Iniesta, con el balón / FOTO: ARCHIVO FCB

Today is the fourth anniversary. Not of any trophy (in fact Barça ended up losing), but of a way of understanding the game of football which is envied throughout the world. The last time FC Barcelona held less than 50% of possession in a match was on 7th May 2008. It was in the Santiago Bernabeu, with the 2007/08 league title already decided, that Real Madrid clearly outplayed Frank Rijkaard’s Barça team to win 4-1. Since then, Barça have played 247 consecutive matches, the last two under Rijkaard and all those in the Guardiola era, enjoying superior possession of the ball.

A few days ago, while looking back over his time in charge of the team, Guardiola explained that he was especially proud that his teams had always dominated their matches. They’ve done so for 245 consecutive matches. And there are still two left.

An analysis of all the games played by FC Barcelona under Guardiola shows that there are only two where possession was relatively balanced. The first time was in the final of the Champions League in Rome (2-0) when Manchester United came close with 49%. However, the fact that the game was all but decided in the 70th minute by Messi’s headed goal helps to understand the stats a little better. The second case was in this season’s Spanish Super Cup final (2-2). On that occasion José Mourinho’s Real Madrid managed 48%.

Unforgettable evenings

By contrast we can find some overwhelming displays of superior possession by Barça, especially in decisive matches. In the last World Club Cup final against Santos (4-0), Barça enjoyed 71% possession, with 768 completed passes compared with only 233 by Santos. An outstanding performance that prompted the astonished rival manager, Muricy Ramalho, to explain at the end of the match that Barça had played a "3-7-0" system. Alex Ferguson said much the same thing in different words after his Manchester United lost the CL final in Wembley (3-1), having managed a meagre 37% possession: “They’re the best team we have played. Nobody has ever given us a drubbing like this. They hypnotised us with their passing game”.

Consecutive games with superior possession

Season 2007/08: 2
Season 2008/09: 62
Season 2009/10: 59
Season 2010/11: 62
Season 2011/12: 62


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