Sergio Busquets: The Barcelona man and his complex simplicity
Meh, Sergio Busquets.
What is he even doing on that vast expanse of green with a team as elite as the Blaugrana? All he ever does is stand in the middle of the pitch. If anything, he's obstructing the play!
Before you judge and rush into conclusions, have a glance at some of these quotes:
You watch the game, you don't see Busquets. You watch Busquets, you see the whole game. --Vincente del Bosque
He thinks more about the team than himself. --Pep Guardiola
He is a gift for any coach. The speed of his passing is perfect and he is the kind of player you don’t need to explain anything to. You just put him in his position and he performs. --Johan Cruyff
Still think he's your average, Sunday league footballer? Read on...
How many times have you seen Busquets go on a mazy run like his teammate, the Atomic Flea, slaloming past several defenders? Or seen him score screamers, headers and all sorts of flashy goals that are a visual treat? Rarely any. In fact, he's only scored six official goals for the Catalan outfit. "If he doesn't score as a midfielder, why is he on the pitch?"
Let's step back to the past, to the time when Guardiola led an all-conquering Barcelona juggernaut to worldwide domination.
His tiki-taka tactics, which brought to Catalonia many-a-trophy, were based on a highly complex and extremely specialized style of possession football.
If you hadn't noticed, the current Manchester City coach would divide the playing field into triangles, with the three vertices being the Barcelona players. This would roughly make up about 10-12 triangles, which would vary depending on the situation in the game.
Here's the thing: While most players were limited to about 2-4 triangles, Busquets would always be a part of 5-6. You read that right. FIVE to SIX. About half of all the triangles that come into play. Still not important enough?
The forwards would get some moments to themselves when the opposition is on a counter attack and are throwing themselves at the back 4 and the goalkeeper. The defence would sit idle while the likes of Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Villa and Pedro would work, pass and dribble their way towards the opponent goal. Busquets, though, would be a part of everything. Omnipresent, but invisible. Not a want, but a need.
His attacking prowess was limited to making a few key passes towards the final third; the magic lies behind each time his feet touch the ball. The speed of the pass would always be perfect, effectively reducing the risk due to misplaced first touches on behalf of the receiver. Some would split defences open when needed, while others would attract players like a black hole sucking them towards the ball, thereby creating space for the more skilful teammates who make a run for the enemy net.
His positioning awareness is extremely high and the Catalan doesn't foray much into the opponent's box. Rarely does he enter the final third of the pitch. Instead, he pivots around the middle of the park and moves sideways, depending on the position of the attacker with the ball and stays a few metres vertically behind them, so that he can pounce on the loose balls as soon as a tackle dispossesses his teammate. This way, he forms an integral part of the tiki-taka strategy because he rarely relinquishes possession.
His main talent lies hidden and often goes unnoticed, in how he helps the team in defence. There are two ways to his game when he aids the team in regaining possession of the ball.
1. As the attackers start coming in numbers from their own half, Busquets makes a sly run away from the goal he has to defend. Quite silly, you say? That's not all. This instils a little bit of confidence in the opponent with the ball and as he and a couple of others charge towards the Barcelona defence, Busquets tracks back in speed and closes in on the attacker as soon as the distance between him and a Barcelona defender is very less. This way, he gets a tackle in from behind, thanks to his height and long legs. This strategy is often called "double-teaming". As one of his teammates jockey around the attacker with the ball, Busquets does all the dirty work, sliding towards the opponent's feet or just plain dispossessing him off the ball.
2. Sometimes, when he makes these runs forward while defending, it's because he's the first player who has to regain possession of the ball. Hence, as soon as there is a turnover, Busquets rushes to the opponent and patiently waits for a comfortable distance between him and the ball to put his leg in and immediately stop the attack even before it starts.
Smart, isn't he?
The Defending Midfielder merely displays some of the most fundamental and basic tiki-taka and team play knowledge that Guardiola demanded in his players, those being possession-based play and build up and spatial awareness (loads of it and some more).
All he ever has to do is form a basic connection out of nowhere with all his teammates on the pitch, position himself according to where and with who the ball is, fly in for tackles and win matches. As simple as it can get for a CDM.
The World cup winner has shown no desire for individual accolades. The guy just wants to win with the team of his heart, no matter what it takes!
The one black mark on his career, for which he has come under scrutiny from the media and has faced backlash from football players and pundits, is his excellent playacting skills. Everyone remembers that sly hide-and-seek look he gave while he lay on the grass pretending to be hurt.
In response to questions about his diving, the Barcelona man defended it as "Intelligent play".
How can you hate a man as honest as that?