Player vs System

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Post by Mr Nick09 Sun Apr 19, 2015 9:26 pm

I have a question for you guys, something i have been thinking about lately...

When Barca was dominating footy, and you had arguably the best midfielder of this generation is his prime, Xavi. He was bossing games, dominating tempo, playing short or long at will with deadly accuracy. Your style as a team, and your efficiency/fluidity was very much associated with what he was as a player, and what he was doing. It was even more telling when he was playing for Spain

Now that he is gone/going, in many ways it seems as if your style has remained the same, even without the Overwhelming influence Xavi used to have. Sure there are more direct passes in transition, more long balls in space forward, more solo runs by players to break through the lines, but the occupation of space if still at the heart of what you do. You guys still use the half spaces as efficiently as you did in the past and your mids can still play the forward through with lofted passes...

I guess my question is whether it is/was so important for you to have a player like Xavi, he did not have the quality all by himself to change games like Messi, but he had an incredible influence. If the system can impose on whoever plays that position, and dictate how the whole team behaves as a whole, isnt better to have in that position someone with more individual talent?


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Post by Harmonica Mon Apr 20, 2015 3:51 pm

Xavi wasn't the system, the system was the system. The edge was from that hardly anyone knew how to play against such system back then, and even less in the national football with limited training. But eventually most teams learnt how to play against it, and the edge disappeared.
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Post by BarrileteCosmico Mon Apr 20, 2015 3:59 pm

I don't really understand the question. The system is put into place to get the most out of the players available to the coach. The system was put into place by Pep who saw how Iniesta and Xavi were being misused. Now that Xaviesta is in the decline the 'system' should change based on whoever is brought to replace them. With someone like Verratti it could be kept the same, more or less, with someone like Pogba we wouldn't try to control through the midfield.
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Post by windkick Mon Apr 20, 2015 5:14 pm

Yea I'm not sure what the question is either. I think your asking if Barcelona and Spains rise and fall of it's dominant years were due to Xavi?
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Post by alexjanosik Mon Apr 20, 2015 5:23 pm

Even I dont understand the question.

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Post by The Franchise Mon Apr 20, 2015 5:34 pm

Am I correcting in thinking the basic question here is, what is the real importance of Xavi? It seems like your asking that.

It seems like your saying that wouldnt it be better to put someone of more quality instead of Xavi because the "system" will dicate what someone will do and you wont lose what Xavi gave while having someone with other abilities Xavi didnt have. Lets say Pogba, someone who many would consider to be more talented because he is a much better player physically, he can shoot and score goals, he can dribble players and generally he can do alot of things Xavi couldnt.

Well, the first thing to me is I dont agree someone playing within the system can give the same game style. Its even unfair to say we see now that Rakitic cant because he is asked to do very different things, but even if he was to copy Xavi like for like I am very sure he could never any way.

I dont want to debate the merits of our old style vs our new one, its a pointless debate and actually its not important to this question really.

But I will say I dont think we play the same. I think there are elements which are similar, but I think that's because we have many of the same players who are playing the way they know how. There will always be Busquets looking to find someone between the lines and we can go down the line to other players who were here previously and they will play how they play unless coached and instructed differently.

I dont think the so called system can dictate to the player who plays instead of Xavi, the type things Xavi did to influence the entire team.

Xavi played in a way which is quite rare and I dont think even more talented players can do it because it wasnt based on talent, but on thoughts.

Xavi having those incredible number of touches he used to have, wasnt coincidence nor was it only the product of the game style. No, the entire teams game style wasnt down to just Xavi and yes, the entire teams focus on keeping the ball meant Xavi had a higher number of opportunities to touch the ball...but only Xavi had that opportunists, a different player wouldnt have the thought process to find those opportunities. In those days, if you replaced just Xavi with another player those touches wouldnt be as high.

I think its because of a few things. First of all, every player on the team knew if they passed it within a 3m radius of him he will control the ball and complete a pass practically every single time. It made their decisions alot easier.

Without getting too philosophical, football is just a bunch of repeated (because you have made them before in training, in other matches etc) decisions over and over and over again and if you make the best ones you probably will win. When you play with Xavi, decisions are made for you.

