Barca 2, Dinamo Kyiv 0, a.k.a. “Man the ramparts!”

Come, and I shall lead ye....
Come, and I shall lead ye....

Well, now. Not sure what to say about that one. Actually, I do:

Elegant, workmanlike and except for two Keystone Kops moments, drama-free. Dinamo Kyiv rolled into the Camp Nou, full of the same quotes that have been buttressing the hopes of every club we’ve played so far this season, stuff like “Well, we’re going in to win,” “Barca can be beaten, blah, blah, blah.” And perhaps we can, but you aren’t going to win it by setting up shop in your own end, kicking at every ball and player that comes near you.

I’m not a footballing genius, but I know that much.

The players aren’t happy with our performance, and they shouldn’t be. It was another lackluster performance as a team, but they didn’t really have to be spectacular. What they will find more vexing is that they were off …. passes, player movement and finishing, were just off. Messi was off, Xavi was off, it was just in full clunk mode.

And don’t get me started on the early defensive lapses, and the defensive lapses in general, that a better side would have capitalized on. But thanks to two sterling plays: Pique’s last-gasp stab at the ball to put off a Dynamo attacker sitting right on the doorstep, and Abidal nipping into the box to tackle the ball away, preventing a sure-fire scoring chance, we didn’t concede.

Which was just as well. That 2-0 could easily have been 10-0 and probably would have, had this match been played about two months later. Individual plays are saving our bacon right now, which is pretty much to be expected. Also to be expected is that you can see signs that the team is really coming together, but those moments are fleeting. Goal.com had a piece that essentially says we’re not finishing as well now that Eto’o is gone and Henry is injured. Now, that’s a pretty stupid piece, but I do wonder something very different: Has the arrival of Ibrahimovic and his array of possibilities harmed our tika-taka game just a little?

Last season, we pretty much had to pass the ball into the net. This season, the option of dumping it in and letting Ibra do his thing is alluring. Just pass it in and let him do his thing. And more often than not, he does. Which means what? Dunno. But maybe Hector does.

But let’s deal with that later, because we have a match to dissect right now.

Guardiola rolled out pretty much the only lineup that he could: Valdes, Alves, Puyol, Pique, Abidal, The Yaya, Keita, Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Ibrahimovic. And they had a collective case of the early shits, with passes flying about everywhere, even Xavi deciding to gift Dynamo players with possession. And the defense was the living, breathing embodiment of not knowing when to just clear the damned ball, so Dynamo set up shop in our end early, a seduction that lured the viewer into thinking that they were actually going to come out and play.

But no, once we fixed the lapses and regained possession of the ball, they did what every other side does: Manned the battlements and played defense, their intent being to keep us from scoring, and if they found a goal or two, so much the better. But 0-0 was the objective.

We counter with passing and movement and, this season, a bus-breaking Swede. So there were still chances galore that either went begging, or were a sliver away from a pass being completed, and having one of our attackers storming in on goal. Those passes will come. Not to worry.

Dynamo’s stalwart defensive effort is to be commended, as they threw legs, bodies, spare water bottles, whatever they could in front of passes, as we slashed player after player through their box, only to be blocked at the defense or by the keeper. But this wasn’t going to be another Inter. Even in the brief time since that match, we’ve gained some sharpness, helped by the fact that yet another side decided to let Xavi run around free and easy, with only light marking. So a delicate little interplay developed between Iniesta and Keita that was supplemented by Xavi. Little destabilizing runs got their defense moving, then a killer ball from Alves Iniesta found Messi right at the edge of the box, where he did what he does best. His little shimmying ballerina run resulted in a low, hard shot that the keeper got a touch of, but a touch insufficient to keep it from being 1-0.

Individual brilliance, but not at the expense of team dynamic, it must be said. The ball and player movement that created the space for Messi to play into, not only with Xavi and Iniesta pressuring and creating, but Ibrahimovic dragging two defenders around with him whereever he went, created the opening for Messi. And he made no mistake.

From then on it was off to the races, as Dynamo still seemed to be thinking “Well, we could be in with goal differential. Man the walls!” And they kept playing defense, as we kept blasting shot after shot, chance after chance at their hard-working keeper. Xavi blasted one right at him, Ibrahimovic knocked a hard, low free header at him. The saves were easy, but the shots were hard. A lesser keeper would have spilled at least one of them. But we were just teeing off, as the Dynamo defenders would just clear the ball. A defender would roll up to intercept, and the machine would re-set.

Ibrahimovic didn’t score, but he was spectacular in his role as striker/midfielder, with pass after creative pass. His back heel for Messi was just a little too hard, or the second goal would have been a beauty.

And then in the second half, it was time for The Destabilizer, and this was the result:

That's right, boys. It's just like that.
That's right, boys. It's just like that.

Pedro! was a major difference maker, although I’m sure that like everyone else, you questioned him coming on for Iniesta. But Ghostface needed the rest, in case Henry is going to be out longer than anticipated, and the second half, after the opponent has been chasing shadows, is the perfect time to bring in The Destabilizer. You Giuly fans (like me) will recall that when Giuly started, he wasn’t all that hot. But when he came in for the second half, or with about 20 minutes left, his pace and relentless movement were so effective. So it is with Pedro!.

The other thing to note is the calmness with which Pedro! played. You could almost see him wanting to dart about, but he would check himself. You could almost see him checking himself, and the result was remarkable. He was the unplayable wild card, that didn’t take long to come up a winner.

Messi made a damaging little run, and (finally!) dished off the ball to Ibrahimovic, instead of some one-on-one nonsense. And Ibra knew what to do. He held the ball, scanned the scene, and Pedro! made yet another slashing, diagonal run. Ibra slotted a perfect ball, hit just hard enough to get past the lunging defender, but not so hard that Pedro! couldn’t control it. And like lightning, he controlled the ball and smoked it past a helpless keeper, with an amazing shot.

Why amazing? Because he had about a millisecond to spank that ball, because the keeper had it sussed out, and Pedro! was bracketed by defenders, leaving him only one possible angle to shoot into. The keeper knew, everybody in the stadium knew, I knew. The trick was to control and shoot in that miniscule fraction of time. Awesomeness.

