Why Barcelona is the Best Team in the World

By Waleed Zaghloul.

Despite trailing Real Madrid in the LA LIGA race, Barcelona are still easily the best team in the world. They can beat their opponents in so many ways and all their players can score from so many different attacking situations, maybe except for Valdez (the goalkeeper). That makes it impossible to stop them when they are on their game. Barcelona can score off crosses, long range shots, set-pieces, and their favorite the through pass (also known to coaches as the penetrating pass). Let us look today at how Barcelona can be deadly with their passing.

First Goal – Wide Play
For Barcelona’s first goal, it was 6 vs 9! The Valencia defenders all got back to defend, but committed two major defensive calamities. Look at the first image, the Valencia defense kept a lot of space behind them which could spell disaster when playing against Barcelona. Playing a high defensive line requires another key factor; good pressure on the ball. Without good pressure on the ball, the high defensive line could be disastrous specially against a team like Barcelona.

Now check the second image below where the ball had gone from Fabregas to Prdro on the left wing. Valencia had 5 defenders back with four other players in support, so they should be able to defend the Barcelona attack. Not if their first defensive calamity had led to the second defensive calamity! Now all the Valencia defenders are now defending facing their own goal – all 9 of them!! Defenders should avoid defending while facing their own goal and that is true at the highest levels of competition too – specially when you have Messi lurking just outside the penalty box!

Now Messi is the only player in a position to play the ball. The first defender makes a mess of the situation (because of his bad positioning and because he is facing the wrong way) and the second player ends up on the ground and out of play. Messi takes care of the rest, too easy!

Second Goal – Through Pass + Cross
Now if you want to combine through passes with wing play, here is how you do it. A brilliant through pass from Iniesta to Abidal, on the left wing, that splits and bypasses Seven Valencia defenders. Again Valencia is defending with nine player, but with a lot of space behind their defense to be exploited numbers did not matter (again)!

Next, with one touch Abidal crosses the ball behind the Valencia defense to Messi who puts the defender behind him and again takes care of business. With a deeper defensive line, Valencia would have made Barcelona work harder for this goal. The next image shows six Valencia defenders defending while facing their own goal and with some space to exploit behind them (sounds familiar?).

Third Goal – 2v5
Again two Barcelona players against five Valencia defenders should be an easy situation for the Valencia defense, right? Look at the next image and the answer will be clear. Again all five defenders are defending facing their own goal with no defensive depth. It is not clear who will provide cover to the first defender if he gets beat in this case. Lack of defensive basics, really.

Tello, the youngster, takes on five Valencia defenders with Messi, the sniper, waiting for the right moment to provide support. Tello takes on his defender and takes a shot on goal which is parried by the goalkeeper and guess who is there to apply the finish? Messi it is, with five defenders just remembering to turn around and see that he is there and needs to be marked, but it is too late and Messi completes his hat-trick.

Fourth Goal – Brilliant Through Pass
Again, another brilliant Barcelona through pass from Sergio Busquets to Messi who is through on goal for his fourth goal. Surely the Valencia defense must have learnt from their mistakes or have they? Check the next image to find out the answer.

Acres of space behind the Valencia defense to be exploited by the pacey Messi. “Leo” scored four goals against Valencia, are these goals the easiest four he will score in a while?

Fifth Goal – A Gift
More horrific defending from Valencia. It is a given now that Valencia will leave a lot of space behind their defense, but that was not the only problem leading to the fifth goal. The image below shows Valencia’s lack of width and yet again the failure of six defenders to handle three Barcelona players (remember this is a team vying for a place in the UEFA Champions League not a second division team that has never faced Barcelona before).

Surprisingly enough, Messi’s attempted through pass to is cut out by the Valencia defender (needless to say he was defending facing his own goal)! But wait, he was defending facing the wrong way and his clearance went up in the air and back to Xavi who easily chips the goalkeeper with no defenders even close by to bother him (remember it is 3v6)!!

How bad does the Valencia defense have to be to allow Xavi all that space and time?


  • Barcelona are fun to watch because they do everything you can think of in football, specially their variety in attack.
  • The Valencia defense was horrific in this past game. It is one thing to lose to Barcelona and it is another to forget about the basics of defending.
  • You have to wonder why Valencia did not adapt their defensive strategy when they saw Barcelona exploiting the space behind them and shredding them apart at will?
  • Good teams punish their opponents when they make mistakes.

Coaching Points

  • The basics are very important even at the highest levels of competition. The absence of the principles of defending in this game played a huge role in why Valencia allowed five goals. Barcelona could have easily made the score line much worse if theyIngrain wanted to do so.
  • Have a plan B!  the principles of football into your own players at a young age and make sure it becomes second nature for them to do the basic things; they might need it one day!

Waleed Zaghloul is an NSCAA Premier Diploma coach. He has been coaching on the youth soccer scene for about 15 years. He has coached a variety of youth club, High School and all-star teams in Nebraska, Utah, Colorado and now the Northern Virginia area.

Posted in Game Review, Goal Review | Tagged , | 3 Comments

3 responses to “Why Barcelona is the Best Team in the World”

  1. Stevie says:

    I have a few issue’s with this, its a good article, but when (2nd goal) Valencia had a defence along the 18 yard line, you indicated they should be deeper. You cant defend deeper than 18 yards out, especially when theres roughly 10 yards between Xavi and the defensive line!
    Had the 2nd player in from Abidal stepped out 3 yards and created a triangle between the full back and next centre back, the pass would’ve had to be lofted. Also, as the through pass was played, Abidal passed it across goal from about 4 yards out, theres only a handful of players able to play that pass to be played 1st time.
    The 4th goal – how did the ball get to Busquets? It looks as though the defence had reacted and started to move deep to cover the pass but as Busquets is class, he no doubt took no more than 2 touches to play that pass.
    Anyway, a good read!

  2. Tim Root says:

    I’m just curious about the 2nd goal and the point being made that the defenders are too high. You’ve got 5 defenders either on the 18 or a yard inside. If you want them to sit deeper then . . . where? At the spot? On the six? Do they just become handless keepers?

    You can’t defend in there. At some point you have to make a stand and it has to be at the 18 or you’re inviting:

    1. Much more dangerous shots from range . . . 18 – 25 yard shots.
    2. Dribbling attacks from Messi and others which lead to penalties and more close in shots
    3. No way to get out of your end

    The bigger issue is the point being made about space and time on the ball to pick out the penetrating pass. I don’t remember if this was a lofted ball from the wing, but could the keeper have cut it out? Lastly, of course, the body shape of the defenders and not tracking Messi’s run . . . just silly. Did they have a team talk before the match?

    I don’t fault their line on goal 2, but agree with the other points.

  3. roy wiseman says:

    I agree valencia’s big issue is their midfield not closing down the player on the ball, if all they want to do is mark space this wont be the last bad day. I dont agree with the space behind issue, i think they mostly cannot read the play, ball watch and are only reactive so by then it is too late. I agree with the author ‘who taught these guys the basics of defending’? Sadly you see this type of defensive errors constantly at this level.

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