Gamper Match Review: Barcelona 5-0 Napoli

Man, did we pick a bad time to be whipping boys...

What better way to start the season than with a manita?

Trofeo Joan Gamper: the annual glorified friendly that kicks off our season. The stadium is always guaranteed to be full and there are pre-match festivities to keep the fans entertained before the players are presented, we lay a beatdown on whoever decides to come, and everyone goes home happy. So, essentially, it’s just one giant party; hence the reason it is often referred to as ‘La Fiesta del Gamper.’

Napoli did their part to keep the party atmosphere going by showing up not really match fit and playing the part of the poor victim. They are still in preseason, Napoli, so not much can be read into this match, but a few conclusions into how Pep will play some players can be reached. (Euler will probably go more into detail sometime).

We kicked off the match with Pinto in goal, Montoya – Pique – Fontas – Adriano at the back, Thiago – Keita – Iniesta in the midfield, and Kiko – Fabregas – Villa up front.

From the kickoff, Barcelona immediately got into their groove, calmly passing the ball around the pitch, looking to get themselves comfortable while also looking for openings in the compact Napoli defense.

The first major action came on 8 minutes against the run of play, when Copa America winner Edison Cavani thought he scored an incredible overhead kick. Replay showed Slovakian sensation Marek Hamsik was in an offside position when heading the ball into Cavani’s path, and the goal was disallowed for offside. It was one of those goals where you almost wish the linesman had gotten wrong (as opposted to when he gives the benefit of the doubt for pretty crap goals to be scored), but alas he didn’t and the goal was chalked off.

Barcelona kept the pressure on the Napoli defense, and almost got their reward on 18 minutes when Iniesta threaded a gorgeous through ball for David Villa to dummy for Cesc Fabregas, who decided to give his loyal fans in Row Z a nice present.

The goal finally arrived on 26 minutes when Iniesta slips a ball to Adriano on the left wing, who quickly uses a step over to misfoot the defender, runs to the byline and lays a perfect cross into the area for Fabregas to tap in. He immediately gives credit to Adriano for the set up which was very nice to see. 1-0 Barcelona.

It was 2-0 Barcelona shortly after as Iniesta chipped a beautiful ball for Keita to head in. The excellent Adriano almost set up Villa for the third, but De Santis made the stop. Villa would get another chance to make it 3-0 before half-time, but centerback Aranda cleared it off the line.

The Post-Hitting Chronicles: Story of the Second Half.

Pep rolled out almost a new lineup with Cuenca, Pedro!, Sergi Roberto, Bartra and JDS coming in.

Barcelona immediately picked up where they left off: assaulting the Napoli goal. Less than 5 minutes into the second half, Barcelona should have been at least 3-0 up. Fabregas played a nice ball out wide for Pedro! to curl onto the far post. Seconds later, Cuenca took a pop and hit the other post, before Pedro! smacked the rebound against the crossbar. Still only 2-0.

Yeah, my thoughts exactly, Pep.

Messi and Xavi replaced Cesc and Thiago respectively and joined in the fray. After being fouled, Messi takes the free-kick and De Stantis makes a pretty amazing save, pushing it against the post. Fortunately for us, Pedro! was being his opportunistic self and was there to head it in. 3-0 Barcelona.

The best goal of the night followed four minutes later, which could only be properly appreciated when watched.

Messi to Xavi to Pedro! to Messi to goal. Wonderful and it was 4-0 Barcelona with 65 minutes gone in the game.

Messi made it a manita on 77 minutes. A mistake in the Napoli defense leaves Messi in space to smash the ball far post, after being played through by Abidal. Pedro! missed some chances later on, the most glaring one being when he was through on goal and messed up the chip.

Still, the off the ball movement and link-up play was better in the second half. That was helped by Napoli tiring. You almost had to feel sorry for them.  The team looks fit and ready for some Supercup action. Yes.

Some thoughts on the players:

Pinto: did the fans throw you some tapas and Chupa Chups while you stood there doing next to nothing? Didn’t stop the Cavani shot, but then, what keeper in the world could? You were solid off your line and made some easy stops.

Montoya: solid. Very solid. Kept pace with the Napoli LW and joined in on the attack but you did look a bit unsure at times, kind of like you were thinking, “Whoa, I’m actually up here. Okay, now what do I do?” Good job on maintaining width and giving the opposing LB’s something to think about.

Pique: You had some hiccups, and nearly got kicked in the head by Cavani. I’m surprised you didn’t start bleeding. A lot of good to great interventions, helped by some pretty poor Napoli passing. Your reading of the game is quite outstanding, and your presence will be missed for the next 3 weeks. Your lack of pace, though not your fault, won’t be.

Fontas: you were Fontastique! (Sorry, pun had to happen). Alert, read the game well, and kept up with Lavezzi quite well. You even berated a linesman on a call which in England, is the sign of a true leader and captain. Thumbs up.

Adriano: so, uh, have you apologized to Maxwell yet? Because if you keep this up, he’ll be sold as quick as the new Fabregas jerseys in Barcelona. Very nice in attack, setting up Fabregas’ first goal, and you had Lavezzi in your back pocket. If you and Alves both play on Friday against Porto in the Supercup, and that looks to be the case with Pique’s injury, we’re looking at two attacking wingbacks! When was the last time that happened?

