Barcelona Bare Past Leganes

Messi Barcelona La Liga
Messi Barcelona La Liga
Courtesy of the official FC Barcelona Facebook page

After a 4-0 rout at the feet of Paris Saint Germain earlier this week in the first leg of the Champions League, Barcelona was expected to erupt as their superstars were looking to expose 17th-placed Leganes.

The final score was 2-1, so it goes without saying that this game was much closer than it could have been. In fact, it took a 90th-minute penalty to grab all three points. The scorer of both goals was none other than Lionel Messi.

The passing, movement, possession, creation and overall push was all there, but the usual fright-factor that Barcelona possesses was nowhere to be found.

After the 4-0 drubbing they took in Paris last week, perhaps Leganes were not afraid to attack inside the Camp Nou, the home of Barcelona.

Looking at the stats according to Livescore.com, Leganes recorded six shots on frame and four off, just like their hosts. Barcelona dominated possession with 67%.

This goes to prove that containing possession of the ball is not always the answer. If you are going to possess the ball, make it useful: push up the field and pass the ball with meaning to try and create chances to score. If there is a healthy lead, keep possession to defend and disallow the opponent from scoring.

This is simple stuff and Barcelona are usually good at it. But lately, this has not been the case.

The 4-3-3 has been good to Barcelona ever since the late 2000’s. The formation relies on passing, skills, the interchanging of positions and spreading the field.

However, after many years of playing in this system, a breath of fresh air is needed.

Having Neymar on the left, Luis Suarez down the middle and Leo Messi on the right as a front three is virtually unstoppable. It has worked wonders in the last couple of seasons, but evidently the effectiveness has dropped significantly.

The 4-2-3-1 could do wonders for this club.

4-2-3-1: Ter Steigen (GK); Sergi Roberto, Gerard Pique, Samuel Umtiti, Jordi Alba (right to left back); Ivan Rakitic, Sergio Busquets (CDM); Neymar, Denis Suarez, Leo Messi (left to right mid)’ Luis Suarez (striker).’

The ability to possess the ball, spread the ball wide and play closely to one another can allow them to use their skills more often.

When Arda Turan had began playing for Barcelona back in January of 2016, Luis Enrique had put the team out in the 4-2-3-1 and they won by a score of 2-1.

This formation allows the team to play a bit more defensively and can be much more lethal on the counter. Wide midfielders, a central-attacking mid and a striker is more than enough to create an attack.

The full backs push up the field leaving the two center backs to keep away danger. The two central defensive midfielders play in front of the defense and push up to boost the attack.

The intelligence level of the Barca players as well as the patience they have when passing has been proven for the past eight-nine years. A switch to a different formation should not be too difficult.

If they want to keep Leo Messi and others happy by returning to winning ways, this needs to be done.

 

The US Dissappoints One Month Before Mexico

USA New Zealand friendly
Courtesy of Aydin Reyhan

 

RFK Stadium, Washington DC – The United States Men’s National Team hosted New Zealand in their final friendly before their Hexagonal matchup with Mexico.

Julian Green scored the opening goal inside the first 27 minutes after cutting towards the 18 before firing inside the near post.

New Zealand answered in the 72nd minute as Monty Patterson slammed home the loose ball after a corner.

With both nations creating some decent chances, one goal each was all that they could conjure up.

The US played in a 4-3-3 setup as Jurgen Klinsmann looked to play possession and to also hit on the counter.

Matt Besler partnered up with Omar Gonzalez (like old times) at center-back, Michael Orozco played on the right and Kellyn Acosta occupied the left.

The midfield three was comprised of captain Michael Bradley, Perry Kitchen and Sacha Kljestan. Bradley dictated the midfield as usual whereas Kitchen struggled the most out of the three-man midfield. Kljestan was on a different level for someone who hadn’t been with the team regularly.

“He is absolutely under consideration (to be on the field against Mexico next month), Klinsmann replied to the question. “He took his opportunity in just the perfect way, you know. He was hungry for that moment (as) he knew he had to come in here and make a difference.”

With that said, against Mexico, Klinsmann could very well partner Bradley up with Kljestan as the holding midfielders in a 4-2-3-1 or even a 4-4-2. Today’s 4-3-3 with this lineup did not gel too well. Therefore, against a top Mexican side who can press, pass and attack for days, the US will most likely look to possess and hit harder on the fly.

Goalscorer Green played down the left, Jozy Altidore as the striker and DeAndre Yedlin played up the right flank. Altidore help play up well, but his final pass and touch were nowhere near his capability.

When asked about the experiment with Yedlin in the front line instead of right-back, coach Klinsman stated, “In the last game and in this game he struggled… he struggled and that is just (the) reality.”

