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• Lying statistics (I): The ‘few’ fouls that Barça receive
“It’s constant. Every time Barça manage to win by an ample margin, the sergeant at arms consults statistical data and he comes to the conclusion that [Barça’s] rival committed fewer fouls [than they did in past matches],” writes Rafael León in Perarnau Magazine. Upon coming to this conclusion, whatever happened in the match becomes inconsequential, observes León, who states: “The comfortability with which the Catalan team won the match must be due to the lack of intensity of their opponents.” Leaving hyperbole to one side, León goes on to discredit this fallacy by referring back to three basic principles that surround Barça’s style of play:
The first is the advantage rule. Barça want to keep the ball moving. Always. “This is what the team’s philosophy of play is all about,” writes León. The team “prefers continuity to interruptions in play. That’s why it’s not strange that at the end of a match many would-be fouls that would have been called were waved off by the referee as Barça still had the advantage.”
The second is all about Barça’s execution of its play style. “I was taught that if we were fouled it’s because we were not moving the ball fast enough,” said Josep Guardiola during his tenure as FC Barcelona’s manager. The philosophy taught to Barça’s ex-manager is the same taught to the players that come up from La Masia’s ranks (XI of them featured for Barça this Sunday): receive the ball, pass the ball, quickly and accurately. “If you’re moving the ball at lightning speed, it doesn’t matter how hard opponents try to win the ball back,” when an opponent reaches a Barça player “the ball is already gone,” says León.
Finally, the last point has nothing to do with Barça’s style of play, rather how opponents effectively defend against it. León writes, “the majority of opponents that cause the most trouble to Barça commit very few fouls. The best way to defend against Messi, Iniesta and company is to no go after them, but to shadow them; shut down space so they can’t pass the ball.” In other words, not committing fouls.
Read Rafael León’s article in its entirety here.
• Plan A is magnificent
“Barça’s ‘Plan A’ works the same way a jack hammer does. Blow by blow, pass by pass, the rival is eventually smashed into the desired situation,” writes Christian Pulina for Yahoo! Deportes / Eurosport. Pulina also points out that the fabled Plan B that Barça seems to lack isn’t necessary when Plan A “works like a charm.” He adds: “Depending on the quality of ball circulation, it’s harder for rivals to resist each one of those small but insistent blows that Barça deal with each pass [...] Only a well organised team that’s willing to suffer can stop the flood of football that Barça bring to the pitch, and Levante are without a doubt are one of those teams. But the reality is that matches are usually won by the team that have the ball, and that’s what happened in Valencia.”
Read Christian Pulina’s article in its entirety here.
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