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Barca-ton

By Alan Kirwin :  28/05/2009 :  Comments (29) :
The honey is still dripping from my eyes after the privilege of watching that beautiful game yesterday. Has a major final ever been won in such benign & joyous fashion than Barca's easy win last night?

I imagine Graham Taylor, a hugely likeable man, must have been wondering how you get to there from the "launch it" days of his Watford & Villa teams. I also imagine that Arsene Wenger would have allowed himself a wry smile, having based his whole footballing philosophy on offensive keep ball. The fact that his team fell short this year does not mean they won't come again. Much of me hopes they do.

There is much to applaud in Barca's triumph and I wanted to examine what Barcelona is all about, both as a team and a club. More importantly, is there something there that can be reproduced in L4 (or wherever!).

1. The Football

A few months back when we lost the Yak, and with Vaughan, Saha & Anichebe also injured, we changed it all around & kind of played without forwards. After a few games of this the team seemed to get used to it. So much so in fact, that Mikel Arteta publicly stated that Everton were playing the best & most enjoyable football since he came here. Hmm. It left an impression.

So the first thing about Barca is that they just hate giving the ball away. Keeping the ball wears teams down & gets them frustrated. To exemplify, have you ever seen a ManU team looking so dejected and utterly devoid of ideas? Such teams make mistakes. Whilst Eto, Messi and Henri are indeed strikers, they are always involved in link up play to avoid the team being too stretched and not having enough passing options.

There is no doubt whatsoever that Everton's style of play has been transformed this year. Whilst not yet at Barca level, it is most certainly of an increasingly similar approach, i.e. keep the ball for as long as possible. Some of our victories in the final quarter (oh how nice it is to be able to say that for once) were almost walks in the park with us having large possession and running the game.

Did you also notice the size of Iniesta & Xavi? Jockeys the pair of them. As long as you have some height & strength in the team for dead balls etc, it's more important to keep the ball than to jump highest. Barca also get width primarily from their full backs & occasionally their attackers. That also set me thinking about priorities for next season in our team.

Yes, we do need one, perhaps two, midfielders to augment the squad. But we have a very skilful (& equally vertically challenged) midfield core of Arteta, Pienaar & Osman. We also now have the fabulous Rodwell. To play the Barca way (4-3-3) you need fast & skilful full backs. Leighton Baines is one. Sir Terence of Hibbert is not. So, whilst a strong midflder would be welcome, I believe Glen Johnson is the man that we need to help us go forward. In fact it just occurred to me that, in the unlikely event we did get him, we'd have possibly the best England defence for years.

So on the football front, however far away Everton are from Barca (and why can't we get them pre-season!) we are definitely moving in the right direction. Flair, fitness and tactical discipline. Signs are encouraging.

2. The Club

I wonder how many of those who bang on about money alone have missed the irony of Barcelona's success. Sure, they are a massive club, and yes, it's one of the most beautiful cities anywhere. But they have no resident billionaire. They have no Galactico philosophy. Yes, they occasionally spend large-ish on one player, two at most, to move on. But more than half of their squad, and last night's team, have only ever played for Barca, including Messi, Xavi, Iniesta, Bojan, Valdez, Busquets.

There are similarities with Arsenal. But there are also differences as Barca always have a Catalan heart to the club. Puyol, Xavi and Iniesta are proof. On the back of Rodwell, Vaughan & Anichebe, I wonder if our recent captures of top young talent from Germany & the USA suggest we are going a similar way. I hope so.

Barca have an unofficial motto, "mes que un club" (more than a club). This is not just throw-away fan speak. Barca is a huge sporting & cultural institution in Catalonia and, most importantly, is effectively owned by it's fans (or members). Perhaps you can see where this is going, but the notion of "The People's Club" need not ring hollow. There can clearly be a huge substance to this concept.

I will admit that I have always fancied Barcelona. I have often wanted to live there, and still might. My little brother and me used to dream of going there to see Everton at the Nou Camp in huge European games. That will never happen as diabetes killed him when he was just 40. But there is so much to cherish about Barcelona and I truly can't think of a more worthy club to be crowned champions of Europe.

But I also take some encouragement that the factors that underpin Barca's success are ones to which we can also aspire. You can't be more than a club if you simply buy your way to trophies in obscene fashion. I don't want to bash ManU in particular, but it's often overlooked that their team contains Rooney (£28m), Berbatov (£32m), Ronaldo (£15m), Ferdinand (£32m), Carrick (£18m), Tevez (£god knows), Anderson (£18m), Nani (£18m). On this point Chelsea are a joke. Liverpool, likewise, just buy & sell (often within months!).

