If you visit Rio Ferdinand’s social media accounts, You will find out He shared a clip of Sunday’s Spanish Super Cup final, as Barcelona beat Real Madrid 3-1 to win Xavi’s first Camp Nou trophy as coach. The world-class former Manchester United player declared, “The Xavi effect is here. I know what that feels like. Respect,” adding a series of stunned and crying emojis.
It refers to an undulating movement of 44 passes that involved every Barcelona player during the game Blograna 3-0 with 14 minutes remaining. ESPN’s Steve McManaman (ex Blanco Himself) exclaims: “Madrid don’t even put a glove on them!” The truncated possession only ends when Rodrygo, understandably frustrated, tries to machete through Sergio Busquets for a foul.
Report: Barcelona crushes Real Madrid
Reaction: Javi plays a starring role in Barcelona winning the Spanish Supercopa
– Highlights: Barcelona 3-1 Real Madrid (USA only)
The conclusion is that Ferdinand understands and sympathizes with what Carlo Ancelotti’s men in white were going through. After all, he himself lost two Champions League finals in 24 months to Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona, who, as Sir Alex Ferguson memorably put it, “will bite you to death.”
But the irony is that for the rest of the game – particularly in some of the ways Barcelona picked off the slow, tired Spanish champions – he was a very distant cousin of Guardiola’s side. Frankly, many of Xavi’s clever ideas would have been completely forbidden under the philosophically tough man now in charge at Manchester City.
After the match, the Barcelona coach admitted: “The thing I will take away from this that is more satisfying than lifting the trophy is how we won.” Well, here are three “how-tos” from Sunday.
1. Long kick
Football is an ever-renewing hotbed of tactical concepts – ingrained but untapped or even forgotten ideas that are discarded and applied until more people discover them and put them back on the shelf. Worst of all for those who love innovation and excitement, the amount of computer and video-based tools available for analyzing and disassembling operating systems means that whatever a given team does to impose itself will encounter, not too long after countermeasures and stifling strategies appearing with increasing regularity.
So the context of watching Marc-Andre Ter Stegen launch the ball long on Sunday, either from goal kicks or from open play, has to take into account that opponents no longer use the same strategies to oppose Barcelona – who don’t. They have the caliber of players like the young Xavi, Busquets, Andres Iniesta, David Villa, Gerard Pique, Dani Alves or Carles Puyol. However, it is a cold fact that back in the day, it would have caused shock and awe, dizzy spells and nagging tension among the coaching staff, players, media and fans if a defender or goalkeeper had dug the ball down the pitch as Barcelona did against Los Blancos in KSA.
Please be clear: this is not a criticism – it’s a simple fact. It is written respectfully.
Last weekend, after beating Atletico Madrid 1-0 in the Spanish capital, Xavi appeared on LaLiga TV’s post-match show, and I asked him how he orders the German goalkeeper, mid-match, to kick long and look forward to playing the ball. Over Reinildo’s head to chase Ousmane Dembele. replied the Barcelona coach, who didn’t seem completely intrigued by the question. “You have to look for where you are,” Xavi said. “When Atleti pressed us high up the pitch, space was at the back. So we looked for that from time to time.”
Sunday night against Real Madrid saw a major extension of this idea. Real Madrid did not press at a high level and were not as athletically sharp as Atleti, which meant Barcelona had no vacant space at the back from which they could launch the ball. However, Ter Stegen kept kicking for a long time as a tactic – and it worked.
What emerged was that Barcelona were asked to challenge the air against a taller and bigger team, and then pounce on Madrid. if They won possession. What it often looked like was Javi Man of the Match (5-foot-8) leaping against Eder Militao (6-foot-1).
One such example was in the 41st minute, when Ter Stegen volleyed a free kick up front and Javi first beat Militao with a header, and then, after Antonio Rudiger volleyed it in again, the 5-foot-8 Barcelona midfielder jumped He beat Karim Benzema on the ball. But the air competition, while important, was not the main point of what Xavi asked his team to do.
The Barcelona players, to the man, were aggressive as soon as anyone came into contact with the ball falling from the sky. They launched themselves after loose balls, 50/50 balls and (and this would give Xavi the greatest satisfaction) unanimously believed that even if a Real Madrid player had dropped the ball after a teammate had won an aerial challenge, he could still be pressed successfully. And they stole. Militao, Rudiger, Luka Modric, Ferland Mendy and Toni Kroos often had clean possession after Ter Stegen (or Ronald Araujo) lifted the ball down, but they were bullied off the ball or rushed to make a pass that gave them possession again.
