Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Those Italians, They Know How To Defend! Barcelona v Chelsea

I'll leave all the technical analysis to the top chalkboard bods but Chelsea's miraculous result at the Nou Camp was one that really did simulate computer gameplay. Tonight you could see the Barcelona attack repetitively broken down into its component parts, over and over again, similar patterns of thought and play were repeated and Chelsea stood firm and efficient. They didn't worry about having to maintain possession, they just had to focus on repeatedly stopping Messi, Sanchez and co, working their way through. Ashley Cole was magnificent in holding the left hand side of the field together, his coverage and anticipation made it very difficult for Messi to make his trademark twisting runs through. It must've felt like one of those games where an adult is stopping a bouncy child from passing for Barcelona, and it can't have been fun for Chelsea!

The danger spot for drawing out all of the Chelsea rear guard was when that fast and direct ball was played to the top of the 'triangle' from just wide of the box, it naturally draws even the most steadfast lines out, a great method that any team with superior attacking players can use against a deep line.

The result is quite unbelievable, Chelsea scoring two goals with only 27% possession. We all hear the pundits and analysts saying "possession doesn't always equal goals" and that is often the case but not usually when the stats read 73:27! There is no way to keep hold of the ball when you have committed in such a focused way to stopping a team like Barcelona who have an incredible proclivity for scoring goals. Roberto Di Matteo set out with the intention of containing and frustrating Barcelona in a way that only Italian managers know how to. To maintain that level of focus is incredible, Chelsea looked like they were hypnotised by Barcelona's passing groove and were programmed to react so simply to stopping it from advancing, it worked.

Every substitution worked for Di Matteo too, each serving to re-enforce and tighten the hard work established by the makeshift back four. Ivanovic served very well in central defence, holding the line like a general and utilising all of his interception skills in nullifying Messi's splurges towards goal.

We all know feel it week after week with our own teams but these huge games really do highlight just what an amazing game our football is, completely addictive, fascinating and all-consuming at times.

The bookies will be quids in for sure!

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