More importantly we had the second goal. So the Ibra for Jeffren substitution made sense, because our defense wasn’t going to concede two, or even three goals, right? Right? The way that Carles Puyol was playing? You’re kidding, right?

"My house, my ball, punk."

But then, Busquets came on for The Yaya, and shit started falling apart in the center of the pitch. As with Keita, sometimes you don’t realize how effective The Yaya is, until he isn’t. So rather than the human wall with telescopic legs (even though he was a bit off), you get this colt unbound, running around like a crazy man. Busquets is playing like Pedro! right now, as if he is trying to prove himself with every ball, and every moment, instead of just playing football.

He had three separate chances to clear a ball and didn’t, resulting in a chance, in the box, that was very calmly cleared with an elegant tackle, by Abidal, our consistently best defender this match.

And that was that, right?

Wrong.

Busquets again, in an attempt to clear a ball, decided, when he was just outside of his box, to head it up into the air, and where it falls, I know not where. Well, it fell right to a Dynamo attacker, who tried to lob Valdes who was out from his net playing sweeper keeper, thinking surely nobody would do something so stupid as to …. “D-oh!” Pique and Puyol went charging back, and might have made it had the shot not, thankfully, been high.

I’ll tell you right now. People are saying lay off Busquets. I will, when he stops trying to kill the team. As for right now, January is scaring the crap out of me, because he would be our only defensive mid on the roster. And does anyone really want to deal with the idea of him as that line between the midfield and the back line? Really? I don’t care how big a Busi fan you are, it’s a question that you have to ask.

Now, whether we were craptastic, rather ordinary or just saving ourselves depends upon your worldview. I say it was a little bit of the latter two. But we definitely have some kinks to work out, because we left a pigpile of goals on the table because of sloppy, inaccurate play. Guardiola wasn’t satisfied, “Pot vs Kettle” Alves says the defense has to improve, everybody says that we were too loose.

And they’re all right. Spot on, no nonsense right. But here’s something to think about: We made the champions of the Ukraine look like a Segunda side as they chased us around while we peppered their nets with shot after shot after shot. Yes, our group last year was easier. Sporting is always the cure for what ails a side. But it’s looking as if Dynamo is the second-best side in the group, based on what they did to Rubin Kazan, and what Inter didn’t do to Rubin Kazan. We’re top of group now, which is where we should be. Now let’s consolidate against Rubin the next matchday, and start worrying about the knockout stages.

Team: 5. Still a bit clunky. The connections aren’t being made right now, but I still say that we’re better right now than we were at the same time last season.

Guardiola: 6. He should have had the lads more ready to play. The Pedro! sub was nice, the Busquets sub wasn’t. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Monument would have been perfect for that situational substitution.

Valdes: 7. Very good match though as usual, he didn’t have a ton to do. He has to talk to his defenders. He had that cross caught, but Puyol’s head got in the way, and we almost conceded as a consequence. Call Captain Caveman off, and make the catch.

Alves: 6. He recovered nicely from getting smoked by yet another quick winger to have a pretty good match. Nice passing, movement and crosses into the box.

Puyol: 7. He, too, was an early mess, and I almost had a heart attack when the attacker waltzed right past him into our box. Then I had a real one when he knocked the ball out of Valdes’ hands. But boy, did he become He Man, Master of the Universe.

Pique: 7. His attacking runs were so effective at creating space for the front line, and his defending was excellent, except for some early lapses.

Abidal: 9. Full-on stud, from sideline to sideline and in the center of defense, with saving tackle and interceptions galore. And people used to hate him?

The Yaya: 6. Curiously anonymous, but again, this wasn’t his kind of match. But he was uncertain in possession, and not as controlling of his space as he usually is.

Keita: 8. When he learns to control and shoot, we are going to have about a million goals. Meanwhile, his level of play has been consistently excellent. In the “If you’ve nothing nice to say, say nothing” file, he knows when to fade away, and let Iniesta, Messi, Ibra et al do their thing. He isn’t man crush level yet, but he’s up there.

Xavi: 9. A few bad touches away from perfection. Another team was crazy enough to mark him loosely, and he destroyed them. What absolutely beautiful passing and movement from him.

Iniesta: 7. Boy, was it nice to see Ghostface back, for good and bad, but mostly good. Yes, he ran his way into nothingness as is his wont, but his passing was spot on. He and Ibrahimovic were magical yesterday, and really should have gotten better results, i.e. goals and assists. Yes, it was penalty, dammit.

Messi: 5. Yes, 5. Go ahead, call me a jackass. Then watch the match again. Way too many loose balls, uncertain movement and too much one-v-one nonsense. Yes, he scored a goal, and it was a beauty. But a few shining moments do not a high rating make.

Ibrahimovic: 8. He’s also my Man of the Match. Why? Because he played defense, held the ball to set up attacks, made passes and was an almost constant threat. Every club is worried about getting posterized by some crazy-ass Ibra goal, so he can essentially change the way that a back line plays whenever he wants to, as he pretty much always has 2 or 3 companions. He understands that, and uses that power to create space for Xavi, Messi and Iniesta. And his assist to Pedro was magnificent.

Substitutions

Pedro! (for Iniesta): 7. A much better match from The Destabilizer, with more control, command and man, what a golazo.

Jeffren (for Ibrahimovic): 5. Had some nice moves, but pretty average overall. But he was brought on for fresh legs and to take advantage of any lapse in the Dynamo defense. He almost did.

Busquets (for The Yaya): 3. If you’re only on the pitch for a few minutes, and in those two minutes your ineptitude results in two scoring chances for the opponents, you need to examine your approach to the game. Every time he’s come on the pitch, the opponents have either scored, or had a great scoring chance.

And finally, I leave you with this. Not a penalty, my ass.

Hey. Wait. Who does your hair?
Hey. Wait. Who does your hair?
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Written by:

In my fantasy life, I’m a Barca-crazed contributor over at Barcelona Football Blog. In my real life, I’m a full-time journalist at the Chicago Tribune, based in Chicago, Illinois.

95 Comments

  1. September 30, 2009

    I thought that Puyol was MOTM. He was putting out fires left and right. I thought Xavi was pretty crap, actually, but that might just be because I expect the world from him in every moment.

    And Abidal was good, but he got left for dead a few times by his mark on the back post. It’s just that no one could cross on their team, apparently, and the one time a ball went across the middle, no one was there.

