Analyzing How Barcelona Regained Possession – The Masters of The Pressing Game
Until now I have looked at how Barcelona acted with the ball – in possession – showing you how the team looked to control and dominate the match, utilizing their extreme possession football and the genius positional play Pep Guardiola favored so much.
It is now time to look closer at how Barcelona regained possession, and the pressing type Barcelona favored to control the match. This is also the part which fascinated and interested me the most with Barcelonas way of play in their prime period, seemingly not giving the opponents a shot on goal or a moment of rest.
Here I will simply go through how Barcelona utilized pressing in order to regain possession briefly, as I’d like to examine it a bit further in an own piece later on – merging the different pressing styles of football into football Manager 2015.
Continue reading me analyzing how Barcelona regained possession in the defensive transition phase below.
My own approach to winning possession in Football Manager has been reviewed earlier in the article about how to win possession, which will be revised and updated later on.
Attack – it’s the only way to win, especially against physically strong teams with devastating counterattacks. You can’t let them have the ball: if they have the ball you have to get it back. Quickly!
Dani Alves about Pep Guardiolas message to the players before Champions League final 2011, Source: The Guardian, 2012
Influenced by Arrigo Sacchi’s defensive stability and the strength of the collective, Total Footballs aggressive approach to win back the ball and the philosophies of Johan Cruyff in regard to center pitch domination, spatial and pressing football, Pep Guardiola merged everything into one lethal philosophy, were the bid was to win back the ball immediately after losing it. Pep Guardiola obsession to win the ball back as quickly as possible was only natural as you can’t play possession football with out it. Pressing became the mantra of Barcelona as soon as he took over the legacy of Frank Riijkard, who had laid a good foundation for extreme possession football in his 5 year tenure. In order to “be best with the ball, you had to become the best without it too“, were Guardiola’s mantra to convince Messi and co to comply to his football philosophy.
Barcelona took the pressing game to new heights showing the world the importance of utilizing the few moments where no one had complete possession of the ball. Here squeezing play or congesting the pitch to make it harder for the opposition to penetrate your high defensive block were one of the tools to regain possession. The other were defensive organization in order to not only control the opposition, but also make sure all players had a cover – increasing the amount of lines the opposition had to break through.
In my point of view, Barca became the sublime masters of the pressing game as their aggressive approach, intelligent behavior and positioning, bravery and composure changed the rules of the game. The Barca era started the rise of dynamic formations where flexibility in roles gave the best circumstances to master all the different phases of the match. Gone were the days were Michael Owen (the poacher) could stay up front with no defensive responsibilities, as the lack of closing down from the opposite forwards would let Barcelona play their way out from the back and dictate play easily. Who can’t forget Cristiano Ronaldos frustration as no other than him tries to win the ball back in Barcelonas half.
Barcelona wanted to control the opposition both with and without the ball. Instead of letting the opposite team have the main initiate in the attacking transition phase, the team aimed to make the opponents be predictable with the ball – in a bid to dominate the match despite not having the ball. You can say football were to be played on their terms.
While Barcelona made the pitch as big as possible in the attacking phase the defensive transition were all about making the pitch as small as possible for the opposition. This meant that the team would not only play narrower in the defensive phase, but also stay high up the field utilizing a high defensive block which congested play normally from zone 8 (middle third) to the oppositions defensive line. The bid was to win back the ball closer to the oppositions goal rather winning it back in their own defensive third.
Pressuring high limits the amount of running players must do. When you win back the ball, there are 30 metres to goal rather than 80. I want Messi as far forward as possible.
Josep Guardiola, “Pep Guardiola reaps reward of hard work and high style” by Sid Lowe The Guardian, 2009
In order to attack to defend Barcelona relied heavily on looking at the sum of collective play as greater than the individual. All players had to follow their responsibilities in order to regain possession effectively. It was all about the system and the positional sense, which I’ve tried to describe throughout my tactical analysis of the Barcelona tiki taka playing style. The positional play in additional to the level of block and the space between lines (setup pf player roles) were as important for the collective pressing to work, as it had for the ball circulation and playing into the final third… if not more important.
