Thursday, 19 March 2009

A look at Barcelona's defence

author: Nzuu Ranwaha
source: The Bleacher Report

date: 13 March 2009

Throughout the history of FC Barcelona, beautiful, one-touch, attacking football has been part of the culture, earning them adoration and plaudits from across the world. However, one part of Barcelona has trailed behind in terms of effectiveness and reliability, and that is defence. The 2008/2009 season has been no different, with the soft underbelly of arguably the best attacking club in the world once again exposed. So why do Barcelona seem to concede so many?

The quality and form of a keeper in a team like Barcelona must be consistently good. Victor Valdes, the man who stands between the Barca sticks, has been under the microscope for a long time. Though he has improved in recent years, his handling and positioning are still not on par with the reputation of a club like Barca. With just two clean sheets since the turn of the year, his performance and consistency are questionable.

Alves Factor
Barca's Brazilian full back has been in scintillating form this season, providing no fewer than 13 assists. Unfortunately, no part of Barcelona's backline has been as impressive in fulfilling their defensive duties as Dani Alves has been going forward. Alves' running helps the team score more goals, but, unfortunately, when Barcelona lose possession in the final third, the defence are vulnerable to counter-attacks.

Set Pieces
Without a doubt, Barca has one of the most vertically challenged squads in world football. The only players who are 6 feet tall or over are the three keepers, Gerard Pique, Aliaksandr Hleb, and Yaya Toure. When Barca face corners, this lack of height causes them serious problems. Freekicks cause yet more concern. The wall is flimsy and experienced dead ball specialists can take advantage of that.

Injuries, Rotations and Suspensions
Barcelona have been hampered by many injuries and suspensions to important figures at the back. When Dani Alves is suspended or being rested, Barcelona use a center-back (Puyol) as his replacement on the flank. When the defensive minded full-back Eric Abidal is injured, Sylvinho usually fills that gap. Sylvinho, like his Brazilian counterpart Alves, enjoys his forays forward increasing the vulnerability on counters.

What Can Be Done For The Remainder Of The Season?
With Victor Valdes in goal, Barca might have to accept that, at some random time, things might go wrong. Players like Valdes need adequate motivation to do well, which is why the least cules can do for him in the middle of the season is to stand by the guy. Trying to conjure a less aggressive approach from Alves is almost like trying to convince a shark to live in a lake (even if the lake is salty). However, Alves having become an irreplaceable component in the Barca system they will have to live with this. Barcelona usually score way more goals than they let in (117 scored and 41 conceded this season alone, a 2.85:1 ratio). As long as they keep scoring until the end of the season, conceding (especially from dead-ball situations) won't be as bad.

Transfer Season
Sergio Asenjo, the young and vibrant Valladolid shot-stopper, is expected to move this summer, and one of the biggest favours Barcelona can do for themselves is to get his signature. What better way to motivate Valdes than bringing in someone who is younger and more talented than he is? The option of bringing in Philipp Lahm to strengthen the left side of the defence does not seem to be the solution to any problem. He is shorter than all the members of Barca's defence and thus will not provide any more resilience when defending setpieces. Also, he is as attacking as Alves, and that's why Abidal, with his height and discipline, is still a very good option.

Barcelona's defensive problems cannot be resolved right now, maybe not in the next two seasons, maybe not ever. Every club has its strengths, and for Barca, their prowess is in attacking opponents, which is why they score so many. The reason Barcelona has the greatest fanbase in Europe is due to the quality it shows in attack and possession. But the question in many fans’ minds is: "With their unsteady defense, can Barcelona cope against European teams and win the UEFA Champions league?" Well… They did it three seasons ago.

read the full and original article here

Read more:
Alves second best player in the world
Barcelona Is Winning With Style
Why are Barcelona scoring so many goals?


Julian said...

This definitely has not been a secret. Puyol and Gabi in the centre definitely do not have the height we need especially against set pieces. A lot of people are pushing for Philip Lahm, however this will only increase our weakness to counter-attacks//set pieces. With both Dani Alves//Philip Lahm pushing forward, counter attacks will be a brutal force to reckon with. Either that, or it will take away from both players attacking runs, thus losing their full contribution to the game. Abidal is a great left back, tall and a bit pacey, but he is getting old. A pacey strong defense minded LB is needed to replace him. And again preferably someone with a little bit of height!

There are other six footers in the team other than the keepers, pique, abidal and toure. Henry and Sergio no?

peter said...

"enjoys his forays forward increasing the vulnerability on counters"

Not so sure about that. Maybe in their forst games together. But the last games both Alves and Sylvinho has played they have had very good contact with eachother. You always see them screening what the other is doing so that one attacks and the other is still in the defense.

Thats actually a pretty good tactic, cause when Puyol handeled the left side (or Abidal for that instance) all our attacks came from the Alves/Messi-side. The latset few games we've had more options available, cause Sylvinho is still a good passer and always helps out Iniesta/Henry.

Zairus Fadzli said...

attacking has always been the best defence for Barca.
Barca never had any goalkeepers in its history. U know zubizeretta, dutruel, bonano has always been great from their previous teams. but when they came to barca, they became disasters. the same argument can be applied on Jose Manuel Reina. He's doing great at Liverpool, hasn't he? Not really sure if Buffon can handle Barca's sticks. Not gonna blame Valdes always. Only barca never found a perfect goalkeeper for them.

Anyway pep, regarding of Valencia's financial players. Barca will take advantage of their financial crisis. Villa and Silva, the two's Goliaths, are the main targets.

But i would like to propose one of their young players for us to buy.

Thiago Carleto Alves.

