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Real Madrid are a better team but Barcelone improving

ผู้เขียน: แหล่งที่มา:ต้นฉบับ 2022-11-21

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Real Madrid are better, but Barcelona showed they are improving in El Clasico

Did Barcelona lack fire in their 3-1 defeat to Real Madrid? (1:06)

Steve McManaman and Ian Darke discuss Barcelona and Real Madrids performances in El Clasico. (1:06)

Spanish football vocabulary has a great word,resultadista, which criticises those whose conclusions stem purely from the result of a match rather than a wider view of the performance or ideas of a particular team, player or coach. So whileReal Madridwere stronger, quicker and more clever thanBarcelonaduring Sundays 3-1 win inEl Clasico(stream a replay on ESPN+)and unquestionably deserved their win, it is arguable that reaction to how Xavis team performed in several key aspects has been ...resultadista.

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Barcelonas defeat has repeatedly been described as soulless and gray, with only two positive points: defenderJules Koundes return from injury and the impact of the substitutes. Generally, there has been the rumbling sound of people gearing up to suggest that Xavi isnt the right man for this job. However, with no wish to be controversial for the sake of it, much of the Barcelonas work in this defeat was significantly better, clearer, more organised and interesting than anything theyve done since the thrilling display againstBayern Munichin Germany one month and six matches ago.

The flaws -- player laziness, player errors, lack of a clinical pass or finish in the final third -- were there, should never be ignored nor underestimated. But nor should they erase the improvement. Watching the match I was sure of it, watching it for the second time it was still clearer and the stats support the argument.

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Barcelona were on the ball nearly 10 full minutes more than Madrid and used that to make more than twice the number of passes in their attacking third (147) thanLos Blancos(73). In other words it wasnt sterile, shuffling the ball about possession ... there was threat.

Barcelona had 18 efforts at goal, more of which (5) were on target than Madrid. The losing team had more passing accuracy, ran further, won the ball back more often in total than their rivals, and also won the ball back in under five seconds far more than Madrid.

Hold on, just in case youve lost the thread, this is for the hard of memory, the hard of understanding and the die-hardMadridistaswho think that because Im arguing about the quality of Barcelonas play in defeat that somehow implies something detrimental about the Spanish and European champions. It doesnt.

Once more for the record: Carlo Ancelottis Madrid team had a game plan, executed it very well, produced superb power plays when it counted, are currently much more street smart than theirClasicorivals and, crucially, made far fewer errors. The better team won.

But, in recent weeks, theres been jubilation about things like Barcelona moving back to the top of LaLiga for the first time in a couple of years, about the value of winning (againstMallorcaand Celta) while playing poorly, and that jubilation was used to ignore the truth that theBlaugranahave often looked ordinary, lacking in cohesion and should have conceded more often.

Against Madrid, Barca did things like reducing Vinicius Jr. to only 20 involvements in the match -- normally hes on the ball 52 times per LaLiga game this season. In all, 79% of the champions possession was in their own half, they were slower in high intensity sprints than Barcelona and made dramatically fewer of them too.

Steve McManaman and Ian Darke discuss Barcelona and Real Madrids performances in El Clasico.

All of which means its time to restate why Barcelona lost.

They lost because they are less mentally intense than Madrid right now, because they make far more critical mistakes thanLos Blancos, because there is an enormous gulf in the all-for-one-and-one-for all spirit of a team which, largely, has been together for several years and won repeat Champions Leagues compared to a team (squad) which is younger, smaller and has been together for less time. Furthermore, Barca are in the midst of being coaxed back into life by a coach in the first elite position of his life and who has been in charge (of a crisis club) for less than a year.

Some examples: Madrids first two goals were created by players who were literally falling over.Toni Kroosnot only resisted being fouled bySergio Busquetswhen Madrid took the lead -- his desire to triumph helped him get off a superb pass which bisected the defence. Then, 23 minutes later,Dani Carvajalwas given a very slack pass fromKarim Benzema, which was going out of play, when he lunged at the ball and smashed it up towardsViniciusfor Madrids second goal.

