Ian Holloway: Sorry Chelsea, but there's no way you – or anyone else – can beat Barcelona
Kids have been learning the Barça way since they were old enough to kick a ball
Sunday 15 April 2012
If Chelsea make it to the Champions' League final, I will fall over in shock. I don't mean that as any slight against Roberto Di Matteo's team, and I sincerely hope I am proved wrong. But I just cannot see any way they can beat Barcelona.
Like the Harlem Globetrotters, this Barça side will go down in history as one of the great sporting teams. We will still be talking about them in two hundred years and we'll still be banging on about Lionel Messi a thousand years from now.
How do Chelsea stop them? I'd brick up a goal and ask to play the same way both halves. I'm not jokingeither, I think that is the only chance they have got.
I know a lot about Spanish football because I became obsessed with it during the 12 months between losing my job at Leicester and being hired by Blackpool.
I would stay up till the early hours watching La Liga and I used to study what Roberto Martinez, then in charge at Swansea, was doing and how he was setting his team up.
I vowed that if I ever got another job in football I would play exactly the same way: ball on the floor, high tempo, four up front, everything geared towards attack and entertaining the crowd.
In my very first training session at Blackpool I told the players what I wanted to do. They looked at me as if I'd lost the plot. Brett Ormerod, a proper Lancashire lad, later told me he thought I'd gone doolally.
But after a few weeks they started to get to grips with it and we ended up winning promotion to the Premier League. Brett got the winner at Wembley in the play-off final.
Last year I went to Spain to get a closer look at their coaching methods and I visited Real Madrid and Barcelona to look at their academies.
They had nine-year-old children running around playing the game in exactly the same way as the first team. That is why Barça are so good. The kids have been learning to play the Barcelona way since they were old enough to kick a ball.
By the time they are 18 or 20 and start pushing to get in the first team, they are so well drilled and rehearsed that they are playing in exactly the same manner as Xavi or Iniesta.
That's why it is so hard for anyone in England, or anywhere else, to match them or replicate what they are doing.
Every coach can see why Barça are so good. On top of their passing, work-rate and skill, they play high up the pitch and have a system that enables them to close down quickly and win the ball back after losing possession.
But we can't copy it because our players haven't been playing that same way for years and years. So when we try to match them over 90 minutes we inevitably come unstuck.
I hope Chelsea can make me look stupid, and I can't emphasise enough what a great job Di Matteo has done.
If they were playing Real Madrid I'd have half-fancied their chances, just because of the Mourinho factor. But Barcelona? Not a chance.
Now Kenny can be his own man
Who knows whether Damien Comolli was the fall guy for some of Liverpool's big-money signings, but one thing is certain: British managers will always struggle to work with a director of football.
The whole concept is alien to us, and especially to old-school managers such as Kenny Dalglish. He is his own man, who has been in football all his life, and I imagine he wouldn't appreciate someone above him telling him how to do things. I know I wouldn't.
Can you imagine Sir Alex Ferguson being instructed to sign someone? I can't see it, and I'd love to watch if someone dared try it.
It is a continental thing. Clubs in Italy and Spain, where the president has a lot to say and is voted in and out by the fans, have had this system for a while. But it is different in England because clubs tend to be owned by an individual.
I'm not saying that having a director of football can't work in this country. Get the right two people, with a healthy relationship and very defined roles, and there is no reason why it can't bring success.
But at Liverpool the owners obviously thought something wasn't right. They have taken action. Kenny has got their backing. He can now do things completely his own way and he will probably be happy with that.
I cop a lot of flak from fans but I swear I will try harder to control myself
I found myself in the odd position of getting a warning from the police last weekend. I got a bit emotional about one of my players being sent off and I shouted at the referee, telling him exactly what I thought of the decision.
Someone in the crowd near the dug-out complained about my language and the next thing I know, I'm getting a lecture from the law.
It was a bit of a shock but I don't resent it. I feel absolutely ashamed and horrified that I have offended a supporter, and I've spent all week worrying about it.
True, football is an emotional game and I would hate to see the sport diluted to the point where the rowdiest it gets is someone saying, "Oh jolly well played, isn't that lovely."
But emotion is not an excuse to use horrible language and I have to remember my position and my responsibilities and behave in an appropriate manner.
What does rankle slightly is that it is acceptable for people in the crowd to call me whatever they like and hurl abuse, but not vice versa.
However, that is the line of work I am in and it is up to me to stay in control of myself.
So I apologise to anyone I might have offended, that is the last thing I wanted.
Derry ban was a disgrace
The FA's failure to rescind Shaun Derry's red card at Old Trafford was simply a disgrace.
I know Shaun and he didn't deserve that. He is Queens Park Rangers' captain and the other night he had to sit in the stand watching his team face Swansea.
Thankfully they won, but Shaun should have been on the pitch enjoying that victory.
He barely touched Ashley Young and the lad was offside anyway. What the hell are the FA playing at?
The panel's decisions on which cards should be overturned and which shouldn't need to be examined closely because the situation is very confusing.
There are so many grey areas that it isn't even grey any more, it is completely smudged. We need clarity so we know where we stand. But this is the FA we are talking about, so don't hold your breath.
United need to stay focused
I keep banging on to my play-off-chasing players at Blackpool about focus and not getting ahead of ourselves – and the same applies to Manchester United.
Maybe that eight-point gap they had going into the Wigan game led to a spot of complacency and suddenly the title race, for the neutral, is a damn sight more interesting.
I watched the Masters last week and what I noticed was how important every single shot was.
If you are looking where that ball has gone before you've actually played the shot, it isn't going to go where you want it to. So you have to play the shot, then look afterwards.
In the case of any football team, you have to play the game, then look where you are. Get ahead of yourself and you are likely to slip up. And nothing is capable of kicking you in the nether regions like football can.
Sir Alex Ferguson understands that better than anyone and he will have spent all week letting his players know exactly how he feels.
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