A note from the author:
I have great admiration for Guardiola and his Barcelona tactic. I was trying the whole year to simulate this same tactic in FM 2011. It was possible to achieve the desired possession, but the amount of passes completed was impossible. Now that FM2012 is finally here I managed to get more passes.
My goal is to have consistent statistics as much as Barcelona in real life.
It's easy to win trophies with Barca, but it isn't easy to play like Barcelona in "real life", and to have that kind of statistics. Actually to have the same statistics is impossible.
Most important tasks:
1. Possession 65%+
2. Completed passes 400+
3. Playmaker passes 100+
Screenshots Part I:
Table of Contents:
1. PEP GUARDIOLA
1.1. Opta: Barcelona the keep-ball kings
1.3. Possession statistic
1.5. The build-up
2. Xavi Hernández
2.1. Xavi passing statistics
2.2. FC Barcelona 2010/11 Season in Review: Xavi Hernández
3. Dani Alves
4. Six ways to get your football team playing like Barcelona
4.1. Choose the Right Formation
4.2. Employ Intelligent Movement
4.3. Perfect the Barcelona Passing Game
4.4. Utilise Lionel Messi’s ‘Fake Number 9? role
4.5. Defend High Up The Pitch
4.6. Be Disciplined
5. FM Tactic
5.1. Half season analysis
5.2. Tweaking and Football renaissance
5.3. Barca style reloaded
5.4. Is this tactic effective with other teams...
Source: A great blog about Guardiola's tactic
"We play in the other team's half as much as possible because I get worried when the ball is in my half" he says. "We're a horrible team without the ball so I want us to get it back as soon as possible and I'd rather give away fouls and the ball in their half than ours." The stats bear that out: Dani Alves makes the fourth highest number of touches in the opposition half in La Liga. He is a full-back. Typically, only the two centre-backs and the goalkeeper spend more than 50% of the game in their own half.
Then there is possession: the top nine passers in La Liga are all Barcelona players. But that is not just an attacking option, it is a defensive one too. "There is no rule like in basketball that says you have to hand over possession or shoot after a certain amount of time, so 'attack' and 'defence' don't exist" Lillo says. Not in Barcelona's model. Barcelona attack to defend; when they lost to Arsenal, Guardiola was angry with Alves not for attacking too much but for attacking badly. That Barcelona lost because they were caught up the pitch is one reading; Guardiola's reading is that had they scored they would not have been caught on the break.
"Barcelona are the only team that defend with the ball; the only team that rests in possession" Lillo says. "They keep the ball so well, they move so collectively, that when you do get it back, you're tired, out of position and they're right on top of you." Lillo knows: his Almería side were defeated 8-0 by Barcelona.
Michael Laudrup, the Mallorca coach, said: "They move the ball so fast that by the time you get there, it's gone. You end up desperate, and shattered." As Rexach notes, Barcelona even waste time with possession. Most teams would go down to the corner; Barcelona would rather keep the ball between themselves.
In order to achieve that dominance, technical ability is fundamental, as is the pressure that is the coach's greatest obsession. But so is positioning. Barça's game is all about creating numerical superiority, opening up angles of passes. "We do a lot of positional work," Vilanova says. "That gives you options and prevents you from making unnecessary effort." Running, as Rexach famously put it, "is for cowards". "At Sevilla, you had to go looking for the ball" Keita says. "Here, it arrives at your feet."
Yet those fundamental lessons do not mean a lack of flexibility or invention. Nor does the faith in their identity mean ignoring the other team. Guardiola was accused by some of being tactically out-thought by José Mourinho last season or by Wenger at the Emirates. If so, it was not for lack of thought. Guardiola is every bit as obsessive a coach as, say, Rafa Benítez. "You wouldn't think so," Barça's reserve goalkeeper, Pinto, says, "but Guardiola controls every little detail." "Every decision is made according to the opposition," says one of Guardiola's collaborators. "Every one."
