Monday, May 11, 2009

A proposal for Barça's gameplan vs United: Complications and Solutions


A) Alves suspended = no overlapping right back.
B) Abidal suspended = no left back of defensive & offensive measure;
Sylvinho = defensive liability
C) Etoo' not looking goal-sharp, plus poor build-up play!
D) Messi shackled from right-wing (as No.7) if Fergie repeats Hiddink plan
E) Maybe O'Shea starts at right-back for Utd.
F) Aerial threat from Ronaldo & Berbatov vs centre-backs
G) Barça badly need "llegada", late arrivals to the 'second ball' in the box, shots from distance, pick-up rebounds.


Solutions for the points above:

A) = 1) Puyol or Cáceres at right-back, rely on wingers for offensive width.
= 2) Keita as right-wing back in midfield

B) = 3) Puyol as left-sided defender in a back three
= 4) Puyol as left-back
= 5) Keita as right-footed left-back, diagonal runs forward, shots from
= 6) Keita as left-wing-back in midfield

C) = 7) Henry as No.9
= 8) Bojan as No.9

D) = 9) Messi as '"false" No. 9 dropping off....Etoo as left (No. 11) /right
-winger (No. 7)
= 10) Messi as left-wing (no.11)!!!

E) = 11) O'Shea easy victim for pace & poor technique. Space behind him
= diagonal killer passes cut-back from the end-line.

F) = 12) Piqué & Touré
13) Piqué & Cáceres
14) Piqué & Busquets each, no Puyol at centre-back!

G) = 17) Keita breaking from left-midfield
= 18) Diagonal runs by Etoo onto second post.

Unforseeable factors:
O'Shea at right-back or Ferguson boldly picks Rafael?
Ronaldo at centre-forward, in the hole, or out wide?


Puyol at full-back [l/r] only in a back four; In a back three? = wide defender; for either = not at centre-back, lack of height!

Messi is Barça's ONLY source of left-width (excl. Sylvinho). Not even a full-back or wing-back! = unless Barça want to ignore the left flank, then play Messi here. Plain advantage in 1 x 1 vs O'Shea. Park or Ronaldo obliged to track back = United's right-wing offense largely disarmed. Messi loses individual protaganism but benefits the team. Likelihood of assists.Messi at outside-left (No.11)!

Henry has experience of playing with his back to big Premiership defenders; better in build-up play than Etoo = essential for bringing midfielders into play near the box; better heading power than Etoo, not only for goals but also for flick-ons and assists. Henry as No. 9!

Barça need shots from late-arrivals, scraps and ghosting diagonal runs between Evra and Vidic = Etoo' at outside-right (No.7)! + Keita arriving from midfield for the third ball.

Iniesta to play as centrally as possible; even as No.10 (mobile, Modric-style, not static Riquelme-style) if formation permits...regardless, often must seek to drift behind backs of United's holder(s) for "hooking through" Barça runners beyond United's midfield line; also to take shots from distance.

Potential for goals:
-diagonal crosses from Messi (left) and Etoo (right) for Henry (centre).
-diagonal cut-backs from Messi (left) and Etoo (right) for Keita arriving from left-of-centre.
-scraps and rebounds for Etoo' at far post from midfielders' deflected shots and headed flick-ons from Henry.

OPTION A = 4-1-2-3




Etoo'-------------------------------------- -Henry---------------------------------------Messi

OPTION B = 3-1-2-1-3 (diamond midfield, risky, less likely)

--------- -Cáceres----------------------Piqué--------------------------Puyol-------------






OPTION C 4-1-2-3 (similar to Madrid derby if Rafael doesn't play)







  1. Hi there Roberticus, Ulague from GU.

    I posted my thoughts on the GU board somewhere. Your ideas are interesting and if we go by today's game, it might just be Puyol as a leftback.
    To me against ManU Touré makes no sense in defense because ManU don't have the tall target player both Chelsea and Athletic have. But what needs to be done is win as many balls in midfield as possible. So Touré in central midfield and Busquets(tall, good in headers against either Ronaldo or Berbatov) maybe in central defense.
    For the left side of defense I was thinking of Keita more or less playing the role Dani Alves plays on the right on the left. With Henry and Iniesta on the left too, it would be a killer attacking left and keep either of Park or Rooney more withdrawn.
    Now, I don't think that Sir Alex will play Ronaldo and Berbatov in attack, because he won't play with 2 players not defending at all. I believe the line-up will be more similar to that of the Arsenal game or the ManU games from last year.
    Caceres might end up as a rightback just for being fast, with the rest, we see eye-to-eye more or less.
    So here's how I would play:
    GK: Valdes
    DF: Puyol,Busquets,Piqué,Keita
    MF: Xavi,Touré,Iniesta
    AT: Eto'o,Messi,Henry

