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Russell Berrisford

Russell Berrisford

Russell’s support of Derby County eventually led him to leave the country. He has lived in Canada since 2007 and currently writes about soccer for The Vancouver Sun.


TANGENTS

How Barcelona Are Destroying Football

Written by on September 6, 2011 | 48 Comments »
Posted in General

It is an indisputable fact that the current Barcelona team are one of the best (if not the best) club sides that have ever graced a football field. Perhaps a once in a lifetime sporting event.

Yet for all the pace, precision and skill that they bring to the game, they may be making a significant contribution to hastening the end of the soccer landscape as we know it.

Despite what some of us may think from time to time the managers of top class football teams are not idiots. They have looked at the way that Barcelona play their football and decided that the only way to have a chance to overcome them is to fight fire with fire.

Manchester United are already a vastly different team than they were last season; full of young attacking players who can comfortably interchange positions and pass the ball with speed and precision.

Jose Mourinho is clearly trying to develop his Real Madrid side as a kind of “uber-Barcelona” (if you will forgive the Germanic-Catalonian hybrid) filled with all the qualities that his main foes possess with the added ingredient of the power that is so redolent in all his sides.

The best example of how much the football world has changed though was the recent 5-1 defeat of Tottenham by Manchester City. Last season City went to White Hart Lane and ground out a turgid 0-0 scoreline that enervated just about everybody watching.

This season they were a whirlwind of attacking ideas that left Spurs baffled and looking lost, and this wasn’t a depleted Tottenham side in the same way that Arsenal were in their rout against Manchester United. This was a Spurs side that was startlingly familiar to the one that finished fourth and fifth in recent campaigns.

The huge difference between the two teams was clearly the front men. Even if Harry Redknapp had wanted to play a freewheeling style of forward line (unlikely I know) does anybody imagine that Crouch, Defoe, Van de Vaart and Lennon could achieve the kind of fluidity that Villa, Dzeko, Nasri and Aguero were so comfortable with?

In the end it was akin to watching a group of trees trying to stop a river, the winner was always going to be that one that could flow wherever it willed.

How does this destroy football as we know it? Simply because it takes an incredibly high standard of player to play in this way. Villas-Boas is clearly trying to move toward it at Chelsea but he will never do that as long as Drogba and Anelka are on the pitch.

Liverpool can get close to it when Suarez is leading the line, but when Andy Carroll is on the pitch they become far too predictable (no reason that Carroll can’t develop to be as effective as Dzeko) but so far his imagination and fitness seems lacking.

Recent scorelines have shown that a small handful of the very top clubs are now perfecting both a style and a squad that is capable of simply steamrolling over weaker opposition on a depressingly regular basis that could ultimately lead to the demise of national leagues as even vaguely competitive entities.

The teams that they have inspired may be incredibly exciting to watch for the time being, but we may find that Barcelona have spawned a series of beautiful monsters that are capable of destroying the sport from within.

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48 responses to “How Barcelona Are Destroying Football”

  1. Chris Koenig says:

    “Simply because it takes an incredibly high standard of player to play in this way.” This is the only sentence in the whole article that attempts to explains how they are destroying football. You don’t elaborate on it at all. Not a very compelling argument.

    P.S. I support Manchester United through and through and would love to be able to say that Barcelona are destroying football haha but this gives me nothing to go on.

    @SirKones

  2. Jay says:

    Utter drivel. 9 paragraphs build to a point that never actually arrives. The headline led me to believe the article may be about financial fairplay or Barca’s resistance to revenue sharing within La Liga or some other, you know, RELEVANT argument.

    Iinstead I find myself subjected to… what is this, exactly? The gloating of a closet Manchester City fan?

    I’ve read very few articles on here that weren’t written by Bobby and, at risk of slighting the other writers, this piece has reminded me why.

  3. Soccerlogical says:

    So basically you woke up today and had nothing to write so you picked the first “sensationalized thought” that came to mind eh? LOL

  4. Marston says:

    Your talking utter rubbish.

    Are you blaming usian bolt for ruining 100/200m races aswell?

    Just because a team like Barcelona has a superiority over every other team does not mean then are ruining football. They are simply doing what you should do in everything you do, be the best!

