Thursday, 11 June 2009

The aftermath Season Ramble-Defense


The aftermath Season Ramble-Defense
By: Ramzi Tanani



The Transfer Market Flu!


I think the talks about future transfers is the topic that pump the hot blood to the heads these days. Even though in this series I am basically evaluating last season, but it’s important to take some notes based on the discussions on the blog regarding transfer targets:

1) Calm Down. No need to get crazy about Barcelona approach while dealing with transfer market activities. We will end up being the only team in football history (since I started to follow) that buy as many players as we will after winning a treble.

2) Related to the previous point, We already have a squad that’s considered as the best in the world. With the same players we have at the moment we can make another run for next season. So it’s important not to compare the transfers activity of an accomplished team like Barcelona to that of some other teams who make a string of Panic buys.

3) It’s completely unfair to doubt the board quality. Its nonsense! If this board doesn’t satisfy the fans needs after winning a treble, then the fans are too spoiled to be satisfied.

4) Straight to the point, it’s easy to get Kaka if you are ready to pay 65 Millions. Really.(or £80million For C.Ronaldo?). But would that be a good deal? No, not even if he is Ibrahimovic. We were able to get Ibrahimovic last week. Based on rumors we only needed to offer Inter Eto’o Plus 40 M. To make reasonable deals you need more time and effort. And all what we need is reasonable deals. We are not desperate. We have our great players. If we can get some more quality for the right price then great, if not then we have to start the new season with the squad we have. Where we will only count on:

- The best Keeper we can get.
- One of the best Right backs.
- The best center back for Barcelona (Pique, as I will explain later). Added to Puyol, Marquez and co.
- One of the strongest left Backs defensively. Which is exactly what we need.
- One of the best Defensive midfielders.
- The best play maker in the world with no one to even come close (Xavi).
- The Most Versatile player in the world and of the best quality (Iniesta).
- One of the best utility Players. (Keita, believe it, it’s true).
- One of the most promising midfielders (Busquets).
- The best Player in the world (Messi).
- The Record smasher goal scorer Eto’o.
- The best striker in the world in the last 10 years, and still he is when he play in position. And one of our best performers in the season of treble. (Henry)
- The best youth talents in the world.

I know we are unlucky, that’s all what we have. Wrong. I think we are in a luxurious position. So we can only calm down and monitor how things will go. Any additional player is a plus to the lethal arsenal we already have.

Now back to the Season evaluation:

Carles Puyol:

I admit, He proved me wrong. After a notably continuous decline in form and performance as seasons passed by, I thought the countdown is starting to tick. I was wondering how will Pep Guardiola establish Puyol transition from being a key member to become a squad player(we do not want another RAUL story at Barcelona). Puyol felt the challenge. He raised up to it. Before euro 2008, he requested the assistant of a group of specialists who analyzed his game and recommended a training program to Improve his overall attributes. This season he showed more tactical awareness, more positioning discipline (though it’s not one of his natural gifts), and an extraordinary fitness level compared to previous seasons. One of our star performers.

Gerard Pique:

Since the day Matthias Sammer retired, There was no other Centre back who impressed me the way Pique did this season. We can create any excuse for Sir Alex Fergusson for letting this huge talent leave his team, but honestly the only thing I can conclude is that no matter how huge your name is as a coach, there will still be some players who may have a very strong presence that you can’t gamble letting them unsatisfied. I am talking here about Ferdinand. Because Pique is not only a better defender, he is a different class. For sure, he improved a lot this season, but the only reason was that he played more. Pique proved this season that the more you let him feel you are counting on him, and the more responsibilities you hook on his shoulders, the better he performs.

There are three things I always appreciated in German football: Their Machine-like style, determination, and the string of unbelievable Libero players they provided in the world of football, from Beckenbauer, to mattheus, to sammmer and lot of little less interesting ones in between. But since a while we never witnessed a talented center defender of that brand, but more an Italian-type, strong yet with absolute defensive attributes. Pique is the Ancient German type of libero, defensively strong, but at the same time he is a play maker, and a goal scorer. He created more threat in five minutes against Chelsea when he moved forward than the whole team made in 90 minutes.