    It would kill a bit of Keita's llegada, but the bonus of it(Keita, Iniesta and Henry on ManU's weaker defensive side) might make up for it.
    Eto'o on the right to keep Evra at bay and use his diagonal runs to cause trouble.
    My plan would require Iniesta and Henry to get fit though and also Caceres needs to have some run in games. Otherwise, plan B, well, I have to think about it.

  2. Hi Roberticus,

    Tego from Guardian. Congrats on the blog.

    I think in the end, the election up front should Henry left, Eto'o and Messi constantly switching on the right/center. Messi has to show up on the right at some point to discourage Evra getting too involved in the attack. However, if he plays in the middle behind Carrick, we can get that same advantage that we got in the 3v2 of Gago-Diarra. Not to mention that pulling Vidic or Ferdinand out of that center of defense and having to deal with Messi dribble will be a great weapon.

    For sure Iniesta must also play left interior position. If Man U decides to make a "box" around Messi, we have to punish that with iniesta arriving from midfield, one man beaten with dribble and he has pulled their defense apart.

    In the end, I don't think much changes in the attack, we have the solutions to break down Man U defense and they've shown lately that when they are forced to do a lot of defending they struggle. The issue is going to be Barça defense. I haven't formed an opinion yet about what will be the best option, it's a real shame the circumstances because with a full team, I think we can drown ManU in pressure and speed of ball movement.

  3. Hey Oleguer and Tego,

    I think we all concur as to Barça's attack, in the sense that Messi's main role cannot be limited to his usual position on the right, which is not to say that Leo cannot make frequent 'caídas'to the right-wing in support of Etoo plus the right-back (thus forming 3 v 2 situations upon United's left-flank). Just that I think Messi should start from the centre, in the Laudrup-role as you both suggest. Leo starting from the right is no surprise element at all, and any coach worth his salt will form a gameplan to constrict Barça here now that Hiddink has shown the way. Perhaps I am being a bit fantastical and wishful in my advocacy of Leo starting on the left, but it seems to me the only tactical surprise we can offer which offers immediate rewards, i.e, the skinning of O'Shea ( I do not believe Ferguson will start with Rafael at right-back)..jeez, it would be almost embarrassing, the Irishman would be 'desbordado' in repeated ocassions within the first 10 minutes; imagine the psychological blow to United, their nerves tested, their concentration shaken, Ferguson and his assistant Phelan (who seems to contribute a lot strategy-wise) would almost immediately be pondering a tactical switch. This would give Pep the upper-hand, so that Ferguson would be on the backfoot, constantly reacting.. we could then even move Leo to the centre of attack having already set the tone of the match.

  4. I have this mental image of Messi nutmegging O'Shea... Not just with the ball, mind, but of lil'leo actually running through the Irishman's legs.

    Ah well, here's to everyone (but especially Henry and Iniesta) being fit so we can watch a great game.

  5. Messi on the left wing is something that I have been asking for since Ronaldinho disappeared last year. I'm yet to see it, and I ask myself why. If, next year we manage to get a forward who can score from crosses, we have to try this option. I don't know why it hasn't been tried yet, especially with the weakness we have shown on the left wing compared to the right.

  6. I think the reason we haven't seen Leo on the left is quite simple...the simple fact that he has turned into a goalscoring threat of incredible sorts and from left he loses a bit of that effectiveness.
    But as we all seem to agree, Messi on the left would be a huge, huge huge surprise and catch Ferguson on the wrong foot, specially with say Iniesta and Keita connecting with him.
    This would push Henry to a more central role. Now we saw the damage Torres caused to Vidic in 2 games. Henry might not be as good now as Torres but I see some potential there.