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Match Review Barcelona 5 – 0 Atletico Madrid: Living Without the Ball

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They have a variety of tactics that allows them to play with three defenders and that gives them an extra player in the centre of the field. Thus, it is physically impossible to beat them for possession… I’m angry with how the result looks, but we are facing one of the best teams in history.
- Gregorio Manzano, post-match

Nearly every team facing Barcelona has to rethink how they will play the game.  Simply put – you will not have the ball.  Even teams oriented around defense have to adjust to the extreme degree to which they will be orphaned from the ball.  One of the first decision that needs to be made is whether or not you will try to go get the ball and pressure, sit deep and defend or mix approaches.

Regardless of which specific approach is chosen, it is critical for the opposition to control space. If you do not have the ball and you do not control space you will likely be played off the pitch.In general one of the fundamental methods of controlling space is to maintain shape and stay highly organized.  Doing so provides structure, it allows you to grow your own skeleton over the pitch.  We often equate maintaining shape with defending deep – but shape is a central principle to defending regardless of positioning on the pitch.

One of the more interesting aspect to Barcelona’s 5-0 victory over Atleti was how the match clarified the intense pressure the blaugrana places teams under by retaining the ball.

In terms of the results of course the match was a disaster for them.  But in terms of process there were certain real positives and in some ways, Atleti played a very strong match.   Atleti were disciplined and maintained shape well.  Without the ball they were highly organized for much of the match.  In other words, they did things that are required to beat Barcelona, things they haven’t done well over their recent history.

In the past Atleti has been a perennial underachieving club, their results never fully matching up to the perceived talents and abilities.  Central to those shortfalls has been their inability to stay organized in defense.  They’ve often focused more on their attack, almost trying to match the style of play of Real Madrid, and haven’t focused enough on the kinds of things they did well yesterday against Barça – retain disciplined shape and stay organized.

Were I an Atleti supporter I would hope that yesterday’s match would be continued a sign of things to come for a team in transition, that it was the sign of a team whose manager has spotted a fatal flaw in how they have played in the past and is attempting to fix it.  That they match was part of the growing pains of change.  Whether or not that proves to be case can’t be decided yet. It depends on how Manzano is committed to changing their system and how the project evolves.  It’s simply too early to tell.
That said – what must be equally disheartening in the short term is that despite the theoretical positives, Atleti was entirely played off the pitch from nearly the opening whistle.  This was a team that executed it’s game plan, did some of the foundational things required to forge success against Barcelona in terms of tactics and were still dominated.  But this is what Barcelona is able to do – it’s why they instill such a sense of disillusionment in the opposition.  You will not have the ball.  Given that you try to do what you can control but it’s still not nearly enough.  You have to execute almost perfectly to win.

Atleti’s Shape:  The Trade Offs Required to Counter Barelona

Atleti came into the match with heavy squad rotation introducing seven players who did not start the prior match.  This included three of the four back line players.  Despite that, Atleti continued playing in the general style they’ve adopted under Manzano – play aggressively and look to pressure up the pitch.  Coming into the match Atleti had the fewest goals conceded of any team in La Liga and they looked to continue building on what made them successful.

Overall, Atleti did a good job of maintaining shape and they were particularly good about staying compact.  The still shot below demonstrates this shape:

Atleit's Defensive Shape

In the image above, Atleti’s is set up with a high degree of organization.  They played in a disciplined 4-2-3-1/ 4-5-1 block (which also fell into a 4-4-2 in defense depending on Barça’s movement).  Two important characteristics of their shape are shown in the image above.  First, they are very compact.  There is very little space between their lines. Second, they are very narrow – their “wide” midfielders playing in the line behind Falcao are severely pinched in.

Staying compact is critical to strong defending.  Atleti did that very well – far better than they have in the recent past.  Playing narrow and clotting up the middle has by now become a well defined way of trying to play Barça.  Manzano not only adopted that approach but significantly intensified it by pulling so many players to narrow midfield.  This was likely a tactical response to Barcelona now playing four midfielders.  Even if you play a 4-2-3-1 type formation you will be at numerical disadvantage 3 vs. 4 in the middle against Barça’s four man midfield.  Manzano looked to counter this by playing very narrow.

But the image above also distinctly shows the trade offs that Manzano had to make to overplay the middle.

First, there is a great deal of space behind Atleti’s back line.  In order to stay compact while trying to win the ball up the pitch you must play a high back line.  If you don’t you either have to give up being compact (which makes it impossible to disrupt the Barça passing game) or you have to sit and defend deep (which is not Atleti’s system).

Ultimately it was this space behind the high line that Barça would set out to attack relentlessly and do so with success (more on this later).

Second, by playing narrow Atleti was essentially giving up the flanks.  As is evident in both still shots above – Barcelona had enormous space on both flanks in wide positions (in the first image above notice how much room Pedro has to drop into and how isolated Villa is on the other flank; in the second the same holds for Fabregas, Villa and Messi).

Throughout the match Barça used this free wide space to build play, launch attacks and find open outlets to retain possession.  The other impact that staying narrow had on Atleti was to limit their own capacity to attack.  By maintaining positional discipline in a narrow block, Atleti themselves had difficulty utilizing width – in the transition phases of the game they simply didn’t have players out wide to relieve pressure as outlets.  Not only did this allow Barça’s press to be very effective to win back the ball in the middle, it also protected Barcelona’s back three.  A back three formation can be vulnerable to attacks down the flank – Atleti often didn’t have players in wide positions.

The contrast between Atleti and Valencia over the past two matches was interesting in this regard.  Manzano set his team up to do something very similar to what Unai Emery did when Valencia played Barça the match before.

Emery also looked to overplay the middle by narrowing his formation (as he has over and over against Barça).  Here’s the difference however.  Emery chose to play an asymmetric formation – he pinched in the right side of his defensive flank towards the middle while keeping both his full back and winger very wide on the left.  This enabled him to exploit the Barcelona three man back line through attacks wide of Mascherano (the outer back on the right in that match) down the left flank.  Atleti could never do this as they were so narrow on both sides.  At the same time by pinching defenders in off the right, Emery was able to clot the middle.  The problem with the match against Valencia was that Barcelona never fully utilized the enormous open flank they had on one side of the field. This was a mistake they would not repeat against Atleti.

Every System Has its Limitations

If Atleti played in this disciplined, organized fashion – why did things go so poorly for them?  As often happens, when playing Barcelona the best plans can quickly dissolve.  And on this night it was Barcelona’s movement and width that cracked open an Atleti system that proved to be organized to the point of being brittle.

Atleti almost placed too much focus on shape and structure.  While they did a good job in those dimensions of defense they wound up neglecting others.  While organization is necessary to defend well – it is not sufficient.  Atleti simply couldn’t put enough pressure on the ball.  In fact, often times it seemed as if they were so focused on playing their system and keeping its structure that they became static defensively and lacked dynamism.   It was almost as if they had been so drilled and focused on covering their assigned zones that they couldn’t react to Barcelona’s dynamism.  And once they fell behind additional energy drained from them (especially once the third goal scored).  This was made only worse as the game wore on and Atleti, starved of possession, tired.

