El Classico

Barcelona 1-2 Real Madrid, El Clásico: Tactical Review

Barcelona lost classic 2-1 against Real Madrid at the Camp Nou on Sunday was another frustrating day for Barcelona fans, but it was far from a walk in the park from eggs As some might expect. Barcelona competed hard and deserved more of the match, and for the first time in a while Ronald Koeman has done most things right as a coach.

Barcelona started the match with a 4-3-3 formation with a few tweaks to individuals: Eric Garcia started on the right side of the centre-back duo with Gerard Pique, and Frenkie de Jong went from his usual role on the right side of the midfield three on the left, with Gavi in ​​place. . Memphis Depay started on the left wing and Ansu Fati led the line, and all those little changes from Koeman had a purpose.

Koeman once again went to man-to-man censorship, but seems to have learned a lesson from the disasters suffered by Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid when the team played a suicidal individual defense that did not pay off against the movement of those teams. Against Madrid, the Dutchman was a little more cautious.

As you can see above, most of the Real Madrid squad members are singled out, but Ansu Fati is alone against the Madrid midfielders, which means that both Pique and Garcia will share responsibilities in defending Karim Benzema at the other end. This was a clever adjustment as it protects the central defenders and allows them to maintain good form in defence, especially with Benzema’s tendency to move around the last third and fall short of receiving the ball in midfield.

But more important than anything for Koeman was keeping an eye on the Madrid midfield. Casemiro, Luka Modric and Toni Kroos were the focal point of Barcelona’s defence, and Sergio Busquets, De Jong and Gavi marked these three closely throughout the entire first half. Madrid’s midfielders don’t like to run into spaces and overwhelm the single-observing system: they want to be on the ball at all times to move forward, which has made it easy to distinguish them as tightly as Barcelona’s central players.

It must be said that Koeman’s defensive plan worked very well early on. The Dutchman wanted to accomplish one thing: force Madrid to play long balls. He did so by having his midfield deny the Madrid midfielders space and asking Eric to follow Benzema closely when the Frenchman dived deep to receive a pass.

With that option also not available, Real Madrid’s centre-back, often David Alaba, had no choice but to go far to one of the wings, often Vinicius Jr. As Piqué was the reserve man in the system, he was free to go cover the space and help Óscar Mingueza against the dangerous Brazilian.

Until the 20th minute, Real Madrid was stuck in possession and presented absolutely no danger. Barcelona were comfortable with long balls behind their defense even with a goal as dangerous as Vinicius. This is the risk Koeman has chosen rather than pressing high on the pitch and one poor reading that collapses the entire system as we’ve seen several times recently. The gamble worked and Barcelona was easily the best in the first 25 minutes due to the quality of the defense as a team.

And in the 25th minute the biggest match of the match took place: Sergio Deste’s mistake does not need a tactical breakdown; It was a bad ending, plain and simple, and an opportunity he should have seized. It is also a chance that an inferior team can play better than their opponents quite early on You should take. Barcelona’s attack is terrible now and Madrid’s defense is excellent. This combination of factors means that they will have a real golden opportunity to score goals. They missed it, and it cost them.

But this does not mean that from that moment Real Madrid woke up and completely controlled the match. They continued to struggle with Barcelona’s defensive system and their goal came simply because David Alaba is one of the best players around on the planet, Mingezza was too slow to tackle Vinicius at the start of the move, and Benzema did an impressive job. To play Alaba is open.

After that goal, Real Madrid backed down and settled on the pattern they followed for the rest of the match: putting eight men behind the ball and leaving Vinicius and Benzema ahead to counterattack. Barcelona attacked in the closing minutes of the first half with what eventually became a 3-5-2 formation, and Jordi Alba realized that Rodrygo was making too little of a threat at the back and advanced too much.

Barcelona hasn’t had an attacking identity since Luis Enrique left the club nearly five years ago. They’ve had three different admins since then, and they’ve all tried a different kind of the same thing: pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, someone does something, repeat. On Sunday, that person was Alba. The left-back was Barcelona’s most dangerous player going forward, and it was his trip combined with a superb pass from Busquets in the 43rd minute that created a huge opportunity for Fati but Alaba made a great save.

This was the only chance they had before the end of the first half, because the problem with Barcelona’s attack in the first half was the lack of attacks in the middle of the road. They passed sideways and backwards until the ball reached Alba, and when there was none, the ball would be recycled. Ansu and Memphis drifted far too wide, and de Jong never attacked the chest the way he usually does. Madrid’s midfield was never challenged, and Koeman needed to do something in the middle of the field.

To his credit, once again, the coach saw the problem and made a change. Philippe Coutinho took part in the place of Mengueza, Barcelona changed to 4-2-3-1 and Dest went to the right-back position. Gavi was technically a right winger, but he was basically a fourth midfielder.

That was a good move: Coutinho played well in his first 15 minutes on the field, Barcelona demonstrated their numbers advantage in the middle for the first time throughout the game, and they finally started putting Madrid’s defense in uncomfortable situations they had to cover the middle while also worrying about Ansu and Alba Bottom left and Dest on the right.

Barcelona never created a really great opportunity, but it looked at least more menacing, and more players started running into the penalty area with a greater intent to score. Real Madrid’s defense looked more and more weak as time went on, everything became more desperate and one last plan.

But in the end, Barcelona started to get tired and couldn’t maintain the same pressure, and that’s where Ronald Koeman made his only really bad decision in the match. The substitute in midfield was Sergi Roberto, who had no expected effect. Riqui Puig could have been the better choice due to his brave and forward passing which was exactly the cause of Real Madrid’s problems in the second half, but asking for more minutes for Puig is worthless at this point.

Bringing in Luke de Jong and Sergio Aguero late is fine, but Madrid killed the match over the counter with a second goal before it had any real impact.

But the truth is, this was easily one of the worst classics in a very long time. Neither team looked good, and Real Madrid were shockingly bad in attack given how well they played at the start of the season. As competitive as it was, Barcelona was still mediocre at best. Maybe that’s as good as they can be now, but if Real Madrid play anywhere near their best we won’t just talk about Manchester United being embarrassed at home by their biggest rivals on Sunday.

But more surprising than anything is that it is difficult to go after Koeman. His plan was strong, the switch in the first half was the right choice, and Barcelona was the best team in the balance of play. The other surprise is how well the players played: Pique, Alba and Busquets in particular were very good, something you don’t usually see in the big matches.

But in rewatching the match I can’t help but wonder if Real Madrid didn’t play well because they simply he did not do ought to. For large parts of the second half I felt as if eggs They knew they weren’t in real trouble and never needed to get out of second gear. Carlo Ancelotti’s side stayed solid at the back knowing they would eventually score again, which they did, and once the match was over they didn’t celebrate as if they had just won a brutal battle at the home of their biggest rival.

I hope I’m wrong, because that would really show how bad Barcelona are now. When Real Madrid aren’t really excited about hitting you, they might not really see you as a threat anymore. This is very frustrating.

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