Match Review – L’Hospitalet 0 – 1 Barcelona: The Bare Minimum but Enough

Early rounds of the Copa Del Rey can be strange affairs.  The primary goal of course is to win.  But in the opening to the Copa other priorities and opportunities also come into play.  The chance to rest first team regulars or to feature youth team players present themselves.  As such it is always a challenge to interpret both the results and how the team plays.

In the opening match of the this year’s Copa, Guardiola started two B team players, gave Fontas his first opportunity to play in nearly two months, and started Maxwell at left back. Otherwise, the Barcelona team that faced third division L’Hospitalet, was largely composed of the the top first team players available given that a number of players had already left for international duty.

As such, one would have expected Barça to come out and dominate the match, winning it easily.  And in certain ways that’s what happened.  Barcelona completely controlled the ball, dominating possession and the dynamics of the match.  At the same time however, the match turned into a grind as Barça struggled to translate that dominance of possession into dangerous opportunities and goals.

Overall, the match had the feeling of one of those contests that invariably come about over the course of a long season.  Barça played their game comfortably but simply lacked the energy and sharpness they play with when they are in form as a team.  In turn they were unable to inflict significant damage.  No squad can remain in perfect form all season long.  And in a Copa Del Rey game moved forward a month due to the Club World Championship that is being played as the last fixture before the international break against a third division side, a muted performance was always possible.  On the whole, it was just one of those sluggish matches in a long season that a team has to simply obtain a result and get through.

But given that Pep elected to use most of his available top line players and Barça’s recent concerning form away from home, this match continued to leave open certain questions that have arisen so far this season.  Most of these questions are likely temporary or the function of the small sample of games that has been played to date.  Nonetheless, those questions are currently present and will persist until the team starts playing regularly with the cutting edge they’ve achieved with such consistent brilliance under Guardiola.


Line Up

Given that the South American based internationals and U-21 Spanish players were unavailable due to the upcoming country competitions, Guardiola didn’t have his full team to chose from.  This was an odd Copa match. Originally scheduled to be played a month from now, it had to be moved to this earlier date due to the Club World Cup schedule.

Despite the missing players, Guardiola still had numerous options to select from and he decided to field a very strong line up, one that was almost as close to a full first team as he could given the missing players.  Busquets and Abidal were the only regulars not to start and Busquets would later enter the game as a substitute.

Copa rules require that at least seven first team players start each match.  Guardiola chose nine first team players.  There’s likely multiple reasons for why Pep decided to field such a strong team – but one could have been the upcoming Copa schedule.  The second leg of the L’Hospi tie is scheduled to be played at Camp Nou only a few days after Barça returns from the Club World Cup in Japan.  Winning this game and doing so convincingly would allow Pep to rest players in that second leg when they will likely be exhausted as a team and reentering La Liga competition.


The Story of the Match:  Barça’s Limited Direct Play

Barça controlled the ball and ultimately shaped the nature of the match.  However, they were unable to decisively control the result primarily because their attack devolved into too much indirect play.

With its tiki-taka approach, Barça is always challenged with balancing one touch play underpinned by the philosophy of “receive pass, offer” with more direct forms of attack.  In this match that balance was lost and too much of the attack was oriented through indirect play.  Coupled with L’Hospi’s ability to maintain shape and discipline a narrow 1-0 score was the outcome of what on face value seemed a completely one sided contest.

It is always difficult to draw conclusions from any one match that are widely generalizable.  However, part of what made yesterday’s match interesting was the absence of Messi.  Given how many minutes he plays we rarely get to see the squad play without him.  As such, though it’s only one game, it is worth considering the match in relation to certain issues that have arisen this season with regards to Messi’s role and function on the team. 

Squads with historically great player will almost invariably go through periods when questions are raised as to whether or not they are too dependent on that foundational talent.  Barça and Messi have been no exception.  Messidendencia as we affectionately refer to it.  While the notion has come up often in past seasons, this year it has come back to the forefront due to the proportion of the teams goals Messi has scored.

And it’s true.  The team this season has been disproportionately dependent on Messi as goal scoring from the other forwards has collapsed.  The key question to ask with regards to this overreliance on Messi is whether it is a problem or a symptom of other problems.  Is it a cause or an effect?

For example, recently there’s been a great deal of conversation and rumor about Villa and Messi having “problems.”  The general notion has been that Villa’s lack of scoring has been related to him trying to adjust to how Messi plays and his difficulty in playing a secondary role.  From this point of view, Messi dominance of the team scoring is a primary issue, one that is complicates the performance of other players.

But that conclusion is difficult to validate due to confounding factors.  The dependence on Messi may have emerged because other players are underperforming.  Without Messi’s scoring the team would have a great deal of difficulty putting the ball in the back of the net as other players struggle.  Indeed, for much of last season a dominant story for Barça was how Messi was creating goal scoring opportunities for players such as Villa and Pedro from his false 9 position.  Both forwards had little difficulty scoring until last winter despite how often Messi himself was scoring.

Though it was only a single instance, the L’Hospi match shed some light on these questions.  Without Messi in the line up, Barcelona wound up playing a much more constrained match featuring far fewer dimensions of play and complexity then they do when they are at their best.