Around the Sides…

After playing a poor match both in terms of tactics and execution against Valencia, Barcelona rectified many of the mistakes they had made midweek.  The still shot below demonstrates the successful adjustments Barcelona made in response to Atleti’s narrow, organized block of defenders pushing up high.

Barcelona Moves Wide to Counteract Atleti's Shape

Atleti’s back line is well positioned.  They are compact.  They have two midfielders playing the space between the lines.  They are very narrow to ensure that they will not be overrun in midfield (they have a 4 vs. 2 numerical advantage in the center circle).  Tactically, their shape and structure is strong.

The problem is that Barcelona have vacated the entire advanced middle of the pitch making that system structure ornate but ineffective.
A key thing to notice here above is Messi’s positioning.  Throughout this match he tended to drift right and pull wide to find space.  This was clearly intentional and was a key aspect to the first goal he scored (third team goal).

But it’s not just Messi.  Xavi is side on the right behind Messi and is outside of Atleti’s widest advanced defender.  Thiago is positioned the same way on the left.  Fabregas is even wider along that left flank completely open in space.  Villa is well outside of his marker (RB) as is Pedro (off screen in shot).

Manzano created a system that is in theory ideally suited to defending a four man midfield “diamond.”  I’d guess he drilled this into his players in practice over and over.  But once the match started and Barça saw how Atleti was defending and their “diamond” just fluidly melted into new shapes and did so with such speed that it made Atleti’s organization irrelevant.  This is well demonstrated in the image below:

Xavi and the Barcelona Midfielders Creating Width

Atleti are well organized to defend a narrow midfield diamond.  But there is no diamond.  In fact – there really four “midfielders.”  Look at how wide on the right flank Xavi is. He is stationed almost where we are used to seeing Alves play.  Thiago is again wide of his marker on the left.
The player who perhaps benefit most from all of this was Messi.  By simply positioning himself out of the center of the pitch he repeatedly found open space as shown in the image below:

Messi Finds Time and Space on the Ball off the Open Right

Messi has the ball at the bottom of the shot.  How often do you ever see him open in that much space.  At the same time notice how many Atleti defenders are in the middle of the pitch.

Messi’s first goal in this regard was indicative of much of the match.  From a throw in off the right touch line he receives the ball back quickly from Alves and starts a controlled run probing the defense.  Rather than jump out to close him down the Atleti defenders prioritize playing space.

Atleti's Defense Prioritizes Defending the Center on Messi's Run

In the shot above notice the reaction of the defenders to Messi’s run.  They are playing him to go left and are prioritizing the defense of space in the middle of the pitch.  In addition, they are hedging their bets against a Messi pass.  Instead of continuing to play the ball to the middle however Messi instead just cuts the ball back wide.

Messi Cuts Back into Open Space Wide

Again – notice how the Atleti defenders almost seemed convinced that Messi is going to run centrally.  They both form a wall to that part of the pitch.  So extreme is the way they maintain shape that they are effectively defending the opposite touchline rather than staying goal side.

Defensive systems can be thought of as having two basic components.  First, a system of covering space and second, a system for marking defenders.  Essentially what Barcelona did was to decouple those two systems to the point where they were no longer coordinated.  It allowed Atleti to maintain their organized system of coverage while decimating their system of marking.  They ceded space in the middle to Atleti and utilized dynamism to win the match instead.

…. And Over the Top

One of the most striking parts of Barcelona’s early season form has been their propensity for playing balls over the top.  This seeming new dimension to their play has been in part a response to how defenses are orienting themselves against the blaugrana.  Two main issues are at hand.  First, teams are looking to press Barça more.  This requires them to play higher back lines.  Second, given that Barcelona has expanded their dominance of midfield, the opposition back line is being forced to defend more in midfield, drawing them up the pitch (e.g. Now not only is Messi dropping deep from an advanced position – so is Fabregas).

The shot below shows the story for much of the opening part of the match when Barcelona repeatedly attacked the Atleti back line:

Atelti Maintain Shape but Xavi Finds Time on the Ball

Atleti is again in a strong defensive shape.  Compact, well organized, narrow, and clotting the middle of the field.  These have all been signs of successful defending against Barça in the past.  There’s no way for Xavi to slide the ball into Fabregas in the advance middle, for example.

However, Barcelona wasn’t trying to play the ball through the middle this match.  And Atleti simply do not react fast enough to Xavi possessing the ball.  Rather than close him down and pressure the ball the defenders stay back and overplay the middle of the pitch. And you cannot give Xavi time and space on the ball.  In the image above Xavi has pulled the ball back increasing the space he has and is in the process of crossing the ball over the top to Villa who has stayed wide.  The first goal was the result as Villa expertly controlled Xavi’s long ball over the top, played it to his left foot and then cut it back inside to his right to score a beautiful goal.  To give a sense of how much space Xavi had and Atleti’s defensive thinking take a look at the other angle to the play:

Xavi with Space to Decide How to Beat the Defense

Atleti is organized and is keeping their shape.  But Xavi just has too much time and space on the ball.  Atleti just doesn’t think that Xavi can hurt them from that position because Barça has in the past not played balls over the top that often.  The gesture of the defender in the middle is instructive.  He is signaling to direct the organization of the defense in the middle of the pitch as Xavi is about to delivery a dagger ball diagonal to Villa, by passing the entire middle of the pitch.

Barcelona’s Three Man Back Line Continues to Evolve

A great deal has been said about Barça’s use of a three man back line, particularly in the wake of the Valencia draw.  As I’ve written here before, tactical systems are largely neutral – what really matters is how they are implemented and how they are enacted in the context of the match.  So while Barcelona played three in the back they once again implemented the system in a different manner, largely because Atleti structured their own play differently than other opposition have.

In fact, in many ways, the whole notion of three at the back was misleading.  Playing three men in the back against one striker would have been wasteful and would have denied Barça a needed player wide.  So Barcelona really played much more fluidly than a three man back line would suggest.  Their real priority in terms of having numbers back was to make sure they had at least two defenders marking Falcao at all times.

Barcelona's Fluid Back Line

Atleti are in transition in the shot above and are looking to break.  Notice how Barcelona’s reaction is not to form a three man back line.  Alves stays wide and looks to press the ball.  Mascherano watches the play develop in front of him while picking up Falcao’s run.  Abidal tracks Falcao from the other side to ensure two defenders are playing the lone striker. This is not typically how three man back lines function.  In fact, this is very much like Barcelona’s four man back line works.

A key feature to this kind of defensive set up is the defensive play of the midfielders.  For Barça to be able to defend with so few in the back while not playing two dedicated full backs means that the midfielders (especially the wide midfielders) must be committed to tracking runs and defending.  In this regard, Thiago and Fabregas continue to show their value and outstanding level of play.  On a night when he wasn’t as dominant with the ball as we’ve seen from him prior, Fabregas was outstanding defensively.  In the same vein, Thiago continues his revelatory play this season.  And the revelation isn’t what he’s doing with the ball – but how he’s defending.  He’s often committing himself to acting as a quasi-full back to ensure the three nominal defenders have needed support.

