Wednesday, April 25th, 2012
By Paul Morrissey - Follow on Twitter here.
One week, one kick, the breadth of a crossbar. Barcelona can decry Chelsea’s tactics, they have only themselves to blame.
It was a night where their post-modernity got the better of them.
Their self-professed “reinventions” blew up in their faces in a haze of hubris: Victor Valdes, the world’s best and only sweeper-keeper. Standing on the edge of the box and starting tiki-taka movements is very nice, but a keeper needs to be a keeper first and foremost. The gloves aren’t just to keep the hands warm they’re for saving.
In Ronald Reng”s A Life Too Short the protege to Robert Enke was a diligent, aspiring Barcelona number 1, who spent hours learning the trade under the tutelage of the German. As the years have progressed and the tiki-taka has come to frution, Victor Valdes has come to see himself as a bit of a libero manqué, a cocksure surrogate sweeper who only deigns to use his hands when absolutely necessary. And even then, he prefers to flap a foot.
His raw, uncouth approach to the most rudimentary goalkeeping tasks were exposed at their most vulnerable last night, when he came careering out of goal like a bull in a china shop to box a ball that any traditional keeper would have claimed with minimal fuss.
Not only did Valdes make a complete hash of it, he concussed his team-mate in the process. Toni Schumacher was castigated for less. All those hours spent playing Rondos at La Masia count for nothing with a striker bearing down on goal.
”We Are And We Will Be… The Best”
The lack of a true centre-forward has been discussed enough elsewhere, but the fundamental problem with Barcelona is that they’ve been inculcated to an equation of possession and superiority: dominate possession = dominate the game = ipso facto, deserve to win the game.
Under this oxymoron, Barcelona deserve to win every game. Each and every one. It’s a philosophical dogma that’s served them well until now, but that may now need to be revised.
Every defeat is tantamount to an aberration, a crime against their futbol-arte.
Xavi described their defeat to Arsenal last season at the Emirates as a “footballing accident”; and the discourse was much the same from Iniesta and Fabregas last night. “Unfair,” “domination,” “controlled.” It’s a dogma that is now causing them more pain than joy: the Pep Team have won two Champions Leagues and lost two, but the dynasty we expected last season’s Wembley demonstration to usher in now looks under regicide.
Inter Milan’s pseduo-catenaccio abnegation in 2010 was given miracle status, Chelsea last night proved such sophistication is not even necessary. You sit tight in two banks of four, you wait, you hope. Paraguay have made a cottage industry of this; it does not merit tactical analysis.
These ultra-defensive are now the blueprint for countering Barca, and, until they can bring themselves to scout some anachronistic “centre forwards” it will work more often than not.
The global lauding has inflated their egos, hardened their convictions. But the “sterile” domination that became apparent last season has regressed to an impotent state; where at their zenith Barca achieved a Viagra-inducing penetration, last night’s collapse was flaccid light petting. Contrary to their aesthetic convictions, it is not irrefutably beautiful; in fact under such mental exhaustion it’s not even particularly stimulating any more.
Wherefore Barça in this climate of artistic destruction? Soon to be disabused of their fallibility they could quite stage their own footballing Woodstock, and renege on their style, aping the primitive non-football being enacted before them. Fight fire with fire.
”If this is how you really want football to develop, that suits us fine; this is how it’s gonna be.” Of course, were they to do that, their opponents would unreservedly accept, sit back and await the inevitable penalty shoot-out after 180 minutes of dour, goalless football. And Barca would lose, as so often the more technically superior side does on penalties.
Whether we watched the death of a dynasty last night remains to be seen. What is clear though, is that such stubborn adherence to art will no longer guarantee victory.
A bit like Van Gogh, they’re the artist suffering for their work. I could have told you, Barça, this world was not meant for one as beautiful as you.