Now this may seem like an obvious sentiment.  But it is one that’s been questioned recently with regard to David Villa’s goal scoring difficulties.  The notion that’s been raised is that Messi is somehow almost crowding out other players.  In yesterday’s match we saw almost the exact opposite.

One of the striking aspects to the L’Hospi match was how Barça fell into playing a very indirect style.  The game was filled with deft one touch ball play, patient circulation and control.  But what was absent was more dynamic, direct play.  And without that cutting edge – the edge Messi so often provides – much of the possession and ball play was frustrated and ultimately ineffective.  The question of what kind of player Messi is without Xavi and Iniesta is often raised.  Less often do we consider the opposite question.  Yesterday we saw a glimpse of this.

Without that force of direct play to harness the indirect ball control and poise that are now routine parts of Barça’s game, the team struggled.  Individual talents on the pitch were diminished to a certain degree without an outlet for direct play.

For example, Barcelona had one player out on the pitch who could beat defenders consistently off the dribble – Iniesta.  And even then, Iniesta is a sort of torn player.  He has the skill set to dominate games through individual, direct play.  But the general ethos of his game moves in the opposite direction – towards the indirect.  “Receive pass, offer” is the guiding principle to his game.

Often it is the game situation which forces Iniesta to change driection, to become “selfish” and change his game into a more direct style.  This match was one of those instances.  Likely sensing that change was needed, Iniesta veered back towards reliance on his skills in direct attack to produce a moment of sheer brilliance as he blistered the ball from outside of the box into the top corner of the goal. And it was that individual, direct brilliance which produced the team’s only score.  What was of particular note about that goal was that there were four L’Hospi defenders in a box around Iniesta.  But none of them closed him down aggressively.  Instead – they played him to pass.

Other than that moment from Iniesta, the team was often left with trying to pass the ball through a maze of condensed defenders staying in shape.  Keita was one of the few players who seemed to identify this overly indirect style and tried to address it by making a number of strong runs into the box and shots from distance.  And though Keita is generally a defensively oriented player it was interesting to see how involved he was in many of Barcelona’s better scoring opportunities.

This indirect play allowed L’Hospit to defend very effectively out of an organized 4-4-1-1 block.  L’Hospi did a particularly good job of staying compact and increasing the density of defenders in the central space Barcelona was trying to play through.

This was a match which again demonstrated one of the fundamental dimensions of football – how a side vastly inferior in talent and experience can create competition through organization and discipline.  L’Hospi is not only a third division side, they are an extremely young team fielding a number of players who were 19-20 years old.  Despite that they were able to thwart the reigning Liga and European champions by staying organized.  This discipline allowed them to take advantage of Barcelona’s reflexive desire to play intricately through the middle.  One touch passing the ball through a dense block of defenders,however, is not simple, regardless of the opponent.


The Need for Balance

Though it was only one game, and an early Copa contest at that, the match illustrated an important principle.  For Barça to operate at their highest level, control of the flow of the match through indirect play needs to be translated into danger and menace through fast transitions into direct attack.  It is this ability – through both goal scoring and passing – that is at the heart of Messi’s brilliance.  He is able to transition this team between those two modes of play – the indirect to the direct – through his own skill and force of will and do so with blinding velocity.

It is this same quality which made the front line of Messi, Eto’o and Henry so special.    There was a unit of three frontline players who could all create these dynamics transitions between the indirect to the direct.  That was at the center of their magic when they were operating at their best.  They were able to harness and translate the brilliant indirect play behind them and do so as a unit across the entire width of the pitch.

This Barcelona team has gotten better since that 2008/2009 team.  But since that frontline vanished, the responsibility for translating indirect play to direct has more and more fallen onto Messi’s shoulders.   Iniesta has a similar ability – it was what he did against L’Hospi in suddenly taking that shot from outside of the box after that beautiful misdirection and feint to score that goal.  It just doesn’t come naturally to Iniesta to play that way.  He almost has to be forced to do so.

In this regard – the challenge Barcelona faces this season isn’t directly related to Messi, his role, or its impact on Villa.  It is a deeper question regarding the team’s need to further diversify how they engage in direct play and the means through which they do so.  Last year for half a season and in the CL finals, Villa and Pedro were key forces in creating direct play and doing so in conjunction with Messi’s orchestration.  This season those qualities have been absent and it’s part of why the team has been slightly off note.

And this is something that Guardiola fully understands.  He realizes this fundamental tension in the system between the indirect and the direct.  It’s why he was willing to take a risk with Ibrahimovic.  It’s why he was so intent on adding Alexis Sanchez and Fabregas this past summer.  But reachieving the equilibrium between indirect and direct is an ongoing process – one this current Barça unit is still experimenting with.   Their success this season will be highly dependent on what solutions they develop to answer these challenges and how fast they can do so.  It’s unlikely that Messi alone will be enough.


Team Summary

Team:  A mixed performance.  Clearly not one of their best but in a long season the kind of match that will happen.  Best to move on.  This result will likely require them to play more regulars than Pep may have liked to in the second leg of the tie after the Club World Cup.

