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MSN vs Pep’s Barcelona
The rise of the MSN has seemingly brought endless debates of Pep’s side vs MSN, which is the greater of the two. Yesterday’s match probably swung the pendulum in MSN’s favour.
One Torres got send off, Atletico proceeded to retreat into a very deep block. Even more than they would normally do, as the loss of Torres meant they did not have much of an out ball. Even though they managed to defend the width of their penalty box pretty well , the fullbacks of Barca were always the spare men. Having a striker like Suarez ,with Neymar and Messi arriving for any knockdowns or rebounds, meant the full backs were able to cross the box as they had a target to aim at. Alba assisted the first, Alves the second.
For all their brilliance , Pep’s best side would have struggled in this situation. Playing with Lionel Messi as a false 9 meant they lacked a true penalty box presence. As we have seen countless times before, the full backs would most probably recycle the ball back to Xavi and Iniesta and they would continue probing from the edge of the penalty box. Hugely successful as they were, their greatest defeats were always were to teams with a similar playing style of this current Atletico side. Inter Milan 2010 and Chelsea 2012 spring to mind.
The greatest strength of the current Barcelona side lies with their forward line. Hence the team is also set up to take full advantage of that. The ball is immediately played forward to the front three at the earliest possible opportunity once any Atletico attack breaks down. Neymar, Messi and Suarez would then be able to take advantage of their 1v1 ability to get the better of defenders. Pep, who places a huge importance on positional play, would instruct his team to get back to their proper attacking play as the ball would slowly be build up from the back through Xavi and Busquets. This would play into the hands of Atletico as they would then have the chance to retreat into their defensive block.
The sending off of Torres would probably overshadow this victory of Barcelona. Xavi once said that Atletico have perfected their brand of football almost as much as BArca have perfected theirs. Having faced similar situations before and failed, this victory while not being exactly at their best against a truly great defensive side like Atletico would bring a huge amount of satisfaction in Catalonia. Having said that, the tie is still in the balance and hopefully the return leg would be equally entertaining as the first.
P.S How did Suarez not get send off? Why do Alba, Mascherano and Busquets all feel the need to whine to the referee? Is that not the captain’s responsibility?
Jeeva(Plastic MUFC ,Malaysian in Germany)
The inevitable red
Warning to all European club managers:
If you are drawn against FC Barcelona of Spain in a knockout stage of the UEFA Champions League, you are advised to ensure you train adequately and intensively with only 10 men for the away leg at Camp Nou. That way, you’ll be better equipped to handle the inevitable sending off whenever it pleases the officials to effect it. Maybe, just maybe, you may actually survive.
Was Fergie really scary?
I enjoyed the article about hard bastard managers. Four of the names on that list make sense. Roy Keane in particular, has the kind of angry face that promises violence.
However one name, continues to utterly baffle me. Alex Ferguson. He isn’t scary. He just isn’t. I don’t get it. Seriously, I know lots of people are intimidated by him, but there is no logic to it. For years I watched the press and the FA bow and scrape in fear when it was blatantly obvious the emperor had no clothes.
His players being intimidated by him made sense, because like any boss, he had the power to negatively impact on the careers of his staff. But what has always baffled me is the way others – particularly journalist and referees – were frightened of him. Sorry for being ageist, but for the last 20 years Sir has been physically incapable of hurting anyone. If a journalist upset Sir he might yell at them, if a referee annoyed him he might say something nasty about their weight or tap on his watch. So what? Maybe it’s a cultural thing I just don’t get? Why would anyone be intimidated by an old man yelling at them? Have you ever waited at a bus stop? Then you’ve probably been yelled at by scarier/louder/more dangerous old men than Fergie.
I’ve even looked at photos of Fergie from his playing days to see if it’s a leftover from being a hard bastard striker in his playing days. Nup, he looks strong, but also like the kinda guy you wouldn’t mind your daughter bringing home for dinner.
Sir Alex once caused a cut of David Beckham’s eye, and Beckham himself admitted to being frightened of Ferguson when he was on Parkinson. Why? If I was betting on a boxing fight between a near retirement Fergie and cologne model Beckham…I wouldn’t bet on Fergie. I just don’t get it. Can anyone explain it to me?
Hugo, NUFC, Adelaide
…Not impressed by our list
So one manager kicked a board over and another broke a tea cup? You lot really need better role models. A tea cup, honestly, we shall have to delay the bridge tournament.
Lovely David Beckham
Partly in reaction to the free-kick specialists piece, but also mainly in respect of the (excellent) footballing icons pieces, I wanted to write about my childhood footballing icon. David Beckham.
I understand that he is perpetually discussed and his achievements have been regularly commended and pointed out, but I think it is easy to forget his impact on so many football followers. My first real footballing experiences were the FA Cup 96 and Euro 96, when I was 8. Although Beckham wasn’t in the England squad, this was around the time his United career began to take off (pretty sure he took the corner for Cantona’s goal v Liverpool).
As the United team grew, and Beckham’s prominence within it, I had a footballing icon. I was not alone. Maybe I grew up in some backward place (Ilford) but I can remember so many of us with Beckham hair (yes I shaved mine when he did – although I wasn’t best pleased) and all of us attempting to become free kick experts at the same time. Also, I’m from just outside London, quite near to where Beckham was from incidentally, so obviously we were all United fans.