Without any doubt, quality wise, he compete with Alves for “The 2008 best transfer” Crown. Quality vs. price, he is the best signing Barcelona made since Ronaldinho.

The best part? He is just warming up. If he keep improving on the same rate, he will be a corner stone for Barcelona future.

Rafael Marquez:

Proved being a good card for Guardiola to use. He lacked consistency and failed to impress from time to time. But his overall performance was solid. His presence also proved an impact on pique improvement as well. Their partnership proved being successful. His most concerning weakness is his adventurous tackles inside the box, which usually come after late positioning. His strength is being so fitting to Barcelona where defense need to have the quality of passing the ball around. His Over-seas passes is a world Class as well. After some doubts last summer, Guardiola reassured him he is needed. This summer there are no doubts that he is staying.

Gabriele Milito:

I still hope it’s not another Jorge Andrade case. Regardless of his future in this club. Let’s keep it simple, we can’t sell him now. No one will buy. So let’s hope he bounce back at least so he creates more depth in defense. Or maybe we loan him out with an option to call him back. We can be creative with suggestions, but as long as we don’t really know enough details about his injury, we can’t really make a clear opinion.

Just let me point out that –in his original form- he is a quality strong defender. We can’t compare Barcelona defense performance while he was playing to the defense performance now and jump to wrong conclusion. Remember the performance of the team as a whole back then, and compare it to this season output to have better conclusions. He created a great Partnership with pique when they played together at Zaragoza (pique was still learning back then). He was very solid at the beginning of the season for Barcelona when Puyol was injured back then, till the whole team collapsed.

If we believe the rumors that Barcelona are looking for a new Centre back, it may be a sign that Milito future is far from being certain with the team. But I still believe he will be a Barcelona player next season.

Alves:

A four in one package. Right back, Right wing, Play maker and goal scorer. Barcelona won the final without him. But it’s hard to tell if they would have reached there without him. The way he express himself is somehow irritating, So if you are not a Barcelona fan, you will hate him. But for the Blugrana, he is just a perfect news. Alves changed the offense structure of the team. Its just amazing how that right back position turned from being an Oleguered, Zambrotized Curse to become an Alvesed bless. Defensively, he may not be the best Defender in the world. But his defense contribution is underrated or may be just overshadowed by his offense contribution. Beside his own qualities that he installed in the team, he made his teammates perform better. No need to glue Messi on the right flank anymore. With Alves making the right flank his own, Messi was released to hit the opponent defense from any spot that prove being soft. With Alves stretching the field from the right flank it turned more appropriate for Henry to cut more into the box without shrinking the field from the two flanks the same as it would happen with only Messi on the right cutting inside while henry plays on the left. But most imp[ortantly, Alves was born for barcelona style where players need to press the opponent defense in their half trying to earn back the ball.

Stamina, explosive runs, Unlimited fitness tanks, Brazilian techniques mixed with Italian Grinta. Thats what you can call, a perfect signing.

Martin Caceres:

This guy is a living sample that show the difference between playing for a Huge club as Barcelona, and playing for a normal club. Specially if you are a defender. At Recreativo He had to defend at a team that play deep, applying zonal marking in their own area. He had teammates around him, so positioning-wise it wasn’t that hard to figure out where to camp his feet to create cover and close spaces. Then as a defender, all what he needed to do is to get rid of the danger invading his territory. Clear the ball as far as he can counting on his teammates pace to translate the clearance to counters.

He came to Barcelona where three defenders need to cover the whole area in front of the keeper till the halfway line. Which creates more challenges to figure out how to position yourself so you are closer to all the spots of predicted threat in that wide field. Not only that, but there is also another challenge. In Barcelona, the defender role is not to get rid of the threat, but to earn back the ball and generate attacks, nonsense clearance is a sin. If you monitor Caceres performance when he played, it was obvious that the mentioned challenges were the reason why he failed to adapt fast. Positioning, and passing.

But make no mistake, this gut has the talent and is a quality for the future. But need more polishing. We will discuss pep role in delaying his progress later on. But I’ve been watching him on international level, and I still believe in him as a prospect for the future.


