Despite what Carlton Palmer has to say on the matter, an in-depth look into Barcelonaai??i??s current squad and Pepai??i??s tactical application of certain players shows that the Blaugrana are indeed, coming up with a Plan B and Plan C.

The Holy Trinity

Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez are arguably their most popular players. These three players in addition to being phenomenal talents are also tactically astute and have certain roles to fulfill which allows the Catalans to play the way they do.

Xavi Hernandez is ai???The Composerai??i??

The player himself explains his thoughts on the game when he said:

ai???I must have at least 100 touches of the ball every match. If I had to go back to the dressing room with only 50 Iai??i??d be ready to kill someoneai??? – Xavi

Xavi controls the midfield, he distributes the ball. The Catalan midfielder who is definitely among the top 5 the sport has seen in his position, is famous for always looking. Looking before he receives the pass. Looking who to pass to after getting the ball. Xavi with his vision also allows Barcelona to play their one touch football and move it through the centre of the pitch.

Andres Iniesta ai???The Illusionistai??i??

Andres Iniesta is known to ghost past opponents. The pale Spaniard gives Barcelona that incisiveness that a team would need and allows Barcelona to move the ball swiftly between Xavi and Messi. In addition, Don Andres is extremely good at keeping possession which is the heart and soul of Barcelona by using his almost-telepathic relation with Xavi.

Lionel Messi Ai??ai???TheGeniusai??i??

Capable of creating space to run past almost any number of defenders, the diminutive Argentine is without a doubt the worldai??i??s best player of his generation. Messiai??i??s eye for goal is the end product that Barcelona require to finish games.

Plan A

Now that the rather redundant introductions are over, there is something that sticks out as far as tactics are concerned. For those of you who donai??i??t watch the Catalans often, this is a brief summary on how they usually play. Barcelona like to play the ball down the centre of the pitch. Their technical skill on the ball allows the team to move it forward, even against a packed midfield. They use their tactical knowledge to maintain numerical superiority in midfield and create space through Messi or Iniestaai??i??s skill on the ball to create chances.

Hereai??i??s the thing though, if the conditions are not right and Barcelona are not at their fluid best, like in the Champions League Quarter Finals 1st leg against A.C Milan, forcing the ball down the centre of the pitch is difficult. In that particular match, A.C Milan stuck to their 4-4-2 diamond shape and what this formation does is that the midfield is the one area on the pitch with the least amount of space.Kevin Ai??Prince Boateng who is more a player with stamina than an orthodox Trequartista (he is not as creative as would be expected of a player in that position) can do the leg work and make sure Barcelonaai??i??s defense is not comfortable on the ball. Players like Van Bommel (who did not play in the first leg), among others, are more defensive in nature and great at stopping attacks.

The reason for choosing this particular game as an example is that, A.C Milan for all practical purposes use the formation that is best suited to face Barcelona(who,as mentioned above, like to play in centre of the pitch). The sheer talent of Barcelonaai??i??s midfield made sure that they had possession but restricted the chances that were created.

I think Pep Guardiola has realised this (maybe Carlton Palmerai??i??s constant digs at Barcelona being a one trick pony got to Pep) and has been working on it for a while. Barcelona, who have conquered Europe over the last 5 years, are facing opponents every week who are adapting to the Blaugranaai??i??s system and found ways to stop the Catalans. Keeping the defense and midfield packed and narrow, they force the Catalans to keep ineffective possession.

Plan B – Isaac Cuenca

Pep's plan B

.

Palmerai??i??s views are heavily English biased to say the least and using ai???the hulkai??i?? as a striker is definitely not the only option if a team wants to make themselves more unpredictable. Pep Guardiola realises that it is time to introduce players without changing formations that allows Barcelona to develop new routes to goal.

