Friday, September 2, 2011

Cesc Fàbregas, Guardiola's wildcard

The story of the signing of Cesc Fàbergas for Barcelona was long. So long that even some sectors of the barcelonisme starting to have doubts, due to the high price demanded by Arsenal and the progression of Thiago Alcántara. Some other fans (I must admit I may belong to this group) were not sure of paying important amounts for a player that had been raised in La Masia, but had decided to leave in a personal decision, since this effort could send a wrong message for the young players of Barça's youth system. At this point, if there is someone who really insisted in this signing, it is Pep Guardiola.

The general opinion was that the signing of Cesc Fàbregas, as good as it would be anyway, was also unnecessary. Barcelona probably count on the most powerful midfield on Earth. Xavi and Andrés Iniesta are World class players and Cesc Fàbregas would be a good complement, but not an urgency. Besides, Thiago Alcántara was there too. The same generalized opinion said that Guardiola wanted him thinking in the mid-long term. With Xavi being 31, Iniesta being 27 and Thiago being 20, Cesc (24 years old) appears as the one who was going to replace Xavi in Barcelona to allow a slow and non dramatic transition, which would also help Thiago to progress on solid grounds.

Cesc joined Barcelona late this summer, so Guardiola could not experiment with him much. But in these weeks, it has been possible to see Cesc in several positions. Not only this, the individual skills of Cesc Fàbregas also allowed Guardiola to try different tactical versions, with the player in different positions. It is true it is not the first time Guardiola make changes in the positions of the players nor used tactical variants, but with Cesc Fàbregas being the wildcard, the possibilities of doing them seem to grow significantly.

Cesc Fàbregas made his debut in the Supercopa against Real Madrid. Barcelona used the classic 4-3-3 formation and, with 10 minutes to go and the 2-2 in the scoreboard, Cesc replaced the winger Pedro, while Iniesta was moved to the fake winger position in order to leave the central midfield for the new #4 of Barcelona to partner Xavi. This is what everyone expected, a natural change, Cesc playing in his natural position and Iniesta moving in order to take advantage of his versatile style. With the 4-3-3, Cesc seems to be the 3rd option for the central midfield, after Xavi and Iniesta. The plan worked for Barcelona, Cesc is deeper in his style, compared with the classic partnership, which was what Barcelona needed at that moment and it worked, since Barça scored in the last minutes with Cesc involved in the creation of the goal.

The first relevant test was in the Gamper trophy, the game of presentation of the team in the Camp Nou. Lionel Messi, usual owner of the #9 position in Barcelona was not part of the initial XI. Until then, it was Villa who used to fill this space, but Villa stayed in his already natural position as left winger. Surprisingly, Cesc Fàbregas was the #9 of Barcelona. It was well known that Fàbregas possess a higher capacity to score goals and appear in the box compared with Xavi and Iniesta, but definitely the position was not natural for him. But, since Guardiola renounced to have a classic #9 to fix the rival's central backs to play with Messi in this position on free role, the Catalan coach wanted to test the possibilities that Fàbregas in this position. And, still knowing it was just a test, it worked. Cesc was the #9, but as Messi, he was given a free role to fall to midfield and help in the creation, which gave Barcelona superiority in midfield and caused chaos in the defense of Napoli, who were chasing shadows, not having a reference to mark.

Last Monday, in the game against Villarreal, Guardiola put his Barcelona in a time machine and proposed the classic 3-4-3 of the Dream Team of the early 90s. Probably, this system is just a consequence of the situation (Barcelona had lots of players injured in defense), but it is also true that Barcelona also needed the right players to do it. Statically, Cesc was placed in front of the two central midfielders and behind Messi, a kind of Italian trequartista, the typical mediapunta, a pure playmaker. But football is also movement and there were 8 field players which had an important discipline at keeping the position, while Cesc joined Messi in the free role style. If Messi himself usually is a disturbing element due to his unpredictable movements, Cesc joined the perfect chaos too, interchanging positions with the Argentinian star or supporting the midfield to create superiority in the creation zone. Villarreal had a 4 back line plus 2 defensive midfielders, but Barcelona opened the field with 2 pure wingers, creating lots of spaces for Messi and Cesc, who were not occupying attacking positions, but appearing in this zone. Barcelona did not packed the attack with forwards. Barcelona created the spaces for the forwards and central midfielders to appear surprising from second and third lines. This is possible because Cesc's skills are more suited to this kind of zone and definitely suited to Barcelona's style. As Messi himself said: "I mix well with Cesc, because we have played together since we were kids".

Guardiola found its wildcard, which adds depth to the team, but also gives the team tactical options that were not so obvious until now. These possibility allow Guardiola to reinvent Barcelona's tactical system again. This is why the already legendary coach of Barcelona wanted Cesc and only Cesc.

No comments:

Post a Comment