Friday, October 28, 2011

Peak Foliage -- Mid-Autumn Observations on FCB Reaching Peak Performance and Team Unity

Pep Guardiola once explained that he trained his players so that they would achieve peak performance twice per year: once in late November, then again in April. He has a month to get to his first benchmark and it is clear that his players have some work to do.

In the article Pep referred to players peaking in terms of physical fitness. He did not attempt to argue that team unity or cohesiveness and understanding would peak around the same time.

As Barca (and presumably other teams aiming for the same objective) reach this first physical fitness peak they must also reach a state of mental/psychological peace. To do so, players must either A) figure out how to best work with what they have (their own skills and those of their teammates) or B) push to improve the way they work and the way those around them work so that the team can work well together. The Rub: In the delicate world of superstar athlete egos, achieving that sort of harmony requires so much self sacrifice it is nearly impossible to obtain.

If anyone can do it, however, it is this Barcelona team.

A great indicator of this is Barca's team leadership. Messi, Xavi, Iniesta and, increasingly, Abidal, have been poster children for self sacrifice. Never egoistic in interviews, they, along with Pep, set the tone for stability, humility and squad cohesiveness in games. Now if only they can bring both physicality and such unity to peak.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Spain vs. Scotland; Klinsman Stumbles

Spain pulled out all the stops against Scotland, at least for the first 60 minutes of the game.  With Puyol back and Valdes finally getting a start for la Furia Roja, Spain again had a sharpness not really seen since Euro 2008 and, to a somewhat lesser extent, at the 2010 WC .

Granted, Scotland are not a big fish team. It is still worth recognizing that several of the Scottish players play for top sides throughout Europe, and, in theory, they should be pretty decent. Against Spain, however, they looked more like a disorganized junior varsity high school team from the midwest. They could hardly string five passes together.

I don't think the penalty that Scotland scored should have been allowed.  Yes, it was a penalty kick offense. Valdes was slow to claim a ball into the box and clumsily crashed into the Scottish forward. Goodwillie's run up to the penalty looked to me to be a violation of the no-feinting at the point of the shot rule. It's a shame because Valdes is not a bad penalty stopper, and it would have been nice to see the result of a fair fight. Because of that concession, his track record will be forever blemished. Bad luck, Victor.


On this side of the pond, Jurgen Klinsman's side lost 1-0 to Ecuador. I agree with this blogger. He's said it best.

Predictions (hopes) for the weekend:
Betis will draw Madrid in the Bernabeu. Ramos will get a yellow card.
Racing de Santander will go down by one or two goals to Barcelona.