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And theres where we put flesh on the bones. Vinicius had almost a third fewer touches on the ball than normal and, if one only looked at the stats without live action to compare, it would be easy to say, bad day at the office.

Yet the Brazilian, again, was absolutely central for Madrids first two goals. He is not given very much but turns that into match-winning contributions. Its precisely the talent which, compared to Barcelona wingerOusmane Dembele,I identified in last weeks columnas likely to be decisive. As such, Vinicius was a microcosm of the Madrid performance -- he drew the absolute maximum from the key moments in the game.

Then there are Barcelonas mistakes. Sometimes teams are superseded because of the excellence of rivals. Barcelona, this season, continue to commit glaring error after glaring error -- either defensively or (less often) offensively. And, having looked woeful (chaotic according to Busquets) when Inter Milan scored three times at Camp Nou last midweek, Barcelona repeated the trait at the Bernabeu.

Take the first goal. As the move began, it was Vinicius who headed the ball down to Kroos and then took up a left midfield position. At that moment,Raphinha, who would have been told about 40 times that starting against Madrid means helpingSergi Robertocontain Vinicius, was smack-bang next to his brilliantBrazilteammate.

Its not as if Raphinha, even in his debut LaLiga season, doesnt know what Vinicius is capable of, or what needs to be done to patrol him properly. Nor was it only club points, or his starting place in Xavis team, at stake. The World Cup is imminent, Brazil expect to win, and coach Tite will have been watching.

As Vinicius began to trot, Raphinha stood still. As Vinicius broke into a sprint, Raphinha was an interested spectator -- a fan could have handed him a box of popcorn and said: Hey, look mate, isnt that your man whos racing past Sergi Roberto?

By the timeMarc-Andre ter Stegenhad saved a one-vs.one effort against Vinicius, only to see the ball break to Benzema, who scored, Raphinha was one of SIX Barcelona players walking back towards their penalty area -- meaning that they were an unforgivable 30-to-50 metres from the action. For the Barca men too lazy to run back, its just as well that Madrids second top scorer of all time didnt stop to light a cigar, call his best friend and wave to Raphinha and company before tucking the ball away, because he had time and space to do all of those things.

For the second goal, it wasFrenkie de Jongs unwillingness or inability to run withAurelien Tchouameni, matched with the inability or unwillingness ofPedriand Dembele to pressFederico Valverde, who was in splendid isolation to net a stunning strike to putLos Blancos2-0 up. One big error after the other.

Then De Jong mindlessly gifting possession straight toFerland Mendyat the inception of Madrids third goal, andEric Garcias naive and bizarre decision to lunge atRodrygofor Madrids penalty rather than jockey him into a less dangerous area given that Barcelona had six men covering the three opponents in that attack. All of these mini-catastrophes of mentality, or character, or athleticism, condemned the visitors to a merited defeat.

Nevertheless, the fact that Barcelona were still in the match and looking threatening before they made it 2-1, thatAnsu Fatinearly made it 2-2, the huge variety of stats listed above, plus the return of Kounde and obvious truth thatRonald Araujomakes a massive difference to the teams defensive security, all suggest that Sunday was a setback and will only become a disaster if the players dont stop making horrible errors.

At this stage last season, underRonald Koeman, Barcelona were sixth, had lost more games, won fewer, scored fewer and conceded more. Xavi said the process is taking longer than I want after losing to Inter last week, but at least the process looked clearer at the Bernabeu.

There remains one hard, unavoidable truth: before the month ends in 14 days time, Barcelona have to face, and stay unbeaten against,Villarreal,Athletic Club, Bayern Munich (all at home), thenValenciaaway.

Its a breathtaking, breathless sequence which, if it ends negatively, will inevitably mean a rush to judge in aresultadistafashion which obscures any, perhaps all, positive things which Barças under-pressure, frustrated and somewhat beleaguered coach has achieved ahead of next months one year anniversary in the job.