Barca wouldn’t dominate in the Premier League

by Sam Rider

Saturday, May 30th, 2009

Rory Delap: One reason why the Euro champs wouldn’t reign in England

One further debate that has emerged since Manchester United “didn’t turn up” in the Stadio Olimpico, and the vertically challenged Spaniards, Iniesta and Xavi, stole the show in Rome, has been to question just how good this treble-winning Barcelona side really are. Not content to question how much they could dominate their own league, pundits have been considering how they would fare in the perceived, ‘best league in the world’ of the Premiership.

Sky Sports’ Graham Hunter, based in Spain but most likely hailing from Blackpool, has been carrying the Iberian torch with vigour. He has been waxing lyrical about how Barca’s precocious talents would obliterate all in their path, highlighting the superior status of the Premiership, and financial clout that comes with it, that would cement their place as numero uno.

He has a point too. Manchester United’s recent inheritance from TV rights and league success has made them €45million richer whereas the Spanish giants only reaped €12million for an equivalent campaign. That extra dosh would only make the European champions more powerful.

So, alternatively, what would our league offer that the Spanish one does not?

This season Barca sit justifiably at the pinnacle of European football, having proven their abilities against the best that England can throw at them, although admittedly in a knockout competition. Yet the common retort to such claims that Barca could handle the unrelenting 38 games of the English league is normally asserted through the challenge that would be brought by the burly and brash Stoke FC.

Aerial bombardment is not a weapon often used in La Liga and the words ‘route one football’ would be considered more a derogatory phrase than a football tactic – one that was ingeniously manufactured in Wimbledon and lovingly nurtured in Bolton – and one that has been known to thwart the more talented teams throughout the season.

Kevin Davies would revel in the wrecking-ball role up-front. Rory Delap would be like Kryptonite to Spain’s Supermen. And Gary Megson and Sam Allardyce would be seen as tactical masterminds in plotting their downfall – which would inevitably come.

You only have to look so far as the Emirates to understand how the Catalan style of free flowing, graceful artistry would struggle to bring reward. In England, a team’s success is built on resilience, determination and a solid backbone rather than induced by creative flair. The aforementioned physical challenge that the Spaniards face on the hallowed turf of Camp Nou would translate far more dramatically on the frosty narrow pitches of Fratton Park and the Britannia Stadium.

These teams are not to be underrated. Liverpool could understandably look to points lost against Stoke to explain the demise of their season. Arsenal were well and truly put in their place by the Potters. United were almost derailed there in January and that victory was hailed as Sir Alex’s most important result. So what gives Graham Hunter so much conviction that Barcelona would be able to nonchalantly brush them aside?

Perhaps it is the gloss that the title of European champions brings and with it that air of invincibility. Perhaps it was the manner of Barca’s resurgence in the final that made him forget their fragility when going toe-to-toe with Chelsea at the Bridge. Or perhaps, it is because such a scenario where the Spanish title holders would line up against the likes of Stoke and Blackburn and Bolton, is simply just a hypothetical one.

Nevertheless, you can bet your lives that Messi, Iniesta and Alves are more relieved than anything that this is the case, because Stoke and Rory Delap in particular, would give them one hell of a run for their money!

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  • Darren

    it’s exactly the same reason why Arsenal have struggled since they sold Patrick Viera, you need steal in the middle of the park, good old fashioned ‘let them know you are there’ type of players.

    Good article and a very interesting one.

  • Patrick

    Loads of pundits were bemoaning Barca’s lack of plan ‘b’ in the lead up to final but Stoke and Bolton also have only one way of playing and it’s not that successful cos they routinely get thumped away from home. I know which style of football I’d rather watch and I’d bet my life that Barca would piss all over Stoke.

  • Sam

    Admittedly we would all rather watch their style – that’s like comparing going to bed with Cheryl Cole or Maggie Thatcher…no contest! And I’m not saying Stoke would routinely win against Barca but they’d definitely offer them a challenge they don’t really face in La Liga and thereby mean you couldn’t argue they’d dominate the league without a few problems. If Barca played in the league it also wudnt mean Bolton and Stoke would be suddenly challenging for top honours but they may find themselves getting change out of a team that aren’t happy when it gets physical.

  • Matt Quinn

    I have a feeling Barca wouldnt be worried by a Stoke type team. Unless people havent noticed, Barca have at least 70% possession in a game. Other teams simply dont have a chance to attack. In the final, Barca had a 35yr old reserve left back, no right back and a midfielder at centre back and United couldnt create a single chance…. purely because they didnt have the ball…. so why would Stoke fair any better?

    Also, you cant compare Barca to Arsenal. Arsenal’s best player, Fabregas, wouldnt even get into the Barca team. He left the Barca team as he knew Messi, Xavi and Iniesta were ahead of him.

    Finally, Barca dont need a plan B… they were top scorers in the champions league and have broken scoring records in Spain. Why would you need a plan B- when youve just won a treble- which has never been done before in Spain!

  • Sam

    So moving on from judging Stoke and Arsenal’s failings, do you think Barca would win the league hands down?? And Barca got far too much posession up the pitch – United sat off and that was one main reason for their loss.

  • Darren

    it’s a tough one and a very good debate. Barca would probably beat the teams that play the same way but the long ball teams like Chelsea, Stoke & Bolton would offer a totally different challenge.

    It doesn’t matter how much of the ball you have its what you do with it. And as Chelsea proved, sticking 10 men behind the ball and knocking it long would frustrate the hell out of a team like Barca.

  • Matt Quinn

    Petr Cech was Man of the Match in the first leg against Barca. Chelsea hardly frustrated them if they had to rely on their keeper to be their saviour.

  • Dave

    Nice article!

    I also believe that Barcelona would struggle to live in the Top Four in England. Regarding Bolton and Stoke, no-one is saying that they would win the League but they would be the type of team top stop Barcelona doing so.

    Chelsea DID frustrate Barcelona to the point that they needed a goal in the 93rd minute of a 96 minute game (and plenty penalty claims to be turned down) in order for Barcelona to advance. I’m sure if I was a Barca fan, I’d have been frustrated right up until that 93rd minute.


  • Sam

    Good to see that not everyone thinks it will be the walk in the park that Graham Hunter feels it would be. The amout of keepers that pull it out the top drawer every time a top four team come around are countless in the Prem – Friedel at Blackburn and Villa. Jaaskelainen at Bolton. Shwarzer at Boro and Fulham. Dont underestimate the importance of a keeper and Mr. Hunter, dont underestimate the challenge of the Premier League!

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