Valencia vs Barcelona analysis

Not my analysis (and I can’t figure out how my one attempt to use game footage for analysis got yanked off of YouTube so quickly and ones that like this are able to stay up uncontested but I’m glad that it is) but a great breakdown of how the two teams enjoyed success tactically in one of the best games I’ve seen recently.

The pace of the game was stunning yet the technical ability of the players didn’t suffer. Great assessment of how Valencia were able to wrong foot Barcelona for most of the first half and how Barcelona adjusted in the second half.

May not embed but click through to watch it on YouTube. It’s worth it.

I still contend that Barcelona are not the same team without a healthy Pique and Puyol. As noted in the video analysis, Alves hardly plays right back. He’s so high up the field that Valencia repeatedly exploited that space. I really believe that the value of Pique and Puyol is their unique ability to deal with being left short at the back and extinguishing the danger that generally comes from the decision to allow fullbacks to play like out and out wingers. And while going to a 3-4-3 is something I regularly play with, doing so with a girls U17 team is quite a bit less radical than doing so in La Liga.

UPDATE: Here’s the points I thought were most relevant for youth teams in row form of an email that’s going to my U17 girls team:

1. Barca start off playing 3-4-3 ( as we increasingly do). Very unusual for professional teams but they’ve moved to that because they know they dominate possession and teams tend to drop off and not leave many attacking players forward. That lets Barca move someone at the back and play with four in midfield (they normally play 4-3-3 with three compact central midfielders and two gazelles playing outside back (Dani Alves at right back, referred to as ‘Dani’ in the video, and Abidal at left back) who constantly go forward in wide positions).
2. Valencia’s success comes from quickly attacking wide positions that force Barca’s back three to get stretched and leave gaps in the middle. That is the concern we need to be aware of when we play three at the back. I’ve covered this but seeing it may help the girls understand it. It doesn’t help that Dani Alves is still playing right back as if Barca have four at the back. He’s ridiculously high leaving just two at the back causing them to get exposed repeatedly.
3. The pace of the attack on Valencia’s first goal when they pull Puyol out of position and play behind him to make a 4v3. When you have numbers in the attacking third you have to recognize it right away and play at full speed to exploit it.
4. The early cross on Valencia’s second goal when the wide player realizes he has numbers (2v1) in the box. Not the best cross but it was the best decision and it resulted in a goal.
5. The breakaway pass to Messi around 5:32 that works because Valencia’s line is not good enough. The Valencia players don’t step when the centre back come forward and Messi loops around to get onside (you barely see that on the video) and then receives the through ball with the defenders who are keeping him onside too far away to stop him except for a last gasp nudge from the other centre back to throw him off his shot (fantastic defending by the way).
6. Barca’s second goal starting about 6:25 does so much of what we talk about. Messi has pulled way back into midfield. Fabregas plays a short pass to him and notices his mark turns to watch the ball. As Thiago pulls out of the space up front (Thiago and Messi have switched), Fabregas makes a run off the shoulder (a blind side run) off his mark into the space Thiago has created. The arrows help illustrate it well. I particularly like the right back realizing, too late, that he’s holding Fabregas onside and blindly sprints forward too late in an attempt to play his offside.
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12 Responses to Valencia vs Barcelona analysis

  1. K says:

    Maybe they are left up as the scorelines are blurred out?

    • Gregor says:

      Could be. I think it probably has something to do with the name of file you upload to YouTube. If I’d disguised my file name better rather than using “MOTD_Aug28” I’d probably have not tipped them off so quickly!

  2. Mitch says:

    This may be stupid question, but why does it seem the professional players always have more time and space on the field than the kids do? Watching my daughters HPL game this weekend, they always seem to be under pressure as they are trying to play the balls out of the backs as opposed to kick and chase.

    • Gregor says:

      The quality of the first touch, the ability to decide before the ball arrives what you’re going to do with it and the movement off the ball are so much better with professionals. While it’s true that they’re also faster and thus can pressure more quickly they’re probably no more than 20% faster over 5-10 yards than good U16 to U18 boys BCPL players. But the differences in first touch, decision making and support play is so much better that they have far more success in ball retention.

      Our young players, even at higher levels, still don’t have perfect control that sets up an intention that was already decided before the touch. It’s what sets Xavi and Zidane apart even at the professional level. No one overcommits to pressuring and tackling them because their touch and vision is so good that they can play out of almost any amount of pressure applied to them. Eventually players realize this and content themselves with laying off them and just trying to stay goal side of the ball. Factor in the superior movement off the ball to supply options and it becomes much less likely they’ll concede possession the way a youth player would.