Watch any game and you see the man in possession not pass to another player because they believe that player will be in a difficult position to control it or will be under too much pressure or various other factors..when you play with someone like Xavi, unless the line of the pass is directly blocked (rare, because again Xavi has the movement to open himself) you can pass to him any time you want and he will control it and he will pass to someone else successfully. Many more talented players than Xavi dont have that same type trust from team mates and less so have that type of movement to become free.

The reason he has that trust is because he earned it, he does the simple things not just well, not just perfectly, but consistently...and the consistency is already very high among pros (biggest difference between pros and amateurs is consistency of what you do)..but his was another level.

What does all this matter? So what they can pass to him every time? So what he had such a high number of touches?

This meant he had influence over the game. A disproportional amount of influence. The system enabled him to do this, but it enabled only him...a different kind of player couldnt do it.

Without Xavi, the man who replaces him wont be able to do these things. A good comparison is actually Iniesta.

Iniesta by all accounts has more what people view as talent, than Xavi. He can take on players with dribbles, he has more quickness, while not consistent he is capable of long range shooting and generally is more able to disorganise a defence with the ball at his feet. One might even say there isnt one particular skill Xavi can do that Iniesta cannot, he can control the ball just as well even..maybe better.

But put Iniesta in Xavi's position and he cant do it. His entire game is stunted when he is cant dribble the ball, when he cant take 3 touches, when he doesnt get to isolate a defender. The simple control the ball and pass it straight away to the best option isnt easy for him. Xavi will pass to the rightback, move toward him at the best angle to receive the ball back, pass it to the holding midfielder, find the diagonal space between two opponant midfielders, receive it again, turn and pass it left winger who came short. He would do all this and not take more than 2 touches every occasion. More talented players wont do this, they wont put it all together, somewhere along the line there is a dribble, there is a third touch, there is an attempted 1-2, there is an off ball run into a scoring position. Maybe not even this time, maybe not the next time, but with a more talented guy you know its coming.

Now you might say with positional play couldnt someone do what Xavi does? At training, coaches go through with their players hours and hours of where to be and how they should be there. But no matter how much you do it, there is something in their mind to make them different.

Another example is when Song was with us and when he played instead of Busquets. Song could do what Busquets does in theory, but only in theory. His positioning with different and he never developed the autonimsms Busquets had been developing for 2 decades. For example, Because when the ball is at RCB he needs to be diagonal left of the ball so he has more decisions (if he stands directly parallel to the RCB, he will recieve the ball with his back in the direction he wants to go and wont be able to play forward). If you receive the ball with your back in this direction its more difficult to see where the pressure is coming from, its more difficult to see who is free and its more likely someone will take the ball from you. If youare in the correct position (diagonal left of the CB) you receive a diagonal pass and your facing forward already, you can then pass forward in 1 touch without having to turn, you can see where the pressure is coming from, you can see who is free and your options are just more obvious and your decisions are less complicated. All because of a small movement, nothing to do with talent.

And thats just movement. What about decisions? Busquets knows when to pass, what kind of pass, what speed of pass and if he should delay the pass to allow movement of the opponant or teammates. This isnt exactly talent, but this decision is crucial and its something Song never could grasp as Busquets did. So Song being a better dribbler, physically stronger, faster, better at the final pass and various other things...meant totally nothing.

Magnify all that x amount and you have the difference Xavi provides.

Excuse me if my post has nothing to do with what your asking Laughing
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Post by Casciavit Mon Apr 20, 2015 5:43 pm

Dani with dat 10/10 promotion of Xavi.

Great post.
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Post by elitedam Mon Apr 20, 2015 5:52 pm

Great post! :bow:
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Post by windkick Mon Apr 20, 2015 6:44 pm

Awesome post, Dani. Well said
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Post by billy_gr Mon Apr 20, 2015 9:02 pm

Daniel :bow:
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Post by Barca2211 Tue Apr 21, 2015 2:03 am

Wow probably the best post I've seen on this forum bravo :bow:

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Post by Kick Tue Apr 21, 2015 3:22 am

Interesting post on the intricacies on Xavi and Tiki-Taka, Dani. Fascinating to read.

I also have no idea what Nick is asking.
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Post by Mr Nick09 Tue Apr 21, 2015 6:18 am

Danilo Proud i knew we were right to sign you

Yes sorry, i really did not know how to ask that question. Your post mostly touched on what i had in mind, whether a different player would have done better, someone with more "abilities"...