Here the collective pressing consists of coordinated pressure from smaller units within the team – which you can relate to as the triangles and rhombus’ within the system of play – 3rd man, support and covering players. The diamond midfield would be valuable in regard to pressurize the opponents to regain possession quickly. As players were rarely far apart it gave better terms to win back the ball in the oppositions own half – the positional play plus the short passing play laid the ideal circumstances to overload the opposition around the ball zone and thereby regain possession far easier.
Do you know how Barcelona win the ball back so quickly? It’s because they don’t have to run back more than 10 metres as they never pass the ball more than 10 metres.
Barcelonas Pressing Triggers
The collective pressing I briefly mentioned above could not work without having some rules for when to press, when to stay or when to drop off. Instead of spending a lot of energy trying to chase the opponents all over the pitch, Barcelona setup some pressing triggers which looked to make it easier for the player to know when he should close down often, when others were required to support him and when cover was needed. Pressing and closing down were only limited to specific scenarios and areas of the pitch. It should be coordinated and balanced – not creating holes in the formation the opponents could counter in seconds later.
Barcelona would spend extra effort to win back the ball if;
- the opposition has just won the ball – see 6 second rule below
- the moment where the opponent has a wrong body positioning; either is facing his own goal, the sidelines or are forced to turn in order to make him more likely to retain possession effectively
- opponent does not have 100% control of the ball – for example makes a poor first touch, ball bounces of the foot, or simply mis-controls it, which can happen after dribbles or any situation where the player is forced to drop his head, relocate the ball or simply needs to get control of the ball
- pressure key positions – in order to increase the probability of him making riskier passes or not be involved in play – read more in how to win possession
- the moment a pass (or a movement) has been made – for example the pass from fullback to central defender – which gives the inside forward the trigger to leave zone 13 and lock in the area between 13 and 14 – denying passing options for the man with the ball – congesting the area around ball zone.
As you will see, pressing were all about exploiting the moments of play where the opposition is unbalanced. If there is anything like ideal circumstances for regaining possession, these seconds mentioned above is the most ideal to put pressure on your opponent in my perspective. Pressing should be the means to prevent your opponent to setup a lethal counter attack. What was often the case was that a number of these triggers could be applied for one situation as some deny passing options, some harass the man with the ball while some protects zones – stays between two potential ball receivers.
These pressing triggers I mention above will differ from what’s capable in Football Manager 2015 in terms of pressing at the moment, as we only have opposition instructions to work by, which doesn’t give us the option to apply triggers for when to close down often, when to stay or when to cover. Hopefully Football Manager 2016 will have revamped the complete pressing system, making it easier to create an unique pressing philosophy.
The 6 Seconds Rule
Josep Guardiola football philosophy and the heritage of Total football wanted to win back the ball immediately after losing it. It didn’t matter where, as Barcelona had rules and matters to regain possession as effectively as possible. While I may have given you the assumption that the tiki taka style of play was all about conserving energy and to be fitter than the opposite, the normal Barcelona match was full of energy – positive aggressiveness and determination to score more goals and be superior to the opponent in all phases of play. Barcelona used much of their energy when trying to regain possession as they hunted the ball possessor – swarmed around him and chased the ball for larger distances. Here there were a big change of tempo; from holding the ball – enticing the opposite markers to push out, or play shorter passes to one another to rushing to the battle of possession.
When one of the Barcelona players lost the ball (in the opposite half), Guardiola expected that this particular player plus the nearby teammates to win back the ball by instant pressing – the playing principle in this moments of play were known as the 6 seconds rule.
The 6 second rule, (which may have been altered since 2011 to a 4 second rule at Bayern Munich, because of the increased tempo of the match and the utilization of the transition phases which is far quicker today then for 5 years ago), dictates that the players should make an extra effort to regain possession by intense pressing. In these important 6 seconds, players would leave their natural positioning in order to press the opposing player instead of reverting to their defensive formation (4-3-3 / 4-1-4-1).
