Against Granada this week, Barcelona completed 757 passes. 541 passes more than what the home team completed. Even though Barcelona had put on another “passing show”, the game was, in fact, quite dull. Like every other game in which Barcelona completely dominated their opponents. It has just become uninteresting to see Barca outpassing a team by 500+ passes – sometimes scoring 8, other times scoring only once.
Barcelona are, by all means, playing “attacking football”, but how come their game has become duller than teams that play “defensive football”? And why is it important for attacking football to have an answer for Barcelona’s system?
Defensive and “depressing football” is important for attacking, free-flowing football.
Its development, progression and enhancement are also important for Barcelona.
How come? It’s all about evolution.
In nature, the predator and its prey evolve together. The prey is part of the predator’s environment, and the predator dies if it does not get food, so it evolves whatever is necessary in order to eat the prey: speed, stealth, camouflage (to hide while approaching the prey), a better sense of smell, sight, hearing (to find the prey), immunity to the prey’s poison, poison (to kill the prey), the right kind of mouth parts or digestive system, etc.
Likewise, the predator is part of the prey’s environment, and the prey dies if it is eaten by the predator, so it evolves whatever is necessary to avoid being eaten.
The fastest lions are able to catch food and eat, so they survive and reproduce. Gradually, faster lions make up more and more of the population. The fastest zebras are able to escape the lions, so they survive and reproduce too, which gradually changes the gene structure of the entire species.
An important thing to realize is that as both organisms become faster in order to adapt to their environments, their relationship remains the same: because they are both getting faster, neither gets faster in relation to the other. This is true in all predator-prey relationships.
That’s the great Pendulum of Life, and it also applies to football. Without great defensive football, attacking football would grow stale. Great defensive football leads to great attacking football.
Purists often argue that a defensive team is ‘bad for football’ because, as Jorge Valdano once said, it looks like “shit hanging from a stick”.
However, without the evolution of defensive systems, Barcelona wouldn’t have gotten so lethal; without a real predator challenge for Barcelona now, the team and its game will grow duller and duller. Barcelona would just pass the ball until everyone would fall asleep in the stadium.
This structure, where attacking football finds answers to evolved defensive football, and then defensive football finds answers to evolved attacking football, is an important part of the long, great story of the sport.
Barcelona need stronger predators in its environment or else it will turn into a “fat deer” and lose its appeal. Their “fantasy football” will turn boring boring Barcelona.