    Anyone watch on FSE? The commentators were so horrendous it wasn’t even funny. They confused Iniesta with Ibra, Ibra with Keita, Keita with Abidal, Abidal with Yaya, Yaya with Pique, Pique with Busi, Busi with Pedro!, Pedro! with Ibra, and Ibra with Messi. Makes Phil Schoen look like a genius.

    • Sumit
      September 30, 2009

      Captain Caveman was absolutely Fantastic!!! His positional sense and interceptions were absolutely – a defensive masterclass.

    • SC
      October 1, 2009

      Agree, Puyol was my MOTM as well. Though Ibra was a very close second.

      • Perra
        October 1, 2009

        Agree. After all the talk about Zlatan being to expensive and The Captain being to old it felt really good seeing them prove the critics wrong.

  2. September 30, 2009

    Also, totally agree: WTF is with Busi? Is he betting against us?

    • BL
      September 30, 2009

      Ahh come on, yeah he was pretty bad yesterday. But a couple performances in the first 1/6th of a season doesn’t condemn a player.

      Kevin’s professed love of Giuly has me wonder about him a little 😮 I hated Giuly’s play more than the Jonas Brothers (and I can’t stand me some Jonas bros), the dude could run in a straight line – will give him that, but thats about all he could do.

      Anyway, that aside completely understand the 3 given to Busi but again, hes young and has always shown that he is mistake prone. Though I personally don’t feel particularly worried that he’ll play a lot when Yaya is gone. We definitely could use some cover though and perhaps Fontas is the man for that job, or perhaps Rafa.

      • September 30, 2009

        What I’m saying is that I don’t understand why Busi is playing so badly after such a massive season last year. He was fairly phenomenal last year and this extreme dip in form is confusing.

        I don’t think he’s not good enough for this team, I’m just concerned that he’s pressing too much, as Kevin mentioned.

        • BL
          September 30, 2009

          Yeah he looked like a chicken with his head cut off yesterday, quite awful and as Kevin said, when one has so few minutes and stands out so much for being so poor, it was just a shocker. Hope he puts it behind him quickly, because the good that I see in him is so, so good. I can deal with the occasional mistake, what player doesn’t make them? Look at Valdes at the moment, hes been playing out of his skin for an extended period of time but when he makes his next goofy move in the 18 yard box we’ll be straining at the leash to have him drawn and quartered. Sigh… wish I could count myself out of the fickle group of fans but I know I’ve been guilty of it many times. With Busi I’m trying to keep the faith.

  3. Sumit
    September 30, 2009

    In the first half when Iniesta was on the pitch, the interchange of positions where Keita Iniesta Xavi Messi and Alves were all interchanging positions, that was just crazy. That was just pure soccer symphony!!! Wow, Im going to watch that first half again just for the movement and passing in the Barca midfield!!!

  4. Soto
    September 30, 2009

    That Busquets header looked even worse than your description. To me, it look like he planned to head it backwards, maybe in some deluded logic of heading it to Valdes or something. Whatever he was thinking, it was stupid and wrong. As we move farther into the Champions League, we can not afford inane plays like Busquets’.

  5. Helge
    September 30, 2009

    It was great to observe Xavi in this match. There were like thousands of moments in which he received the ball and he was surrounded by 2 or 3 Dynamo players (not really surrounded, they held distance to him…) Xavi controls the ball nicely, makes a 180° or 270° turn around his own axis and … bam! There is acres of free space to run and pass into 😀
    I thought he did this trick particularly often against Shakhtar, and it worked each time.
    If the attackers had been more succesful with putting the ball into the net (not into Shovkovskiy’s arms – props to him, though), Xavi would have had some assists.

    Oh, and to know that we should have won 6-0 against Dynamo Kiev although we didn’t play great at all is scary in a positive way!!!

    And now it’s time for this witchmaster to make it happen. Imagine CR really gets injured today…^^

  6. Miguel
    September 30, 2009

    after watching the first half i could totally see why pep subbed iniesta @ the half. his play w/ibra was beautiful and his passing was spot on but he just looked so skinny & frail i thought he was gonna be broken in two. he looked like one of the kids that come out holding a player’s hand before the match. he had a really rough summer and that bug he caught really made him drop a lot of weight. that guys gotta bulk up.

    • Helge
      September 30, 2009

      Guardiola said after the match, that it had nothing to do with injury, Iniesta’s substitution at half-time was planned from the beginning and Iniesta also knew about it.

  7. OhYes
    September 30, 2009

    Spot on, Kevin. Good review, as usual.

    Regarding Busi: Okay, I can understand why people are saying “lay off him, he’s only a kid!” He’s very young, and he’s playing in a demanding position. Cool..whatever..BUT if you look at his record last year, it wasn’t THIS bad. He had a bunch of bad games, and a bunch of great games, like any other youngster. But even last season’s “bad” were not THIS bad. This is some of the worst game from him I can remember. He’s getting progressively worse, especially when it comes to intelligence, which is something that doesn’t flutter. So I don’t know what’s up with him, but he better change it fast. He’s so much better than this.

    Re Messi: Yea it was a bad game from him. I find it hard to believe ANYONE would name him MOTM. That’s absolutely ridiculous. Save for the youngsters, who played worse than he did? I can name 5 or 6 Snr Players that CLEARLY played way better than Messi. I just don’t get it. CRon is over-hyped, and now Messi is experiencing the same?

    • Hilal
      September 30, 2009

      I think sometimes we forget that Messi is human and he can have bad games just like any other player. The fact that he has so few of them makes it more apparent when he does eventually have one, but still, he’s only human. Yes, he deserved the 5 rating, he played badly and his rating should reflect that, but lets not start calling him over-hyped or questioning his ability. If anything the fact that he managed to score a goal while having such a shit game shows just how good he really is.

      Something else I like is how we seem to be able to shift the dynamic a lot more now with Ibra in the team. We can play the lovely tiki taka footy that we all love, but if that isnt working, for whatever reason, we can now play a much more direct, I hate to say it, EPL style game. Some might argue that its not our style, but football is about winning, if we can win in style then fantastic, but if we need to be a bit more direct then that is fine with me. Actually i think it makes us pretty much unstoppable; last year teams could pack the box and it would stifle us, but now that tactic is nowhere near as effective because of the dynamic Ibra brings. Last year we wouldnt have had as many chances as we did against a very well organised Kiev side. This year though it was chance after chance and that was with Messi playing at a 5 (!!!) and the team generally being a bit off. We have a plan B now ppl and what a plan B it is!!