Guardiola:  Took the match very seriously as was evident from his line up.  One gets the sense that Pep is looking for ways to get the team back to clicking the way it can and was using this match as a small step to move that process forward – particularly for Villa.  But this is an ongoing process

Pinto:  In many ways a typical Pinto match.  High quality shot stopping.  The save he made in the second half off the L’Hospi counter was simply outstanding and saved the victory.  Tremendous athleticism.  He also effectively played high to cut off opportunities on the break.  However, his distribution was not strong.  A poor pass to Maxwell early on started a mistake filled sequence that should have seen L’Hospi score.

Puyol:  One of the real highlights of the match.  Played imperiously at the back.  Though Barça controlled possession L’Hospi produced several moments of danger on the counter.  Again and again Puyol was there to extinguish the danger and clean up mistakes from other defenders.  Puyol was so active that he significantly reduced what Fontas was required to do.  Would have been my man of the match had Barça not controlled possession as drastically as they did.  Just wasn’t that much defending to do.  But make no mistake – the Captain was outstanding.  And nearly scored off a set piece!

Fontas:  His first match action in quite some time.  One would expect him covered with rust.  He looked very composed on the ball.  Made a few mistakes defensively and was beaten for pace on the L’Hospi counter in the second half that could have seen them tie the match were it not for Pinto.  Given his lack of minutes it’s no surprise though that he wasn’t quite at match speed.

Jonathan Dos Santos:  Very good match out of a RB spot that isn’t his natural position.  As expected, very composed in possession and made a number of nice passes out from a wide position.  He was a real positive throughout in the build up and attack.  Much of the Barça attack was oriented to the left (through Iniesta to Villa) however so his ball skills weren’t utilized as much as they could have been.  Did well defensively outside of a few exceptions.

Maxwell:  What to say?  Had a very marginal match and that’s putting it kindly.  Maxwell has played very little this season so perhaps he is simply out of form.  But overall he didn’t play well.  Nearly gifted L’Hospi a goal in the first half with a bizarre clearance backwards to goal.  Pinto’s pass put him in a bad position – but Maxwell took a bad situation and made it much worse.  Perhaps even more concerning, Maxwell had recurring difficulties defending Haro’s pace and guile out on the flank.

Keita:         Man of the match.  Was excellent both in attack and defensively.  Made several key interventions deep to thwart L’Hospi opportunities in transition.  His work rate and intelligence were perhaps the major reason why L’Hospi didn’t score on that misguided back pass from Maxwell.  I watched that sequence several times trying to figure out how Keita saw that potential disaster unfold.  Excellent intuition and reading of the game on his part.  In addition, he generated several dangerous goal scoring chances.  He made several nice runs into the boxes with strong aerial play that almost led to scores.  His strong shot from outside the box also produced danger.  Came close to scoring in the first half from outside of the box and was only thwarted by an outstanding save by Moragon in the upper corner. Beautiful link up play and pass to set up Cesc in the second half that should have resulted in a goal.

Xavi:  As usual controlled the match.  Unfortunately, the team around him didn’t effectively translate that control into opportunities.  The lack of decisive, off the ball movement by the team hampered Xavi’s game.

Iniesta:  A moment of sheer brilliance to score the goal and a few lovely passes but otherwise a subdued match.

Tello:  Positive match from the youngster in his first team debut.  He did an excellent job of staying disciplined and maintaining width on the right.  Was always open and available as an outlet wide.  As with JDS, Tello could have had more impact on the match if the team had played more balanced and incorporated the right flank more.  Made several quality crosses.  He has talent – one to watch.

Fabregas:  Mixed game.  At times too tentative around the box.  Didn’t finish a few opportunities that one would expect him to put away.  He’s still learning the false 9 position and as good as he is around the goal mouth there’s still growth he has to go through.  Not the typical false 9 in anyway.  His workrate and defense continue to be outstanding and very impressive.

Villa:  Some real positives counteracted by a few negatives. It was good to see Villa being aggressive again and not hesitant.  Put in two strong shots on goal that were saved and one free kick taken with venom.  However, as the match went on and he didn’t score he grew frustrated and started to press.  In this regard Villa continued to do what he’s been doing too much of this season.  Thinking rather than simply playing and reacting to the flow of the game and allowing his talent to take over.  In other matches he often seemed to be going through a calculation of pass vs. shoot; make a run or combine play.  Against L’Hospi he seemed to fall into thinking about scoring so much that it ultimately took him out of his game.

Busquets:  Played well at the DM position but replacing Iniesta removed the one direct threat with the ball Barça had.

Rafinha:  I wanted him to play at least a half but the score didn’t allow it.  Overall inconclusive as he didn’t play enough.  Made a beautiful turn near the box that should have drawn a penalty in a dangerous position.  Barça needs to make an organizational decision on what position Rafinha will play – and they should do so because he is a potentially foundational talent for the future.  But right now he’s often used as a classic 10 on the B team and the first team doesn’t play with a classic trequarista type of 10.  Has the skill set to be an excellent false 9 or wide attacking player.  He has the ability to play direct football.  Barça has to be careful not to drain that from him as he’s developed.



