Barca 2, AC Milan 2, aka “Finding fault with this club is difficult”

"I think I can, I think I can, I ...."

I’ll be brief with this review, a) because it’s my bedtime and b) because there isn’t a whole lot to say that hasn’t been said, except that I really don’t see how people can doubt, or find fault with this club. I watched and re-watched this match with my own beady little eyes, and what I saw was this:

The best club in the world owned one of the best clubs in the world for about 91 and a half minutes. Two plays, two errors, allowed them two goals. I said it before and I will say it again, that not every club, or even a fraction of the clubs will have that kind of conversion percentage against us.

Yes, owned.

I honestly expected, before my viewings this evening, to find a match more fraught, with more chances than Milan actually had. But we bossed the match, not with meaningless possession as some have suggested, but with probing, incisive possession that constantly looked for holes in the brick wall that Milan erected around their keeper. And between hitting the post twice and Messi trying to make a sure thing instead of taking a shot, we left some goals on the table. And I won’t even mention the shot that Villa had on the side of the goal, after being set up by a lovely ball off the head of the Most Maligned Man in Show Business, Seydou Keita.

I just can’t find fault with this club, after this match.

Guardiola came out with a lineup of Valdes, Alves, Mascherano, Busquets, Abidal, Keita, Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Pedro, Villa. And as this match progressed, we got to witness something remarkable, really: A club that came into its own during the match. The tentative, clunky bunch that started the match, spraying balls all over the place and never quite being in the right spot, became the tight, cohesive group that we liked to watch so much, driven by the smallest man on the pitch with the biggest heart. Messi created chance after chance, danger moment after danger moment, and we fought and team that was, at 0-1 up, content to just play defense. At 1-1, it was still content to play defense, with 9 and 10 behind the ball.

And while it’s easy to say that we failed in our execution of attacking a bunkered-in defense, I don’t see it that way. I see it as the shaves, the inches that define success and failure in this game, weren’t quite going our way. Why? Luck? Nope. The players aren’t quite sharp yet. So Xavi’s post-shaving free kick will, next month, go in. Same for Messi’s. The passes that found the feet of lunging Milan players will, in a short time, find the feet of Barca players, because like an analog radio that is almost on the station, you can almost hear the music.

But let’s start with their goal, the disputed moment that had people blaming everyone from Keita and Busquets to Guardiola and global climate change. That play was, simply put, a collective breakdown combined with an excellent player doing his thing. When Messi does that against a club, nobody says “Holy crap, it was so and so’s fault.” Nope. It’s a top-level professional capitalizing on a moment to make a brilliant play.

Pato took the ball and poked it past every last one of our defenders. Iniesta tried for a steal and missed, and his man passed to Pato, who took advantage of Busquets and Mascherano coming forward to poke the ball past everyone, run onto it and beat Valdes. So let’s break it down, so that we understand the notion of team goals, for and against.

–Iniesta tried for the steal, then stopped pressuring, giving his man plenty of time to find Pato.
–Keita and Alves stood there and let Pato take the pass. I know it’s early, but jeez.
–Busquets and Mascherano should have stayed home instead of coming forward.
–Somebody should have fouled him and given up the free kick, but who thought this would happen, 25 seconds into the match.
–Valdes should know better than to come at a player with his legs apart. It makes it too easy for the attacker.

So, who you gonna blame? Good question. I blame Pato for being fast and brilliant, the bastid.

Then we resumed business as usual, with possession that allowed us to find our feet in this match and I think, moving forward, this season. And it wasn’t that Milan let us have possession. They wanted the ball and chased it when possible, rather than just parking the bus. But with our skill players and the Fear, which is what teams now have whenever Messi gets the ball, it just wasn’t in the cards as Messi fought and clawed all night. And when the goal finally came, it was simplicity at its finest, our best player doing what he does, just as theirs did.

Messi took a pass, snookered a trio of defenders, outran them all and slid a ball to Pedro, who tapped home. “How could he have been so open,” some wondered, but it was The Fear. Messi had 5 men in his neighborhood. If you rule out the likes of Pato, Cassano and Seedorf, that leaves two men to take care of business, which isn’t going to happen. And Pedro did the smart thing, which was to run toward the net when Messi ran into the box. It will always leave a free player. When Villa figures that out, he’s going to have a 50-goal season.

