Archive for the ‘Barcelona’ Category

Manchester United Press Conference

Champions League second legs would, in theory, offer an interesting case study for Game States.

A definition of Game States: Statistically speaking, teams leading by a goal tend to shoot less than their opponents but with a higher shot conversion rate, while teams trailing by a goal will shoot more often but less accurately.

And again, it makes intuitive sense. If you’re trailing by a goal, you need to score to get into the game, and so you’ll be inclined to push up and shoot more frequently. This is dangerous for leading teams, unless they work to take advantage of the effect to score on the break.

The key lesson from last night’s Champions League tie between Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid involved Ancelotti’s side failing to take advantage of the counter. The incredible vigilance of the Dortmund defense with Hummels leading the way, the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo, and the lack of incision from Gareth Bale and others on the break obviously hindered Madrid. Yet it wasn’t obvious that Madrid were prepared for a rampant Dortmund attack, intensified by their home advantage.

So there is a slight warning to United to avoid letting Bayern take advantage on the counter, particularly as David Moyes’ side needs only a single goal to win the tie. A conservative approach may be the best option.

As for Atletico, they have a home advantage and the “lead” on the away goal. They are in prime position to let Barca push up in the hopes of breaking in front of the home crowd. Anyway, we’ll see.

Paris St Germain's Patore celebrates with team mates after scoring the third goal for the team during their Champions League quarter-final first leg soccer match against Chelsea at the Parc des Princes Stadium in Paris

Devang Desai and Richard Whittall sit down to discuss the U.S – Mexico friendly, this week’s Champions League action and Jose Mourinho’s striker problem.

You can download the podcast here and subscribe on iTunes here. You can also find the RSS Feed here.


If you haven’t heard the news:

Barcelona have been banned from making any signings for two consecutive transfer windows, as FIFA announced Wednesday that the Spanish club is being punished for breaching its rules relating to the transfer of players under the age of 18.

You can read the ruling in its entirety here.


FIFA has a set of rules that clubs must respect on the transfer of players, Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players. These regulations include, in Article 19, a conditional ban on the international transfer of players aged 18 and younger.

Basically, FIFA forbids international transfers of kids under 18 unless a) their parents move to the country for reasons “not linked to football,” b) the transfer takes place in the EU or EEA for a player between 16 and 18, and meets some stringent requirements and c) the player lives no further than 50 kms from the border of the home association.

Ostensibly to help enforce these rules, in 2007 the 57th FIFA congress established an online registry for all clubs to electronically submit for approval all international transfers called the Transfer Matching System. One its central purposes:

The objectives were to increase integrity and transparency in the market by increasing data available to football authorities on every transaction and to enforce rules on the protection of minors.

Exploitation of Minors

The Article 19 provisions were established to prevent minors from being exploited by unscrupulous clubs and agents. In some cases, families will pay unscrupulous agents tens of thousands of dollars only to end up stranded and without proper work papers in far off foreign countries. While these are extreme examples, generally FIFA’s provisions ensure that minors don’t move halfway around the world only to be dropped form the team and the family left stranded in a foreign country and unable to work. No doubt foreign governments appreciate this, too, as it prevents undocumented families from showing up on a hope and a prayer.

Barca’s case

In February 2013, FIFA instructed Barcelona they could not select six players for the youth teams as they were signed in violation of Article 19:

French boy Theo Chendri, Koreans Lee Seung Woo, Paik Seung-Ho and Jang Gyeolhee, 14 year old Nigerian-Dutch Bobby Adekanye and Cameroonian Patrice Sousia.

The ruling caught Barca by surprise.

Today’s Disciplinary ruling today indicates the number of violations in fact includes 10 players. These minors were signed between 2009 and 2013. Submissions to FIFA’s TMS system became mandatory for all clubs in 2009. The blog FC Legal wrote on the matter at the time, and made an excellent observation:

Presumably, given that the players in question have played in FC Barcelona’s youth team for some time, their registrations were initially approved by FIFA’s Player’s Status Committee via the TMS otherwise Barcelona and the Spanish Football Association are in breach of Article 19 Paragraph 4. It is, therefore, possible that FIFA have obtained further information to make them suspect violation of Article 19 hence the directive to not select the players until they investigate the matter further.

