Chelsea won, by smothering Barcelona’s flair and creativity. If that sounds a bit grudging, that’s because it is. I wanted to be entertained… and I wasn’t. However, I couldn’t help but admire the way that Chelsea stuck to their task. They were disciplined, dogged, committed, spirited and effective. They defended with their whole team and kept a tight formation. They essentially did one thing and did it very well.
By contrast, Barcelona played an attacking game – again with their whole team. They passed in their typical, intricate, skilful manner. They had possession of the ball for about 75% of the match. But, they were largely ineffective against Chelsea’s formation. They essentially did one thing unsuccessfully.
So what was the difference? My initial reaction – and the reaction of commentators and press – was that Barcelona didn’t have a ‘plan B’. Over recent years they’ve been very successful playing their brand of creative, skill-filled, flair football… and they were sticking to it. There is an element of truth in this analysis – on the night they didn’t adapt to Chelsea’s approach. And ‘more of the same’ didn’t work.
But I think that problem for Barcelona started before Tuesday’s match. In the first leg, Chelsea had played in largely the same fashion, and managed to sneak a victory. So with an advantage, it didn’t take a genius to work out that they would probably adopt the same approach in the second leg. Yet Barcelona didn’t prepare an alternative game plan.
As Henry Ford said:
“Before everything else, getting ready is the secret of success.”
That’s a good lesson for Barcelona… and for all of us!