This could very well mean that Yedlin sits out the game in Columbus, Ohio next month against Mexico… or he may even be cut from the team altogether. His speed, skill and ability to pressure are all vital for the team, but if he cannot perform in two rather simpler friendlies, should he be expected to against Mexico?

No. Not at all. Klinsmann will perhaps give him a break next month to snap back into his rhythm.

The passing, creativity, and movement were all there for the home side, but succeeding more than once in the final third proved all too difficult.

On November 11, the US will host Mexico in the same venue where “Dos a Cero” (2-0) became famous. This time around, the US is obviously expected to repeat that scoreline again. Mexico on the other hand will have different plans.

They can play in a 4-4-2, 4-3-3 or a 5-3-2 where either one of these setups will allow them to play their passing and pressing game. They will be fearless against a US side that honestly has looked quite shaky in these recent two friendlies.

If the US wants to defeat Mexico, they need to field their best lineup in the 4-2-3-1 or the 4-4-2. The 4-3-3 will be a bit too open against a team that can outclass them if they choose that formation.

Klinsmann had some positives last night, but the negatives were a bit too obvious. On to the Hex.

 

 

Turkey Without Direction, Leadership in Iceland

Fatirh Terim Turkey

Fatirh Terim Turkey

Courtesy of the official Turkish National Soccer Twitter Account (@millitakimlar)

 

Earlier today we witnessed Turkey play without any meaning or defiance against an Iceland side that did wonders in EURO 2016. This was a World Cup Qualifier and only the home side put in one of their best efforts.

First off, coach Fatih Terim needs to a wake-up call as soon as possible. He is the highest-paid international coach, making over $3 Million per year. For a guy that does nothing but motivate players, pick and choose as he pleases regardless of what is needed and acts like terrible results don’t matter, it is needless to say that he is undeserving of that wage.

One of Barcelona’s decent midfielders in Arda Turan has not been called up for a single qualifier (three so far) due to an issue the coach had with him during EURO 2016. Turan has been the team captain for recent years and Terim let his ego get the best of him. The result? Recently poor performances.

In addition to Turan, notable veterans such as Selcuk Inan and Burak Yilmaz were also absent. Inan scored the free-kick last year that sent Turkey to the EURO’s, ironically against Iceland in Konya, Turkey. Yilmaz scored against the Czech Republic in a 2-0 victory in Turkey’s final group game last summer.

With that said, lets take a look at the mistakes Mr. Terim made.

Mehmet Topal played center-back (while he is normally a central defensive midfielder) and Kaan Ayhan (a center-back) played in the holding midfield role.

Yes, Topal has played in this position before, but only when it was absolutely necessary. Yesterday in Iceland, it was nowhere near that drastic.

He is to blame for the second goal as he failed to close down Alfred Finnbogason before he rocketed a shot into the to corner, doubling his country’s lead.

Ayhan wasn’t the worst, but it was certainly obvious he did not belong in midfield. Topal can distribute and hold down in a midfield role whereas Ayhan stayed in front of the back line a bit too much. he had his passes, headers and tackles here and there, but he was nowhere near as effective in midfield.

One player who has recently captained Bayer Leverkusen as a starting center-back — Omer Toprak — was somewhat awful. He was to blame for at least one of the goals against Ukraine and he somehow deflected a shot (with his face) from 10 yards out past his own keeper.

It was obvious the man was uncomfortable and yet Terim stuck by him based on his recent performances in the Bundesliga.

Terim utilized a 4-5-1 or a 4-3-3 holding as the players were all over the field. The method of attack was to pass inside their own half then send long-balls down the right or left. On the right, Yasin Oztekin would receive possession, get double-teamed then lose the ball. On the left, Volkan Sen would dance around one maybe two guys then somehow fail to find a teammate.

It gets better.

Young 19-year-old sensation, Emre Mor, is a winger that is on the rise at Borussia Dortmund. Instead of allowing him to play on the right where he is most comfortable, Terim asked him to play alone up top.

That makes no sense.

The kid has proven himself on the wings and Terim — knowing that he has three strikers on the bench — put Mor up top because he did not want to bench the teenager. If that is the case, bench Oztekin, start Mor on the right and Cenk Tosun up top. Simple.

Iceland played in their trusty 4-4-2 flat and made life ever so difficult for Turkey. Players like Finnbogason, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Birkir Bjarnason gelled and played the passing, countering and simplicity game to near-perfection.

The saddening fact is this: Turkey allowed Iceland to play their game on their home ground as if they needed the help. Terim is on control of this team and it truly showed yesterday. He is a coach that solely relies on motivation, but they did not even have that.

Terim used to know how to get the best out of his players.After cutting their longtime captain, one of their best strikers and the man who took them to EURO 2016, the other players are weary of what can happen if they speak their mind or act up… even once.

Coach Terim is… no… was a good coach. Now, unless he shapes up and gets back to normal by stepping off of his high horse, this team will be nowhere near good enough to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.