Saturday 27 December 2008

Do we buy? A Transfer Guideline.

No more games this year – 2008, and too many sports papers in Spain, that's the magic spell for rumors, so back to creativity period where every Paper try to burn fans fantasies by a more catchy rumor, Its Rumor time!

Now that we are approaching to the transfer period, I am not planning to evaluate the squad depth in this article, We already discussed that during international break in the three parts analysis “A new Day has come”, and my beliefs didn't change enough to reconsider what I wrote there, its even more certain that issues like Yaya transfer concerns, Iniesta flop doubts on the left, Abidal and Valdes questioned values are all clear now in a way that the mentioned article may gain more credibility than it did when it was posted.

Pep also started a poll discussion about the performance of new transfers, Keita was the first name we voted to evaluate, and now Pique Poll is taking place.

I will try to Set my Transfer Criteria, to base my evaluation for transfers options on an objective guideline and avoid getting driven emotionally toward one option over another. Having a fixed criteria make us more objective and more reasoning.

Now this is the criteria I recommend, but we can modify based on how we feel better for the team, not for a player we like/dislike, if you know what I mean...

Condition one: You buy, I buy!

We must not build our transfer policies on reactions to what happens at Real Madrid, Lets admit it, we feel excited to buy mostly when Real Madrid start buying, we feel we need a respond, while in fact we are in the position of pioneers and the rest are the ones who are reacting. getting Dispirit involved in winter transfer market means that the previous summer transfers were a failure, which is a wrong message to send to the initial squad and a huge pressure to put on new comers.

sometimes the winter transfer market comes to cover for a serious injury and that will be an unlucky situation, but when your team get so many injuries then its not luck, but poor preseason preparations, Medical care, or wrong training routines. The question is, do we suffer any of the previous conditions? If you believe, as I do, that we are not in that situation then we know that the other clubs wish to be in our place, so lets not drag ourselves mentally to behave as if we have the same situation they do, lets manage our own business regardless of what they do.

Condition two: Another Rivalry Concern…

Sometimes we think: ”Madrid are not better, but they are buying to improve”, Its the feeling that if they sealed a transfer, they will have a chance to become a better team than Barcelona, my pill to heal that concern is a question “If Calderon offered you to pick any 7 players in Real Madrid squad you believe they are the best plus 100 Million cash, will you take that and give him Xavi, Messi, Iniesta, Alves, Puyol, Yaya and Eto’o?” it may look nonsense to drop that assumption but if you think of it inversely, will the current squad in Madrid plus 100 Million winter transfers turn the table? For the options available in the winter transfer market, I can say confidently it will not be the case, and here, let me Clarify something :I am not saying Real Madrid will have no chance then to win the title, because I think they already have that chance now, nothing is won yet and nothing mean N.O.T.H.I.N.G! but the transfers will not make a huge impact, specially when you sign already injured players, who never played on highest levels, they need time to adapt in case they did, so again we need to drop this concern to have a cold blood when we consider our options, regardless of there’s.

Condition three: We will only get better.

We already know the squad we have is far from hitting the peak yet, Summer signings still adapting, Iniesta and Abidal were out for the most crucial games we played so far –and we won it all! Henry seems like making a U-Turn and offering what he never did since been signed, Milito will be back soon, and some other players like Pedro may have their saying, even though the youth players will not be decisive, but their performance will give us an idea what kind of signings to make next summer, meaning that this is still a project on the run, not an accomplished nor an expired one.

Condition four: We already made smart spending in the last three months:

We extended the contracts of our most important players, Some other contracts need to be extended, which will guarantee stability, thanks to pep post about players contract status, we can see that a decision should be made regarding Marquez, Eto’o, Gudjhonsen and Valdes contracts, while Puyol extension has to be out of question. Also, Pedro extension is a must so we don't get ourselves in another Busquets situation. I consider Busquets as a new signing we made, I am not sure what would have happened if the contract negotiations failed, most probably he would have been either sold in winter, or benched suffering a drop in moral and concentration. Now he is OUR player and for years to come. Such contracts clarifications is a must to figure out whom to buy or to sell.

Condition Five: being strategic, not short sighted:

We need to make sure not to become another team that sign in June for the period till January, and buy in January for the period till June, if signing a player in winter will burn our chances to sign a better one the following summer then we don't need it, do we?

Condition Six: Our breeds comes First, and second and as far as they prove worth it:

Our young boys are a priority, the players we raise in our field offer us something more important than talented options for cheap, they protect the team’s identity and character, and this is the strongest and most important factor that gives us an edge even though its sometimes invisible, or not mentioned often. We have a style that our players start learning and training to apply from day one, for at least eight years till they turn from being “pedrito”s to “pedro”s, this way even the players we buy feel the need to adapt to that football methodology, which make it easier to create Chemistry and to overcome any drop in form or end of cycle.

It's one of the reasons that made the challenge easier for Guardiola to make that huge impact in form compared to last season and in a very short period, he didn't have to start from Zero, not only the talents were still there, but also the methodology, all what needed was adding something here and changing something there. In other teams every new coach apply a new system and eventually buy different type of players, that need a long time to turn fruitful, and knowing the lack of fans patience in Spain the coach get sacked before he reach that “Fruitful” point, another coach come and there you go… here we have players who have a team culture and clear, tested football methodology, and we hire the coach who know how to enrich and upgrade the system we have, leading our football brand the way we know and love to excellence. We need to stick to that no matter what and make sacrifices to defend this policy, and by sacrifices I mean accepting the fact that some players whom we like are not destined to join us because the team comes first, and as deco said once:” you lose a game, but you must not lose your identity”

Condition Seven: Being reasonable.

There are lot of great players in the world but we only buy the good player for the team and for the right price. I also consider age as a deciding factor, I label that factor so high that I will not feel comfortable for any signing for a player who exceed 25 years old. Older players may turn to become a flop if they needed time to adapt – which is the expected scenario- Young players give you a margin of choices including loaning them out, or having enough patience on them for couple of seasons knowing that they will still have at least three or four seasons more to offer to the club, something a 28 years old player cannot offer.

Its obvious that I am not one of those who are so excited to make winter shopping, unless if an exceptional hunt fall in our arms, as I will mention in the following parts.

Still, and based on what I mentioned about making a strategic transfer plan not only for winter but also for the following summer transfer period because its all interrelated, I will discuss in the following parts some of the most mentioned names as transfer targets, and one by one we can discuss if we buy or not, now or in the following transfer period.

This way we can monitor for the following six months the players we feel we need to sign next summer.