Thiago: you were good defensively, pressed well and high. Offensively though, you tended to be a little too fancy when the simpler would have been better and easier. Some passes went astray here and there as a result, and consequentially Napoli started some counterattacks. (It’s the curse of the 11 shirt! Jeffren must have to put a hex on it when taking all the hair gel to Portugal). Still, you more than held your own against a senor Napoli side that qualified directly for the CL this season, and that should be said. Eventually, in the first half, you seemed to play a bit higher than Fabregas, and looked more comfortable there than deeper in the midfield.

Keita: not bad. Not bad at all. For all the flak you’ve gotten in this position, this was a good performance after a slow start. You even scored a goal! One thing you have to remember is that you’re not a box-to-box midfielder anymore, and so you should curb that instinctual tendency to crash the box. You’re the last line before the defense, when you’re crashing the box, no-one is there to harry the forward in the event of a counterattack. Remember that. But good job, Keiteeee!

Iniesta: you are amazing, dear boy. A beast of the highest footballing order. Those chipped over the defense passes you are wont to do are exquisite. Continue on, manchego, continue on!

Kiko: Mr. Stoned Surfer! You looked uncomfortable, and the hesitancy in your play showed. I can understand, since it is your first match with first team in the Camp Nou, so you’re bound to be nervous. The other B-teamers fit in like a glove, so you stood out as a result, but the truth is you weren’t that bad. Linked up well enough with Montoya and Thiago. You don’t know the system as well so sometimes you were in no mans land positionally speaking. The pressing was not that bad, though Thiago sometimes covered for you. You’re quite the asset for the B-team!

Fabregas: A lot of people speculated you’d be on the bench, or would play DM to see some time in the starting XI. The truth is, you look set to be playing the false 9 role everyone else thought Sanchez would be playing. You put what you learned at Arsenal to good use with a strong attacking performance. Although you were playing false 9, you were taking the role with more of a midfielder mindset than a forward one (like Messi). That’s not necessarily a criticism. Just saying. You’re melting ice-cold hearts with every outing, Cesc. And you got your own allasFCB2 compilation to boot.

Villa: lots of moaning about your hair, but you looked good today and are improving with every match. The dummied move for the Fabregas chance was pretty awesome. That being said, you gotta finish your chances! I know you know that or else you wouldn’t have abused the advertising board. Made some great runs, too. Just a question though, Dahveed: were you born offside like Pippo Inzaghi?

Subs

Cuenca (for Kiko): Me gusta. Me gusta mucho. No-one really knew about you before this preseason, but man are you making them notice! Another very impressive outing, Ivan. You are most definitely making the most of the chances Pep is giving you. One caveat: gain some weight please!

Pedro! (for Villa): Oh me, oh my. Competition is good for you, eh? Looked hungrier and sharper, and bagged yourself a nice headed goal off a rebound. Off the ball movement was excellent, good sir. Think you’ve contracted Villa’s palo-hitting disease when you subbed in for him though. You might want to get that checked out.

Sergi Roberto (for Iniesta): Back from Colombia, and back doing what he does best: impressing everyone. I facepalm every time I think of the Spain U-20 coach benching you in favor of Koke. /facepalm

Bartra (for Pique): Ah, Marc. I’ve got a soft spot for this boy. Fit so seamlessly at the back, I almost didn’t notice the difference between you and Pique.

JDS (for Montoya): I know we’re still not sure what exactly to do with you, but at RB, you weren’t that bad. More offensive than Montoya, and had some good passes out of the back. Get ’em with the B-team, Jonathan.

Messi (for Fabregas): well, Messi is Messi. Had one stray pass I notice (where it failed to connect with Xavi) but that really is nitpicking. Freekicks have been getting better and better. As usual, interplay and off-the-ball movement was superb. Started and finished a fantastic team goal, and scored a nice goal for the manita. Good day at the office, Leo.

Xavi (for Thiago): the maestro. Midfield looked more stable when he came in. Interplay with Messi is so nice to watch.

Abidal (for Adriano): Continued where Adriano left off. Got a good run about, and assisted Messi’s manita goal.

Busi (for Keita): there’s a reason why you’re first choice DM, Busi. A solid outing without much to do since Napoli was pretty much outta gas at that point.

Mascherano (for Fontas): Looks like you’re Puyi’s replacement at the back. Ditto Busi re: defensive contributions.

Three things we’ve learned

— Keita is going to be our backup DM for sure. Jnice goes off to cry into his Cheerios, and plead for The Yaya to come back.

— It’s a shame Alexis was injured for this match as I’d like to have seen where he played. It looks like Fabregas will be playing the false 9, which is interesting. We’ll see how he adapts.

— The B-team is so stacked. Admittedly, nothing we didn’t already know, but still. Wow. Liga Adelante, here we come!

Hey, does it look like it says Xavi trophy?
That's two games, two trophies for Cesc Fabregas. Hehehehe.
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133 Comments

  1. August 23, 2011

    The best part of that 32 pass goal sequence was the announcers reaction:

    “How easy was that.”

    They strung 32 passes together, several of which were in closed space, and it appeared at first glance to be”easy.”

