The long game

Barca are more direct without Puyol and Pique at the back, says Terry

Last Updated: 31/10/12 11:33am

Terry Gibson told Revista that the absence of defenders Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique has significantly altered the way Barcelona play.

"Valdes has kicked the ball long but Barcelona don't have the attacking players to win headers."

Terry Gibson

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The centre-backs are currently sidelined with injuries, meaning the Catalan giants have been forced to use the likes of Alex Song, Adriano and Javier Mascherano in the middle of their backline.

And former Tottenham and Coventry striker Gibson reckons that has forced Barca 'keeper Victor Valdes to kick the ball long - to the Camp Nou side's detriment.

"The style of Barcelona with Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique is to get the ball out from the back from Victor Valdes," said Gibson.

"They would often split wide into the full-back positions (to receive the ball), but this season the central defenders, who aren't really central defenders, have bought a new dimension.

"I don't think Victor Valdes has trust in the various partnerships that have been at the heart of the defence and has, therefore, kicked it long, but Barcelona don't have the attacking players to win headers or the midfield players to win knockdowns."

Armour

However, Guillem Balague believes a more "direct" approach was crucial to Barcelona's 5-0 mauling of Rayo Vallecano over the weekend and says that former Arsenal star Cesc Fabregas is now playing a pivotal role for Tito Vilanova's side.

"If you want to use the pace of the forwards, you play it direct and Tito has given clear instructions to play like that and give something else to the armour of Barcelona," said the Revista pundit.

"You saw the perfect team in the eyes of Tito against Rayo Vallecano; he realised that there was a lot of space in behind the defence of Rayo and went with pace and directness, with Cesc Fabregas, Martin Montoya and Pedro."

"Xavi played with that fast pace as well and had less of the ball. Against Celtic in the Champions League last week, he touched the ball 186 times but against Rayo it was 66.

"We know Barcelona are very good with Xavi but it is becoming fantastic with Cesc, and it seems Tito may actually be improving Pep's (Guardiola's) Barcelona, if that is possible."

Gibson added: "I like that Fabregas is playing in a midfield trio and facing the play, not with his back to goal as one of the attacking trio.

"He is now playing instead of Xavi or (Andres) Iniesta, which is the long-term role for him, but it is his understanding with (Lionel) Messi (that is crucial as well)."

To hear the boys' views on new Man City director of football Txiki Begiristain and whether Pep Guardiola may follow him to the Etihad Stadium, hit the video at the top of the screen.