El Clasico didn’t go even a little bit the way we had planned and hoped it would. The sheer humiliation of earlier years with 6-2 being the worst for me brought back to life, only this time we drew a blank in the goals scored column. This time around the referee blew the whistle with number five reading to next to Barcelona’s name on the scoreboard and zero for Los Blancos. To make matters worse, the disciplinary record took a huge beating with Ronaldo, Pepe, Alonso, Casillas, Carvalho, Ramos, Khedira all entering the book and Ramos eventually being given the marching orders for a stupid challenge on Messi.
Instead of going through the game with each highlight (and forcing myself to relive the game which I really hope to forget very soon) let’s see where specifically we went wrong and need to tweak our game accordingly.
1. Gave them too much space and time on the ball – With the players of the calibre of Messi, Xavi, Iniesta and Pedro we allowed them to have too much time on the ball. They are all quick players and better yet all have brilliant awareness of where their team mates are. Off the ball movement is just sensational as well. Going into the El Clasico it was evident that it was important to have all of these players to not have all the time and space in the world to show what they are capable of. Mourinho who is a smart tactician and the players who have been in this place before know this ever so well. Sadly, we didn’t work on it.
2. No pressurising to win the ball back – Possession is what drives Barcelona forward. Their ability to hold the ball and rotate it from left to right is their strength, making it imperative that we were supposed to try to win the ball back when we lost it and like Mourinho had said before the game, “we need to make sure we play our game the way we want to and not let them force us to alter our game” and sadly we did the opposite. Possession stats read 67% for Barcelona and 33% for us and we barely made anything count from these 33%. We retorted to long ball play which isn’t how we’ve been playing so far this season.
3. Poor defending – While defending has improved tremendously for us this season thanks to Carvalho who has been a huge influence and Marcelo who has raised his level of defending to a new level but again it was missing on Monday night. On the first goal, Marcelo wasn’t able to clear the ball and the Xavi was on hand to capitalise, 2nd goal – Ramos fails to block Villa’s cross for Pedro in the center of the goal, again Marcelo not in the right place. 3rd goal – Messi provides a through ball for David Villa who runs clear of Pepe to slot past Casillas. 4th goal – Messi provides a defence splitting ball from half line to Villa who runs past Ramos and one touch, goal. 5th goal – Ball in the centre of the box by Bojan and Jefferen reacts first even though we had two white shirts in the centre and the youngster got his foot in between the two. All goals were the reason of shoddy defending and something that happened at a very wrong time.
4. Couldn’t cope with their width, speed and passing – We were clearly unable to cope with their how they spread the ball around from left to right and from back to front. All done in smooth fashion because there was no desire shown by players to win the ball back or to go ahead and take a few risks. The one touch passing and neat flicks and tricks started to emerge as game went on and our players began to give up and get frustrated.
5. No possession to speak of – Like mentioned above, we shifted from our small passes plan that has been doing well so far in the season to long ball passes which clearly suggests the lack of space that we had to go forward. There was no neat through balls, one touch movement, tricks and flicks or anything for that matter. We allowed them to dominate us while we stood and watched.
6. No tactical changes at HT – There was only one substitution at half time with Lass coming on for Ozil. A change with a defensive mindset and not when we probably should have gone on an attacking spree as we were already two goals down. But eventually it proved to nothing as we were then playing with three defensive midfielders in the form of Khedira, Alonso and Lass. The attack still seemed invisible and defence in complete disarray.
Do you think we went wrong somewhere else too which I forgot/failed to mention? Drop in a comment!