    Team is gaining fitness – but still not there. Porto I believe has already played two official league games so they are going to be ahead in that area.

    Despite losing Villas-boas and Falcao Port is very dangerous.

    It’s very unfortunate to lose Pique now.

    It’s not even that the back line won’t be good – it will. It’s just that Barcelona loses a key match up with Pique absent.

    Porto’s attack is going to focus on Hulk down the right side. It would have been very nice to have Abidal marking him given Abidal’s size, speed and defensive acumen.

    Nonetheless they should be fine.

    • How brilliant was that goal could be seen from Guardiola’s expression after that goal. Worth a watch. I was streaming it live at 1AM and I was like “What the heck just happened” and I was surprised to see almost simlar reaction from Guardiola. The funny part in that goal was that the more you see it it feels like the players had rehearsed this in practice, every move of our boys was inch perfect and the speed at which that happened was simply outstanding. The goal was just like having your favorite flavor moose cake desert after having you favorite pizza. That definitely satisfied us and for once I never bothered that we scored anoher goal.

      • blitzen
        August 24, 2011

        Moose cake? Now I’m Canadian and have eaten moose before, but never in cake form… 😛

        (I kid, I kid!)

  2. Dani_el
    August 23, 2011

    I posted this on the last one, so here it is…

    I read this from Marti Perarnau’s blog, an excellent catalan journalist;
    Cesc: “En el Arsenal me movía con total libertad; aquí hay mucha más disciplina táctica y todas las posiciones tienen especificados los movimientos que deben hacer. Debo aprender todo esto para no correr como un pollo sin cabeza. Sobre todo, debo mejorar la concentración para no cometer errores defensivos”.
    “In arsenal I moved with total freedom; here there’s much more tactical discipline and all positions have specific movements that have to be done. I must learn all of this to keep me from running as a headless chicken. Above all, I must improve my concentration to keep me from making defensive mistakes”. (sorry for any mistakes translating)

    It looks like Cesc has been reading some of Kxevin’s reviews. He really seems comfortable with the concepts.

  3. blitzen
    August 23, 2011

    A review! Yay! I wasn’t expecting one.

    This match was a joy to watch, not because it was a goalfest (although that was very nice), but because the entire team looked great, smooth, flowing. I know Keita was the official MOTMOTM, but I’m going to go for Adriano. He was really outstanding with his attacking runs, positioning and ball control. His linkup with Cesc was excellent, considering he has played less than 90 minutes with him so far.

    Best picture of Pep ever, btw, and that cup totally does say “Xavi Trophy”, I checked. The back says “Xavi is a Victory for Football”. 😀

    • BarcaGirl_Indo
      August 23, 2011

      that Pep reaction was priceless! I just love our coach, so much.

      “Xavi is a Victory of Football”

      “Football is Winning, Justice Has Been Done” 😀

  4. August 23, 2011

    Remember when people were saying Mascherano would only be a bench player? Yeah…

    • August 23, 2011

      The coaching staff’s eye for evaluating a player’s skill set separate from the roles they play at other clubs has been one of the most exciting aspects of this team lately. It’s true that Pep loves versatile players, but moreover Pep sees possibilities in players like Masch, Fabregas and Sanchez that many others (including myself) couldn’t see.

    • I think you areblowing that argument very much out of proportion. Before making fun of guys who said clearly that he will be a bench player(I am one of those), let me ask some questions.

      1) How many times did we have Mascherano start in midfield last season, as he was brought in as a defensive midfielder? Also how many match did he really looked good as a DM?
      2) Why did prior to Abidal’s operation no one at the club saw him as a genuine choice in defense?
      3) Why on earth did Guardiola went in with Busquets in central defense and Mascherano in midfield in the very next game after Abidal tumor story broke off?

      I am not saying that he didn’t do well. He actually did brilliant. But that was all definitely due to siyuation rapidly working to his favor. The match in which we had Masc in midfield and Busquest in defense we understood he is not contributing in the passing movement in midfield. So naturally our guys tried the switch knowing that he is decent in defense. He really did well, saved our a@@ in more than one match and looks like an absolute brilliant signing. But the basic question is has Abidal been not out for last season, did you see him anything other than a bench player. If you are saying yes, then whatever I wrote is of no use. Thanks

      • August 24, 2011

        I didn’t mean it to be insulting anyone, AllAboutBarcelona. I was more praising the coaching staff, and reiterating the ‘In Pep We Trust’ belief. They have places for everyone in the squad, and see things, skillsets, we don’t consider when thinking of the player.

    • jaymin
      August 24, 2011

      Just add a dollop of clover honey to the milk. now, honey nut cheerios, sorted.

  5. mom4
    August 23, 2011

    Kari does reviews? I thought she was still sulking because Carmona didn’t play. Good job.

  6. outerspacedout
    August 23, 2011

    And maybe a third trophy in his third game. Or even if you count only official games, if we win against Porto that’s two official trophies in his first two official games. It’s almost funny.

  7. August 23, 2011

    Does anyone realize how vociferous the cries of “Fix!” would be if, like Wenger, Guardiola received a touchline ban, skirted the ban, received an additional two matches on the ban, then got a stay because of am important match?

    Not a dig at anyone, just pointing out that “fair” or “unfair” is a matter of perspective.

