Barcelona: It’s All About the Passing Triangle

Barcelona passing triangles: The triangle was on display in the Champions League final, not the musical instrument or the triangles that George bought in that Seinfeld episode, but the passing triangles Barcelona constantly deploy with ease. These triangles were the ones where there’s always a soccer player supporting another soccer player everywhere on the pitch. Everywhere the soccer ball moves there’s a triangle of supporting players – always at least three players nearby who want the ball and know what they want to do with it when they get it.

As Slate said so perfectly, ” In order to get in position for these short passes, the members of FC Barcelona gather and re-gather in small triangular formations around their opponents.”

Barcelona were on their heels for the first few minutes, but Etoo’s wonderful feint and near post finish lifted the clubs spirit and gave them confidence. However, I think Barcelona’s skill and magic on the soccer ball would have shown through in the end either way. The momentum shift though was dramatic.

Highlights: Barcelona Versus Manchester United Champions League Final

See how goals by Samuel Eto’o and Lionel Messi guided Barcelona to victory in the final against Manchester United.

Nemanja Vidic was just named Premier League player of the year, and then he’s skinned by the Cameroonian. What was Etoo’s celebration? Etoo tapped his vein like he was a drug addict in need of a fix…or was he getting his fix by scoring one of the biggest goals of his career. Etoo has since said the celebration was for his father, thanking him for his ‘blood.

He explained that it represented el sangre de mi padre – “my father’s blood”. “I dedicate this cup to my father, I am very happy, I helped my team to win and that’s fantastic,” he added.

Etoo, who Pep Guardiola nearly left out of the team at the beginning of the season and said they didn’t need him was and is the lifeblood of the club. His smile and work off the ball is infectious. And then he is the smoothest finisher in game and has been for some time.

Sylvinho held his own for a 35 year old who hasn’t played for a while and Carlos Puyol was relentless. He nearly capped off his great game with a goal towards the end but his attempted chip was smothered by Van De Sar.

But it was all about the Barcelona passing triangle. Whenever a Barcelona player had the ball there were two or three options for the player. The main triangle being: Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets in the middle. The three players always there for one another throughout the match. “Here take it for a second while I get open and into some open space.” And not just keeping possession but moving up the field and into dangerous spaces – it was Iniesta’s drive through the middle and layoff to Etoo that led to the goal.

Perhaps it was age. Giggs has lost a step. And Scholes too, his ugly tackle on Busquets was just unnecessary. I understand he was trying to make a statement but he took out both of Busquets legs and was dirty.

In one moment, which epitomized the game, Cristiano had the ball on the sideline and was covered by two players and blocked in, essentially trapped. He panicked in way and played a square ball inside. Really it was his only option, but there was no Manchester United player to be found. It was the opposite throughout the match for Barca, always a player moving off the ball and offering support.

Remember that time Ronaldo got trapped in a Barcelona passing triangle? Here’s the video.

Henry floated out on the left wing and kept the Manchester United defense stretched. He was always dangerous and almost slotted home on a few occasions on the walk. Turning Rio inside and out on one occasion. Who would have thought that Manchester United would have missed Darren Fletcher so much?

La Liga teams are used to playing against Barcelona and enduring a long game where they don’t see the ball very much. For Manchester, it must have been excruciatingly frustrating to not be able to win back possession and then they compounded things by giving it away so easy. It was a vicious circle rather than a triangle for the Red Devils.

What do you do as a coach? The insertion of Tevez and Berbatov helped, as both could hold on to the ball, but is too little and too late.

At the start, Manchester was all over Barcelona, pressuring them deep in their own half. The right and smart tactic. Yet the Etoo goal came against the run of play and it restored Barcelona’s confidence. After that, it only grew and grew.

Messi, he’s a little devil with the soccer ball at this feet, you just can’t take it away from him, clinched the game with a header no less. Xavi whipped in the cross and Messi just had to get his head to it. At first it seemed like Xavi had hit the ball too hard. However, a header is easier said and than done for a player who is barely 5 feet 4 inches tall. Messi’s has some hops though, and he beautifully redirected the ball into the far corner. There’s nothing he can’t do on the soccer pitch.

Manchester looked resigned and tired and frustrated and flat. They were NOT their never giving up to the very end selves. Don’t’ know why. They just looked stiff and robotic compared to the smooth Spanish side.

In training, your players and team can work on perfecting these Barcelona passing triangles through developing passing patterns and sequences.