Be Wary the Barcelona Soccer Development Effect

In  North America these days you may have noticed that there’s these Barcelona soccer camps popping up all over the place.

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It’s reminiscent to the “English Soccer” camps that rampaged through the continent due to everyone thinking that if you had an accent you must be a Zen master soccer coach.  Of course, half the time if you watched these sessions, they were the same dern sessions that anyone with half a soccer brain could run.  Heck, you could have googled some drills and run the same thing.  But hey, kudos to them for capitalizing on them.  People were willing to pay up for the name and accent.

Now, I know what you be thinking; obviously Barcelona is quality and so they must be doing a good job.  And the truth is they probably do do a good job.  Nobody’s denying that.

But on the other side you know what they are also doing?  Taking advantage of their name and sending one of their thousands of staff who probably aren’t even more qualified than a well-educated coach in North America.

Yes, they may send a top dog honcho just to “oversee…” if you’re lucky that is.

And besides that, Barcelona isn’t stupid, they obviously would have trained their coaches in the famed “la Masia” way… Whatever that may be.  It’s almost taken on a mythological presence – this La Masia Barcelona Academy “way.”

It’s sounds like they’ve found the force or something.

But dig a little deeper and you see that a big chunk of it is just a set of phrases they use like: “the ball moves faster than the player,” “everyone must know how to play 2 touch max,” or “every single position must be technically proficient.”  (There’s a lot more and a lot better ones but my mind is drawing a blank right now).

And the truth is people eat this up…

And again, these camps are still good for your kid, and yes their coaches are trained in their “ways,” however, a lot of the drills and sessions they do are no different than what a competent, trained coach anywhere would run.  They just add their Barcelona flair with some La Masia principles.

But here’s my warning with hopping on this bandwagon:

And let’s be clear: Barcelona is the same team as Spain… So I may be clumping them together for the next little bit.

The problem is people are missing “the forest for the trees” so to speak.  They see the passing, and the passing becomes the idol.  And so in North America we copy that and every single academy these days is about 1 touch soccer etc etc…

Take for example this: In Barcelona’s heyday, when they were passing everyone to death, people failed to see that Barcelona’s greatest quality may have actually been their ability to win the ball back immediately after losing it (also known as Counterpressing if you’re into more advanced tactical terms).

I mean they looked like water bugs with multiple players swarming the opposition within seconds of losing the ball.

But… most people didn’t see this.  They only saw the passing.

Yet, Barcelona is soooo much more than just amazing passing.  People fail to see that they have incredible dribblers, touch, creativity and flair.  Yeah, Messi can pass, but half the time he dribbles and creates space by doing that.  Yeah Iniesta often plays 1 touch passing, but he also knows how to fake you out and create space when he needs it.  Yeah Busquets might be the best passing midfielder in the world but he can also nutmeg you and create space extremely well (not to mention his creative fake pass space opener)  In fact, if you cannot create space and fake defenders out then passing becomes a moot point.  Why?  Cause often players shut us down before the pass is there and we need that deft touch or that little fake to create the gap to pass the ball.  Problem once again is people often failed to see that within that amazeballs Barcelona squad.

Now, how is that affecting academies in North America? (at least in my humble opinion)

This, everyone and their dog is aaaall about the passing these days.  The passing is the idol, the god we worship now.  And what this does is this; it creates bucketloads of players that are adept and very good passers but lack creativity, dribbling, space-creation technique, and overall flair…

We are so focused on passing at the top academies and clubs that we fail to create the other aspects needed to actually make that passing succeed in the first place.

Even the best passer on that Barcelona squad back in the day (the great Xavi) was an amazing dribbler (as long as you don’t mistakenly assume dribbling is all about taking the ball on long excursions through the field) and could do a quick little fake or move here, turn on you and then pass somewhere else.

So what happens when we create a ton of great passers without the other qualities?

You go watch a game and you see teams pass each other to death but get nowhere.  Put a good passing team against a solid defensive block and all of a sudden nothing happens…

Heck, this even happened to Barcelona at times.

They would come up against a solid defensive team and they sometimes got nowhere.  But you know what they needed to combine with their flawless passing to break down good defensive teams?  Creativity, game intelligence, sneaky passing, and moves (watch Messi)…

There’s a reason the fifth principle in soccer attacking is creativity.  You can’t just pass people to the ground always.

I’ve seen great academies play each other with amazingly proficient technical players who could all pass really well.  What happened?  They would pass and pass and pass but never break the other team’s defense down.  They lacked the creativity…

They would always get to the other team’s half and then no one had the ability to create that unbalance like Messi does so well through his dribbling.  Not to mention that half the players don’t have the guts to cause their coaches are yelling non-stop at them to pass the flipping ball the second it touches their foot.  I know you know what I’m saying… You’re visualizing this right now. You’re players get the ball, and immediately the coach yells: “keep it moving, 1 touch soccer boys let’s go!”

So, be wary my amigo.

Don’t just think that quality passing on its own is the be all end all (I think that’s how the phrase goes).

Don’t just run blindly into the great “Barcelona effect.”

If you need more encouragement, just look at how Spain lost in the recent Eurocup.  They have all the same players yet they lost to Croatia and Italy…

Learn from them but don’t let them be the only thing you learn from.

What do you think?  You think I’m wrong?  Let me know below 🙂

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