There were many benefits of why Barcelona limited their pressing time to only 6 seconds;
- there were no other situations or moments in a match where it were far more likely to win back the ball as in the few seconds after loosing it. Not only are the team more likely to regain possession in the seconds after loosing it, but by loosing the ball in the final third it meant that the team were already close to the opposite goal – already in their attacking formation. By winning the ball in the attacking third it were far likely to create goal scoring opportunities which is proved by an statistical analysis from 1988 which dictates that 66% of goals scored came from simply winning the ball in the final third. (Source: Coaching the Tiki Taka Playing Style by Jed C. Davies.)
- in the 6 seconds of losing possession Barcelona will try to create an numerical superiority around the ball zone – this meant that the players had 6 seconds to change their state of mind from attacking to defending – from oozing creativity to becoming a destroyer. Barcelona became the masters of changing mentality quickly, because of monthly training exercises focusing on defensive organization and positional play which fcused on the moments of chaos (quick transition phases): Team training defending in football Manager 2015.
- Creating an overload around the ball zone meant that the players would simply turn their attention to the ball and contract the pitch towards the ball zone.
- since Barcelona normally played much of their game in the oppositions half they have already tried to out number the opposing players around the ball zone. The only matter within these 6 seconds were to narrow the triangles and rhombus shapes in order to reduce the players time on the ball, his passing options and force him to trust his technical abilities to get out of trouble. This meant that players would run towards the ball zone – making the pitch as small as possible – despite leaving space the opposing team can benefit from later on.
- by narrowing the pitch it looked to make it harder for the opponents to find a purposeful pass – deny them the chance to penetrate your lines by standing closer to each other.
- here Barcelona didn’t use pressing to delay the play in order to get back to their defensive formation, but used it as an attacking approach to yet again create distinct goalscoring opportunities by stealing the ball in a vulnerable zone.
The trapping of the opponents in their own defensive half of the field is only then possible when all the lines are pushed up and play close together. This automatically means that you give away a lot of space on your own half and you are vulnerable for counterattacks.
Rhinus Michels about Totel Voetbal, Team Building: The Road to Success, 2013
- the vulnerability of the opposing player is also an important factor to make extra effort to win back the ball. In the first few seconds the opposing player has managed to win possession he is vulnerable. His vision might be on the ball or to the ground after he has tackled or intercepted the ball. His body positioning might be wrong – facing his own goal, to the sidelines or simply away from his teammates. This is seen as the perfect time to close him down as he may not have full perspective of the pitch and the movements happened in the prior seconds, as he needs to get the ball under control before he can recoup the perspective of play.
- the vulnerability of the team in possession is valid too, as they are in the attacking transition, players might have left their role and natural position in the defensive formation. Here we can imagine wingbacks who rush forward, central midfielders who looks to get forward whenever possible and wingers who looks to make themselves available by running away from the ball zone – hug the touchline. The other teammates might have the wrong body positioning or pitch positioning for a good ball circulation if we relates to Barcelonas mantra of triangles – having players in support and cover. This means that it’s valuable for Barcelona to look to counter the countering by full pressure instead of letting the opposing team reach their ultimate vulnerability – the zone behind their defensive line as they looks to stay high.
By decreasing the players time on the ball by utilizing close down much more in regard to Football Manager 2015 team instructions, Barcelona forced opponents to make more mistakes by either turning – playing the ball back, make a long pass which the central defenders have time to pick out and intercept (as they are facing the ball – while the opposing players might have much of their back against the ball) or simply look to isolate him.
The transition of losing the ball (the 6 seconds of intense pressing I hereby speak of) let at least 3 players chase the ball, in order to create 3 versus 1 around the ball zone. These 3 players would be responsible to press and support each other while other players behind them will cover for their intensive pressing. If only one or two closed down the ball it meant that there are 1 or 2 angles open to pass out of the zone from. Here you can imagine the space for a pass if one of the player positions from the illustration to your right were removed.
