Thursday, 12 February 2009

Messi Free, Winning Dynamics.

Messi:Playing with Alves is Fantastic(Click Here)....Puyol, Xavi and Messi in UEFA Team of the Year(Click here)....Puyol, Xavi and Messi in UEFA Team of the Year(Click Here)....Four Barcelona Players in FIFA Top Ten (Click Here)....Messi Score League goal number 5000 (Click Here)....Messi has no plans to leave Barcelona (Click Here)

ne of the most active Topics recently, is about the magical performance of Barcelona this season. The team exceeded all expectations and made a bombing start in the liga running twelve points away from the closest follower, cruising to the knock out stages of the Champions’ league after dominating the group that was not of enough quality to bother or to disturb. Yet, what’s more enthralling was accomplishing all that in style, turning their games to Opera shows, symphonies, carnivals or whatever makes you thrilled or touched by the entertainment show produced by naturally gifted yet well organized group of talents

Lot of analysis were published and read, some as an attempt to explain, others to flatter, and some rivalry-driven anti-Barcelona followers tried to blot the bright image of the team eye-catching show so far, and the best way-and probably the only way- was to overlook the impact of the team called Barcelona and spot all the lights instead on Messi as the one who is making all the difference, or labeling Barcelona players as individual performers rather than a harmonized group creating a wonderful team.

I understand Rivalry, so the intention of this article is not -originally- to make responds because I always try to invest the time you spend reading my posts on what’s more fruitful than endless debates. But lately the “Messi dependency” started to make a passive impact on Barcelona fans themselves, being dragged into this debate that spoils the pleasure they have the chance to live while the team is performing like fantasy.

The team must be able –and is able- to win without Messi, if its not proved yet, its simply because this team is still under construction, and there was no time for that to take place. We, Barcelona fans, can discuss this issue as something the team need to be aware of, creating the winning dynamics when Messi is not available, that’s an improvement to what’s already making us walk around the city with pride. Actually, if I have to dig for a negative remark regarding Guardiola performance so far, it’s the fact that he didn’t give enough chances for the team to play without Messi, the players need more games without Messi to get used to the situation, but again its reasonable to start the season with the best available, applying the most powerful strategy to gather enough points needed for Barcelona to lead the table with a wealthy bag of points then we start testing things, All that worth discussion. But to start feeling ashamed of how things are going so far, force me before discussing the Messi-free case to clear up some points, for Barcelona fans before the rivals whom I respect as well and enjoy their Rivalry, even though what follows will take the style of me- a Barcelona fan- putting things in place against any attempt aiming to damage or cover the facts behind Barcelona great season.

So what? That’s my simple respond to all the anti-barcelona noises echoing Messi dependency. I am not sure if it’s considered as a shame or if there are any rules in the game that Barcelona break when they count on Messi to get them a victory. I really don’t figure out the point behind all this debate some people throw in Barcelona fans face. May be Barcelona must release Messi for free, or ask him to move on the field jumping on one leg instead of running or else its an unfair game because the opponents are simply not good enough to match him, so he has to lower his performance because they cant raise up to the challenge of containing him. This case reminds me of the childhood street matches when a team bring an older guy to play for them and how everyone in the other team start to complain.

How realistic is it to say without Messi Barcelona is weak? A team that consist of three key players from the Euro2008 champions including the best player in that tournament, added to the player Cafu crowned as his natural heir, added to one of the best three defensive midfielders in the world, added to the striker with the best scoring record in France national team history, added to the player who got the best African player award so many times that he got sick of it, backed by the most impressive youth academy spreading its bless on the clubs around the continent, without forgetting that more than six national teams’ captains and vices are serving this team, beside under twenty one years international key players. All that count nothing, they are all a bunch of amateurs who live in Messi shadow. Excuse me! The strange thing is that you never hear anyone talking about a Man Utd “Ronaldo dependency” last season, the guy was a scoring machine, and he scored almost twice the number of goals scored by Tevez and Rooney together. And now that we mentioned Man Utd, Messi won a game for barcelona directly after getting in, leading the team to come back from 1-0 defeat to 2-1 victory, it became the Obvious fact that make people see "Messi dependancy" as an unnegociable fact, but I wonder if Man Utd were Sheringham/Solskjaer dependent in 1999, because the two guys joined the game at injury time in the Champions' league final against Bayern, scored two goals leading their team to come back from 1-0 defeat and win the title. It happens in football, live a life!

