analysis | 2015-04-19
Busquets and Mascherano sharing the midfield
Was it a good or not so good idea?
On Saturday, April 18, FC Barcelona won 2-0 against Valencia on the 32nd matchday of La Liga.
Luis Suárez scored the first goal on the first minute and Lionel Messi doubled the scoring on the last minute.
The first 45 minutes were very difficult for the azulgrana. Valencia were very dangerous despite missing a penalty and hitting the post. The culés were not able to create clear chances except for one six-yard shot from Messi at minute 42 that went wide.
One of the possible explanations for the mess that was the first half may be Luis Enrique’s decision to play both Sergio Busquets and Javier Mascherano in midfield. It had an impact on the way Barça played, clearly affecting Leo Messi's positioning.
Let's start with the basics. The usual 4-3-3 Barcelona use is illustrated below:
There you can see the Spanish words "mediocentro" (normally Busquets), and "interior" (normally Andrés Iniesta and Ivan Rakitic).
When the lineups were published, the widespread reaction was: "Busquets will play as right interior today." But it did not happen. Busi and the Jefecito played at the same height and very close to each other. Therefore, the space usually occupied by the right interior was empty.
How was FC Barcelona's way of playing affected?
Messi was the most affected. During the first 45 minutes, he had to play both as right interior and right winger.
When he stayed high, the ball was not getting forward cleanly.
When the ball reached the forwards, one interior was missing and the ball could not circulate efficiently.
Therefore Leo opted to drop deep in the center channel and played as a typical No. 10 from there. Neymar and Suárez adapted and shared the frontline.
Barcelona could not then widen the pitch and consequently could not have long possession, moving Valencia's block from one side to the other.
Busquets and Mascherano occupied the same space. It could be argued that on many occasions, one of them was useless because they were playing too close to each other. Either one of them could have been used somewhere else.
The discussions about Busquets playing as an interior mostly center on his ability to go and press very high on the pitch. But against Valencia, he and Masche were playing at the same height behind Messi.
This resulted in more players on the center of the pitch, but Busi was not pressing high and when the ball got past him, it meant it also got past Masche, eliminating two players at the same time. Besides, with Valencia defending deep, only one of them would have been enough.
The first half ended 1-0 for Barcelona. At halftime, Luis Enrique decided to reorganize the team and got back to the usual 4-3-3, with both Rakitic (in for Adriano) and Xavi as interiors and Jérémy Mathieu filling the role of the left back. Busquets was back to the “mediocentro” and Masche played as center half.
It did not solve all of Barça’s problems but at least the way they played the second half was much more like what the Camp Nou is used to see this 2015.
As a conclusion, playing both Busquets and Mascherano in midfield was not a big success. It changes the way the team is used to play, and not for the better.
Is it worth taking that risk now that the players are very clear with what Lucho has asked them to do in the last four months?
Anything wrong? Send your correction.
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