The bid was to deny obvious passing options by body positioning, intelligent player positioning, (where you had players acting in the role as chasers, supporter and covering players), and fulfilling their responsibilities within the collective pressing.
The terms of the 3 versus 1 (which was the minimum state to chase after the ball) scenario when regaining possession is actually provided by the formation and its positional play – rhombus’ and triangles. The team did not need to alter their formation for the transition phase that much, as the core unit (the center diamond) is intact in all phases of play. The ones who are required to track back are the attacking wing backs (example B of page 1), or Daniel Alves (example A).
If Barcelona were not able to create numerical superiority around the ball zone, or were not able to win back the ball within those important seconds, the team would drop off and revert to the defensive third. When it was not favorable to use energy trying to win the ball, Barcelona would let the closest player track the run and force him to run or pass into areas where regaining possession were far more favorable – either the terms of numerical superiority or the defensive balance are better. This can be referred to opposition instructions show on to foot – forcing the player to a specific side you want him before pressing can start again.
Habitual training had given Barcelona all the necessary principles to comply to the 6 second rule. The players knew what was expected from, what they should do in these highly important seconds immediately after losing the ball, and when it was important to revert to the defensive third by dropping deeper – altering the amount of pressure in regard to the situation – which is impossible in FM15.
Pressuring the Ball Receiver
I like to spend some seconds writing about how the whole team put pressure on the ball receiver, creating a numerical superiority around the ball zone.
In order to force mistakes it was important to reduce the players time on the ball, forcing him to rely on technical abilities, mental attributes such as vision, composure and decisions. While other teams, such as Real Madrid from the EL Clasico of 22. of March 2015 let two forwards stay upfront not engaging in the hunt for possession, Barcelona wanted both wingers to track back putting pressure on the opposing fullback. When the ball were at the sidelines players moved over to the sides in order to cut of movements and potential passing options. As space where contracted it laid better terms to regain possession because of the balanced formation.
One way to ensure dominating these situations were the importance of players marking both zones and any possible ball receivers. Zones can easily be marked by excellent positioning, shape and structure of the formation, while marking possible ball receivers forces the player to stay close enough so that he can intercept the pass or disturb his first touch so much that he looses it in the next phase as the closest Barcelona players hunt him down. It doesn’t always mean that you need to tick Mark tighter as you may want to have players staying between two possible ball receivers – marking its zone.
Here I rely on a mix of player instructions and opposition instructions within Football Manager 2015 in order to regain possession as quickly as possible by putting pressure on all the possible ball receivers, which I will reveal once my FM15 tiki taka tactic has been published.
In order to make the regaining of possession successful, Barcelona often relied on the anticipation of their defensive midfielder (Busquets), who were vital in order to mark zones – often being the absolute spare player – the one who creates a numerical superiority around the ball zone. If correctly positioned he can easily intercept the ball path or force players to stay in his passing shadow.
Full Pressing in The Attacking Third
Josep Guardiola wanted to win back the ball as high up the field as possible. Not only trying to win back the ball after immediately loosing it, but also to force the opposition to be predictable – control and dominate the match by the level of closing down and pressing. Here Barcelona used different pressing triggers – principles which dictated when to press, when to stay or when to drop off.
If we should look beyond the moments where Barcelona gave away possession by individual mistakes or by simply being outnumbered, the controlling of the oppositions play started already in the attacking third – forcing the opposition team to play out of defense in a specific manner which were beneficial to Barcelona. Here the regaining of possession started with the forwards as they would act as first line of defense. The first line of defense had the important job of denying obvious passing options for the goalkeeper – or the defenders for that matter. They should mark zones – stay close enough to the fullback or central defender in order to intercept passes between them. These horizontal passes between the players in the final third were favoured or ideal for regaining possession quickly.
The front three would normally give the opposing players the licence to pass horizontally rather than giving them the option to get the ball forward – especially in/through the middle of the pitch where the best passers and most creative players are.
