Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Dream Team Version II?

Josep Guardiola, the pivot of the famous ‘dream team’ of the early 90s has now moulded a team of his own to rival the one created by Johan Cruyff which is incomparable in the eyes of most Barcelona fans. Guardiola has managed to make his side function stupendously well by adhering to the ‘pass and move’ style of football that was indoctrinated in him by the master of total football. Although the present day requirements do not permit Barcelona to play in as fluid a manner as their team of the 90s did, in sticking to the fundamentals of the methods employed by Cruyff, Guardiola has made his Barcelona team a truly breathtaking sight to behold.

Barcelona play the most gorgeous football filled with dazzling interplays and exquisite patterns all over the pitch. Their passing and movement is so quick and incisive that the football is at times literally breathtaking. Although Barça possess an array of talent all over the pitch, it is the imperious Xavi Hernandez, who acts as the fulcrum of the team. Guardiola has ensured that Xavi can use his ingenuity and passing ability to maximum effect by utilising him in a more advanced position this season. Xavi’s static presence in the centre of midfield permits the more fluid players such as Lionel Messi, Thierry Henry and Andres Iniesta to weave their magic in and around the opposition’s eighteen yard box.

Unlike many other clubs around Europe, Barça’s 4-3-3 formation is not a glorified 4-5-1, but rather a system which most definitely deploys three forwards. With Messi, inarguably the world’s best footballer at this moment of time on the right, a resurgent Henry on the left and Samuel Eto’o down the middle, Barcelona have for most part of this season been simply irresistible. Eto’o is well and truly on his way to winning the Pichichi and could even have his sights set on the 38 goal record held by Telmo Zarra and Hugo Sanchez for most number of goals scored in a single season in the Primera Liga.

Adding to the magnificent talents of the front three is Andres Iniesta, one of the most sublime footballers in Europe. Iniesta boasts wonderful balance and delicate touch and can either dribble into the opposition’s box or thread the most accurate of passes with equally devastating effect. Considering the almost gung-ho nature of their formation, one would imagine that the full backs are instructed to sit back and defend, but in Barcelona they do things differently. Whilst Eric Abidal is more measured in his approach at left back, Daniel Alves is permitted to bombard down the right wing much like his fellow countryman Cafu once used to do. Alves in full flow is a treat to watch and has added a whole new dimension to an already extraordinary Barcelona squad. At the back the likes of Carles Puyol, Rafael Marquez and Gerard Pique offer superb solidity to balance the pure offensive brilliance running through the entire team.

The efforts of Pep Guardiola cannot be underestimated in spite of the talent that the present Barcelona squad contains. Guiding nearly the same set of players who finished eighteen points off the leaders last season to the top of the league by an enormous ten points after twenty three games is an astonishing achievement from Guardiola. Guardiola has instilled some of the missing passion and hunger in his players and has got them playing in true Barça fashion. But for all their glorious football this season they still have a long way to go before they can match the achievements of Cruyff's dream team.

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