      Seeing the way Ibra is growing game by game is so exciting. He literally gets better each time I watch him play. He was for me, the best attacker on the pitch yesterday and I still cannot get over his strength on the ball. It is quite remarkable. That little back heel flick to Messi would have been such a nice goal (damn keeper). He is the perfect pivot player because of his strength and his vision/imagination. Very few players could have held the ball like that (surrounded by 2-3 defenders) and had the composure, vision and ability to pull off that pass. It was a little heavy, but the keeper also did well to come very quickly off his line.

      • Miguel
        September 30, 2009

        messi needs to learn how to read ibra’s back-heel. the second he gets that we’re unstoppable. the thought of it makes me all warm & fuzzy inside.

      • OhYes
        September 30, 2009

        Woah, don’t start putting words in my mouth.

        I never said he is over-hyped.

        He is very gifted and amazing etc. etc.

        BUT if he has a bad game and people still call him MOTM they are over-hyping him. Fact.

      • Andrew
        September 30, 2009

        I rewatched the match in 720p HD and Messi was great.

        • SC
          October 1, 2009

          Sigh. I <3 Barca in HD. It's a little piece of heaven.

  8. yogi
    September 30, 2009

    Maybe we saw different matches regarding Messi. He was not that good in opening 20 minutes but started improving and played major part in both our goals. I even agree that he was not the best out there but to rate him lowest of our starting eleven, i don’t even find it funny. For me, he was definitely 7. Just cause he is best player in the world does not mean that we should rate him on different scale then others. After all, the goal is to have objective rating based on match performance, is it not.

    Overall, we are in good position right now and provided do the business again rubin in next couple of games, should we well set.

    • Kxevin
      September 30, 2009

      You have to rate players within their individual context. Messi, for him, played to a 5. He just wasn’t sharp.

    • PM
      September 30, 2009

      I like the idea of having different scales for different players. Otherwise, you would have to give Messi 10+ sometimes.

  9. Kxevin
    September 30, 2009

    Hey, over at the Offside’s Inter blog, Johonna has said the unthinkable (and I hesitate to repeat it here, for fear of firestorms): Inter got shafted in the Eto’o for Ibra deal. 😀

    Now much of that is the horror of drawing against a side they should have beaten, but I didn’t watch the match, so maybe the draw was deserved.

    Everybody on defense got left for dead at some point. It happened to Abidal the least, and he saved two for-sure goals. I just didn’t think seriously about Puyol for MOTM. He was awesome, once he stopped being beaten like a gong, but still. The influence that Ibrahimovic had on our attack was crazy good.

    Agree with Henry. Now that Alves’ crosses have a home, he seems to be a lot more focussed. But on defense …. well, as Guardiola himself said, we’re crap on defense without the ball. I wouldn’t say crap, but we ain’t exactly world-beaters. Prima facie, our back line is pace-challenged (except for Abidal), and its centerpiece runs around too much (which was why he and Pique bashed heads on what should have been an easy clearance for Pique).

    But we aren’t playing Premiership-style defense, so as glorified sweepers, they’re great, just as Valdes is an excellent keeper for our style.

    I think that the fitness/frailty thing is why Guardiola pulled Ghostface. I don’t think he’s ready for a full match yet, certainly not the way that Dynamo were fouling.

    • Helge
      September 30, 2009

      I’ve watched the complete Inter match because it began before the other 7 matches. And I can tell you that the draw has been rather lucky for Inter. From minute 25 till half-time, Inter was in the game, but the rest of it belonged to Rubin Kazan. They hit the post and missed another 3 golden opportunitites. All in all, they created a lot more danger than Inter, and they have shown some great playing moves.
      Eto’o was completely off. The match against Kazan was a match in which they’d have needed Ibra, a forward that can make a goal from nothing and still creates danger even if he is the only person up front. Eto’o needs a lot more support, and with the whole team being off, plus no Sneijder, Motta and Thiago, he was useless. I guess that’s why Johonna said so.

      • yogi
        September 30, 2009

        I watched the match too and Inter are very lucky to come out with draw. Rubin owned them in second half.

      • BL
        September 30, 2009

        That was the thing I warned Inter fans about, don’t get too excited about Eto’o, focus on getting a midfield that can pass him the ball first.

      • Alexinho
        September 30, 2009

        Perhaps Inter’s game should be a warning for us: don’t travel that far east without a ton of extra grit.

  10. September 30, 2009

    Busquets is simply NOT GOOD ENOUGH to play on this team. He makes mistake after mistake, only temporarily subdued by flashes of actual football playing. Get him out of here! He is killing my buzz!

    • Miguel
      September 30, 2009

      ha! i know. why is getting all gio dos santos all of a sudden? he didn’t have anything to prove…or atleast not until now.

    • BL
      September 30, 2009

      Dude, put it in perspective. Hes played in 3-4 games so far. Hes 20 years old.. He was awesome last season and he’ll get better. Stop being so fair-weather and try sticking by a player through a rough patch, let the kid grow into his role first before you chastise him.

  11. Helge
    September 30, 2009

    Actually, I am not that concerned about Busi. I still believe in him. And remember, in the really important games, like the CL Final, he did a great job. I don’t know, it’s just a feeling, but I think Busi will not make us lose a match this season, en contraire, he’ll contribute to some victories.

    • OhYes
      September 30, 2009

      Yup he did great there. And in other important games, too. He can step up..stars just have to be aligned in a certain way, I guess.

      • Alexinho
        September 30, 2009

        You could say he did great in the CL final, but if you watch the game and take some time to watch only him, BOY did he have little to do. Minutes after minute would go by with him either off screen or on screen but not touching the ball.

        I still believe in him but if he’s going to play ineffectively for a time, which I’ll accept (for a time), he cannot play detrimentally. No more disgusting headers. I could not believe he created that stupid, unnecessary alarm not for the first but for the second time in only two or three appearances.

