Over the weekend we saw a goal milestone achieved by a non-goal master, Manchester City continuing their pursuit of goals built on non-goals (something we explore at length in Non-Goals the book), and three terrific Non-Goals of the Week from FC Barcelona and Inter Milan featured below:
First, if Barcelona are returning to form this year we’ll surely see more lopsided score lines like Sunday’s 4-0 result vs Valladolid, but we’ll also see many more non-goals along the way. Here’s an example from the second half of Sunday’s match, as Barcelona pass and move themselves out of a tight spot. Newly signed Jules Kounde almost loses the ball out of bounds near the midfield sideline, yet he nimbly plays a quick pass to midfielder Gavi to help Barça keep possession. But Gavi’s work is just beginning. Facing pressure from Valladolid’s Oscar Plano, Gavi plays the ball backward to Sergio Busquets. As Plano shifts to cover him, Busquets plays a first-time pass out wide to winger Raphina. Having been pulled backwards by the pass to Busquets, Plano is now too deep to reach Gavi, who can move forward into space and Raphina can one-touch the ball into Gavi’s path. With lots of space in front of him, Gavi moves into an excellent position near the corner of the box and is eventually brought down for a free kick.
This kind of quick-passing escape act is what Barcelona is known for and we hope to see more non-goals like this as the season goes on.
Meanwhile, In Italy, Inter Milan used strategic long passes to stretch the tightly packed Lazio defense in the first half of their losing effort in Rome. Midfielder Marcelo Brozovic made two outstanding 50-yard passes to switch the point of attack and forced Lazio to temporarily stretch out of their desired defensive shape. With Lazio’s 3-man defense leaving room down the flanks, Brozovic used any available time and space to look up and make long passes into those undefended areas.
In both examples, Brozovic moves the ball into the center of the field and lofts long aerial passes to a teammate out wide. This kind of switch is an excellent way to skip over Lazio’s densely structured midfield and might have been the reason stressed-out Lazio manager Maurizio Sarri had to chew on a cigarette or two from the bench.