At the same time, i was curious to ask whether the very specific style that your team has, positional play, could overcome the shortcomings of those players who are not xavi, by basically teaching the player, where to go, and what to do, specifically through repetition.





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Post by neuro11 Tue Apr 21, 2015 9:31 am

:bow: some of the points could not be better explained...will greatly help my own performance :coffee:

i have an issue though with what you said about busquets game. you are not attributing it with talent rather crucial decision making. well, thats also we attribute as talent. i mean talent is something that you can't develop in you over the night or strongtraining. its something of an inherent quality. if what Busquet does is not so easy for other people to do, why cant that be considered part of his talent.

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Post by alexjanosik Tue Apr 21, 2015 9:48 am

Mr Nick09 wrote:Danilo Proud i knew we were right to sign you

Yes sorry, i really did not know how to ask that question. Your post mostly touched on what i had in mind, whether a different player would have done better, someone with more "abilities"...

At the same time, i was curious to ask whether the very specific style that your team has, positional play, could overcome the shortcomings of those players who are not xavi, by basically teaching the player, where to go, and what to do, specifically through repetition.







Dani's post has summed it up quite well.I will just briefly answer the questions you raised.
On question of whether a player with more abilities would have done better,firstly you need to define abilities required for the role Xavi plays.
I would argue that for the role he plays,there is no one more talented than him.The role he plays requires an exquisite first touch.IMO only Berbatov and Iniesta have a comparable first touch.Xavi has a poor touch once a season.Even under pressure,he controls the ball immaculately.
Secondly the role he plays requires the ability to get out of trouble without the ball,either through dribbling or shielding the ball.Xavi is not a great dribbler but he is arguably the best in the world at shielding the ball.Notice how every single time, he puts himself between the ball and the player,which means that the only option the opponent has is to foul him from behind.Then he also uses the pelopina to get out of trouble.It is practically impossible to take the ball from Xavi without fouling him.I have seen him go a lot of matches without getting dispossessed once.
Thirdly the role requires him to be an immaculate one touch passer.He is the best one touch passer in the world.
Fourth,the role requires him to be an immaculate overall passer who can pass with consistency week in week out.Again the best in the world at that.
So for the abilities the role requires of him(first touch, ability to shield the ball under pressure,one touch passing and overall passing),he is the best in the world.
So I dont think a different player with more abilities would have done better,mainly because there is no one with more abilities for the role required.The first part of my answer to your first question deals with technical aspects of the player.

Coming to the second part of your question.Assuming a player with more abilities existed,can the system teach such a player to play like Xavi?
I think dani's post summed it up brilliantly.It is incredibly difficult to teach a player to play the way Xavi does,even if it may appear simple.Not every player has that level of tactical intelligence.Xavi has supreme tactical intelligence and it is something that cant be taught.And the perfect example of that is Fabregas.He was LaMasia educated and has a good level of ability.Many even thought him better than Xavi.He played in Pep's system and looked like a lost lamb.The guy looked completely and utterly clueless even after 3 years.Just shows that not even a great player like Fabregas can be taught to play the Xavi role in the system.The system is not that good to elevate every great player to a Xavi.

Lastly even assuming that there was a player who had more ability to play the Xavi role(there isnt) and even assuming that the system could teach the player and elevate him to the level of Xavi,how can such a player perform better than Xavi?
Xavi won 4 leagues,2 CL's,2 Euros and a WC being the brains of his teams.It is impossible to better that.


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Post by alexjanosik Tue Apr 21, 2015 9:51 am

As an aside,I do think a player exists with comparable abilities(not more) and with comparable tactical intelligence(less than Xavi but still an elite level) for the Xavi role.
If Thiago stays injury free,I think he can get to Xavi's level under a coach like Pep.He is that damn good.

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Post by alexjanosik Tue Apr 21, 2015 10:31 am

The Franchise wrote:Am I correcting in thinking the basic question here is, what is the real importance of Xavi? It seems like your asking that.

It seems like your saying that wouldnt it be better to put someone of more quality instead of Xavi because the "system" will dicate what someone will do and you wont lose what Xavi gave while having someone with other abilities Xavi didnt have. Lets say Pogba, someone who many would consider to be more talented because he is a much better player physically, he can shoot and score goals, he can dribble players and generally he can do alot of things Xavi couldnt.