    • Eduard
      September 30, 2009

      defensively, there are many different errors one person can make, If you have only one defensive role it’s easier to learn those roles. This team, switches roles as Hector always mentions, he has to learn multiple defensive roles. In offense, the formula for success is easier, make space and find/become the open player. So, yes he will make many many mistakes(just like Puyol still makes). However, he will learn his roles, and he will become more solid of a player over time. I’m not worried about him.

  12. Alexinho
    September 30, 2009

    I like your point about Ibra disrupting our inclination to play tiki-taka, and your nomination of Ibra being MOTM (though I’m not quite so sure). The man was absolutely unplayable. Did he ever lose the ball? All I saw was him dragging defenders, when he wasn’t breezing past them. The man had that “drone” quality with the ball that just makes it look like its tied to his feet.

    I was surprised that you gave Xavi a 9 after reading earlier that he was spraying balls all over the place, etc., and I would say he was my MOTM. Honestly, I was in a conversation and not paying too close attention to the “who” detail in the early minutes, but after the first ten minutes I was really watching, and I think he only lost the ball twice. Not one of them in the rest of the first half. He was just part of everything with no shortage of awesome balls. I will say, though, that for those two caught-in-possession moments, he also had two moments where he really could have taken a shot but chose to lay it off (that is, he layed it off and to someone who had less of a chance to score…he being Xavi he loves this particular option). He really should’ve had a goal or two.

    Iniesta looked like he helped Xavi’s game tremendously. Dare I say he just might tie down the LF spot by the middle of the season? He does have that annoying tendency to take it to the endline and turn his man inside out when he could just have him beat and make a tougher cross, but the difference between he over there and Henry over there was staggering.

    Keita, Abidal, and Puyol continue a glorious run of form. Puyol in particular had one of those fire-and-brimstone “I Am El Capitan!” matches, and I wrote off the defensive lapses in the beginning more to Pique. Pique, I thought, had an unusually bad match. Bad Gerard.

    Alves and Yaya, I can’t say much about. Alves had a better day crossing the ball (remember that one on the turn from literally the corner flag that ended up right at Ibra’s body in the middle of the box, that Ibra let go for another striker behind him? Holy crap!), but perhaps he was having an off-day on defense. I thought Yaya was playing pretty good…because I didn’t notice him most of the time. That’s the idea, right? But I’ll certainly buy that he had a hand in the relatively poor defense as well.

    And totally agree about Messi. He was just off today, goal or not. Had some real, uncharacteristic trouble with execution. Don’t know if Pedro was as good as you say he was, but he did better than Messi ’cause of the goal (right?). Some moments, I felt he was trying too hard. But he really deserved an assist (Jeffren!!) to go with the goal, and that was a really tough goal to score. Excellent for him and I hope he continues to improve; it was probably “The Destabilizer’s” best match in competitive play. Busquets IS worrying me. I thought he played better than you said, and he wasn’t shockingly bad, until that awful defensive header. Atletico capitalized on that, and so could have Kiev. That lesson should’ve been learned by now.

  13. Timoteo
    September 30, 2009

    I was never all the impressed with Busquets last year either. We was serviceable in matches where the Yaya was injured or needed a rest against lesser sides. But in big matches he had a tendency to dwell on the ball too long and get caught out from behind. He also would frequently do that move where he is trying to draw a foul and does a straight-legged belly flop on the pitch, apparently to the refs amusement because it was rarely called. He has potential but against strong sides I am not looking forward to when Yaya and Keita are not available.

    So i was dubious about the Eto’o Ibra trade despite Kxevin’s effusive love for the Swede. I don’t watch much Italian football and Eto’o, despite the bizarre press and rumors, works his socks off on the pitch, has blazing speed and last year started to understand the team passing concept a bit better. But having watched Ibra this year, the amount of money involved was ludicrous (but what big footie move isn’t these days?) but player for player Inter was fleeced. Ibra’s mix of skills are much much better than Eto’o’s for Barca. His ability to pass, hold up the ball, work in tight spaces and finish in the air make our attack so much more potent and flexible. His pass to Pedro is one that Eto’o never would have made, or that ridiculous back heel a few games back to Pique for a tap in. Choose your poison, unless your keeper is playing out of his mind you’re not going to win against the full Barca squad.

  14. Sumit
    September 30, 2009

    Here is my .02 on Busi. Busi plays cantera style, which is based on positional play. So when the play is on he is looking to be in space to receive a pass, rather than thinking of a situation where a player could loose a pass and where he has to be to intercept that pass as a destroyer. Yaya plays the African style(i’m not racist) laser legs destroyer. Busi from what I have seen is not a natural defensive midfielder, but rather a tiki taka kind of guy, but, having said that he contributes a lot by his passing, movement, positioning and height. I have seen him do the right things many times in recent matches to look at the wrong. He is obviously not Yaya, who is much better in his position than Busi is. Some of his execution is flawed but I see an immense potential there both for Spain and Barca. Pep is right in giving Busi his turn in midfield. I believe he is the right solution when opponents are parking the bus, and that is exactly what I have seen Pep do.

  15. Kxevin
    September 30, 2009

    When Busquets just plays football, as he did for the first half of his last outing, he is difficult to fault. The problem is when he starts trying to gild the lily.

    The big difference in his play, in my opinion, between this season and last is that last season, our midfield was pretty much uncluttered with opposing players. But what’s happening this season is that opponents are pressuring, and playing for those slick little back passes that our midfield likes so much. They’re also marking Xavi.

    This means that there are attackers hanging around Busquets in spaces where last season, he was unmolested. Big difference. And he doesn’t have the strength or footwork to keep harassers off of him or the ball in the same way that The Yaya does. Nor does he have the ability to make the forward runs that The Yaya does.

    So he has to play a very direct game to be effective, and not linger on the ball as is his tendency. Because losing the ball, then falling down and clutching your leg as the counterattack builds, is not an option.

    I have rarely been as excited about anything football-related as much as I was watching the Iniesta/Xavi/Ibrahimovic interplay yesterday. Imagine when they all reach full fitness, and understand each other. An attack of Henry/Ibra/Messi with a midfield of Iniesta/Xavi/The Yaya will be astounding. The only problem with that is that it takes Keita off the pitch for a while, which I have a hard time with, given his current form.