We unbalanced their defense in three different ways:

–Width, through attacking, sometimes overlapping fullbacks
–Speed of play. Recall all the times that fast-moving, one-touch football opened up their defense
–Movement on and off the ball, taking advantage of the way their players tracked our danger men

Whenever we did any of those three things, chances were created, whether it was Abidal crossing a ball to nobody (he’ll get better), Pedro crossing a ball to nobody, etc, etc. Hell, even the much-maligned Busquets created the chance for Villa free kick golazo with his attacking movement from a forward position. It’s easy to find fault in an unexpected, undesirable result, but harder to just give credit where credit is due. We have recently faced two clubs who were able to take advantage of their chances, and our still working our way into form. It happens, and doesn’t worry me an iota. The only thing that does worry me are the two injuries, both hamstrings, a muscle that can clunk up a season in a hurry, if a player and the club physios aren’t very, very careful.

Ah, yes, their second goal. Even if you don’t believe that the ref should have called the foul on the player who shoved a gimpy Abidal (I do, as it was called on the other end, earlier in the match) you just have to credit Thiago Silva with a hell of a header, and say that’s that. It wasn’t a free header. No more free than Puyol’s towering header against EE in their house. Sometimes, a player just wants it more. Should somebody have marked up their biggest set piece threat by putting a body on him in the box? Sure, but we aren’t that kind of club. That stuff just doesn’t occur to us, because like a beef-dipped bunny rabbit hopping through a wolf’s den, we just don’t think anything bad is going to happen to us. It’s an endearing quality that is also a bit naive, and a quality that won’t be present later in the season.

So for now, let’s have fun watching our club round into shape, and revel in how strong it’s going to be when its wounded (Pique, Sanchez, Iniesta) return. Plus you all get to call me a biased jackass over the next part of this review, which should kill a day or two.

Team: 8. Excellent display of bossing one of the best clubs in the world. Two moments, two goals. It happens, as the club played 99.8% of a match that was more than good enough to win.

Guardiola: 8. Mostly the right starting lineup, and I admit I wasn’t the biggest fan of Keita coming off. Made almost all the right moves, as well. I do wonder if a back line of Alves/Mascherano/Abidal/Adriano wouldn’t have had more success.

Valdes: 4. It’s hard to say that a keeper who shipped two goals had a good match. Playing headers is a skill. So is keeping your legs together to remove the easiest shooting option for an attacking player. Still the best keeper in the world for us. He isn’t as sharp now as he will be, either.

Alves: 5. Too many misplaced passes and he holds the ball too long. He worked his way into the match as his teammates did, however.

Busquets: 4. Uncertain with the ball early, and didn’t do enough when he moved into his natural position. Sometimes, we need the physical presence of Keita out there.

Mascherano: 5. Was playing his way into a higher rating, for sure. He, like the rest of our team, was a bystander on the Pato goal. But later in the match, he just shut everything down that came near him. His slide tackles are unerring.

Abidal: 8. Excellent match at both ends of the pitch. His overlapping runs and that one solo charge were dangerous as can be. Yes, he gave up that late corner. But he, like everyone else, was waiting for the foul to be called on the attacker. That’s life.

Keita: 8. Again, a monster match as he served as everything from safety valve and reset button, to ball winner and physical presence in the middle. He got a standing ovation from the Camp Nou faithful for a very good reason.

Xavi: 8. Brilliant on offense and defense, with shots that were so close to going in. Always the right pass, and you could tell how much he wanted this match by his amazing effort.

Iniesta: 4. He just wasn’t all that effective before his injury, with an intermittent presence in the match. He didn’t quite seem to know what to do at times, which is odd for him.

Messi: 9. Man of the Match in a walk. He put out for the cause at both ends of the pitch, and created danger almost every time that he touched the ball. Guilty of trying to cut things a little too fine, but what an amazing match from an amazing player.

Pedro: 4. Scored a goal, didn’t do much beyond that. He seemed to be having a “misplaced pass” contest with Alves. Not sure who won that one. Note also that he has the clunkiest first touch on the team. Play a ball to foot, and he always has to run forward to control it, rather that going right into action. That interval can be key for a defense to reposition.

Villa: 7. Strong, strong match tonight, from the free kick golazo to the way that you saw him all over the defensive part of the pitch, as well. Made some errors, misplaced some balls, but more than made up for with his other attributes.


Fabregas (for Iniesta): 4. He didn’t do a damned thing out there except run around and play tentatively. Yes, he’s still finding his way around, but he needs to be more aggressive with the ball, as he was at Arsenal.

Puyol (for Keita): 7. Excellent match. As the announcers noted, the defense was much better organized with him on the pitch. Key interventions, as he shakes off the rust of a loooong spell on the sidelines.