Messi's withdrawn role was initially employed – in 2009 – to confuse Real Madrid. Barcelona won that Clásico 6-2, Christoph Metzelder saying: "Centre-backs hate being dragged away from that position and we just didn't know whether to follow him out." As one of the staff puts it graphically: "With no No9 you leave the centre-backs to kick each other." Messi has now made that role permanent but not entirely inflexible. The reason is partly tactical, partly a response to the Argentinian's own desire. A different solution with Zlatan Ibrahimovic was aborted because of personal problems.
That means no Plan B – if by Plan B you mean a Big Man. But there are nuances and variations: plans C, D, and E. Besides, seeing tactical awareness only in terms of changing a game in course is a red herring; Guardiola would rather change the course of the game first; a successful coach ends up looking like a less interventionist coach. Against Athletic, he made his players receive on their own byline, four of them lined up around the area to receive from the keeper. "We knew they would pressure high and that risked us being dragged into long balls – which they would inevitably win," he said. Every move was 120 yards long. But if that's what has to be, so be it.
Against Valencia last week, there were three centre-backs and two wing?backs. Within five minutes, there were also five long, uncharacteristic diagonals. The idea was to force Valencia to think twice about their high pressure. The plan did not entirely work – although Messi had countless chances – and this time Guardiola, suffering with sciatica, did make the change. On came Pedro. Messi got the goal; the assist came from Adriano, the man least expected to be included and the favourite to be removed.
There is a discernible Barcelona philosophy, a style. It is Guardiola's style, one so clear as to appear to suggest rigidity and insularity. The impression is not entirely true. When Guardiola travelled to South America, Menotti encountered a man who "reads, studies, listens and shows an enormous capacity for observation". And the observation is applied to opponents. Guardiola only knows how his team is going to play when he knows how the other team is going to play.
Opta: Barcelona the keep-ball kings
Barcelona go into the Champions League final against Manchester United boasting some astounding statistics on ball retention and pass completion, as Opta reveal.
Considered by many to be the greatest side in recent years, Barcelona have won the plaudits not only through their silverware but also through their unique style of play. Below, Opta highlight some of the tactics used by the Blaugrana that makes their style of play so inimitable.
Guardiola ends the European Super Cup final with six central midfielders
Barcelona have averaged 73.4% possession in their league matches this season, where the next highest by a side in La Liga is 57.0% at Valencia, and the next highest in Europe’s top five leagues is Bayern Munich with 61.5%. In the Champions League this average goes up to 74.3%, with Bayern once more in second place on 62.3%.
The last time they had under 50% possession in a Champions League match was against Werder Bremen in December 2006 (43.5%). They have played 51 matches in the competition since then.
La Liga season from 2009-2010
Average per game 68%
lowest against Getafe 50%
highest against Tenerife 83%
La Liga season from 2010-2011
Average per game 75%
lowest Valencia 56%
highest Zaragoza 82%
The blaugrana’s style of play focuses on the constant movement of the ball to retain possession, otherwise known as tiki-taka. This is underlined by the fact that Barcelona have averaged 747 passes per game in the league this season, over 200 more than any side in Europe’s top five leagues (Arsenal have made 530 per game).
Barcelona tend not to pass the ball around their own backline too much, but rather around the middle of the pitch. Just 12% of their passes have been in the defensive third this season in the Champions League (the lowest proportion in the competition), while 61% have been in the middle third of the pitch (the highest proportion).
Barcelona’s schemer-in-chief has put in some astounding performances this season, averaging 122 passes per game in the Champions League, 34 more than any non-Barcelona player (Schweinsteiger has made 88). In his most recent appearance (vs Levante in the league), he made 175 passes, his highest tally in a match for which Opta have data (since 2006/07).