    Bad article.

  5. Gillian says:

    I hate Barca as much as the next person (or maybe I’m all alone in that-ha!), but the argument here doesn’t make much sense. If Barcelona are inspiring teams to play more free-flowing, attack-minded football, won’t it follow that said teams and the football governing bodies in their countries will work to develop players who can play at the high level required? And won’t that lead to more teams playing the beautiful football everyone praises Barca for? And won’t that be good for the sport overall, at least at the club level?

  6. Blake says:

    I think your article should have focused more on how Barcelona is destroying football with 75% of their team resorting to play acting when faced with better or competitive opposition. Can’t give an exact number but look at how many red cards barcelona has received over the last 3 years and compare that with the amount of red cards their opponents have accumulated. You’ll be shocked. Greatest team ever? They are fantastic, but the greatest team of all time would not resort to childish antics.

  7. Ed Gomes says:

    I am far from an Barca fan, but to say that they are destroying footaball, is ridiculous. In the end you actually explain how they are making it better;
    “Simply because it takes an incredibly high standard of player to play in this way.”
    Wouldn’t this help develop the youth levels, and even get current players to broaden their skills.

    What irks me more, is how Barca is still thought of, in some circles, as the “little team” that could when they are giants and spend more than anyone else.
    Even more frustrating is when they knock the ball around the backline for 75% of the match when they can be beautiful and attack.
    As for their diving prowess, it’s unmatched. Busquets is incredible, as is Alves, and they are teaching pedro and others to be proficient at it.
    I give Pep all the credit in keeping the current crop of players motivated and bringing in additional pieces. He also changes formations in order to keep players motivated and involved.

    The other comments posted say it all.

  8. 4zaMilan says:

    I gotta agree with all the above. Your “point” that you try to make isn’t much of a point. Barcelona are actually pushing the game further and if anything can be drawn from them, it’s that coaches and upper management have more of a challenge to design and train better teams in order to compete for the big money. How on earth is that destroying the game?

    Next time you have a sensationalized headline idea, make sure you actually complete the article first. Then re-read and ask yourself if you’ve fulfilled your point. But then again, this is usually the reason why writers just write the story and editors write the headlines. You haven’t made good on this piece and seems to me you need to go back to the drawing board.

  9. Brian says:

    Sorry but it’s hard not to embrace “destruction” so beautiful.

    I’d rather gouge my eyes out than return to the era of predominance by the sort of football played by Mourinho’s Inter/Porto or the Juve and Milan sides of the early 2000s…

  10. Esjay says:

    I believe that what this article is refering to is the ratcheting up of the standerd of competition. In order to compete with the giants from Spain (Barca, Madrid) other teams (Man City, Man U, Chelsea) must go to greater lengths to get the talent necassary. The standerd of excelence set by Barca has created an arms race that could disrupt the current domestic league/ euro cup balance.
    The budget that a team like Barca or ManU require to keep their very talented players is obviously unsustainable for most teams in any given domestic league. Only the best teams that have already cemented their jugernaut finances will be able to keep up. The other teams in a league will all be playing for concelation prizes (ie La Liga).
    If the current trend were to continue (I’m not sayying it will), andManU/ManCity were to beat every team they played 5-0, then how long would it be before fans stopped caring about the EPL? It wouldn’t be long before the Champs League was seen as the only “real” prize and the league will just be another piece of ancillary silverware. Are we headed toward a Euro Super League?
    The agrument that Barcas standerd of play can be achieved by any other team by stepping up their effort or changing their style of play is niave. What Barca has achieved is the culmination of decades of work and a single-mindedness that just isn’t practicle for most orginizations. it takes more than simply having a plan to play beautiful football. The financial resources neccasry to pull it off make it unsustainable for all but the wealthiest teams in a league. If you think Everton can be a Barca-esque team in 10yrs by developing their youth players and changing their style, then you are almost certainly wrong.
    What I love about the EPL is the parity and competition from top to bottom of the table. Obviously some teams are better than others, and their sharks and minnows in the league, but it is nothing like La Liga. However, for better or worse, it looks like the best teams in Europe are pulling away from their respective packs, and that is not good for domestic competition.

