Well how on earth did that happen? Ten minutes after the Champs League final had ended I found myself ranting to my Dad about Jermaine Jenas. As is becoming an increasingly essential modus operandi here at AANP Towers I shall take a leaf out of Craig David’s book, and rewind a tad. Bo indeed.As expected, Barca had everyone purring. The Iniest-Xavi love-in is becoming a tad sickly, but I’ll give them a couple of hundred words (which, after winning the league, cup and Champions League, will no doubt put the icing on their cakes). These chaps seem quite happy to keep possession for the sake of keeping possession. Rather a contrast to the English style, whereby gaining-possession immediately equates to going-on-the-attack. And, lest we forget, ‘tis this English style which makes the Premiership so ruddy entertaining. I mean that in all seriousness. It’s flawed for sure, but I love the gung-ho English mentality. Just look at the title of this blog.
Having a lead with which to play, the Barca style had Man Utd chasing shadows. Few players in the world are capable of simply playing keep-ball the way their midfield does. I guess it’s immaculate touch, married to wondrous balance. The ball seemed to be glued to their feet at times – and this meant that even when in trouble, even when no pass was available, they could simply turn and shimmy out of trouble until a pass was available. I presume Iniesta and Xavi have vision to die for as well, but it does not particularly matter, because they both have such good close control that they can afford to take the time to look up and find someone, without losing possession.
Why, I moaned, can’t we do this at Spurs? And this, my friends, is how I ended up ranting at Jenas. He does not have the touch of a Barca midfielder. Consequently, he needs several touches to get the thing under control, and when he gets his head up he spends so long looking for someone that he gets robbed of the ball. The most sensible option for him, therefore, is to pass five yards, backwards or sideways.
However, even I can admit that this is stretching things to a ludicrous extent. To chastise Jenas for not being as good as Iniesta/Xavi/Messi is ridiculous. It would be tantamount to criticising All Action No Plot for not being some sort of flawless amalgam of Wodehouse, Austen, Chandler and Hunter Davies, or knocking Terminator 2 for its lack of realism and absence of romantic sub-plots.
I’m not even sure I would want Spurs to play the Barca way, if it means performances like those in the Champs League semi-finals of both this year and last year, when their intransigent refusal to shoot had me tearing my hair out. (That said, they got the balance right in the Final – the first goal saw them eschew any semblance of faffing, and sweetly get inside the area in the blink of an eye; moments later Messi even had a shot from outside the area; and rubbing my eyes and blinking in disbelief, I saw the third goal created by an early cross from outside the area).
So Jenas is off the hook this time. Instead, I look forward to the season after next, when we get the opportunity of a keep-ball master-class from Barca, in the Champions League.