The curse of Anoeta haunted Barcelona men’s team till 2018 but the latest victim today was the Barcelona Femeni team who fought till the end for the entry to the finals of UEFA Women’s Champions League but were eventually eliminated with the goal from Rolfö which separated the two teams.
Let’s analyse how the Femení team placed their tactics against Wolfsburg and what went wrong for them.
Barcelona Femeni went with a 4-2-3-1 formation with Hamraoui and Putellas as a double pivot with Jenni pushing further. As predicted, Wolfsburg opted their typical 4-4-2 formation.
Barcelona Femení gameplan:
Luis Cortés team had a clear idea to dominate the game with more ball possession and superiority in certain zones of the pitch. To provide more to the backline from Wolfsburg’s pacy and lethal attacks, the team opted to go with a double pivot for ball security in phase 1 and also a player advantage at the back in case of counter-attacks.
Off the ball
The team showed different variants of formations during defending ranging from 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1, 4-1-4-1. The main idea was this.
Wolfsburg buildup from the GK had their routine strategy. Alexandra Popp joined the defence line to form a back three and stretch wider. Ingrid Engen, on the other hand, operated as the lone pivot who circulated the ball to the wide corridors or to the nearby player.
To stop circulation, Jenni Hermoso left the midfield line and pushed higher to join the wingers but also to cover shadow, Popp (blue oval). This way, Barcelona Femení prevented direct danger to the laterals.
Once Wolfsburg reached the halfway line, Barcelona quickly morphed into a 4-1-4-1 or 4-4-2 formation. Usually, it was a 4-4-2. Wolfsburg’s major threat was the wide area. To not leave Barça full-backs in a 2v1 situation, the winger had to drop deep and protect the 18-yard box.
On the ball
With the double pivots aligning ahead of the defence, Barcelona Femení used the ball effectively in the first phase.
Wolfsburg had a 4-4-1-1 midblock. Since the Blaugranas weren’t pressured much, the centre-backs had no difficulty in moving ahead with the ball. For more security, the fullbacks stayed a bit close in case of turnovers.
You can observe, Hamraoui is reaching towards the ball-playing centre-back, and Putellas is pushing ahead in the free space. (More will be discussed about Hamraoui)
The idea for Barcelona Femeni during possession was simple. Overload one side of the pitch so that the ball can be instantly shifted to the underloaded area.
As you can observe in the blue rectangle portion, Barcelona is trying to gain the advantage of more bodies around the ball. This way, they can attract the Wolfsburg Frauen towards one side of the pitch once they are more inclined towards the left.
The ball near player can make switch play on the wide-area of the right side of the pitch. In Barcelona Femení’s case, it was Graham Hansen who regularly tucked in the wide-area to create 1v1 situation with opposition fullbacks. Another speciality of Graham Hansen is this.
Barca is lacking runners to stretch the opp defence. Just shift @CarolineGrahamH to the men's team on the right-hand side. She is basically like Pedro. Her runs are undetected. So timed and intelligent they are.
— Sahil Dani (@cdsahildani) August 25, 2020
Another advantage of the overload was the rotations. Barcelona Femení players rotate a lot. Constant rotations can help the team to disrupt the defensive organisation of the opposition team. This was very visible today as due to some rotations, the team created a lot of crucial chances.
The missed chances are the reason why Barcelona Femení weren’t able to score even one goal tonight. They totally dominated the second half. They had a lot of opportunities, but they somehow missed to tuck it inside the net. Another reason is the sloppy defence. The defence was beaten numerous times throughout the game, but somehow they were lucky. A lot of improvement is needed in that area.
Kheira Hamraoui: The unsung Warrioress
The writer is clearly amazed by the spectacular performance of Hamraoui tonight. Hamraoui also scored the winner against Atletico Madrid in the quarter-finals. The Frenchwoman is the apex of the Barcelona Femení team.
During defending, she quickly dropped deep and positioned just ahead of the centre backs. She was key in blocking the halfspace. She also made some vital tackles in the penalty box. She was bold in her play and was constantly organising and instructing her players. She indeed reminds me of Belgian international Axel Witsel.
During possession, she helped in dribbling the ball in key zones to help provide important link-up plays. Her dribbling abilities in tight areas makes it easy to evade the press and find spaces in mid-third areas. Some of her positioning and body movements indeed resembles club legend Xavi.
The defeat against Lyon during last year’s UWCL final and now the semifinal defeat in the hands of Wolfsburg would have deeply saddened the team. Still, their courage and display showed that they could focus their energy and try and win the competition in the upcoming season.