  11. Sean says:

    …huh?

    If other teams are fashioning themselves after the Barcelona model (which, as you argue, is “the best in the world”), then won’t the quality of football increase over time? Won’t the playing standard change?

    I would argue that most commentators view this as change, not destruction.

  12. Chris Koenig says:

    ESJAY, you said “The agrument (sic) that Barcas standerd (sic) of play can be achieved by any other team by stepping up their effort or changing their style of play is niave (sic).”

    However, both before and after you make that statement you also make the statement that spending large amounts of money is how to achieve said standard of play. That view is far more naive than the one that you label as such.
    Furthermore, your assertions about the author’s logic ($$$, arms race, et al) are incorrect anyway. The author states Drogba would not fit into this style of play, would Drogba be a cheap player to purchase?? Not by a long shot.

    I understand what the author is saying: essentially that all players will have to become better to compete with Barcelona. The author fails to support how this destroys football though; no premises to support that conclusion are provided. IMO progression is part of every sport and is part of the natural cycle. Excluding unnatural progression like steroids in baseball of course.

  13. missq says:

    @Blake….this is not a trolling site…please go to ESPN’s site…teams foul barca hard as a tactic to stop their flow…of course the are going to go down easy AS a counter-tactic…while a real futbol fan would scream “just play futbol”….

  14. Al Harris says:

    Am I the only one who thought Russel was having us on with this article? I’m pretty sure he intended it to be tongue in cheek. At least, I laughed anyway. One man’s opinion.

  15. Roberto Manita says:

    Barça is destroying footy if you are a fan of the Evil Empire (Real Madrid & Mou Mou) or the Great Satan (ManU & Fergie). FCB is disciplining those unsavoury characters on such a regular basis these days that I almost feel sorry for them. Wait a minute. No I don’t. I could never reach that point 😀

    Pep is just sitting on his high chair figuratively saying, “Come over here Jose. Time to get your special paddling over your pompous backside. No poking your finger in others’ eyes whilst you get your spanking”.

    “Fergie old boy. You’re next. Come to the front of the class. Put your chewing gum in the waste bin. Time for your haughty red ass to feel the paddle again. What’s that? You won’t come to the head of the class to receive your discipline because your tired of getting totally footballed off the pitch in UCL Finals by the blaugrana? You’d rather retire than have to go through another humiliating loss in the Finals yet again? I see. I can’t say that I blame you.”

  16. Soccerlogical says:

    AL – Then he should have known that he lacks the necessary credibility for such a satirical or cheeky piece! 🙂

    * Odd formation deployed by Klinsmann against a very strong Belgium side. I’m sure all the “Bunker Bob” critics who called for Klinsi are scratching their heads.

  17. LA says:

    Sorry,

    The premise is a bit hard to take. Man has risen to new occasions since eternity. The byword is change or innovation and it is needed. Barca deserve plaudits.

  18. Russell Berrisford says:

    Wow- when I was pulled over by the cops in Arizona today I assumed it had something to do with this article!

    Fortunately it was just becasue I was speeding.

    I don`t think the argument that Barcelona are so good that only the richest clubs can hope to compete with them (and that that inevitably pulls that select few even further away from the pack) is actually that tendentious, although maybe the headline was too inflammatory for some people to see passed.

  19. J says:

    Russell – I can’t tell if you’re trolling or just having a bad day.

  20. Roberto Manita says:

    I agree that Barça has raised the bar. And contrary to popular belief the gap has widened this year. It has not narrowed.

    Thankfully, it is being done by a team that believes in playing the beautiful game beautifully and not by a Mourinho led atrocity.

  21. PV2 says:

    “I’ve read very few articles on here that weren’t written by Bobby and, at risk of slighting the other writers, this piece has reminded me why.”

    I hear you, Jay. There’s some right trash on the site generally that needs to be culled.

  22. John Bladen says:

    Perhaps Barcelona’s present brand of football is exacerbating the “flight to the top” of the world’s very best players, but that flight is and has always been the case. Perhaps it has accelerated somewhat in recent years, but when RM & MCFC are paying out the kind of ridiculous money they are, it’s hard to argue that it is “one team’s” fault.