I know there are plenty on ToffeeWeb who just want Kenwright out and a trillionaire to come in and buy Kaka etc. I do not. I am OK with Kenwright, but I would most definitely like to see Everton become a real People's Club. As a club we have led the way on many fronts during our history. I'd like the cub to open the doors and herald a new era in our history. I have no idea how many Evertonians there are in the world. But a figure of 250,000 - 500,000 is a fair guess. If that constituency could be translated into real membership then the rewards could be fantastic.

I rejoice in Barca's triumph and I see a road worth following. This road suits The People's Club much more than one based solely on money.

Interesting times.

Reader Comments

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Heath Pearson
1   Posted 28/05/2009 at 14:32:15

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Barcelona:

Revenue: $487 million
Operating Income: $108 million

Everton: Revenue: $151 million
Operating Income: $14 million.

Their operating income is 800% higher than ours.
Ciarán MacGiollaEoin
2   Posted 28/05/2009 at 14:37:48

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Playing the Barcelona way with a core midfield that involves Osman? Aye, good one Alan.

And Barcelona may not have a single billionaire investor... they have hundreds of thousands of smaller ones. There is no irony to be missed. They have money, and spend it wisely.

I was blown away by the way they played keep-ball last night... but did the idea that Everton could play that way without significant funds or changes to the first team pop into my head... of course it didn?t.

As for the implication that we could become a proper People's Club ? that has some legs... Maybe then we?d get some money to Moysie and be spared the usual dog day pantomime routine from you know who.

I?d certainly want to buy into that.
Tony Anderson
3   Posted 28/05/2009 at 15:05:23

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Total and utter twaddle - we are a miillion miles away from ever being a Barca!
Get fecking real-will ya?
Alan Kirwin
4   Posted 28/05/2009 at 15:03:50

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Barcelona have a culture of home production that is at odds with almost all of its main CL competitors.

They have not invested anywhere near what Man Utd, Chelsea or even Liverpool have. They do buy 1 or 2 excellent players on occasions, but they build and maintain their identity as a matter of principle. The fact that over half of the team and almost all the bench were at Barcelona as kids tells you all you need to know.

That, Ciaran, is the irony.

And try to look beyond Osman. You are one of many on here who is fixated with doing the guy down. OK, he’s not Iniesta. Nor does he pick himself. He gives it his best shot and sometimes, e.g. Fulham, his best ain’t bad.

I’m pleased that you agree on the idea of a real people’s club. It seems obvious to me, financially and a viscerally. There is no irony attached to the idea of engendering "buy in", cultural identity and financial growth via true fan membership a la Barca. You have to start somewhere.

I’m looking for the good in this Ciaran. That’s another irony. Barca’s triumph was inspiring (to me) on two levels, beautiful football and a club with a powerful sense of identity and ownership. I’m not interested in looking back to the ’80’s or ’60’s, or whinging about others. Things can always be done.
Alan Kirwin
5   Posted 28/05/2009 at 15:26:57

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Tony Anderson - explain how playing good football and being owned by fans is utter twaddle.

Nobody suggested we will win the Champions League next year. Read the fecking post will ya (sic).
Jamie Rowland
6   Posted 28/05/2009 at 15:26:07

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I think some of those who are commenting are missing the point.
Alan Kirwin is suggesting that it is better to follow in Barca’s footsteps than try and mimic the missives of the sky 4 in our very own league.

He is saying that Barca’s policies and success should be inspiring us to try and do the same - regardless of our wealth. Their ethics are ones that a club like Everton should match - a people’s club.

I actually liked the article - it wasn’t suggesting that we are the English equivalent - but rather we should aim to be! And I agree...
Godfrey S Blumenthal
7   Posted 28/05/2009 at 15:34:39

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A lot of my family are Socios at Barca and pay next to nothing for a season ticket that allows them a vote at the election of the club president. This is a great system but they seem to find plenty wrong with it themselves and see the election as a farce with players promised as prizes by the candidates etc.

Everton don’t need, nor do they have any hope of creating a system like that. You would need a stadium twice the size for starters.
Tim Wardrop
8   Posted 28/05/2009 at 15:44:13

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Agreed that in many ways this is a ridculous post. But it is interesting to note that Barcelona’s record signing is Marc Overmars, way back in 1999 or 2000. They’ve not actually spent an absolute bomb on players to get where they are.