What’s more interesting is calling Barcelona as a squad of gifted individuals who do not play as a team. First of all I have a very brief respond to that: “So what?” even if I will accept living in denial and agree with that, the team is winning and if “individuality” is working that well why will pep think of changing it? But in fact, Barcelona style is the highest level of team work, it looks easy but those who know just a little about the game can tell you, total football is the most complicated style to play. Even the national team coach of Spain – who is by no mean a Barcelona fan as we all know- said before the friendly game against England: “we need to play Barcelona style”. Individuality? Funny stuff!

Messi is as much Barcelona dependent as the other way, of course he will still be a great player in any club, the same as Barcelona will not relegate to seconda Division – or even to second position in the liga- this year if they had to play without Messi. But the same as Messi raise Barcelona game to another level, Barcelona is also the reason why Messi is now the player he is. Not only they tutored, polished and educated him as a player, but also they introduced him to the world the best way you can imagine. The special criteria Barcelona requires when they pick a player for the wing position fits Messi perfectly. Barcelona style help him to express himself and reveal his gifted talent as he would have never done with any other team through playing as a second striker (his natural position), and its easy to claim now that he would have played as a right wing in any other team, but its simply not true. How often a pure left footed attacking midfielder and goal scorer was used as a right wing outside Catalonia? Barcelona stand as a pioneer using the left footed on the right and the right footed on the left. Even with the national team and though Messi always create solutions, but still he is not the same Messi of Barcelona, where he has an Alves on his right, and a Xavi on his left.

To understand how the team can overcome Messi absence, we need to find the answers for two Questions:

What is the role Messi executes for Barcelona?

1)Dragging attention and keeping more defenders busy offering more space for his team mates.
2)Linking with Alves on the right flank.
3)Earning fouls and generating more free kicks for his team on the edge of the opponent box.
4)Being a key player to break down defensive teams using his dribbling skills to break throw and shake the defenders positioning.
5)Putting high pressure on the ball holder in the opponent side of the field.
6)Scoring goals.

How does Messi absence affect the team performance?

1)Definitely it effect through missing the previously mentioned outputs of a talented player like Messi.

2)It has a psychological impact on the selected players. After all the Messi dependency debates, the players feel a load of pressure on their shoulders to prove it wrong. That pressure leaves a passive impact on their overall performance making them more stressed, which cause a bad output and again it increase the pressure on the players’ shoulders more to make up for the previous failure, pressure-->stress-->Bad performance-->more pressure-->more stress, and so on.

3)The players are used to and adapted with the “Messi-included” group dynamics, and its no surprise that Messi absence make an evident damage on the fluidity of the team offense.

4)The role Messi execute on the field is complicated, not only from the quality aspect, but also because of its diversity, its not easy for any other player to excel perfectly in a role sewed and designed to fit Messi characteristics.


In order to overcome Messi absence:

Objectives: we need to create a system that keep the opponent defenders busy running for the ball creating spaces for our players to get advantage of to crush the bus parked in front of the opponent keeper, faxing the ball to the box and generating scoring opportunities.

Implementation: Its not enough to create this strategy and explain it to players, we need to put it in practice, first through training sessions then in games, this way players will get used to it as an alternative plan. One win needed, then followed by another will make the players capable to break that psychological pressure and lead them to perform naturally and feel calm to approach the game with or without the presence of Messi.

There are three methods I can think about to fulfill this objective, each fits a special type of games and has its advantages and disadvantages:

1.preparing a direct substitute:

Pep Guardiola tried to do so already, he tested Hleb, Bojan, and against Racing he used Iniesta. While Hleb is not suitable for this mission, he is a better player in midfield, Bojan and Iniesta are quit good to give enough hope they could be considered as Messi back ups. Yet, Bojan need one more year of training in that role before being able to carry this responsibility, Iniesta is definitely the most reliable choice, regardless of the fact that he was not quiet impressive in that game, but he has the qualities needed, or at least he has more quality to do it than any other player in the squad.

If Guardiola will choose this strategy then Iniesta need to play more in that position to get used to this role.