Perfect combination Dani + Roberto Carlos

Xavi + Dani + Abidal

check out this video

FCBarca said...

What about Busquets & Abidal as being 6 ft?

SimonP said...

If we buy Phillip Lahm I don't think both he and Alves will start in the tough games. He would be a excellent cover for Alves and could play instead of Abidal when we need more attacking force.

I think whoever wrote this article didn't do his research. He missed out on a lot of 6ft+ guys, Busquets anyone?

Also we haven't conceded a lot of goals. We are the best team in the liga in defence, 24 goals in 27 games.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, according to wikipedia Busquets in 6 ft 2.5 inches
Henry is 6 2
and Abidal is 6 1

Thiago Carleto is a talent but he is 5 7.5 and goes forward as much as Dani Alves. But if the price is right he could replace Syl. as Abidal's backup.

- Gilmango

bastard said...

Our defense is not up to par? Am I missing something? Are we talking about the defense that includes Puyol, Marquez, and Abidal? The one that has Pique playing better and better every week? Dani Alves has his off games, but when he's good offensively he's usually been as good defensively (though sometimes he's been off on both). Even Sylvinho, lately, has been playing well. We give up the set plays too much, yes, but conceding from the run of play is quite rare and only occurs over the season in spurts (look for yourself). Many of the goals are down to Valdes. We could be taller. To say, however, that our defense is our weak spot is like saying the Indian Ocean doesn't contain that much water when you look at the Atlantic and the Pacific. Our defense is damn good, and compared to many teams, we're a side that builds from the back, keeping possession between midfield and defense and waiting for holes to appear for the forwards to do their thing.

I wouldn't trade our defense for anything. A new keeper might be nice, but it's hard to level complaints against Valdes when he's spent most games this season chillin' for forty minutes or so until a shot comes his way. If our defense was slightly worse, we'd be complaining about them, but not Valdes, who'd be making a lot more and a lot better saves throughout the year. Which would you choose: a team with a keeper who gets no reps or a team with a leakier defense?

That is to say, our defense could be described in many ways, but it has not been leaky or porous or disorganized all season, period. Sometimes, tired. Sometimes, out-of-place on counterattacks. Short, and thus weak on set plays. In some games, increasingly rare, we have but one weaker spot. But overall, we're clutch. Ask 50 out of the 60 teams competing in Serie A, Liga, and the Prem if Barca's defense is an Achilles Heel. They'll tell you what's up.

Marc4barca said...

@bastard: u are right to some extent our defense is good and most likey vidic and the others are that good cause they have a defensive minded midfield infront of them but to say our defense hardly get score on in the run of play and blaming everything on valdes is just crazy. may i remind u that we get like over 65% possession in every game and to concede so much goals with so much possession means something, that the times the other teams go on attack they most likely threaten and score or our midfield gets back the ball. I'm not saying our defense don't do anything but they are our weak spot. tell me if the defense isn't our weak spot then what is? can't be the front line or the midfield and surely can't be our manager so what is? it seems to me u just hear the scores or look at live scores cause our defense is prone to make stupid mistakes at the back and also try to pass and dribble it out of defense too much. here's another thing for u, if our defense was as good as u say then why isn't la liga over already, why are we the team who have conceded the most goals in the last eight of champions league cause if i remember lyon was the only team who conceded more than us before the round of 16 started? when u find answers to those get back to me.

What we need is a pacey confident Center back, a replacement RB and LB both also with pace cause thats best way to handle counter attacks with pacey defenders putting pressure on u to make passes early or to force u to start the play from the back again.. i stick to the fact that we don't need to sign a major goalkeeper. but no matter who we buy, until gaurdiola starts training players to zone mark in dead ball situations we will always concede from dead balls, oh and also have a man at each post.

Anonymous said...

tall is not the most important thing in headers, milito is great in aerial play and he shorter than puyol, Puyol who his aerial strength was more evident than ever in our goal against madrid this season,
keita is a great threat with his head, Marquez is one of the best players with his head.
if you get Henry, keita, Toure, Busquets, abidal, Marquez, Puyol, Pique in one team you shouldn't ask for more, bear in mind that most of our good attacking players are weak with their head, like hleb who is tall but not good with his head, although the shorter the better with dribbling, so I wouldn't complain, we get 70% of the possession, so we need players who are better with their legs than their heads, and besides, every time a team with an average height that is above ours, concede from a set-piece I will come here and post about it, if you really watch other teams and not only read about the result, you will see that set-pieces are going to be dangerous whatever the team that is conceding and regardless of their height, Zidan scored against england with a free kick and england has so many tall players, besides, in the group stage we conceded 3 goals against Sporting with our reverses, if you watched that game instead of just reading the statistics, you will see that it wasn't really that bad.
and by the way we did three years ago with olueger.

Marc4barca said...

i did watch that game.. its just fans in denial like don't like to admit certain things... the defense isn't good at set pieces and so as the forwards and we also have no one who can take a proper freekick. I never said anything about tall defenders either i said they need to learn to zone mark and have a man at each post and you can't look pass the mistakes they make at the back. like i said the defense is good but not top class like other major clubs. if u look carefully we have a very slow defense and the way we play we will need fast defenders and a holding midfielder to stop counter attacks cause alves isn't a defender in my eyes so it's like we are playing with three defenders, playing with two if slyvinho is on the field. valdes is a good GK but to often the defense lets him down and everyone snaps at valdes. puyol made that mistake against atletico and i saw no on here blasting him.. don't play favourites with your players, they all play for barca. we can't do anything about it now so the best thing to do is believe in our defense now as we draw nearer to facing bayern. the good news is that bayern's defense is in the same boat.

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