But yeah, we are light years away from even coming close to them.
Ger McNally
9   Posted 28/05/2009 at 15:42:38

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Ciaran - How sad that you can turn any post into a chance to have a dig at Osman.

Fact is, he would have been a star of the everton team maybe 10 years ago. The fact that the team has outgrown him in the past few years is not his fault, he still gives 100% even when playing with injuries as he often has done this season.

Yes, if we are to break into the top 4, then he probably won?t be a regular but he has been a regular for the past few years and we haven?t done too badly. Even if he is not a regular though, why would anybody want to sell him, he is a great squad player to have around. Moyes obviously really rates him even if I?m sure he knows this is an area that could be improved on but Osman gives it his all in every game and doesn?t deserve abuse from people like you and marsh who actually know a lot less than you think you do.

Not too many players have represented Everton in an FA Cup Final and no matter what you think of him, he will do that on Saturday. And knowing Ossie, it certainly would be no surprise if he popped up with a goal.
Charlie Dixon
10   Posted 28/05/2009 at 15:24:42

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Not sure about all that. You sound as luvvie as Kenwright that's for sure. Although I heard somewhere that our actual estimated fanbase worldwide is 800,000. (No doubt helped by Li Tie, Chang, Timmy Cahill and the impression left by all Evertonians to their fellow man around the world...)
Fuck... being a luvvie is contagious!
Trevor Lynes
11   Posted 28/05/2009 at 15:41:26

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Barca played for each other and fought to regain possesion. Puyol bombed down the right to compensate for losing Alves and they ?outworked? Utd as well as outplayed them. Scholes's tackle was shocking and Ronaldo showed more petulance than pride.He seemed to be desperate to score for himself and frequently either kept the ball too long or shot when he should have passed...

The article does stimulate thought on the basis of achieving success by keeping the ball... but we have only recently seemed to realize the value of following this simple principle. For too long we conceded possesion easily, especially when we played back to front to lone strikers and we thrived by spoiling other teams rather than outplaying them.

The great EFC sides of the 60s played great possesion football and had very few big men except at central defence. Speed was paramount and I have been saying all season that the criticism of Baines as being too small was laughable. All the best full backs over the years have been smallish, compact and speedy... heading the ball away was down to centre backs and fullbacks tackled properly and passed the ball accurately. Stevens and Steven were a combination very similar to Baines and Pienaar so this tactic is not new.

Our football lately is much better but still not perfect by a long way, Arteta will augment it with his own special brand of expertise and I really hope he returns to his best when he recovers fully.

I truly hope that DM gets the backing we need to improve our squad and I was particularly pleased at reading Capt Neville?s pride in playing for EFC and I think he epitomises the spirit needed to go on and win the Cup... COYB

Ciaran MacGiollaEoin
12   Posted 28/05/2009 at 15:57:58

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Are you suggesting we buy the best Argentinean and Spanish kids and bring them to Everton Alan?

If so, i?m with you all the way.

Ger, give it a rest will ye. If someone's gonna suggest playing like barcelona with him in midfield... then I'm entitled to mock it.
Tommy Coleman
13   Posted 28/05/2009 at 17:06:29

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I agree with you Alan, we could take a few leafs out of their books, especially in their youth policy.
Robbie Murphy
14   Posted 28/05/2009 at 17:20:41

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I actually think Osman is one of our most comfortable players on the ball, doesn't always use it to my liking but he looks naturally comfortable with the ball at his feet. Nuff said!
Tom Owen
15   Posted 28/05/2009 at 17:10:10

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I see were your coming from Alan, some interesting points.

Before we even think about being similar to Barca. We need to bring in similar players to Iniesta/Xavi. To do that, we need to spend. I would love to see Joao Moutinho.

Neville Rodwell
Arteta Moutinho Pienaar
Yakubu

How magical would that be on the pitch. Arteta, Moutinho, Pienaar allowed to do what Xavi/Messi/Iniesta do because they are capable of it, while Rodwell and Neville tidy up after them. It is quite possilbe but only with the funds. To go further in football now, we need financial back-up which we don’t have currently.
Simon Jones
16   Posted 28/05/2009 at 17:29:11

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Where you taking something "Class A" while watching the FA Cup warm up game last night?