    Finally, I was on board with the Ibrahimovic thing early, for the precise sporting reasons that people are mentioning now. I wouldn’t characterize it as “effusive love.” But I was definitely on board.

    We shouldn’t short-change Eto’o. His contributions to the cause were majestic. But I think that we’re a better attack now, because of having a guy who can move 2-3 defenders around just by shambling off to the left or right. But it isn’t an either/or. They are different players.

    • Kxevin
      September 30, 2009

      I should add that I don’t think that we should sit Henry, which I’m sure that some will suggest as a way of getting Keita and Iniesta on the pitch. Henry playing off of Ibrahimovic, being fed by Iniesta, is scary.

  16. Maximus
    September 30, 2009

    Totally off topic, and I’m reaching out here, anyone got Google Wave invites and would be willing to share one?

    Totally on topic, we looked soft in the middle and scrambled at the back sometimes but overall its encouraging. I really liked how Ibra and Iniesta linked up however I prefer Iniesta in the middle. If Pedro can put on a bit of size he could a viable LW option for Henry, so Ghost Face Killa aka Che che le ghost aka Phantom of the Opera aka SPF45 aka …you get my drift…can play the LM role.

  17. Cesc Blanc
    September 30, 2009

    Pedro! is the football version of Mr. Big Shot Horry. Look at the calm in finishing, the big goals, and the occasion fading away when it doesn’t matter and you have Mr.Big Shot.
    Excellent blog btw. I really have to say that yours is hands down so far the best English blog…or let me say the one blog I will keep on checking despite perfectly understanding the news and analysis and everything in Spanish. Don’t agree with everything you say but still, excellent work!

    • September 30, 2009

      Thanks Cesc!

      If you did agree with everything we said you’d be insane cause Kevin and I contradict each other on virtually a daily basis.

      The comparison with Robert Horry is brilliant, by the way. I’ll have to keep that in mind…

    • Luna
      September 30, 2009

      so Cesc do you mind sharing what spanish language Barca related blogs you read, news sites? I have a couple of them but would like to expand my library.

      • Cesc Blanc
        September 30, 2009

        hehehe, well I disagree with a couple stuff I read so far(didn’t really go through everything in detail) but it’s a disagreement based on matter of taste, not because I think that it’s crap, but I really dig the sense of humor and style.

        @luna

        the usual actually…futbolitis, cruyff’s blog, diarios de futbol, avui and the 2 comic papers. and of course Sid Lowe articles on Guardian.

  18. jordi
    September 30, 2009

    Thats just it, busi was an attacking player for the youth teams, he wasnt a defensive mid, so being that its not natural for him, experience is wat will help him improve over time, there arent many 20 year old defensive mids like him around though.Cant think of many actually.Maybe we should try him in more advanced postions sometimes.

    • September 30, 2009

      I’m down with the occasional total footballing experience of The Yaya-Busi-Xavi all rotating like mad.

  19. jordi
    September 30, 2009

    I cant wait till ibra scores a long range golazo, i feel once he gets one, or one of his ninja kicks go in, he’ll start scoring more of them. 😀 Giddy anticipation

  20. jnelson
    September 30, 2009

    I hope Busi gets it together soon, for a coach like Pep hates stupid mistakes. Isn’t that why we loaned Henrique out again?

    I can’t wait for this Ballon D’Or crap to be over with. I mean come on, Messi should have that unanimously. How can anyone truly say thongboy deserves it after Messi led his team last year to unprecedented success, even outscoring CR9. I think the award has been messing with Messi’s mind a little. I’m worried that he’s keeping the ball too long with his incredible runs when Ibra is so often one touch with it. Apparently, performances like today were what poll voters like, lapping up Messi’s play. However, more quick passes would have opened up more and BETTER scoring chances, especially with three to four guys trailing him plus a keeper. Just saying…

    • ElShowDeJason
      September 30, 2009

      I’m actually going to blame Weligton, not the BallonD’Or for this one.

      He seemed to hold up the ball too much against Malaga the more he got fouled.

      He’ll be fine. I’m not worried.

  21. ElShowDeJason
    September 30, 2009

    Kxevin, you made one error in the review.
    “then a killer ball from Alves found Messi right at the edge of the box”

    It was actually Iniesta that hit Messi with the throughball

    Messi had a bad game despite the goal.
    and i have to agree with Isaiah, I was VERY unimpressed with Xavi yesterday, i would have gien him a 7. Maybe he only MISSED 3-4 passes, but many more werer not weighted correctly and made it difficult for the receiving player. He and Messi just didn’t impose themselves on the game.

    I think Iniesta and Ibrahimovic had an amazing connection despite not having played together before. I can’t wait to see this partnership get better and start producing as the season pregresses.

    I had mixed feeling about Keita today. Good outlet? yeah, sure, he was sufficient there. His midfield-cover work was good, but I was disspointed with his attacking play.

    Oh, and Kxevin, i do not think Ibrahimovic has hindured our ability to play tiki-taka footy, especially if you consider that Eto’o wasn’t the best passer in the world. I think that Iniesta’s absense is to blame. In fact, I think that once Iniesta is 100% and playing next to Xavi, our Tiki-Taka footy will be better with Ibra, than last year.

    Ibra is giving us an option B, but i don’t believe he is taking away our ability to practice option A

  22. ElShowDeJason
    September 30, 2009

    Wolfsburg are currently beating ManU at Old Trafford and
    FC Zurch are currently beating Milan at the San Siro

    both games are at 1-0.

    Hehehe… this amuzes me 🙂

    • ElShowDeJason
      September 30, 2009

      and just as I say that, a Ryan Giggs free kick takes a REDICULOUS deflection off the wall and in… 1-1 minute 60

    • ElShowDeJason
      September 30, 2009

      Damn. Madrid scored. and kaka is taking a pk…

      WHY did i stop watching?

      i watch 58 minutes, i change the channel for two minutes, and now its 2-0. lame.

      • Eduard
        September 30, 2009

        Marseille was doing splendid, then they let 3 goals in quick succession and are with 1 man down :/ …. I like Marseille too, they’re the Barcelona to France, with lots of Catalan influence….

        Wolfsberge, i guess it wasn’t as much their fault as Manchester luck.

        • OhYes
          September 30, 2009

          Yea they should have been winning at half time.