Xavi passing statistics
March 31, 2010 Arsenal v Barcelona: 95 - successful passes
April 6, 2010 Barcelona v Arsenal: 105 - successful passes
April 20, 2010 Inter v Barcelona: 93 - successful passes
May 28 Barcelona v MAN UTD: 142 - successful passes
November 24 Panathinaikos Barcelona: 105 - successful passes
November 2 Copenhagen 1-1 Barcelona: 98 - successful passes
Xavi Is Barca’s Conductor
Xavi’s brilliance is to make the art of playmaking look almost laughably simple:
1) get the ball (you know already where your team-mates are and where they might run to; you know where your opponents are too)
2) control it instantly
3) shield the ball from your opponent (if you have to)
4) pass it to a team-mate, usually on the ground
5) find space, asking for the ball back if necessary
5) Repeat until Messi gets the ball
It’s not as if Xavi stays in the centre circle either. He covered more distance (12.56km) at Camp Nou last night than any other player.
And that’s Xavi’s other trick: staying in the shadows. He is a silent assassin. He keeps his head up, literally, but he also keeps his head down, meaning that he aims to attract as little attention as possible. How does he do this? Well, he is undemonstrative, unflashy, unremarkable even. He plays without ego. Nothing he does screams “Look at me!” He gets football. The team thing. If the fans can see what you are doing, then you can be sure your opponents see you too.
I suppose this is why Xavi remains underrated – relative to Messi, at least – by a lot of football fans, especially in England where we are told repeatedly that Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard would “walk into any team in the world” (neither would get close to Barca’s starting midfield).
The one thing Xavi’s game lacks is goals, but for both Barcelona and Spain, he has his little helpers – Messi, Torres, Villa. Xavi doesn’t need to score wonder goals. After all, he doesn’t want to blow his cover
FC Barcelona 2010/11 Season in Review: Xavi Hernández
Report: Before the club season began Xavi led Spain to World Cup glory. As with Barcelona he orchestrated every play Spain made and ended the campaign with seven games played (all starts) and one assist. That last stat might not show the true importance of Xavi to the Spanish national side, but he is a key component.
Had it not been for the World Cup Xavi might have undergone surgery to repair the damaged Achilles tendon that has been bothering him for the past few season. Because there was no time questions were raised if Xavi will be able to play at his unbelievably high standard. He did. Xavi was simply brilliant throughout the season even though his minutes on the pitch were down from previous years, because he was substituted in nearly half of the games. But most of them came late in games.
Despite the tendon problems Xavi extended the streak of 50+ games played per season to five consecutive years; his only other 50+ appearances season came in 2001/02 season. Xavi was constantly among leaders in passes, passes attempted and successful passes. Those stats tell that he is involved in every play Barca make and he very rarely loses the ball which results in an extremely high pass success rate.
The most interesting stat of Xavi's season is that he made only 7 fouls during in all competitions combined, but he got 6 yellow cards. None of them came for a foul. Another notable stat is that Xavi ended the La Liga season tied for third on the Barcelona team in assist at seven (behind Lionel Messi and Daniel Alves.
Scientometrics, Knowledge Management, and Social Network Analysis
Watching Barcelona it can often feel as though they have an extra player on the pitch, and in a way, with Dani Alves, they almost do. The Brazilian full-back has made 796 touches in the opposition half in the Champions League this season, second only to Lionel Messi and Xavi in this respect, as his attacking instincts often give Barcelona the extra offensive option they need.
Six ways to get your football team playing like Barcelona
Source: Article by Andy Macfarlane at laligablog.com
It’s no lie that Barcelona are the envy of the footballing world right now. Apart from their contingent of world class players, renowned youth set-up and decorated history, their unique brand of attractive passing football is what has made Pepe Guardiola’s men such a pleasure to watch in recent times.
Intense pressure, high possession and fluid short passing have become trademarks of their game and Sir Alex Ferguson amongst others have already acknowledged that their cerebral style of play is indeed the future of football. So with the world seemingly ready to adapt to the Catalonian’s style of play, where does that leave the teams who aren’t quite blessed with the skill and drive to compete on the European stage week in-week out? What happens to the Hope and Anchor Inn FCs of this world? Or the Woseley Wanderers and Pilgrim United’s of ‘Chiswick and district League division two East?’ Well fear not because La Liga Blog will offer it’s advice on how any team can begin to implementing this unique brand of sexy football.