Afellay (for Villa): incomplete. But it sure is good to see 3M again. You can see the value that he has in his destabilizing effect on the Milan back line.

Next up for the club is a spate of winnable matches: Osasuna, Valencia, BATE Borisov, Gijon, Racing, Sevilla, Viktoria, Granada and Mallorca. That gets us into November, when we can start rounding up our woulded animals. Until then ….

Anims, Ghostface
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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. September 14, 2011

    So I’ve been traveling and was staying off the internet until I could watch the match. Which I just did. A few things.

    Rijkard era-style decline? Ooof! That team was getting worse, in particular because the player it was built around allowed himself to fall apart and odd things happened with the supporting players.

    Watching the game against Milan – I don’t think there’s any real problem with the player this team is built around.

    This is a much better team than last season’s. They just have far more injuries right now which is causing problems for them to gel early in the season – the period of time when they usually struggle and are most vulnerable.

    The other major issue going on right now – one related to the first issue of injuries – is that Pep himself is experimenting and trying to figure things out. There’s going to be some difficulties in that process.

    The one substantive issue I do think is an issue – which we saw even last season – Pedro and Villa are in some ways too similar as players and well organized defenses can take advantage of that.

    On the whole I thought Milan played very well – though I was surprised they kept Cassano on for so long.

  2. If I have to blame someone for that Pato’s goal, then I would probably blame Mascherano. He needlessly went in and committed a lung which took Busquets out of equation. He is an Argentinian and should have realised the danger with doing that against Pato. Busquets was nowhere at fault for that goal, he simply was nowhere near Pato. His only problem was that when the goal came he was the only Barca player in the camera frame, apart from Valdes.

    I think the regularity with which we are using Messi as a false 9 is making life easier for oppoenents. It also takes out that wonderful partnership between Alves and Messi on the right wing. Zambrotta would have and should have been murdered by both of them on the right. Also I think Villa and Messi are not switching their positions like they used to do last season. There is no need to panic, but here is teh thing – our two goals came from tow absolutely super human individual effort. Apart from that every thing else they did defend well. I think that’s concerning everyone here.

    I have a feeling that Guardiola is doing too much of rotation and too much playing around with the formation. Every season is a fresh start and we have to always have to settle to the rhythm. For that reason, I am okay with the injury to Sanchez and Iniesta. This will allow Guardiola to go back to the normal 4-3-3. Once we are in the grove we can do every kind of tampering with the line-up. Right now Pedro and Villa is no where in any kind of match form and we need atleast one of them to find form soon.

  3. Dani_el
    September 15, 2011

    Thank you for this review Kxevin.

    As I said earlier, I don’t see Keita as a bad DM defensively, I just believe that he doesnt have the passing skills, and the reading of the game that Busi has on midfield. Now I do believe Busquets is a bad centerback, specially with players as fast as Pato (was he that fast before? I missed that somehow!) he lacks pace to be there, I even think Pique has more pace that Busquets. Apart from that, I didn’t see any width from Alves and Pedro (on the left) in the game, that did surprise me. They kept trying to come to the inside again and again, Kari said something about it in her preview, we needed width because it would be hard to come on the inside. I know little of tactics, but I think that was Pep’s doing. Still I believe he’s a genious and he will take this couple of games as a learning for the team. I read from a catalan journalist, that he was pretty pessimistic about this season, until these two games, it’s better to learn this now than later.

    • hammeronmessi
      September 15, 2011

      I didn’t see any width from Alves and Pedro (on the left) in the game, that did surprise me. They kept trying to come to the inside again and again.

      spot on.i was also thinking that.

      for the first time, i completely agree with the KEVIN RATINGS.

      i said it before and will say that the 2nd milan goal was a brilliant goal,nothing we can do bout that.

      thank u kxevin for a brief review

  4. ooga aga
    September 15, 2011

    thanks for the review kxevin. bike racing season almost over?

    • September 15, 2011

      Nice observation. Yes, it is, and preparations for next season begin on Sunday (sighhhh). I’m enjoying the last few days of eating stuff that’s bad for you, which is awesome, with extra sauce.

  5. Kimcelona
    September 15, 2011

    Yeah, so I re-watched the match and I have to say we played quite well. Still a little rusty in some tiny aspects of our game but hey, its September!

    Agree fully with the ratings as well! Messi was my MOTM, nice to see Villa get some love and I’m glad I’m not the only who saw that Cesc didnt do a damn thing. Maybe he’s just not fit enough yet though but where was that creative and decisive, aggressive play he had at Arsenal, last night?