In this part I made an attempt to hover away the emotional factors that shift us far from reasoning approach while discussing transfer cases.its important to create a criteria to judge any transfer option based on deep understanding of our club needs and potentials on both short and middle I listed my concepts and based on it I will move to evaluate transfers options.

Ramzi Tanani

Result - Rating the new guys: Gerard Pique

This is the final result of this blog's "Rating the new guys: Gerard Pique" poll:

10 --- 10%
9 --- 17%
8 --- 32%
7 --- 20%
6 --- 13%
5 --- 3%
4 --- 1%
3 --- 1%
2 --- 0%
1 --- 1%
0 --- 2%
Don't know --- 0%

Average score: 7,51

See other results:

[Crosas] Glasgow Rangers-Celtic Glasgow

Celtic Glasgow played this afternoon their twentieth league game of the season. The Scottish champions defeated city rivals Rangers 0-1.

Former Barcelona midfielder Marc Crosas stayed on the bench for 90 minutes.

Marc Crosas joined Celtic Glasgow in 2008. Since Barcelona can buy Crosas back in the summer of 2010 for two million euro (read more here), this blog will follow the performances of the midfielder over the next two years.

Sunday 10 August - League game 1: Celtic Glasgow-St Mirren 1-0
Non-selectable. Crosas has signed his contract and is presented to the fans before the match.

Sunday 17 August - League game 2: Dundee United-Celtic Glasgow 1-1

Saturday 23 August - League game 3: Celtic Glasgow-Falkirk 3-0
Substitute. Crosas replaces Brown in the 73rd minute (3-0).

Sunday 31 August - League game 4: Celtic Glasgow-Rangers 2-4

Sunday 14 September - League game 5: Motherwell-Celtic Glasgow 2-4
Starter. Crosas starts the game and is replaced by Nakamura in the 80th minute (2-4).

Wednesday 17 September - Champions League group stage game 1: Celtic Glasgow-Aalborg 0-0

Sunday 21 September - League game 6: Kilmarnock-Celtic Glasgow 1-3
Starter. Crosas starts the game and is replaced by Hartley in the 74th minute (0-2).

Tuesday 23 September - League Cup 1/8 finals: Celtic Glasgow-Livingston 4-0
Not selected.

Saturday 27 September - League game 7: Celtic Glasgow-Aberdeen 3-2
Starter. Crosas starts the game and is replaced by McDonald in the 72nd minute (1-2).

Tuesday 30 September - Champions League group stage game 2: Villareal-Celtic Glasgow 1-0

Saturday 4 October - League game 8: Celtic Glasgow-Hamilton 4-0
Starter. Crosas starts the game and plays for 90 minutes.

Saturday 18 October - League game 9: Inverness-Celtic Glasgow 1-2
Starter. Crosas starts the game and is replaced by Hartley in the 95th minute (1-2). Yellow card.

Tuesday 21 October - Champions League group stage game 3: Manchester United-Celtic Glasgow 3-0
Injured. Crosas has a hamstring injury.

Saturday 25 October - League game 10: Celtic Glasgow-Hibernian 4-2
Injured. Crosas has a hamstring injury.

Wednesday 29 October - League Cup 1/4 finals: Kilmarnock-Celtic Glasgow 1-3
Injured. Crosas has a hamstring injury.

Sunday 2 November - League game 11: Hearts-Celtic Glasgow-Hibernian 0-2
Injured. Crosas has a hamstring injury.

Wednesday 5 November - Champions League group stage game 4: Celtic Glasgow-Manchester United 1-1
Injured. Crosas has a hamstring injury.

Sunday 9 November - League game 12: Celtic Glasgow-Motherwell 0-2
Injured. Crosas has a hamstring injury.

Wednesday 12 November - League game 13: Celtic Glasgow-Kilmarnock 3-0
Injured. Crosas has a hamstring injury.

Sunday 16 November - League game 14: Hamilton-Celtic Glasgow 1-2
Injured. Crosas has a hamstring injury.

Saturday 22 November - League game 15: Saint Mirren-Celtic Glasgow 1-3
Injured. Crosas has a hamstring injury.

Tuesday 25 November - Champions League group stage game 5: Aalborg-Celtic Glasgow 2-1
Injured. Crosas has a hamstring injury.

Saturday 30 November - League game 16: Celtic Glasgow-Inverness 1-0
Injured. Crosas has a hamstring injury.

Sunday 7 December - League game 17: Hibernian-Celtic Glasgow-Inverness 2-0
Injured. Crosas has a hamstring injury.

Wednesday 10 December - Champions League group stage game 6: Celtic Glasgow-Villareal 2-0
Injured. Crosas has a hamstring injury.

Saturday 13 December - League game 18: Celtic Glasgow-Hearts 1-1

Sunday 21 December - League game 19: Falkirk-Celtic Glasgow 0-3

Saturday 27 December - League game 20: Rangers-Celtic Glasgow 0-1

1. Celtic Glasgow 50
2. Rangers 43
3. Dundee United 34
4. Hearts (19) 31

Iago: "Rivaldo was at the level as Ronaldinho"

Former Barcelona Atlètic and current Juventus player Iago Falqué gave an interview to Madrid sports tabloid As.

How is football in Italy?
Very different compared to Spain, starting with how young players are treated. You will hardly see boys of 18 years old playing with the first team unless they are real phenomenons. They put the emphasis on the fact that you should be well-prepared and that you need time to get there.

Which doesn't seem a bad thing to me. It's good to go step by step.
Indeed, and I have a lot of time: I signed for four years.

What about the game?
The tactical part is the most important one. Games are very carefully prepared. With attention for the little details, there's nothing that isn't discussed. In Spain, they don't work that much on the tactical aspect, there's more freedom, above all in the defense. Here they defend with eleven players. It's football and chess at the same time. It's just a totally different game. The mixture of both styles will sure make me a better player.

Which teammate has impressed you most?
Pavel Nedved. Of course, the fourteen years that Del Piero has been at the club isn't nothing and the day I sat by his side in the dressingroom, I got emotional. But the Czech is impressive: he's 36 years old and he has won everything but he still has the same desire and ambition as the first day. He plays ninety minutes, Sunday, Wednesday, Sunday.

What about Buffon?
I don't see him a lot. Since he's injured we meet almost never. But when we do, he always slaps my shoulder and greets me. It seems a good guy and he behaves the same with me as with the other teammates: well-mannered and always encouraging. None of the players behave like a star.

