Larry Ryan has three questions for Eamo, Gilesy and Ronnie Whelan.

There were many conclusions drawn in the RTE studios at the end of Barcelona-Inter Milan last night.

The reputations of Pep Guardiola, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and La Liga, in particular, took another battering, not that Zlatan’s stock hadn’t already been long offloaded in Montrose.

Jose Mourinho, in turn, was a genius and a hateful individual. “Bad behaviour is bad behaviour, Bill,” was Gilesy’s verdict.

It was all great entertainment as usual, but the lads’ analysis of the game – particularly “senior analyst” John Giles – had three central planks:

1. There are no great tactics out there! Mourinho didn’t set out to defend!

2. Barcelona are defensively flawed because they won’t defend “on its merits”.

3. Barcelona should have played Lionel Messi wide.

In turn, we have three questions for the lads.

As sure as moral courage and playing the game on its merits are the most prized assets in the Gilesy household, we know well that tactics are the most reviled. Well, not entirely, because in Gilesy’s view, tactics simply don’t exist.

Yet, these were Jose Mourinho’s words in the aftermath of the game:

“We didn’t want the ball because when Barcelona press and win the ball back, we lose our position.

I never want to lose position on the pitch so I didn’t want us to have the ball, we gave it away.”

Tactics John? Superb player as you were and magnificent judge of a footballer as you are, will you ever acknowledge that tactics are a fundamental part of every top-level football match?

Barcelona‘s defending

The panel showed several clips of Inter’s defending last night and insisted it was a template Pep Guardiola should heed. In each of the clips, Inter had 7, 8 or possibly 9 players camped outside their own penalty area.

On other occasions, Barcelona have been praised for pressing high up the pitch, not letting opponents play their way out of trouble and effectively employing a “full court press” in the opponents’ half. A tactic in itself surely! It worked particularly well in the Emirates leg of their Arsenal tie – even if the pressure didn’t lead directly to goals.

However, one knock-on effect of a high-tempo pressing game surely must involve your back four, in turn, pressing on behind their midfield. Otherwise huge gaps materialise which good sides will inevitably exploit.
So an inevitably high defensive line becomes “crazy defending” when it’s occasionally breached.

How, then, should a “great side” manage to achieve both sides of this positional equation?

Messi’s position

Eamon wanted Messi wide, but Inter Milan had essentially conceded the flanks to Barcelona. They were happy to allow space out there, funnel the attackers down the line or back in front of their back four and force them to aim hopeful crosses, which they easily cleared time after time.

Good as Messi is, any tricky player needs someone to engage him before he can go past them. Out wide, Inter’s defenders would simply shepherd him down the line, refuse to dive in so he couldn’t beat them and force him to cross like everyone else.

Surely Barca needed Xavi and Messi close together to produce the two or three “bits of magic” – as Johnny likes to say – that would win the game?

And between the pair, they did create the chances for Pique and Bojan, only one of which, unfortunately for Pep, was converted.

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