    Now that I’ve calmed down from the unfairness of the draw, I can admit this match really isnt that detrimental to our season. I have no doubt we win this group. Hopefully, BATE aint another Rubin though lol

    P.S Whoever recommended that kitbag site is a doll! I love it! Ordered another one of our new kits and got it relatively quick and the quality is so good. The women’s sizes are what they say they are and fit really good 🙂

    • mani
      September 15, 2011

      Sigh, a language I wish I could speak 🙁 I always think to perhaps take courses but then get stuck in a dilemma: CATALAN or not?

      Though GOLTV has helped with a few key words:


      And with Barca’s barrage on goal every game, TIROS A PUERTA 😉

  6. Triplo Volanti (formerly Cesc Pistol)
    September 15, 2011

    Let me spell out my thoughts in full so most don’t misunderstand.

    It is the attitude of players that concerns me. Not of the fans/coaches’, not the tactics or results, or to a big extent even injuries.

    I refer to 1974 not because it serves some narrative, I do not care for those, but you see in them (and this was confirmed later) an urge to humiliate the opponent, to show them up. It was the same attitude that led to the downfall of Rijkaard’s era (among other things). Rather let me take my last statement back, it is the attitude that something, anything takes precedence over winning, which is the ultimate killer of great teams.

    That is what I fear to have seen in the players, did we play well against Milan, sure we did, if one ignores the result or if the last goal is not scored, we played well enough. Then does one goal change the view? No, that’s football sometimes results won’t match play.

    It requires looking at the quality then, are two games drawn of equal value and quality, do we interpret the each draw the same? Similarly do we look at each mistake or rather each set of mistakes the same? Do we look at Keita and see what he did and say: “Good job, you did the things you did quite well” or do we look at the finer details of what wasn’t done, what has been missing in this position since Busquets left it. Are those things of importance or can we do without them?

    Anyways, even a change in attitude can be reversed if understood early, tactics can be improved, simplicity returned too and focus lie once again on winning. If not that, it’s effect can be delayed for a long time. The double year under Rijkaard wasn’t the most convincing, nor our best year. But these things are best noticed in hindsight, not in euphoria of a winning team.

    For me the attitude was undeniable, whether this spells doom and gloom is your interpretation. It may, it may not. But some things require changing. If they continue we will suffer. Perhaps that is where you misinterpret me. The signs are similar. We can chose to ignore them at our peril. Obviously it does not mean we will decline. Or even if do, when it will be.

    It’s far too early to draw any conclusions, in general our play has improved but our opponents seem to be adapting better to us now as well. Only the fine details we do not seem to be doing well, that is the difference between a draw and a win. Those should come soon as we move into our stride. The mentality is what worries me.

    • can_we_go_Xalvies
      September 15, 2011

      TBH us fans are the ones with the attitude problem, I mean before the game had started we were already expecting an easy win (honestly I was expecting the same thing). After this draw us fans were the ones that got our ego’s slapped.

      The players have not changed, there is no change to they way Pep runs the team. We rarely even go 10 games without dropping points. To think we drew just two games, its happened before in the Guardiola era and against lesser sides too.

  7. Blau-Grenade
    September 15, 2011

    Lovely review as always. Thanks Kxevin.

    The match completely changed after Puyol entered the match, and Busi became the holding midfielder. I was amazed at the passing, and movement of players on and off the ball made by the Barca team. I believe I witnessed a wonder of modern football.

    Too bad about those two goals. Yes we have to give credit to Pato for his goal. What a wonderful player. It was a pleasure to watch him.

    Finally a mention about the CB’s of Milan. Nesta and Silva. Just WOW.

  8. mani
    September 15, 2011

    Great review Kxevin. I was curious to see your Keita rating and I think you nailed it. I thought the standing o was amplified due to puyi coming on. It was nice to see Keita’s sheepish look as he was going off.

    It felt like gladiator all over again when puyi rushed on, locks flowing, and put on the captain’s armband.

  9. mani
    September 15, 2011

    Kxevin- I had asked in another thread but I suppose I was Hectored so here goes again:

    I am looking to go to the Racing game next month (first time in Barca!). I see one decent seat available off the official website and can’t decide if I should take it now or wait to see if better seats open up.

    What do you think? Any advice? Should I wait it out in hopes of seeing something better or even wait until matchday and purchase right from the Camp?

