The Spanish midfielder Sergio Busquets rarely makes headlines or scores goals, but he's an anchor at the heart of both Spain and Barcelona's attack and defense.
Rail thin and lacking what seems like any outward signs of physical strength, Busquets is the cog between defense and midfield for country and club. He's brilliant at both orchestrating possession and stealing the ball from opponents - getting into the right position to offer support or to win the ball.
The following video dissects Sergio Busquets brilliant game. It's the art of Sergio Busquets. His game is so admired that Pep Guardiola said that if he was reincarnated as a player he'd want to come back and play like Busquets.
At the 2:00 mark, the video shows the importance of defensive pressure. Notice how Busquets and the Barcelona players surround everyone who is near the ball. This prevents them from utilizing a short passing game to escape pressure. It forces them into mistakes that will give possession right back to Barcelona.
Busquets has great awareness and movement off the ball. At 3:50, he slides forward to open up a passing triangle, which is key to the Barcelona style. Triangles spreads defenders out and enable Barcelona to keep possession and move the ball around.
After minute 7:00, the video shows Busquets and his ball winning skills. Watch his instincts in intercepting passes as well as his defensive grit in making strong tackles. Yes, from time to time Busquets gets stuck in.
At 9:15, you see how smart Sergio Busquets is and why he's become a world class player. Here, he uses a fake pass to draw a defender (Ryan Giggs no less) totally in and opens up a more vertical and direct pass. By luring the opponent in, the ball can be rapidly sent down the field to your playmaker, who in this case is someone called Lionel Messi.
Busquets is also an extremely versatile player. He can often fill in as a central defender which has plenty of benefits to Barcelona's formation and system.
At 12:45, he is shown filling in as a 4th defender when the opponent has the ball. As Barcelona prefers to keep possession and attack, they sometimes only play with three defenders. This formation is typically very risky as it leaves you short at the back, but Busquets is smart enough to fill a defensive role to keep the shape of the team. When the attack is back on, he can then move further up the pitch.
Another intriguing way that Barcelona uses Sergio Busquets involves the standard 4-man defense but with him dropping back as a sweeper. This pushes full backs further wide and allows them to head up the pitch and create chances. This typically confuses opposing defenders and leads to many runs and assists from players like Eric Abidal and Dani Alves. You can see this formation lead to success at 13:30.
Sergio Busquets, often made fun of and laughed at for his theatrical dives and phantom hits to the face, is really an exceptional footballer and has been a key to much of Barcelona's success the past few years.
It's his work behind the scenes that lets Messi, Iniesta and Xavi perform their magic. Just looking at him you wouldn't guess he's one of the best midfielders in the game, but he is.
Nicholas Spiller is a freelance soccer writer and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can find more of his writing at: www.sportspiller.com