Real Sociedad 2, Barca 2, aka “Don’t. Don’t don’t. Don’t. Don’t believe the hype”

Every match comes down to a key moment, and for me, this picture illustrates that moment as eloquently as any verbiage. Because in the 30th minute, when Alexis Sanchez was hacked down by a tackle that deserved at least a yellow and instead got nothing, the match changed for the worse for us.

It wasn’t even that David Villa entered, making the left side a place where attacks went to die. It was that the most positive player on the pitch was gone, and the malaise seemed to creep about like a particularly virulent infection. The players became aimless. Nobody seemed to know what to do with the ball, or where to go when they had it. Was some of it the pressure that a brave, tireless Real Sociedad put on us? Absolutely. Witness their players collapsing after the final whistle. They played their hearts out for a draw that they justly earned, so put any talk of gifts out of your minds, as this draw could easily have been a loss, courtesy of two late set pieces.

And we go into week 3 of the Liga actually better off than we were at this same time last season. How ’bout that? So everybody, calm down.

We aren’t going to die

Bear with me, as I had to watch the match via ESPN3 replay, and am banging away on a strange computer. But neither of those can hide the fact that only one side played the entire match, and that side got the result that it fought for. Rather than shame on us, I will say congrats to them. This will be a season where a draw will be as good as a win to the rest of the Liga, and potentially as damaging as a loss in the standings for the Big Two. Both top teams will drop points this season, in unexpected ways and places. It was our turn this week, and it will be their turn in another week. The important thing is not to panic, finger point and run around, bellowing “Lawd, lawd, we’re all going to die!”

Because we aren’t. We have had collective cases of the dumps the past couple of seasons, but for those with short memories, go back and look at the last two years that Rijkaard was at the helm, if you want to see extended collective heart failure. And yet there is no real point of comparison, because the Rijkaard teams, those last couple of seasons, were finding ways to screw up, waiting for the hammer to come down. This group falters when it commits the sin of arrogance, of thinking that we can just show up and make magic. The other side doesn’t always cooperate in such notions. Are we as good as advertised? Yep. But we still have to show up and take care of business.

Guardiola rolled out with a lineup that should have been good enough to win this match: Valdes, Alves, Busquets, Fontas, Adriano, Keita, Xavi, Thiago, Fabregas, Sanchez and Pedro. That there wasn’t a real striker was immaterial as unlike with most sides, any player out there can play with the ball at his feet and score goals. And we got off to a quick start, with two goals that masked the fissures that were visible in the edifice of our excellence.

Mmmmmm, goals!

Our first goal was a very simple bit of Fabregas perfection that fell to the feet of Sanchez, who evinced a dazzling bit of close control as he stabilized, then slid a ball to Xavi, who tapped home for 1-0. It was a goal whose roots were in movement, and one dynamic player dragging defenders around to create space for a teammate to run into, an inch-perfect pass and a player with the skill to turn the trick. It was an absurd goal of the type that we score with regularity, a kind of perpetual-motion domino machine that needs for everything to be perfect, and it almost always is.

It was also a goal that took advantage of the way that they were playing, which was to control Xavi by flooding the midfield with 6 players, and keeping a tight, 4-man back line. What Xavi’s movement into the box did was take advantage of temporary confusion caused by the role switch between he and Fabregas. What Fabregas’ pass did was take advantage of the space allowed, a no man’s land into which lofted balls could be played. Yes, he had to ask a very difficult question of Sanchez, that was answered with style.

The second goal was a little uglier, it must be said. Xavi returned to his role of provider, again taking advantage of space between the two Sociedad lines to place a ball directly at Fabregas’ feet. He slid it to Pedro, who tried some bit of ridiculousness that was easily stopped by the keeper, but Fabregas was there to prod home, and it was 2-0. It was also an example of a Pedro who hasn’t been the same since his injury last season, and still isn’t. He’s pressing more, seems less certain and acts like a player who is playing out of fear, rather than joy, as if he feels compelled to live up to the effusion spewed about him the past couple of seasons. And it isn’t going so well for him in that regard.

What now, coach?

Still it was 2-0, and you could make yourself find consolation in the scoreline, rather than in the effectiveness of the Sociedad effort, the bigger triangles that gave them more time to get in the way of passes, the times that players were left alone, with nobody to give the ball to, the long balls over the top that rarely failed to cede possession, breaking up our attacks in a way beneficial to a side playing for a draw.

"Well NOW what?"

At almost no time did we have full control of this match, despite our typically gaudy possession statistics. Because rather than calm passes to moving players, today’s were rushed and harried stabs to teammates who looked around and found themselves in the same situation as the player who just gave the ball to them as Sociedad ran, scratched, pulled and clawed in an attempt to get any kind of a result that they could. And when they scored, for me it was as inevitable as the sunrise, because of that lack of control.

Even if we had effective midfield pressure (we didn’t), they were going over the top to create chances that gave them a direct shot at our defense, and Guardiola was looking far more worried than a coach who was looking at being two goals up should — because he knew. He could see it, just like we could. Because we never got that match-killing third goal, never even got a real good look at it before halftime, setting the stage for their coach to say to them, “You took their best shot and you’re in striking distance. Let’s get it done!”

Uh, oh …. it’s about to get messy.

In the second half, we essentially continued the aimlessness and confused ineffectiveness of the first half, only against a team that felt like it had new life, rather than one waiting to die. You saw the first evidence of it when a Sociedad attacker got the ball in our box, and was surrounded by 3 players, none of whom really did anything. Finally, the shot caromed off Fontas’ leg past Valdes’ goal mouth, as alarm bells began to ring. It’s a scenario that we’ve all seen before, and it didn’t take long for reality to rear its ugly head.