P.S. what’s the idea having a pop at Osman? Doesn’t he play for us, try his heart out and score some great goals now and then? I thought being Evertonian meant getting behind the lads, leave the negativity to those in red. Ta.
Howard Don
17   Posted 28/05/2009 at 18:58:22

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Ger McNally spot on. In over 40 years watching EFC it never ceases to amaze me how often the knockers fix on one or two players. Leon, the current whipping boy, is a great asset to this sqaud and even if better players come in in the summer you’d still want him around. I doubt there’s a player in the team who doesn’t rate his selfless contribution and work rate.
Dave Wilson
18   Posted 28/05/2009 at 18:54:09

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Some of that honey dripping from your eyes has somehow managed to get inside your head and is clearly affecting your brain. But, as the great Diana Ross once said, if theres' a cure for this, I don't need it.

Your dreams are indeed sweet,Ignore Ciaran, he will have his fun. There?s nothing wrong in pointing to the very best and identifying them as the benchmark, we are playing some good stuff and even Barcelona would have considerd our performance at The Cottage an afternoon's work well done.

Off course there is a gap between them and us, they are very worthy European Champions, but on their way to conquering Europe they could only manage two draws against the Chelsea machine, the fact that we have gained similar results against Chelsea would suggest that gap isn't as wide as some people are making out.

We may not have an Inesta ? if only ? nor do we have a Xavi, or a Messi, but we are slowly replacing battle weary journeymen with footballers, players who are actually comfortable on the ball, with people like Pienaar, Rodwell, Lescott, Baines and Arteta... why shouldn't we adopt the Barca "you cant score if we have the ball" Philosophy ?

I particularly like the idea of adding credence to our claim to be the People's Club, giving our fans a genuine sense of belonging with real membership could open up all sorts off posibilies and may be of particular interest to the floating fan, it may also prove a preferable alternative for ever growing number who look upon other clubs with increasing disillusionment.

A good article, even if you did have trouble keeping your feet on the ground once or twice.

John Crawley
19   Posted 28/05/2009 at 22:23:46

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Alan, great article. The points you make about emphasis on youth and having a strong link to the surrounding area are spot on. If any one club in Europe?s philosophy is worth following then its got to be Barcelona.

I too find the whole lets get a billionaire and win the league view too depressing for words. Barcelona are an example worth following, but to do that we need to find a structure for Everton that takes on board our history and culture so that it works for us. That is far from easy but not impossible.

Sam Higgins
20   Posted 28/05/2009 at 23:18:00

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Nick - Objection your honour!!!

We dont do outright insults here!!
Matthew Lovekin
21   Posted 28/05/2009 at 23:32:18

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Ok, we are not Barcelona.

However, as the article suggests, we should be looking to move in that direction.

The article is clearing stating (the most important thing) is how Barcelona play. Firstly, they keep the ball. If you have the ball, the opposition can’t score. Secondly, when you don’t have the ball, every player works hard and chases to get the ball back. That is not just the Barcelona philosphy, that is Guardiola’s philosphy. I have watched Barca all season and all their success is down to Guardiola. Out went Ronaldinho and Deco, simply because they weren’t interested and didn’t work hard enough. Eto’o was threatened to go and turned his game around and now works really hard for the team. Add to their hard work (which Everton have) is their team togetherness (which Everton have), they all work for each other. Combine this with a bit of tactical genius such as attacking full-backs (Moyes can learn this and we do have Baines) and finally a bit of creative quality in the middle of the park ala Iniesta/Xavi or the likes of Arteta/Pienaar.

I agree with the post. We can’t do it exactly the Barcelona way because it is their way but we should try to do it similar, instead let’s do it the Everton way!
Derek Thomas
22   Posted 29/05/2009 at 02:12:23

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Alan Kirwin, I agree! you don?t have to have a billionaire to play decent football, it?s a philosophy, a state of mind, I mean how much does a ball cost.

ALL top teams and coaches know that you can?t put sprint on to stamina, but you can put stmina on to sprint, if you work at it. So it goes with football, you get good technical players and up the attitude, orginization commitment etc. Too much excess of either leads to a poor overall result.

You can only fool the people for so long, Gordon Lee, Wimbledon, Stoke ffs mid table on the strenght of a long throw.

Arsenal 2004 had the lot. This seasons team had as much or maybe more skill per person. but could be done over by the likes of Hull etc

You gotta fight for the right to party as the beastyboys so rightly say.

I know we don?t care what the rs say but as one rs wag of my aquaintance says you have to win the fight ball, THEN! you get to play the football.

Two of the best teams in Europe, maybe the world, played on Wed night, but only one of them actually turned up.