          So damn sad. This always happens for Madrid.

          opposing team is great..misses chances..falls apart entirely

  23. Hector
    September 30, 2009

    Hey dudes,

    I’ve had some laptop troubles. Here’s my take on Busi:

    Busi can be an awesome D-Mid someday. Last season I always said that I saw him more as a natural “horse” (to use Ramzi terminology) or box to box mid a la Keita than as a pure D-Mid. However, with time he can become a really good one. His positioning is not bad. As a matter of fact, its exceptional given his age and first team experience. I wish he would add more range to his passing but that will come with time. In the meantime he’s got a good touch for the simple short and medium range passes that a D-Mid usually makes. His problem is that he doesn’t follow the golden rule for D-Mids which is KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid). He still gets too flashy with his dribbling and some risky passes. The best D-Mids (Yaya, Mascherano, Senna, Makalele back in the day, etc.) always make good, sound, simple passes to get the ball moving. That’s why he sometimes seems so inconsistent. When he follows the KISS rule, he is solid but when he trys to channel his inner Xavi or has his ocassional brain farts then he really hurts us. He has to learn that Xavi and Iniesta take those risks because they know they have Yaya or him (Busi) covering their ass. He does not.

    That said, sometimes we forget that he recently turned 21. That means he is younger than Pedro, Messi, and Pique. Yeah, I know that just like Bojan, if you are on the first team then you have to pull your own weight but dwell on that fact for a bit and you will see that giving up on him or writing him off would be a huge mistake.

  24. jordi
    September 30, 2009

    Horrible goalkeeping and ronaldo has a goal, where is keeping like that when we play?

    • Eduard
      September 30, 2009

      Yeah, go pray, that always get results.

  25. BA
    September 30, 2009

    Ronaldo flat-tracking his way to the Golden Boot.

    • Helge
      September 30, 2009

      The Golden Boot of the CL should be his, considering that they still face an absolutely desastrous AC Milan twice and Zurich at home. I fear up to 10 goals for him to group stage. But it won’t serve anything if they fail in the knock-out-stage (and I think they will, against an English team because they don’t play good, they just win comfortably, considering the results). And if RM completely dominates group stage, the disappointment will be even bigger once they are out of the CL 😀

        • inNYC
          September 30, 2009

          OM had some bad luck but they should have pulled back at least a goal and probably 2. Really disappointing match.

    • jordi
      September 30, 2009

      Nah, once they get bounced again in the round of 16 he won’t be able to add to his group stage goals

  26. Khaled
    September 30, 2009

    Just finished the watching EE’s match…I gotta say that Marseille played very well. Even though it was a 3-0 score line their goal keeper was a beast. What i’ve noticed is once Madrid scores their first goal the other team capitulates for some reason…but that wasn’t the case tonight. A very bad Penalty call after the first goal is what killed the game. Things that i think are noteworthy…Cristiano gets frustrated until he scores…it’s like he’s doing everything in his power to out-play Messi…Kaka isn’t all that…his two goals for Madrid are both Penalties…Pelligrini can refuse to admit it from now till eternity but his tactics are almost a photo image of Barca’s. In any case, the jury is still out on if they are for real until they play Sevilla. If they beat Sevilla in the same manner as their previous games, then they are for real.

    As for Barca…i’m really starting to worry about our rotation. Many of you might think otherwise but i really think that Xavi, Messi, Ibra, Pique, and Alves should get some rest time. in the near future. With the World Club Championship on our schedule, the minutes the players are putting in, and the tenacity the other teams are tackling our player, I’m worried they’re gonna run out of gas by March.

    • Khaled
      September 30, 2009

      Excuse the grammar and spelling mistakes.

  27. Ciaran
    September 30, 2009

    Sorry Kxevin, you don’t often find me arguing ratings but I thought that Pedro was very poor bar the brilliant finish for the goal. Let’s face it… if that shot is blocked he gets a ‘4’.
    He is far too unpredictable to be a first team player. At least with Bojan, Iniesta and Henry you know what you’ll get.
    I do think that he will end up being quite a good winger, but for the likes of Sevilla or Valencia rather than us.

    You know me Kxev, I am a big fan of Giuly too. He had the fastest first 10 yards of any winger I’ve ever seen, and his timing of his runs was absolutely exceptional. He was the perfect example that sometimes it is easier to let the ball beat the last defender.
    Jeffren should watch some tapes… he has the skills.

    Busquets seems to have Second Season Syndrome. Midfielders know he will take too many touches and will go down far too easily so if you wait for Xavi and Keita to play the ball back to Busquets and hassle him you’ll probably end up with the chance to break.
    He needs to man up; grow a pair and practice his Yaya stare.

    • Alexinho
      September 30, 2009

      I’d love to keep Pedro because he will get better, but I hold more of this kind of opinion, Ciaran. He wasn’t bad, again he should’ve had an assist with the goal, but I didn’t see him “checking himself.” He still looked like he was trying to make outrageous things happen with his movement. To his credit, however, he didn’t give the ball away very much, and when he did try too hard (running around with the ball trying to beat a defender unsuccessfully, missing the cross, and passing back, and going on a screaming run to attempt to receive a near-impossible pass on a counter), he didn’t look terrible. And I saw him on the left often, rather than mostly all over the place. So he was good, but not worthy of all the plaudits Kevin has given him. Still he might’ve been a tad better than Messi, if individual context is the standard-

  28. Kxevin
    September 30, 2009

    OT: The good: On Friday, we hear whether Chicago gets the 2016 Olympics. Here’s hoping.

    The bad: Ferrari signed Alonso. I don’t know why they didn’t hang a vinegar-scented douchebag from the garage door instead?

  29. Hilal
    September 30, 2009

    Yeah whatever, Madrid are getting all the easy games so of course they are gona score lots of goals. If they were in our group im not sure they would even qualify. Inter would cause them all sorts of headaches and they have yet to play a tough, aggressive team like D Kiev so im not so sure they would beat them either.

    Sevilla look like a good test, lets see what happens…

  30. messi_fan
    September 30, 2009

    You know, before the goal, I was saying that this was the worst I had EVER seen Messi play. I don’t agree with the person who suggested that the Ballon D’or thing is playing on his mind. He doesn’t strike me as that sort of player. Plus, it was more his passing that was letting him down, almost as if he wasn’t dialed into the speed of the pitch. In the second half he was much better.

