In defence they play two centre-backs along with two attacking wing-backs. The two central defenders provide the anchor and are in charge of the defensive unit whilst the two wing-backs provide extra width during the attacking plays and are the main components when it comes to spreading the play around the park. It is usually these wing-backs who provide the crosses for the forwards during offensive plays.
In the midfield, a small triangle is formed. With a defensive midfielder at the point (just in front of the defence) responsible for holding the midfield together. He is supported by two central midfielders. Here, Barca do not conform to the usual game plan with two out-and-out wingers. The defensive midfielder’s sole purpose is to break the attacking play and supplement the defence (especially when the wing-backs find themselves in opposing territory). The central midfielders are the engine of the machine. They are the creative geniuses controlling the passing and keeping the composure of the whole unit.
The front three constitute the lethal component. Set up with a forward through the centre, supported on either side by a left-winger/forward and a right-winger/forward. The wingers are played in an unorthodox fashion. The player on the left flank is right-footed & the player on the right is a left-footed player. This has created the tendency for the wide players to cut inside and the pass through into the penalty area or chip the ball across the opposing line of defence. In 2010, this lethal combination managed to score a whopping 100 goals throughout the season with Leo Messi (down the right) at the helm supported by Zlatan Ibrahimovic (centre-forward) and Thierry Henry (down the left).
The squad looks immaculate on paper. But what oils this heavy duty machine called Barcelona is their immaculate passing. They dominate the play with attacks filled with pace from their wide players. Barcelona boast an average of 66% possession when entertaining teams at the Camp Nou. Majority of it played in the opposition half. The passing is fluid. Like a well oiled machine. No tweaks or disturbances. The ball is never found static with a single player. It always moves from one player to another, looking at an opportunity to set the front three loose with every play.
The defensive front supplements this by tight pressure defence. There are no gaps in the back four and the presence of a defensive midfield player just playing above them allows the wing-backs to venture forward.
There is a certain uniqueness in the football style which the Catalan giants have developed over the years. And as managers have said, it is indeed difficult to fit into this system. An example of a player not being able to fit in would be that of Aliaksandr Hleb. He arrived in the summer of 08′ from Arsenal (who claim to play a similar style of football). He was disposed in the next season. The reason? An individual talent, he could not find his niche in the Barcelona team.
This outfit is a very solid one, and with Pep Guardiola managing this side, Barca seem to be progressing with every 90 minutes they play out on the pitch.
Writing credits: AP