    • The__K__Man
      September 15, 2011

      I’ve been there a few times. Available seats increase the closer you get to the match. In fact the official website says that most of tickets become available in the 72 hours before the match especially that Racing isn’t a high profile match.

      • mani
        September 15, 2011

        Thank you! Another question- where would you recommend I sit if seats are available? Better to sit on the grandstand side, lower or upper bowl?

        • The__K__Man
          September 15, 2011

          I’ve tried both. If you sit in the upper tier you get better vision of the field and see very well the movements of all players which is awesome
          Sitting in the lower tier is also awesome in its own way since you get to see the players up close. The pics I took that day of the players were very “messi” , but you risk not seeing everything happening on the pitch.
          So I guess it’s your call.

  10. mani
    September 15, 2011

    I still can’t believe the final scoreline. As Kxevin said, for a team that absolutely OWNED the other for 91 and some minutes to have a final scoreline level is unjust.

    Right after it ended I was waiting for Xavi to say that the result was not fair, etc. as usual and he did not disappoint 🙂 I just don’t see Barcelona sans Guardiola as coach but if we can keep Pep around for another decade (wishful!) then I could see Xavi as his replacement. Admire his intelligence of the game, both in spoken words and ass kicking in the middle of the park.

  11. blitzen
    September 15, 2011

    A 7? Kxevin gave Villa a 7? And said nice things about him? @@

    Are you sure you’re feeling all right, Kxevin dear? Maybe you should lie down a bit. 😛

    I have only seen highlights from the match, so I can’t really comment too much. I have just a couple of things to say:

    –Can Villa take free kicks all the time, please? That was an absolute beauty of a shot. Dani Alves, watch and learn.

    –Good to see Afellay get some minutes. I hope he gets a start soon. When do the Copa games start?

    –Seedorf still has skillz. Great player and a very classy man.

    –Our Captain is back!!!!! Oh how we have missed him! So wonderful to see him wearing the shirt again. I admit I choked up a little.

    On to Osasuna!

    • Ryan
      September 15, 2011

      And don’t forget that Xavi recently scored a nice FK too for Spain. With Villa, Xavi, and Messi on the team, we really shouldn’t have Alves taking them. Even if he kicks the ball so hard that it forces keepers to sub out afterward. (on the rare occasion it’s on target!)

    • mom4
      September 15, 2011

      Is it a good for you, high fiber, tree-bark type of cold cereal or something yummy like Coco Crispies or Fruity Pebbles? Honestly, I won’t know whether or not to feel sorry for you or envious of you until I know.

      On the other hand if you meant cold, meant to be hot cereal, then get off your duff and use a microwave!


  12. mei
    September 15, 2011

    Remember the beginning of 2008-2009 season people.

  13. mom4
    September 15, 2011

    I agree with everything Kxevin said. Scary!

    Thanks for the review.

  14. September 15, 2011

    If so many agree with me, I’m clearly doing something wrong! 😀

  15. Josep
    September 15, 2011

    I’m gonna keep harping everywhere about how we didn’t sign Leandro Damiao this summer.

  16. Calvin
    September 15, 2011

    spoiled (adj): 1. Expecting an easy win against a team that won the Serie A last season. 2. Treating every draw as if it was the end of the current teams’ cycle. 3. Cules over the last three years.

    • September 15, 2011

      See, that’s just never gonna happen, and I don’t get why it’s the starting position for the Group of 12. The curve at the top just has to be much sharper than that. Looking at the third column, the audience shares of Barcelona and Madrid are more than twice as large as every other team save Valencia.

      Ultimately, I think that Barca and Madrid will agree to a merit-based deal (as opposed to the every-team-gets-the-same-share-year-after-year model they have proposed), but it it will be much more skewed to the top and based more on audience share rather than baseline shares and recent sporting accomplishments.

      As far as bargaining position, though, this proposal doesn’t make sense to me. Real and Barca always have the option of dropping negotiations and maintaining the status quo, and this proposal seems like the perfect excuse for them to do just that.

      • September 15, 2011

        Check out the audience shares for each team in La Liga 09-10 ( not nearly as skewed as one assumes.

        If we’re talking about eventual “negotiations” between the G-howevermany and the EE, I assume that means that the teams will meet in the middle somewhere. This is the first proposal of one side. If they intended all along to keep their 140M, there would be no reason to ever show up to talk. On the other end, G-12 have prepared this distribution, but it’s likely a negotiation tool that they may have to compromise eventually. As I said in the post – I strongly doubt the EE would ever give up that much money, as their interests are primarily personal (not that La Liga’s health and one way of helping it isn’t personal, but they seem to want to ignore it), but these things have to start somewhere.

