Monday, February 4, 2013

Analysing Barcelona's build up.

Barcelona starts with the throw in on the right flank with Dani Alves. As with any (dead ball) situatuion, Barcelona are trying to play out of trouble. Is it a corner, goal kick, quick free kick, throw in. It's risky, but they know they have the ability to do that.
First of all, I circled Pique and Mascherano here to show how far the two center backs are from each other. Why is this important? When Mascherano came to Barcelona in 10/11 season from Liverpool, he told that the best way to help your teammates was to go towards them, to be close to them. In Barcelona they told him to do exactly the opposite of it - to get away from them to always open up a line of path. This is why Barcelona play rondo every day and do exercises with the ball every training, to be comfortable with the ball even in tight situations, so you can positioning your players that far away from your teammates so with couple of passes/movements you can play the ball to the other side of the pitch and to get away from the pressure.

7 Seconds after you can see that the Mascherano have the ball here and they got away from under Valencia's pressure and can build up the attack now, with the pitch spread and players have more freedom because of the made the pitch 'big'.

This sequence here with Iniesta shows how important is to move. Because if you move you drag away defenders. It gives Xavi, with the ball, more options. Iniesta created a path of line for Xavi to play the ball to Messi there. If you look at the 2nd and 3rd picture you can see the difference.

This sequence is only about Xavi's pass to Messi. It's just one pass but there's so much to see here

Did you see it? What Xavi and Messi did there? Lets just see this once more in acloser look.

Lets start with Xavi.

This just shows that he is the true maestro of football. First of all what he did there is that he always had his eyes for Messi. Thats very important to have the ability to dribble with the ball with your head up and not down. Because if you have your head down you can see only whats around you in 3-4 meters. But Xavi controls everything there. One thing that most players would've done there is that they'd pass the ball for the first time Messi made his move. But Messi just made amove forward to drag off the defender, to create space for himself and Xavi sees that, because he always has his head up

Now Messi.

This is what Ialready described earlier. Messi makes his move towards defender and then quickly changes the direction that gives him the timeand space to recive the ball. Whats very important here is that they always have the eye contact between them.

Messi recives the ball here as a false 9.He is the furthest player in Barca here,but what he does is that he comes deeper and takes one of the CB with him. Just when he gets his bearings, hemakes eyecontact with Cesc and Cesc does what he does best there. He starts to make a run behind defence.

Of course Messi spots Cesc's run and plays a perfect ball to him. Messi came deep from his position and Cesc made a deep run behind the defence.

Full sequence of this attack


  1. Interesting as always, allas. Particularly about Xavi's eyes and Iniesta's movement.

    But regarding Mascherano and providing help closer versus providing help further away... I think this can be misleading.

    What we're actually learning here is that the lateral width is important, to spread the defenders side to side... but if we look at vertical distance, back to front, the team is close. Around 20-25 yards between the throw-in and the attackers.

    AND they are staggered between the lines... Busquets closer, then Xavi next, then Iniesta & Pedro. So the distance between Pique and midfield is smaller still.

    So I think it's not as simple as just being further away = better. Width is important (e.g. Alba being wide opens the gap for Xavi to receive the ball at 0:10), but I think vertical compactness helps bring support to the ball and helps facilitate playing out (rather than a clearance or low percentage pass).

    1. I think the witdh is mostly important for the 2 CB and the pivot. For example when the game is played around thehalf way line and lets say Dani has the ball and nowhere to pass the ball forward, CB need to move away from him, a lot closer to his goal to create this passing option and to get away from the attackers as well. This movement is used a lot in the buildups as well, maybe I'll analyse this someday later.

    2. I agree with both of you!

      Nick, I sympathize with your idea that "vertical compactness helps bring support to the ball and helps facilitate playing out" because if we pay close attention to Barcelona's games, they very rarely play the "counter attack style," in other word when they recover the ball close to their "box" they mostly play rondos to build up their attack, making his opponent move backwards and looking at the ball, and subsequently they advance little by little up t a point in which they have the rival all packed back into their box. Another thing, notice that normally in the games the distance between the center backs and the false 9 (Messi) is not long. I strongly believe that Barcelona's style to play with wingers (or players close to the sidelines) is what gives them the opportunity to build up plays in triangles.

      On the other hand, what Allas says is also very true. When fullbacks with ball possession are trying to continue the play forward and have no options they have to rely on the center-backs which, as Allas said: "need to move away from him, a lot closer to his goal to create this passing option and to get away from the attackers" and once again start the attack with rondos if they are being pressed.

      I believe is just a matter of perception and I don't know if you guys have noticed, but Tito's team attacks more aggressively than Guardiola's, sometimes even risking the ball to then receive counter attacks from the rival.

    3. Yes, absolutely. I am probably just being pedantic about the wording :)

      The common theme is separating from the opponent to find space and open out a passing angle. Whether that is done by moving closer to the ball, moving further away, or by staying the same distance, I think depends on the situation.

      Regardless... another enjoyable article, allas, thank you.

  2. Valencia still managed to do a good job there , stood their ground and instead of marking messi with more than 2 defenders they actually held up xavi and iniesta. We also didnt press higher up the pitch yesterday. the pt made by Nick is true, Vertical spaces are important, pedro was actually occupied in midfld and it was only Dani who was high up the pitch, i still think we shd have played Villa and Don-Xavi-Busi combo would have worked more effectively.

    BTW, nice analysis :)