Not the match that was expected but that’s the story of a long season.  This squad is better than last years team.  But it is also a team in transition in some ways as Pep tries to push them to expand how they can play as a team.   That process of transition is going to have abrasive moments to it – this match was one of them.

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  1. Kariyanna
    November 10, 2011

    Didn’t Fontas started away to Sociedad. Pep idea of trying to push our team forward is letting us forget the basic things we do such as using the wide players, we have been so predictable this season without them.

    • November 10, 2011

      Thanks for the correction! It had been so long since Fontas had played the Sociedad match just slipped my mind. There were so many issues that came out of that match. I’ve updated the post to fix that reference. Appreciated.

  2. November 10, 2011

    Excellent review, Euler, that touches on a number of points, most notably that Villa and Pedro haven’t had difficulties with a rampant Messi before. I just think it’s down to individual form complexities, i.e. a lack from both players.

    What’s interesting is that I still think that first treble squad was the best Barca squad of the Guardiola era, for the simple reason that it had everything: tika-taka, pace and a quick madman for a striker. But I also don’t know how that group would fare with the Messi of today. Perhaps Guardiola has adapted his tactics with the limitations of his squad in mind.

    Back then, Henry could beat defenders to the end line, but he also had pace to convert turnovers in our defensive end to real scoring opportunities, along with Eto’o. So rather than this current squad, that turns the ball over, feeds it to Xavi who feeds it to Messi who runs at the defense, back then you had three players, all running at the defense at pace. Very destabilizing and in many ways, it combined the best aspects of our pure Barca play with the swashbuckling style that EE employs so well.

    Again as Euler notes, it’s no coincidence that the two big summer acquisitions were a direct player, and one with end-to-end pace. That Fabregas header from the Abidal cross against Bilbao was an example of a goal that we probably don’t score last season.

    This team is still in development, and Guardiola has a master plan that will probably come to full fruition around time for the first Clasic. I do hope, as many are saying, that it isn’t true that the side has lost its hunger. I don’t believe that is the case, but if it is, this will be Guardiola’s last season as our coach, because that’s how he’d want it.

    I think that Messi will have to adapt along with his teammates, to be sure. At present, he’s doing pretty much what he wants out there. But I just don’t know that such things are ultimately compatible with getting the most from his attack mates.

    The rest of this story is yet to be written, but it is an interesting one.

    • BarcaGirl_Indo
      November 10, 2011

      I am Zlatan. I wrote a book about myself. It is called “I am Zlatan.” I command you to buy it.

      This is why I am Zlatan is the greatest book written by Zlatan about Zlatan and for other Zlatans. Again, you are required to buy it.

      So in conclusion, I am Zlatan. You will buy my book. Pep Guardiola smells like cheese and dead birds. And Zlatan is the best. Good night. Unless you’re Pep Guardiola, then I hope you have the worst night ever.

      /priceless /dying

  3. November 10, 2011

    Back then, Henry could beat defenders to the end line, but he also had pace to convert turnovers in our defensive end to real scoring opportunities, along with Eto’o. So rather than this current squad, that turns the ball over, feeds it to Xavi who feeds it to Messi who runs at the defense, back then you had three players, all running at the defense at pace.

    Very well said. Completely agree. This is part of what I was trying to capture.

    I do think the current team is better than that team – but the diversity of skill sets on that front line is something that has been missing.

    And just as important – the athleticism on that front line is also sorely lacking.

    Part of why Barca can have these matches like the one against L’Hospi is that they don’t really have the capability of simply physically overwhelming the opposition. This isn’t to say athleticism is everything – it’s clearly not. But it is important. The team is especially missing pace from the flanks to get behind defenders.

    The team needs to get back to becoming more athletic. Signing Sanchez was a positive step in that direction. Now he just needs to stay healthy and get on the pitch game in and out so he can develop rhythm with the team.

  4. November 10, 2011

    Euler reviews. Just nothing like it. Thanks for all the hard work!

  5. BarcaGirl_Indo
    November 10, 2011

    insightful review as always, Euler.. thank you..

    really, we need Sanchez to stay healthy and Villa/Pedro to get their form back.. hopefully..

  6. November 10, 2011

    Hey folks. Just wanted to let everyone know that I’ve finally given in and joined twitter.

    I’m @euleri

    • BarcaGirl_Indo
      November 11, 2011

      Yeeaayy! followed by @nanda59 ! 😀

      • barca96
        November 11, 2011

        Damn it Euler! You’re not as strong as I thought :p

  7. November 11, 2011

    Brilliant review, Euler, as usual. You raise a number of very valid points.

    On Messi/Villa speculation, this is what Graham Hunter had to say today.

    “While Fabregas has excelled, however, there are questions arising over some players around him: his two World Cup-winning colleagues, Pedro and David Villa, and Messi. Pedro has a solitary league goal to his credit and, far from his 19 goals-in-21 games scoring streak of a year ago, he looks short of confidence and touch. Villa is — falsely I think — the talk of the town in Spain over whether he is having a row with Messi because of who gets to play the central striker. None of the headline writers seem to find time to mention the fact that Fabregas has easily outstripped the Spanish national team’s all-time leading goal scorer (Villa), and if the great man is miffed it might well be with this midfielder who has arrived and suddenly staked a surprise claim for the central striking role.”

