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Sep 24, 2013

Martino's Barcelona tactics defended

Rayo Vallecano coach Paco Jemez and former Argentina manager Cesar Luis Menotti have both suggested that critics of new Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino's tactical tweaks are going too far.

• Ledwith: Pivotal time awaits Iniesta at Barca

Despite Barca's 100 percent start to the new La Liga season, pundits in Catalonia and Madrid continue to argue over whether Martino is veering too far from the tiki-taka style which brought Barca such success under Pep Guardiola and Tito Vilanova in previous seasons.

During Saturday's 4-0 win at Rayo Vallecano, the losing side actually had more possession, more shots and more passes completed than Barca. These surprising statistics have been seized upon by those who feel that Martino is erring in asking Barca to be more direct at times this year.

Rayo boss Jemez told AS that Barca were currently playing only slightly differently than in previous seasons. "More than a global change, it is details," Jemez said. "It is not that they want to lose possession of the ball, because the more they have, the better. But now they allow you to draw breath, while before they smothered you with pressure up top."

Jemez said last weekend's surprising statistics had more to do with Rayo's own style of play rather than serious issues with Barcelona's.

"It was more a merit of Rayo than a failing of Barca," he said. "Last season in their ground we were very close to achieving it. When people talk about Barcelona giving up possession of the ball, I do not believe it. The proof is that before they played us they were still monopolising the ball."

The former Spain centre-half said that his players had unsettled Barca by closing down their defenders. "By going for them, pressing high, primarily their centre-backs," Jemez said. "Any way, with the quality of Barcelona's players they can have the ball all the time they want. One thing is to have it deep, further from the opposition's penalty area than before."

Menotti -- Argentina's World Cup-winning coach in 1978 -- also said that talk about a revolution was overblown, when he spoke to Cadena Ser's La Graderia show.

"Tata is not trying to make any revolution," Menotti said. "The concentration must be reset, [but] the idea sustained. You do not need to invent what has already been invented. It would seem to me foolish to try to change a work of art like that which Guardiola built, but you need to rebuild certain things."

Barcelona players, including Gerard Pique, have welcomed this season's more direct approach, arguing that they had become too predictable and opponents had worked out how to shut them down. However, 'El Flaco' suggested that Barca's stumbles in the Champions League late in recent seasons were more due to players' fatigue than tactical predictability.

"When the Barca players find their rhythm and their form, I do not see why you would change anything from what was so good and won so much," Menotti said. "It makes me laugh when people talk about predictability.

"Talent is not predictable. All this talk about predictability has annoyed me a lot. Innovation can exist inside the predictable. They are trying to disguise that many players were physically exhausted. Instead of talking about the idea of Barca, why do we not talk about physically and mentally recuperating some exhausted players."

Meanwhile, Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti has said on the matter: "It is not easy. I believe a coach must always adapt not to a style of play, but to the characteristics of the players. It must be more the coach who adapts.

"Naturally he will have an idea of play that he wants to bring to the team, always taking into account the characteristics of the players. It was a surprise to see Barca scoring on the counter-attack against Rayo, and losing the possession [statistics] for the first time in many games."

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