If the recent over-hype of Barcelona is anything to go by then you could be lead to believe that the only attractive football that has ever graced the face of this planet has only been played in the past four to five years. But let’s put this into a little perspective here, Barcelona are just one example of many who have played subliminal football, of a technicality and uncanny ability that is completely unique to that particular club and no other, not even other clubs within Spain. It is not right to suggest then, unlike other obsessive media outlets, that Barcelona , Catalonia and the greater Iberian peninsula are in the indestructible ascendancy and that the rest of the world must stand around and take heed of our mighty deficiencies.
‘Mes que en Club’ goes the club motto, ‘more than a club’ to me and you and in every respect it is, Barcelona represent Catalonia, they are the embodiment of an area which are autonomous in all but name. A club which, for the Catalonians at least, are worshipped with nationalistic fervour and in their club have their vehicle to fly the Catalonian flag on the world-stage. The football, in some respects, matches this ethos.
The entire football community are in state of semi-permanent-flux about Barcelona at the moment and in some respects you cannot blame them. However, the football they are playing at the moment is completely unique, save for that of the national team, which includes several key Barcelona players. It is wrong for people, for casual observers, tacticians and members of the press to suggest that every club should try to match this style of football. Why? Barcelona will rule the roost for another few years yet but teams will eventually learn how to break them down, to turn their high-tempo, short-passing game into their weakness.
The great thing about football, especially at Champions League level, is the true clash of styles that each team represents. We have a problem in England whereby we see something abroad that works and we instantly decide that this is what we must adopt as our own. As indelible as that sounds, football just doesn’t work like that. United were comprehensively beaten by Barcelona last month but they shouldn’t look towards the Nou Camp with exasperation. United play a brand of football which is also unique, a dogged persistence that formation shouldn’t be broken, which explains the rigidity of their two banks of four and an absolute belief in their ability to score a goal at any point during the game. Barcelona are unique in their ability to play without formation but this approach to the game should be handled with care.
With the internationalisation of the Premier League it is hard to suggest that the Premier league still harps back to the years of push and rush football. What is interesting though is how ball possession is still not necessarily a fundamental aspect of the English game. Many managers, Wenger included, have had limited success in trying to implement it into their teams but for all intents and purposes, this style of football just isn’t compatible with the pace and pressures of the English game. And why should it?
English football should be the master of it’s own future, not constantly blighted by the need to look elsewhere for footballing inspiration. Some observers would say that we need to look towards teams such as Barcelona and take their footballing philosophy completely to heart, but for what end? Sometimes it can be a case of trying to fit square pegs into round holes. English clubs should be helping to enshrine a distinct footballing ethos completely separate to that taught in academies such the one in Catalonia. Of course coaches should respect the technicality of a team such as Barca but football, much like life, can be played in more ways than one. Coaches need to realise that.
The U21 Championships give rise to a certain sense of cautious optimism. The directness of players such as Scott Sinclair , Danny Welbeck and Jordan Henderson and the power and potential of Connor Wickham hints at a particular style and substance. It is this, fundamentally, which could be crucial in forming our footballing legacy for the future.
Read more of Thomas Walters’ articles at This is Futbol