Barcelona - One Trick Pony That Needs Plan B

"I pass and I move, I help you, I look for you, I stop, I raise my head, I look and, above all, I open up the pitch...The one who has the ball, is the master of the game...That's the school of Joan Vila, of Albert Benaiges, of Johan Cryuff, of Pep Guardiola" - Xavi Hernandez, FC Barcelona
Come the Champions League quarterfinals against Shakhtar Donetsk one thing is guaranteed, Barcelona's biblical style of play - but what is not guaranteed is a victory!

Barcelona is one of the most attractive sides in this year's Champions League, and perhaps the most entertaining side for a good four years now - the only question is, how long can Barcelona sustain this ascendancy? A clever tactician is bound to strategically tackle that - perhaps Barcelona's ouster at the hand's of Jose Mourinho last season was a perfect example. If you know what's coming then you can prepare for it.

Football pundits, gurus, all-time football greats are coming out in numbers to praise this Barca side, comparing it with the best European sides in football. But before we can really pass these bunch of players as the best ever to have embraced Europe, we have to admit that Barca do not have a Plan B, no back-up and no other way, just a plain one-trick pony!

Barcelona's strategy revolves around breaking the oppositions' resistance by a series of passing attacks, wave after wave instigating brilliant passes within the final third, forcing the opposition to make a mistake and that one mistake usually gets punished in the form of a Barcelona goal. The philosophy being, if you can keep the ball (possession) for 60-70 percent, then, opposition can't hurt you. Indeed, but.. are Barcelona defensively stable or strong enough? Don't think so!

This team's inherent weakness is its defense - not unusual when you consider the fact that Dani Alves, Pique and Abidal/Adriano are all, like to drift/dribble up the pitch. This leaves a huge void at the back that can easily be out-witted and out-maneuvered. Victor Valdes, Barcelona's keeper, is highly susceptible as well. He does a fine job protecting the net but occcasionally he can makes error in judgement or a stupid mistake that can cost Barcelona a great deal.

The attack comprising of Leo Messi, Pedro and Villa look for spaces to create. Deny them that and again they're in trouble. Athough the opposition need a very high level of discipline and concenteration to deny Barca the space but it can be done. Javier Zanetti and Esteban Cambiasso of Inter Milan did a fine job in denying Barcelona space, just ahead of their defense - Barcelona's favored territory of developing an attack.

Shakhtar Donetsk are more than capable of doing just that, the blueprint that was developed by Mourinho for Inter. Although it's not Shaktar's cup of tea, but when the need arise they can be equally good, defensively.

Please do not get me wrong, Barcelona's play is fantastic and a pleasure to watch but what baffles me is that, they do not have a backup plan. There needs to be a Plan B to counter against teams with a good defense, who are willing to park the bus and hit Barca on the counter. It is a very effective tactic for opposition, considering the fact that matching Barcelona man for man in midfield is something most teams would falter at.

Barcelona have tried a Plan B before in the form of Zlatan Ibrahimovic - which as we all know, failed badly. The plan was to to feed long balls to the lanky striker and hope that he'd create opportunities - a different kind of an attack. But to be be fair to the Swede, his style of play did not match that of Barcelona's and he subsequently failed.

It is important for any managers to devise a Plan B well before the Plan A fails. It's so ironic that even with all of their (Barcelona) attacking qualities and lion share of possession they can be ousted if there is no Plan B. For neutrals and for fans that love beautiful football, this is an anthithesis because beautiful and attacking football deserves to be at Wembley this June.

Related Articles:
Champions League 2009/10 Review
An Historic Treble For Inter
El Traductor Jose Mourinho
UCL 2010/11: Assessing The 8 Quarterfinalists
Two Nations United By The Beautiful Game

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