Well, the first thing to me is I dont agree someone playing within the system can give the same game style. Its even unfair to say we see now that Rakitic cant because he is asked to do very different things, but even if he was to copy Xavi like for like I am very sure he could never any way.

I dont want to debate the merits of our old style vs our new one, its a pointless debate and actually its not important to this question really.

But I will say I dont think we play the same. I think there are elements which are similar, but I think that's because we have many of the same players who are playing the way they know how. There will always be Busquets looking to find someone between the lines and we can go down the line to other players who were here previously and they will play how they play unless coached and instructed differently.

I dont think the so called system can dictate to the player who plays instead of Xavi, the type things Xavi did to influence the entire team.

Xavi played in a way which is quite rare and I dont think even more talented players can do it because it wasnt based on talent, but on thoughts.

Xavi having those incredible number of touches he used to have, wasnt coincidence nor was it only the product of the game style. No, the entire teams game style wasnt down to just Xavi and yes, the entire teams focus on keeping the ball meant Xavi had a higher number of opportunities to touch the ball...but only Xavi had that opportunists, a different player wouldnt have the thought process to find those opportunities. In those days, if you replaced just Xavi with another player those touches wouldnt be as high.

I think its because of a few things. First of all, every player on the team knew if they passed it within a 3m radius of him he will control the ball and complete a pass practically every single time. It made their decisions alot easier.

Without getting too philosophical, football is just a bunch of repeated (because you have made them before in training, in other matches etc) decisions over and over and over again and if you make the best ones you probably will win. When you play with Xavi, decisions are made for you.

Watch any game and you see the man in possession not pass to another player because they believe that player will be in a difficult position to control it or will be under too much pressure or various other factors..when you play with someone like Xavi, unless the line of the pass is directly blocked (rare, because again Xavi has the movement to open himself) you can pass to him any time you want and he will control it and he will pass to someone else successfully. Many more talented players than Xavi dont have that same type trust from team mates and less so have that type of movement to become free.

The reason he has that trust is because he earned it, he does the simple things not just well, not just perfectly, but consistently...and the consistency is already very high among pros (biggest difference between pros and amateurs is consistency of what you do)..but his was another level.

What does all this matter? So what they can pass to him every time? So what he had such a high number of touches?

This meant he had influence over the game. A disproportional amount of influence. The system enabled him to do this, but it enabled only him...a different kind of player couldnt do it.

Without Xavi, the man who replaces him wont be able to do these things. A good comparison is actually Iniesta.

Iniesta by all accounts has more what people view as talent, than Xavi. He can take on players with dribbles, he has more quickness, while not consistent he is capable of long range shooting and generally is more able to disorganise a defence with the ball at his feet. One might even say there isnt one particular skill Xavi can do that Iniesta cannot, he can control the ball just as well even..maybe better.

But put Iniesta in Xavi's position and he cant do it. His entire game is stunted when he is cant dribble the ball, when he cant take 3 touches, when he doesnt get to isolate a defender. The simple control the ball and pass it straight away to the best option isnt easy for him. Xavi will pass to the rightback, move toward him at the best angle to receive the ball back, pass it to the holding midfielder, find the diagonal space between two opponant midfielders, receive it again, turn and pass it left winger who came short. He would do all this and not take more than 2 touches every occasion. More talented players wont do this, they wont put it all together, somewhere along the line there is a dribble, there is a third touch, there is an attempted 1-2, there is an off ball run into a scoring position. Maybe not even this time, maybe not the next time, but with a more talented guy you know its coming.

Now you might say with positional play couldnt someone do what Xavi does? At training, coaches go through with their players hours and hours of where to be and how they should be there. But no matter how much you do it, there is something in their mind to make them different.

Another example is when Song was with us and when he played instead of Busquets. Song could do what Busquets does in theory, but only in theory. His positioning with different and he never developed the autonimsms Busquets had been developing for 2 decades. For example, Because when the ball is at RCB he needs to be diagonal left of the ball so he has more decisions (if he stands directly parallel to the RCB, he will recieve the ball with his back in the direction he wants to go and wont be able to play forward). If you receive the ball with your back in this direction its more difficult to see where the pressure is coming from, its more difficult to see who is free and its more likely someone will take the ball from you. If youare in the correct position (diagonal left of the CB) you receive a diagonal pass and your facing forward already, you can then pass forward in 1 touch without having to turn, you can see where the pressure is coming from, you can see who is free and your options are just more obvious and your decisions are less complicated. All because of a small movement, nothing to do with talent.