Now as I mentioned above, “The role Messi execute on the field is complicated, not only from the quality aspect, but also because of its diversity, its not easy for any other player to excel perfectly in a role sewed and designed to fit Messi characteristics”, so its not a surprise to suggest that we change the tactical structure to fit the players most in order to achieve the selected objectives when Messi is not available.

2.The pragmatic alternative:

It is inherited from the first Alternative, with an intention to avoid the disadvantages of that alternative. Having Iniesta in Messi position may not pass with no side effects, when Messi is available, Pep Guardiola in his 4-3-3 has two good methods to approach the game: The first option is using Henry on the left wing and instructing him to cut into the Box or else Eto’o get isolated and inefficient there, and asking the left midfielder –Iniesta in general- to open wide and to act as a left wing instead. The second option is to ask the left wing Iniesta/Henry to open the game from the left while starting a midfielder who can make fruitful runs into the box (Keita/Gudjonsen).

Having Iniesta in Messi shoes, may spoil this structure, because Iniesta and Henry are the only proven left wings in the team this season (Though I insist Henry is more efficient when he cut inside and not when he hug the lines), so as long as Hleb is not in a good form to play on the left wing, and knowing that Neither Keita, nor Gudjhonsen can open wide to the left from midfield with the same quality Iniesta does it, that will leave Pep with Henry as the only option on the left wing who will have no choice to cut in, knowing that when Henry plays a sole wing role, its easy to mark him.

So instead of playing a tactic where half the starters are actually playing out of position, Why not reconsidering the tactical structure rather than players natural roles. And that’s why I like switching to the 4-1-3-2 tactical structure when Messi is not available:

a) You will initially have two pure forwards in front of three midfielders and that will help you to execute a faster transition from defense to offense based on direct vertical movement for the ball combined with the natural horizontal passing of Barcelona style.

b) Having three natural midfielders in front of the defensive midfielder and two forwards who are excellent in putting pressure on the opponent defense will increase the possession dominance of your team and will win back the ball fast which will all lead to generate more scoring opportunities.

c) When moving forward, we will have Iniesta acting as a Left midfielder/Left wing, and Alves as a Right midfielder/right wing, while we still have two midfielders in between; this will open the field wide, and will guarantee a smooth fast transition for the ball from side to side.

Our objectives will be fulfilled through this structure, opening the game wide, controlling possession and switching the ball from side to side will shake any defense and create spaces, while your two strikers are there in the box to get advantage of all the crosses from the wings and the assists from the middle.

Messi is not available on the right flank to keep defense busy, but this time the defense has more mess to deal with, having two pure strikers in their box, and a balances Barcelona team attacking from the two flanks at the same time not only linked with the closest player (Messi-Alves structure) but linked together across the field through two midfielders working closely in between and a striker who will open wide when needed knowing that there is still another striker in the box all the time. Messi is not there to penetrate with the ball and score goals, but the ball is penetrating to the box automatically throw crosses and deep assists while the two pure strikers in the box can guarantee scoring enough goals to seal the game, and are more than enough to put continuous pressure on the opponent defense dragging them to make mistakes.

3. The Radical Alternative:

It has always been a question, what’s the best for the team, having Iniesta beside Xavi glued to his midfield role, or using him on the wing? While having him beside Xavi increase Ball possession and dominance in general, it force Henry to play as a wing and make Eto’o the only striker in the box. In the other hand, using Iniesta on the wing or instructing him to open wide deduct some of the possession dominance but make the team more efficient getting advantages of the scoring opportunities created though crosses and passes to the box. What about a structure that keeps Iniesta beside Xavi to dominate possession and ball distribution, beside offering you a player to run the show from the left wing, and save two players for you to use upfront in the opponent Box? That’s the 3-3-2-2 structure suggested here. Three pure central defenders (Abidal-Marquez-Puyol for example), then Alves and Sylvinho playing initially on the same line with Yaya, which will make them closer to the offense operation area, where they act as pure wings, while Iniesta and Xavi control from the middle and Eto’o with Henry act upfront.