    • August 23, 2011

      It would be immense. Particularly if it meant he could stand on the sidelines against a top club.

      As it stands, though, Udinese’s voice at UEFA–and in a less important manner, the Udinese fanbase’s presence in social media–is so small as to be ignored.

    • barca96
      August 24, 2011

      I don’t get what’s so funny.
      Watching Madrid players train doesn’t excite me.
      Can you point out the mark where it get’s funny?

  8. barca96
    August 23, 2011

    False alarm!! I woke up and saw REVIEW on BFB. I thought I could finally call Kxevin a biased idiot 😆

    I guess I have to wait a little longer for that.

  9. barca96
    August 24, 2011

    Did anyone notice Rosell covering his face after the 5th goal I think. He was dying of laughter when someone gestured to him
    “IT’S OVER”
    Vince Carter style.

    • Gogah
      August 24, 2011

      that was amazing.
      i dont think that man gestured ‘it is over’..
      it was more like ‘timeout rosell..please make them stop’!

      • SoccerMom
        August 24, 2011

        I think that was Aurelio de Laurentiis, Napoli’s owner. He tapped Rossell on the shoulder after Messi’s goal and made a wipe-out gesture with his hands and they both laughed. I read it as ‘There’s no way with this guy [Messi]’. Rossell looked a little embarrassed. He’s probably used to sitting in stone-cold silence next to a pouting Fifi.

  10. barca96
    August 24, 2011

    I really feel bad for JDS. He hardly does anything wrong both offensively and defensively. It’s just that there is no space for him.
    He looked so composed on the ball last night.

    Cuenca doesn’t look like he is a goal scorer like Pedro. Too bad.
    He is more of a creator. What we need is another goal scoring threat from the B kids.

    • The more i see Guardiola use JDS as a RB, the more I get frustrated. But i think Guardiola badly want to hold onto him. He knows he cannot give him any space in that over-crowded midfield and sees the only option is the bring him as a cover for Alves. I wouldn’t be surprised if I see him getting more regular first team action this season(provided he stays) but mostly as a RB. I think Pep is desperate to hold onto him.

      • barca96
        August 24, 2011

        Yeah I agree with you. It looks like Pep thinks that JDS is too good to go too waste sitting on the bench so let him play at another position.

        He really looks good. I wish he could have some time in midfield.

        • Also watching JDS trying his best, I think Guardiola may have convinced him that it’s the best for him in the present situation.

  11. BarcaGirl_Indo
    August 24, 2011

    – someone made a book about Cesc : Dreams may come True
    http://bit.ly/r486jO

    – barcastuff
    Bernd Schuster (ex-Barcelona, ex-Real Madrid):
    “Marcelo’s tackle at the end was caused by the frustration of not being able to win despite having played a very good game. As long as Barça stays hungry, it will be very difficult for Madrid.”

    – Andoni Zubizarreta (sports director):
    “We’re still looking for an exit of Aleksandr Hleb.” [via efe]

    no club wants to be Hlebbed by Hleb? 😕

  12. barca96
    August 24, 2011

    I read in a RM forum that the fight during the last Clasico was triggered by Rijkaard. Can you believe that?

    http://www.elmundo.es/elmundodeporte/2011/08/18/futbol/1313668874.html

    But that fool is fooled by Google Translator that for some reason translated “el entrenador azulgrana” into Rijkaard. Google really need to wake up 😆

    So now those non-Spanish speaking fellows think Rijkaard is to be blamed. It is such a pity. Im also a non-Spanish speaker but at least I use my brain wisely. It doesn’t make sense that Rijkaard is involved so I translated it back to Spanish and noticed the mistake.

    But some people would like to jump to conclusions.

    And I really can’t believe some of them are with Mourinho and they claimed that Mourinho just pinched Tito’s cheek. Can you believe that? Even If Im a die hard fan too I wouldn’t be that stupid. Just admit it!!

    • BarcaGirl_Indo
      August 24, 2011

      I’ve wrote this before, but you will also get LAPORTA if you wrote “presidente azulgrana” on google translate 😉

      • culegirl3
        August 24, 2011

        I thought that was a joke until I typed it in right now…holy cheetos! lol Sandro must be seriously pissed about that(if he knows about it).

  13. culegirl3
    August 24, 2011

    I watched Punto Pelota right after the super copa and this vermin also known as Tomas Roncero wasn’t his usual scandalous confrentational self..he was quiet and even admitted what his beloved Mou did was bad and then I read this gem he wrote on his blog.
    http://blogs.as.com/tomas_roncero/2011/08/el-dedo-en-el-ojo.html#comments

    “what I mean to say is el Madridismo has had the ability to self critizce because of Mou’s reprehensible attitude but I don’t see Barca’s flock taking responsibility for their sins nor reproaching one single behavior that I’ve exposed in this humble blog(excuse me while I choke to death after reading the word humble in this douche bag’s blog). The problem is they don’t want to be role models in their behavior or example. They just want to see Real Madrid clouded by controversy and Mou being dragged by 4 oxen onto definite destruction(I’m not sure if I translated right..google sucks ass so I translated on my own). Mou has a complex personality and is no saint. But Barca should be the last one to point fingers with Piques, Roselles(idiot cant even get our presidents name right..must be an EE symptom just like Mou has exhibited), buses with manitas, professional divers like Alves, bench rousers like Pinto and other gems, should be quiet and assume that no one can carry a clean cross of morals and ethics. The madridista is getting sick and tired of this dual analysis. The whites bite and are dangerous. The azulgrana are virtuous angels that don’t know the darker side of life.”