Busquets’s role also facilitated a sound back line.  He played relatively deep and particularly early on was mindful of being available to drop deeper to form a four man back line.   As the match progressed and Barça controlled the ball and Atleti system of staying narrow became clear Busquets was able to join the attack more.

Evaluation

Team: Outstanding. Not only did they win but they were able to come out and take control of the match early allowing them to conserve energy later on. In a long season, these kinds of matches are critical. That the team put up another manita while not needing to exert full energy is another testament to how dominant they are.

Guardiola: Made important adjustments in response to the Valencia match. The new formations they are utilizing are experiments – not only for the players but the manager as well. Overall, he continues to challenge this team to grow and play better.

Valdes:  Excellent distribution and on the one occasion he was needed he was a wall to stop an Atleti opportunity.

Abidal:  After a few miscues against Valencia – he was once again a rock.  This match shows how much of defending is a team based endeavor.  Abidal made mistakes against Valencia but those mistakes were the influenced by the fact that Barcelona’s tactics didn’t match up with how the opposition was attacking forcing the Barça back line into confusion and uncoordinated movement.  Today the system is much better suited to the opposition and Abidal is again near flawless.

Mascherano:  At this point – while he doesn’t have the armband he is in practice almost a co-captain of the team.  Along with Xavi, he has become one of Pep’s managers on the field.  With Puyol not on the pitch, it is Masch who is the one organizing the defense and communicating with Pep on what to do.
Alves:  Very intelligent, controlled game. He did an outstanding job of knowing when to stay back in defense and when to make runs forward.  Was always available as an outlet wide to retain possession.

Busquets:  Fantastic match.  It is remarkable to see how much he is able to control a match from deep when he has a defender behind him.  One of the reasons why Xavi was able to move out wide when needed was because of his confidence that Busquets could still organize possession in the center of the pitch.

Thiago:  His season so far has almost surpassed by best case scenario for him.  I honestly cannot believe how well he is playing defensively.  I thought it would take him most of the season to start integrating himself into the defensive system at this level. If Thiago continues to focus and work he legitimately has a chance to become the best midfielder in the world.

Fabregas:  Worked very hard all game.  With Atleti overplaying the center so much, Fabregas’s play through the middle was thwarted some.  So far he hasn’t been as dangerous from wider positions.  It’s part of his game that will develop.

Xavi:  It seems almost impossible for someone to be as good at their job as Xavi is at his.  He dictated play.  Man of the match.

Villa:  Beautiful finish on that first goal. His use of both feet was outstanding to create the opportunity.  His unselfishness is also wonderful to see.  At the end of the match he repeatedly looked to try to spring Messi free on goal.  And when Messi did find the back of the net Villa was thrilled for him.

Pedro:  Great work rate and effort as always.  His finishing still isn’t in form.

Messi:  Given his own standards, he was both brilliant and at times mundane this match.  His goals were of outstanding quality.  The kinds of goals few players in history could have created or completed.  While he did often dwell on the ball too often, in substance how he played made sense given the context.  With Atleti emphasizing shape so much and staying so organized while lacking pressure in defense, making runs at the defense was one of the single best ways to destabilize them.  With Iniesta and Sanchez out Messi was the one to provide that.  Given how much space he could find in wider positions, it made sense for him to run at the defense.

The End
Barcelona have just completed one of the single most difficult sequences of their entire season.  And during that time they suffered from significant injuries.  However, this team continues to demonstrate even greater flexibility and fluidity in their play allowing them to adjust. Those periods of change aren’t going to go flawlessly, as the Valencia match demonstrated.  Nonetheless, this team continues to build and insist on trying to get better.

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145 Responses to “Match Review Barcelona 5 – 0 Atletico Madrid: Living Without the Ball”

  1. Artur says:

    Great review as always, Euler.

    Thanks for writing about the long balls and new strats Pep and co are implementing in order to react to other teams adjusting to our way of playing.

    Hope to see your reviews throughout the season, if not all then at least for the more important matches.

  2. MiZa says:

    Great review Euler.

    Was wondering what you thought about the outside defenders coming into the midfield to maintain possession (not unlike against EE in the first leg of the CL semi).

    Seems to me that when the opposing wingers come back into midfield, then Alves and Abidal are given license to go forward a little to serve as passing outlets.

    It’s almost a 1-5-4 at that point (as in your screen shot for “Atleti Maintain Shape But Xavi Finds Time on The Ball”).

    • Euler says:

      Seems to me that when the opposing wingers come back into midfield, then Alves and Abidal are given license to go forward a little to serve as passing outlets.

      Yes. That’s part of what the team is adjusting to with three at the back.

      People are emphasizing the numerical deficits of having three at the back. But it’s almost just as big a problem in terms of having an extra defender back there against 1 striker or when the team is maintaining possession.

      The key there is for the two lateral backs to read the game right in conjunction with each other.

      The priority is to always have at least two in the back. Which defender joins the attack depends on where the ball and space are located.

  3. blitzen says:

    Em, I’m traveling tomorrow to see my mom in hospital :cry: so I’ll do my promised blitzen awards then. I’ve got some doozies for you.

  4. SoccerMom says:

    Thank eu Euler!

    To watch Atleti maintain such a disciplined formation throughout the match, regardless of ball movement, was striking.

    I kept waiting for them to start twirling flags, or march with tubas.

    Other times I was tempted to grab imaginary 3 bars on the side of my t.v. and see if I could make the back line swing ’round like little foosball dudes.

    And in contrast FCB was like one of those LCD motion pictures that are supposed to calm your somatic system … imagine … a beach … a beach with white sand … and waves … washing gently over the sand … over … and over … and over …

    Kxevin mentioned in a previous post that we didn’t buy Fabregas to be a Xavi, but to be a Fabregas. Ever since I’ve had the Fergie number from that schmaltzfest Marshall movie “Nine” in my head: “Be … a … FABREGAS! BE A FABREGAS!”

    Maybe for Halloween I’ll BE A FABREGAS.

    • Kxevin says:

      I confess to being struck by how versatile Fabregas is. Runs into the box, tracking back to break up attacks, midfield possession, goals and assists. Full credit to Arsenal. Who knows what kind of player he would have become, sitting around La Masia, waiting for his chance to play.

      I also like how he takes fouls, and gets up. That’s the Premiership influence, as well. (Yes, people, I did see David Silva make mountains out of molehills, drawing cards on people during Citeh’s match. Shame on him.)

      • jazzler says:

        Well, this I would buy except in the first 10 minutes, Cesc goes diving and there wasn’t even contact. Normally I need a replay, but I saw it in the moment. Yes, it was that bad. He stayed on the ground for a good few minutes until the ref came over to brush him off.