Surprisingly if you analyze this option you will notice that it’s not only a more offensive option, but at the same time its better defensively as well, when losing the ball you will have a line of Sylvinho-Yaya-Alves in front of Abidal-Marquez-Puyol, it seems like a Barcelona Bus for me, parked to give Valdes a vacation. While in offense it offer you all the advantages of the second alternative with a better quality because Sylvinho opens the field Wider than Iniesta does in the second alternative, and he is better when he cross the ball, he also shoot from distance, in the other hand and as mentioned before, Iniesta beside Xavi guarantee you high possession share in the game.

The most Vital disadvantage is that it’s an alternative with short life cycle, meaning, you can’t use it for three consecutive games in a raw for example, because Sylvinho need a break of one week between two games to refuel, but it’s a very efficient strategy to play when you decide to bench Messi for a game, and it is good enough to win you games in style. While for a long period Messi absence –God forbids! I will go for the second alternative, the pragmatic one, anytime.

Regardless of the extend of truth in "Messi Dependency" situation, we are not doomed to live with it. This squad have enough quality to go hunting for titles even when Messi is not available. Are we already "Messi INdependent"? We all know we are not there yet, not completely at least, but there is no reason prevent this team from accomplishing that objective. I am not sure what kind of solutions Guardiola has for the team to start performing well when Messi is not a starter, I am not trying to predict his moves – I don’t even think he has that third alternative in mind- but I am proving that there are other alternatives beside being Messi dependent, but we need to work for it, and when Guardiola start to play more games without Messi even when he is available, that will be a sign for me that we are on the right path.

Ramzi Tanani


Anonymous said...

Oh yeah, the Rambler is definetely back!!! Looking forward to read it... ;)

JR said...

You write good and extensive articles Ramzi, but I sometimes find it very hard to read them because you regularly continue one sentence over 4 or 5 lines. This way it can become really messy (yes, messy and not messi) from time to time.

For the rest I'm only positive about your articles though!

Anonymous said...

Great article Ramzi. Although i never really bought into this whole "Messi-depedency" thing. If you even want to call it dependecy then we "depend" on a lot of players on our team; How does the team dynamic change without Alves on the right? Or Yaya crushing everything trying to get in his way? What happens when Puyol is not in defence commanding his line? Or Xavi in the middle orchestrating the whole show? Eto'o up front working like a mad dog and puncing on every loose ball. We depend on ALL of our players, not one, or two but ALL of them. We are a team and thats what teams do, they depend on each other. Its a pointless debate really because every team in the world is the same, they all have 2-3 key players who if removed from the team would change the dynamic. We just happen to have the highest number of key players (along with Man Utd).

This whole Messi dependency thing is as a result of envy. I have heard this arguament made by many rival fans. Liverpool fans, Arsenal fans, Real Madrid fans, Man Utd fans. Yet from each one of those teams you can pick one player who if you remove from the team they will not play half as well: Fabergas from Arsenal, Gerrard from Liverpool, Robben from Real and Rooney from Man Utd. In fact out of all of these teams i would say we are best equipped to play without our talisman.

sashi said...

OMFG... gr8 one Ramzi... Keep going man...!

Anonymous said...

i don't know if u can read arabic but i did actually wrote about this idea in a whole article since thedraw in getafe 's game .. we share a lot of piont that i mentioned but u actually were better showing the solution .. for this saga .. the smart thing is that u showed an alternative solution and had a graphic exlination to support ur piont .. ireallly read u article word by word.. the tactical analysis is the only thing that am licking to make some good pionts like u ..
the pargamatic and the radical plna u suggested were actually pretty good.. but i think that the radical one with 3-3-2-2 line up is better choice specially in the case when we are missing defenders in big numbers like last week..god bless u Ramzi, am huge fan, u even don't know me!

kamikaze kontiki said...

Hilal put everything i wanted to say as an initial reaction to the very idea of a Messi-dependency very nicely. Its an unnecessary question to have to defend or to answer.

Nevertheless its great to have your tactical analyses back, Ramzi. And i think you are wrong about how far Guardiola is from using some mutation of a 3-4-3 (which is what I take your radical option to be) is. Pep seems to me to be greatly influenced by Van Gaal's tactical formation and the 3-4-3 was something Van Gaal favoured for a while before he abandoned it.