    I feel like I’ve heard this argument before…

    • can_we_go_Xalvies
      August 24, 2011

      Its nothing different from anywhere else, I was watching ESPN press pass today and some Barca fans twittered their beef to Tommy Smith, one Twitee(?) wrote that he was ashamed that Tommi almost always paints Barca under a dark cloud, and he emphasized the fact that BOTH clubs were equally at fault with the last recent incident. 30 seconds later Tommy yells out how Barca fans always act as if they are the best in the world and are angels of football and blah blah blah. I mean come on, That was the Biggest troll comeback Tommy could ever say.

      Anyway my point being, no one who isn’t a Barca fan is going to view things from Barca’s perspective and Haters, well haters are gonna hate.

  14. blitzen
    August 24, 2011

    Graham Hunter (again) with a lovely piece on Abidal:

    http://www.uefa.com/uefasupercup/news/newsid=1665733.html#graft+glitz+defines+abidals+monaco+memories

    Abidal the man was developing too. Extremely popular for his calm friendly demeanour at Barcelona, he is at the absolute peak of his career right now, and like some senior footballers, especially those who are repeat champions, there are things about Abidal – dignity, seriousness, honesty and loyalty – which add to his worth beyond how he actually plays the game.

    • privateeye
      August 24, 2011

      The reason the current Barca team is so endearing is the common nature of its players. Everday people who aprt from playing at the highest level are people with middle class sensibilities. I agree not everyone is like that but yes mostly they are

      • blitzen
        August 24, 2011

        “middle class sensibilities”?

        I’d ask you to explain that but I’m afraid of what the discussion might turn into.

        However, I understand what you mean. 🙂

  15. irie_jamaican
    August 24, 2011

    Man U and RM are Tommy’s two teams. He is always finding ways to defend them and he has a problem with any team that interferes with their domination. He basically called us hypocrites. Interestingly, Tommy also said that Barca has divers just like other teams …. really? I thought Barca invented diving and only our players do it. Everyone else tries to make it seem like diving and ‘swarming’ the ref are the biggest crimes in football and Barca only players do it all the time.
    I am amazed at the EE fans though. They were all up in arms against the Dutch players in the 2010 world cup final game but it is okay for RM to play that way against us. Who’s the hypcrite now?

  16. August 24, 2011

    saw this at totalbarca:

    “never try to poke mourinho on facebook. he might poke your eyes in reply”

    :))))

    • Ryan
      August 24, 2011

      Ah, so that’s why Villa didn’t have his shirt on. I was way in the nosebleeds, so for a while I thought it was just Puyol doing his thing. 😆

    • blitzen
      August 24, 2011

      I just watched this now, and that hug with Mascherano was adorable. 😀

  17. blitzen
    August 24, 2011

    Quoting at length from Tim Stannard, as he is so damned funny:

    The Madrid manager sounded like he was completely stark-raving mad by bleating that “some people are better adapted to the hypocrisy in football than I am, and they hide their faces and speak in whispers deep inside tunnels.” Tito Vilanova obviously didn’t hide his face well enough, it would seem.

    It turned out to be a busy day in the club’s media department, as the poor office minion who must often find himself asking “you really want me to publish this? Really?” had to repeat his question when the club published a paranoid rant of a statement in response to the announcement that the RFEF would be investigating the antics of both José Mourinho and Tito Vilanova during the Supercopa clash.

    “Real Madrid CF wished to express how surprised it is to see this investigation is being ordered five days after the match, curiously just a few hours after the President of FC Barcelona demanded the Spanish Football Federation take action,” read the tin-foil hat-wearing club’s statement, before plumping for the “they started it” defence by blaming Barça for “humiliations, insults and aggressions” against the players and coaching team on the pitch and in the tunnel.

    http://fourfourtwo.com/blogs/laligaloca/archive/2011/08/24/mourinho-out-then-back-in-as-supercopa-squabble-investigation-looms.aspx

  18. SoccerMom
    August 24, 2011

    Fun review Kari! Thanks!
    Too funny that we were all sitting there slack-jawed as one after another golden strike bounced off the post … and then the camera cuts to a slack-jawed Pep.

    • blitzen
      August 24, 2011

      Imagine if Cuenca’s had gone in–he would have gone from third-division football to scoring in the Camp Nou in a matter of months!

  19. irie_jamaican
    August 24, 2011

    Netherlands overtakes Spain as #1 in FIFA rankings. If Mou achieves his aim, Spain will be out of the top 10 by next summer.

    • Ryan
      August 24, 2011

      Being Euro and World champions really doesn’t hold up against losing to friendlies it seems!

  20. blitzen
    August 24, 2011

    No one has any thoughts on today’s Arsenal/Udinese match? According to the BB, these are the players Wenger has available:

    Provisional squad: Szczesny, Jenkinson, Vermaelen, Djourou, Sagna, Traore, Arshavin, Frimpong, Ramsey, Song, Rosicky, Walcott, Van Persie, Fabianski, Chamakh, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gervinho, Miquel.

