The value of preparation

I was resisting the urge to write about Tuesday night’s Champions League semi-final.  But now I’ve succumbed.

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!


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