The problem though that i see with both options is that the wide players are wingbacks Alves n Sylvinho. The difference b/w a wingback and a midfielder-winger is that the wingback runs onto a ball or receives it and crosses i.e his game is simpler and more direct whereas a winger would directly take on one or two defenders, feint-stepover, cut inside, etc, i.e engage the defender in a one-on-one/two confrontation and thus penetrate. The wingback on the other hand depends on the space created by the midfielder to run into, essentially playing off the midfielder while he has one or two defenders engaged.
Unless you see Alves n Sylvinho taking on defenders one-on-one and beating them by trickery the onus of penetration lies solely in the hands of Xavi n Iniesta in the above formations. While both are more capable of this than any other pair of midfielders in the world it nevertheless is a tough ask. Because penetrating by dribbling is of course twice as hard from the center as from the flanks and penetrating by passing might also be just that bit harder without one player at least who can occupy the defense coalesce them on either one side or the other.
Is it fair to consider Messi-dependency and ignore Alves-dependency? Leave both out and we could use a 3-2-2-3 formation with Busq-Yaya the first midfield pair, Xavi-Gudj the second and Henry-Eto'o-Iniesta the fwds. This is basically a combination of your first and third options which results in a wide fwd player (Iniesta/Henry), a bombing midfielder(Gudj/Keita), a playmaker(Xavi) and 2 fwds(Eto'o, Henry).

Ramzi said...

fcbee Just found an article to read on his way back home, and its long enough to entertain him in a trip to the Moon.

JR Thank you for the constructive Critic, will work on that.

Hilal Well said bro, yet I think the lack of games we play without Messi is a concern, specially if its true we need t make some tactical modifications in his absence. The guys need to adapt to find their legs on the field without him cruising between like a devil from hell. The best expression I could find is finding "Messi free Dynamics" its a Mix of chemistry, psychology, and some more little things. Its the reason why Totti presence in Roma selection makes them better. Even when he is suffering a drop in form and when those on the bench can perform better. I don't want to call it leadership because he is not leading the team, but more inspiring it.

Sashiyou welcome.

rayaaI missed reading your article, but will like to do so. Good luck with your blog:)

kamikaze kontiki Nicely written as usual:)yet, I didnt suggest a 3-4-3 at all, both alternatives are clearly based on two forwards up front not three but with a massive support from behind and from the sides. Sylvinho is not in the Pragmatic alternative.
Regarding the Difference between the roles of different positions, you are mixing functions with style. there are RB/LB who dribble all the way while whistling carelesly, while there are LW/RW who only dribble once on x-mass eve.
"a winger would directly take on one or two defenders, feint-stepover, cut inside, etc," after you said so, do you believe that beckham was considered once as the best Right wing in the world?:)

kamikaze kontiki said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kamikaze kontiki said...

dont even talk about Beckham, mate. I ll throw a fit.

not like I didn't read the article properly, Ramzi just that it would have been tedious to take each option separately so i just sorta clubbed all of them together while adressing it.

Anyway both Sylvinho and Alves don't strike me as the types to engage defenders directly or maybe its just this prejudice i have on the role of a winger and that of a wingback.

Your ideas are certainly insightful as to possibilities but in the end i guess i d prefer to go with the first option of the 3 with at least one fwd wide player.

The Radical Alternative is similar to a formation Van Gaal used with the difference coming in the fwd positions :

Reizeger- Boer- Sergi Boer-----Guardiola-----Cocu
Luis Enrique
Figo Rivaldo

or something similar, only you see he too felt the need for the wide fwd positions using Luis Enrique to bomb the box instead and the playmaking coming from further back.
Even closer is Bielsa's 2002 Argentinian national team formation which with the same midfield structure had the advanced Xavi-position playmaker in Veron but used only one striker and 2 wingers.
These are 3-4-3s but I m trying to illustrate that relying to wingbacks to engage and spread the opposition defense hasn't been favoured much while they have been used very effectively to provide support on the flanks.
In contrast a 3-5-2 is normally used with dedicated winger in an attacking formation or with wingbacks in a Disguised-ultra-defensive 5-3-2 (catenaccio style).

Anonymous said...

bolax, why we need to see again old posts..

Anonymous said...

