Now, in the lights of these current occurrences, most spectators are calling the need for reevaluating Tito’s impact on the team and comparing it to that of Pep’s. Both current coach and ex-coach have shown the exact same philosophy, possession, tiki-taka, and lots of Dani crosses. With both coaches proving worthy of managing this team, it has gone to my attention that most fans are stating that Tito contains the less direct style of play and Pep was more of a slow build-up type of guy. That calls for some tactical chat, don’t you think? Starting off with the current Barca.
Ever since Abidal got diagnosed with cancer, the team has changed its wing action completely. Barcelona used to play the usual Dani-Pique-Puyol-Abidal, leaving one full back that hits the right wing and supports the attack, and one full-back to sit at the back and keep things tight. Now, the current Barca uses the same back-line, but with Alba playing the role of left-back instead of the unfit Abidal.
This full-back duo of Alba and Dani might sound all great, but it has its many disadvantages. Logically speaking, having two full-backs with a very offensive and attacking mindset play at the same team would really cause a stir, as a flank is always exploited. Some might recommend Busquets occasionally dropping at the back, but that would only work if Abidal was still present, since Alba is too offensive of a player to stay back.
This also meant that the center-backs cannot make any runs, since there will always be a player missing at the back, and since there isn’t a full-back, that makes it double the trouble. Don’t want to be vague about it, but tactics aren’t rocket science; sometimes they are more straightforward thank you think. Defense isn’t lacking names or individual players, it just simply does not work together and will never handle transitions well.
Tito has worked well with absences though. A major point that goes to him is that he introduced the idea of allowing opponents the room to attack, therefore giving Barca more room to build up attacks and finding more space at the opponents back-line. That’s exactly why Tito is usually seen as the more direct coach, because he does allow the opponent more time on the ball but tries to be more effective in the final third. Although Tito hasn’t proven anything yet, he has shown that he can add to this team even when the squad is need of depth.
Now for Pep, it was always a different case. After the first 3 years of domestic and European glory, he went on to the fourth with the daring confidence that he could rotate as much as he possibly wanted to. At a time where Barcelona’s tactics started to get off as a bit predictable, he thrived to change the formations and try to squeeze the best out of an already close-to-perfect Barcelona. That included the (4-1-4-1) formation used at the 3-1 hammering in the Santiago, or the occasional (3-4-3) that was usually played against La Liga opponents in the Camp Nou.
It really gave a new perspective to the team of how to unlock and break back-lines without having to change the philosophy. All those formations had one thing in common, and that was its failure to handle transitions on one of the flanks. Barcelona started to get a bit defensively vulnerable and were forced to always score 2-3 goals (or sometimes even more!) to ensure a victory.
Regardless of the depressing side of that era, now to focus on the good. Even though Pep and Tito seem to work in an extremely similar way, they both have different viewpoints on how to break free from pressure and attack a compacted back-line. Tito, as mentioned previously, prefers letting the opponent play some football and attacking the team; this would usually give the team more free spaces to attack when the ball is intercepted, for example the (4-2-4) at the start of the season against Sociedad.
Pep, on the other hand, never liked to give away the ball. Unlike his personality, he was extremely greedy with ball possession and liked to have as much of it as possible. Pep used triangular formations nearly every game and always tried to bring forth the concept of total football, or outnumbering your opponent all around the pitch. Pep used to make the players work in groups of threes, much like magnets; whenever Xavi got the ball he’d drag 2 others with him and slowly pass the ball deep into the oppositions area just to look for an opening.
That my friends, is how Pep tried to play his football, using compactness and making all the players stick very close together to create space. He never believed in putting a Real Madrid, and always thrived on putting the midfield in control of the defense and attack. As for the current form the team is in, it is in no way a surprise.
The team isn’t divided, nor collapsing, but it has no sort of tactical supervision preventing it from playing like it did last night or the week before against Milan. Any coach would have known that we needed to add in a winger to stretch out the pitch that night at the San Siro, but we didn’t have Tito and we could not blame Roura for something he tried his best at. After-all, Roura is no tactician and he is trying his best. It’s a phase the team needs to go through without their coach, but hoping for a good retaliation phase after Tito is back and hopefully for good this time.
Written by Hasan Al