Friday, March 16, 2012

What would Barcelona be without Messi? Check out Bilbao

Starting lineups
Athletic Bilbao's triumph over Manchester United was nothing short of a fairy tale. With no Messi and a coach that arrived less than a year ago, a team traditionally used to long balls aiming at their target man was able to radically change their style of play thanks to the manager's attention to detail and ability to sell his ideas. The Spaniards' display against Man Utd on both legs made it plain to see that it is indeed possible to play positive football, even if you don't have Xavi, Messi and Iniesta.

United had an almost impossible task on their hands and turned to experience to try to beat the odds - Giggs, Park, Ferdinand and Rooney all got the nod. Faced with an uphill battle, the red devils tried to take it to Athletic Bilbao and exert pressure in advanced areas of the field.

United tried to stifle Bilbao, at first
Nevertheless, United are not used to this sort of strategy and Bilbao seemed more than confident about how to best bypass it. It was however an incredibly open match and both teams seemed to want to provide an goal-fest. Marcelo Bielsa's team could have just waited it out, but their DNA doesn't allow it, apparently.

Just like it had been the case during the first leg, Bilbao was almost man-marking Manchester United out of the game, confident in their coordination, speed and intensity - starting with the excellent (former midfielder) Javi Martínez marking Wayne Rooney everywhere he went. Giggs looked lost for most of the match (Sir Alex Ferguson has yet to realise that his team rarely win important matches with Giggs in central midfield) as he wasn't sure if he was supposed to drop back and help out or stay up and try to overload his opponent.

Bilbao were pretty much man-marking their opponents
Carrick was heroic in his holding role, but he was essentially alone. Park and Cleverley often exchanged positions, but both failed to help the Englishman in his efforts to stop their energetic rival. Bilbao's midfield provided enough of a challenge, but Javi Martínez's surges forward were just more than United could handle. The first goal of the game came on Patrice Evra's side - his defensive positioning is becoming more and more questionable. As in Dirk Kuyt's goal in the match against Liverpool, Evra seemed to forget to close the space between him and the centre-back and Llorente had no mercy. United's dream was all but over.

From then on, there was virtually nothing left but to watch Bielsa's perfectly-drilled side in their magnificent pressing - the coordination and solidarity are impressive - and triangle-shaped combinations, creating scoring chance after scoring chance. In the end, the result was more than flattering for United, considering the numerous clear-cut chances Bilbao had to get a historical win.

The man on the ball always had at least two passing options

After easily getting out from the back, Bilbao get ready to create yet another chance

Another example of how to bypass your opponent

Two perfect triangles
In a time where player power is king, it's almost impossible to believe that a coach can change a team so set in their ways in such radical fashion. Bilbao are living what seems to be an unforgettable season and their showdown against Barcelona for the Copa del Rey's final should be wonderful to watch. In conclusion, I would like to add how reassuring it is to see Iturraspe and Javi Martínez leading and instructing their team mates - perfectly aware of their ideal positioning and always ready to lend a hand, if necessary.

1 comment:

Maillot de foot pas cher said...

Messi célèbre fréquemment un but en pointant un doigt sur chaque main vers le ciel en dédicace à sa défunte grand-mère.
C'est elle qui a encouragé un jeune Messi à jouer, et l'a également emmené à des jeux.