularly from the would-be talisman Iniesta and the distinct rush of quick feet from Messi was only on display in a handful of failed occasions. The work of Keita could always be counted on and Mascherano had a vanilla debut â€“ neither two, youâ€™d ever count on to break a defensive shell.
Comparatively, youâ€™d place money on Villa to score in such a match but the Asturian star was caught in a conundrum. Out left he was afforded more space to display his livewire antics but too far away to genuinely threaten the goal. At center, he played with his back against the wall often surrounded in Herculesâ€™ horizontal black and radioactive green stripes restricting his time, options and movement. His teammate Bojan, was only a first-half anecdote. A low slung cross right in-between Calatayud and the defensive line couldâ€™ve been converted by Bojan. Certainly not an easy chance but one youâ€™d expect a prodigious forward to find a solution for.
These types of games usually reward pessimists. Countless failed conversions, passing sequences and movements are rewarded with one or two incisive yet opposing actions that are either obscured in frantic calamity (first goal free kick), or displayed in superb clarity (second goal counter-attack).
The culmination was a thorough second handed performance and a Hercules team that held true to its name.
The truly difficult part of this all is the fact that Barcelona must travel to the Vicente Calderon for match day 3. Not only are Quique Sanchez Flores and his boys topping the premature league standings, theyâ€™re doing it with solid performances.
No one is entirely sure why Barcelona have recently had more problems visiting Vicente Calderon than the Santiago Bernabeu but itâ€™s the perfect place for Barcelona to earn a consecutive league loss for the first time under Guardiolaâ€¦ or an excellent place to stabilize and prove Hercules to be an anomaly.