    FCB have developed a wonderful style that is very hard to defend against (not least because they routinely have the ball for 70% of play when facing the best sides in the world). But the onus is on other managers and tacticians to come up with a way to successfully disrupt this style of attack. Such is the way of all sports… someone develops a new offensive (or defensive) scheme and dominates for a time (sometimes months, sometimes years), then someone else burns the midnight oil (pause for three choruses of ‘beds are burnin’) and develops a method to stymie (or unlock) it.

    I don’t know what that system will be, nor who will develop (or play) it. But I do know it will come.

  23. Roberto Manita says:

    JB – Unfortunately, nothing lasts forever. Hopefully that day won’t come before Mourinho ends up in the loonie bin.

  24. Roberto Manita says:

    Another prime example of how Arsene has lost the plot is Arsenal’s lack of discipline and card accumulation not just this season but over the last couple of years. And does he even practice back four or team defense concepts? It sure as hell doesn’t seem so. Maybe he should take a page from American football and hire a defensive co-ordinator? George Graham was famous for drilling his back four in training every single day. The difference surely shows. The proof is in the pudding.

  25. Blake says:

    @ missq. I believe trolls personally attack others online to get a rise out of them. Sounds familiar……

  26. Blake says:

    Now, for my actual post. If Barcelona were the only victims of hard fouls then I would understand going down softly, not play acting. See there is a difference. For a recent example. Pepe was red carded in the 1st leg of the champions league semi final this past season. Further investigation shows dani Alves receiving 0 contact. The tackle by pepe deserved a yellow, you can’t tackle like that in the modern game. Heres the catch, dani Alves rolled on the ground as if his shin had been snapped in half and was stretchered off only to hop off that stretcher and sprint back on the field once everything had calmed down. That, is not going down softly, that is play acting. I can gladly show anyone numerous examples of barcelonas top 4 actors play acting to get the opposition booked. But it isn’t just Barcelona getting fouled to stop their flow is it? Remember Stanford bridge? Champions league semi final in 2009 I believe where fans across the world witnessed Chelsea getting robbed of their champions league final for the 2nd year straight? 5 or 6 different times Barcelona commited a pk worthy foul, 2 handballs as well. Mourinho is way off with his Barcelona conspiracy claims, but I can understand his frustration. It’s the same frustration football fans have been witnessing for 3-4 years now. The Barcelona band wagon fan boys will argue this point every day, but football fans know of what I talk about.

  27. Roberto Manita says:

    And what about Wenger’s lack of tactical nous? To go into the Old Toilet with novice defenders in your RB (Jenkinson), LB (Traore), and one of your holding MFs (Coquelin) which have almost no EPL experience and play a wide open expansive game of footy is the epitome of tactical naivety.

    Does anyone know the whereabouts of Leonard Nimoy? I think someone has gone and body snatched the once erudite Frenchman.

  28. Roberto Manita says:

    Blake,

    Yes, I remember Stamford Bridge. Iniesta, top corner, injury time. Brilliant and sublime. That’s why they call him Don Andres 😉

    So Barça have four top divers, eh? Okay, I’ll concede Alves and Busquets. But there aren’t any others you can label regular offenders. Are you familiar with the quality Olympic divers on RM? Di Maria, CR7, and Marcelo are world class divers on a weekly basis. Di Maria is so prolific that he even makes Greg Luganis blush.

    ManU have their share too. Nani, Rooney, and Hernandez spring to mind. And quite often to the floor.

  29. Blake says:

    Imagine how sublime it would have been if the penalties had been awarded?? 4 or 5-1 at Stamford Bridge to take Chelsea into the finals where they surely would have walked away with the win in the final, that was their year. That is why Drogba called it a disgrace 🙂

    Sure can. Pedro and Mascherano. Every team dives, we knows this. BUT do they play act? I would agree with Di Maria, Marcello. The earlier days of CR7 before Manchester United taught him to be a man is sort of a stretch because those are DIVES and not really play acting.There is a difference, a very subtle difference but a difference none the less.

