Lucy’s home. (at Bag End)
Adriatics (A), 1973, Etching with aquatint, 32 9/16 x 22 1/4 inches
Adriatics (B), 1973, Etching with aquatint, 32 5/8 x 22 1/4 inches
Adriatics (C), 1973, Etching with aquatint, 32 1/2 x 22 3/16 inches
Adriatics (D), 1973, Etching with aquatint, 34 3/8 x 23 7/8 inches
Adriatics (E), 1973, Etching, 34 3/8 x 23 7/8 inches
Adriatics (F), 1973, Etching, 32 9/16 x 36 3/8
Adriatics (G), 1973, Etching, 32 5/8 x 36 inches
Pep starts the video [link] saying that he’s fan of building the play from the back with the goalkeeper, the defensive work of the forwards and the play between lines, but because he is in Argentina he will talk about Messi.
Although Pep doesn’t talk about it, I want to mention a couple of things regarding building the play from the back.
Pep joined Dorados, where his friend Juanma Lillo was the coach, before the 2006 World Cup. Ricardo La Volpe was the coach of the Mexican national team back then. Lavolpe’s influence in Mexico was huge and several coaches were referred to as “Lavolpistas”. The reason La Volpe was so influential was his style of play and how Mexico built their play from the back. If you can, watch a Mexico game from the 2006 World Cup. You will recognize many things Pep did at Barça.
In an interview with The Telegraph, André Villas-Boas explains what Pep does and why he does it:
“Barça play horizontally only after a vertical pass. See how the centre backs go out with ball, how they construct the play. They open up (moving wider), so that the right or left-back can join the midfield line. Guardiola has talked about it: the centre backs provoke the opponent, invite them forward then, if the opponent applies quick pressure the ball goes to the other central defender, and this one makes a vertical pass.”
“You have to provoke them with the ball. It’s the ball they want, so you have to defy them using the ball as a carrot. What I believe in is to challenge the rival by driving the ball into him. That’s something Pep Guardiola believes is decisive.”
The reason I’m mentioning this is because it will help you understand the video.
Ok, back to the video. [1:18] Guardiola explains why he changed Messi’s position. The main reason is Pep thinks that the best players must play in the middle. He wanted Messi to be more involved in the play. Guardiola notes that it’s impossible to have a great transition-defence if you don’t make at least 15 passes, i.e. good positional play translates into a good transition-defence. To do that, the team has to move with the ball as an unit. The key to do that is in the middle. In the first season (2008/2009) there were games where Messi, who played on the right wing, wouldn’t get enough touches.
[2:28] The example from that season is the Clásico against Real Madrid at the Camp Nou. 4-3-3 and Messi was playing as a right winger. Pep explains Real Madrid’s defensive set up and says that 99% of the teams did the same. All the Real Madrid players were marking their man individually with the exception of the striker who marked both Barça centre-backs and the Real Madrid centre-backs also only had to mark the Barça striker. [3:40] Now Guardiola talks about provoking the Real Madrid players with the centre backs to free the Barça midfielders [Pep notes that there is a risk if they give the ball away, but the coach has to decide if he wants to accept that risk] You can also see Márquez making vertical passes [It’s not mentioned in the video, but Juande Ramos tried to limit those vertical passes by letting Puyol go forward]. [4:40] Finally Pep talks about the next movement: Messi cuts inside and the full-back (Alves) stays wide. Playing on the wing, it was easy to chase Messi and his movement was limited by the sideline, which Pep describes as the best defender.
[5:15] Same team, Real Madrid, same season, 2008/2009, but now at the Bernabéu. Pep says that they started thinking about what would happen if the striker dropped deep instead of the winger cutting inside. Would the centre-backs have the courage to chase Messi? Pep says that it was the first time they tried it [As we all know. It was the game of the 2-6]. [5:55] Now you can see how the full-backs chase the Barça wingers, but the centre-backs don’t chase Messi. Pep says that the Real Madrid centre-backs don’t chase Messi because they don’t want to leave space behind them since they fear the cuts by the wingers and the runs by the midfielders. The full-backs can chase the wingers when they cut inside because they are helped by the sideline. [7:10] Barça have created superiority in the middle with the two Barça central midfielders, Xavi and Iniesta, and Messi against Real Madrid’s double pivot, 3 v 2. Pep says that when you have an extra man in midfield, you can control both the attacking and defending better. Pep says that if the opponent plays narrow, you will find space outside.
[09:08] Another Clásico, not sure which one. Pep says that teams decided to concede space behind, assuming a risk, because they didn’t want Messi to receive the ball between lines. The centre-backs started chasing Messi. Pep: “I became a coach to find out what the opponent does, to find the answers.” [11:00] The last example: I believe it’s last season’s 1-3 at the Bernabéu because of the positioning of the Barça players. That day Pep made another adjustment. He played the fourth defender up front to make sure the centre-backs wouldn’t go out and if they did, that player [Alexis in this game] would have a one-on-one opportunity [video of Alexis’ goal]. Pep says that it helps you to have superiority in the middle, but you leave 3 v 3 in defence against the best forwards in the world [in this case, the Real Madrid forwards.] The coach has to decide what he wants to do, but he has to believe in what he is doing or he won’t convince the players. Pep: “Football is like chess. You need to know what the opponent does, their movements, to make adjustments.” [12:45] A centre-back chases Messi and now both teams are defending 3 v 3. Pep says that his team is exposed at the back, but the opponent is exposed too. Pep: “Now let’s see who’s got the… [biggest one]” [13:07] When the centre-back returns to his position, the opponent have four at the back again, but you have 4 v 3 in the midfield, which is what Pep wants, superiority in the middle.
Why is it interesting regarding the current team?
The current Barça team don’t take the risks they used to take under Pep when building the play from the back. Especially with Víctor Valdés, who plays more long balls now when teams press Barça. Barça don’t have forwards who can win aerial balls, with the exception of Alexis perhaps, so they give the ball away every time Valdés plays a long ball.
Pep realized the need of playing a striker in front of Messi to occupy the centre-backs against certain teams, which is basically against teams that can defend with a high line.
Pep mentions something at the end of the video. You can’t always do what you want and depending on the form of your players, you have to be pragmatic sometimes. Although Pep believes that the last adjustment was the best option (against Real Madrid), there were games he couldn’t do it so he preferred to play a back four. Pep is a radical, but he knows when to be pragmatic. The answer isn’t always “being more ourselves than ever”
PS: That’s why, tactically, I think last season was Guardiola’s best season. Teams learned how to play against Barça and Pep changed again. The back three was a risk but he forced the opponent to assume more risks too. To do that, he had to convince the players, again. Maybe some players didn’t believe in him anymore and that’s why he left.
Little use in giving your heart to a man.
He’s been told from day one that his own is detrimental and counteractive to his masculinity, therefore his existence.
His own is shattered and abused, first by society, then by his own hands, what could he possibly make of yours?
Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak
Maltese Cross, 1966
Synthetic polymer paint on canvas
9’ x 9’ 5”
Acrylic on canvas
84 x 72 inches
Acrylic on canvas
42 x 63 inches