    “But unless I miss my guess, we are seeing Guardiola attempt to re-jigger his side to (A) surprise opponents, and (B) work out whether Fabregas is a luxury substitute or an automatic pick. The adjustments will take time and I don’t honestly believe that we are yet seeing Fabregas at his most fluent. When Guardiola finds a settled formula and Fabregas hits his peak then, perhaps, Madrid will have an even stronger opponent for the Spanish title and the European Cup. Buckle your seat belts and enjoy the ride.”

    Whole piece here:

    I don’t comment here very often, but read almost all the posts. Great space!

    • BarcaGirl_Indo
      November 11, 2011

      hey, happy to see you here! 😉

      I agree with both points about Villa and Fabregas.

      I just don’t believe there’s a row between Villa and Messi.

      and for Fabregas, this adjustment will take time, but can we survive this transition without dropping too much points? that’s the question.

      • November 11, 2011

        Exactly. I just hope that Fabregas doesn’t unlearn that Premier League directness. It’s much of the reason that these days I’m more confident with him in the first XI than Villa. It’s that Prem “The goal is here. Why am I going over there” mentality that we need more of.

    • November 11, 2011

      I think Graham is on the mark. I agree that a significant proportion of what we’re seeing right now in terms of system level changes is related to Pep still trying to figure out how to best utilize Fabregas. And that’s an ongoing process.

      Thanks so much for the remarks. Please feel free to post here more. I enjoy your writing as well.

  8. can_we_go_Xalvies
    November 11, 2011

    We may have dropped a few too many points so far, but by the time we get in our groove and hit our peak like last season, will we ever see a Hlebruary like last season? or will the squad depth we have right now change the way our second half of the season will unfold, we may have a different nature to the second half of the season.

  9. Gogah
    November 11, 2011

    Feels great to read a Euler post on my birthday today 11.11.11
    Brilliant points as always and i especially enjoyed the one about players’ conflict of converting indirect play to direct. It sounds simple enough when you read it or have it someone say it to you, but i have often been puzzled as to why our attack is not feeling quite the same. i do think that you have rightly spotted the problem and this is the reason for our recent goal droughts from our peripheral strikers. It is why i think the loss of afellay and sanchez for sometime may have hurt our depth in dimensions of attack. but alexis is back and lets hope he can stay on his feet and create that danger from the flanks.

    AS to villa and messi bust up rumours, i think they are BS. Villa knows what sort of a player he is playing next to and i do think he tries very hard. having said that Messi could also do something to improve the situation. He does very much do his own thing on the field. If he plays 2 good passes that were not converted he will almost certainly never play the third pass even if that situation warrants a pass more than the previous ones.
    anyways i hope just like you say that pep knows all this, sees all this and is working to fix all this and all these little blips along the way are nothing but valuable lessons.

  10. November 11, 2011

    For Twitterverse dwellers, @muniesa24 (Marc Muniesa) and @IsaacCuenca are there now.

    • blitzen
      November 11, 2011

      Is the Cuenca one verified? Looks a bit iffy to me.

      • November 11, 2011

        Both were Tweeted by Rafa Alcantara, who I assume would know. But who ever knows, right?

        • blitzen
          November 11, 2011

          You’re wrong, mate, I just checked his timeline. It was Thiago, and while he did tweet the (verified) Muniesa one, he only tweeted a #IsaacCuenca hashtag, not a twitter account.

          • November 11, 2011

            Rafa, Thiago, it was one of those Alcantara boys, dammit. My presumption was that he erred in using a hashtag instead of the @ symbol. But it’s easy enough to unfollow folks, so I’ll give him a look. Can’t see why anyone would want to be Cuenca. He ain’t all that yet.

  11. Diego
    November 11, 2011

    Barcelona is awesome ! We have very good players !

    That’s about it.

  12. November 11, 2011

    It is why i think the loss of afellay and sanchez for sometime may have hurt our depth in dimensions of attack.

    This is a significant point. The loss of these two players hurt them significantly – especially because Pedro has looked so lost out there as well. It’s made the right wing something of a position in name only for Barca.

    Relieved Alexis is back. The two month absence cost him critical integration time. Really looking forward to seeing him play 90 min for several games in a row.

    Regarding Afellay – his loss was very large – especially the way the season has played out. He was still integrating last season and trying to fit it to a complex, fully formed unit. I think people are underestimating his loss and potential contribution this season.

    Bert van Marwijk, manager of the Dutch NT, evidently said something very interesting about Afellay the other day:

    jouracule Mohamed Moallim
    BVM labels Afellay as the prime example of the ‘modern winger par excellence’. And cld take him to Euro 2012 even if not fully fit.