On a free kick, there was zero pressure on the passer or the player receiving the pass, as our players just sort of trotted back toward Valdes. This allows their player time, space and luxury to consider, then make the right move and he did so, laying a perfect pass for a header that should never have been, but Busquets was either on psychic walkabout, or confused as to what to do with a player in the box. Would a real defender have probably stopped that play? Yes. Certainly? Impossible to say, as it was a hell of a pass. With even a bit of pressure, the goal probably doesn’t happen, because what defines great players is the right decision under pressure. Sociedad doesn’t have great players. Pressure makes that first pass a little less perfect, that second pass even more so.

Another question worth asking is whether Valdes shouldn’t have been protecting the near post a bit more, as the header would have had to go over/through Busquets to take advantage of the far side. Either way, hell of a play by them that was assisted by our fundamental lackadaisical uncertainty. But make no mistake about it, our defense isn’t as great as its statistics show. It’s a defense that is predicated on rarely seeing the ball, or when it does, its center backs act more like sweepers, scooping up errant passes and feeding mids, who return to the task of gutting an opponent. As Guardiola himself said, “We’re crap without the ball,” and if you give teams a direct shot at our defense, they are going to score goals.

It’s not going to get worse, is it?

Their second goal was a comprehensive a cluster as you will ever see, and as near as you will ever come to being able to lay a goal at the feet of a single player — David Villa. Perhaps he knows why he ran to the ball and popped it back toward Valdes, instead of the much safer short pass to Keita for a reset. But when he did, Keita grabbed his head in chagrin because he knew what was about to happen. Sure enough, the Sociedad player ran onto the ball, beat a desperately lunging Valdes and popped a shot that Busquets hand-balled off the crossbar. The reboud was tapped home by a teammate, who should have been marked by someone, anyone, and it was 2-2. Worse still, it was 2-2 in a match that we’d collectively lost interest in.

Guardiola made the right substitutions in adding Messi and Iniesta to the mix, but without the desired result because the machine was already broken and Sociedad were playing their hearts out. Once they got that equalizer, you could see in their faces that they would do anything short of driving a bus onto the pitch and parking it in front of their goal to keep from giving up the point that they worked so hard for. We complied with those desires by just being plaing ol’ craptastic in attack and execution. Villa backpassed, Messi made runs into 4-5 defenders and Pedro windmilled ineffectively. The font of Masia Magic was blunted by hard work and ennui but even then, there were chances. Pedro took a pass that bounced bad, not giving him many options except try a crazy kinda chip thing, that failed. Alves outfights a Sociedad player to a ball on the end line and feeds a wide-open Pedro, who promptly tried to give someone in the stands a souvenir. Xavi had a shot and thought too much. Villa had a great chance and took such a big windup that a defender had plenty of time to block the shot.

And so it went.

The Sanchez difference, aka “Why NOT Afellay?” aka “Future shock, since Afellay wasn’t on the bench, dumbass!”

When Sanchez went down with an injury that, by the by, will keep him out for 6-8 weeks, which doesn’t sound as long as “ohmygodtwomonthsitsthecurseofthe9!”, Villa came in and the dynamic changed. And it wasn’t just because it removed a very positive player from the pitch. It also swapped a player with the precise skill set to harass the kind of system that Sociedad came to play, with a player whose skill set played right into its hands. So the mids can spray the ball wide to Sanchez, who can beat his defender and charge the box, creating chaos. It’s like having a Messi Lite on the left wing. Villa can’t beat a defender one-on-one, so he takes the pass, does a little feint then passes it back to midfield. A defense can breathe a lot easier, and really bunker down.

Sanchez also has better ball control and passing abilities, and a significantly higher work rate, which brings me to my next question: Why not Afellay? His pace, dribbling abilities and skill on the wing would give us some of what Sanchez brings to the table. In consideration of upcoming matches, will Guardiola want an out-and-out forward out there to partner Pedro? Probably, despite the difficulties that the Villa/Pedro combo, bereft of Messi, has against bunkered-down defenses. Messi is the bunker-buster who creates space for his attacking teammates. Absent that, both Villa and Pedro are “take ball, shoot” kinds of players, rather than “take ball, make move, shoot or make great pass” kinds of players that Sanchez and to a lesser extent, Afellay are.

So, to sum up, we dropped a couple of points. No biggie. No. Really. No biggie. EE is NOT going to go undefeated this season, and we know this, because they play us. Twice. But you know what? Neither are we. So hunker down for what’s going to be an awesome Liga dogfight this season.

Yep, a Kxevin review means ….

Team: 4. It’s hard to laud a group that clunked its way to two dropped points. They did some things well, then screwed the pooch in a way that was coach intervention-proof, that even the Best Player Alive couldn’t fix.

Guardiola: 7. Made the right moves, rolled out with a lineup that was clearly good enough to do the job, as evidenced by the 0-2 score at the half. Made the right substitutions as well. But boy, was he late with the Iniesta move, and I would have swapped him for Pedro rather than Fontas. Might have made those last two Sociedad set pieces less fraught.

Valdes: 5. Not as sharp as usual, and yes, I feel that he should have been tighter on the near post. He was hung out to dry on that second goal, so it’s hard to fault him for that. A die-hard Valdes hater, however, might ask if he should have stayed home to make himself big, and give the player something to think about when making the shot. Who knows? That’s a tough ask, as Valdes is an aggressive, ball-hawking keeper. And he almost got there.

Alves: 4. Didn’t have his usual marauding effect on the match, and with the gobs of possession that we had, you can’t really explain it away by him being terrified of his counterpart. Seemed particularly aimless, and didn’t provide the ball pressure that he should have on the set piece that led to their first goal. Had a bad case of Boxus Uncertaintus today, except for that HUGE intervention to prevent a late goal for them.