Eric Abidal:

I remember how risky it was to defend this guy last summer. We, a minority of Barcelona fans had a hard time explaining that his presence creates a needed balance in defense. And after signing Alves, Abidal presence became more vital. I can say with lot of confidence that Alves success with Barcelona was-Beside Alves Quality- a result of having Abidal on the other flank. They complete each other. People complain about Abidal weak contribution offense wise, compared to Alves. But let’s compare Alves contribution in defense compared to that’s of Abidal.
For two elements to complement each other they must not be identical, they must be something like that Adidal-Alves combination.


Sylvinho:


It’s as difficult to hate this guy as it is to love Pepe of Madrid. And Football God decided that this guy deserves the best Exit. Not only he won a treble, but played his final game with the team in roam and to contribute in achieving the historical glory for Barcelona. A Model professional to follow. A need for any Squad. And a player you always feel comfortable to have in your favorite club. He had a great impact this season. I was hoping that he gets a coaching/player contract for next season. So we keep him involved in the squad without counting him as a need for the selection. But the decision was different and we need to respect that. Uncle Silvio will be missed, no doubt about that.

Victor Sanchez:

Being a versatile player is a plus. It will help him to earn more starting opportunities in the future. Showed some quality, but still far from being a definite gain for the future. I think it’s better to loan him out to create a space for the other youth to get a chance. We can’t have too many youth in the first team squad. First because it will shallow the team depth and secondly because this will lead to spread playing time opportunities between them in a way that none of them will get enough time to play that makes his presence in the first team worth. But it will all depend on the future signings. If we signed no Right back, Victor may have a chance to stay.

Muniesa:

One of the main reasons that I recommended Loaning Sanchez out. Since 2002’s Iniesta debut against Club Brugge, no youngster impressed me as fast as this boy. Iniesta back then did nothing extra ordinary. No assists, no goals, nothing special. But while evaluating a youngster, we must not give lot of attention to the “successful attempts” but for the “Original intentions”. That’s the key for the right evaluation.

The mental engine is a quality. The physical characteristics are ideal. Muniesa during his few minutes on the pitch screamed his talent loudly. He reads the game perfectly. He can predict opponents intentions as a veteran . He understands offside trap, when to set it and when it’s too late. And he has a hear of stone. That tackle where he got suspended showed lack of experience. But at the same time showed the signs of dominance. Something Defenders need to guard by soul. This guy is a quality. Pep will test him during the preseason preparations, great move! Then he will evaluate the risk of keeping him in the first team squad, or letting him patrol between the first team and Barcelona Athletic for one more season. The second option is usually more recommended. But if this guy is as good as the first impression shows, then Pep will keep him for himself in the first team squad. He will not be a starter, but only for a while.

Botía, Córcoles, and Montoya(though it’s too early for this one) are good options as well. But I think it’s better to swing them between the First team and Barca Athletic for one more season.
Adding the youth guns to the already accomplished star we have in Pique, and the selective signings of Caceres and Henrique, I believe Barcelona can look forward to the future with lot of excitement. Not only because it’s a normal thing to have the best young midfielders and forwards in the world, but also because we have the best group of young players to guard our defense for years to come.

Signings by priorities:

1) It seems that Caceres is yet to prove himself on the flank, and even if it happened, he is not a wing back but more a left defender/left back. Maxwel of Inter is a good option, so as Filipe (Deportivo). I may add Ivan Marcano (Racing to that list).

2) If Milito situation became more complicated, and especially if Henrique needs more time to be trusted, Then a Center back will be a priority over a Right back. Because getting a Center back will give Pep an option to use Puyol as a right back when needed. He already proved (specially against Man Utd) that he can perform on the right better than most of the transfer targets we can buy for that position. Getting a center back creates more depth both at the center and on the right flank. The 190 Cm tall Bruno Alves is a good option.

3) Right back: We can’t count on being as lucky as last season. A cover for Alves is a need, either by using the resources already existed in the squad or by importing a new player.

By saying so, it’s important to note that I am not expecting that the team will buy three defenders. I am only pointing out the priorities of where to buy first. But still, the availability of options rearrange the priorities sometimes. So, This is more an initial observation.


To Be continued...

31 comments:

rory said...

i haven't finished reading, but wanted to thank you for the words of wisdom about being calm about the transfer season. i tried to say the same thing once, but you put it far more effectively than i.

Anonymous said...

