I have been watching Football since I was a little kid, and in my lifetime, I have never seen such perfection and mastery in playing Football as watching FC Barcelona play for the past four years, they were and are in my opinion and that of many the greatest team ever played the game, especially under Pep Guradiola, the club lifted 14 trophies out of 19 competitions, a record that will never be broken, nor a team like that will ever to be seen again playing the beautiful game, they are one football team that I love and admire most.
Pushkin once said, “What has been will not be Again”, it is true for this beautiful team also, despite annihilating all their opponents in La Liga this year, and ahead of their main rival, Real Madrid by 16 point, therefore, already in the driving set for another La Liga title, yet, some questions has been asked as to Barca’s “ending era”, for in the past few weeks, the team lost two match, one very crucial, the away game of the Champion League to AC Milan, losing 2-0, and last night, a less significant match, losing to their arch rival, Madrid in el clasico, 3-1, for all the talks of Barcelona’s era ending, it is total nonsense, for the same players who won everything under Guradiola can do the same again under a brilliant tactical coach, and they were doing it under Guradiola’s assistance and Barca’s new coach, Tito Vilanova, but since his temporary departure from the club and treatment for Parotid gland cancer, Barcelona had suffered unlike before, the team is lacking something, they are missing a coach, a tactical one, and that only made their opponent to out maneuver them tactically and therefore defeating them even if Barca were the better of the two team.
In a Chess game, perhaps no out maneuvering of tactic is as clear as the use of the wing attack vs central play that is very common; Anybody who ever played Chess will understand when your opponent attack you both in space and material in the middle of the board, your only response is to defend the middle and attack on the wing, for fighting the a midfield battle is a losing one, and no matter how grandeur of a Sicilian Defense your opponent put up, you will break them on the wing if they don’t defend right (An example is the Ruy Lopez Wing Attack in chess opening)
Despite dominating both match against Milan and Madrid in both space, material and position, yet, Barcelona lost both game in simple wing counterattacks; if you look at the above graphic of Barcelona’s playing position against Milan, you will notice majority of the play took place in the midfield, that is because Barcelona has the best midfield in Football; the two maestros; Xavi and Iniesta, with Sergio Busquets as a pivot between defense and attack, and Messi as a false 9 in the attack, what Vilanova’s assistance, Jordi Roura failed to cover; was not only to crowd the midfield by playing Cesc Fàbregas as another central midfield and therefore forcing Iniesta to become a winger in order to pressure the opponent’s wings (a position that he desires least), but Roura also underestimated the speed of Milan and Madrid’s players in exploring the space where Barca is most vulnerable, the wings.
All five goal that was scored against Barca in the last two game came from the wings; last night Madrid coach, Mourinho (Milan’s coach, Allegri did the same) used the old Chess tactic of Ruy Lopez Wing attack; Ronaldo and De Maria explored the space on the wings whenever Barca lost position, when Barca’s left and right wingers, Dani Alves and Jordi Alba were out of position, Ronaldo and De Maria would make a simple run at Barca’s central defense, leaving both Gerard Piqué and Carles Puyol at one-t0-one with two of the fastest football player on the field, covering the wings and the center.
The genius of Pep Guradiola during his coaching time at Barcelona was not only he had great players in his team, but because he was also a great tactician; He played a packed midfield, but always had a solution for Wing attacks; whenever Barca’s winger attacked and left space empty behind, he would pull back Sergio Busquets, making him a central defender, a sweeper, and therefore, any attack on the wing now was defended not only by Gerard Piqué and Carles Puyol but also Busquets. And when playing an opponent with players that could run faster than Barca on the wing, he would loosen his packed midfield, not playing Cesc Fàbregas in center, but Villa, Sanchez or Tello on the wings, therefore counterbalancing Ruy Lopez Wing attack tactic in Chess with the same tactic, but with an advantage in the middle of the board, for now Barca could comfortably dominate the battle for the midfield, as they had done in the past four years.
I bet you, if Guradiola to have played a tactical chess game with Ruy Lopez on a footballing field, he would have won the game easily, and that is what Barcelona is missing nowadays, a great coach like Pep Guradiola, one with a brain of a chessmaster; for only two years he conquered the footballing world, and in the process, humiliating the same Madrid 5-0 at Camp Nu, with the same Barcelona players on the field.