        I think a deal skewed to merits makes more sense than one skewed to audience, but that’s just me. I’d like to see clubs like Osasuna, Sporting, etc fighting it out in the last jornada for that extra 1.5M that finishing 12th gets as opposed to finishing 15th.

        • September 15, 2011

          That is not an audience share graph for all of La Liga: it’s a audience share of the “free” match that is televised each Saturday (remember, the one that there was nearly a strike over last season). That graph represents how much of the total share that free (“abierta”) matchdate each team had in the season; Real Madrid and Barcelona don’t often get picked as the free match (because it isn’t economically prudent), thus they are going to get a smaller overall share on that matchdate. I’m not even sure that represents international viewership either. To take it back to the big picture, there’s a reason that RM and Barcelona get 140M+ in TV rights a year, and it has everything to do with how many viewers they command. That is, way way more than Sevilla and others command, particularly when you count international viewership where RM and Barca’s advantage is amplified.

          If they intended all along to keep their 140M, there would be no reason to ever show up to talk.

          It seems I misspoke. What I mean is that in each negotiation, the result of a “no agreement” scenario plays a heavy role in the bargaining positions of each party. For RM and Barca, that is maintaining their 140M+ TV deals to the detriment of the rest of La Liga; for the G12, that is the maintenance of the inequitable status quo (I don’t think threats to dump RM and Barca are in any way credible).

        • September 15, 2011

          I think a deal skewed to merits makes more sense than one skewed to audience, but that’s just me. I’d like to see clubs like Osasuna, Sporting, etc fighting it out in the last jornada for that extra 1.5M that finishing 12th gets as opposed to finishing 15th.

          Totally agree with this, it’s what I would like to see. But I don’t think Real Madrid or Barca would ever go for it, nor would Altetico Madrid or Valencia (given that the current arrangement fixes them up with a better share than most). The only way they would agree to it I think is if it’s a five year trailing window of results, so that they’re safe if they have a few down seasons.

    • The__K__Man
      September 15, 2011

      it of course is but not *limited* too. If it was only about that he could have easily gone to either UTD, Citeh, Chelsea or EE. All of them would’ve payed a LOT for him and given him more money than us.

      • The__K__Man
        September 15, 2011

        and now Cesc has denied giving any interviwes to ESPN and said the last time he spoke was at the press conference during his presentation. Shame on you ESPN!

        • blitzen
          September 15, 2011

          And on Kxevin for believing everything he reads! 😛

  17. BA
    September 15, 2011

    i’d take big points of Guardiola’s score for persisting in playing 2 pace-less midfielders as center-backs (again), against a narrow team like Milan. Abidal into the center, Busquets to the midfield for Keita with Adriano on the left pushing forward and creating width would have remedied 2 of our outstanding problems in this game: lack of pace and positioning in the middle of defense that allowed Pato to score a goal last seen in a U-9’s rec league game, and lack of wide play up the flanks.

    did we boss possession? yes. but i think some supporters would do well to stop insisting that possession alone is tantamount to “dominating” a game. we rarely seriously threatened Abbiati, Milan’s highly disciplined defense was never really stretched, and we conceded 2 easily defended goals to tie the game 2-2; just as we did on the weekend when we similarly dominated possession. these aren’t successes, these are ties; and when playing at our level, ties aren’t going to be enough. are these games cause for hysterics? of course not. but there ARE clearly things we could have done differently and we need to be on the lookout for further disjointedness in the future.

    • September 15, 2011

      But if you think about the truly good scoring chances that happen in a match, you will find that most sides don’t get as many as we had against Milan. If Xavi and Messi don’t each hit the post, we’re talking about an entirely different thing, right? It becomes a gaudy scoreline, and everyone is talking about how UEFA should just give us the big ears cup right now.

      Milan could barely string three passes together because when we didn’t have the ball, we harassed them into giving it right back. Then we proceeded to resume the attack. Messi had good opportunities in the box twice, not counting the assist to Pedro. Xavi was begging for a pass that Villa misplayed to Alves instead of feeding a wide-open Xavi at the post. If Villa shoots across Abbate instead of into the side netting, that’s another great chance.

      So I would say, rather than we “rarely threatened” Abbate, that we didn’t finish as we will be finishing in a month. Every time we generated real width by (late in the match) sending Abidal up the wing, space opened up. Adriano isn’t a good enough defender to use against Milan, though he is much better at defending this season.

