Fans following Premiership clubs other than Chelsea are usually quite indignant of any suggestions that Chelsea can teach their team a lesson or two about football.
I’m guessing it’s the same with Barcelona and La Liga fans – I figure I would be pissed too, but let’s not allow personal grudges to hinder our clubs in their quest for greatness, shall we?
Here are a few aspects of football that both Barcelona and Chelsea have excelled in and that other teams could learn from.
Keeping posession and controlling the game
Few other teams can match Barcelona’s ability to play keep-ball and control the pace of the game. Outside the Premiership I’ve seen Milan do it really well, Lyon and Bayern too. The teams that rise to the top (and stay there) are those that can dictate their own terms on the pitch.
Flair AND effectiveness
Sometimes the differences between Chelsea and Arsenal are stereotyped to such an extent that you would think that flair and effectiveness are mutually exclusive. Not so, and Barcelona are living proof of that. Where Arsenal have been reluctant to adapt in order to regain their killer instinct (that Bergkamp, Vieira and Pires gave them), Barcelona have no such worries. The injury to Eto’o and Larsson’s departure has dented their ‘effectiveness’ a bit, but last season this was a side peerless in its ability to combine the two qualities.
Winning above everything else
It’s not that other teams don’t want to win – it’s almost as if Chelsea are hungrier and more determined to win. The fact that the team is talented enough to win anyway is a different matter. Credit to Mourinho (just as credit for Barcelona goes to Rijkaard) for imbuing his players with a never-say-die, winning-above-everything mentality.
One unfortunate side-effect (that I’m expecting people to pick on) is that sometimes some players cheat in order to win. That’s not the sort of thing other teams should learn (not that they need to learn though)…
Team over individuals
Chelsea embody the team ethic perfectly, even with the additions of Ballack and Sheva (who are consumate professionals). The “team over a rag tag of star players” approach has some not-so-obvious benefits, such as improved flexibility and a rotation policy that actually works.
Both teams are very similar in certain aspects – the will to win, the desire to dictate play from start to finish, the ability to combine flair with effectiveness, the team ethic (although Barca fail there with the slightly special treatment given to Ronaldinho).
This is, of course, just the beginning. I’d like you to add what you think other clubs can learn from Barcelona and Chelsea.
There’s a lot to learn from other clubs as well – Wenger’s transfer policy, Ferguson’s powers of motivation, Capello’s tactical acumen – and I’d encourage you to add that to the comments as well.