How are the fans? The press?
The fans are very passionate, I think it's comparable like in Spain. And the press puts a lot of pressure, also like in Spain. You have several sports papers, the general papers are also focusing on football, radio stations, television channels... This isn't England where a journalist appears every now and then. Here, there's pressure if you lose. And Juventus is the number one club in Italy...

But not in Turin, which is very strange.
Yes, Torino has more fans in Turin than Juventus. It's a historical thing since Torino had the first great Italian team. The memory remains and they are still loved by a lot of people.

Who was your idol when you were young?
Rivaldo. An extraordinary player who hasn't been treated fairly in Spain. For me he was at the same level as the best Ronaldinho... or even better. But he played in a Barça that wasn't as good as the team of today and he paid for that. But what a player!

What do people in Italy think about the Spanish league? They consider Barça to be far ahead of the other teams?
Well, the day they played against Madrid, that didn't seem to be the case to me. It wasn't easy for Madrid to play that game with that many non-available players, with a new coach. Of course Barça was superior, but I have the feeling that it's Messi who is superior, he makes the difference. And when Barça loses him one day, they will have a bad time because he's the one who decides the games. They are the favourites for the league title - saying otherwise would be strange if you look at the table - but there's a lot of season left. The reasonable thing is to wait and see how it will turn out.

What about the Spanish national team?
The Italians don't put in doubt the superiority and the quality of Spain. We won the European championship by playing football, not by speculating like Greece in 2004. Even the last fifteen minutes of the final Germany wasn't able to attack! Even then the chances were ours. What a tournament we played...

You could take part in the European Championship Under-19 and the World Cup Under-20 this season.
I would like to play both tournaments but the competition is realy strong and I'll have to fight for my spot.

This was the second and last part of this interview. Read the first part here:
"I had seven great years at Barça"

Read more:
Barça B: Iago talks about exit
Barça B - Official: Iago to Juventus
Barça B: Manchester United offer for Iago

When do the current contracts expire?



Víctor Sánchez





° The contract of José Manuel Pinto expires in 2010 but both parties can put an end to it in the summer of 2009.
°° Barcelona can buy Sevilla Atlètico defender Marc Valiente back at the end of the 2008-2009 season.

* Barcelona can buy Celtic Glasgow midfielder Marc Crosas back for two million euro at the end of the 2009-2010 season.
** Central defender Henrique Adriano Buss plays this season on loan with Bayer Leverkusen.

Bojan: "I want to keep on growing here"

Barcelona player Bojan Krkic gave an interview to Catalan sports paper Sport.

Over the last months, it was inevitable that people started comparing with last season...
I only think about this season being a new one. What happened before, if it was good or bad, is already history. There are still many games left and that means there will be plenty of chances I can grab.

From your first team debut on, you have always been in the eye of the storm. How does a person of your age deals with people judging you without knowing you?
I'm aware that this is part of the job. What I cannot let happen is being influenced by the opinion of the people. Everybody has the right to express an opinion, I respect that, but that doesn't mean I agree with it. It's important to be sure of who you are and what you want. I won't deny that in the beginning it's not always easy to understand it, but at a certain point you just have to get used to it.

For good or worse, you have become one of the most popular players of the squad...
That's not always easy, but when you adapt to it, there shouldn't be a problem. I have always been supported by the fans and that's very important.

What is the role of the well-known Barcelona entourage in the success or the failure of a player at Barça?
They have a very important role, because the public opinion is always decisive. I don't think they are against us, but you have to take into account that fooball is not only about focusing on the bad things.

How do you look at yourself after everything that has happened this year?
Although I'm only 18 years old, I think I have a clear head and step-by-step I'm growing as a player and as a person. I think I matured a lot over the last months. Last year helped me to grow, but I still had to learn a lot of things about the dressingroom.

The centre forward position is a key position but there's a lot of competition. Given that this spot has always been occupied by a foreign star player at Barça, you have the feeling that you're fighting against the rest of the world to get that spot?
I only fight against myself, trying to continue to get better and get everything needed to play there. In the squad there are several examples, like Puyol, Iniesta or Messi, all of who played with the youth teams and are now being regulars with the first team.

What can you achieve in the world of football?
That's difficult to say, because in football you never know. The important thing is to be prepared for everything that could happen.

One of your best friends, Gerard Piqué, left abroad to grow in the shadow. Aren't you considering to follow his example?
No, at this moment it's clear to me that I want to keep on growing here.

Now the year comes to an end, it's a moment to look back. Have you regretted not taking part in the European championship?
No, not at all. At that time, the situation I was in was very clear and I needed to rest.

This was the first part of this interview, you can read the second part here in the coming days with Bojan talking -among other things- about his position in the squad and how he deals with the fame.

Read more:
Ajax wants to buy Bojan in january
Bojan: "I'm not planning to give up studying"
Bojan not considering to leave on loan

Medical: Milito eyes February return

Madrid sports tabloid As claims that Barcelona central defender and Argentinian international Gabriel Milito (28) could have been given the green light by the medical staff when Barcelona will face Olympique Lyon in the 1/8 finals of the Champions League in February.

The Argentinian is carefully recovering from his knee injury with long training sessions. Although he still has some pain, Milito is keeping up with the schedule and he's very motivated to join his team-mates in a few weeks time.

Milito's progress is closely followed by Barcelona doctor Ramon Cugat and physical coach Lorenzo Buenaventura, with Barcelona manager Josep Guardiola being daily informed about the evolution of the defender's injury.

Milito suffered a knee injury on 29 April 2008 during the second game of the Champions League semi-finals against Manchester United last season. The predicted recovery time was then being estimated between six and nine months.

Read more:
Medical: Milito recovers slower than expected
Pique: "Milito is like a mentor to me"
Medical: Milito return three to four months away

A goalkeeper, a left back and a left winger

Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo claims that Barcelona sports director Txiki Begiristain and Barcelona manager Josep Guardiola will meet next week to talk about the squad for the 2009-2010 season.

They will make a general analysis of the renewal negotiations, the positions that should be strengthened and the player's market. Barcelona wants to be ready and have clear ideas when the transfer market will start to move in the spring of 2009.

The idea is that there will only be few transfers, probably two or three, to fill up concrete needs. The club doesn't plan to transfer big star players and unless one of the current key players unexpectedly leaves next summer, Barcelona will invest less than this year.

In principle, Barcelona plans to buy players for three positions: a goalkeeper, a left back defender and a left winger. Barcelona wants to buy a goalkeeper who can compete with Valdés and with Sylvinho most probably leaving and Guardiola having some doubts on Abidal, a new left back seems to be a certainty.