      Which is why I say that things are fine. Because they are. We’re one point better than we were in Liga last season, right?

      There will be things in every match that we could have done differently, even in the case of manitas. That’s just part of the game. Also, note that when the same play was tried, it was defended much better. Alves shut Pato down once, and Abidal intervened another time. Mistakes happen for whatever reason, and good clubs learn from them.

  18. September 15, 2011

    Great review. I also didn’t get what people were saying about useless possession, while I was watching the match in class, couldn’t watch it carefully, but every time I looked we were pressing forward, all over their defense, we always looked dangerous.

    I’m not really worried about Villa, his performances are uneven but I think it’s all part of his continued adjustment and improvement. Pedro worries me though, I don’t think I’ve seen him play a good game since this season started, and with Alexis’ injury he really needs to step it up. Hopefully the goal will give him some confidence.

  19. September 15, 2011

    So wait? We’re not gonna die?

    Aw man! I had my bunker ready for the atomic failure bomb and everything!

    Ah well, there’s always next time.

    Osasuna’s next…

  20. blitzen
    September 15, 2011

    Babunski just scored for Barça Babies. 0-1! 😀

        • blitzen
          September 15, 2011

          Twitter now saying Miguel Angel scored both goals, not Babunski.

          • September 15, 2011

            I thought that was weird. Babunski is a defender after all…

  21. adopted cule
    September 15, 2011

    I thought Cesc was no more and no less effective than Iniesta was in this match. He’s been most dangerous this season when he’s been on as a fourth midfielder (Real, Porto, Villarreal). As a direct replacement for Iniesta or Xavi in a 4-3-3, he has different responsibilities and he has been upfront about having much to learn in the system. He is more than serviceable in this regard, but his best will be on display when Pep has a complete squad again.

    • September 15, 2011

      Yep. Notice that they got the same rating. I think that Fabregas at times should be as dynamic a player as he was at Arsenal. But that will be difficult at times, with the other midgets running about.

      • htMillBay
        September 15, 2011

        I was expecting more from Cesc since he did play fabulously in the Real, Porto, Villareal and Spanish NT games. In the Milan game, he seemed to be content playing as a supporting cast instead of trying to be as creative or as aggressive as he was in Arsenal, in the Spanish NT and his first games with Barca.
        That’s the problem I was alluding to when I said that the other players depend on Messi too much. Aside from Leo, with legends like Messi and Iniesta on the field, some of the other players like Cesc and Dani might be too deferential. That’s one thing I like with Thiago, he’s too young and too snotty at this point not to be deferential to his elders which can be good or bad depending on the situation.

      • Miguel
        September 15, 2011

        Fabregas at times should be as dynamic a player as he was at Arsenal

        And he was. When he played up top for Barça (as a false 9 or whatever,) but he came in for Ini on Tuesday. A midfielder. When he played at Arsenal he was usually alongside Van Persie with Song and Wilshere/Diaby behind him which is why he may have seemed more ‘dynamic’ to you. Fàbregas is great at running into spaces created for him but when it comes to taking dudes on, one v one, he falls short. He’s just not that kind of player. Maybe I just have to watch the game again. The score you gave him seems fair to me, though.

        OT: Told y’all bout Diego at Atletico. An assist and a goal for him v Celtic today. Gonna go home and watch that $%^&.

      • adopted cule
        September 16, 2011

        The numerical value was the same, but the tone felt different. While Iniesta was unusually ineffective, to paraphrase, Cesc ‘didn’t do a damn thing out there but run around and play tentatively’. The phrasing of the two reviews speaks a lot more clearly than the number ‘4’. It would have been just as true to simply say that Cesc was unusually ineffective, given that he has been a part of so many goals and chances in so short a time, but you chose to paint him as a bit of a bumbler.

        Great review though. The team played beautifully at times and deserved better against one of the best sides in Europe. It helps that there are others seeing the same things. Thanks.

  22. ciaran
    September 15, 2011

    On Cesc, it may not be a bad idea to play a front three of Villa on the left, Cesc in the centre & Messi back on the right for a match or two.

    Messi and Cesc are both on form and Pedro certainly isn’t.
    It might be a good idea having a partnership between Masch and Fontas at the back against Osasuna to give Masch continuity and the back and give Fontas more game time.

