I can’t imagine that anyone has got over the midweek Champions League wonder match between Arsenal and a beautiful Barcelona side at the Emirates Stadium, and a first half hour Barca exhibition in particular – if you have you are no football fan I know.
It took just thirty seconds for the Catalan’s to get into their stride, with an instant eye for goal, Barca’s array of attacking brilliance was simply breathtaking. Quick pin point passing combined with technical ability and unquestionable pace ensuring Arsenal looked like talentless schoolboys, shellshocked that someone was dominating them at their own game.
And that is what would have hurt Arsenal the most on Wednesday night, not just the fact they were simply outclassed in all areas of the pitch, but the way Barca did just that. Even the Gunners most highly skilled players like, Fabregas, Arshavin and Nasri looked a cut below at times.
Yet aren’t Arsenal seen as the most enjoyable highly technical team to watch in the Premier League? If that is the case, then the UK elite has quite clearly fallen behind that of the Spanish La Liga. But then again, on
the basis of Wednesday night, no-one could keep with Barcelona.
More impressive to me, is the Catalan’s construction of their side over the past few seasons. There is no big money sheikhs behind Barcelona, looking to buy all the best players in the world (on paper) hoping to throw them all into a team on outrageous wages, looking for it to stick and become the best in the world. It simply does not work – a slight dig at Manchester City and Chelski there (and Real – Ed).
Money Can’t Buy
Instead Barca provide the blueprint for how every club should build. Starting whilst still young boys at youth level, the Catalans look to ensure their side grows up together, bringing something that money can’t buy – strong personal relationships that provide an almost telepathic edge to their play, and a will to do anything for your team mate.
It was evident in the side at the Emirates. Lionel Messi, Xavi, Busquets, Pique, Pedro Rodriguez even goalkeeper Victor Valdes all developed through the Barca youth policy. There is no other way a team can move the ball so quickly, precisely and with such succession like Barca did in the opening half an hour. Even without Iniesta.
They provide the backbone of the Barca side, with the money they do have spent on players like Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Seydou Keita to ensure they are strong in the positions that may not have come through. It is a policy that should be admired.
Of course there is one other who grew up with that group and that is Cesc Fabregas – a player whose heart at least is still at Barcelona.
And with money quite clearly packing its bags for its move out of football, similar youth policies are a must for clubs in the UK. I am proud that Cardiff City have already looked to a similar Catalan youth policy and it has bore good results so far. Aaron Ramsey, Chris Gunter, Cameron Jerome, Joe Ledley, James Collins were developed and now Adam Matthews and Aaron Wildig are the next to follow their elder graduates.
Unfortunately though the Bluebirds differ in just one but very important area of the Barca policy – not just quality but holding onto those players. Instead all the good of the academy is certain to leave after a few seasons, bringing in the money to make ends meet rather than producing a Cardiff side that could quite easily have become the best there has ever been.
That is the gulf in class, finance and god knows what else between the Champions League and the Championship of course. But I’ll hope the Bluebirds get just that little bit closer this year with the play-off’s within grasp.
I shan’t say anything until it’s certain though, last year is still very much in my mind…