        So maybe he takes fouls, but I am not sure if he won’t indulge in a little diving here or there.

  5. Kxevin says:

    Lovely. Thanks again, Euler. It was another “one defender” lineup, which I think really facilitates the tactical versatility necessary to implement changes on the fly. I was also noticing how much Guardiola is talking to Mascherano. Not sure if he’s letting him be the general in back, or telling him in specific the more effective ways to function within the system. But it works.

    I still think that our nightmare team is Chelsea, because they are big, super-organized defensively and fast. Ditto for United. But even Valencia, if our defense does what it usually does and Valdes talks to Abidal, that’s a win by a goal or two.

    Things will continue to evolve, and I do like the tag team. Again, not sure how often Euler and I will have this luxury, but it’s really cool when we can make it work.

    • The__K__Man says:

      I think Chelsea have changed a lot since last time we faced them. Huge players like Ballack, Essien, Drogba and Lampard have left/ are injured/ benched and new players are taking their spots as Ramires, Mata, Meireles and Torres.
      They still are a physical team but not nearly as physical as in 2009. I also think AVB is the kind of coach who wants to play football and win in still rather than park the bus.

      Great review Euler. Keep it up.

    • mom4 says:

      The Euler-Kxevin tag team is awesome!

  6. Chiu says:

    Great thought! It’s like you exposed the secret of Barca magic. I learned a lot from this forum. And I believe many of the newcomers experience the same. Since I regularly follow this blog, my understanding when watching the match (of course Barca game) is getting better. At some moments of a match, it’s like “ hey, that’s what Euler mentioned about players staying wide when opposition play bla bla bla” or “ See, Kxevin have wrote about the over the top ball”. So lucky can find this blog.

    Wanna suggest that could we add the la liga standing table. Maybe we can utilize the small space at the right of home page. It will be helpful, esp like “hey I just got back travelling and want to catch up with Barca news. Just open BFB, you got all in on store. And would it be great if all BFB writers can upload their pictures, maybe on “About” tab.

  7. Srini says:

    Thanks Euler. Having been trained to understand the tactical aspects of the game after reading many a match review of yours, I could sense these things while watching the game itself couple of days back.

    One thing that is going unsaid. Xavi repeatedly said, during the days of “tapping up” of Fabregas ( :-) ) that he was keen on playing with the best talent in the midfield and that systems would evolve to accommodate these talents. Well, not in so many words – but look at the things he says about Puyol and Carragher – that these robust, hard working and physical players should adjust to the tactical/skillful ways of playing and vice-versa in the modern game. [In the Sid Lowe interview - http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2011/feb/11/xavi-barcelona-spain-interview ]

    The full meaning of those remarks is playing itself out in the way Barca has organised itself – essentially a team of midfielders with just one or two textbook defenders, albeit with stupendous on-the-ball skills. And in essence, helping out Xavi play his dream of combining with multiple talented midfielders – Fabregas & Thiago & Busquets together at some or Iniesta & Thiago & Keita at some other. And the results are there for all to see.

    Barcelona plays the “shortest” squad in Europe. Yet it dominates play nearly overall, by emphasising a revolutionary model of play that is completely unique and a template that is pretty much impossible to emulate, unless given a long long gestation period (as did Barcelona itself enjoyed with the La Masia formative years and so on).

    I am from India and a perennial football romantic as Xavi professes himself to be. I am from a country that is cricket obsessed largely because of the sport being a post-colonial vehicle for nationalism and a reflection of changing political economy in the country. But it is not the sport that defines my country. It is an artificial borrowed sport from the colonial era that does not quite mix up art, skill, aesthetics and ability as much as football does. In fact, in order to fit in with the demands of our times, the sport has consistently diluted itself and evolved into an Americanised version (the Twenty 20 cricket) that is more or less devoid of true skill and aesthetic value. In that sense I feel alienated.

    For ever, I have been told and sensitised that my countrymen (and women) will never take to football because it is so demanding and our physiology does not suit the game (ironic considering the most dedicated footballing interest in the country emanates from the shorter, but more physical populations of the Mongoloid races in the north east of the country). But Barcelona’s physicality and structure – essentially a function of skill rather than the other way around, gives me hope. It is not impossible for India to make a mark in football some day, given the right impetus on training, skills and tactics. Certainly it wouldn’t be world beating, but it could be a way to overcome the entrenched cobwebs in the near term.

    But I digress. Barcelona’s way of playing and its newness has made acts of repeated praise near platitudes.

    • jnelson says:

      Awesome comment

    • missingpage says:

      Great comment indeed! Few things make me happier than a forward outside the box way of thinking :)

    • Vj says:

      Actually, the interest in Cricket came up only after that in Field Hockey (a sport in which we won seven consecutive Olympic Golds) died – which originally was the ‘vehicle’ you were talking about. Its not a question of physiology as I feel many similar traits are required in field hockey as well – along with a sturdy back.

      Just ask someone from that era. My father says Messi and co. remind him of the magicians from hockey. There are similarities in physical characteristics, technical flair etc. The problem isn’t that. In a nation of 1+ billion, you can easily find talented players. There is nothing like La Masia here. Little or no emphasis on youth development and guidance. Add to that the fact that they are paid a pittance. Unless this is rectified, I see the same problems continuing.

      Agree with the Xavi part..

      • Srini says:

        You are right, Vj. And your father is very much, as well. Pity, though, that India never developed the innate talent into something better suited for the modern game of field hockey- on astro turf, better physicality and stamina building. We were limited to skill alone as the criteria and that was not enough.

        And then cricket hijacked all the talent away :(

        • phunky says:

          I’m from India, and you know, the change is happening now. Hopefully we’ll see better organisation which IMO can solve most problems. I play football regularly and know so many people who play football rather well. With more support and culture in football in India, mediocre players in the country can become better and the better ones can be the best.

    • say2 says:

      Superb srini.Agree with every point of yours:)

    • Blau-Grenade says:

      Great comment buddy. Hopefully India is able to develop soccer at the grass roots level.

    • swamidigital says:

      I also hope football takes off in India! Nice post btw.

  8. Miguel says:

    Oh, my valiant Atleti! I’m still not right after this match. I can’t believe Reyes started over Arda Turan. Not that it would have mattered much. But still.

    Great piece, Euler!

  9. jnelson says:

    I’m not understanding why everyone is acting like we just now started playing 3 at the back. As far as I can remember, we always play with three at the back; we only lined up with 4 defenders. Normally, Dani would move forward to the midfield from the first possession, leaving Pique-Puyol-Abidal. This line would shift over to the right slightly, with Abidal slightly advanced (usually near midfield), while Dani would be working the wing with Messi/Pedro. If Abidal made an overlapping run and pressed forward, then the line would shift to the left and Dani would move back just a little. Eventually (like last season), I would always be seeing Busi dropping back into the center, flanked by Pique and Puyol or Pique and Abidal. Busi would then work his way back into the DM spot, leaving Pique/Puyol back, with Abidal in a LWB position and Dani as a RM/RW. 3 at the back looks like nothing new to me. Am I wrong?

