The most studied tactical puzzel of the last few years is Barcelona's style of play and why it works so well for them.
Controlling the tempo of play and using their energy wisely over 90 minutes and more importantly over the course of the long soccer season.
1. They employ the concept of high pressure defending with the forwards working hard when they lose possession. This gives the defenders time to get organized in their own half. They then want to out numbering the other team near the ball quickly to regain possession as far up field as possible. Many teams do not use more than two players to do this as the rest drop off. Many teams use this as a time to catch a short rest. Barca does not rest while defending, all 10 players defend and will drop back quickly as needed when they do not have possession.
If they regain possession in the attacking half they go to goal quickly. This is all very high energy work and the players must find time to rest. High energy work cannot happen for 90 minutes in every game if you want to win a lot of games over a long season. The slower tempo play for Barca is when they are in possession in the defending and middle thirds.
So, to control the tempo and get some lower work rate time (rest) the attack is very possession based and it most of the time it involves controlling the speed of moving the players back up the field once they regain possession. More times then not, over the course of a long season they play back and play safe into possession space first before starting to attack. They are all very good at reading the other teams shape and will counter if that play is on. Most of the time in the game of soccer the counter play is not on.
The ball goes back to the defenders, they knock it around for a bit while the attackers move forward in a medium energy mode. The ball is played to the midfield players who are skilled at holding the ball and making safe passes to not lose possession. That is the key they don't play ping pong back and forth for 90 minutes.
2. They take chances going forward but only when a play is on, they don't want to force a play too early. Messi's best play is the simple give and go to get behind starting from just outside the box.
If the play forward in not on they maintain possession in the middle third with precise passing skills in tight spaces. The midfield players do not spread all across the field. That wide space is taken up by the fullbacks but many times even when the fullbacks are open out wide they don't play to them as choice #1. The choices to maintain possession and less on the outside of the field near the line.
3. They have great passing skills but more important they have great support movements around the ball and always have more than one option to maintain possession safely when in the middle third.
They stay close in as a midfield group to provide great support to the player on the ball. Medium length passing is the safest type of pass and it creates the best possession percentages. Watch the spacing and amount of support movement they create by not attacking when the whole team is not prepared to move forward as a unit. (* they do use the counter when it is on)
4. The attack starts at the entrance to the box area when the scoring players are forward and ready to make runs into space.
As all this slower possession happens in the midfield the forwards are now forward, rested and near the entrance to the attacking third. Full of energy, they have the time to watch the defenders movements, and are ready to exploit the space that develops as defenders more in relation to the ball movement. They make runs into space and create combinations plays to penetrate through the central part of the field. Combinations play take time to set up and create and the players have the time to use changes of speed type of plays. The combinations plays work best from the area where it is the most difficult to defend, the center of the field. The same area where the best shooting angles come from.
They play like cats in attack and like dogs when they defend.http://msn.foxsports.com/foxsoccer/lalig...fe-after-021612
Xavi Hernández has been at the heart of it all. The playmaker's control of the tempo of games - his management of the shape of his side – serves as the stable platform which allows Lionel Messi to wreak havoc up front...
“Further forward you have more freedom of movement, you feel freer and can play quicker,” he said. “I always want to get forward, as I was used to at Arsenal, where the football is more 'nervous'. Playing as an interior, by contrast, means you have to be more disciplined, to keep your position, and sometimes I lack the patience of Busquets and Xavi. It is not easy. You have to learn the movements within the ‘software’ that the coach has created"...
Guardiola said his side were allowing a “random factor” into games which in other seasons they had controlled.
“We have a problem,” the Catalan coach said. “We have dominated games for a lot of years. In the past the random factor did not figure into our play. We did not give it any room. We must return to that level and not let randomness feature in our games. We have to control it by playing better.”