Busquets: 4. Some nice interventions when moving forward, but lacking a defender’s instincts showed at the worst possible times. A defender can track the ball and the man. Busquets half-assed both. Does this mean that he’s a terrible defender? No. It means that if we put him in a situation where he has to be a good defender, he’s probably not going to be all that a real defender would be. That’s the risk you take in the Guardiola Plan.

Fontas: 5. He showed some good instincts and better foot speed than I thought he had. He also showed why he isn’t ready for a regular starting role. The real value of Puyol, Mascherano and Abidal is that they are decisive. “I’m doing this,” and they do it. Fontas still doesn’t have that snap decision making that he needs to be able to partner a player such as Busquets and not have bad things happen.

Adriano: 5. A curious match in that he was very good early, right along with the rest of the team, then lost his way. He provided no dynamism off the wing, either, which is much of the reason that he’s out there.

Keita: 6. The question: Am I as happy when I see Keita at DM over Busquets? Nope. Does this mean that I think Keita is the disaster that many do? No. He is a different player than Busquets, a physical presence who will usually get the ball or at least get in the way, and will 9 out of 10 times, make the safe pass. He did that for most of the match today, though he had a rather awful last 20 minutes or so.

Xavi: 7. Nice and solid, but let down time and again by his teammates, who were running hither and yon for reasons only they know. He missed Iniesta as well. Beautiful passes, a well-taken goal and the pass that led to the assist for the second. Could easily have had a couple more assists, as well. Did better than he should have, with a quartet of Sociedad mids tasked with making his life hell.

Thiago: 3. Bad time to play like a kid still finding his way in the first team. When he wasn’t invisible, he was making mistakes and misplacing passes. He plays too fast, as playing fast is very different from playing quickly. So he decides to do a flick, but a teammate isn’t reading his mind, so the ball rolls to the defender instead of the feet of a forward. Not as visible on the defensive end, either.

Fabregas: 5. A goal and a brilliant setup pass, coupled with standing around, trotting lackadaisically and not helping on defense or with ball pressure. He didn’t seem to know whether he was a mid or a false 9. He’s also too casual with possession. The lofted long balls are nice, going to a pure forward, but we don’t have one of those. So you might as well just give the other side possession.

Sanchez: 7. Not a full match rating, but he played long enough to be rated. Aggressive, fast, usually did the right things with the ball, work rate off the charts. Raised hell wherever he was. His assist came from that Messi Spot, just to the right of center, and when on the left, he made the defense’s collective lives hell. He will be sorely missed for these two months.

Pedro: 4. No exclamation point for him, just a mediocre match that saw him trying way too hard. Whether he’s feeling pressure that is self-imposed or from the presence of Sanchez is beyond my deductive powers, but he doesn’t have the confidence that Pedro!! had. This is affecting his decision making with and without the ball, so he runs a lot, but to precious little effect.


Villa: 1. This might or might not be controversial. I don’t care. He was terrible today, with more back passes than any defender, a couple of poor shots that had zero chance of going in, the Killer Back Pass and hardly any tracking back/work rate. His match today felt like final-season Henry, and we all know how that went. He will improve, as it was a team malaise today, but he was particularly bad, and lazy at inopportune times, when a forward looking to rush the net and score could have capitalized on passes, including a great one from Alves.

Messi: 3. Not his usual galvanic effect, but once he stopped being selfish, made some very positive moves. He loses a rating point for that ridiculous dive in the box.

Iniesta: incomplete. Not enough match time for a rating, but wasn’t all that hot in his (today) typically stranded state.

Next up is a Tuesday Champions League match against an AC Milan side that did the same thing that we did, in drawing 2-2 against an opponent that should have been beaten. And typically of our transfer karma, it had to be Milan, featuring one Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who will be spoiling for a fight. Should be a good one. Until then ….

"Sighhhhh .... I hate this game sometimes."
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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.


  1. Lou
    September 10, 2011

    Nice review, Kxevin!

    I agree that Afellay will be very useful while Sanchez is injured. But as for why Guardiola didn’t sub him in today, Afellay was not on the bench.

    Hopefully Afellay gets some time mid-week. He probably won’t start but he could be very useful coming off the bench against a team like Milan.

    • September 10, 2011

      Well that would explain THAT, wouldn’t it? Edited above to reflect reality. Thanks for the correction.

    • 505
      September 12, 2011

      thanks so much for this kari!! loved the commentary after the first goal –

      “it’s carles puyol! he’s good as anybody for this goal! carles puyol wins it like a titan! he’s brilliant, the captain — rises like a colossus above and hammers this one down with his beautiful curly head..”

      i miss our capita!!

  2. September 10, 2011

    The game was disappointing – and it was in part disappointing because they finally came out and played so well. And for 20 min or so it seemed like the added depth may have provided an immediate tangible benefit – improved play after an international break.

    But then it disintegrated away.

    The team was going to drop points along the way – and this was one of those days.

    Unfortunately, it now puts them behind to open a season once again. They’ve overcome it before but it just would have been nice to not have to do that again this season.

    On another note – I think we may see the role of Dani Alves and the full backs in general change yet again this season.

    It looks to me that Pep is committed to playing his two lateral attackers in the front trident very wide.

    That’s giving them a great deal of width.

    But one of the things that’s happening is that it’s more complicated for the full backs to get forward. The lateral attackers aren’t pinching in as much so there’s less room for the full backs.

    It’s not a problem per se – it’s just a difference in how the team may play. Dani is going to need to figure out how to play a bit differently. He may need to rely even more on delayed runs.

    On the bright side – while Sanchez got hurt – he looked terrific once again.

    He really has the potential to make this team even better.