Barcelona is likely to appeal to the court of arbitration for sport.

What we don’t know

If FC Legal is correct (and it would seem they would have to be unless Barca were VERY BAD and skipped registration altogether), then why did FIFA initially allow these transfers, only to later judge their signing violated Article 19? Was it a bureaucratic delay? Or did TMS go back into investigate and notice something was up? Those details haven’t yet emerged (or I can’t find them). It could be that parents offered false reasons for moving, for one. At first glance, this would appear to be the most ambiguous qualification for an acceptable international transfer.

Was the TMS not established to prevent this infraction before it took place? Or am I missing something?

Paris St Germain's Zlatan Ibrahimovic celebrates after scoring against St Etienne during their French Ligue 1 soccer match at the Parc des Princes Stadium in Paris

Devang Desai, Richard Whittall, James Bigg and Gianluca Nesci sit down to talk about the Champions League quarterfinal draw. Can Manchester United channel the magic of 1999, Borussia Dortmund look to do the impossible and who is the favorite to win it all — all this and more in the latest edition of the Counter Attack Podcast!

You can download the podcast here and subscribe on iTunes here. You can also find the RSS Feed here.

Barcelona's Carles Puyol celebrates a goal against Almeria during their Spanish first division soccer match at Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona

“What’s your problem, can’t you afford the money for a haircut?”

Those were the first words uttered at 19-year-old Carles Puyol after his first training session with Barcelona’s senior team, and they came from legendary manager Louis van Gaal.

How’s that for a warm welcome?

Sixteen years later, Puyol will leave Barcelona as one of the most decorated players in club history. On Tuesday, the veteran defender announced he was leaving the club in the summer.

On-going fitness problems compounded by two knee operations in October conspired to remove the most important trait from Puyol’s game: confidence.

So where does he stand among the greats that have passed through the tunnels of Camp Nou? He’s up there. Read the rest of this entry »

Arsenal v Bayern Munich - UEFA Champions League Second Round First Leg

Devang Desai, Richard Whittall and James Bigg sit down to talk about this week’s Champions League action, including red card misery for a pair of Premier League clubs, PSG’s chances of winning it all and Adel Taarabt’s rejuvenation.

You can download the podcast here and subscribe on iTunes here. You can also find the RSS Feed here.

FC Barcelona Training

No one likes a long ball, a half-field length diagonal pass to a man waiting at the edge of the enemy defence. We prefer to quiver as rhombi spontaneously form in the midfield, the ball pinging around in a human Plinko board inside a slow moving amoeba rolling toward the opposition goal. That’s part of the magic of the 8×8 Dutch philosophy, the Cruyffian tea infused with the fresh water of Spain’s innate technical talent, together the epitome of the Idea of Barcelona.

But like many things Dutch, the liberation of the Barca Way is is actually anchored by a stern ideology of which Pep Guardiola was a passionate adherent. Tiki-taka is a high ideal; you don’t adapt it to present circumstances, you bend present circumstances to meet it. Teams however can only bend for so long before Things Fall Apart. That’s the Three Year rule of possession football…you need the right team to sustain it, and those are either bought at an enormous price or made once in a generation.

So when rumours emerged that Tata Martino would carefully reconsider the efficacy of an over-the-top pass at Barcelona, the broad swath of international culés had their excuse at hand for any failure and perhaps a reason to believe Barca had seen their best days. But it’s equally possible to regard tonight’s Champions League fixture as Tata’s raison d’etre. Manuel Pellegrino’s Man City has few weaknesses, but one of them has been coping with teams willing to break at pace in numbers. They’ve been vulnerable where big teams are usually vulnerable, like set pieces. Yet as Chelsea demonstrated, a bit of attacking guile mixed with discipline at the back might save Barca from a Build-Up Battle with as much likelihood as boring the pants off Europe as scoring a multitude of goals.

Why can’t there be an aesthetically pleasing long ball? A long pass to feet, rather than a goalkeeper’s hoof in hope? If any team were capable of it, it would be Barca.