    Abidal…the funny thing about him is that even in his first season when he was taking criticism he was playing GREAT. But what happened both years was that he’d get injured and come back a shadow of himself. But when he’s on his game the only thing wrong with him is that he doesn’t add much to the offense.

    Someone needs to tell Busquets that if he EVER does that again, he’ll take up permanent residence on the bench. You’d think he’d have learned after the first time he did that.

    I actually think our defenders are playing great…individually. They have to work on their communication though. That clash of heads between Pique and Puyol should have never happened.

    Glad to see Iniesta resembling his former self. Wish he didn’t dribble so much though. And he needs to take a shot ever now and again. Good things happen when he does 😉

    And lastly…Ibra is..wow…I’m a huggeeeeeeee Eto’o fan, but what Ibra brings to this team is just ridiculous.

    • Kxevin
      September 30, 2009

      But note that Abidal was going forward a lot in this match, including a couple of excellent crosses that deserved better fates. He’s become the designated overlap target for Keita or Henry, as well, moving into the corner at full gallop, which makes him impossible to stop.

      As for Messi, every player can’t be on every match. He’s been mostly spectacular this season, so he’s about due. And we could afford it.

  31. PM
    September 30, 2009

    I can’t wait for Saturday to come. Why do they play only once/twice a week? It should have been more frequent 🙁

  32. Ramzi
    September 30, 2009

    To make things clear, Eto’o vanished during the last CL game mostly because he was backed by dead midfielders, attached to a crazy forward who earned himself a red card and was supposed to be feed by a Wing (Mancini) who didn’t show up for the game.

    My opinion about Ibra is well known since the days when I was punched every time I mentioned his name 😀 . But we can only compare Ibra to Eto’o (from a barca perspective) three years from now at least, when we witness ibra contribution in barcelona success and compare it to thats of eto’o. Till then, lets drop this case, really. We have the most complete striker in the world at the moment (dont think anyone will argue this anymore, right?). Good for us! And good luck for everyone else wherever they are.

    – I dont see any reason to have the selection headache of “either Keita or Iniesta) (either Iniesta or Henry). The season is long and intensive. So we will need everyone wherever possible. No more permanent 11 starters in nowadays football (something I mentioned all the time last season). The best thing for the team is to have keita to seriously unsettle Iniesta as a starter, and Iniesta to unsettle Henry as a starter. Specially after a successful season where everyone normally tend to take things for granted.

    • messi_fan
      September 30, 2009

      Hey Ramzi,

      I loved reading your articles over at Pep’s place. Any chance you’ll do some more here?

    • Kxevin
      September 30, 2009

      In one of the diamonds that Goal.com plucks from its traditional pile of shit, they note the midfield deficiencies that the presence of Ibrahimovic repaired, that are manifesting themselves now that he’s gone.

      I agree with Ramzi. When Ibra scores, like, 1,000,000 goals in 14 games or something, comparisons can be made. For now, we can evaluate what he brings to the attack, and what he brings, I like.

      And the pressure is one of the reasons that I think Suarez (if the price is right) would be a good signing. Maxwell has made Abidal play his best. Txigrinski has raised the game of Puyol. You don’t want the kind of excess that pressurizes Pedro! and Busquets into trying to make every play show that they belong on the pitch. A player trying to do too much is dangerous to his side sometimes.

  33. fcbfan
    September 30, 2009

    When was the last time we had a pk? That EE seem to get one every week.

    • Kxevin
      September 30, 2009

      Comes with being the big kid on the block, fcbfan. Officials tend to not want to give any love to the bully. So the close calls tend to go to the opponent. Expect a lot of that. The only really blatant miss, which when seen in real time didn’t look like much, was the Iniesta pulldown that we see above. But rookie ref on a huge stage? He isn’t making that call, for fear of the second guessers.

      • jordi
        September 30, 2009

        Yet we get the Villarato finger pointing every week.I like that we havent let the refereeing get to us so far this season, sometimes last season we let it get to us, even the physical games ,now we just roll on and try to win whatever way we can.

        • ooga aga
          September 30, 2009

          EE vs 10 men
          EE vs 10 men
          EE vs 10 men

          • BL
            October 1, 2009

            florentino is back baby, coincidence that we don’t get any penalties, madrid gets them every game and that they play vs 10 men? i think not, look at the weligton incidents, shambolic! but its not effecting the boys, they’re doing their job, who cares what bullshit madrid is handed to them on a silver platter? when it comes down to it, they will have to perform against better sides than zurich, tenerife and xerez and then we’ll see. even last year when they went on their “dominant” run in the league, as soon as they came up against the better team they fell apart. granted this year they are far superior than they were, but still, they haven’t been tested at all.

  34. Kxevin
    September 30, 2009

    I would say that in general, communication is a problem. Alves and Messi essentially knocked each other off of that glorious chance on the doorstep in the Inter match, Pique and Puyol knocked heads, Puyol knocked that ball out of Valdes’ hands. If someone calls the other person off, good things happen. Or at least, bad things don’t happen.

  35. tyler
    September 30, 2009

    For me, I think once iniesta is 100% we will see a completely different team. What he brings to each match is as genius as what Xavi does, but in a totally different way. I like him as left winger, but I think he works his best magic when he is in the midfield working with Xavi causing defenders to go to sleep with nightmares of perfectly passed through-balls. I think when he is 100% match fit and in tune with Ibra, and if we can get henry or bojan back as well, we are going to see a LOT of goals. San Iniesta will save us all!

    • poipoi
      October 1, 2009

      I like iniesta in the midfield working with xavi too it’s just perfect, but right now I think pep will make him play in the wing since keita is doing better that titi and it looks like he doesn’t trust pedro! much… as a starter for most games. iniesta-ibra-messi + keita-xavi … and henry can give ibra some rest at times 😉

  36. Corrine
    September 30, 2009

    anyone watching the mexico vs colombia friendly? it’s just the B team but JDS is playing and he’s a beaaasttt

    *http://www.justin.tv/bombonera1969/popout

  37. Luna
    September 30, 2009

    Oh snap, thanks for the reminder Corrine!

    • Miguel
      October 1, 2009

      all i see is this guy 🙁
      /http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bZxyqMrb0uU

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