    • September 11, 2011

      I noticed this too. Dani’s marauding runs were completely absent, and I noticed that it was because guys like Pedro, Sanchez, Villa and even Fabregas were in his way.

  3. Blau-Grenade
    September 10, 2011

    So happy to see your ratings back Kxevin. Totally agree with all your ratings.

    Really sad to see Sanchez out for a couple of months. I think I am going to watch the next match when Sanchez is back. Because the games and strategy will revert back to the same as last year games without Sanchez.

    Sanchez was the one guy who was giving us width in the first half.

    The problem with the second half is that, with Fabregas playing as the number 9, Messi should have stayed wide. He moved to the centre as well, crowding an already overcrowded midfield.

    Pedro and Villa are not true wingers and tend to pinch in without beating their man. They might as well play strikers.

    Kxevin, I see you mention Afellay a few times, but I don’t think he is a true winger like Navas, or a Mata who can take on a man on the wing, beat them, provide width on the pitch. I don’t see Afellay playing much part in this season. I hope he proves me wrong.

    Yes there is a window of opportunity for Afellay because Sanchez is injured, but that will be closed when he is back.

  4. EngineNo9
    September 10, 2011

    Villa & Busquets were the two players that had the unlucky distinction of playing the most combined minutes across the Spanish national team matches and yesterday’s match. Villa played 46 minutes last Friday against Chile and 90+ minutes on Tuesday against Liechenstein. Busquets played every minute of both NT matches, w/c means that after yesterday, he’s had 270+ minutes in 8 days…with Milan coming up in a few days.

    Doesn’t excuse a poor overall team effort, but I have a feeling Pep really didn’t want to play Villa yesterday (or at best, wanted to give him the Iniesta treatment…token minutes at the end). Busquets, arguably, deserved better than to be a creaky cog in that decrepit back line given his recent workload.

  5. hammeronmessi
    September 10, 2011

    Only watched the 2nd half.

    1.the pairing of busi and fonta was too slow,especially busi as u can re watch his play and positioning in the first goal.

    2.busi is still a stupid player.what the hell was he trying to handball?that was a red and a penalty.the ref was lenient.

    3.keita is ok,but he is not a onw touch dm player that fastens our play.

    4.xavi was below par.

    5.villa have to dribble someone whenevr he got the ball,dribbling and 1v1 are not his specialities.and what an assist for the goal.

    6.pedro is horrible,blasted an v good chance.

    most importantly our attack and mf almost always carried our team,sometimea our defence has to lend their hand,in this match that was zero.

    but i m not concerned bout this draw.i m devastated that federer was beaten.watched him went up 2 0and then i woke up and saw that joker in the final.

  6. hammeronmessi
    September 11, 2011

    Just read the messi rating,not the entire post,u wrote

    Once he stopped being selfish Made some very positive moves?????when he was selfish can u clarify?agreed on your rating of him though and what a pathetic dive.

  7. hammeronmessi
    September 11, 2011

    I m surprised that none is critici?zing busi for his stupid stupid handball effort?wht the hell was he thinking?that would have cost us all the point if the ref showed him the red.i am really pissed at his stupidity,he is no longer a young player,he should have understood wht would happen if the ref saw that. look at his reaction after that its peek a boo. deja vu all over again.

    • justsayin
      September 11, 2011

      I believe the ref could have given Busquets a red and had RS take a penalty but he did the right thing (IMO) and gave Busquets the yellow and gave RS advantage by letting the play stand, which included a sure goal. It’s not stupid for Busquets to try to stop a sure goal, it’s part of the game, a chance you take. You can argue it’s “unsportsmanlike” because he should allow a certain goal to go in, but that’s about it.

  8. September 11, 2011

    Oooooh, a kxevin review! Yay!
    First, congratulations to Real Sociedad…you played all-out..all heart.
    About our draw, hmmm it’s probably just the pessimistic cule in me, but I really had a bad feeling last night after the first half. It was just a weird feeling, remembering how pep has had several draws in San Sebastian..
    Anyway, we’ve been in this situation before. As Pep said, this was a lesson for everyone to learn. I trust that our team will bounce back and play their hearts out in every game and run and run and concentrate until the final whistle.
    still, thankful for the point. It could have bee worse really.

    And oh, really sad for Alexis 🙁 … You’ll be missed. So get well soon, k?
    And Hope Affelay will be able to play more and contribute as much too..( I missed him, he’s been gone for a while)

    • September 11, 2011

      Ooh, it’s Abidal’s birthday! Happy birthday Abi… Good health and more trophies for you in barca are my wishes for you this season..

  9. chaospheory
    September 11, 2011

    Thank you for the review Kxevin, I enjoy your writing and especially the P.E. reference.
    I like that Pep is taking chances with the lineup and giving younger players minutes in serious games. A draw is disappointing, but even our magical machine is stiff and creaky early in the season. We just need a magical galvanizing moment sometime soon.

    • ooga aga
      September 11, 2011

      yes loved the P.E reference. unfortunately today PE #1 was not Chuckie D, it was Davey V

  10. September 11, 2011

    What’s irksome about today’s result is not the result itself but that it came after being 2-0 up and a completely lackadaisical attitude. Other early season slip ups under Pep have been simply when we played like crap (Hercules) or played like crap with some bad luck/finishing (Numancia). But here we played well, and then just sort of stopped.

    But it’s not a big deal. It’s week 2 for crying out loud. The bigger worry from today is the Sanchez injury. If he’s out 2 months, let’s say he comes back to fitness in early November, which means he won’t really hit his stride physically until December, and then you also have to account for the fact that he’s a new player and needs time to adjust to the system. It’s very annoying. I hope Pedro and Villa break out of their funk because we’re essentially back to the same frontline as last yr (good front 3, no back up, not even Jeffren or Bojan this yr). I guess you could count Afellay to play up there but either way, this is a big injury.

