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FC Barcelona: Change Is The Only Constant

Heraclitus was the first to say that: "Change is the only constant". So did Mahatma Gandhi but sometimes, one really wonders "is it?".

tata to tiki taka?
tata to tiki taka?
Miquel Benitez

I believe, strongly, that change truly is the only constant. One must always look to learn, adapt, evolve. Football is also a victim of change. Nobody tells you if it's change for the good or bad, all you know is that it is inevitable. Why fight it? I, personally, am predisposed to accepting change in my life (in fact I have the headline as a tattoo - I think of it like a post- it note that I carry with me everywhere I go).

By now, you're wondering where I'm going with this. Well, let's talk about Barcelona's change in how they approach football. There have been a lot of quotes from players (Pique, Messi etc.) and Tata, recently, about how Barca are looking to add something different to their game.

One of the changes Tata has brought to the training regime and official games, is the use of the "long ball". Officially, they justify it (I realize justify might be a harsh word) by saying it allows us to reduce pressure on our defense by "occasionally" using the long ball from Victor Valdes (or one of our center backs) to give our players some breathing space.

Against Rayo, Valdes used the long ball frequently. 20 times to be exact with only 4 of them reaching one of our players. It doesn't help that our forwards are vertically challenged and generally not very good at receiving those passes and holding onto the ball. Personally, I believe adding the "plan B" that so many fans have wanted for a while (I was not one of those fans), isn't necessarily a bad thing. After all, nobody would complain about having alternatives. Yet, how sure are we that our system and more importantly, personnel will allow for such a change?

Defensively, Barca were always vulnerable. It was the risk we took by employing more technical players (who also just happened to have a very low centre of gravity) so that we may execute our short passing game. The idea, from a defensive point of view, was simple, keep the ball as much as possible so that our defense can handle the few chances the opponent creates.

The idea, was to keep the ball, score and restrict the opponent to 2 or 3 shots on goal (if possible). However, against Rayo and Ajax, Barca seemed to counter attack a lot more than is considered acceptable by purists. That in itself, is NOT wrong but it could be a major problem, when you consider that our team isn't made to counter attack. Rather, our defensive system (read: press like mad and if that doesn't work, hope Mascherano can pull off his last ditch tackle) doesn't allow for it.

Barca, with it's current players, is not a team made with the intention of absorbing pressure. It is a team made to apply pressure. Pressure is the key word and we haven't seen much of it. Yes, we have improved when compared to Tito but we know that was not Barca under normal circumstances.

Under Pep, pressure to regain possession, was one of the many aspects of Barca's game that I thoroughly enjoyed. Now, it seems we are no longer capable of applying that sort of organized pressure. Against Rayo, Valdes had to save 9 shots. Almost as many against Ajax as well. So our defense hasn't improved and if recent matches are anything to go by, we have partially given up on the only tactic that prevented us from conceding: the ability to keep the ball.

Yes, the pitch was small. Yes, it was a bad pitch with respect to quality of grass etc. Yes, Rayo are a team that press high and constantly. Yes, they are also great at keeping the ball but what happens against Bayern Munich or Real Madrid?

I firmly believe, Tata has to be given a season before any judgement can be made. However, I'm not convinced that giving up on possession (even if only on occasion) is going to work especially against teams that have world class forwards. I don't even want to think about a situation against Bayern where we sit back and don't have the ball.

Considering many of our community members have been talking about this, I suggest doing that in the thread here. Would love to hear any opinion of course (disclaimer: I might still ask you to pass the doobie but let that not stop you from making your point).

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