Choose the Right Formation
So where do we begin? Well the key to any successful footballing side has always been a consistent tactical formation and Barcelona’s set-up is a massive part of how they’re able to hold on to possession with such ease. Guardiola more often than not fields a 4-1-2-2-1 formation for his side’s matches leaving much room for Barca to orchestrate their extensive passing game. We’ve conveniently used football manager’s tactical match engine to visually demonstrate how Barcelona line-up each week.
Because Barcelona’s players are so evenly dispersed across the field, this provides Barca many more passing options whilst formulating an attack making it so effective. Argentine defensive midfielder Javier Mascherano sits just behind play-makers Andreas Iniesta and Xavi whilst guarding his side’s back 4 and wingers Pedro and David Villa occupy either flank in an attacking midfield position leaving Lionel Messi to fight it out alone up top.
This, one assumes is why in recent times the 4-4-2 formation has come under much scrutiny for it’s lack of flexibility and rigidness. In order for this style to work at a lower level of football, a side needs to be used to playing at a very high tempo in confined spaces as the accuracy of ball delivery and movement here is crucial.
Teams should be accustomed to how their team-mates move across the pitch during games and regular practice using one and two touch passing games in training is necessary.
Employ Intelligent Movement
Lionel Messi’s movement off the ball is just phenomenal. The Argentine has a real knack of dragging entire defences out of position leaving every team he faces hopelessly exposed. Take Barcelona’s 5-0 El Clasico win over Madrid this season; countless times Messi would drift seemlessly in and out of the middle of the park taking the whole of the Madrid back four with him which is why Iniesta and Villa were able to exploit so much space out on the wings.
It’s impossible to say whether Barcelona’s playing style is wide or narrow because it changes all the time keeping sides on their toes and making them almost impossible to beat. A team adopting this style of play needs to be clever and not be afraid to let wingers play very loose position-wise.
Perfect the Barcelona Passing Game
Here’s an interesting statistic for you. In this year’s Champions League final at Wembley, Xavi averaged a total of 141 successfully completed passes out of 148 with a whopping pass completion rate of 95%! Michael Carrick from opponents Manchester United on the other hand managed a measly 17 passes out of a possible 29 which equals to a completion rate of just 59%.
It just goes to show that Barcelona’s game is all about accuracy and patience. Trying to be too direct whilst in possession usually leaves attackers isolated and as has been proven all season, no matter how defensive a team a go, Barcelona will always find a way through in the end.
Utilise Lionel Messi’s ‘Fake Number 9? role
We touched on the impeccable movement of Lionel Messi earlier in this article but his role as the ‘fake number 9? is key to Barcelona’s attack. The term ‘fake number 9? has mainly come into popular domain this season and has been used to describe how the Argentine ghosts in and out of a fake number 9 strikers role to drag defenders out of position during a match.
Whilst we’re not expecting teams to possess a player who moves the same way Messi does, a team’s centre forward needs to be very creative when moving into space and possess a canny footballing brain to force defenders out of position and open up space behind.
Defend High Up The Pitch
Whilst most teams at all levels have a habit of retreating frantically back to their defensive trenches whenever they’re caught in possession, Barcelona tend to do the exact opposite and push deeper up the pitch exerting even more pressure in an attempt to win the ball straight back.
It’s no coincidence that Barcelona conceded an average of just 0.55 goals a game last season in La Liga thus proving that defending from the same position you lost the ball can work wonders if you have a team with the fitness and commitment to adhere to such a physically draining tactic.
Especially at amateur level there is a burning desire for most players ‘to get rid’ when under pressure in possession and hoof the ball aimlessly away to safety but watch Barcelona for 90 minutes and you’ll rarely see them play the ball over waist height. What has made Barcelona so successful in recent years is their will to win but in the right way.