  11. adopted cule
    September 11, 2011

    I get a strong feeling that both Villa and Pedro are threatened by the new additions. Perhaps Sanchez’s injury will have positive affects on their confidence. There really isn’t an excuse for the draw today, but La Real played their guts out and deserved the result. Pique and Puyol are obviously missed dearly. Keita is still learning the DM role and Busquets, though brilliant at times, is still not entirely comfortable in a nominal defender’s role. This is a game we seemed to have lost due to complacency more than anything else. Losing Sanchez was certainly key. Yet even with what is far from the best starting XI possible, FCB still should have put this game to bed easily. That they failed to do so is regrettable, but it doesn’t speak to the overall quality of the squad.

  12. September 11, 2011

    Am I the only one who is totally chill about this?

    Some people in the above comments are overreacting a little. ‘Pedro is horrible’? No he’s not. Same for Villa, as shockingly dreadful as he was. We’ve had occasional team brain-farts throughout the whole Pep era, this is just one of them. Remember last season to Hercules followed by 5-1 Panathinaikos and slowly snowballing form?

    I’m almost completely certain that we are gonna tear Milan to shreds in our midweek CL game and go on a run of wins. I’d put money on a multiple-goal win if gambling was legal but it’s not.

  13. Dani_el
    September 11, 2011

    Thanks for the review Kxevin! Agree with everything, particularly the Villa rating.

  14. can_we_go_Xalvies
    September 11, 2011

    I am most dissapointed about Sanchez’s injury, that was a big blow to our team right there. the draw was understandable this happens a lot to us especially after extra long Fifa international breaks, everyone was rusty right from the start. I always give our team atleast 5 minutes at the start to get into its groove, and they did that last night. But after we lost that distinctive game of ours real sociedad found their way back. Now when it became 2-2 Sociedad had the tactical advantage at that point, all they had to do was sit back kick and scratch the rest of the game out, yellow cards? red cards? doesnt matter they will go through them all. Do I expect us to be able to overcome situations like last night this early in the season? no, but time will tell how and when we can step up the gears.

    Before Alexis injury I was buzzing about how extensive our squad feels, strong all over, on the bench as well. But after alexis got injured I felt we lost that bright spark to the beginning of our season. Now the team has to step up and work a little harder to fill that void. But is that a bad thing? our best moments have always come during times of difficulty.

    Also I want to add, there are a lot of teams in La liga that are actually of very good quality. The gulf between lower to midtable teams in la liga seems to be less than those in EPL where I’ve seen tons of easy one sided games every weekend.

  15. htMillBay
    September 11, 2011

    Most good teams should be able to defend a 2-0 lead. We should not need to score a third goal to win any game. This game shows how much Barca depends on ball possesion for defense and how much mental concentration is needed to play ball possesion defense the Barcelona way. Mental concentration was lacking and that led to the RS goals in the 2nd half. The international break and all the traveling, the extended minutes for some of our players in their NTs, the need to mentally readjust from NT play to club play, perhaps the players and the coaching staff looking ahead to the Milan game – I think all played a part in the mental lapses.
    The plus side: the team is relatively well rested for Milan especially the back line as I expect Abi and Masch to start; Messi is relatively fresh and Villa did not get that many minutes after his sterling play in the Spanish NT games; Iniesta is very well rested; and the players especially Villa will be determined to make uo for the RS draw.
    The loss of Sanchez is really more important than the result of the game. He would have been perfect for the CL game as Milan plays narrow and is vulnerable on the right wing. Also, he has shown his value in such a short time that he will be greatly missed if he’s out for 2 months. Let’s hope it’s not 2 months.
    Why was Ibi not on the becnh despite the fact that he was on the trip? Has he not recovered sufficiently? I hope he’s on the bench at least for the Milan game.
    Lucky us that Fabregas joined in time because he will basically add cover to the depleted forward line.
    Puyol was on the bench. Does that mean he is sufficently recovered to have gone in as a sub if necessary?
    For the Milan game: VV-Puyol-Abi-Masch-Alves-Iniesta-Xavi-Busi-Villa-Messi-Pedro with Cesc, Affelay and Adriano to sub for Villa-Pedro and Puyi.

  16. BarcaGirl_Indo
    September 11, 2011

    what can we learn from this result? this is the proof that La Liga is rubbish and EPL is more competitive.. *sigh* yeah, right..
    MU got La Manita in away game last night and of course no one talks about EPL “is rubbish because the big two are way too strong..”

    and I agree with Kevin that this is not the time to scream “we’re going to die!!”’s the 2nd game of the season!
    I dont believe EE could reach 38-0-0 and get 114 points this season..
    but if we drop points in the next few liga games, then yeah, maybe I’ll start screaming too.. 😕

    thanks for the review, Kev!

  17. BarcaGirl_Indo
    September 11, 2011

    and yes, Alexis injury is more depressing to me than the result..

    i really like him, not only him is a great quality player, he also seems like a very nice person and likeable in the dressing room..

  18. Kimcelona
    September 11, 2011

    Yep, Villa is terrible we should have sold him in the summer. *roll eyes* NOT! Yep, Villa had a bad game, made worse by that back pass but I dont see where he performed any worse than Pedrito, who by the way threw away a goal infront of an empty net.

    The whole team played like crap in the second. Xavi was the best player in what was a circus in the second half. Dani had a good saving header and actually was one of the only players defending.

    By the way, was Cesc playing in the second half? Couldnt locate him. Watched twice and still haven’t seen him show up.