    • lea_terzi says:

      Three defenders – yeah, happened before. It’s the 9 midfielder formation that is new :)

      Last year we didn’t have four creative midfielders drifting around and exchanging places PLUS wingbacks (Alves and Abidal take turns going forward in possession, leaving two at the back against one-forward formations) PLUS the front three. This is a possession machine that packs quite a punch in attack.. And also makes for a roller-coaster ride when we lose the ball :)

      Another significant difference is how the back three function -not as a defensive line, but as the last wave of pressure / sweepers / man-markets depending on the situation.

      And this is only scratching the surface. I live the floor to people who actually understand tactics :)

    • sic says:

      What’s new is that now we are only starting with one or true defenders on the field, having replaced at least one of our CBs with Mascherano and the other with a midfielder who is playing full time in the midfield. I this case Thiago.

      Both Puyol and Piqué were available for this match and Pep chose neither. Think about that for a moment. It’s quite a difference.

  10. Worddriven Bozo says:

    Euler, you’re a smart guy. So let’s stop with the incorrect spelling of the possessive of the word “it.” The possessive is “its”; “it’s” is the contraction of “it is.” It’s very simple, though it shows how the English language has its quirks.

  11. Dani_el says:

    Thanks Euler for this amazing review.

    So I finally understand why Pep didn’t go for the defender in the transfer period (not that I wanted him to go for it, I wanted Cesc and Rossi (I’m fine with Sanchez :) Well if we consider that almost half of our games (specially our home matches) we’re going to play with 3 defenses, things change in respect of squad depth. Let us say that we need fast centerbacks for quick counter attacking teams, so we have Alves, Mascherano and Abidal, and I guess that our firs 3-4-3 line up in defense would be maybe, Puyol Mascherano Abidal with Alves as wingmen? I think requiring speed, pace and stamina, it would be Mascherano Abidal Alves (sedond half against Valencia seemed to work, but they were tired). Well I think if it is that way we have 6 defenders for half of the Matches, Mascherano, Abidal, Pique, Puyol, Alves, Maxwell; And we will use Adriano as a spare wing man, and we still have 5 (plus Masche) midfilders for 3-4 positions. Up there Sanchez, Adriano and Cuenca, Deolofeu, Soriano would be enough back up? It seems to me this is a better squad than last year, but it’s most unfortunate the plague of injuries. We’ll still depend on luck as any team.

  12. hammeronmessi says:

    One question to u,euler.

    why u always review a match which we won convincingly?what bout the drawn games?from a tactical point of view those r the interesting ones,right?

    appreciate your work though.

    @kxevin,while i understand your ratings bout messi,but those 3 goals r a joy to watch,right?though i dont care bout KRS.

    beautiful game from thiago,he will gonna be a monster in a few years IMO.

    • Kxevin says:

      I think that Euler, like the rest of us, reviews matches when the time presents itself. As I have learned, reviewing ALL of the matches is a quick road to burnout and fatigue. I don’t think that Euler picks and chooses matches, so much as reviews when the time and opportunity present themselves.

      Between those times, you all will be stuck with the rest of us.

      And yes, those 3 goals were a delight. Only a churl would say otherwise.

  13. Calvin says:

    If Pep persists with the 3-4-3 I think the player who will suffer the most is Alves.

    In the 4-3-3 of the past couple of years Alves played as a wing back and was afforded almost complete freedom with his movement on the pitch. This took advantage of his best feature – his indefatigable running and explosiveness. His ability to bomb up and down the entire right wing and make it his own allowed Messi at first to pinch in from the right, and later Pedro. during the Ibrahimovic year we often played without a right winger near the end of the season, and were able to do so because of Alves’ explosive nature.

    Pep has used Alves in two different positions in the 3-4-3. He used him as a right sided winger against Valencia, and Alves didn’t exactly thrive there (Adriano did a much better job in that position during his time on the pitch). Playing Alves as a winger requires him to stay higher up the pitch and greatly reduces the amount of pitch in front of him that he can run into. This means his explosiveness is curtailed and he isn’t as effective.

    Likewise, when Alves is asked to play on the right of the three center backs his ability to make forward runs with impunity is taken away from him. He is required to be much more disciplined and pick his runs much more carefully (for the system to work right, the DM should ideally drop into the backline if Alves is going to go marauding forward). Despite what the English media thinks, Alves has proved he is a more than competent defender (see him defend against Ronaldo in pretty much any Clasico). However playing him as one of the centerbacks does take him out of his best game.

    For an example – at the end of the Athletico game it looked to me that we had reverted to the 4-3-3, and Alves notched two assists after he moved to right wing back.

    It will be interesting to see how Pep adapts the system to get the best out of Alves, or how Alves adapts his own game to get the best out of the system.

  14. Calvin says:

    On another note – it is amazing how Pep’s signings of the past couple of summers are all able to adapt to the system this year and play in multiple positions.

    Makes you wonder if Chygrynskiy wasn’t bought with the 3-4-3 in mind as the ultimate goal…

    • Eklavya says:

      Doubt it, 3-4-3 defenders requires pace, no?

      • Calvin says:

        To a certain extent. I wouldn’t say that it’s absolutely necessary for all three of the defenders to be Usain Bolt’s. Particularly the middle man – i think it’s much more important for him to be intelligent and disciplined than fast.

        I think the importance of pace is often exaggerated. Intelligent positioning, strong tackling, and wily defending can more than make up for a lack of pace – there a examples of this all throughout the modern game. The problem with Chygrynskiy is he had no idea how to maximize his attributes and minimize his weaknesses in our system – and this was an offshoot of having played an entirely different system for his entire playing career.

        • Kxevin says:

          I also don’t think that Txigrinski is that much slower than Pique. But no sense crying over spilled milk, and given his injury history, maybe we made the right decision. I still think he deserved more of a shot with the club.

  15. adopted cule says:

    Great review as always, Euler. I was looking forward to a little space being devoted to the second half after Pique was subbed in for Busquets. Barcelona sacrificed a fourth midfielder for another defender. In this regard, Messi’s individual brilliance and tendency to hold on to the ball were what was required to break down the Atleti defense. (On the infamous non-pass to Villa on Messi’s run in the second half that inspired a little fire storm in the comments on Kxevin’s review, it looked like Messi was intent on passing to Villa, but was drawing defenders to him, waiting for the right moment to slide the ball through and just as he gets himself into the right position to do it, Villa had overrun the play and was offside, forcing Messi to take on the last two defenders.) I felt that the switch to 4-3-3 with a 3-0 lead had nothing to do with the tactics of the game, but rather that Pep used the opportunity to get Pique some playing time and sacrificed his four man midfield to give Pique more support in the back.