No longer is the result the most important aspect of a game and the belief that playing the correct way first and caring about the result second has now been firmly been embedded into the Catalonian club’s culture forever. Barcelona would rather play attractive football and lose as apposed to winning in an ugly way and this is a huge pyschological barrier for teams to overcome if they wish to model their game on Barcelona. Coaches of sides wishing to adopt this style of play need to emphasise that for the short-term winning isn’t important and that teams should always look to play the short simple pass instead of trying the too often unsuccessful long-ball hoof up-field.
So there you have it – the six main ways any side can start to employ Barcelona’s winning formula.
Please be aware the list above is merely a guide on how teams far and wide can begin to model their style of play on Barcelona. If Pepe Guardiola’s men play football in supposedly the correct way, there is no reason why all teams no matter how good shouldn’t begin to do the same.
Teams need so much more than the points mentioned in this article but by sticking to these few principles all sides can begin to emulate Barcelona’s much sought after style of football.
It's a classic tactic, imported from my FM 2011 save, with some tweaks, players positions look like this. If you want you can try to change from classic to regular, maybe FM 2012 match engine will be more "friendly" to the amount of passes you can achieve compared to FM 2011.
Half season analysis
87 goals for
11 goals against
Most goal conceded from corners, and kind of strange mistakes of my players.
During the match tweaks
During the match I like to change players positions, because option "swap player" doesnt work the way I would like, and also when players swap position they also swap duties, so if I swap position Xavi-Mascerano, Xavi will have little creativity, hard tackling, etc...
The point is to change formation and players position without changing duties.
And of course it depends who your opponent is. For example against Real Madrid, ronaldo is a threat on the flanks, so full backs must be pushed further back.
HALF SEASON CONCLUSION
Possession, and team passing are satisfying.
Possession: all games are over 60%, and most of them near or above 70%.
Team passing: all games above 400 completed passes, most of them 500 or above.
Xavi passing: still impossible to get him constant 100+ passes. His average is around 70-80 completed passes. I was trying to change his position but it seems that other managers uses tight marking on him and hard tackling, he was two times injured during match. Maybe with some other teams where other managers wont using tight marking on playmaker would be easier to achieve 100 passes.
Tweaking and Football renaissance
After watching full matches and tweaking the tactic, I finally got all my tasks happen in one match. It was like watching real Barcelona on TV. Complete domination, beautiful football, high possession and a lot of passes.
Mallorca started with 4-2-3-1 and ended with 4-2(dmc)-2(RM-LM)-1AMC-1SC.
Fabregas was playmaker, and played at MCL, last 30 min at MCR.
Completed passes 604
Completed passes by playmaker (Fabregas) 116
And for 2nd match in a row. CSKA started with 5-3-2, and second half 4-4-2.
Completed passes 584 (90%)
Xavi completed passes 118
And again. Great result AWAY game against Getafe.
Successful passes 530
Xavi 110 successful passes
During match only DMCright to MCR, at that point Xavi is MCL, and Maybe Xavi to MCR, then DMC to MCL or DMCleft. I did not try 3 MC, but i will try it. Also when I put playmaker to swap he has less passes.
Completed passes 656
Xavi completed passes: 127
New successful passes record vs Getafe.
Three players over 100 completed passes.
Barca style reloaded
before season: workload very high, att movement
during season: average or low, defending set pieces
Also during game you can manual swap or change position of your players to confuse AI.
Bottom line is to keep team and player instruction (duties) same, and position you can change depends on AI tactic.
Most goal conceded from crosses (corners, free kicks, or side crosses)
Important players attributes
off the ball
XAVI Midfield LORD
Always tight marked, sometimes by two opposition players!
Is this tactic effective with other teams...
With a few tweaks it can be done...
If you have Pirlo to grab you over 100 completed passes, if you dont have him, loan Thiago hehe.
Testing newest Barca style tactic with other teams
Had a lot of changes, it's almost a new tactic... even tactic shape is different.
It's because they use very tight marking and hard tackling.
This tactic is created by krunccrni on the official SI forums. He kindly granted us permission to publish a full article here out of his forum posts on SI forums. Thanks mate!