    Alexis’ injury sucks soo bad. And what pisses me even more is the player that tackled him to ground, causing that injury didnt even get a card..hell, I dont even think a foul was called :/
    Dear jeebus, I hope it isnt two months.

    Oh well, Sociedad fought hard and deserved that draw in the end. On to the next one..

    • BarcaGirl_Indo
      September 11, 2011

      I’m awfully worry about Pedro, he’s not the most skillful player, we always know that..
      but he was a hard worker and a great finisher..
      now he can’t even put the ball into an empty net..
      when will he get his form back?

      Cesc had a great first half, at least until Alexis got injured..
      Alex’s injury hurt the whole team, but it hurt Cesc the most, because he need a player like Alexis to perform well..

  19. Mila
    September 11, 2011

    I’ll take a draw fir the return of Kxevin’s reviews!

    But seriously, how pathetic was it to draw while winning by 2 goals and having the WC top scorer on the field?

    I am not a tactician so this is a BIG question for me – why did Villa become utterly useless since joining Barcelona? He was one of the top players in the world! He was a goal machine? What happened? The formation? The movement? The amount of pressing he is required to do now? I know he scored great goals in the colors, important goals, but he seemed to just fade, dissolve…

    There will come a time when the other player will be fearful to give him the ball, because he is killing attacks left and right…

    I know he will improve as the season goes by, but then he will tire also as he is prone to do. Even after a season with Barca his fitness is still a question as is his ability to stay lively for 90 minutes and score goals in the dying seconds.

    • BarcaGirl_Indo
      September 11, 2011

      and the fact that he played very well in the last Spain game..
      2 goals and 1 assist, if im not mistaken..and could’ve been more..

      i don’t know, I hope someone can explain us why..

    • chaospheory
      September 11, 2011

      I think Villa has improved a lot since he started with the team last year. Toward the end of last season, he was fatigued, as was the rest of the team, but I have confidence that he will regain form and be better for the team this season than last. Or maybe I’m just a Pollyanna. Time will tell.

    • justsayin
      September 11, 2011

      Villa is still learning the Barca system, which is difficult to play unless you grew up in it. He is a striker who normally has others feeding him balls he can run to and score goals, usually right outside the box. With Barca, he has to unlearn all of that and play within the system which means he has to do much more quick, one passing with his team mates, give and goes, and quick taps into the goal instead of his usual long strikes. For him, it’s probably like learning a whole different game.

  20. BarcaGirl_Indo
    September 11, 2011

    Official: Tests confirmed that Alexis suffered a hamstring
    tear in his right leg.. Approximate recovery time: 8 weeks..


  21. Humphrey Bogart
    September 11, 2011

    Problem is that to throw away a lead is what Arsenal do and not what Champions do. It shows the kind of mental weakness we can not afford this season. Take the EE, they were on par with Getafe, not at their best, but they squeezed out a win where they might have lost points last season. They did not allow themselves to collapse and that is why I think they might not drop any poitns at all this season with exaptions in the classicos.

    I hope Pep gives them a serious team talk and they will bounce back, but it does not feel good that it is the 2nd weak and we already have to play catch up with the EE

    • September 11, 2011

      Two things.

      1. We were further behind in the second week last season and while they got signings, we got signings that strengthen us by a larger amount than theirs did to them. They padded out an already rich bench and got some more alternatives. We turned a weak bench into one of the richest around. We won the league last season.

      2. Not drop points except the Clasicos at all? Not gonna happen. Law of nature every team drops points somehow some way even if they are completely perfect let alone a Real side weaker than us.

      • Humphrey Bogart
        September 11, 2011

        They did not loose any points against Sevilla, Valencia, Villareal or Atletico. They only dropped points against the minors. This is an easy mistake to be corrected. The other teams are not good enought to challenge them so every game they play is theirs to loose. And as they have no CL title and league titel to lay on they will be too hungry to let some minors come in their way. They may not have such a strong team like we have but they also do not suffer from the same complacecy we do over and over again

  22. September 11, 2011

    Oh dear. People.

    Re: Villa, recall last year CL final etc to see that its not him inexplicably sucking. The second half of last season was fatigue. This was a brain-fart of a game where most of the team was quite terrible. He had an atrocious game. As did much of the team. And as for the team giving up a two-goal lead, that also happens. It’s happened smack in the middle of all our best, most insane runs. Especially early in the season. Atletico Madrid? Osasuna? Hercules? Arsenal? But what did we follow up the Hercules game with? A blistering 5-1 that could have been more. Arsenal? By shutting them out without a single shot let alone shot on goal.

    This result means literally nothing other than the simple statistical fact that no team can ever win every single game on offer so we have to draw or lose a few games across the season. It will happen, law of nature or whatever. But when we are too far ahead of almost everyone to get beat by skill and too good when focused to be thwarted by parked buses then those odd disappointing results must be by some freak incident or collective brain-fart or divine intervention or uncharacteristically awful finishing or a lightning bolt, somehow we will always drop points in a few games no matter how perfect a side is because that is sport.

    We will go on a dominating run soon. Pedro will return to form, as will Villa. Puyol will return alongside Pique. And so on. I’m not saying this in a don’t worry they will way, I’m saying it in a it’s a fact and I will lay down money because I know it is what is gonna happen and all of you guys do too.

  23. mom4
    September 11, 2011

    We panicked after Hercules 0-2. We panicked after Arsenal 2-1. We were comprehensively poor out there. And I can’t believe my Messi dove. But crap happens. Crap may even happen again this season. Keep the faith!

    I fully expext this team to come out and unleash hell upon Milan this week!

    A Kxevin review, Hooray!