Good article, but 25m euros for a thug like Bruno Alves is certainly not a good option in my opinion, especially when Pique, Puyol and Marquez are clearly in front of him. We already bought Henrique, there must be some sort of reason why we bought him, he should be good enough to at least be trusted as a 4th option for central defense, and he can play right back too if necessary.

rory said...

alright...great stuff. a couple comments/questions:
1. I agree that Puyols showed he could swing out to RB in the finals.
2. I also agree about Caceres have shown potential to learn. I'd worry that if we let him go/get dispirited, it might turn into a mini Pique situation (with barca playing the role of sir alex). Not quite as much as Pique, but similar.
3. I think we just sign the best defender we can get at a reasonable price and then, with puyol and sanchez able to play at multiple positions (can muniesa?), any additional defender provides flexibility--if they are a CB, then Puyol can cover RB more often. If a RB, then Puyol can stay at CB no matter what.

I like targeting a good aerial defender, which is why i look forward to Bruno Alves as our next signing (I hope...unless ribery joins!)

hamad_ali said...

one question ramzi , can muniesa play LB .
great article by the way read every word .

InieStar said...

First of all!

*Thank you Pep for having this blog going*

This blog is my starting site. I advice everyone else to make it unless you already did!

Thank you Ramzi for your amazing articles. It is really nice reading. Your view on the game, all the researh. Im crazy about it. Furthermore i will thank Stigsby for the statistics. And all other volunteers who have made their touch to this blog. I can't remember all who made some things, but thank everyone who did:)


Hamad_Ali

Muniesa can play left back.



I'm looking forward to watch Muniesa play this season. I could only watch the game where he made debut on the internet and wasn't quite looking all time.(think i had a party going).

I was not really supposed to say anything thing, besides thanks for a nice year with Barca. I am hopefully going to visit Barcelona in the spring for the first time Iin my life. And I can only say that thrilled as if i was given all my birthday presents up til now at the same day!

més que un club

Ramzi said...

Muniesa Can play as a LB. But I prefer if we avoid switching him at the moment between two positions. Its easy for a youth to get confused this way. His attributes fits perfectly that's of a Center back and I hope we keep him there so he develop his attributes to fit that position.

peter said...

"I think we just sign the best defender"

Not at all agreeing with you. Right now we only have one full back who can contribute to the offense - and thats alves. Sylvinhos gone. Playing Puyol/Abidal on the flanks would mean we can't go forward with the same accuracy we did this season. We definately need someone with attacking qualities who can go forward and put great aerial balls into the centre for the forwards.

we be great to get a polyvalent guy who can play on BOTH left and right and act as backup to both abidal and alves.

rory said...

peter-

puyol actually went forward admirably in the finals, i think (i don't know how he is as a crosser, tho). now, he's no alves (nobody is) but who is there available that can provide better attacking? People said Zhirkov, but he wants to play LW not LB.

And if we buy a forward moving defender, that means we either play two attacking D at a time (and boy are we open for counters in that case!) or we rotate them. So either Alves needs to be cool with far fewer games (doubtful), or the other defender has to be a part-timer or able to turn off the attacking button. So it gets even trickier. Would a younger player be willing to do that? Or should we get an older defender?

in this case, it's like the curse of the superstar--depth is nice, but few players of first team quality are going to want to be a glorified alves backup.

hence, a top quality defender allows for a rotation and for some number of games in the season + in the copa, alves sits and rests and/or is suspended and we play with a more traditional, less attacking defense.

rahul said...

gr8 article ramzi. i 100% agree wit u that fans need to calm down nad not panic. n we do have teh best squad in teh world. just coz someone pays 95m euros they dont become teh best. ronaldo couldnt even score against villrreal in 4 matches. so thats a flop signing. but pellegrini is very good at making flop turn into super hit. im just concerned bout that. but hopefully ronaldo wud be beckham. theres no way rmazi that alves is agood option n that too for 30m euros hes not even a player to be considered. i wud like to see burno salter for teh RB backup. i think hleb's staying. one question cant teh fifa or uefa do anything bout real's outrageous spending they r killing football.

Stigsby said...

Thanks alot for the credits Iniestar, although i don't think i deserve them! Haven't had time to make posts for a long time, however i hope it will come more frequently over this summer!

