Friday, May 27, 2011

Fragments of a Big Match Preview


United- will they look to press Barca? Or sit deep?

Jonathan Wilson uses stats to say Barca have become less committed too attack, more inclined to sit deep. They certainly use possession as a means of defence as much as attack. Is it making them boring to watch?

Then again, not really their fault that most teams aren't playing exciting football these days.

Are United good enough? More specifically, will the centre of their midfield be good enough? Apparently, it will be Carrick-Giggs again. No place for Fletcher? Frankly, I'm shocked. Maybe he's not quite fit enough. I guess there would be nothing as useless as a half-fit Darren Fletcher.

"The same team they brought to Schalke". That's the word on the street. Good and all as United were that night, Barca could never be as limp and lifeless as the Germans were. And while a similar team swept Chelsea aside in the "title decider", Ancelotti's team were likewise impotent, looked almost unmotivated- amazing for a game of that magnitude.

All of which points to the biggest worry for United fans- that their team simply has not been tested sufficiently this season to prepare them for the test to come.

United can confidently ask questions of their own.

Even if Barca have a near-monopoly on possession, will this work to United's advantage? Can Barca's backline deal with the pace of Hernandez? Is Mascherano a good enough centre back, if indeed he does play there? And whoever plays left back for Barca- can they cope with the rampaging runs of Valencia?

Will United's apparent physical advantage at set pieces come into play?

First Goal= Vital: a cliche, but especially true of this game.
United score it- Barca forced to press- spaces left for United to exploit on the break.
Barca score it- they feel the freedom to pass the ball to death until United leave some gaps.

Sterile Domination was the term Wenger used to describe it. A couple of question marks still hang over the anointed ones. Their behaviour in recent big matches makes a mockery of their own haughty principles. But more importantly, as Wenger implied, they often leave something to be desired on the level of spectacle. Their adherence to possession is so strong that it arguably blunts their creativity. For instance, for all their superiority over Arsenal in the Camp Nou, they only really started to open Arsenal's fragile rearguard up after Van Persie had been sent off. At the Bernebeau, too, the goals came against 10 men.

They are undoubtedly the best team around at the moment- nobody should debate that- but the smugness of Xavi and their other footballing philosophers is hard to swallow when too often, their matches are strangely dull.

Still, being a biased Arsenal fan, I hope they give United a pasting.

Unfortunately, my sickening gut feeling is that this will be United's night... despite the laughter induced by this from football365:

United have had plenty of valuable time in which to fine-tune their preparations for the Wembley showpiece and many hours have been devoted to '11-a-side practice games between the first team and squad members lining up as Barcelona.' It is understood that Michael Owen has taken up the role of David Villa, while Paul Scholes has imitated Andres Iniesta and 'Portuguese winger Nani has performed the 'Messi' role in training, replicating the Argentine forward's movement in the final third of the pitch.'

If they wanted a shite impression of Barcelona, why didn't they just invite Arsenal to Carrington?

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