Because neither Henry or Iniesta are natural wingers, Barcelona also wants to sign a
left winger. Valencia left winger and Spanish international David Silva (22), whom Barcelona already tried to sign last summer (read more here), and Arsenal left winger and Dutch international Robin van Persie (25) are seen as the main candidates.

Read more:
Van Persie to replace Henry next summer
Barcelona keeps on scouting Diego Lopez
Barcelona is still preferred destination for Silva

Friday 26 December 2008

Rating the new guys: Gerard Pique

How not to be anonymous on this blog?

Apparently some new readers have difficulties finding out how not to be marked as "Anonymous" if they are posting a comment on this blog. I indeed would recommend it that you choose a name when you comment here, because that makes everything more personal. Of course everyone is free to choose what he wants, but if you don't want to be marked as "anonymous", this is the way to do that:

- You click on "post a comment" or "... comments" under the post. Then there appears a pop-up, on the bottom of which you have a box where you can write your personal comment.

- Under that box, there's a "Choose an identity" section. If you don't do anything, you will be marked as anonymous. When you don't want that, you can click next to "Name/URL". Then two new boxes appear and in the "Name" box, you can type your real name or a fantasy name. If you have done that and you publish your comment, it will appear under that name.

I jump to the occasion to ask that people would refrain from personal insults on this blog. This blog focuses on Barcelona, we all like the club, we want to share our thoughts about the players and the games, we're all having our own opinions and we all think that we're right and that all the others don't know anything about football but that doesn't mean we should lose our heads.

There are people from almost 200 countries visiting this blog, all have their own culture, tradition and sensibilities. Besides that, every person has its own character and way of expressing himself. I'm not always there to remove unappropriate comments, so just behave a little. Not too much, but let's try to have a basic respect for our fellow Barcelona fans, the players and the club.

How Barcelona defeated Madrid

Barcelona assistant coach Tito Vilanova explained to Catalan newspaper El Periódico some of the key decisions that led Barcelona to win the clásico two weeks ago.

1. The line-up
Vilanova and Guardiola watched the videos that had been prepared by Carles Planxart and Domènec Torrent, the analysts who make the reports on the opponents. They made a report of Madrid-Zenit, the debut of Juande Ramos, but they also reviewed Barça-Sevilla of last season to find out more about some habits and specific details of the new Madrid manager. They found some.

For example "about his defensive strategy at set pieces and the fact that the two centre backs tended to play close together in the centre", confirms Vilanova. The Madrid line-up, predictable because of the big number of non-available players, wouldn't have an influence on that of Barça. The technical staff already had worked that one out.

There was a decision on ten positions and three candidates (Gudjohnsen, Keita and Busquets) for the last spot. "We chose Guddy because he played very good againt Valencia, he had the confidence, Pep believed in him and he deserved to continue to be a starter", says the assistant coach.

Leaving him out would have been a new blow for him, after last year he took part in the victory over Valencia in Mestalla and Rijkaard nevertheless preferred Deco in the clásico. But it wasn't a matter of sentimentality, Vilanova points out. "Guddy handles the ball rapidly, he can be dangerous by coming in the box from behind and he could hurt Guti."

2. Madrid
The most defensive Madrid of the last years showed they were feeling weak. They couldn't hide they were feeling inferior to Barça. "They knew that we play at a very high rhythm from the start and that they wouldn't be able to hold on", Vilanova shows understanding for the poor play of Madrid. "Therefore they wanted to cut our rhythm by stopping every action, making tactically faults and by letting Casillas win time with every goal kick".

He also analyzes the attacks on Messi with some understanding, but without approving it. Madrid had put in place a close and hard marking of the Argentinian, with one full back (Sergio Ramos), getting a hand from a winger (Drenthe), a centre back (Metzelder) and a defensive midfielder (Gago).

But despite playing against an inferior team, the coaches reminded their men that the opponents had the logo of Madrid on the shirts. "Their team was full of players with a worker's profile, who had a winning mentality like Salgado, Ramos, Drenthe, Raúl, Higuain, and we had to be aware of the counter-attacks, which was their only weapon".

It was in fact their only strategy. A surprising outbreak. And they had one with Drenthe. "With all the expectation surrounding the game, we went out there with a lot of hunger, too much hunger, and we hurried", Vilanova admits. It was half-time, Madrid was winning: they had kept the 0-0.

You can read the second part of this article in the coming days.

Pellegrini was last challenger of Guardiola

Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo claims that Villarreal manager Manuel Pellegrini (55) was one of the top candidates to replace former Barcelona manager Frank Rijkaard earlier this year.

When the Barcelona board had made the final decision to dismiss Rijkaard, the Chilean coach was at the start the main challenger of current Inter Milan manager José Mourinho, who had the support of then vice-presidents Ferran Soriano and Marc Ingla. Pellegrini was supported by a group of board members, including people like Albert Perrín and Jacint Borràs who stayed when a part of the board left in July.

Although Mourinho lead the race for quite some time, the Portuguese didn't get the support of Barcelona president Joan Laporta, also because the former Chelsea manager wasn't approved by external adviser Johan Cruijff. Rijkaard would nevertheless have advised the president to sign Mourinho as his successor.

When the Mourinho option was excluded, the name of Barcelona B coach Josep Guardiola was put forward and supported by then board member Evarist Murtra and current sports vice-president Rafael Yuste. Although the board members who didn't believe in Guardiola gathered behind Pellegrini, it was in the end the former Barcelona captain who was appointed as new Barcelona head coach.

Read more:
Guardiola backed by board but not by fans
The bench candidates who did not make it
The race to the bench: Guardiola takes Mourinho's pole

Abidal: "If Busquets was black, he would be 35"

Barcelona player Eric Abidal gave an interview to Catalan sports paper Sport.

How is your second season at Barça going? Are there differences with the first one?
For me, the two seasons are completely different. The first was all about adapting to a new coach, new players, I didn't understand the language. It wasn't impossible to communicate but it's always better to talk Spanish. The worst thing was that at the end the results weren't like we expected. Despite the players being almost the same ones, this year we have a new coach, the games turn out well, we're first and everything goes fine.

You had problems finding your place last year?
When I arrived, I noticed that the rhythm of the league was different. I already said that playing games at 10 pm is very strange. Everything is done very late here. Lunch at 2 pm. Everything changed. My body didn't accept that way of working but now I already know how things work and I feel very good and well-integrated. I don't have any problems.

The injury is also something of the past.
Yes. More than two weeks ago, I returned after having been injured for one month. I didn't take part in a few games but the most important thing is that the team did well.