    • September 11, 2011

      I guess we we’re reminded how to panic again mom4….
      The ghosts of camp nou probably missed the pessimistic culés after our awesome performances in the supercopa and against villareal where culés became über-positive…
      :d (just a theory though)

  24. Jim
    September 11, 2011

    Great review, Kxevin. Nice to see you back covering the game.

    I agree with just about all the comments but particularly the one about the quality of the passing and movement. Having rewatched the match this morning what strikes me is the difference in quality between Xavi, Iniesta and Messi and the rest in terms of being able to take a difficult ball so well that they create that extra ounce of space. They also seem to know the capabilities of the others in that they will hit ridiculous hospital passes to each other and Messi but won’t do that to some of the others (Thiago could learn this from them.). They also have a gut instinct for when they are needing to move quickly into space. I mentioned in the comments after the Liveblog that although Villa’s back pass was one of the worst I’ve ever seen it might not have happened if Iniesta had been on. Keita could have moved quickly into position to offer a short pass to Villa but didn’t. Iniesta and Xavi see what’s coming up and can act in time.

    Where am I going with this? If I could see this unfolding from the start of the second half I’m disappointed Pep didn’t. Half a game in your mid 20s doesn’t take much out of you so Iniesta should have been on at half time, probably for me in place of Thiago but if not then then certainly when their first went in.

    With regard to Villa, someone asked what has happened to him? For me, he hasn’t lost anything over the last season of so but is still suffering from an inability to read our through passes, particularly the timing of them. He is constantly thinking and starting runs but most come to nothing as we play our slow passing game and he ends up offside. Don’t know what the answer is there. He almost looks more at home in the middle of the attack as a wall for short passes where his touch is decent.

    Finally, the injury to Sanchez really worries me. For a pacy player a hamstring tear is psychologically pretty damaging. I’m still not convinced it was the tackle element that caused the injury. I don’t think I’ve seen even such a poor tackle causing that sort of damage. Whatever, the time out can increase as there are often other niggles which follow in its wake. I hope not as he offers us something different.

    • Diego
      September 11, 2011

      True about the tackle. The player got the ball and it didn’t look that tough. Dani’s tackle was stronger but Nasri didn’t get injured.

  25. Diego
    September 11, 2011

    MY thoughts :

    -Cesc & Alexis are fitting in nicely.

    -No Need for 3rd goal of insurance, If you can’t defend or be comfortable with a 2 goal lead, Don’t play football.

    -Villa & Pedro need a 3rd Attacker, not a Midfielder, like Afellay, Messi, Alexis especially against High line.

    -No need to panic, Teams slip up and this was our day.

    -Messi looked like He’s just woken up.

    -Fontas is very very good, but can’t be paired with Busq, Why didn’t he play Masch ?

    -Time to Blame and Give props :

    Blame :
    -Busi : Why did you handball it ?
    -V.V : Why were you hugging the near post on the 1st goal.
    -Villa : for his Inexplicable Don’t know what he’s thinking Assist
    Pedro : Just Weird, not the Usual Pedro.
    Whole Team : High amount of Sloppy passing.

    Props go to :
    -Keita : for playing nicely in DM and getting blamed for everything that happens in the match.
    Alexis and Cesc for playing good.
    Pep : For doing most of the things right and getting let down by his players.

  26. kinukinu
    September 11, 2011

    Re: Cesc trailing off in the second half: apparently this was the first time in 5 months that he played a full 90 minutes. Let’s not be distracted by the last two wins—the fact is our guys did not have a proper pre-season and are still getting into form. Add to that an international break and a bunch of injuries, and we have ourselves some real obstacles to overcome.

    Last season we played the same lineup game in and game out–it was a well-oiled machine–to the point where many complained that we were getting too predictable. However, this meant that the tactics were second nature and the common understanding between players was almost on a psychic level. This season, Pep has played a different lineup/formation in every game– there have been so many changes that the players haven’t really had time to adjust. Despite that, they have, for the most part, adjusted well. But there was also some luck involved in that, and yesterday, the luck went the other way. Had Alexis not been injured, things could have been very different. Sure, a team on this level has to be prepared for anything, but they were already trying to adapt to a formation/style that they haven’t have much time to get comfortable with. When you’re trying something new, it’s much harder to improvise when an unexpected change happens. The Alexis injury really threw them off, and they just weren’t able to regain composure. The damage was mostly psychological, but it was enough to make a serious impact.

    For me it’s a blessing in disguise–if they had scored a third goal and kept RS on the back foot for the entire game, these weaknesses might not have been exposed, as the team would have been shrouded an air of invincibility–a false one at that. In truth, we never really had control of this game, even during those great minutes where the two goals were scored. If we had won, there would have been even more danger of becoming overconfident and complacent—which would be lethal in bigger games.

    Pep’s fluid formations have been great in confusing the opposition and catching them off-guard. It makes it very hard to prepare a strategy against a team that’s full of surprises. But until Barcelona become really comfortable with this fluidity, the surprises run the danger of confusing our own players as well. I saw a lot of that yesterday, most obviously in Villa’s inexplicable back pass, as well as the one that VV almost let in with his back to the pitch. The short-hand communication is not there yet, and I’m glad they get to see that now, while there’s plenty of time to do something about it.

  27. chaospheory
    September 11, 2011

    Wow, I love this blog and the commentary.
    Does it feel to anyone else as though Pep is responding more aggressively to the issue of, as kinukinu said, “we were getting too predictable” (read: park the bus) and letting the newbies learn to play with the veterans? He has the latitude this season to do so, with all the players (excepting Alexis, now).

    • kinukinu
      September 11, 2011

      ^ Exactly. By late in the season last year, our already-small squad was made even smaller by the fact that every game was too important to risk experimenting with untested players and formations. By the time the defense was stripped of Puyol and Abi, it was too late and too risky to play Fontas, and Jeffren and Bojan hadn’t had enough opportunities to prepare for big games.

