By John Cartwright
Before I begin my comments on Saturday’s match between Barcelona and Man.Utd. in the final of the Champions’ League, I should first make the point that I am not a fan of any particular club in this country or elsewhere in the world, I am, however, a lover of the game of football and I admire Barcelona’s ‘guts’ to play the game in the way they do.
It is vital in any area of competitive life to achieve an early initiative over ones rivals and then to retain the initiative for the duration. This is not always possible and an initiative can be lost and renewed effort is required to regain it. In the game mentioned above, it was interesting to see that Man Utd started in a powerful and determined fashion and seemed to gain the early and important initiative over the Spanish team. Barca’s passes went astray and players were caught with the ball as they were pressurized from the first whistle and for a short period (10 Mins.) their composure and normal playing style was intimidated and ruffled. It was also interesting to watch during this period of play, how Utd. were unable to take control of the game during this pressurization stage. The hard work on closing down and forcing Barca.’ onto the defensive was not capitalized on and the Spanish team gradually began to exert their playing style onto the match.
The situation we saw occur in this game reflects the main problem with our game here; we are unable to take control of a game once we have ‘earned the right to play.’ Lack of individual skill combined with poor tactical understanding reduces the opportunity to command a game and exploit an initiative and so we continue to ‘battle away’ when more composure and creativity are required. The same cannot be said for the Barca,’ team, having ‘weathered the storm’ of Utd’s early onslaught, they took over control of the game through their all-round playing qualities and never lost the initiative for the rest of the game.
We have become experts at ‘Fightball’ – a game that earns the right to play, but lacks the playing abilities to exploit that right. The game of ‘fightball’ lurches from possession gained to possession given away in a continuous fashion and fitness combined with speed to regain initiatives after initiative has become a deciding factor in player production to satisfy the fast and furious game-style preferred here at all levels. The ability to dominate with skill/tactical awareness once the initiative in a game has been achieved is not recognized as important –‘ keep battling on’ is about as good as we get!!
The victory of Barcalona the other night is just one more nail in our ‘football coffin’. Surely we can see how far behind we really are and how we have allowed ‘hype’ to camouflage the huge disparity in the playing standards between ourselves and our foreign adversaries! Let’s wake up and begin the long process to develop high quality players who are comfortable playing the game at the highest levels.