Last Wednesday evening, I was privileged enough to be at the Camp Nou stadium to witness first hand, the most unbelievable performance from a team that I have ever seen.
No doubt quite a few of you will have watched it on tv, but from my vantage point, high up in that amazing stadium, I immediately noticed several things that left me flabbergasted. I will attempt to explain here.
Barca were set up very similar to how Roberto sets us up.
They started the game with 4 at the back, 1 anchoring midfielder, 4 in midfield, and 1 up front. (Messi. Obviously) 4-1-4-1
Whenever Barca had possession (most of the game) they switched to 3 at the back, 1 sitting in deep (Xavi), 5 in midfield, with full backs Dani Alves and Adriano becoming overlapping wing-backs, a deep lying midfielder (Busquets, who when defending dropped in the back 5), and Fabregas, Iniesta, and Pedro in the middle, with Pedro also supporting Messi up front. 3-1-5-1
When they lost possession, they formed a solid back line of 5 (Alves, Pique, Busquets, Mascherano, Adriano), with a wall of 4 midfielders straight across the pitch. (Xavi, Fabregas, Iniesta, Pedro) with Messi left up front. 5-4-1
Barca had 70% ball possession, I’ve never seen such a commanding display. And Leverkusen are no mugs, having beaten Bayern Munich the previous weekend.
I’ve never seen anything quite like it, to change formation so much in a game? and it all flowed so well.
The secret being the movement of the players, it was magnificent.
One minute Iniesta was over on the left, the next he was central, chipping a ball through for Messi.
And what of Messi? he plays tight to the back line of the opponents.
One minute he can be stood tight to the touchline, the next, he’s central and running through on goal, his dribbling is amazing, it’s as if the ball is never off his foot and he is so quick and tricky.
And closing down, every time a Bayer Leverkusen player got the ball, THREE Barca players quickly closed them down.
So the mixture of this, excellent player movement and passing, along withe great speed and tactical switches (The wingbacks were immense- Alves especially) was what a lot of their great performance was down to.
And the relevance of this to Roberto Martinez and Wigan Athletic?
Well, after 45 minutes at the Camp Nou, I was thinking “I can see what Roberto is trying to do, I can see the style he is trying to create”.
Has it changed my opinion of him? Yes, without doubt.
Ok, I’m not saying he’s not at fault for our failings, because as the manager, he is. But from what I saw at Barca, it made me think and I do think that the problem we have is that we don’t have the right mix of players at Latics to quite achieve or rather play the style Roberto wants to play.
The main problem is the lack of a fast and tricky striker, other faults with us are not closing teams down fast enough, and lacking the killler ball.
And take Jordi Gomez, he gets slaughtered match after match an he is the target of the boo boys.
Well, for the first 25 mins at Barca, they also did a lot of sideways and backwards passing. Messi himself dropped deep and played several backwards lay-off passes, the type of which would see Gomez get absolutely slaughtered by our crowd.
I will come out here and say that Gomez would look great in that Barca side, as he would be with likeminded players. I think our fans are too impatient.
I never once heard a groan of discontent from any Barca fan, even with sideways and backwards passes.
Whilst over there, I caught some of Barca u19’s Versus their Bayer Leverkusen counterparts, and believe me, the next generation look just as good.
Technically gifted, one player called Alex Moreno stood out, they played the same style as the first team, and that is what Roberto is trying to achieve at our club!
I have totally changed my opinion, and only wish a lot more Latics fans could have seen the game how I saw it.
It was like a lesson in the art, no, really, it was.
I can only say that I am behind Martinez, and what he is trying to do at Latics, at the moment, we are like a newly discovered diamond, caked in soil, scratched, and in need of a damn good polish.
Patience my friends…..patience.
It might be a case of us taking a step down to fulfil the fruits of his labours but if that’s the case, then so be it.
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