    Roberto, cmon friend, even you know you’re stretching with the Manchester United comparison. Clearly you can see that they do not play act in such a flamboyant way to get the opposition booked. Yes you are right, Nani dives. Rooney dives. Hernandez dives. They are looking for free kicks, not to get whomever tackled them last sent off.

    Winning a free kick or penalty is one thing but winning the other team disciplinary problems when they are not deserved? No, neither is right, but play acting is the greater of the two evils.

    Barcelona is a fantastic team, i’ll never deny that but their is a bigger element to their game then just beautiful passes, fantastic dribbling skills, and some of the best players on the planet. That element? Play acting. I’m sorry, I wish it weren’t so either, but it IS a major part of their game. Just like Mourinho’s enforcers, he has had one or several on every team, I do not like what they do as well but this article talks of Barcelona. I’ll save my Real Mourinho rant for later I mean Real Madrid.

  30. I have more to say but I put the beginning of my comment into the link.
    Overall, money not barca have pushed talent to the top.

    But, you are right about the competitive issues especially with fans being obsessed with raised trophies and not quality play

  31. J says:

    Russell – I don’t think I had a problem getting beyond the headline.

    “How does this destroy football as we know it? Simply because it takes an incredibly high standard of player to play in this way.”

    VS.

    “Yet the fact that Barcelona, or Real Madrid or Manchester United, would almost certainly win the World Cup if they were allowed to compete for the trophy isn’t due to the fact that they have better quality players, it is due to the fact that the group of players that they do have get to spend more time together.”

    – Berrisford (08/08/11)

    Here’s to Russell spending some time with Russell!

  32. Ed Gomes says:

    I love how some people still call Mourinho a “beautiful game” killer.
    I wish people would go back and watch the CL’s 1st leg of the Inter vs Barca. Inter did not park the bus, and actually attacked often and countered great. The 2nd leg is always looked at as Mourinho parking the bus, but that had more to do with Busquets falling down, rolling around and tricking the ref into Motta’s red. Inter had no choice but to play defenssively/park the bus once down to 10 men.
    If you youtube motta’s foul, a definate yellow not red, you can see Busquets peeking through his fingers as he’s rolling on the ground, in order to see the ref’s reaction to the foul. It’s actually priceless and should be shown to refs before every match.

    Barca does get fouled the most, because of their style of play.
    Also keep in mind that Messi and CR7 are taught to lift their legs when they see a hard sliding tackle coming, in order to save their legs. It looks bad, because they usually have their legs already up when the slide goes through.

  33. John Bladen says:

    Ed: Do you remember what allowed Inter to park the bus? A two goal margin in the first leg in which the last goal was several feet offside.

    Sorry if the truth is unpalatable to you, but Inter parked the bus. 8 or 9 behind the ball for 88 of the 90 minutes. Perhaps any manager would have parked the bus after going down a man, but Mourinho did it from the first minute. Put the dvd in and watch it again if you don’t believe me.

    Blake: If you want your posts to be taken seriously, I would suggest you don’t include phrases like “fanboys may disagree, but real football fans know I’m right…”

    It’s the footballing equivalent of “have you stopped beating your children yet?” and, frankly, shameful. No-one can take a position seriously if it is accompanied by that kind of logical fallacy.

  34. John Bladen says:

    Roberto:

    ManU certainly has their share, as do all major sides. Tragically, flopping is a career skill for some… and not just Spaniards or South American players. It is absolutely everywhere.

    When I compare the modern game to, say, the 1980’s or early 90’s though, I actually think it is slightly less prevalent today. But maybe the difference is just that Rumminegge has retired…

  35. Tim says:

    Thank You J. Bladen

    Blake’s opinion is reinforcing the growing fact that Mourinho not only has his players in an unstable mental state but the fans have jumped on board too. Hopefully i won’t get my eye gouged

  36. Russell Berrisford says:

    J- they seem to be two separate points to me. Arguing that club sides are better than national sides because they spend more time together is different to arguing that the top clubs are pulling away from the rest at an exponential rate.

    And the fact that the national sides are almost exclusively made up of players from these teams only emphasises that point.

    Some people seem to think that I was arguing that Barcelona are in some way a bad team (which I clearly didn’t) or that they are in some way damaging to the game in itself as an entity. That wasn’t the case either.