You were afraid to lose momentum in a team in which a spot in the starting eleven is very expensive.
At Barça, it's hard indeed. But the best thing to recover from my knee injury was to stop a few weeks to then afterwards come back even stronger.

You considered to undergo surgery?
I wanted to avoid it at all costs and I achieved it. Surgery meant being out for three months. I talked with Bernard Moyen, a surgeon who works for Olympique Lyon and a close friend of mine, and with Barcelona team doctor Ramon Cugat and both recommended a conservative treatment. Moyen knows me well since he already operated me twice and I have full confidence in his advice.

How is the atmosphere in the dressingroom now?
Very good. It truly is. Of course it's easier when things are going well. Every morning there's loud music, we're all happy to train and motivated to play games. There's that positive dynamics due to the results.

How is the team doing in your opinion?
Incredibly, a touch here, a touch there. During my injury, I saw the games from the stands and I found out the other teams couldn't hold the ball more than 10 minutes in a whole game. It's difficult to defeat Barça, but I think we still can make progress. There are always things that can get better. We're playing at a good level, but the most difficult thing is to keep the level. Barça has to continue like this, with caution and modesty, because there's nothing decided yet. If we are too sure of ourselves, we'll pay it in the end.

What do you think about the youth players?
Oh man. Sergio Busquets plays like he's playing in the first division for years. He looks young, but in fact he isn't. If Busi would have been black, he sure would be 35 years old, but since he's white, he should be 20. Guardiola knows all the youth players very well and it's positive he gives them chances.

This was the first part of this interview. You'll be able to read the second part in the coming days with Abidal talking -among other things- about what he's doing in his free time and revealing if he ever smiles, and if so, when he does it.

Read more:
Lyon wants to resign Abidal next summer
Henry: "I'm in love"
Milan interested in Abidal

Crosas feels ready for Old Firm

Celtic Glasgow midfielder Marc Crosas (20) has declared to journalists that he's fit to return to action against Rangers on Saturday.

Crosas has been sidelined from first-team action since pulling up with a torn hamstring on 18 October. On Monday, he emerged unscathed after a reserve game:

"I needed to play that 90 minutes and I feel good now. The conditions were bad, but we can't choose the conditions we play in. The manager had explained he did not want to take a risk with me last Sunday. He always explains everything to the players.

It's the worst injury I've had. I was out for two months and that is the longest I've ever been unable to play. When it happened, I thought I'd be out for four or five weeks, so I got really annoyed when it became eight weeks. But I feel 100 per cent again. And, after the reserve's game, I feel I'm ready for the first team.

But it's the manager who must make the decision. Now we play Rangers, and I'm fit for that, as I would be for any game. I already have experience of the Ibrox stadium since I played there with Barça, but I know it's a special atmosphere in a game like Saturday's.

On Sunday, I will then play with Catalonia against Colombia. Representing Catalonia is always a great honour for me. I've always said that if my recovery was going well and the club was okay with me going, I would be available to play."

Marc Crosas joined Celtic Glasgow in 2008. Since Barcelona can buy Crosas back in the summer of 2010 for two million euro, this blog will follow the performances of the midfielder over the next two years (read more here).

Read more:
Crosas wants to return to action this month
Barcelona could make Crosas return in 2010
International: Four players called up for Catalonia

Valdes is next renewal target

Catalan sports paper Sport claims that, with the renewals of Xavi and Busquets agreed upon last week, Barcelona will now first try to close the renewal of Barcelona goalkeeper Víctor Valdés (26).

The first talks with Valdés' father and agent were positive. Valdés, whose current contract that includes a buyout clause of 100 million euro° expires in the summer of 2010, and Barcelona would already have agreed to extend the contract until 2014.

Despite that, a final deal still seems a long way of because of the financial issue. Barcelona agrees that Valdés deserves a better contract but doesn't want to go as far as asked by the player. Although the differences are big at this moment, the positions of the two parties wouldn't be irreconcilable.

Madrid sports tabloid As claims that the negotiations look to become complicated (read more here), despite both parties having the clear will to come to an agreement.

Read more:
Valdes is next on renewal list
Jorquera is looking for an exit
Negotiations with Puyol, Valdés and Eto'o to start

Barcelona interested in French talent Feghouli

Italian football site Tuttomercatoweb claims that Barcelona is interested in Grenoble attacking midfielder and French youth international Sofiane Feghouli (18).

Barcelona would be one of the many European top clubs that are following Feghouli and would recently have made a first contact to inform they are interested in the French player of Algerian descent.

Read more:

Watch a video of Feghouli giving a clinic:

Thursday 25 December 2008

Messi doesn't forget Madrid in christmas wishes

From the post Cannavaro smacked against, I wish you all a


(including those who are twelve points behind)

(click the cartoon to enlarge)

see more cartoons here

Uruguayan left back Matias Perez offered

Catalan sports paper Sport claims that Barcelona is interested in Danubio left back defender Matías Pérez (23).

Barcelona's technical department has asked the scouts to closely follow all promising young left back defenders and Pérez would be among the players who are monitired.

Barcelona has been following the Uruguayan defender for months. Barcelona sports director Txiki Begiristain contacted the player's agent, Martín Guastadisegno, a first time last summer. A few days ago, Guastadisegno would have offered Pérez to Barcelona during a meeting with Barcelona general director of football Raúl Sanllehí.

Barcelona didn't yet make a decision on Pérez. Although the club doesn't consider him to be at this moment a player for the first team squad, they are considering the option of signing the left back and loaning him out to another club and will keep on following him.

Read more:
First contact with CSKA on left winger Zhirkov
Youth: Diego Polenta (Danubio)
Lyon wants to resign Abidal next summer

Watch Pérez scoring a goal (number two ranked goal):

Result - Rating the new guys: Seydou Keita

This is the final result of this blog's "Rating the new guys: Seydou Keita" poll:

10 --- 9%
9 --- 8%
8 --- 31%
7 --- 30%
6 --- 13%
5 --- 5%
4 --- 2%
3 --- 1%
2 --- 0%
1 --- 0%
0 --- 0%
Don't know --- 1%

Average score: 7,40

Barcelona plans new US tour in 2009

Catalan sports paper Sport claims that the Barcelona board and the marketing departemnt of the club have decided that Barcelona will again travel to the United States next summer.

Although initially Barcelona seemed to have adopted the strategy of touring one summer in the US and the other in Asia, the team would now for the second consecutive time play some games in the United States.

With Barcelona last summer having played in Chicago and New York earlier this year, next summer Barcelona plans to play a game in Miami. Besides that, Barcelona would also want to play friendly matches in other cities.