    Not too good, especially the back line. Who is he going to put in if he needs subs? Or if RVP gets a paper cut that sidelines him for the foreseeable future? Oy.

    Snark aside, I do hope Arsenal get through. Although I really do NOT want Barça to meet up with them again this year. Too much drama.

    • Lev
      August 24, 2011

      Talking bout RvP, he must be fuming now that they have sold Nasri. Went from being the star striker of a big club to the top striker of a mid-table club in less than 2 weeks.

    • blitzen
      August 24, 2011

      And now I’m hearing that if Arsenal lose this tie, there will be an English CL slot available and Liverpool would get it? If this is correct, I’m torn. Liverpool in the CL would be awesome.

        • blitzen
          August 24, 2011

          Turkish club Fenerbahce (sp?) has been disqualified due to the match-fixing scandal, so there is a slot available. If Arsenal loses this tie, England would only have 3 teams in the CL, so UEFA could award the available slot to them. Liverpool was the team with the next-highest ranking so they should get it.

          Unless UEFA decides to give it to Arsenal anyway based on their ranking regardless of the outcome of today’s game. Which I gather is a possibility.

        • Ryan
          August 24, 2011

          Man, I don’t like either of those possibilities! Why not give it to the next Turkish team?

          • blitzen
            August 24, 2011

            That’s another possibility, but if they give it to a Turkish team, they would have to be 100% certain they weren’t involved in match-fixing. With a scandal as big as this one, they may not be willing to risk it. Tarred with the same brush and all that.

            Hey, you never did tell us what you put on your sign! 😛

          • Ryan
            August 24, 2011

            Well, my uncle claimed the area I was sitting in is or used to be the spot with the Boixos Nois, so he recommended not standing out. That might have just been his Perico ways messing with me though!

          • blitzen
            August 24, 2011

            AFAIK they used to be behind the North goal, but I could be wrong.

          • Ryan
            August 24, 2011

            Well, I was in that section, but right near the top. One half of the section immediately behind the goal was actually empty! Must have been too expensive for people, because it was full everywhere along the top.

  21. Ryan
    August 24, 2011

    Udinese get a nice goal scratched off for offside; at least it wasn’t a bicycle kick this time. 😀

  22. Humphrey Bogart
    August 24, 2011

    I do not care what will happen in the future, but please, board, please, never, ever sell Dani Alves. This guy is so frecking hialarious, it is unbelievable, taking some stupid looking hat from the crowd and doing a very strang victory dance, You can not make up this stuff, always puts a smile on my face

  23. August 24, 2011

    Official: Trabzonspor takes Fenerbahce’s position in Champions League. From Platini himself. [via pedrocnn]

    If Arsenal lose, they are out.

    Alexis Sanchez has been given the medical green light. He’s available for the European Super Cup against Porto tomorrow. [via barcastuff]

    Oh yes.

    • Ryan
      August 24, 2011

      Porto hasn’t done anything with the buckets of cash from the Falcao transfer, right?

      • August 24, 2011

        Not that I know of. I’ll most likely be doing the preview, so I’ll dig around for info eventually.

      • Miguel
        August 24, 2011

        Don’t think so. But it sounds like Atleti is picking up Diego Ribas da Cunha and letting go of Goldie. Big fan of the Brazilian’s since his time playing for Werder Bremen.

        • Vj
          August 24, 2011

          He was tipped to be the next R10. Went to Juve and flopped. Hopefully he picks up at Atleti.

          And about Juve, they buy an entire team and their fans give us grief about Alexis?

          • Miguel
            August 24, 2011

            I blame Del Neri taking over half way through Juventus’ season for Diego being deamed a “flop.” He had a wonderful first half. No idea why he lost it at Wolfsburg.

          • Anonymous_69
            August 24, 2011

            Diego has major attitude problems. He’s talented, and he should have been a lot better, but his attitude is like Hleb.

            If Atletico get him, they might actually play to their potential this coming season!! Losing Aguero is huge, but Falcao is going to give them more direction and consistency. If they keep Forlan, I can see them playing Forlan-Falcao up front, Diego in the whole, Reyes on the right of the midfield, two defensive midfielders, and using Felipe Luis as a very attacking LB. Something like a 4-2-2-2 Villareal style, except, Diego plays more in-field.

        • Ryan
          August 24, 2011

          It’s hard to really get excited about them – we can already be assured they’ll give 6 points to EE and provide a stern test to us!

    • Ryan
      August 24, 2011

      And he looked like he wanted to get subbed off!

  24. Miguel
    August 24, 2011

    Kari, great post!

    Di Natale! I feel bad for Arsenal. Not Wenger. Tied on aggregate.

    • blitzen
      August 24, 2011

      Please don’t let it go to penalties, I;ve had enough of those this summer to do me for a loooong while.

      • Ryan
        August 24, 2011

        +1

        The worst for me was the sub20 Spanish one. Even if the Barca players made theirs and it was the Espanyol guys who flubbed their shots, hehe.

      • Miguel
        August 24, 2011

        Told ya. Van Persie goal. Gervinho assist.