Ramzi, i actually post it here( in this bolg.. it's actually a huge arabic blog..i always translate ur articles to arabic .. ppl really like it. specially the third midfeild article and the last one about pep priorities regarding winning the copa del rey and la liga..and am going to translate this now.. if you want to , you can join us.. there is seperate sections for la liga and all other leagues... the good thig is that there is tactical section where i actually translate the third midfield article.. now every body know how precious is keita and the link for the translated article ( there is special thread for bacelona, it's just like a dailly journal where ppl translate all the news, articles from elmundu , sport .. marca , AS, times online, the gradian.. if you know daneil de campos from Entorno he is actually ina close contact with us and write to us ever day.. i don't know but i would love to introduce you to those ppl.. at any time that would suit you.. there is a lot of smart writers that no body is the forum address(
just to know's not my website at's just a place where i go every day just like this blog..
a lot of ppl appreciate ur writings..let me know if u want to

Anonymous said...

the translated links for ur articles are not gonna show up unless ur member in the forums..i f you wanna check it, i'll email them to ya .. or i can help you open an acount there if you are not an arabic speaker.. well bcuz all the data should be filled in arabic except ur membership name of course(

Anonymous said...

OOH yeah.. you can feel free talking english .. if you decided to join us.. i'll do the translating job.. and most ppl can speak english, so it won't be a problem..*_^

Nzuu said...

What a perfectly placed article. But from what I have been led to understand, I think people are trying to find ways of sidelining Messi so that we prove a point to other teams. We should rather find ways of dealing with teams without Messi, without Eto'o, without Xavi, without Iniesta etc. Not just without Messi.

Messi has a huge impact in football, not just in Barcelona, but to general football fans. We love watching him having the ball and doing well. He can handle pressure very well, and is extremely composed and smart, that's why he "rescues" points for us in tight situations. U cannot train someone to be as calm as that and creative like he is, you must be born with it.

So according to me, Messi should be played, but of course we should device alternative plans for when he is absent.
Messi's play is integral to the style of football that we have in barcelona.

Anonymous said...

quoted "being dragged into this debate that spoils the pleasure they have the chance to live while the team is performing like fantasy."

You are so right Ramzii... You are so riight.

Ramzi said...

Anonymous: If you mean the news in the Marquee, its more a gathering of news that support the Article subject. It show the quality of a squad.

rayaa: I believe Pep agree with me that We are always thankful for people who put an effort translating materials from this blog, to fans who may not know English,or prefer to read versions of their own language so we appreciate your effort.
The most important thing and the only thing we demand, is to post a clear readable link to the initial post on this blog. First to reserve the blog rights and secondly to give the right for people who read the translation to see the original English version (and the only version we are responsible of).

So far, beside the Arabic translation, we already found blogs translating to Czech and Polish (the ones I know about at least). And they were decent and respectful putting a link to the original.

While -off record- There is a blog that copied my previous article in its English Version and not only neglecting to put a link back, but even erased my name. Yea man, we didn't comment there but we know about you "the guy with two posts on his blog;) "

I will find my way to the links you listed rayaa. If I needed help, I will request it.

Nzudzanyo:I agree with you, we have nothing to prove. Thats why the objective of this article is to discuss the methods for the team to improve in a certain department. We care of our own business, not for how others want to see it.

granche: Dont let them:) instead we can enjoy the luxury of discussing how to make the team even better, so they keep trying to spoil and fail.

Anonymous said...

No,'s professional forum.. there is nothing you can post without having the source put in with the link, otherwise your post will be deleted.. ppl know you by name and throught your articles that i translate..plagirizing would cause closing your membership at all...there is a stric supervision in every single post is made..(
this link is for the barca journal you can see how the sources in every single news, articles is being put for the sake of other's sorry for any miss convenience i may caused you at all.
and thanks for being nice responding... laters...

Ramzi said...

No miss convenience at all, I am sure of the quality of that forum, thats why I listed you above between the decent examples to follow, and that why You guys can expect my visit to the forum as soon as I get my membership approval, which as you know take some times to be confirmed.

The latest news on the blog, Messi release clause will be increased. I am not sure if thats true, but i know Messi is here to stay, or i hope so.

Anonymous said...

Pep must read this, specially the Radical alternative!

Erikoisasiantuntija said...

Thank you, thank you , thank you.

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