One thing that stands out is a friend of mine at primary school. He was crap at football. Properly sh*t. But he LOVED Beckham. Everyday he practiced his kicking style, modelled on Beckham, had his hair cut nearly every week to follow his style etc. By the time we got to secondary school he was pretty decent at kicking the thing, but not much else. Also he had lovely hair. Anyways we had our trials and he gets subbed into the game we were trailing 3-1 at the time. 10 minutes later a legend is born. He scored 3 nearly identical (wonder) goals from outside the area in 10 mins, Beckham style. The jealousy I felt was unbearable.
Another friend of mine, generally useless, but lethal at dead ball had attempted to model his kicking style on Beckham too. In very similar fashion, he came on as our team was trailing by 1 and scored TWO corners!
But back to Becks. I can remember when he scored against Colombia and losing the plot, but conversely his sending off and the disappointment I felt. It was my tenth birthday the day after and I’d been bought a whole pile of Becks goodies. My parents have never really forgiven Simeone. The fallout from it too was my first experience and hardening to the irrational nature of football fans. Attending my first ever premier league game, my cousin took me to Goodison Park for Everton v United (1-4), where I sat with the Evertonians. I can vividly remember the abuse Becks received every time he had the ball. Later ventures to Upton Park as a teenager severely increased my exposure to football fans’ irrational and abhorrent behaviour, but that’s another story entirely….
Essentially, I felt like I grew up with Becks’ career, and was so disappointed when he left for Real Madrid. I was completely inspired him and for a brief moment believed I could emulate his footballing success. Unfortunately I’m still playing 5 -a-side in Chingford’s bottom Sunday league, whereas he won the Champions League et al.
PGA (still time for my footballing career to kick off….) MUFC
(MC – Beckham is on the Icons list, don’t worry)
On Beckham, Lampard and Take That
Apoorv, MUFC You have hit the nail on the head why I love Beckham, Its also why I love Frank Lampard, Guardiola, Makelele, Xabi Alonso. None of these players are marquee players. They aren’t always going to do a step over and produce a moment of magic that transforms the game, however they will always play at at least 8/10 (Like James Milner’s consummate 6/10). They’ll never be remembered like Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Cristiano Ronaldo, Zidane who are all are amazing footballers who won games on their own effortlessly through some supernatural talent. The players I always loved were the ones who facilitate the best thought hard work and determination. Beckham was one of those.
My favourite of these was Frank Lampard. When he broke through, he was considered Redknapps’ pet project at West Ham. Was bought by Chelsea at 23 and was considered a waste of limited funds we had at the time. Never the most technically talented player but went on to be one of the most consistent CMs in world football, amassing 164 consecutive PL starts at one point and being runner up for a Ballon D’Or. This consistency, always at a high standard, is what set Lampard as my favourite player he made the best of the talents he did have. David Beckham was the same, he was always a top player. Apart from his Simeone run in, I can’t remember a game he didn’t look like a top player. He had stand out games, like Greece, but he was always a player that made the team around him perform better. He was rarely a passenger, even when not playing at 100%. The fact he was a pretty boy who had the boy band appeal just made people think he should have been more, surely someone getting that much attention should be the best in the world…
Just like I used to hate Take That as a kid. I just didn’t understand why people liked these talentless pretty boys whilst I loved “Real Music”, Queen, Led Zeppelin, REM, Nirvana, RHCP. Now I’m older I realise, they actually made good pop songs, they were never the best musically but they could hold their own even without that talent because they made the most of the talents they did have.
Aston Taylor (CFC)
Steve McManaman: Really not very good
Was it just me, or was Steve McManaman even more annoying than usual last night, whilst commentating on Barcelona vs Atletico?
The amount of times he kept banging on about, “I knew they’d do that Fletch!”, or “It was obvious they were going to play that way Fletch!”, or “I can’t believe Messi hasn’t scored in 45 minutes of football Fletch!”.
Fletch, Fletch, bloody Fletch! It seems that ol’ Steve has become a tactical know it all, all of a sudden!
Can we stop this myth that Hakan Calhanoglu is the current best free kick taker in the world just because the Fifa games and Football manager says so? Yes he scores some humdingers from set pieces but Pjanic is undoubtedly the master right now, direct and indirect there is no one better.
Aaron (No Robert Huth on the list?) Cornwall
A short Mail on Lille
It’s like Lille is the dribble-haven for footballers. First Hazard dropped on the scene and made many, especially Zabaleta, disoriented after matches. Now we have Payet, I really don’t know why he wasn’t picked up earlier. I remember vs Man city, I think Kolarov thought of quitting after that. Then there’s a relatively unknown, albeit skilled, Sofiane Boufal, if you’ve never heard of him please just type his name in the Youtube search and enjoy.
What’s up, Puskas?
Many, many thanks for your piece on Puskas. I was brought up on stories of Best, Law, Charlton, Puskas and Eusebio by my late father, who was actually at Wembley to watch the Magyars lead by the Galloping Major. If only Youtube was readily available then as it is now.
My father tried and failed to get across to me how a man who looked like a North Eastern docker after one too many Newcastle Brown Ales could play football in such a way as to make England look like little lost school kids, add to that his time at Madrid with Di Stefano you really do have a legend of the game.
Now sat here at work all misty-eyed gazing at the office in sepia.
Paul Murphy, Manchester