People call Barca a multi-headed hydra, in Messi, Xavi , Iniesta, Villa etc, but I beg to differ.
Not since 2010. That season coincided with the rise of Messi from already metronomic levels he was already playing at, to another new level together; he was always good, but since that season, he looks well-nigh untouchable, going on slaloming runs whenever he wishes, and finishing with aplomb whenever he played.
Some people put it down as a master-stroke of Guardiola to play him as a false no.9, with false wingers (who are more of forwards) supporting him from the side, with Xavi and Iniesta providing the invention and creativity from behind. It helps in that he roams everywhere from midfield to the penalty area; that he can pick up the ball from deep, and run at defences where he’s terrifying indeed.
But the key to making such runs to work is – some other player has to be stationed in and around the box that when he makes his darting runs past a couple of players, they should be available to play a one-two with him, and lay off the ball, that when Messi arrives in and around the edge of the box, he takes it in stride and either keeps running past remaining defenders, or finishes the move off into the bottom of the net from the lay-off.
If you look back at most of Messi’s goals the past couple of seasons, it has been most often than not scored in that way. Sometimes he does dribble past 4-5 players and goes on to score, but that doesn’t work against the best teams, he can probably get past a couple of guys but he needs someone to back-heel (like Fabregas did versus Chelsea at the Camp Nou, and Messi almost scored), or lay the ball off for him to slam it.
But what happens if you can cut off that guy who is supposed to lay the ball for him?? The result- he just runs himself into the wall (or the Blue bus, which was the Chelsea defence in the Champions League semi-final). When it works, and does 95% of the time, it’s glorious to watch, but the prolonged effect is that the other players lose their bite, and lose their confidence to take shots at goal, which they relegate to Messi, and always try to find him instead.
When Barca won the CL in 2009, which heralded their recent run of successes, they were still a true many headed Hydra. Eto, Henry, Iniesta, Pedro and even Xavi were still all goal-threats, you cut off one head, there are many others to take its place; but now so much emphasis has been given on the genius of Messi to shine, they all have lost their way. And you can’t expect Messi to be on fire 100% of the time, and thus the need for a plan B, for the remaining 5%, which might happen to be crucial matches like title deciding El Clasico, or CL semis.
The crux of the issue is that to get Messi to legendary levels, Barca have sacrificed the ability of the other players to be more effective in front of goal, the very system dictates that. And Barca has become a many-legged but one headed Hydra, and one head is always manageable to keep in check than many heads.
– by Michael Mate