Introduction of Barcelona – 2017/18: –
If we look at Barcelona in the end of August and analyse them now, there is a stark contrast. This team was supposed to be in transition after a fairly mediocre summer transfer window. It was a period when new manager Ernesto Valverde took over, Neymar was sold for a high price. There were many rumours about certain players not happy with the higher hierarchy of the club and so on. In addition, they failed to get their top summer targets, which includes Phillipe Coutinho.
But, somehow Valverde has galvanised the club in terms of team ethic and also playing well on the field. He has that pragmatic approach to certain things which has allowed him to settle down at such a big club with difficult situations involved. We will now take a look at the stats and also analyse the best formation used by the manager.
Tactical Analysis: –
Attack and midfield: –
If we take a look at the above image, this has been the formation which has brought good success for Barcelona this season. The four-man midfield is not actually spread across the pitch. It is more of a compact midfield with wide midfielders having the license to combine with fullbacks when required. In addition, their out to in runs will create space on the overlaps for the fullbacks. So, when Andres Iniesta or Ivan Rakitic make runs inside the opposition fullbacks, it creates space in wide areas for forward runners Jordi Alba and Sergio Roberto/Nelson Semedo.
In the central area, Sergio Busquets has the job of what he does best. Sit just in front of the centre-backs and dictate the tempo of the game. Alongside him in advance position is Paulinho. The Brazilian is more of a box to box “number 8” type player whose late runs in the box is crucial when crosses are coming in. He has the required physicality to burst through tackles centrally. He has fast become a vital cog in the Valverde system wheel.
In attack, Lionel Messi more or less has a free role to roam anywhere in the pitch to influence an attacking move. Playing just behind Luis Suarez has allowed to drift to wide areas and also pick the ball in midfield when Paulinho is making runs beyond the last line. We all know the qualities of Messi, playing in several positions in-game make him impossible to mark and also allows space for Paulinho, Suarez to work with.
On the defensive side of things, Barcelona have been supremely assured in many situations. They haven’t conceded any goal from the opposition counter-attack throughout this season. A testament to how Valverde has set up his side to not get done on the counter. We all know a cliche in football, a team is most vulnerable in defence when it is attacking. So, this has been well taken care of.
Jordi Alba and Semedo/Roberto are willing runners from fullback positions to support the attack. But, their forward movements have been a little limited to give more assurance in recovery runs. If one goes forward, other stays back closer to the centre-backs, Busquets covers the forward runner to make up the back four.
In the above image, we take an instance of Jordi Alba moving forward from left back position. Now, to stop the counter-attack, the other side fullback will not cross the half-way line. The left side centre-back will cover the wide areas and Busquets will fill in to complete the back four. Iniesta and Rakitic from wide midfield are the first line of stopping the attack and counter-pressing to win second balls. Overall, a good structure on and off the ball is created to make the team solid as well as good going forward.
If we combine all the pieces of this system puzzle, we see a solid team with experience and each player knowing their roles. Obviously, Barcelona may not be the best this season in terms of entertainment, but surety and calmness jumps out. Valverde has preferred pragmatism over entertainment and is reaping the rewards. Maybe, with other signings to come, he might go for the juggler a bit more in certain games.
Stats Analysis: –
In the stats section, we have some numbers which epitomises the style of play Barcelona are displaying. In the goals scored section, the Catalan side have 45 goals in 17 La Liga games, which averages to 2.64 goals per game. A total of 9 goals in 6 games in the Champions League, an average of 1.5 per game. The average possession in La Liga and Champions League combined is 61.5% in 23 games. A much higher rate as expected.
On the defensive side of things, it has been quite an upturn from previous seasons. Until last season, their average goals conceding rate was about 43 goals a season in 2015/16 and 2016/17. That averages up to approximately 0.89 goals per game. We are in the halfway stage of this season and they have conceded 7 goals in La Liga and just one in the Champions League. So, if the average is anything to go by, their conceding rate is 0.34 goals per game, less than half of the previous two seasons.
With the analysis of the whole Barcelona in front of us now, we can say that they have performed well overall. The credit should go to the manager as well as the players to gel in the system deployed. This team might not provide the thrills week in week out. But, on the hindsight, as the results go by, they will be right up there getting wins on a consistent basis. They are expected to do business in January or next summer transfer window to add more entertainment.
The La Liga is pretty much in their hands now, this will surely help Valverde to use his squad judiciously come the second half of the season. It will help him to concentrate on giving Champions League a good crack as well, a possibility of double or treble is pretty much on.
The Stats numbers are provided by Whoscored.com, a leading website in stats collection of various teams!
Article by Mizgan,
Twitter – @mizgans