I am going to keep this short, simple and to the point. Barcelona are special and took the world by storm with their amazing possession style. They have unique skills that most teams can not emulate. Squads with less technical ability than Barcelona can not replicate what Barcelona does. However even Barcelona are not the force they once were. It might be Pep moving on, it might be the crazy concentration levels required to play the way they do, maybe the other teams have gotten better defending against Barcelona or maybe it’s Barca’s squad is not as good as it was. Whatever the case may be Barcelona is not as dominant as they used to be. The counter attacking style is what we are tending to see a little more of now. Teams sit a little deeper keeping numbers behind the ball to defend then they punish you on the counter attack. The teams with one or two fast, strong and talented attacking players can turn the game. The rest of the team just has to keep it together and defend well as a unit. That is a tiny bit simplistic but it’s true. You can see this with Liverpool, Spurs and United (all depends the game of course). Teams are now enjoying playing away from home because they are expected to sit and counter. It is just an easier game plan to execute. Overall your players do not have to be as good. Coaches are now not just talking about the counter attack but the counter off the counter! Its like boxing a guy with a good jab. Once the jab comes, block it and counter off the jab. So whats next?
My take on the future deals with players and development. When a coach see’s a player that is fast and skillful the first instinct is attacking mid, forward or winger. If coaches take that same player and say “Outside Back” or “Center Back” now we are on to something. Teams must develop back fours with pace, skill, defensive ability and attacking ability. Take a look around the EPL and tell me how many great center backs you see? Ones with pace, skill, 1v1 ability, tactical intelligence and more? Barcelona had a slower back four when they were great. Imagine if the Barcelona back four were the fastest in the game? Just look at Arsenal for a struggling group in the back! The Arsenal back four is built poorly for the possession midfield game with the exception of Gibbs. Sagna gives the ball away to much and I don’t love his discipline in 1v1 defending.
The future in my opinion is taking an Arsenal midfield and pairing them with the fastest, most skillful, physical and smartest back four in the game. Then add Aguero, Suarez, Rooney, Messi or whatever forward that can play in tight spaces and has pace. That would be a team with little weaknesses to exploit. My point is we have everything in the game now except the back four. If a club develops the back four as their first priority eventually it will change the game. Then just to add to that a physical, mobile, strong, fast, short & long range passing ability, technical and smart defensive center mid that stays put most of the game. Put a player like that in front of a dominating back four now suddenly the counter attack is neutralized. Remember, tactics can only go so far with the available talent. Maybe we should be looking to develop talent for the tactics that we eventually want to employee. It would be like the mad scientist working and working waiting to release the new experiment on the world!! I do think the development of a new type of back four is the answer to changing the game!