    I was surprised by how much switching the midfield was doing in the first half. Xavi tended to stay centrally/right and Thiago on the left, but Fabregas was showing up very wide on either side. Now that I’ve read your review, this makes sense from the perspective of how Atleti were defending. Barcelona tried to play some balls through the middle, but the narrowness of the defense made most of these through balls ineffective. I suspect that one of the main goals of the Atleti defense was to neutralize the Cesc/Messi combination. When teams honor the wide forwards, it leaves gaping holes for Fabregas and Messi to exploit. Those holes weren’t there on Saturday and Barcelona adjusted well, but Fabregas was neutralized as an attacking player. Fabregas goes from extraordinary to ‘still learning the system’ when he is forced away from the tip of the diamond in the 3-4-3. I felt he was the weakest link in the possession game on the day, giving away a lot of balls.

    I’m glad you gave such props to Thiago. He continues to impress me more and more. He didn’t show up on the score sheet, but his value in the possession game is becoming ever more apparent.

  16. phunky says:

    Great review! I am particularly thrilled at how Masche, Thiago and Busquets played this match.

    It genuinely seems that Masche has become integral to our defense with his passing and tackling, and our defense actually seems to have the highest competetion as we are playing the 3-1-3-3 more often oflate. So now it looks like Pique, Puyol and Masche will be competing for the single central defender.

    Thiago is playing like a player with a tactical maturity of a veteran. Although he has th brazilian flair, he plays in a highly controlled fashion, only taking on defenders when left stranded.

    IMO, Busquets was the Man of the Match in the 1st half. He controlled play beautifully playing in his customary position and killed most Atleti chances in the 1st half. His passing was smooth.

    It’s crazy that we scored a Manita without actually playing at our best.

    • Helge says:

      EE scored 6 with playing like sh*t for at least 45 min.

      What does it say about the quality of the league? I think the ‘Hay Liga’ shoutings will disappear soon -_-

      • Ryan says:

        EE weren’t that great vs. Spurs last year and still won comfortably, and with a quick Crouch send off too. And they were the 4th best team in the PL last year, yeah?

      • phunky says:

        I watched that match, and could do nothing but applaud Rayo for their bravery. Playing away, at the Bernabeu, they attacked with valour and lost only coz of Madrid’s counters and shitty defending. Just hoped Rayo had more quality in the final third.

        It really doesn’t matter when people compare EPL with La Liga, coz no matter what, few newly promoted teams in the EPL can play like the way Rayo and Betis are playing. Both teams show decent composure on the ball and pass pretty well.

  17. Kxevin says:

    Oh, poo! Just my luck. I can get away for a week or so in December, and the two home matches are Levante and BATE. But airfares are cheap ($800 r/t) and everything at Friendly Rentals is 20% off. Quite a letdown from the last time I got a two-match week in Barcelona, and the matches that I got were the Inter CL tie (2-0) and El Clasic (Ibrahimovic golazo).

    Hmph!

  18. Stephen says:

    There was a point where I wanted Atletico to screw their formation and man-mark us or change tactics. They came out really well second half, and it would’ve made for a very interesting match, really challenged us, if they’d just done something different. Too busy on keeping the line did not help them, at all. I think we still would’ve won, perhaps still by 5-0, but the game would’ve had a different feel, for me anyways. Looking forward to the Calderon match.

  19. adopted cule says:

    Barcelona clearly prioritized possession in this game. They played only 10 long balls over the top of the back line the entire game. Five of these came in the first 15 minutes. Eight of these resulted in loss of possession, one in a shot by Pedro in which he was probably offside in any case and one brilliant pass turned into a goal. Due to the congestion in the middle, attacks down the flanks largely had no teeth and through balls were routinely cut out by Atletico. Barcelona chose to mostly work with the space Atletico gave them probing the flanks and moving the ball back out, waiting for an Atletico mistake. Without Messi, this game would have been a tense 1-0 affair. The own goal was largely Messi’s doing as he ran to cover the keeper forcing the pass up the sideline that resulted in the turnover. The other three goals were all the brilliance of Messi and one great pass from Villa. Messi’s finishing touch on through balls and his finishing were not as sharp as they could be, but for me he was clearly the man of the match.

    • Kxevin says:

      Yep, that’s what I meant in the review (but couldn’t articulate it clearly) about prioritizing possession and being really smart with the ball. Giving up possession meant giving Falcao the opportunity to work some magic.

      Though I’d give credit for the errant pass to Busquets, who harassed the man trying to play the ball forward at the sideline. Note, during that sequence, the overlapping waves of pressing that always had one of ours running at one of theirs. Brilliant.

      I’d add that Messi’s goals evinced individual brilliance that came as part of team play. The second is a perfect example, as Abidal’s pass found Alves in space and in motion. The defensive shift that he forced created operating space. Alves’ subsequent pass to Messi was lovely. Same with Villa for the final goal.

      Movement creates opportunity, and Villa getting the ball at that point forces a defense to react. Messi is exceptional at running into vacated spaces. With a static attack, he doesn’t have the same spaces to run into, and is a lot easier to play. It’s another reason he lavished accolades on his teammates after the match.

      But yes, that first goal was all Messi, all the time.

      • adopted cule says:

        Absolutely. Messi doesn’t exist in a vacuum. He can’t do what he did unless the team as a whole were doing their jobs. Although I gave credit to Messi for the second goal, it was absolutely a team goal. You could see it coming live the way Barcelona were pressing, which was beautiful to watch.

        I believe this would have been a tight affair without Messi though and that is not a good thing. The system is excellent, but as we saw in the Real Sociedad game, sometimes it gets stuck. Reading Euler’s review and seeing some of the still shots I was reminded of how Sociedad played us defensively and the lack of scoring opportunities we had for almost 50 minutes. That game, like this one, was just screaming for Messi to do something magical. When teams play that high line that is compact with the midfield line, it gums up the whole works. Really negative if you ask me, but what are you going to do against Barcelona? Precise long balls are one part of the equation and Xavi’s long balls in this game were very good, but the loss of possession when they don’t work is a problem. I believe we need Sanchez back and his 1 v 1 skills to unlock teams playing in this way. Pedro and Villa have not been very effective attacking from the flanks, but their diagonal runs into the box are very dangerous.

        I would have liked to have seen Adriano on the wing in this game and I’m guessing we would have if we hadn’t gotten the 3-0 lead.

        • phunky says:

          Exactly, in matches when Messi requires rest, Sanchez can play Messi’s role, but probably not to that effect. Still, he’s probably the only other player in our team who can run at defenders the way Messi does.

  20. Ethan says:

    Any links to download the game???

  21. MiZa says:

    Is it too early to start thinking about how the 3-4-3 lines up against EE’s tactics of last year?

    ATTACK: Having a false 10 (Cesc) to run into space when the CBs come out to mark our false 9.

    MIDFIELD: Four men in the midfield to counteract their trivote.

    DEFENSE: Marking backs on either flanks to cover the wingers, and we don’t need two center backs because they play without a 9.

  22. Diego says:

    400 MINUTES PLAYED 424
    8 GOALS 7
    0 PENALTIES 3
    5 ASSISTS 1
    26 (19) TOTAL SHOTS (ON GOAL) 38 (17)
    323 (265) PASSES (COMPLETED) 187 (138)

    One of them is Messi, The other is TB.
    I like the Penalties and shots on goal stats.