    That’s high praise from the manager of what is arguably the second best national team in the world – and a national team that has excellent wingers to chose from.!/jouracule/status/134588682035404800

  13. November 11, 2011

    Anyone know what time the Argentina Bolivia game is on today? And if it’s being shown on US tv at all?

    • mom4
      November 11, 2011

      My Comcast listing says that Argentina v Bolivia is being shown live 3:00-7:00 pm EST (don’t ask when the actual game begins since that must include a pre/post game) on Pay Per View for the low low price of $29.99 + fees and taxes. 🙁

      I’ll be looking for links.

      • November 11, 2011

        This happened last time as well. Why on earth are the qualifiers in South America on pay per view? Surely Gol TV or someone should have bought the rights? Ugh.

        Thanks for the info though (also thanks to Ryan).

        • November 11, 2011

          It’s annoying as hell to have so many matches on and not have real access to so many of them.

    • Ryan
      November 11, 2011

      My Comcast tv is saying it’s from 4pm to 7pm for some reason and it has it on a pay-per-view channel.

    • Ryan
      November 11, 2011

      Is it just me, or is apparently showing every game tonight BUT the Argentina one?

  14. blitzen
    November 11, 2011

    How about a couple of blitzen awards to tide you through international break? I hear they cure baldness.

    Everything’s Coming Up Thiago Award: Thiago! What? He didn’t play this game? Well, that’s because he was too busy being captain of the U21 squad who laid a 6-0 beatdown on Estonia! Oh yeah, it’s goooood to be Thiago right now!

    But Is It Recyclable? Award: As plastic pitches go, I’ve seen worse. But I was worried about our team playing on it, and I was right to be. There was a lot of lost footing and overshot passes. It took them a good 15 minutes or so in the first half to get a handle on just how fast the ball moved on that surface. Thankfully there were no injuries.

    MOTMOTMOI Award: Puyol. He was magnificent at the back. Best he has been since before he went out injured last season. And his solidity and leadership make Fontas better as well.

    Pay No Attention To That Man Behind The Curtain Award: You were wondering why the Hospi players were all wearing such giant shirts? Obviously the billowing swathes of fabric were meant to divert our players’ attention from the ball so they could slip it through our defense. It almost worked a couple of times, too. Very crafty!

    I Read The News Today, Oh Boy Award: Neymar Neymar Neymar Neymar Neymar Neymar Neymar Neymar.

    ”Messai Is Shit” Award For Underachievement: Messi failed to score his usual hat-trick, and this is further proof that he underachieves when he is with the Argentinian NT. If Messi was really the greatest ever player he would have scored from across the Atlantic Ocean while simultaneously winning a World Cup. That’s what Pele would have done.

  15. November 11, 2011

    Messi has a logo, apparently. Looks kinda like a modified version of the GMail app symbol, and I don’t like it. Thong Boy has a logo. Wayne Rooney has a logo. I don’t know if Messi should have one. It somehow spoils his unspoiled qualities for me. Don’t know why. It would be like reading a story about Iniesta getting drunk, crashing a Ferrari and running away from the scene. Seems out of character somehow.

    I’m sure his handlers said “You need a logo, kid,” so we can sell the hell out of stuff that carries it.

    • mom4
      November 11, 2011

      Why can I picture Messi saying, “Oh cool, it looks like a decepticon. I love Transformrs. They’re almost as cool as my Legos. Sure, that can be my logo. Hey, logo almost sounds like Lego. You wanna play PES?”

      • yana
        November 11, 2011

        Hahahaha, I love you.

        Speaking of PES, I came into the office not too long ago to find this on my door: One of my co-workers had gotten it at a launch event for PES.

  16. November 11, 2011

    It’s probably just the international break – but lots of transfer rumors. That and the cult of Neymar that’s developed in Spain…

    That said – one concerning story that came out in L’Equipe is that Abidal and Barca are still far apart – on salary.

    This whole renewal has been very confusing. Supposedly it was settled. But never signed. Then it was said there was a disagreement on the number of years. Then his illness put it off, which obviously made sense.

    But then he came back and was fine. Supposedly they were just waiting to sign the deal. But it never happened.

    Now L’Equipe is saying that an agreement has been reached on the duration of the contract. But that the sides are far apart on money.

    Starting Jan 1 Abidal is free to negotiate with any team in the world given that he’s out of contract this summer.

    Don’t know what’s going on – but Barca needs to get this deal done. Abidal is arguably the best LB in the world right now. And they really need his pace and height on the back line.

    Jordi Alba for instance is a fine footballer. But he would just be adding more of the same so to speak to the club. They need to keep Abidal and diversify the skill sets on the team even more.

  17. November 11, 2011

    Sanchez may be out of the Chile Urugay match today with a knock. La Tercera saying he may be held out with a swollen lymph node in his leg.

    From Barca perspective the rest may be for the best. Devastating loss for Chile who already have 5 players suspended for drinking.

  18. Jim
    November 11, 2011

    Just whiling the time away and found the from the Mail Online. Apparently we’re now after Bale ( who I genuinely rate) but the article included the following statement which casts more than a hint of doubt over it.