In 08-09, the sheer shock of facing a team who are so skilled on the ball was enough to keep opponents on the back foot. So Barcelona obliged and displayed all their skill and more often than not, ai???walkedai??i?? the ball into goal. Over the last few years, teams like Milan, Inter and to varying degrees of success, Real Madrid have managed to shut out that route to goal by simply stacking all their players row upon row right in front of their goal.

Until recently, Barcelona – believe it or not – did not have the personnel required to provide that second route, that Plan B – Width & Crosses a.k.a Isaac Cuenca.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PdmWU-bc3V4].

In David Villa, Samuel Etoai??i??o, Thierry Henry, Pep Guardiola had strikers who were forced to play on the wings to accommodate Lionel Messi (and who could blame him right?). After all, Messi is fast becoming a guarantee for 40+ goals a season. However, all these players, being strikers or centre forwards naturally, do no really provide width. They donai??i??t have that innate tendency to stay wide and in fact, move inwards on receiving the ball.

Isaac Cuenca is a 20-year-old winger who progressed through FC Barcelonaai??i??s youth system. Despite being ousted 3 times, he returned and persevered. However, Cuenca isnai??i??t that typical winger that Barcelona usually develop. The youngster can dribble but not like Messi, he has speed like many other players from the Cantera but he is not the fastest. Cuenca has that one attribute that Barcelona do not currently possess, the ability to cross accurately from the by line.

Also, being an orthodox winger, Cuenca is naturally inclined to stay wide. This allows Barcelona to stretch the opponents defense and teams are forced to use their full backs to cover him instead of staying in the box and trying to keep Messi quiet. Isaac Cuencaai??i??s ability to send in accurate crosses one after another (in addition to his superior finishing skills and his ability to execute a goal pass) allows him to :

a) pass right across the face of goal for a deep running player to latch onto

b) Run to the byline with his pace and dribbling to cut the ball back onto Messi who uses space left behind by defenders scampering back to stop the counter attack.

Yes folks, somebody needs to inform Carlton Palmer that next season, Barcelona will have a full-fledged Plan B in Isaac Cuenca. Something that they have not had before, admittedly. Considering that heai??i??s very young and that this is only his first year with the team, people can expect Cuenca to play a much bigger role next year as he will definitely improve with the experience he has gained this season.

Plan C – Cristian Tello Herrera

Pep's Plan C

.

Call 911 folks! Carlton Palmer might have suffered from a coronary attack on hearing this! FC Barcelona and Pep Guardiola have taken it a step further and now have a plan C that will see fruition next year. This plan is already producing results and clubs all over Europe have already taken note and are following this particular player in the hopes to sign him.

Ladies and Gentlemen, behold Cristian Tello Herrera.

If Isaac Cuenca graduated from Barcelonaai??i??s youth system with a major in crosses and minors in finishing and dribbling, Cristian Tello got his degree by majoring in speed.

Tello is so fast that fellow Barcelona superstar Dani Alves had this to say of him: ai???He has a 7th gearai???. A gear that, on watching him run, one realises that everybody else simply does not have.Ai?? If Isaac Cuenca can provide the width and a brilliant pass across goal, Tello stretches the defense vertically and laterally through sheer speed.

Pep Guardiola continues to surprise fans by being innovative with his formations but many realise that his greatest attribute is his keen eye for talent and how to integrate a player with particular skills into the system that Barcelona uses.

Moreover, Pep has made use of Telloai??i??s gifts wisely while making sure that the youngster gets more than enough time on the pitch to improve and learn. Tello is plan C cause he can be used on the wing against teams who try to attack Barcelona with a high line. Whereas, Isaac Cuenca (who is officially part of the first team while Tello is not) can be used against a team that stays deep, Telloai??i??s ability is best suited for teams that choose to press high.

The video below will say it all really. If Cristian Tello gets space behind an opponentai??i??s defense, the chances of a defender catching him is close to zero. Yes, he is that fast with the ball at his feet and without. Combine that speed with superior finishing skills and Barcelona has a great player to give them that edge and allow them to evolve as a team.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2-gviMbecAo].