    What I did argue though was that they may be hastening the end of national leagues as competitive entities, due the raised level of play thay they have introduced, and that only the very richest few can hope to compete with.

    And if you are a fan of a “smaller” team that has less and less chance of even getting near to the top teams then it can indeed feel very much like the sport is moving away from what it has been in the past.

  37. LA says:

    Russell,

    An alternative take may be that they are hastening a new style of play, new tactics, and different player attributes. Barcelona are to be applauded for sticking with uncommon tactics (pressing, possession at all costs) and players (small in stature, very high fitness) until it worked.

    As you know football (look at Brazil) had started to move toward physicality in the last decade.

  38. napier says:

    If this is satire, it’s fantastic!
    If not, the author is an utter moron

  39. John Bladen says:

    Russell:

    I agree that a handful of top teams in most domestic leagues are pulling away. I guess it remains to be seen if the current gap between RM, FCB and the rest of La Liga (or Man U, Man C and occasionally a couple of others and the rest of the EPL) continue to grow or are clawed back.

    Is the gap in Spain bigger now than it was in the 70s/80s? I didn’t watch spanish football at the time, but it seems to me that clubs like Bilbao or AM did occasionally find there way into top positions.

    Top level football in some countries is still in a dream world of deficit finance at present. If teams like FCB, RM, Chelsea or Man C are ever required to be fiscally responsible (spend what they earn but no more), I think things will change. The clubs with larger grounds and richer fanbases will always be at the top end of the spending, but the gap might not be so large.

  40. Jeffrey King says:

    Please don’t ruin football. Please don’t look to better your team in the transfer market. Please don’t innovate. Please don’t play aesthetically pleasing football. Please don’t be technically superior to your opponents. Please don’t have vision.

    The only way Barcelona could ruin football is if other clubs stopped trying to compete and gave up on the game, leaving nothing to be contested. Obviously the opposite is occurring. Barcelona (and Real, ManU, and ManCity) may be ruining the current organizational structure of football, but playing beautiful, creative, poetic football can do nothing but further inspire both players and managers.

  41. Roberto Manita says:

    JB – Don’t forget about ManIOU (clubs spending beyond their means … they invented it and therefore are the Great Satan in my eyes) and Jurgen Klinsmann (old school Germanic platform diving).

  42. Roberto Manita says:

    Ed, Blake, Tim, & JB,
    I remember that 1st leg at the San Siro which Inter and Jose were more than happy to get such a smash and grab job. Interestingly enough, FSR replayed the highlights of that infamous match just a few nights ago. Video evidence is quite clear that Inter’s third goal by Milito was more than marginally offside and that Sneijder’s tackle on Alves was a stonewall penalty. To add insult to injury, Dani boy gets a yellow for simulation. Please. If either of those calls get called correctly the score becomes 2-1 Inter. If both get called correctly the score becomes 2-2. Did we hear Mou Mou complaining about a UEFA/Unicef/black helicopter/alien abduction conspiracy theory after that result?

    In the 2nd leg FCB had a perfectly legit goal scored by Bojan disallowed also.

    If FCB won that tie they would have gone on to beat Bayern Munich in the Final at the Bernebeu. Now that would have been sweet. They would be on three straight European Cups going on four. Had Chelsea won their SF v FCB in 2009 do you really think they would have beaten ManIOU in Rome? Really? They couldn’t do it on penalties the year before in Moscow and ever since Mou Mou left them ManU has generally had the better of them (even though it pains me to say so).

  43. Roberto Manita says:

    And JB is spot on about The Despicable One (TDO) parking a bus in the 2nd leg at Camp Nou from the very first whistle. TDO is on record for boasting about parking an Airbus let alone a regular team coach that night in Catalunya 😉

  44. Rookie says:

    Your point is incredibly myopic. You assert that there are only a set number of players who can play the Barca style. That may be true at this point, but the problem isn’t Barca; it’s the scouting and coaching strategy that infect too much of the rest of the soccer world.