    • mom4
      August 24, 2011

      Gervinho’s hair…not minding Cesc, Villa, or Kiko so much right now!

    • culegirl3
      August 24, 2011

      Awesome article! Thanks for sharing. I especially liked the last paragraph.

      • Dani_el
        August 24, 2011

        Check out his other articles, in my opinion him and Marti Perarnau are the best spanish sports writers I’ve read

  25. August 24, 2011

    UCL draw for group stage opponents is tomorrow BTW. The UEFA awards will also be handed out as per usual. I might liveblog it, but it’s pretty early in the morning.

      • August 24, 2011

        Ah. I thought they were doing it at 12pm CET, but it’s at 5.45pm CET.

        So the draw’s at 11:45am EST. Still early in my world, but not bad…

        • August 24, 2011

          Apparently, now that Arsenal is basically through, this is a possible group draw:

          Barcelona
          AC Milan
          Manchester City
          Borussia Dortmund

          • August 24, 2011

            Arsenal instead of Man City is a possibility too. Oh sh*t.

          • mom4
            August 24, 2011

            prefer:
            EE
            AC Milan
            Manchester City
            Borussia Dortmund

          • mom4
            August 24, 2011

            Praying for an easy draw with all the competitions we’re in. At least it looks doubtful that we’ll have to face Rubin Kazan and the prayer bead coach( although we did finally beat them if I remember rightly).

          • August 24, 2011

            Arsenal instead of Man City is a possibility too. Oh sh*t.

            I keep reading this but it’s just not true. Arsenal’s record in the UCL means they are a top seed, no matter how they qualify. We can’t draw them, same as we can’t draw Chelsea, ManU, Inter, Porto, or Bayern.

            • August 24, 2011

              Yeah, seeding had to do with co-efficients right and they’re top 8, no? (Just checked UEFA.com). I don’t bother with this co-efficient business, so I just trusted what I read. Yeah, because they are always right…

  26. jordi™
    August 24, 2011

    :/ Di Natale had to score that pk

  27. Miguel
    August 24, 2011

    Szzzczezny stops a penalty! I think Udinese needs to score twice, right? Arsenal’s away goal and all.

  28. blitzen
    August 24, 2011

    Well, Cesc is happy, anyway. 🙂

  29. August 24, 2011

    Guys… We could get Man City (Silva, Kun, The Yaya), Benfica (Nolito), and/or Dortmund (my Bundesliga team).

    If we get them, I might cry yo. Like seriously. Nooooo~!

    • August 24, 2011

      People do always say that the Emirates is one of the tamest crowds in the Premiership. But actually saying it? Shameless.

      Well now Nasri’s officially gone to Man City. Now all they have to do is get rid of Van Persie and they might actually start to be a likeable side again.

      • Humphrey Bogart
        August 24, 2011

        And he could really spare this Galaticos crap and “team of the future”, did Man shitty win the CL lately?

        • August 24, 2011

          No, but they potential to win big trophies in the future, given the squad they are building up.

          I really don’t get the hate that Man City gets from fans of the top Premiership teams. A club in their position (not very popular, not very well recognized) can only really grow by investing heavily in transfers, showing ambition and growing their brand. Similar to Malaga. I know it’s a bit rich to be saying this as a fan of Barcelona, but I don’t appreciate the sense that there are these elite top clubs and anyone trying to join that tier should be labeled “plastic” and “traditionless” fakes.

          • August 24, 2011

            I can understand that.

            I also just realized that playing in a relatively quiet stadium like the Emirates would make it difficult for Arsenal players to focus when they go to louder stadiums.

            Hell, it might even make it hard for them to hear the ref’s whistle in a stadium stacked with opposing fans.

    • Vj
      August 24, 2011

      So now you read minds too?

      Where does that leave Tevez?

  30. August 24, 2011

    Di Natale should have buried that tie multiple times. Udinese had no lack of opportunities to progress.

    Strong save on the penalty. Arsenal have a number of issues that they need to work out but the constant complaints lumping goal keeper in with defense as their problem are off. Szczesny is a good keeper.

    Nasri is really a piece of work. He’s had a bad reputation for a while and his exit from Arsenal just shows why. Mancini seems to like him a great deal – but he’s still much more potential than anything else. Very inconsistent. And I really don’t know about him playing the 10 role at City if that’s what Mancini is thinking as he seems to see Nasri as the second option behind Sanchez. Nasri isn’t that good a creator.

    Finally, the English media and EPL supporters are really something. For years they have been beside themselves with outrage about “tapping up” but this summer when so many English teams have so flagrantly tapped up players – no big deal.

    Sochaux has formally filed charges against Newcastle for tapping up. It’s hardly an issue at all in England. It’s only natural that a club from the “best” league in the world should be able to pick players from a small team in france. No problem there.

    Chelsea and Modric. It’s just Chelsea’s right. No big deal. To the point where it seems only logical for the spurs to let him go. “Big” english team is going to behave like a big english team.

    Phil Jones and half the EPL.

    Mancini talking about Nasri out in the open all summer even extending ultimatums and veiled threats to Arsenal about the transfer.

    It goes on and on.