Summary

Both players provide different options to Guardiola. While, Tello is usually introduced around the 70 minute mark so that the opponents he faces are usually full backs who are already very tired or in a situation where a defensive team has conceded a goal and have no choice but to attack. At that point, Tello can be introduced into the game and the player uses his pace to get behind the defense.

Isaac Cuenca is the kind of player that is generally used against teams while they sit deep. He can play on either wing and has the necessary pace to beat his defender over a short distance and more than enough talent to send pin point crosses across the face of goal.

Keep in mind, this is their debut season with the first team and right now it seems like Pep is only in the initial stages of introducing a second and third option for Barcelona. Many fans miss David Villa and rue Pedro Rodriguezai??i?? lack of goals but maybe that will turn out to be a blessing in disguise.

So will somebody please inform Carlton Palmer now?

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9 Responses to “Barcelona’s Corner: Introduction Of A ‘Plan B’ And ‘Plan C’”

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  1. Rakshit says:

    One more piece of biased sanctification from one of the millions of barca fans who just could go on glorifying a team no matter what the team is actually doing or going through. Tello an cuenca are barcelona’s PLAN B and PLAN C?? HILARIOUS Mr. Inder Methil. first of all they both actually started playing this season. two, they never proved there mettle against quality oppositions. At this point of time I would want to give you a suggestion…. Please call it plan b or plan c or whatever only when it has worked wonders with quality opponents consistently (Remember the gods of defense everytime you think of coming out with a barcelona article.) The onlt tactical evolution or change of plans pep has bought about this season was with the addition of a certain cesc fabregas to the mix playing with the 3-4-3 system which needs sometime to develop but can give the blaugrana a realistic plan B because of the shear shape in which their famed midfield operates. The negative side it exposes their defence which needs to be looked upon. Xavi himself came out and made a comment about it saying that their defensive duties have shot up a notch by playing in that formation. and yes carlton palmer more often than not makes trash comments but when he was having english teams in his mind when discusiing about barca he may have had a point there because English wingers are traditionally been the best wingers in europe, so issac cuenca at al are nothing when compared to english wingers(bale, valencia,et al) so ur plan b and plan c for barca are still nowhere close to being one for now.

    • Inder Methil says:

      lol, always surprises me that people are so biased that they cant see things right under their noses. Barca fans? biased? its a piece on Barcelona, not any other team….would u like me to talk about Ronaldo and call it a piece on Barca? come back when you have a real point to make…you’re going to compare Bale and Valencia to Cuenca and Tello who have just been promoted?(in fact Tello is still officially a part of the B team)…as for the 3-4-3…well it doesn’t take Einstein to know that defensively they are prone to mistakes…4 vs 3:P….take it easy, and read the piece and again and you might realise that the piece is on the possibility that results will come next year, when both these players have come of age…

  2. Donna Van Oss says:

    Fine post:):)…..There will always be those that question genius….Plan C will see Barca continue to dominate for the near future….

    • Inder Methil says:

      Thank you Donna:) I do think that Cuenca and Tello have great futures if they choose to stay in Barcelona

  3. Aditya Sharma says:

    Both of them seem to be really promising youngsters who’ll probably do very well for Barcelona.. While calling Cuenca ‘plan b’ is apt as he does bring an added dimension to barca’s game (i.e. width), I’m not sure Tello is a proper ‘plan c’. As you yourself have noted, opponents tend to sit deep with rows of players defending, especially in the middle; I can’t think of a single case of a team maintaining a high-line against the catalans. So, a pacy counter-attacker won’t be of much help, unless the team decide to sit back and let the opponent attack (which, again, is not something barca ever do).
    That being said, I still think Tello is a VERY good option to have on the bench

    • Inder Methil says:

      well, Bielsa and Bilbao were attacking:) and agreed Tello was not as great but he’s a 20 yr old kid and things will improve…..point is there are teams who will attack…and also…chances are if a team wants to defeat Barca…they have to attack like Madrid learned…