      We can’t have it both ways-the down side to rotation is that it takes a little longer to adapt. So be it.

      This is the time to experiment, and I would posit this: do we really think Pep didn’t realize that bringing in Iniesta earlier would have made a bigger impact? Even the brightest geniuses among us are not professionals, so I tend to trust that he had something in mind with that delay. Bringing in Iniesta earlier might have helped, but it would have shown something we already know. Maybe he thought it was important to give the team a chance to try to adjust without him before resorting to the safe option, because there might come a time when Iniesta is not avaiable, and now he will know better how to deal with it if that happens.

      Changes take time to develop–we need to be more patient. I’m sure Pep is thinking many steps ahead of all of us, and that ain’t a bad thing.

  28. Culer in Ottawa
    September 11, 2011

    Thanks for writing this review, Kxevin. As was said earlier, it’s great to have you covering the matches again. Love waking up to Kxevin review each morning after a match. I think that midfield changes were needed at half-time. I fully expected a Xavi-Iniesta swap right at the start of the second half. I thought Messi was brought on at the right time. I even think bringing on Puyol for Thiago would have been nice as it would have brought Busquets back in as DM to help control the game which we were failing to do. With a 0-2 lead, a Busi-Keita-Iniesta midfield, along with support from Cesc would have gave us the freshening we needed. Anyways, we can’t worry too much. EE will have poor games, as they did yesterday. Had they been playing an away match against any of La Liga’s mid-table clubs, I don’t think they would have pulled off a win. It’s a long season in which anything can happen. I’m sure the lads will be firing on all cylinders on Tuesday. I honestly can’t wait to hit the bar to watch it.

  29. Eklavya
    September 11, 2011

    Good review, Kxevin, thanks, always a pleasure to read your style.

  30. Jim
    September 11, 2011

    Not sure if anyone is reading this post anymore with a new one up but I’ll give it a go anyway.

    My good lady astounded me yesterday with the news that she’d like to take in a Barcelona home game this season ( I knew there was a reason I chose her 🙂 ) We’ve been put off it in the last couple of years as there are no longer direct flights from Scotland to Barcelona.

    Anyway, although I’ve been to Barcelona 7 or 8 times I’ve never been to a game so I need some advice.

    I have holidays in October which cover the Racing Santander home game on Sunday 16th October. However, on going to buy tickets at the club website I can’t find two together and it might be pushing it to have her sitting twelve rows behind me ! Under the freeing up seats scheme it says that many more will become available in the last 72 hrs before the game. What I’d like to know is what are the chances of getting two seats together if we went to Barcelona and relied on this? I’m guessing there may be quite a few as there is a CL home game during the week but I don’t know for sure. Happy to go to the Camp Nou to book them.

    The second thing is that we’ll probably rent an apartment or stay in a hotel near the city centre ( last time we stayed in the Hotel Catedral in the Gothic quarter which was great). How ton earth l do you get back to the city centre after the game? With the game finishing late does the metro stay open late? Are there buses back to the centre? It’s too far to walk – that’s for sure.

    I’d be grateful for any advice on this as I can’t believe she actually wants to go and may change her mind at any time ! My thinking is take in the weekend game then find a nice bar in the centre someplace for the midweek CL match.

    • justsayin
      September 11, 2011

      I’m from Jersey and we went to our first Barca game in April vs. Ossasuna. I know what you mean about not being able to get tix together, we are a family of 5. I don’t have much help for you there except to say I went with a local travel agent (who is a friend our ours) and has connections in Spain. He guaranteed that he could get us 5 tix together and when we arrived, our tixs were all spread out! So much for that. So, what we did is seat hopped. We tried to stay together and if someone claimed their seat we moved. I’m pretty sure that you can do the same as it won’t sell out. However, at Las Ramblas they have kiosks that sell tix to the Camp Nou Barca games and maybe they can get you 2 tix together.
      Regarding the Metro, we took it back to our hotel which was near Las Ramblas after the game and it was open and very easy to get back and forth. Everyone piles out of the stadium and heads for the metro, the line gets very long so we stopped along the way at a little playground in front of some pubs for our kids to play. After about a half hour, most of the crowd had died down and you can hop on the Metro with relative ease. Enjoy!

    • September 11, 2011

      Tickets do come available a few days (or even the same day) of the match. Trust me, Santander is NOT a hot ticket. What you’re seeing right now are all of the season ticket holders. At some point, a lot of seats will be freed up via seient lliure, and the club will have a much better idea of what’s available.

      There are also plenty of no-shows on match day. Either way, you shouldn’t have much trouble accomodating your party.

      As for lodging, we LOVE October won’t quite be low season, but there will be deals aplenty. We’ve stayed in places on the Pssg. de Gracia (our favorite) and in various neighborhoods. We like central, because you can take the Metro home from matches at get there nice and easy, as cabs are crazy on match nights.

      Let me know if you need any more help.

  31. Miguel
    September 11, 2011

    Kxevin telling foos what time it is, big Flavor Flav clock wrapped around his neck.

    Like I said in the liveblog, every time Villa tries to dribble past a defender it looks like he’s being gored by a toro.

  32. justsayin
    September 11, 2011

    Is Mascherano injured or unavailable??

    At first glance the line-up seems ok. But, then you rub your eyes trying to figure out why so much of the back line is playing out of position? If you don’t have Puyol, Pique, and Abidal starting in the back you have to play Macherano as CB, then Busquets goes to his position of DM. It’s crazy to ask Busquets to play out of position as CB with Fontas who is getting comfortable playing on the first team. Not fair of Pep to have a shaky defense and throw Fontas to the wolves. Don’t know what Pep was thinking on that one.

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