    • blaunero says:

      Let’s see if the same ratio is maintained till the end of the season. If I remember rightly, Ronaldo scored from 9 pks last season, while Real in total had 11. The only had 2 pk against in the entire season.

    • culegirl3 says:

      And yet Pepe has the nerve to say TB is better than Messi(all because Messi supposedly can’t prove his worth when he plays with the national team).

      Stats don’t lie. TB looks for individual glory and EE clearly helped him last season to score all those “goals” while Messi is team oriented. Clearly Pepe is a biased idiot :-D

  23. Nav says:

    http://www.totalbarca.com/2011/news/the-barca-jerserys-true-weight/

    Interesting article about the quality of the new shirts and why they don’t work as well as advertised. Basically by the end of the game the shirt weighs about half a kilo. These shirts are supposed to dry you faster, not make you half a kilo heavier by the end. Apparently Nike are looking into it and will have a solution in two weeks.

    I was wondering why our boys looked a lot sweatier than they should…

  24. icemel says:

    Yeah Ice Cream first, then Wheaties…and the cartoons from Kari make each game last for a week! Thank you all!

  25. Calvin says:

    On a side note – both Dos Santos and Cuenca have travelled with the team to Belarus for Wednesday.

  26. Xingxian says:

    On Dani Alves defending well in the 3-4-3, someone wrote a funny blog post about how he has concerns about it working long-term.
    http://tobleronejones.wordpress.com/2011/09/24/why-barcelonas-3-4-3-is-fucked/

    I disagree with the thrust of the article which seems to imply that Dani Alves will disobey orders from Guardiola to stay put. I do wonder if his morale will drop if he is more-often-than-not turned into a conventional right-back though. Even so, I thought the article was funny so I link it.

    I still remember Dani Alves demolishing CR7 in the Supercopa. That was great!

    • Kxevin says:

      Thanks for that. Very funny. I thought he was rather aggressive in an antisocial way on Twitter. Now I realize that’s just how he writes/talks. Good stuff. Kinda like Isaiah before we loaned him to Hee-Hon.

  27. Cule_less says:

    Euler’s reviews are so good, we should pay Ray Ray to record a podcast calling them Magesterial and Albicelestial… Ect….

  28. mega_tajh says:

    Looks like Betis dream run came to an end…Their still top doh.

  29. Miguel says:

    Ha! Exchange between @LaLigaLoca and barcastuff today was awesome. Maybe I should get a twitter.

  30. Miguel says:

    Good Day

    Leo Messi
    An un-flippin’-believable performance from the scruffy-haired Argentine genius, who has now scored 12 goals with nine assists in all competitions this season.
    La Liga Loca was catching the game in a very partisan bar outside the Santiago Bernabeu straight after Madrid’s 6-2 over Rayo, and the response from the locals to Messi’s hat-trick was a mixture of admiration, disbelief and complete annoyance. Probably similar to Atlético’s back four in the Camp Nou who were largely powerless to stop Messi’s mayhem.
    Atlético Madrid were given one proper chance in the game – a strike against the bar from Tiago after four minutes – and that was it. When Barça are in the mood there really is no stopping them. “They’re from another planet,” gasped Atlético Madrid keeper, Thibaut Courtois, in wise agreement.

    http://fourfourtwo.com/blogs/laligaloca/archive/2011/09/26/la-review-marvelous-messi-and-champions-league-chasing-levante.aspx

  31. culegirl3 says:

    Has everyone heard about the controversial nickname that Telemadrid commentator Quique Estebaranz called Abidal during Saturday’s game when he was being subbed off?
    He said “ahi va Maxwell por mister higado” which means there goes Maxwell for Mr. Liver.

    The commentator in question called into Punto Pelota to clear things up and told an anecdote about where the nickname originated. His reasoning is since Xavi is the brain, Puyol the heart, Abidal is the liver..basically a vital organ of Barcelona.

    At first its offensive until you listen to the story behind it but its still in bad taste IMO.

    Watch here to listen to the commentary and the explanation(for the Spanish speakers)
    http://youtu.be/pI3HyC_jrWo

    • Kari says:

      Yeah, I was following that story and its developments on Twitter. Thought about “reporting” it yesterday — it was in conjunction with the Miguel Serrano thing — but decided to see how it finished. I liked that he apologized publicly and quickly (and from the Twitter account I read the quotes from, genuinely sorry), but then, he didn’t have much of a choice, did he? Quite offensive and, as you say, still in bad taste.

    • Chiu says:

      Have Miguel Serano do the apologize too? It’s more offensive. I consider he’s trying to degrade Barca affiliation with Qatar Foundation by “making fun” from related religious context.

  32. blitzen says:

    Here they are, the long-awaited blitzen awards! A special bumper crop since you have all been so patient.

    Shut Up And Focus Puyol Memorial Award: Our Capita himself, who could be seen shouting instructions at the backline from the bench. He’s BACK and normal service has resumed!

    Turn The Other Cheek Award: Xavi continues his campaign of pissing off every referee in Spain by smacking the ball right into the ref’s backside.

    Mistaken Identity Award: I always find myself wondering why there are so many people in the Camp Nou waving English flags, before I remember that they are actually flags of St. Jordi (George), who of course is the patron saint of both England and Catalunya.

    Zees Ees Fashun Award: Pep, of course! First he shows us how look elegant while ruining an expensive and immaculately tailored suit in the rain, then he models the very latest in Barca outerwear. Hot!

    What Position Does He Play Again? Award: Cesc Fabregas, who was exactly everywhere on the pitch. I need to find a heat map for him, because he seemed to pop up in every location and where you would least expect IF you didn’t know that his brand of controlled chaos is exactly what the team was counting on. Just think–his connection with the team is still going to get better. Wow.

    60 Minutes Award: The amount of time it took me to realize that Falcao was in fact on the field. It’s not that he played particularly badly, it’s just that he was rarely allowed anywhere near the ball.

    Why Isn’t He Bleeding Yet? Award: Pique takes a blow to head and manages not to erupt in gushes of blood. Excellent! Also, with him on the field, our team’s average height goes up by several inches.

    Go Go Gadget Greyhound Award: Is there anything more beautiful than Abidal in full flight? Best pins in the business, too.

    DVOC Award: Messi, who was called offside at least twice. Villa remained shockingly onside all game. I noticed he seemed to have borrowed some of Pedro’s windmill arm action. That must have created added drag to keep him onside.

    The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly Award, Hair Edition: Good: Villa’s emo hair. I like it, he scores goals, it stays. Bad: Cesc, but it does look better when wet. Ugly: Sorry, but Messi’s cut is not flattering at all. He looks much better when he lets it grow a bit. Homourable Mention: Xav’s industrial strength hair gel, which keeps his do intact even in the pouring rain.