    I’ve been a fan of the Premier League for the last four years–that is, until I saw the beautiful ass-whipping Barca gave ManU. And I mean “beautiful” not because I’m a ManU hater–I was actually pulling for them in the game. I mean “beautiful” in that it was a thing of beauty–passing, speed, and yes, a seemingly perpetual attacking of the goal with intricate ease and expertise. It was a simple purity of the fundamental objective of the game: score more goals than your opponent.

    How does one achieve such a game style and strategy? Well, you have to scout, recruit, and train for players who do three simple things: dribble, pass, and shoot. It creates a “Money Ball” logic for soccer: no longer do you worry about size and the search that drives the fatal flaw of American sports (and apparently not relegated simply to American sports): “potential.” “Potential” in scouting terms means that the kid might not be able to play a lick, but by God, look at that body, and look at how fast he can run (regrettably, without the ball) and with a little coaching, he’ll blossom some day. Meanwhile, the kid who can play the game is quickly dismissed because of body size.

    It’s this kind of “potential,” body-size obsessed team-building that has killed most American sports for me, and on that glorious May day, a veil was lifted for me soccer-wise. ManU was utterly outplayed: they didn’t have the number of players needed to control and keep the ball, nor did they play as if they wanted to do so. They couldn’t keep up, because they didn’t have the players to do it. They didn’t have the players to do it, because that’s not how a Premier League team is built. It’s built to pound, yank, push, and ankle-stamp, and then count on one or two players to win a one-on-one isolation strategy or score off the odd set-piece. Kind of like watching the NBA, only with fewer scores.

    Now the 0-0, 1-0 slugfests that are too common really bore me, and more importantly, show me that the obsession with physicality rather than ball skill is a global and not just an American sports disease.

    You seem to be blaming the cure for the disease rather than the disease itself, a blindness that makes your point laughable. Want to compete? Re-tool your scouting and academy training, and start to focus on getting players who can and want to dribble, pass, and shoot. For the potential-laden yankers, pullers, and ankle-stampers, well, there’s always rugby, or enough “we’re going to be physical” obstinate blowhards still willing to give it a go for those 0-0, 1-0 thrillers.

  45. LA says:

    Rookie,

    You speak the truth.

    What I remember most fondly was watching Barcelona beat Manu the first time in Rome. CR Rooney and Sir Alex had already engraved their names on the trophy in their head. But after s strong 2 minutes, I was incredulous to watch Manu struggle the first half, and then to watch CR, Rooney and Sir Alex actually give up in the second half when they realized they could not get possession, and when they did they were quickly dispossessed again. Sir Alex did not get off his bench in the second half which is not his MO. They realized that they had come to this match with the wrong toolset; and they lost their appetite for the match. Messi capped the night off with a cheeky header which was cruel, but a marker of a match.

    Barcelona will be figured out. But the fact that they are forcing the entire system to think about what they are doing is credit to them

  46. John Bladen says:

    Roberto:

    Man IOU (nice one) I left out… not because I think they are a financially healthy club, but because their wage bill is actually reasonable when compared with their total turnover. It’s just the high cost debt that is driving them to heavy losses annually at present.

    As much as I dislike the Glazers and, well, more or less everything they stand for, I am forced to admit that they’ve done a reasonable job of retiring or refinancing the worst of the high interest debts. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see if this trend continues and they actually get back to profitability (no idea when that might happen… 2015? Just a guess really), or if the wheels will come off the cart (as the faithful seem to be certain will happen).

    Russell: 45 comments plus… not bad for an article so many claim to have hated so much that they had to read it multiple times… Congrats.

  47. John Bladen says:

    Rookie/LA:

    Regardless of whether SAF actually ‘gave up’ in that one, even those of us who aren’t particularly keen on the club must admit that Ferguson has taken steps to address the failing you describe (namely that Man U with CR (kind of, he definitely quit) & co had no answer for the game their opponents were playing.

    It’s early days yet, but the style (and squad) they are playing these days seems much more likely to have a chance against FCB, albeit not a great one probably. Still, full marks to the man for recognizing that the club he built could win the league, but never beat FCB the way they were playing. It’s got to be hard to change a winning domestic formula…

  48. LA says:

    Sir Alex is a genius of a coach. He is rebuilding yet another squad. Amazing standards.

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