First things first; winning matters. I tried to convince myself that it wouldn’t matter if Barcelona beat Chelsea because of Chelsea’s tactics, but it didn’t work. Watching the second leg was agonising and I would have been upset if Chelsea had won. Similarly, I’m sure that Arsenal fans will tell you that as much as they enjoy the football they play, they want to win.

Secondly having a good defence is important. What’s the point of playing great football if you are not being challenged. Sachin Tendulkar played some fantastic innings against Kenya, but we don’t rate those as highly as the innings’ he played against Australia because of the quality of opposition.

So theoretically keeping possession is ultimate football, but in reality you need people to help you win it back when you lose the ball. What Barcelona have done is to use the unique talents at their disposal to successfully change the balance between attack and defence. For instance pressing isn’t supposed to be sustainable for 90 mins and is the type of thing associated with lower league english football, but as barca keep the possession for 65% of the game, they can afford to press for the remaining 35%.

An interesting counter-balance is Man U. They deliberately play at a higher tempo and bank on the fact that in an open game they will win because their attackers are better finishers and their defenders are better at well defending. This though is more effective in a league format and not as successful in europe, where if you lose a goal (especially an away one) the other side can shut up shop. One of the reasons for United doing better in the last couple of years is a slight temperance in their traditional approach. Btw, the exact opposite is true for Liverpool.

To SuperPippo’s arguments. There is a difference between being a great defender and looking like a great defender because your side plays defensive football. This isn’t a reference to Maldini who was legitimately great, but I do think that in the 1990’s catenaccio went too far. I don’t think it was a coincidence that Italy kept losing in penalty shoot-outs and actually I’m glad they did.

Also, how many transcendental players have been defensive ones? Beckenbauer, Di Stefano (kind of defensive), maybe Maldini and that’s about it. On the other side I can give you Pele, Maradona, Cryff, the Real Ronaldo, Zidane, Platini and more.

On a note of concilliation, your paragraph on players like Essien, Iniesta and Seedorf defying positions was absolutely brilliant! That’s good to keep you on the site for a while :p

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