By playing in Miami, Barcelona wants to promote the MLS franchise the club wants to set up and that could start playing in the American league MLS in 2010 or 2011. This also means that Barcelona could change its plans - and travel to Asia instead - in case the Barcelona bid is not accepted by the MLS.

Read more:
FCB Miami: A critical view on Barcelona's bid

Transfer history: Xavi was close to Milan

Barcelona attacking midfielder and Spanish international Xavi (28) has revealed in an interview with Catalan radio station Catalunya Ràdio that he was close to joining AC Milan one decade ago:

"After winning the under-20 World Cup in 1999, I was staying with the under-21 national team and I remember I signed authorizations for my agent and my father to negotiate with Milan.

We talked with Milan chief executive Adriano Galliani and he offered me twice the salary I earned at Barça. He told me about the team they were building, that I would be a fixed starter...

But my family, and especially my mother who was the one who was most against me leaving, was decisive in my final decision to stay. Of course, it was also my dream to triumph at Barça one day."

Read more:
Transfer history: Ferguson (Manchester United)
Xavi is top target for Manchester United
Transfer history: Denilson (Palmeiras)

Txiki: "This is the team we expected to see"

Barcelona sports director Txiki Begiristain gave an interview to the club's official media.

What’s worse for the team: excessive praise or excessive Christmas eating?
There’s nothing wrong with a bit of self-indulgence at Christmas. But too much praise can be dangerous, unless you keep your feet on the ground and remember what’s happened here over the past 5 and a half years.

From your point of view as technical secretary, where is Barça at the moment?
We’re in a great position right now because Christmas is coming which gives us a chance to think about things. That’ll show us that after the disappointment of last season we’ve been able to bounce back. We’ve reacted and taken decisions, some of which were really big ones that affected some of the greatest players in the club’s history and also managers who’d won titles for the club, in order to start something new and which so far is going extremely well.

Is Barça in December 2008 the Barça that the coaching staff and you had expected to get by this stage of the season?
This is the Barça we expected to see. Obviously we’ve all been surprised by the results even though they were always a possibility. The main change has been in the coaching staff headed by Guardiola. Seeing how they were doing things and how they were working, they just had to get it across to the players. But to be honest, things happening so quickly and with such a lead at the top has surprised us. It was our dream and for the moment it’s coming true.

Let’s look now at the manager. When you played in the same team as Pep Guardiola, did you see him as a future coach?
I’d say that people are partly right when they say that Pep started to become a coach out on the pitch, as he drove the team, saw where the gaps were and how we could exploit them. The thing is that there was this passion, a desire to talk much more specifically about football, and that’s where you see the manager, where you see the guy could become a coach, because he notices the little things. The thing is that when he started the coaching course and did the practical stuff at Barça’s sports complex he showed he had the desire and the passion to be a coach.

Why do you think things are going so well for Pep Guardiola: because he works hard during the week, because he’s a football addict, because he knows the club or because Txiki Begiristain has given him a winning squad?
Txiki’s got him a winning squad but it was started with Frank Rijkaard and fine-tuned with Pep. From that point on it’s been successful because Pep is a great analyst, because he’s an addict but a smart addict, one who has his head screwed on and doesn’t take risks. The outcome is the result of the work put in, his analysis and maintaining standards and consistency in the dressing room. To a great extent it’s also because he’s got his people with him, people who helped him win the Third Division and may help him win the First. Pep attached as much importance to the quality of the squad as to the quality of his coaching staff, and here I’m talking about not only technical skill but also being good people.

A quick question: is Messi the best player in the world?
Yes, he’s the best there is.

I think that the player who’s got most stick from the fans is Valdés. Have you ever had any doubts about him?
Never. We have a fantastic goalkeeper, and there’s one thing we should never forget and that’s the final in Paris. Maybe I shouldn’t say this but I reckon that 40 or 50 percent of that final was Víctor. He is a fantastic goalkeeper who has saved lots of games for us in a team which is difficult for goalkeepers and likes to play up the field. Valdés has some practically unique virtues, such as making lots of saves but also playing around the edge of the box. He was crucial in the game against Madrid, because when you play a side that hangs back and tries to hit you on the break Víctor is there to stop them.

What’s your view of Henry?
Rather than looking at how he’s adapted, we should look at what was going on when he arrived. Henry came here last year at a difficult time for the club when there was a lack of leadership in the dressing room. In all likelihood he never thought he’d find that. Plus he came with pelvic and back problems which made things even tougher for him. Now, with a new atmosphere at the club and in the dressing room, a new work ethic he was already used to and a manager who respects him, Henry is the guy with the amazing numbers.

Home-grown players and the top stars: is that the recipe for success?
Home-grown players are important, not only in terms of identity but also because as players they don’t have a hard time at Camp Nou. There are players who come in from outside who find it much tougher than academy players, however young and unknown these may be. The reason is that in the academy players learn quality, about holding onto the ball, respect for organisation and style of play, and that makes it easier for them when they move up to the first team. So the academy is working and producing talent, but obviously if we want to be champions we need to have the world’s best players.

Is the academy an added responsibility for a technical secretary?
It’s a great responsibility but historically Barça has worked well here. Plus now in addition to producing great goalkeepers, great defenders and great midfielders we’re also producing great strikers. We’ve produced Messi, Giovanni before who’s now in England, Bojan and Pedro. We’re starting to have an even more all-round academy and produce a type of player who can be decisive.

A new year wish?
Due to the circumstances I’ve recently gone through I would only ask for good health for everyone, as if we’re healthy we can enjoy a great Barça, including the players, coaches and the doctors, because that’s the way to end the year on a high note.

Read the full interview here

Read more interviews:
Alves: "I only get tired when I play with my kids"
Barça B - Iago: "I had seven great years at Barça"
Henry: "I'm in love"

Toure is again an option for Arsenal

British tabloid The Daily Mail claims that Arsenal is again considering to make a bid for Barcelona defensive midfielder and Ivory Coast international Yaya Touré (25) (read more here).

Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger has said at a press conference that the club is looking at the opportunities the market offers, now that Arsenal midfielder Cesc is out for three to four months with a knee injury: "We are more likely to buy in the January transfer window, but we are not desperate of it."

Touré would be one of the options Wenger has been studying. British tabloid The Daily Telegraph also includes the Ivorian midfielder in a list of possible January transfer targets.

Read more:
Arsenal preparing new bid for Toure
Toure denies exit rumours
Xabi Alonso main candidate to replace Toure

Wednesday 24 December 2008

Happy holidays!