The two inside forwards plus the false nine would close down all the time putting extensive pressure on the oppositions back line, not giving them time to get control of the ball, pick out passes and simply play out of the defense – letting the ball advance further forward without trying to make the play predictable. Everything done in these moments of play were done so the Barcelona players could easily intercept the ball path – forcing the ball into specific zones of the pitch – either it’s forcing the pass to be played vertically – direct over the midfield line or horizontally – in the channels between the center core and the flanks – giving Barcelona the chance to intercept.
Force Goalkeeper Distribution to be Predictable
A direct long ball is for me a risky pass, where the chance of regaining possession is 50 / 50. But what if you outnumber the area around the most likely players to receive the long ball – such as the playmakers or the forwards?
Barcelona would mark zones when out of possession and stay closer to their opposite player resembling what I would like to call zonal man marking. They have an area which they shall cover from their reach plus one or two a player they have to close down and put pressure on if the ball is directed to him.
In regard to situations like goalkeeper distributions, Barcelona would try to prevent the goalkeeper to play it short relying on the two inside forwards to stick closer to their opposite player while the center forward would stay close to the (two) central defender(s) – making it easier to pick them out because of his body reach, if keeper decides to play it short to any one of them. While the picture below is just an illustration as it doesn’t reflect how real teams would play out from the back, it shows you the most common situation in Football Manager 2015.
The main objective here is to be able to intercept the ball path in the attacking third giving the forwards a chance to become one on one with the goalkeeper, as winning the ball from one of the players in the last line of defense normally means the way to the goal is open. The positioning of the advanced playmakers is important too in order to deny obvious passing options, staying in the channels between the inside forwards and false nine.
Barcelonas Pressing Game Near The Sidelines
The geometry of the football pitch; its zones and the natural spaces within the oppositions formation and system of play were to take benefit from in the hunt to regain possession. Barcelona would make it hard for the opposition team to play themselves out from under pressure forcing them to use technical abilities they might lack, especially within the last line of defense! (discussed earlier in the article about how to win possession).
Barcelona would take every advantage they could get in order to get the ball back. The strength of the diamond would give the opposite team less chance to dictate play from the center. Here we have to remember the many passing options a centralized playmaker may have – for one of the Barcelona playmakers it can be as many as 6 obvious passing options for a center playmaker like Xavi.
The diamond automatically repels passing play through the middle as the four cover the zone perfectly leaving very few spaces for a penetrating pass which they can not intercept
The high pressing in the attacking third often forced the opposing team to play down the sides trough their fullbacks. Helped by the strong diamond unit Barcelona were able to force the opposite team to play down the flanks in order to find space, something which Barcelona had plans to combat. This means that the collective pressing were used to make sure the opposite team would play down the sidelines where vertical passes were favoured over horizontal passes, as the team did not want the central playmakers to get the ball because of their enhanced perspective of play.
There were two main reasons why Barcelona opted to push the opposite team down the flanks;
- the flanks of the system is the only place the formation does not create a complete diamond, but with the help of the sidelines, which acted as a defensive tool, the team could overload the opposing players simply because they only had an angle of 180 degrees to play their way out of trouble from. Here the formation and defensive block would move over to the ball side leaving space to be countered in on the opposite flank.
- since more goals are scored from open play, Barcelona would take advantage of the lack of threat from crossing, letting the opposite team give away possession by trying to cross into the box where its packed of Barcelona players. By being pushed to the side the perspective of play would be minimized for the man with the ball as he is focused on keeping the ball in play – looking down on the ball while dribbling. It was necessary to prevent him making horizontal passes into the center of the pitch, but overload the sidelines instead of giving the opposite team the chance to get full perspective of the pitch and the chance to switch ball to the other flank where its lots of space.
In this illustration you will see how the formation transit from a 2-3-2-3 formation to a vertical 3-4-3 formation as the closest central midfielder pushes to the side getting into the space which normally exists between the wingback and the winger. This provides a double layer of protection which makes it harder for the opposite player to penetrate either with a pass or a run as the Barcelona players can easily intercept.
