Under the guidance of Pep Guardiola, the long admired defensive lynchpin of Barcelona teams of the past, he has created a footballing unit with the combined attacking flair of the great Brazilian and Dutch teams with the work ethic and defensive battling summed up by the likes of Bolton or Dirk Kuyt.
History has shown that while amassing a superstar lineup of expensive big name players can yield success in the short term, a more solid approach with a strong midfield and defensive spine is equally if not more successful in the long run.
Arsenal are a great example, who set arguably the greatest English domestic precedent in history in their infamous unbeaten 03-04 campaign. Similarly Barcelona have outmatched rivals Real in recent history despite the latter’s Galactico policy.
With Luis Figo’s arrival signaling the beginning of the Galacticos era in July 2000, Madrid initially found success with two La Liga titles and a Champions League victory between 2001 and 2003. However over the following 9 years, Madrid have not won any European trophies, failing miserably in the Champions League and have won the Spanish first division only twice.
In the same time frame Barcelona have won La Liga four times and the Champions League twice. This season they sit 7 points ahead of 2nd place Madrid in the table. With Messi being the most obvious face to put to Barcelona’s staggeringly impressive form recently, it is their much admired midfield engine of Xabi and Iniesta who set the pace for the team.
At the back is the ever present Carlos Puyol who has served as club captain since 2004. But more than just the proficiency of the players in all areas of the pitch who complement each other so well, the team also has an inspired work ethic so typical of Guardiola in his playing career.
Whenever they don’t have the ball which admittedly isn’t often, the players are never static, and never go back to get into set positions and form a defensive unit. Rather they hassle and chase the opposition like you would in the schoolyard. Giving their opposition no time to think on the ball and no space to pass into. This was more than evident against Arsenal as, a team whose only gear is pass and move, were completely unable to keep the ball in either leg, and made to look more like a Jose Mourinho outfit. Struggling to defend the relentless onslaught of possession and attacks from Barcelona while hoping for breakaway counter attacks.
It’s a scary thought – what if the legendary Brazilian teams who blitzed the competition in World Cups of the past had the work rate of eleven Dirk Kuyts combined with the attacking brilliance of the Ronaldo’s and Rivaldo’s? Perhaps in the current Barcelona team we are seeing the answer – practically perfect football. A glance at the current La Liga table shows not only do they have the most goals scored with 78 in 27 games, but also the least conceded with only 13 – to 65 and 20 respectively, 2nd place going to Real Madrid.