Thanks to Pep, happier than ever!

Santa Claus:
Ho! Ho! Ho!


Santa Culé:

(click the cartoon to enlarge)

see more cartoons here

Rating the new guys: Seydou Keita

Lyon wants to resign Abidal next summer

Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo claims that Olympique Lyon is interested in a return of Barcelona left back defender and French international Eric Abidal (29) at the end of this season (read more here).

Lyon manager Claude Puel, who worked before with Abidal at Monaco and Lille between 2001 and 2004, would have urged his club to resign the Frenchman. The French champions have planned to ask for Abidal a first time during the Champions League tie with Barcelona.

Asked about the continuous rumours about a return to his former club, Abidal, whose current contract expires in 2011, has said in an interview with Catalan sports paper Sport that he could well play again for Lyon one day, although this is not the time:

"I cannot rule out returning to Lyon sooner or later. Lyon will always be Lyon... It' s a natural thing, human, there's loyalty involved. I know the club well, the president, the coach, Claude Puel, who believed in me when I was a young player. Lyon was the only club I wanted to avoid in the Champions League draw.

I know the door is open there, but at this moment it's not possible. I'm feeling very good at Barcelona and I don't think about leaving the club. I actually never thought one second about leaving Barcelona. I know where I am and what I want to achieve with this club."

Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas has meanwhile said in an interview with French sports paper L'Equipe earlier this week that his club is planning to make serious investments during the coming years:

"There has been decided that our priority is to come closer to the European top. So for the next three years we will not worry too much about the financial results. The sporting results will be the priority and we will try to get better whatever it costs. It's a change of strategy given the current circumstances. We have the means to make the difference in this period of global crisis. We will invest. It's the coach who will decide, he has the responsibility to make the best choices."

Read more:
Milan interested in Abidal
First contact with CSKA on left winger Zhirkov
Lyon interested in Abidal return

Red card of Pique revoked

The Competition Committee of the Spanish Football Federation RFEF has yesterday decided to leave "without effect" the second yellow card that Barcelona central defender Gerard Piqué received in the second half of the game against Villarreal on Sunday.

Piqué will therefore be available for the league match against Mallorca on Saturday 3 January in the Camp Nou.

Barcelona had appealed the second yellow card that resulted in the sending off of Piqué, who was penalised after jumping to challenge for the ball with Villarreal striker Franco, with television replays suggesting the decision was not correct.

Read more:
Pique attacked during training session
Statistics 2008-2009: Goals, assists, cards
Piqué: "Ferguson's English sounded like Chinese"

Valencia rejects offer for Villa

Madrid sports tabloid Marca claims that Barcelona is interested in Valencia forward and Spanish international David Villa (27), who would be on top of Barcelona's wish list for next season.

Barcelona wants to take advantage of Villa's drop of form and would have contacted Valencia to make a first bid worth 35 million euro°. Valencia didn't accept the bid and is not willing to negotiate for less than 40 million euro°.

The paper claims that signing Villa would also allow Barcelona to put pressure on the renewal negotiations the club wants to start soon with Barcelona striker Samuel Eto'o.

Asked about the rumour linking Villa with Barcelona, the player's agent José Luis Tamargo said in an interview with Madrid radio station Radio Marca that a transfer isn't very likely at this moment:

"One day it's this club, tomorrow it's another one. Villa is one of the most wanted players in the world, so those rumours are normal. Whoever contacts us will be welcomed but David Villa has a contract with Valencia until 2014, he's very happy and satisfied at his club and he's now only thinking about winning the Liga, the UEFA cup and the Copa.

An offer of 35 million euro? Valencia won't sell for that price. In fact, I don't think that Valencia wants to sell the player at all. The people of Valencia can have quiet holidays, Villa will be there with them."

Read more:
Villa prefers Barcelona
Tough and expensive Villa race coming up
Valencia rejects Villa bid

Hard winter forces Madrid to spend more

Presi... you want me to burn another 19 million for that Diarra guy?

Burn Pedja, burn! Being twelve points behind the culés has made me feel icecold.

(click the cartoon to enlarge)

see more cartoons here

Jorquera is looking for an exit

Catalan sports weekly paper Gol claims that Barcelona goalkeeper Albert Jorquera (29) wants to leave the club during the winter transfer window because of a lack of playing time (read more here).

Jorquera, who signed earlier this year a contract renewal until the summer of 2010 (read more here), would have ordered his agent to be aware of the transfer market movements and opportunities. If a good offer comes in, the goalkeeper wants to leave in January.

Asked about Jorquera not being called up for the Catalonia versus Colombia game (read more here), Catalan national team coach Pere Gratacós said yesterday at a press conference that the player wanted to avoid getting injured:

"Jorquera has received some offers for the winter market and because he could accept one of these offers, we thought that it was better not to play this time, keeping in mind that he got seriously injured during last year's game with Catalonia."

Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo claims that Spanish first division club Mallorca, who was already interested in signing the player last summer, has contacted Jorgquera again. Barcelona wouldn't have yet received any concrete offers and hasn't initially planned any transfer this winter.

Asked about a possible exit of Jorquera, Barcelona sports vice-president Rafael Yuste denied the rumours last week in an interview with Catalan radio station Catalunya Ràdio: "I regularly talk with goalkeeping coach Juan Carlos Unzué, who keeps a close eye on the three goalkeepers and he didn't tell me anything about this."

Read more:
Guardiola asked for three goalkeepers
Medical: Green light for Jorquera
Jorquera considering January exit

Tuesday 23 December 2008

Quote of the day: Lippi

Barcelona will win the Liga and the Champions League, want to bet?

Marcello Lippi, Italian national team coach

Crush the Bus!

Every Barcelona fan nightmare, a game against a defensive wall, where the opponent play that new tactical structure only implemented to face Barcelona Fc, the 9-1-0, and if its more adventurous it turns to 8-1-1. Alright, not literally, but you know what I

Guardiola was aware of this issue since the moment he was hired; the first thing he called for was a big, ok I mean REALLY BIG Striker! A giant in the box! He wouldn’t care about the striker technical abilities when it comes to dribbling three players in a millisecond; he already has the Argentinean wizard for that, who is much more than enough. Guardiola wanted a Skyscraper!

Now, According to Wikipedia list of tallest buildings and structures in the world, “Burj Dubai” is heading the list (under construction); the total budget for the 707 m height building is about $4.1 billion. Which means that, every 1 meter slice of it costs around 5,800,000 $, I will get to the point, patience.

