Victor Valdes has regularly been billed as the start point for Barcelona’s flowing attacks; his passing a fundamental part of the tiki-taka that took over the world. Indeed, it is with that quality of distribution in mind that Barcelona’s next goalkeeper, Pepe Reina, has made his name.
Pique has recently elicited criticism in the Spanish press for his admission that tika-taka alone will not take Barcelona back to the summit of the European game, though anybody who remembers the Catalans meek submission to Bayern München last season need have no doubts that Pique is correct.
A change of tact, then, is needed at the Camp Nou. Except all is not what it seems.
With Valdes, and looking back through his La Liga performances over the last five seasons, there’s a few definite trends.
Firstly, and most simply, we can look at his pass completion.
There’s a clear drop-off in terms of completed passes from Barcelona’s goalkeeper after the end of the Guardiola era. It is reasonable to ask why that is. The figures that stand out most are the numbers of long passes the keeper has played.
If you think back to Barcelona’s ‘lucky’ victory at Chelsea on their way to their last Champions League victory, the consensus was that their philosophy, and unwillingness to have a ‘Plan B’, or the personnel to play longer balls, was both their gift and their curse.
Lesson have been learned, and times have changed.
Again, following the end of Guardiola era, Valdes has played a notably higher number of long balls. This perhaps comes with the caveat that those balls may not always be played entirely voluntarily – an out-ball under pressure is more likely to be long than short but, its safe to say, less likely to succeed, so it might well behove us to see those same long ball figures in terms of accuracy percentage.
Once more, those figures drop off after Pep Guardiola left the club. There is more to this, however. Over the last two season, Victor Valdes is being used less.
Admittedly, this season’s figures are from a small amount of games, but again, there’s a defined dip from the beginning of the previous campaign.
One of two things has happened at Barcelona. Either the importance of what is seen as tiki-taka has been slowly ‘reduced’ since Guardiola’s departure and Valdes’ role illustrates that clearly, or Valdes’ ability to play passes has declined in that time either through his own ability or his team-mates’ positioning on the field (it is possibly pertinent that it coincides with the arrival of Jordi Alba at the club; another advanced full back who wouldn’t be available for a short pass often).
Time will tell, but something is certainly developing between the posts at the Camp Nou.