    And now Nasri has admitted that he was in discussions with Patrick Viera over the summer to come to City:

    “he player revealed he had spoken at length over the summer with Patrick Vieira, the former Arsenal captain now working as City’s football development executive.

    “He made a big difference because he’s a legend in France. Everyone loves him and respects him and when a player like that is telling you Manchester City is the place to be because they are the club of the future, that they want to win everything and have a big project, you have to listen.””

    Let’s see where all the outrage from the English footy press is on this when English teams are so out in the open about explicitly “tapping up” players under contract.

    If a foreign club does it to a player on an English team it’s an affront to civilization. When an English team does it, it’s just business as usual for the “premier” league.

    There’s still a sense in the press there that England has some kind of natural dominion over global football. It’s this weird last vestige of empire view of the world.

    • August 24, 2011

      If I recall correctly, Wesley Sneijder pretty much outright said that Manchester United had contacted him privately to see if he was interested in the move, what kind of wages he’d expect, and so on.

    • August 24, 2011

      Yup. Udinese only have themselves to blame. 🙁 Would have really liked to see them in UCL but Europa League is still good for ’em, I guess…

      I do not understand Man City going for Nasri at all. He’s basically a poor man’s Silva. Probably just got him because he was on his last year of his contract and he was willing to come to them. Well, it’s Mancini’s problem now..

      • jordi™
        August 24, 2011

        He certainly isn’t a poor man’s Silva, just different types of players.Goals like this* indicate he has immense talent. Besides, if Silva gets injured all they had was milner and adam johnson and for a side looking to win the league and compete in Europe that’s poor imo.Pretty sure milner cost them the same price as well so if you look at it that way its a bargain lol

        *http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=odYeWZWEqWg

        • August 24, 2011

          Before even clicking the link..it’s the Porto goal, isn’t it? Oh. Well. /shrug

          I’m not saying he’s not talented, just sayin’ he’s not good enough to warrent the hype — like many England based players. And actually, he’s a very similar player to Silva. He can play in the center, but.. I dunno. He just isn’t very consitent. Good profit for Arsenal IMO. (Not that they will use the $$$)

          Pretty sure milner cost them the same price as well so if you look at it that way its a bargain”

          True. 😆

          Let’s see what Mancini does. Maybe he has a plan for him and I’ll eat my words.

  31. Humphrey Bogart
    August 24, 2011

    Seem our friends of the english press did take some hypocrite lessons from our portugese lunatic

    • August 24, 2011

      Look. The man’s behavior suggests he’s a narcissist and a hypocrite. Throwing around words like “lunatic” and “psycho” really is going too far. He has severe character flaws, not a clinical pathology.

      • Humphrey Bogart
        August 24, 2011

        It was fine with me when he was satisfied with his “mind Games”, acussations and usw. But now he crossed the line, become violent himself and encouraging his players to be violent too. This is after all a sport, nothing more and nothing less and there is no reason or excuse to encourage violence just to win something, So yeah for me he is a lunatic, now

      • blitzen
        August 24, 2011

        “Narcissism” is a clinical pathology, though. /pedant

  32. The__K__Man
    August 24, 2011

    According to Marca Iker isn’t playing the Bernabeu trophy as a punishment by Mou for calling Barça’s captains. http://goo.gl/FKeX9

    • August 24, 2011

      Or maybe he’s just been given a rest? I expect Marca to make things up at about the same rate as Mourinho.

      • blitzen
        August 24, 2011

        Yeah, I wouldn’t read too much into it. I mean, Valdes didn’t play in the Gamper. Was he being punished too?

        • Ryan
          August 24, 2011

          But Valdes gets rested in the Copa games, unlike Casillas.

    • nzm
      August 24, 2011

      Maybe. He did the same to Ronaldo towards the end of last season, when Ronaldo spoke his mind about wanting to play attacking football and not the style that they were showing on the field against Barca.

      It was after the 2nd La Liga clasico at the Bernabeu when all Madrid did was defend, and Ronaldo played piggie in the middle trying to get the ball. (I think that was the match – I get so confused as to which clasico was which at that point!)

      Anyway, for the next Liga match, Ronaldo was in the stands with his girlfriend, snacking on potato chips, while the press reported his punishment for speaking out against Mou’s tactics. 🙂

      • irie_jamaican
        August 24, 2011

        Wonder how long before we start hearing about ‘replacing Casillas as EE captain because an outfield player would be more effective’ again?

  33. August 25, 2011

    Damn it, blitzen! 😛 I was hoping someone didn’t bring this up. Yes it is a clinical disorder but it’s strictly a different kind of disorder than “psychotic”. It’s a personality condition, not a psychotic one (delusions, hallucinations), at least in the DSM IV which is the last one I’m up to date on.

    • blitzen
      August 25, 2011

      Sorry, I can’t help it! 😀

      And just to be even more pedantic, Humphrey Bogart there didn’t use the word “psychotic”, you did. The word she used was “lunatic”, which according to Wikipedia means “mentally ill, dangerous, foolish, unpredictable; a condition once called lunacy.” I think all those terms apply to Mourinho.

      Game, set, match! 😛

      • August 25, 2011

        Okay, I concede the discussion 😛 I do feel in general like the language being used to describe that guy is getting a little out of hand.

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