Don’t get so shocked by the crazy cost of the project… If we take in consideration the two meters (more or less) strikers Barcelona had on their short list, and the price demanded for them, you can easily conclude that Barcelona had to pay for a tall striker, relatively, four times the cost of the tallest and most luxurious building in the world including all what you can imagine to find in that luxury Building.


Still let’s not fool ourselves; being reasonable has a tax as well. Every time we play against a “Two Rows” Defense, we will get stressed till we hunt the first Goal, and then LET THE SHOW BEGINS! But that’s not the worst news, What’s more stressing is that this scenario will not happen every once and while, but every time our guys run out of the tunnel to play a game, they will be the ones to kick the ball for the game to start, because the other team will not have enough players the midfield to do so, all cemented back.

We believe that the tall striker would have been an added Value in that manner. Yet, there is a reasonable question to ask about the original plan aiming to switch Eto’o for a Skyscraper; will the Skyscraper win us more games than Eto’o?

Knowing that it’s too late to seek answers for that, that’s a question for transfer periods, and we will discuss it soon, so for now I think the most fruitful question is: Can Eto’o plus the systematic group offense, cover up for the lack of “Skyscraper striker” model? Or is it a problem to live with, but not to solve?

In my opinion, that’s not a mission impossible, I believe there are three interrelated methods we can Apply to solve the “Two Rows” defense problem, and unlock the game, if it worked, then we will know we just earned the impact we were welling to pay crazy to get, without selling our best striker, and most importantly without changing our offense style, because that skyscraper will definitely has a bad impact on the fluid Offense we play and enjoy.

Through what I will mention below I will not be inventing anything, but I will try to apply what is considered as “Alphabetic of football” using the hefty resources we have in our squad.

1. Total football

Guardiola is injecting this system in the tactical structure in doses. Total football is not just to switch positions, but also to have that “Water- like” structure, that reshape itself based on the opponent resistance, sometimes its 4-3-3, with two wings and a striker, then in one second it turn to become 4-3-1-2 where Messi play the free role behind two strikers – Henry-Eto’o, then its 4-1-2-2-1 with Messi moving to play as a striker with Henry and Eto’o Behind, without ignoring Alves contribution going forward and the way his runs reshape the tactical structures we draw on papers.

This approach shake any Defense, no doubt, because the way you set your defense to stop Eto’o in the box will not work if you face Messi instead, or even both. Monitoring Xavi as a sole playmaker turn useless when Messi Move to play that role as well, and so on.

We can really count on this Strategy, especially against teams that apply Tie Man-to-Man Marking. But we all wish if it was that easy, right?

In modern football, the man marking is a “Last option”, because every coach expect that key players switch positions, so everyone is applying a Zone marking now, you mark the player closest to your territory, what’s more boring is that, actually some coaches tend not to apply any kind of man marking at all, they simple close their area creating a crowd, closing any spaces to their box regardless of how the opponent move, and here, the total football –as mentioned above- lose lot of its advantages.

2. Let the sky rain crosses to the box:

One of the standard options: no need to penetrate with the ball, instead of being a fighter sniping your target, act as a bomber and rain the opponent box by crosses and one of the balls will hit target. But to do that efficiently, you need the right players in the box, having only Eto’o there, means you are actually sending greeting cards for the opponent defense to enjoy, let’s shake and redistribute our cards then!

The receipt for this plan is to have good flanks to cross the ball, and players with physical presence in the box to knock it in, so let’s move the shorts back and the monsters forward, I mean Xavi move to play the pivot role, while Yaya move to play on the edge of the box, not permanently because then we will lose the power of surprise, let it happen every time the team switch from total football to crossing set up.

Two critical comments will face this suggestion:

1- Xavi is the best Play maker in the world and you want to pull him out of the operation Zone?! And the answer is simple, I believe being outside the crowd will make it easier for Xavi to dictate the system, whenever there is a big mess just play the ball back to the unmarked Xavi and let him generate a new wave forward. The other respond is that I am aiming to create a “Two Poles” playmaking this way, Xavi out and Messi in, instead of having them both on the edge of the box closing more space than the crowd-y defense already sealing. Why not? Lets have Xavi out – Military operation usually work from outside the battlefield for a reason- and Messi do a playmaking role upward where his skills can help him to dribble, make a Mess, and earning fouls for Alves on the edge of the Area.

2- The second Critic will be, Yaya is better as a defensive midfielder than Xavi, but I wonder if the opponents can cause more threat than Xavi plus three Defenders behind can handle, and still being crowded in their Box. I just can’t see that happening.

So making this switch means having enough depth and potentials defensively to slow down counter attacks, plus having two distinct playmakers which will increase the fluidity of the ball, and we will also gain a 191 cm guy on the edge of the box who will only need milliseconds to penetrate and head the cross to the net.

One monster rolling to the box is not enough to seal the deal, the movement of Eto’o in the box is important dragging them to the near post opening a gap, and also one other player movement is important based on who will be the forward beside Eto’O and Messi, and who will be the third Midfielder beside Xavi and Yaya.

To cover the options without making the article long, I think the following presentations will serve the need:

(Click the image to enlarge)

(Click the image to enlarge)

I cant say the first selection is better or the second one, It depend on whom we are playing against, their weakness and strength.

3. Let the wind bomb shots to the box:

In short, we have three missiles launchers in this team, Yaya, keita, and Alves. The trick to switch permanently from “Crossing Method” to “Shooting set up” is Messi switching positions with Alves who run to the edge of the box through the path created by Messi sprint wide to the right dragging his markers.

This set up will create a lot of confusion for the opponent, they know the three players are there to shoot, and with the physical characters of the shooting players, it will not be enough for the opponent to apply one-to-one Marking, Alves is too explosive for any one marker to handle when he run, cross or shoot, while Yaya hm…you know…! But at the same time parking more than three players to face the three threats will definitely create gaps on the sides for Messi and Iniesta/Henry to penetrate to the box through the flanks.

This set up inspire lot of predicted scenarios, starting from a fake shot attempt and playing an assist instead to Eto’o in the box, but mostly to the guys penetrating from the flanks behind defense, to the scenario of penetrating to the box with the ball (at least Yaya and Alves can do so), while Eto’o move out pulling Central backs out of position, and much more.

It will only work as a Mix!

As I mentioned from the start, one method alone will be too predictable to be efficient, switching from one set up to another during the match force opponent to surrender, but lets clarify one thing, its not easy to reach that level of understanding, lot of training needed, lot of tactical lectures, and lot of concentration and mental awareness.

Ramzi Tanani

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