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Nov 13, 2007

With the tame surrender at Coliseum Alfonso against Getafe, Barca has suddenly found themselves behind four point behind the Leaders. The results didn't came as a surprise to anyone but the tame surreneder did. Its been the pattern last season and looks like its continuing this season. Barcelona is a completely different side at home and away from home. At home they play like true champions and away from home they struggle like relegation threatened units.

It will be unfair to compare the success of top clubs in England in away match with the top clubs in Spain. Traditionally every home match in Spain is loaded heavily in favour of the Home team. Thats the reason why there is a high chance of the Top clubs losing points in away matches compared to their counter parts in England. But this is no excuse the way Barcelona is playing in away matches. Every away match the first 15 minutes they simply try to dominate, and once they find its difficult they simply give up. Last season everyone attributed this to the defensive fragility the team were having. But a team with Abidal, Puyol, Milito, Zamrotta and Toure shoiuld have countered that. But its not happening, the result remains the same.

In Spain, traditionally the titles are won away from home. Its your away form which will decide your future in the league. The way Villareal is playing this season, it might be difficult for Barcelona to qualify for next season's Champions league. Valencia and Sevilla will be very consistent. We might be looking forward to another Trophy less season. The media based on Barcelona has already started blaming Henry for the lack of Goals. This is very much unfair, he needs atleaset a season to settle and gel with the style of La Liga. And when did Barcelona heavily relied on one person to get all the Goals? There is no doubt about the fact that Ronnie looks like a spend force, especially in away matches. The best player of this season, Iniesta is not being played in a proper position. He plays in all kind of position. Its no surprise that, there is a high chance of a potential attack happening when the ball reaches Messi or Iniesta.

My personal opinin is that we have to change the free flowing 4-3-3 formation to a more compact 4-3-1-2 formation in away matches. With Messi playing behind the two strikers(maybe Henry and Gudjonsen). Its essential to have Messi playing in centre as a creative player atleast in away matches. Its essential to have Iniesta in the Midfield in every match. But all this changes will do nothing if the players attitude remains the same. They need to be more aggressive and have to give 150% every match. Its the lack of will to fight which loses us the match. The next match is a home match against Reacreativo, probably Barcelona will win it, will win it well. But its the away match against Espanyol, which should be used to judge the attitude of the current crop. I can seriously see Barca losing badly in Espanyol.

Nov 6, 2007

Sepp Blatter, the FIFA chief's latest proposal of imposing restriction on the number of foreign players have already send some shivers across the Footballing world. Almost all the football pundits have taken up arms against Mr.Blatter. Mr. Steve McMahon of Football Focus (ESPNSTAR) have ridiculed the entire idea as complete non-sense Steve McMahon On Sepp Blatter. But on a careful inspection of Blatter's proposal, it does not sound that stupid maybe a little misdirected.

One of the most important factors which prompted Blatter to make such a proposal is the difference in the standard of the top clubs and the others in the league. Let's take the EPL as the case study; there is a big difference in standard and quality among the big clubs and the not so big clubs. In Spain its more evident from the fact that the big Two always stands miles apart from the other clubs. Is it good for football? The general feeling among football fans is Yes. But then most of these fans are being loyal to their clubs, aren’t they? I am saying this because, not so long ago with Chelsea boosted by Abrahmovich Millions were walking away with all the Trophies available in England, I heard the same fans and pundits crying for some sort of regulations to be implemented (to bring parity to the same league). Now this proposal sounds like something you asked for, isn't it? Instead of making all the Hue and cry about the proposal, it will do a world of good if we sit and analyze it, especially analyze the good intention behind it.

One of the most important problems faced by the main footballing League is that there are only a maximum of 3 clubs which really have a realistic chance of winning the title. The rest of the clubs looks like they are their for making up the numbers. Its not coincidence that the most fascinating matches in the last two to three season in the whole league fixture is the fight for survival. One of the main reason for this is the fact that apart from the newly promoted one or two teams, there may not be much difference between the other clubs (of course leave the Top Clubs). Now imagine a scenario where by the time we reach the half way mark of the League fixtures, there may be 6-7 teams which have a realistic chance of winning the League. Sounds fascinating but hardly possible, especially with today's scenario. If you carefully study the Top clubs in England, Spain and Italy - It’s the amount of Money they possess which makes them highly competitive. They buy almost all the talents available worldwide and races past the other club before the season begins. There is another side of this scenario, smaller clubs will be encouraged to play well against these clubs just to make a point (example is the case of Real Madrid Galacticos). With his proposal Blatter tries to reduce this difference between the Top clubs and other clubs. But the problems with his proposal are that it puts the game itself in back foot. The Leagues in Asia and Africa are not as good as the European, in terms of money, standard and popularity. By restricting the access of these less privileged players from these lucrative leagues, he might be doing a bit of injustice to them. Secondly his proposal will obviously reduce the difference between the main clubs, How? Lets say the Top clubs stands at No 1 position in the race now and the others at lets say 100, instead of taking the other clubs to No 10 his proposal will bring the Top Clubs to lets say No 70. This is bad news for the game. Is this the solution?

If you observe carefully with the current footballing scenario, it looks like the Top clubs have a reluctance to embrace the proud Youth development programmes. In Italy and England the Football Academy of the Top Clubs are good as buried. Arsene Wenger may be a hero with what he has achieved with Arsenal, but England football and its fans may remember his as the man who killed the English Football Academy. The most used argument against having a very well run Academy in the top clubs is that it’s not producing the results and obviously it’s a huge investment. But don’t these clubs have a moral duty to give something to the society. If the top clubs were forced to have at least three home grown players in their starting line up, then the top flight clubs will embrace the concept of having a very good Football Academy. The advantage of these clubs having a good football academy is that more and more youngsters will get a chance to learn and explore their skills. The result there will be a wide pool of players available to select for the other smaller clubs. This will be inspiring for skilled youngsters from all over the world, as the Top clubs have the resource to find them and train them. Look at Messi, Krkic and Giovanni developed by Barca youth academy. But the Main clubs will not go back to those old ways of developing talents, unless they are forced to. This will also substantially increase the pool of players fighting for country berth. Apart from the two Latin American giants how many top national teams can afford to have two main players injured and come up with formidable performance.

The managers of the top clubs give the stupid reason that the academies will not give results on par with the investment. But Ajax and Barcelona has always proved this wrong, both these clubs are churning out more and more talents every year. Sepp Blatter will be doing the game a world of good if he can concentrate on improving the academies. It’s easily said than done. May be he has to force the league to share their profit on basis of an academy rating. May be FIFA themselves can reward the clubs with the best academies. The results will not come overnight. Slowly but surely it will come. So rather than restricting the number of foreign players, he can force the clubs to field a minimum of 3 to 4 home grown players every match. And one more thing even if you are planning to implement something like this, give the clubs some time to put their youth development program back on fast track. May be a five year timeline should e fine for the clubs.

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