And thats just movement. What about decisions? Busquets knows when to pass, what kind of pass, what speed of pass and if he should delay the pass to allow movement of the opponant or teammates. This isnt exactly talent, but this decision is crucial and its something Song never could grasp as Busquets did. So Song being a better dribbler, physically stronger, faster, better at the final pass and various other things...meant totally nothing.

Magnify all that x amount and you have the difference Xavi provides.

Excuse me if my post has nothing to do with what your asking Laughing


Outstanding post.One of the best posts I have read.Summed him up better than I ever could.I have downloaded a lot of his best games and watch them often.The most striking thing is not the passing,or the touch or the vision.
It is the movement.He is perpetual motion.He is always moving,always providing options to other players.He is always moving into space to receive a pass.And he does it over and over and over again game after game season after season.
It is why I think Enrique's system has restricted him somewhat.Because he is playing a positionally constrained role,he cant move as much to make himself free to receive a pass.Before if a player marked him or if a passing lane to receive a pass was blocked,he would just move to make himself free to receive a pass.Now he plays a more rigid role so he cant move as much to free himself.It is much easier for opponents to restrict his influence on the game.

Just a couple of points more to add to your post.People always say that he plays countless sideways 3 yard passes and that anyone can do that.If analyzed closely,even with such simple passes,he differentiates himself from other elite passers.He plays passes in such a way that it makes it easy for the receiver to control it and advance the play.Xavi passes always to the strong foot,in the right direction and with the right weight to help the receiver advance the play.Even elite passers cant do that to the level of consistency that Xavi does,even for supposedly easy passes.
The second thing I want to mention is he always plays with his head up.I have seen even elite players play with their head down occasionally,never Xavi.The guy has his head on a swivel all the time.Look left,look to the player with the ball.Look right,look at the player with the ball.When the player passes,again look left and right before receiving the ball.
Again seems so simple and basic but it is an incredibly difficult thing to do.And not just one game.But to do it game in game out,week in week out,year in year out.This is what gives Xavi his unparalleled vision of the game.He has a map of the football field and at any point he could tell you where all the players on the field are located.He can do that because his head is constantly on a swivel.

Just thought I would add a couple of points to your peerless post.

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Post by The Franchise Tue Apr 21, 2015 12:20 pm

neuro11 wrote::bow: some of the points could not be better explained...will greatly help my own performance :coffee:

i have an issue though with what you said about busquets game. you are not attributing it with talent rather crucial decision making. well, thats also we attribute as talent. i mean talent is something that you can't develop in you over the night or strongtraining. its something of an inherent quality. if what Busquet does is not so easy for other people to do, why cant that be considered part of his talent.

Your right and I agree with you.

But I think most people, when they think about "talent" and talented players they think of shooting, dribbling and things like that. Messi for example, so talented, he can do anything with the ball.

I agre, what Busquets does, his movement and his decision making is a talent. Maybe even its a bigger talent because unlike shooting...you cant just bang away at untill you improve, decision making and movement takes a player having some kind of unexplainable interpretation of the game.
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Post by The Franchise Tue Apr 21, 2015 12:23 pm

alexjanosik wrote:
I would argue that for the role he plays,there is no one more talented than him.The role he plays requires an exquisite first touch.IMO only Berbatov and Iniesta have a comparable first touch.Xavi has a poor touch once a season.Even under pressure,he controls the ball immaculately.
Secondly the role he plays requires the ability to get out of trouble without the ball,either through dribbling or shielding the ball.Xavi is not a great dribbler but he is arguably the best in the world at shielding the ball.Notice how every single time, he puts himself between the ball and the player,which means that the only option the opponent has is to foul him from behind.Then he also uses the pelopina to get out of trouble.It is practically impossible to take the ball from Xavi without fouling him.I have seen him go a lot of matches without getting dispossessed once.
Thirdly the role requires him to be an immaculate one touch passer.He is the best one touch passer in the world.
Fourth,the role requires him to be an immaculate overall passer who can pass with consistency week in week out.Again the best in the world at that.
So for the abilities the role requires of him(first touch, ability to shield the ball under pressure,one touch passing and overall passing),he is the best in the world.
So I dont think a different player with more abilities would have done better,mainly because there is no one with more abilities for the role required.The first part of my answer to your first question deals with technical aspects of the player.