The real thanks should go to Ramzi, Kamikaze, Barca4life, Pep and all the rest which has done a huge job keeping this blog updated with all from news to analyzises, not me. :)

Once again i can only agree with you Ramzi. My only concern with the Barca defence is that they might get a small defender on the left to mimic the way Alves has been playing this season. I think it's important how our four man defence turned into a three man wall when Alves ventured forward.

Stigsby said...

And yes, people need to relax, if this is going to go on until the 1st september it's going to be a long summer!

I'm sure Pep and Txiki will find a good solution, we have the best squad in the world, we just need to get more depth.

el tren said...

I dont really see the need for another CB. Henrique will be back this season after doing very well in Leverkusen. He was a staple player there and has shown a very solid performance. I doubt he want to find himself too often on the bench after 30+ Bundesliga matches as a starter.

I could just imagine Caceres to leave Barca. Doesnt seem like Guardiola has high hopes for him, or he would have maybe given him a try when there was only one real CB back (in London and in the CL final), instead of giving the vacant spot to Toure who didnt play as a CB for ages.

kamikaze kontiki said...

Great Analysis, Ramzi (I had intended to write an article on how Guardiola has transformed Cruijff's vision of total football but its pretty obvious you are going to cover all the points I had intended to make)

The only word I have to add is about Abidal and this with a guilty conscience. I had complained about not having the option of an overlapping left wingback but from some quotes i have seen of an Abidal interview, he explains that it was Guardiola who instructed him not go gorward. It is also evident when he does go forward that he is not expected to, as is plain from the number of times Henry and Iniesta have failed to pass it to him.

Credit to Abidal, who at 29 is the most mobile of Barça's defenders (not counting Alves as just a defender) and thus covers the most amount of space.

I think Henrique will be just as good with his passing and composure on the ball and if he was successful in the Bundesliga that would indicate he is a good defender too.

Barça may have to make a decision on Botia soon, since he is older than Muniesa and wont want to play in the Athletic squad much longer. Also it would be unnecessary IMO to sign a right back when there is sufficient cover in Victor Sancez, besides Puyol and Henrique.

Most of all, I like the opening lines. I hope we don't change the team much. We need to improve the bench strength and we need to use the opportunity to give a few more academy players a chance. This will help us remain a steady influence on football in future and also emphasize our distinction from the EPL clubs and RM.

ZenI said...

Good article. But when you say that "all what we need is reasonable deals" I say it's hard these days. We do need 2-3 players that can take a place in the starting 11. And with Man C and Real Madrid other clubs are following their craze. Man C wants to sign any decent player! So it's hard to make a deal... So we offer €40 mils for Ribery and Chelsea offer €55 mils or we offer €8 mils for Filipe Luis and Man C offers €15? I'm a sociologist and not familiar with numbers, but something tells me we have to bid at least as much as others.

This transfer window is driving me crazy! Fu-k Man C, Real Madrid, Chelsea and many many others!

blaugrana1 said...

Every1 is saying "oh be calm, we dont need players anyways we won the treble with this squad"

That pisses me offff!!!!! u guyz shud understand that in order for CONTINUITY AND CONSISTENCY barca needs to buy and sell certain players as some players may slack of as a result of the previous success.

umm r10, deco remind u of nething?!?!

So whoever says we shud only get backup players is wrong wrong wrong

InieStar said...

Nps Stigsby.

So I would like to thank Kamikaze and Barca4life :)

Btw. Stigsby you was from Denmark right? Dk here aswell. Living on Nørrebro, but was at a friend watching the final:)

sashi said...

blaugrana :
i feel tat Eto is the only player who can ever get such a feeling in the current team and before i say this, loads of ppl would start throwing stones at me bcoz Eto is 1 hungry guy n we could see it this year. he would find new reasons to keep himself motivated. he would try to go for the Pichichi next year(as he has lost it twice after being within touching distance). so dont panic man.

Txiki n pep are taking care of things behind the scenes. lets trust them n wish them the very best!

rory said...

blaugrana-

you're right, but we're saying that we're about a week into the transfer season. no time to panic yet just because real spent tons of money on flashy attacking players. we all knew that would happen. and barca's being more deliberate.

if barca makes no moves, then panic...but not yet.

if barca picked up ribery and bruno alves in a week, everyone would be happy. if they did it in a month, they'd be happy. a panic response would be a bad move. right now, selling clubs are seeing dollar signs. let them wait.