The central midfielder left will have the important job to keep him to the side until he reaches the zone of the left wingback who will close him down. When the left wingback pushes up, the central defender left will cover for him by moving to the side – yet again forming a 1-3-3-3 formation vertically. The defensive midfielder can drop in between the central defenders if necessary – maintaining the defensive balance. Barcelona have now not only a numerical superiority at the back, but overloads the sideline with a 3 versus 1 situation. This brief illustration has not taken into account that the central defender left, the defensive midfielder or the striker are also able to push to the side as well.
Here is an brief example form the Champions League final between Barcelona and Manchester United 2011.
The wingbacks advanced positioning limits the space for the opposite wingers in their attacking transition phase reducing the time to get control of the ball and his abilities to turn. The wingbacks positioning in what I would refer to as playing in the DM-strata was vital in order to keep the amount of pressure through the collective and deny the quickest players of the opponents the ability to rush forward – dribbling directly at the Barcelona players. As soon as he turns he will have a lot of options.
This little point is essential for all the Barcelona players in the defensive transition phase. In order to make a pressing philosophy successful you must have players staying closer to his marker, limit the amount of passing options for the player with the ball by good structures and shape, and finally make sure pressing does not create holes the opposition can counter in, but that the team moves as an unit. Once the opposing player is left with a maximum of one passing option and preferably the least lethal player – the one who can’t get the ball into final third without risking to give away possession – then you are more likely to win it back. This and more will be discussed in an later article, so stay tune!
Barcelona In The Transition Phases
As you have come to realize from the previous chapters, Barcelona utilized the defensive transition phase to make sure that they could regain possession as quickly as possible. The 6 seconds rule should serve as the complete defensive transition phase changing their formation from a 2-3-5 / 3-4-3 to a 4-3-3. It was important within these 6 seconds that players could quickly recover to a defensive structure which compacted the formation giving the opposite team no channels to penetrate in.
Josep Guardiola looked at the transition phases as lost time and tried to make these phases as quick as possible in order to keep possession for the majority of the time. As you may have comprehended already, the manager had an unique vision on how the team should treat the transition phases in the best manner in order to be attacking proficient while defending, or defensive proficient while attacking. It was all about balance – taking into account that defending and attacking is only degrees apart.
One of the essential figures of Pep Guardiolas tactical masterclass was the increased focus on player positioning and each players individual task to adhere to the team cohesion – playing as one unit, as a collective which looks to make each other stronger. Messi would never be possible to score that many goals without another helping him, either it is by utilizing their creativity with intelligent passes or movements which opens up space.
Here the triangles and rhombus shapes where not only the foundation for extreme possession, but also for pressing and defensive stability. The essential part of using these shapes were its setup of duties. Each player in a triangle has one covering player which provides defensive stability, while the third man has one support or a pressure reliever which he can lay off passes to. For the rhombus each player has a number of covering and supporting players which makes it a strong unit. The 3rd men can without hesitation focus their attention to enter the final third, get into goal scoring opportunities without worrying if he has cover. The shapes makes it automatically easier to regain possession as players are well connected and always in balance.
With more players understanding the value of covering and supporting it did not only increase the amount of passing options, but also improved the defensive stability of the team.
While the defensive transition phase were all about the aim to regain possession as quickly as possible as high up the pitch as possible, the Barcelona players would quickly change their state of mind once the ball was recovered anywhere outside the final third (as then the team would take advantage of the vital 7 seconds where a team is more likely to score if effective counter attacking play is done – vertical passes into space).
The transition phase after winning back the ball
As soon as the ball was recovered at the feet of one of the Barcelona players, he would immediately stop play, rest with the ball and simply reduce the tempo to a degree which lets the team once again stretch play and get back to a structure which improves ball circulation. As the player who have won possession is the one with least perspective of play it’s important that he simply lays it off to a pressure reliever who can hold up the ball until the team has restored their in-possession formation. Here it would be to give time for the wingbacks to advance further up – staying wider, central defenders moving wide again – covering for the wingbacks advanced positioning, defensive midfielder acting as a pivote dropping in between the central defenders, advanced playmakers to find space in which they can circulate the ball – moving in between the lines and making themselves available and false nine to drop deep to get ball, while the inside forwards looks to utilize the half spaces – staying narrower and closer to the false nine.