  23. Dani_el
    September 15, 2011

    Pique: “When football is your passion, you want to be involved in the game in whatever capacity. One day i want to be president of Barcelona”

    President Piqué Bernabeu? I just don’t see it. President Guardiola, that’s another matter. 🙂

    • BA
      September 15, 2011

      i think Pique is going to be Captain, Sporting Director (though not Manager, that’s Xavi’s future job), then President. say what you will about his goofy pompadour, the guy’s got all the charm in the world and comes from a family of politicians.

  24. Barcathegreatestever
    September 15, 2011

    I think Keita would be better than Busi at centerback. He is certainly better in the air and never backs away from a challenge. Then Sergio can go back to where he does best.

    • htMillBay
      September 15, 2011

      I agree with you there. Keita has what it takes to be a good CB. Perhaps, Pep is letting him adapt by stages. From AM to DM to CB. Busi just had to take a one step adjustment but Keita may actually have better CB type qualities than Busi and he’s certainly just learning to stay on the defensive line.

  25. mei
    September 15, 2011

    Kevin jumping to conclusions early! fabregas just ridiculed the quotes attributed to him :

    Fabregas tw: I never gave any interview away since my press conference at my presentation and there i just said…

  26. BarcaGirl_Indo
    September 15, 2011

    ESPN and other English media twisted Fàbregas words.. *shocking*
    he did not say that, I read all of his interviews for Sport, EMD, and El Pais (all spanish media).. he never said such a thing..

    Gerard Piqué Bernabeu as a president of azulgrana? yes, please! moc moc!

  27. bhed
    September 15, 2011

    I just checked the GolTV listings for this weekend (U.S.), and it looks like they’re showing the EE game again. That’s 3 weeks in a row. Does anyone know if they’re going to show Barca games this season, or is it going to be ESPN3 for the whole season?

    • September 15, 2011

      No worries, fix it for ya.

      They’ve been showing both EE and Barca on GolTV Canada — for once, Canada has better programming! — but I’d imagine GolTV US will start showing Barca games when we face ‘bigger’ opposition. Not sure why they’d prefer EE tho, we’re the champions, but I guess they want people to watch the ‘underdog’ or something. We wouldn’t want Phil Ball to get bored after all.

      • bhed
        September 15, 2011

        Thanks for the reply. Long time lurker (been reading every article and comment for 3 years), first time poster. Love how your articles have been evolving!

        • September 15, 2011

          Ah, forgot to welcome you! Welcome, bhed, feel free to comment anytime.

          And thank you very much! Though, I think with the Osasuna preview (if you want really call it that) it will be regressing very quickly. :mrgreen:

  28. bhed
    September 15, 2011

    On a more pure footballing note, perhaps looking on the bright side, I remember on this very blog a few years ago people were saying “Pep, pleeeease don’t put Busquets in for Yaya at DM, we’ll give up goals for sure!” Granted, at the moment he’s a pretty bad center back, and I don’t mean “bad” as in “good”, but maybe Pep sees something that we don’t. Maybe he can make the same kind of transformation at CB. He does, after all, have the height. I’m not sure I believe this myself, but one can always hope.

    • BarcaGirl_Indo
      September 15, 2011

      I don’t believe that either, but we can always hope..

      I have a dream.. to see this line up again some day.. it’s been so long..

      Alves – Pique – Puyol – Abidal
      Xavi – Busquets – Iniesta

      • bhed
        September 15, 2011

        Maybe when the stars are in alignment…

        Unfortunately, I don’t think Puyol will be a dependable starter this year. Knee operations are very tricky, especially for a pro in his thirties. I’m hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst.

        I had really hoped we’d get David Luiz, but Chelsea beat us to the punch. Along with many on this blog, i think the Jose Angel debacle was bad business, as was the decision to pass on Botia.

        • BarcaGirl_Indo
          September 15, 2011

          yes, I’m not saying we should play them in every game..

          just hope someday somehow all of them are available to play together, especially in big matches..

          that’s our Manita Line Up! 8)

    • BarcaGirl_Indo
      September 15, 2011

      finally! for the love of Hleb, they unlocked that post, yes!

      *brb* I’m going to read it…

    • BarcaGirl_Indo
      September 15, 2011

      FOR SALE

      Belarusian midfielder. Sometimes creative. Curse included with purchase. Asking price : any. Call Sandro at Camp Nou.


      too much Hleb in one page… that Hlebruary calendar, 28, TWENTY EIGHT Hleb heads..
      I just got Hlebbed.. @____@


  29. September 15, 2011

    Well. I have a nonsense post turned preview up. It’s admittedly quite pointless, but there really wasn’t much to say about the weekend’s game so…

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