Tag Archives: final

UGH!!! Chelsea Just Set Soccer Back 50 Years!

The question now….how do we deal with Chelsea.  No need to practice ball movement, passing, player interplay, or anything that has made the “beautiful game” truly beautiful.  I thought we had already turned this corner.  Didn’t the Invincibles demonstrate the value of possession soccer?  Didn’t Spain in the World Cup place an exclamation point behind it?  If there were any doubters, didn’t Barcelona ease your concerns?  WHAT IS HAPPENING TO THE SPORT I LOVE?

Now, we just crowned a champion that defied every statistical category in the two games with Barcelona (on aggregate) and in the final against Bayern Munich.  I know Barcelona likes the ball so much that they never want to release it.  You could read their minds in the Chelsea semi-final – “you mean, you are not going to challenge for the ball? you are just going to sit in the box? ALL OF YOU (not you Torres)?  They out-psyched the Catalans who, puzzled, resigned to pass around the box.  Since they don’t like to shoot other than tap-ins, they were a lost cause.

In the semi-final, Barcelona had 80% possession against Chelsea, who resigned themselves to play 10 in the box and “get stuck in.”  English all over were proud and giddy.  A collective “I told you so” was exhaled to all of the rest of “us.”  (You see, there are English – from the Island – in soccer and everyone else.  They have written off the success of “continentals” and those weirdos from South America as aberrations – their confidence never truly shaken).

Surely Bayern wouldn’t make the same mistake.  While Barcelona treats the ball like its “precious,” the attacking four for Bayern are happy to release it.  Well, they shot it today.  The stats as I read them:  Possession 56-44, Shots 43-9, Corners 20-1…The only statistic Chelsea lead was fouls – 26-14 (almost twice as much).  There you have it.  Just tell your team to play in their box (all of them but one), hack the other team, and hope to score on your one corner.  Please don’t use the word “efficient” to describe Chelsea.  I can hear it already: “Bayern’s shotgun, wasteful shooting thwarted by Chelsea’s efficient finishing.”  The English press is ready to roll.  Here is their headlong:  “Whew…WE WERE RIGHT!!!”

Rewind to 1966 – English vindication for counterpunch soccer.  Charles Reep controlled the thought of the F.A. and, based on his observation, he wrote: “Long chains of passes require repeated accuracy, very difficult to sustain as defenders move in to close down space- man-mark the targets as the sequence stretches out.”  From his philosophy, the F.A. developed its philosophy.  Many inside England look at his anecdotal, unscientific approach (he watched 578 games between 1953-1967) as the reason England has not returned to the glory in the sport it once occupied.  The continentals and South Americans, leaving the English far behind, worried little about English smugness.

Well, here we go again.  It is 1966 all over.  The U.S. Youth Soccer has a new curriculum based on possession soccer.  We finally are moving away from counterpunching.  Let’s not look back.  Forget 1966.  Forget today.  Let’s get back to the beautiful game.

***For the record, I understand why you need to counter attack as a strategy.  You may lack the resources, you are over-matched, etc.  But, doesn’t Chelsea spend more than Bayern?  What’s their excuse?  We bought the wrong players?

Enough about Chelsea Please

Ok.  This is a little late, but the Chelsea love fest has gotten too rich for me.  Yes, they are advancing to the Champions Final after dispatching of one of the world’s best team (and a team far superior to them).  That is great.  But, what I find humorous is the journalism.  Soccer journalist comically deconstruct soccer stratagem after the fact and proclaim genius with their 20/20 hindsight.   It gets old.  Article after article lauded Di Matteo for his brilliant strategy to beat Barcelona.  How about this – he had no strategy.  Since his team only had the ball 20% of the time, he instructed them to hold on for dear life and pray that Barcelona’s strikes hit the post, not the net.  A few inches here or there and the aggregate would have been 7 goals for Barcelona.  Somehow, we lose sight of that.

Interestingly, Di Matteo cannot even be given credit for English football strategy.  The old English strategy was based on a flawed assumption that the more balls you kicked into the opponents penalty box, the more goals you would score.  So, following their 1966 World Cup victory, English teams started a 4 decade trend of lumping the ball forward at all costs.  Di Matteo didn’t even follow that instruction – he literally held on for dear life.  Credit goes to the performance of Cahill and Cole for their play.  in fact, I haven’t seen much coverage of the goal line clearance that Cole made in the first half.  Messi broke down the defense (which usually comprised the entire Chelsea team), dished the ball to Fabregas who flicked to an open net.  Why he didn’t put more pace on the ball seemed to puzzle Messi (watch his face after clearance).  You can almost see Messi saying, “I do all the work, draw all the defenders to me, give you the ball with an open net, and you try to be cute.”  You can find the video clip of the save but youtube has taken it down.

For numbers lovers, try this power point Thomas Shenton sent from Sky Sports: http://www1.skysports.com/football/news/12040/7701796/Numbers-game

Interesting blog article referred by Keith Barrow:  http://www.socceramerica.com/article/46458/the-cloud-that-hangs-over-chelsea.html.  

Also, lost in the post game buzz, Guardiola stepped down. Not because of the result, but because he is ready to move on.  He mentioned last summer he was considering it.

Before I end, I will say that I do see some of the same problems with Barcelona that I see in Arsenal at times.  Bot teams try very hard to attack the center rather than use wing play.  The math supports them – most goals are scored in the “zone of danger” (as Hector Leano calls it) in front of the goal.  Crosses from the side are great, but Barcelona and Arsenal regularly demonstrate the effectiveness of attacking the middle rather than the flanks.  That being said, and while I hate the “lump it” strategy from Reep and Cullis (link to blog summary here: Gaining Territory v. Possession: Part I (Book Review: Inverting the Pyramid), Barcelona would be served to occasionally use the long pass it seems.  Like I mentioned in an earlier Arsenal post, playing short out of free kicks and corners is great, but it seems like sometimes you need to take a shot at the goal from 35 yards out.  The winner of this year’s Champions League will be Bayern Munich which I predicted in September.  I think that they demonstrate a balanced approach to the game.  They can play possession, attack middle, but they can also pay wide and long.  And, if you didn’t see the shootout with Madrid and Manuel Neuer’s saves against Ronaldo and Kaka, you need to watch it.  He is the best goalie in the world.  Cheers.