    “Although Bale operates the left wing at Tottenham, Guardiola sees the Wales star as an attacking left-back and the ideal replacement for Maxwell, Eric Abidal and Adriano, who are all seen as weak links. ”

    We are, of course, funding this from the sale of David Villa 🙂

    On a related note, it is worrying to see how far apart the club and Abidal still seem to be. I thought I remembered him saying it wasn’t about the money any more? don’t want to lose anyone from our squad at this time.

  19. mom4
    November 11, 2011

    Why is Pastore playing left winger instead midfield?

    • November 11, 2011

      Because DiMaria is hurt and Aguerro who was supposed to start on the left picked up a knock in training.

      That’s the only reason Pastore got the start.

  20. Dani_el
    November 11, 2011

    Thank you for the Euler-review!

    I think we were losing much of being more direct on goal, losing pacey strikers as Henry and Eto’o. Afellay would be playing that role some games I think, if he wouldn’t have injured. Playing a fast pacey winger on one side, and another winger strong on the 1vs1 with messi in the middle, would have been in my view, one of Pep’s strategies this year. I hope Adriano can be the pacey winger until Ibi comes back.

    In another matter, this is as usual, a really good article/research from Ruben Uría, it’s in spanish, but I give you guys another article that he posted in which he based his research, in english.
    It´s about Mou in his years in Chelsea, and how he wanted all the power to himself, and he pressed to the firing of Chelsea’s prime physician, and then he took another one, that was a lead doctor in getting injured players back in no time. Until that nothing wrong I guess. Things started to get fishy when this kind of treatment (one similar to the treatment given to Xavi with hormonal growing, but NOT the same) was investigated by a dopping agency. The doctor couldn’t keep Mou happy, and Mou left to Inter. The really surprising thing, is that when he comes back as Inter’s coach to play against Chelsea, and Petr Čech is injured, Mou gives this quote: “‘Of course I think Cech could play,’ Mourinho said. ‘I don’t listen to those reports that he’s out for a month or more. Dr Needles can get him healthy enough to play — and play well.’
    So the same Doctor MOU HIRED now, is being critized by using the treatment Mou liked to be given to his players on Chelsea. That’s consequent right?
    Mou is probably the dirtiest coach I have read about.

    Here’s the article in english:
    Read more:–just-stop-needling-Chelsea-come-clean.html#ixzz1dQqhsxta

  21. November 11, 2011

    Argentina once again mediocre. Their set up is just not working. Pastore finally plays but is played out of position as a LW. He’s doing an ok job out there but his tendency is to come to the middle.

    Same with Messi on the other side.

    This is leaving Argentina with nearly all of their advanced players clustered into the middle of the pitch. ONly players wide are the FB – and they are of course terrible.

    Argentina has to address this problem. Bolivia can just play in a block very narrow and compressed and eventually the Argentina run or pass encounters congestion and play is broken up.

    • Dani_el
      November 11, 2011

      Bolivia just scored!! Can’t effing believe it! Please oh God, don’t they let blame Messi for this!!

      • Ryan
        November 11, 2011

        He did mess up a fair few chances that you’d expect him to bury though, or at least hit the target!

  22. mom4
    November 11, 2011

    I’m sooooooo glad I didn’t pay $29 to watch the Arg. game. Dreadful defending!

  23. mom4
    November 11, 2011

    Lavessi to the rescue. Ofcourse if the first goal hadn’t been disallowed because the ref called a foul instead of allowing advantage…

  24. ElJefe
    November 11, 2011

    Rumors of Keita interest from Arsenal?

  25. jordi™
    November 11, 2011

    These CONMEBOL refs are just terrible, made me rage quit this game.

    • Dani_el
      November 11, 2011

      In the game between Vasco da Gama (Brazil) vs Universitario (Peru), the ref called Amarilla was calling everything for the brazilians. Even the commentators in Fox Sports realized that. It’s somewhat shameful some ref calls, they usually give everything to the team with the strongest federation. In my opinion, Brazil Argentina Uruguay, have more power, then it’s Chile, Paraguay, Colombia and Ecuador. And with little dirigential power we have Peru, Bolivia and Venezuela. It’s weird this day the ref had so many mistakes hurting Argentina.

  26. November 11, 2011

    The Argentina match – it would be shocking if the ARG NT was capable of surprising anymore through underperformance.

    It’s one thing to get destroyed by Bolivia in La Paz when Maradona is your manager. But years after Maradona is gone to allow Bolivia to obtain a result in Argentina at the Monumental is really remarkable.

    Congrats to Bolivia. They played the organized disciplined game they were expected to and executed well. ARG could not have been surprised at all by what they saw.

    Managers keep changing there but they never fundamentally try to address the problems that are killing the NT.

    How is it possible that Demichelis could not only be called up but started. How can Burdisso play.

    These managers watch Mascherano dominate at CB every week for Barca against the world’s best but still don’t play him at the back.

    Beside the backline ARG biggest problem is their lack of width. And it was that lack of width that killed them today yet again.

    Pastore finally plays – but is stationed as the left wing with Messi on the right wing.

    All this means is that both advanced wide players are going to pinch to the middle and the only width you are going to have is from the full backs.