    CenterBoss Award: Mascherano’s new position. ‘Nuff said.

    And thank you all for your kind thoughts. There is no news, but no news is good news, right?

  33. BarcaGirl_Indo says:

    thank you, Kxevin and Euler.
    really enjoyed reading both of your reviews.
    Visca Kxevin-Euler Tag Team!

    Blitzen, hope your mom is getting better and better! :)
    and I looove Blitzen Awards.

  34. Kari says:

    I may or may not be able to liveblog the CL game on Wednesday against BATE. Right now, there is a 90% chance I will miss the game.

    If someone is interested in, and able to, run the LiveBlog on Wednesday, leave your name and email us at team@barcelonafootballblog.com

    First come, first serve basis. :mrgreen:

    I might be able to run it, or help you out, so you’d be a back-up, but it’s safe to assume you’d be on your own come game time.

  35. mega_tajh says:

    Anyone knows where I can download the Super Cup matches against Madrid?

  36. K_legit says:

    How’s your mom now blitzen?

  37. BarcaGirl_Indo says:

    Alexander Hleb (barca player on loan): “I will support BATE … I like it more! than Barca”

    Hleb: “Every year the opponents adapt more and more to the playing style of barca . It is now easier to find their weak points than before.”

    Hleb: “I’m sure the coaching staff of BATE has studied Barça in depth and found the tactical system that can give a good result. ”

    Hleb:”I think BATE will play a great game. Barcelona doesn’t have so much confidence playing outside.”

    It’s Hleb with his hlebbish comments :P

  38. y2k156 says:

    What has happened between Laporta and Rossell has the potential to totally disrupt our glory period and that is making me worried. Not saying that it will happen but it very well might.

    Pep is a smart man and we have seen that he has a reason for the things he does. If he has spoken in favor of Laporta, he has thought about it enough. I think that there is a real risk that he might walk away from the job at this summer. Maybe even as high as 40% probability right now. And i am equally sure that pep going will finish off our cycle. We will still be the best (as long as xavi, iniesta and messi are in our team) but no longer amongst the greatest.

    More worrying is that if Rossell really goes for his own man. He has been big fan of brazilian and portuguese players. I kind of have a feeling that he will really like to have Naymar, who is brazilian and has nike as his sponsors. And if rossell tries to make naymar is the poster boy for barca, messi will walk away. And if messi walks away, we will no longer be the best, period.

    I know this is pessimistic but for me, it is not unrealistic and that makes me worried. And all because of one board wanted to show how great it is.

    • blaunero says:

      This is an extraordinary mess. It would be sad if the cycle were to finish not because the players have run their course but due to bickering and infighting. This is what happens when elected people care more about their job than the effects their job has.

    • culegirl3 says:

      I feel like maybe we’re jumping to conclusions because none of us truly know what is happening between Rosell and Pep(if anything is happening in the first place). I’m pretty sure no one gets along 100% in situations like these, it’s a difficult business after all.

      I must disagree with you about Barca not being the best if Messi walks away. Don’t get me wrong, I love Messi just as much as the next culé because there is no denying he’s the type of talent that is a rarity. However one man alone does not make a club the best. It’s history is important, its governing board plays a role, its manager adds something to it, and so do the other players. It’s obvious he adds something indisputable to the team but saying if he walks away, we won’t be the best..it makes me feel like the contribution that players like Xavi, Iniesta, Pique, and Thiago make is minimalized or overlooked even. Whose to say we wouldn’t still be great even if he walked away? Know one knows what the future can hold. For all we know we might have the next Messi in La Masia waiting for their chance in the future. Maybe we’re still capable of winning trophies without him? How do we explain the 6 trophies? It wasn’t Messi..it was Messi, Eto’o, Ronaldhino, Henry, Xavi, and the rest.

      If I’m making assumptions in regards to your statement, I apologize! It’s just sometimes I get upset when I hear people basically infer that without Messi we’d be nothing. The potential and the hunger to be great isn’t just in one player..it’s in every single one who wears the shirt.

      • Dani_el says:

        With regards of the team, I believe the whole team did their best for the success of the club, but there’s no denying that Messi is not simply the best in the club, it’s the best player on the last two decades (that I didnt said, Ryan Giggs said it). Without him there wouldn’t have been a sexplete, and that Guardiola did say it too. In another matter, Ronaldinho wasnt on the team for the 08/09 season, he already had been sold.

        • culegirl3 says:

          Oops my mistake…shows how much of a newbie I am. I get he’s the ultimate player, there’ll never be another but the success of a team is not exclusively due to one persons contribution. It’s a collective effort. The rise and fall can’t be attributed to a single player, at least not IMO. But that’s just how I see it.

          • y2k156 says:

            Well, it’s not that Messi is only reason we are great. Even if Barca loses messi, it will be probably the best club there is right now. I do believe that without Messi, we will no longer be among the all time greatest. Ajax was great even after Cruijff but it was never the 71-73 Ajax and so on. One player can indeed be the difference in being best today and from another planet.

            Feel free to disagree though as thats why we have the forums.

      • Dani_el says:

        With regards on the team, I believe the whole team did their best for the success of the club, but there’s no denying that Messi is not simply the best in the club, he’s the best player on the last two decades (Ryan Giggs dixit, and he’s not even a cule). Without him there wouldn’t have been a sexplete, and that, Guardiola did say it. In another matter, Ronaldinho wasnt on the team for the 08/09 season, he already had been sold.

  39. Kari says:

    In the end, Calvin’s going to run the BATE liveblog. Knew I should have asked first…

    Thanks to everyone who emailed us! Really, really appreciate it. And don’t worry, things always come up, so you’ll be able to LiveBlog sometime.

  40. mega_tajh says:

    I must say this new FIFA 12 is amazing…..Thaigo iS a boss in it, got a fair rating also.

  41. messifan says:

    OT: Just want to share this article by Jonathan Wilson about being a fan of a team.
    http://sbinfoplus.tumblr.com/post/10591675771/exclusive-jonathan-wilson

    • Miguel says:

      I’m gonna go phone my pops.

    • Xingxian says:

      beautiful article.

      “I didn’t feel sick with nerves when they took the lead, and I
      certainly didn’t feel tears pricking at my eyes when I recalled their
      greatest triumphs.”

      I don’t live in Barcelona, and I’m not sure if I’ll ever visit (though the idea becomes more romantic as time goes on). I’ve only been following this club soccer thing for a year. But I’ve always watched international soccer with my father. I suppose that if I ever have kids maybe they’ll watch me shout and cheer and sing and howl when the blaugrana play. Someday my father will pass away, and should he pass away before me it means that in the physical sense I won’t be able to watch any kind of soccer with him anymore. But in a sense that Wilson describes, I suppose he’ll always be with me when I watch FC Barcelona or any other team I cheer for take to the field.

      For what it’s worth, my father thinks I picked a terrible team to support (he grew up cheering for Fenerbahce) as he thinks I am being spoiled rotten. I say it’s high time I get to cheer for a team that is favored to win :P

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