“Modern football is very fast, and at certain moments you have to play straight,” Xavi said after he and his team lifted the trophy. Even more so when you have Robert Lewandowski in your team.
It’s miles away from what Guardiola’s formula was when he was in charge, but it’s a modified version of the vertical way Barcelona played under Luis Enrique in 2014-15 when they won the treble. Xavi bet that Real Madrid would be slow, unstable and prone to harassment – even after winning aerial duels.
His gamble paid off.
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Again, this is a distant cousin of the system in which Xavi played at Barcelona. The idea of pressing in consistent packs for a set number of seconds but then dropping back into good defensive form if you don’t win the ball is a different concept than what was so successful against Madrid in this final. Arguably, not only will there be teams more pressure-resistant than the European champions in Riyadh – Manchester United next month, for example – but Madrid, who were a solid match and fully equipped, will be.
However, on Sunday night, Xavi’s tactic relied on Ancelotti’s side being slow and unable to cope. bingo.
Not the high, daring “forward press” imposed by Guardiola either; It was like little blasts of pressure all over the field when the opponent was inattentive, or given a bad pass or fumbled. It thrives on an insatiable hunger to compete for loose possession by simply disabling an opponent.
The first and third objectives are examples. For the 1-0 goal, Rudiger looked dizzy, who had just hit the head with Thibaut Courtois’ elbow when he jumped to contest a cross. Barcelona can see that the Real Madrid quartet are in a hopeless situation: Mendy and Dani Carvajal are practically on opposite touchlines, while Rudiger and Militao are 25 meters apart. They know that if they have possession of the ball, Real Madrid will be very weak.
Thibaut Courtois directs the ball to Rudiger, who is not yet fully racing. Then give a dreadful pass to Eduardo Camavinga when Mendy is completely open and easy to find. Busquets presses the Frenchman, wins the ball 50/50 – some referee may have blown for a foul – and from there on, Dembele pounces, passes for the first time to Pedri, who passes for the first time to Lewandowski…and the Poland captain makes two very quick touches to set up Gavi 1-0.
“The first goal was very quick, with a touch, and that’s something we work hard on and teach them through videos,” said Xavi.
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The decisive third goal was similar. Dani Ceballos, pressed by Dembele, is a bit overambitious in passing him to Militao. Gavi is very quick to see the Brazilian with flat feet, so he races in, wins the 40/60 challenge, and from there on it’s all simple and clean but quick passes until Pedri scores at the back post.
There was even more irony in that the only time Real Madrid really tried to match this action of jumping and pressing, led to Barcelona’s second goal. Busquets fed Frenkie de Jong and the Netherlands international let the ball run through his body so the movement remained fluid and quick, but without a doubt it looked like he might be in danger of losing possession. Militao and Carvajal both moved forward (Madrid’s midfield was lacking) but mistimed and positioned them, resulting in a rushing pass from De Jong that sent Javi into a fine isolation to put the goal 2-0 on the plate for Lewandowski.
Journalism is a great art when it works, but it is a beautiful art. Not for laziness.
3. Barcelona formation
People could argue what they liked, but that was only occasionally a 4-3-3 formation – another philosophy held sacred in Barcelona.
When attacking and in most possession, Xavi’s team was formed in a 3-4-3 because the other three defenders had a line and Alejandro Balde played in midfield. However, there is no doubt that there were long periods in the second half when Barcelona’s form was out of possession 4-4-2.
– Broadcast on ESPN+: Spanish Supercopa, Carabao Cup, and more (USA)
First, it is not a sin if it is the right tactic. Secondly, there was a clear reason why Pedri was the one to play Lewandowski on those stages. Dembele is taller and better in the air, and when Barcelona were asked to contest which ball was played by either goalkeeper for a long time, the Frenchman stayed in the middle of the field to add to Barcelona’s jumping power.
In general, this meant that Barcelona were very narrow, very regularly did not have two wingers spanning the pitch and did not look, tactically, like the majority of players. Blograna difference of the past twenty years. But wait, so what? The tactics were smart, it was appropriate, it worked, and Xavi’s team won.
In that clip, which he shared on Twitter, he saw Ferdinand age or old And I liked Barcelona. The rest of the match, we saw a distant cousin age or old Barcelona – but it worked.