I 100% agree and second this part. I didnt include it in my post but its all very true and I thought about including something similar in mine because it is very relevant and very important. These things he does, you cant find someone else who can do them.

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Post by The Franchise Tue Apr 21, 2015 12:25 pm

Also thanks for the nice words the rest of you, very appreciated.

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Post by The Franchise Tue Apr 21, 2015 12:39 pm

alexjanosik wrote:

Outstanding post.One of the best posts I have read.Summed him up better than I ever could.I have downloaded a lot of his best games and watch them often.The most striking thing is not the passing,or the touch or the vision.
It is the movement.He is perpetual motion.He is always moving,always providing options to other players.He is always moving into space to receive a pass.And he does it over and over and over again game after game season after season.
It is why I think Enrique's system has restricted him somewhat.Because he is playing a positionally constrained role,he cant move as much to make himself free to receive a pass.Before if a player marked him or if a passing lane to receive a pass was blocked,he would just move to make himself free to receive a pass.Now he plays a more rigid role so he cant move as much to free himself.It is much easier for opponents to restrict his influence on the game.

Just a couple of points more to add to your post.People always say that he plays countless sideways 3 yard passes and that anyone can do that.If analyzed closely,even with such simple passes,he differentiates himself from other elite passers.He plays passes in such a way that it makes it easy for the receiver to control it and advance the play.Xavi passes always to the strong foot,in the right direction and with the right weight to help the receiver advance the play.Even elite passers cant do that to the level of consistency that Xavi does,even for supposedly easy passes.
The second thing I want to mention is he always plays with his head up.I have seen even elite players play with their head down occasionally,never Xavi.The guy has his head on a swivel all the time.Look left,look to the player with the ball.Look right,look at the player with the ball.When the player passes,again look left and right before receiving the ball.
Again seems so simple and basic but it is an incredibly difficult thing to do.And not just one game.But to do it game in game out,week in week out,year in year out.This is what gives Xavi his unparalleled vision of the game.He has a map of the football field and at any point he could tell you where all the players on the field are located.He can do that because his head is constantly on a swivel.

Just thought I would add a couple of points to your peerless post.


Again, I certainly agree and should have mentioned it myself because it is relevant and important.

The most underrated part I think is when you speak about passing to the right foot of the receiver and in a direction which means that receiver can easily advance the play. When Xavi passes the ball, the receiver never has to stop the direction he is moving in and it allows him to then make his decision that much quicker.

You see even with Barca calibre players. They make a pass to a team-mate slightly off (weight, angle, direction) and that player would have to stop the direction he was moving in to control the pass. This delay is the difference between the opponent stealing the ball, putting the the receiver under pressure or being totally free.
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Post by Hapless_Hans Tue Apr 21, 2015 1:50 pm

The Franchise wrote:
neuro11 wrote::bow: some of the points could not be better explained...will greatly help my own performance :coffee:

i have an issue though with what you said about busquets game. you are not attributing it with talent rather crucial decision making. well, thats also we attribute as talent. i mean talent is something that you can't develop in you over the night or strongtraining. its something of an inherent quality. if what Busquet does is not so easy for other people to do, why cant that be considered part of his talent.

Your right and I agree with you.

But I think most people, when they think about "talent" and talented players they think of shooting, dribbling and things like that. Messi for example, so talented, he can do anything with the ball.

I agre, what Busquets does, his movement and his decision making is a talent. Maybe even its a bigger talent because unlike shooting...you cant just bang away at untill you improve, decision making and movement takes a player having some kind of unexplainable interpretation of the game.


Nice posts, anyway that was something I'm wondering too, and I guess something like that was why I objected to the 'Podolski talent' comparison.
Maybe in my mind the word 'talent' is not necessarily so much congruent with 'technical skill' as it's often used.

That's why when reading the OP post I wondered how you could conceive of anyone as more 'talented' or 'having more ability' for the position than Xavi, since good movement and intelligence and precision of passing are 'talents' and 'abilities' for a midfielder above all.

Just as I have an issue when a player like Müller is supposed to be not that 'talented'.
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