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Old 09-01-2011, 03:03   #12
George Mitsou
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Depor operated in a 4-4-1-1 framework, with JD the first to defend. The attitude was not bad in the early stages of the match, motivation was obvious, we had nothing to lose, the pressure would be on them (since the race with Real is extremely tight they cannot afford to drop a single point). If we kept the clean sheet a little bit longer, if Adrian made it 1-0, I don’t know…

They were definitely not in their best game, Messi lost battles, seeming rather short of energy. Still they enjoyed a 78% possession (according to Espn) during 1st half (shots being 3-4), their initiative was never questioned. The main reason for that is our poor game when we managed to win the ball. We cannot connect which means the transition to attack is difficult. Of course this is systematic, hardly a problem occurring for the first time. Unable to present a reliable counter attack game so as to transmit nervousness to their side, we were meant to remain passive throughout the match. Inevitably, Barca easily re-occupied the ball, patiently circulating it the way they’re used to, searching for the goal which would most probably define the outcome of the match –as it did…

Tactically speaking, no surprise that we were eventually forced to defend in our final 1/3 of the pitch, passively following their pace / moves. No surprise also that Barca exploited full width of the pitch basically through their wing backs, a well known feature in their game. Just that tonight they applied it extensively, with wingers closing in, obliging us to follow them, thus seeming compact in the middle areas but leaving open spaces in the flanks. Which were covered by Adriano in the right flank (they played a lot with him during 1st half) while making possible plays such as Messi’s fantastic through ball to unnoticed Abidal developing from left wing, a play fortunately leading to a disallowed goal. No doubt that the match was practically over after 0-2…

Closing a piece following the match in Madrid, I mentioned the sense of superiority reflected in Atletico’s moves, actually writing something like “they knew they owned us”. Tonight it was Guardiola who, in an away match, decided to rest people like Xavi, Alves etc after a heated midweek Copa match in Bilbao. Conscious about our weakness offensively, his basic intention was to present a side fresh as possible. A side which would easily recover the ball (generally speaking, Barca’s immediate reaction when losing the ball is extremely significant regarding the balances they intend to establish in a match; a very important tactical feature yet usually underrated by public opinion), establishing huge possession. Given the quality of our attacking game, I guess Guardiola didn’t expect serious complications. Even without their best creative forces, with the clock running he knew we would become more and more uncomfortable, constantly alert following their moves, suffering. He knows the deal, he has witnessed it numerous times facing way harder resistance. Unless something unexpected occurred (like Adrian’s fail in 0-0), Barca would eventually score first, it was a matter of time…

In this perspective, he did keep Messi in, even not being at a 100%. It was expected he would attract attention, making it possible for Adriano and Abidal to attack from wide areas, constantly obliging Depor to adapt their defensive orientation. Secondarily, Guardiola’s objective from the match was to facilitate Macherano’s smooth incorporation within Barca’s structure. He’s still in the process though, he does have a job to do in that area given the player’s rather … clumsy positioning occasionally. He’s not yet a part of the team, his participation in their passing game definitely needs improvement, tonight Iniesta and Keita practically lacked his assistance.

PS. Introducing Valeron when circumstances of the match are defined seems like a desperate move; to be honest, a desperate gamble. You have a discouraged team out there, practically given up. I don’t know what Lotina would expect from such a move –and it’s not the first time he’s operating this way. It’s not my intention to relate the comment specifically with this game (Valeron was used in a midweek match) but Lotina does have a problem to solve. You have a player with certain attributes, a player with certain strengths and certain weaknesses. How does this player fit in Depor’s game and structure, how does Lotina understand his role? Does Lotina’s game plan, does Lotina’s strategy take into account his presence? Does Lotina believe this Deportivo can capitalize on his participation? And if yes, how exactly? Obviously I’m off topic here, this is a different discussion. However, to close this, what we are witnessing so far can hardly be considered as the optimum way to gain from Valeron’s creativity and vision of the game. It seems like an awkward situation out there, the player himself as well as the team around him. His improvisations can deliver from time to time but this thing hardly provides a reliable answer to the issue.

Last edited by George Mitsou : 09-01-2011 at 03:27.
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