As for the 2nd goal, Untd only had 2 men back, both marking either, a) space, b) each other, or c) (my pick) nobody at all !! Messi had to leap like a salmon and so he did, but there was no one within 4yds of him, I hope Tim gets some space like that.
Simon Kirwan
23   Posted 29/05/2009 at 05:27:05

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That sort of keepball football is not hard to do when everybody on the same team has the same mentality. United made Barcelona look so much better than they are, United's formation was also terrible, trying to match them like for like. So so bad. Shame Moyesy can't get Hibbert and big Phil to have that mentality!
Ciarán MacGiollaEoin
24   Posted 29/05/2009 at 08:57:41

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Dave,

I was being slightly mischievious...but although the sentiment is lovely, especially in a week such as this...there’s not much chance of us ever playing like that from gattering local talent.

Firstly I don’t think there’s enough local talent of that calibre and secondly attracting and keeping what talent there is...requires money and kudos.

The initial point of the article was that we could do this without money..not likely.

Alan’s point about a co-operative is a hell of a more interesting discussion in my opinion...and possible a cogent way of achieving the other part of his article.
Alan Kirwin
25   Posted 29/05/2009 at 09:41:13

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With regards to garnering the best young talent from Argentina or Spain, sadly, the point is again being missed.

Firstly check the facts. There are 2 Argentinian players in Barca’s squad. One (Millito) is almost 30, and Messi has been there since 2003. So they hardly have a monopoly on Argentine talent.

They do have Spanish players, but on no more a scale than we have English players. So what? It is the Catalan heart that is the main thing. A disproportionate number of players in their squad are true Catalan. That gives them, and more importantly the fans, a real connection and sustains their "more than a club" motto.

We have just signed two very young players, one german and one American. Both, apparently, excellent. We also have several kids already at Everton, some local, some not local, who have a fair chance of making it.

The Barca way seems to invest large amounts of time, energy & resources into that side of the club rather than simply using available funds to buy proven players. Arsenal do similar and it’s common knowledge that many of Arsenal’s next crop are in fact English rather than African, Mexican etc.

The point to make again here is that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Too many people on here seem to inhabit an imaginary world where it’s either champions league via spending loads of money, or don’t bother. What utter twaddle.

I have learnt from my own business life that crazy things are possible. But only if you aspire to it and work towards it. We are already, now, going in a good direction. It’s not as though Everton is completely broken from top to bottom as a team or a club, although to read some on here you’d be forgiven for thinking so.

So, in summary, I see no reason whatsoever why Everton cannot employ both the footballing and collective ownership philosophy of Barcelona. For the avoidance of doubt, that does not mean we will win the CL in 2 years. It means it might do two things, firstly deliver a radical but intensely satisfying club ownership model that improves us both culturally and financially, and secondly a footballing and team development philosophy that we are all proud of.

In fact, when considering the notion of The People’s Club and Nil Satis Nisi Optimum (our oft incongruously quoted motto) I think we have so much to gain and absolutely nothing to lose.
Jay Woods
26   Posted 29/05/2009 at 10:13:03

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Barca are de facto national team for Catalonia (and some would say other places adjoining where the Catalan language prevails, such as Andorra), so they have a much larger natural fan base and potential indigenous talent pool than we could ever enjoy.

Nevertheless, we could and should seek to emulate their S American scouting network, their fan-centric setup, and the playing ethos of total possession football (eventually, once suitable players have been schooled in it). I’m pretty sure however that a lot of Man Utd (and other) fans are thinking similar thoughts, though, especially in view of those nasty Americans (allegedly) ruining their club.
Ciaran MacGiolla Eoin
27   Posted 29/05/2009 at 10:35:40

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Alan,

The young talent from Argentina and Spain = Irony.
Alan Kirwin
28   Posted 29/05/2009 at 10:20:31

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Tom Owen - "Before we even think about being similar to Barca. We need to bring in similar players to Iniesta/Xavi. To do that, we need to spend."

If ever a point was missed..... :-)

Pete Clark
29   Posted 29/05/2009 at 12:14:10

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We are in our first final for 14 years, just finished fifth in a pretty strong league and have played the majority of the season with a depleted squad that has no world beaters. Take a step back 10 years and look how things were going and I would say that right now we are in outstanding condition. It does not always look that way when your watching the football from a Grand Old Stadium and are competing with clubs run by billionaires but in a very EVERTON WAY, we are building momentum for a challenge again... COTT


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