Anonymous said...

sashi! You are crazy, we all know what happens when Eto'o "tries to go for the Pichichi!" It has happened twice in the past, it is horrific to watch Eto'o when he tries this, and at the end of the day, Forlan wins it. Eto'o should try to play for the team and never again try to win the pichichi which make him so nervous that he misses chances even grandmas will hit.

Anonymous said...

rory: I don't think anyone would be happy if we buy such a limited player as Bruno Alves for 20-25m euros. He will turn 30 years old in just 2 years, so we will not get any money for him if we want to sell him. Why not buy younger players who are better, like Chygrynskij, Zapata or Miranda?

Anonymous said...

Pep, you are real HARDCORE! xD

ej said...

To all who ae ungry about our laporta pep and txiki because they are not signng players this days:





i think our stuff is waiting to see what happen next , this day if you wanna sign a worldclass player you have to pay 100% more than before because of stupid RM Mcity and chelsea ....

so let them get all the players they want for 100 M Euro which we wont pay anyway and thenn after the money get finish by this crazy mafia teams we go for the best remaning players and sign what we need at that time the teams will understand that chelsea rm and City are over with there Millions and we can get players in the market prize

i am Proud that my barca is not that crazy to make this cash race in a time where moe people are losing there jobs , for me it is even ok not buy 1 player this season (if the maret stay like this) we had a treble last season so let some new faces play much minutes give gai , bojan ,hleb chances to play and if we give the new generation the experience they need ad we finish only second in laliga i wont mind .

rory said...

if we overpay for bruno alves, it's a problem. but what if we don't overpay? then we'd be happy, yes?

my point is that in a day, or a week, or a month, barca can and likely will sign some players. At which point, the bitching will either stop or will be because barca's board overpaid. but either way--the idea that we've missed the boat is laughable...we've lost out on none of our targets and none of our current players have made serious efforts to get out of town. patience is a virtue

LeónDragón said...

agree a 100% to this article

LeónDragón Temper said...

agree also to this from anony...

-we all know what happens when Eto'o "tries to go for the Pichichi!" It has happened twice in the past, it is horrific to watch Eto'o when he tries this, and at the end of the day, Forlan wins it. Eto'o should try to play for the team and never again try to win the pichichi which make him so nervous that he misses chances even grandmas will hit.

that would make etoo even more worthy for the team, like he quite almost was

rObReV7 said...

Hey guys, I just saw this and thought it was funny, read it the whole way through :¬)

http://www.goal.com/en/news/1717/editorial/2009/06/11/1318956/cr7-special-what-else-can-80m-buy-you-today

Anonymous said...

ramzi, ive said a few times before i didnt always agree with everything u put forth, but have always found ur drive and passion very commendable.

however, today, u've never been more spot on with ur assesments. from recognizing how amazign pique is and his bright bright future, to giving abidal some props people simply refuse to, your spot on with it all. i particularly liked the maxwell comment, i think him on the cheap would be great business.

i wish more fans were like u and actually watched and tried to understand the game and rationalized their comments. this insane wishing of benzema, zlatan, ribery, villa, etc etc etc its so damn annoying.


-blaugranaboy

Iason said...

Ramzi and Kamikaze, do you guys write in any other websites? I would really love to read more from you guys!

kamikaze kontiki said...

Iason, I dont.

Xaviniesta said...

impressive. thanks for sharing ramzi. i agree its pure desperation (not to mention insanity) that's driving madrid. its kind of hilarious really. instead of panicking i'm actually having a good laugh over here.

Anurag said...

ramzi, thanks for your words of wisdom. i totally agree with your approach to transfers, there is no need to chase down fools like perez. we are not going to waste money unnecessarily, period. and the way you described the aquad would make everyone value them even more than we do now. personally, i feel pep, ramzi and all have been doing a fantastic job. i wanted to make a barca blog myself, but first i thought i would google to see if there were others who had made really good ones. i must say, this blog here has made me completely abandon my efforts, because as much as i will try, i will never match the effort put in by you guys

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