There is this boxer with a right cross that defies any traditional description of a lesser degree than devastating. It’s a punch only in name, a weapon of mass destruction in practice. The ascent of this boxer up the rungs of the pugilist ladder is on the back of this nuclear strike, and the media of that world is ablaze with reports which can only sound like exaggeration to anyone who hasn’t witnessed the resulting calamity of a successful blow. This boxer’s winning of the championship was an inevitability, an end demanded by the ferocity owned.
But as is always the case in an entropic existence, this violent action gives way to a restrained reaction, one of study. Empty is the ground before the steps of this boxer but painted is this boxer’s back with the target of all comers not content with the new crown holder. How to end the reign of the right cross. How to put this boxer on his ass.
The nights watching tape frame-by-frame, however, don’t provide clear answers. The punch while but a lone punch is legion all its own: strong enough to defeat any parry, deceptive enough to cause any opponent to drop a hand one critical inch. That it leaves an opening for a counter strike is almost academic: any commitment besides total to blocking gives way to a battering which gives way to the gasps of a rising crowd with a tangible bloodlust, and this boxer closes the opponent’s opportunity almost as fast as an unfathomable vacuum rips the air from your lungs.
But that’s the rabbit hole. All other approaches lead to defeat by way of attrition or annihilation. No matter a boxer’s given skill sets, they must defend above all else in the face of this right cross. No matter how lumbering of a boxer or how weak their wrists are, they must take a murdering cross and spring at this boxer’s chin like lightning to metal. Those unable can only hope to last twelve rounds. Those willing can perhaps cause the announcer’s voice to rise more than those who came before.
Those capable and flexible adapt. The brutality in the ring leading way to an evolution not unlike what is seen in the chaos of organic bloodlines. What brought animals out of the ocean needed to knock the king from his throne.
Or an even better fighter comes along.
The world of football has this notion that Barcelona needs a Plan B. It’s understandable: even Guardiola was seduced by this line of thinking, bringing in Zlatan Ibrahimovic to be the final piece of the puzzle to his side’s interpretation of total football. An option for when tiki-taka fails. It was not a spectacular failure a la Icarus but it was a failure nonetheless, the wanted cohesion unrequited, the contingency harming the primary.
In the first leg of their Champions League semi-final tie with Chelsea, Barça tallied nineteen chances against the Blues’ four. Twice was the woodwork hit by the Catalans, not insignificant was the number of sitters missed or the shots sent wayward. The loss not a function of needing an alternate avenue of attack but one of a simple lack of execution.
Chelsea, for all the nobility of its defence wantonly throwing itself in the path of Barça’s shots, is not that better fighter. Not when defending with ten men. Not when failing to manage a lone shot in the second half. Not when their goal was a self-inflicted wound for Barça brought about by Lionel Messi, an occurence more rare than a European loss for the defending champions of the continent.
The tactics of each side will lend themselves to calls of heroics for the eventual victor. Hoisting Chelsea’s defence on the shoulders of bravery and resolute commitment. Hailing Barcelona’s flagrant, unrelenting onslaught on Petr Cech’s net. Both sides driving once more unto the breach. Chelsea going to its last breath to block Barça’s right cross. Barça holding to its dogma like a feral dog to its first scraps found in a week.
The bell rings.
Editor’s note: This piece has been written by twelve point courier. Beyond being a football tactics enthusiast, he is a sports/politics blogger with a slight emphasis on snark and illustrating the asinine and illogical. Follow him on twitter @tpcourier.
Photo credit: Diver & Aguilar