The transition phase of winning the ball is called the moment of chaos by former Barcelona coach Sergi Domenech. In these important seconds its important for the players to be able to create space for themselves and being able to play out of trouble under high amount of pressure – putting focus on their technical abilities, composure and ability to anticipate play through rehearsed movements – knowing where your team mates are if specific scenarios occurs.
How quickly Barcelona wins back the ball because of the compact shape and how slow the team looks to build up play again after winning possession makes you feel like the team is always in possession. Here we need to remember that the transition phases could not be done so quickly without the team utilizing a high defensive block – reducing the amount of metres players need to track back and recover into a defensive shape. We can also take into account that Barcelona looks to overload the opposition in both phases of play – both within and without possession. This helps the team both in the defensive transition phase as well in the attacking phase.
You can say the tactic is proactive rather than reactive were all elements serves a purpose which lets the team keep control of the match – this is here the positional system comes in to play – something I always look to make right when creating my tiki taka tactic in Football Manager. Without the correct shape, the extreme possession football I favour is not capable and thereby pressing will not be as effective as I want. The formations for that matter is not that dependent as long as it looks to create as many passing lanes and units as possible. This may come as a surprise to you, but when I published my 3-5-2 Sidewinder tactic last year, it was build on some of the same concepts as for tiki taka – giving you great terms to actually convert it to a great possession tactic.
At the end of what can be entitled as the best era since FC Barcelona was founded 115 years ago, fans can look back with pride clinching tiki taka to their heart, as Dutch have done with their Total Football from the ’70s. What triggers my interest to write this piece is the solid foundation in an integral football philosophy – a heritage from Rinus Michel, Johan Cruyff and the Total Football era – such as the clubs youth development policy, the specific designed training drills which all focuses on match scenarios rather than spending hours running up the hills and the fact that the playing identity runs through the club as a thin red line for as long as possession football is the most beneficial to play in terms of statistical analysis.
Many would think of tiki-taka as passing for passing sake, as an defensive minded approach to keep possession so the other team can not score, others understands the value of the pass as the players trying to find gaps to exploit forcing them to pass at an higher tempo in order to move the opposite markers, while some see the true meaning of Josep Guardiolas tactical masterclass, the structures which gives the team the ability to overload and dominate spaces.
What interests me is the focus on statistics in order to create a highly successful system of play. It seems for me that Josep Guardiola has founded his playing style on an statistical approach where the minor details of where on the pitch a team is most likely to score to the lack of influence crosses have for the amount of goals scored. A tactic based on emulating any weaknesses and build on the strength – both in regard to getting the best out of all the individuals on the pitch but also in terms of statistics trying to push the borders of what is impossible!
I can’t hide the fact that it seems Josep Guardiola dares to try to revive player roles and systems which has brought success years before, copying the best of others by modernizing it into the concepts of football systems of today as well as looking outside of what’s common in Europe in order to introduce an element of surprise. Packed together Barcelona showed a magnificent attacking attitude, with the desire to entertain the football world, which I have been fortunate to experience in my life time as the Barcelona era will definitely go into the history as one of the most remarkable ever. Who knows when something so revolutionizing as the tiki taka playing style will yet again emerge? Bayern Munich under the tactical genius Josep Guardiola perhaps? I’m in doubt…
- The season of 2010-2011 was almost as successful to the glorious 2008-2009 season, where the club became the first Spanish club to win the treble in the same season and won six trophies in the same year. By winning the Spanish La Liga trophy 3 times in the row Barcelona were at top of their game noted for their outstanding style of play literally demolishing and out-passing Manchester United in the UEFA Champions League final winning the clubs fourth CL trophy throughout history.
We hope you enjoy my tactical analysis of the Barcelona tiki taka playing style and that this worthy knowledge will not only make you succeed in Football Manager, but also generate new ideas for creating both better and more beautiful attacking football tactics based on dominating space and recording extreme possession from this template.