The achievements of Barcelona in 2011 mean that we may have to look at this team in a far greater aspect than just one who are on an incredibly good run of form; this is now a team who are redefining the way football is played and one whose brand of football is so far unmatched. Pep Guardiola took on the job of transforming the Catalan side’s fortunes following the horrible 2007/08 season under Frank Rijkaard. But what he has brought to the football world now is a question of whether we’re looking at the greatest football side the world has ever known. It should be noted that in 2011 alone Barcelona have won five trophies, recently adding the World Club Cup to their already hugely impressive cabinet of accolades for the calendar year.
Looking back, they once again proved that the might of the Premier League could not match the powers of Barcelona. The Champions League Final at Wembley was another highlight of just how well the reigning Spanish champions could adapt to what Manchester United brought to the table. Not even Wayne Rooney’s impressive equaliser was enough to deter Barcelona from going on to score a 2nd and 3rd.
…vastly better prepared…
And what of that performance in the Spanish Super Cup; emerging triumphant against a Real Madrid side who were vastly better prepared for the two-legged tie. Barcelona at the time had a host of players coming back from the Copa America, and match-winner Lionel Messi had not even a period two weeks to prepare following his return to the club.
Even more impressive was the first Clasico of the 2011/12 league campaign. For the first time under Pep Guardiola, Barcelona were heading into the game at the Bernabeu as underdogs. Considering Real Madrid’s domestic and European form compared to that of Barcelona’s, there could have been little argument against many who would have predicted a win for Jose Mourinho’s side. However, it was Guardiola who once again came out on top, continuing to allow his side to play their aesthetically pleasing, albeit risky, passing game following the shock opener by Karim Benzema.
…shift and adjust their shape…
We absolutely cannot fault Barcelona for the way in which they reacted to going behind so early on in the game: Carles Puyol and the rest of the defence, including holding midfielder Sergio Busquets, seemed to shift and adjust their shape in order to counter Madrid’s threat. Dani Alves pushed up alongside the midfield and played a part in Cesc Fabregas’ goal for the side.
But that is exactly why this side should be so admired; their football is progressive, something Europe has never seen before and few know how to counter it. The ‘false nine’ which Lionel Messi plays allows other wide or attacking players to drift along the front-line. Opposition defenders are dragged one way and then another by the confusing, yet, hypnotic manner of Barcelona’s game. Full-back Dani Alves no longer operates as a defender, rather forming one of the key components of a seemingly flawless attack. His movement on the right flank is what opens the space for Messi, Xavi and Iniesta to operate in, and the 3 defenders at the back—normally consisting of players played out of position—is stunningly daring. Again, a formation that few can pull off and which most would not even contemplate.
…considered the greatest club side…
The footballing master class this club continue to display has now gone on long enough—and consistently—to allow them to be considered the greatest club side in football, and 2012 should be another platform for the club to add to their impressive five trophies of 2011.
Image courtesy of dailymatador