BARCELONA, SPAIN - MAY 05: FC Barcelona players throw Josep Guardiola their head coach into the air at the end of the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and RCD Espanyol at Camp Nou on May 5, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain. This is Guardiola's last match. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
Mystery…. Mystery is what we define as something which we cannot expect, something that takes us by surprise. Yesterday, I was going through a few articles and many of them were suggesting that we need a Plan B. There were others saying that the style which won us almost everything should not be betrayed. Well, both are right in their own way and I am not going to bore you by justifying them. Two things which I saw yesterday got me to think. Let me talk about them first.
First one was during the IPL (Indian Premier League) Cricket Match of the Kolkata Knight Riders and Mumbai Indians. A young West Indies bowler Sunil Narine was confusing the master blaster Sachin Tendulakar. Was it Sachin’s off day or was the bowler actually teasing the little master?
The second thing yesterday got me back to thinking. I was watching the Barcelona – Manchester United 2008-2009 Rome Champions League Final Extended Highlights. The first half was similar to what we have experienced many times this season - Many opportunities for the opposition, but there was a slight difference. We looked more dangerous when we had the ball. Until the 9th Minute, when Eto’o scored the opener, United were the better side. We dominated but not to the extent that we did in the 2010-2011 Wembley Final.
Now what’s the similarity between an IPL Cricket match and an altogether separate sport? The answer is simple. The reason why likes of Sachin Tendulkar and many other batsmen suffered at the hands of Sunil Narine is because what he does is still a mystery. He is young and his style is new. The day this mystery gets solved his success rate will start to reduce (not on a super decline but he will be less effective). The same can be said about Barcelona’s Tiki-Taka style. Don’t worry; I am not on the "abandon old style, find new one" bandwagon. What I am trying to convey is that if you re-run the 2008-2009 you will notice that when we had the ball, the opposition was confused about what is going to happen next. Will Messi be on the Wing or the Center? Or will Xavi and Iniesta go forward or will it be Toure? Can we underestimate young crack Busquets? Numerous questions with confusing solutions. That’s mystery. A mystery which lasted a good long 4 years. That’s a long run to be honest and the solution was going to be found one day or another. Even if we use plan B, ultimately there is going to be a way by which it can be nullified. That does not mean we don’t use it. The success of plan B will depend on how much time it remains a mystery, how much time people cannot guess the next move.
During the Pep Era ,people just say that we passed the ball around and maintained possession, and that worked for 4 years. What they don’t realize is that there were numerous modifications which have been done to this style. During Pep's first year, everyone knew that FC Barcelona were a team who love to keep possession, what they did not know is how is it going to be implemented. Everyone had an equal role to play, from the goal keeper to the striker. During his second and you can also count some part of the third year, teams tried to stop Barcelona from getting into their rhythm. This only benefited Barca more than the opposing team. The third year had different extreme zones, one when the opposing team attacked and stuck to their own philosophy (which also proved successful many times), while others just stood there with no clue whatsoever.
This year was different. Unlike previous years where teams didn’t want Barcelona to have possession , this year they gave possession away only concentrating on the counters or that 1 draw point. A bit of the mystery had been unfolded. Let them keep possession; if we defend well they cannot get in. The rhythm became a little monotonous. Blame it on injuries, fatigue, lack of concentration or anything you want, one thing is for sure: that the small spark of fire has to be ignited again. Well you can say one cycle is completed; from fear of less possession to accepting that there will be less possession (Does not mean it is all over, don’t get me wrong people).
What can be done about it? I don’t know who said this or where I heard this but it fits here - ‘If you are on a case and you find yourself at a dead end , turn around and go back to the point where you started off ’. Pep did the same. This season he tried a lot of counter games and a lot of ‘Off ball games’. Remember Valencia or Sevilla maybe? Where the first attack was started from a long ball to Alves within 10 seconds. Unexpected for Barcelona to start in that fashion. Though it may not have succeeded the way we wanted it to, but it was a start and a good one. Now Pep’s out and Tito’s in. The philosophy remains the same but the mind who decides the pattern changes. Hope this helps us in creating the unexpected movement and flow again.
Hoping the best for the next season and wishing Tito all the luck and success he deserves. Visca Barca!