      It’s why youth coaches yell ‘pressure’ without really having to coach effective group pressure (how and when to do it as a unit). They know there’s a disproportionate reward for randomly pressuring anyone who gets the ball because chances are the pass arriving will not be great and even if it is the control of the receiving player probably won’t be and the pressure will just add to the chances of a 50-50 being created.

      It’s why the Canadian women’s team under Pellerud had success right up to a certain level of opponent. Their athleticism would force a pace that poorer team’s technical ability couldn’t deal with and Canada would overwhelm them physically. But up against better technical teams that had the touch to play through their pressure, it just meant that Canada left too much space in behind the initial pressure and it was duly exploited.

      • cutleron says:

        The one other point to answer Mitch is to note that technical ability includes the ability to deliver and receive a pass of 35-50 yards. In the top levels of the professional game that you watch on TV, a 45 yard ball switching play to an open target is probably a 75% or higher success rate. Even HPL kids, boys and girls, might complete that pass with a 20% success rate. So the active area of play is much smaller, making the difference in close control and decision-making even more important.

  3. cutleron says:

    You’re right about everything. This is fantastic.
    Now, to get the most out of this even with my U13s, I need a team clubhouse with a big screen. We need a place for classroom sessions. And beer, so we can talk this stuff through ad nauseum.
    And sadly Canada v. France under Morace was more of the same: Canada looked on top for 12 minutes during which they spent all their hyper-pressuring energy in France’s defending third, leaving 78 minutes for the superior technique of about 6 of France’s players to win the day.

    • Gregor says:

      I think there’s a lot more “want” than “need” in there but I want those things too!

      Morace’s Canada looked the same because they players were pretty much the same as under Pellerud. “Horses for courses” should have been mentioned to Morace at some point or maybe we still don’t have that type of horse, or enough of them, yet.

  4. Burnsie says:

    All of the points made are very good but in essence, they do have more time mainly because teams who play Barcelona have to be patient and try and contain more. They will often sit with 5 defenders and 4 midfielders behind the ball and just look to shut out the passing channels while pressing their backline higher to limit the space for Barcelona to exploit. They will allow them to make many passes as long as it is not of the penetrating variety…..unfortunately for those teams, they are able to hit the 50 yard ball on a dime and that is when they start ripping teams apart.

  5. Mitch says:

    Thanks for the insight. Are our expectations for kids to be able to knock the ball around and control play too high? As we are able to watch more and more games on tv, are we (parents & coaches) starting to expect kids to be able to play like that. I think most coaches are trying play within this stlye, but as the game goes on, the pressure on back line increases, and mistakes start to happen. Are we going to be patient enough to alow them to learn or punish them for making mistakes?

    • cutleron says:

      Patient enough. Yes. For sure. Goals against are not punishment — they’re just the result of situations, decisions, and some randomness.

      My team lost 3-1 this weekend to a bad non-call and then two ugly counterattacking goals. We salvaged a goal at the end that Barca would have been proud of, with skill, penetrating passes, and a top-notch finish. My 12-year-olds, with the right coaching attitude and communication, understood that we played a more beautiful, fun, sophisticated game than our opposition. They took almost no bad feelings away from the game — instead, they are more than ever committed to playing a more sophisticated game than their opponents.

      • K says:

        Keep in mind at youth levels if one team has a few athletically dominant players that also will affect scorelines etc. Especially at the youngest ages up to and including about u14ish

        Having watched a Barcelona u11 youtube video I’d say it is fair to expect our boys to also be able to create space, and maintain possession for 6-10+ consecutive passes most times they get the ball, as well as demand they play the ball out of the back rather than “play it safe!” I have asked my players “Are you worried if you make a mistake at the back?” They usually just shrug and say “not really.” I then ask “How do you feel about controlling the ball and trying to pass but maybe it costing a goal?” They usually respond “I like it! It’s better than everyone yelling at me to kick it!” Within a few games they’ve usually figured it out and laugh at themselves for making that mistake earlier in the year. The boys want to look like Rio Ferdinand at the back and Messi at the top….or at least have coaches and parents who encourage them to try.

  6. cutleron says:

    Man U v. Basel, Fabio tries to be Alves as Gregor describes him here: No defending whatsoever. With Evra thinking he has license to get forward all the time, Man U is basically playing a back TWO. And paying for it.

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