    And the ARG full backs of course are awful beyond belief. Rodriguez was poor today on the left – and out of position for much of the match. He kept pinching in so that often no one was wide left.

    Argentina’s set up today with Pastore on the left made no sense. Lavezzi should have played LW with Pastore as the enganche rather than Alvarez.

    Until ARG addresses these fundamental structural problems things are not going to change. Something drastic needs to be done. But the entire FA and NT culture seems set up to stay frozen.

    They still have no identity either in attack or defensively.

    They keep using Messi’s all around skill to jerk him around from one role to the next. Not only game to game – but within games.

    What a disaster. And unfortunately it’s Messi who is going to bear the brunt of it. Not from this game – Demichelis and Pastore will get balmed. But unless structural change is made Messi’s NT career will continue to flounder.

    • Humphrey Bogart
      November 11, 2011

      Not only Machete, why do they not call up Colocini? He is playing very well for Newcastle, and he would be at least better than DeMichelis

  27. K_legit in Oz
    November 11, 2011

    When they said you gotta get used to 4 seasons in one day I brushed it off thinking ‘They be trippin'” and now that I see it, it is indeed true..Hello there Melbourne weather, me starting to like you now 🙂

    • nzm
      November 12, 2011

      You’re fortunate in that you’ve moved there at the beginning of Summer, so that you’ll get some warm weather before it turns to Winter again.

      I spent a year in Melbourne – 2007-2008. Walking home from the tram in galeforce winds and torrential rain is not my most fun thing to do. 🙂

      The upside was the food – the markets are great places.

  28. Reaper
    November 12, 2011

    can someone please put up a link for this weeks revista?

    • blitzen
      November 12, 2011

      Totally can’t blame Crispy for this one. People who use lasers are scum. 👿

  29. Ryan
    November 12, 2011

    So, anyone else going to watch the England – Spain game?

  30. Ryan
    November 12, 2011

    Once inicial de España: Casillas, Piqué, Ramos, Arbeloa, Jordi Alba; Busquets, Alonso, Xavi, Iniesta, Silva y Villa.

    Well, at least Puyol isn’t starting, but hopefully the rest don’t play a full 90 minutes.

    • blitzen
      November 12, 2011

      Pique can play a full 90, he was just rested, and Busquets should be fine as well.

      Xavi, Iniesta & Villa could all use some rest, but only two of them will get subbed, as VDB will want to play Pepe Reina in the second half.

      So sub Villa for Mata and Xavi for Cazorla, I hope.

      • Ryan
        November 12, 2011

        Perhaps I’m just a bit jittery, since we can’t seem to keep Pique and Puyol healthy for more than a few weeks this season.

  31. November 12, 2011

    This is a very interesting game for Spain given the line up.

    VdB has been fairly conservative since the WC. He’s largely maintained the same template that they utilized at the WC.

    But Germany and the Netherlands since then have become better teams. Germany much better. Uruguay is also a better squad.

    Spain on in 2010 but their margin of victory was very small. They didn’t score enough goals.

    Today it appears that VdB is going to experiment in a very interesting way. He looks set to use Silva as a false 9 with Villa and Iniesta on the wings.

    In many ways this makes a lot of sense for Spain to try. But it’s going to be something that faces challenges – especially because VdB is continuing to use a double pivot.

    With Silva dropping deep Xavi will likely need to play deeper. But Spain is also playing that double pivot.

    So the major question VdB will have to work out is how to space the midfield.

    This is particularly an issue with Iniesta on the wing. He’s not going to stay there. He’ll pinch into the middle – which further complicates space.

    The other problem this brings up is how Spain will maintain width.

    • nzm
      November 12, 2011

      So far, it’s pretty unspectacular.

      Iniesta is losing way too many balls, and Arbeloa on the right is non-existent, as he keeps doing a Maxwell and passing back and in.

      Hate to say it, but I think that Xavi (and Iniesta to a point) is playing too slowly.

      England has got its double-decker bus in front of goal.

    • Ryan
      November 12, 2011

      Silva hasn’t been as amazing as he’s been for City, either. The right side of the offense just has no width, but at least on the left side Alba is providing some. Here’s hoping for better final balls in the second half!

      • nzm
        November 12, 2011

        The play is simply too slow for Silva and the field is blocked with English defenders!

    • November 12, 2011

      It’s really remarkable. His skill set is not right at all for how Spain play.

  32. November 12, 2011

    Unimpressive match from Spain and VdB. There is no point of playing a double pivot in this game given how many players Spain has in the middle of the attack and their marked lack of width.

    They are just helping ENG defend by making the pitch small. They are completely ignoring the entire right flank. It doesn’t exist in practical terms.

    VdB takes Busi off – but puts Torres in. Won’t solve his problem though without better play from wide. The game is so congested.

    • Dani_el
      November 12, 2011

      Arbeloa just know as a “right winger”. You’re completly right, with Spain leaving the entire right flank unoccupied. I think they’re missing Pedro on the right. Or maybe Pedro Navas? What happened to him? Oh Fabregas!! How can you miss that!

    • Ryan
      November 12, 2011

      I really miss the 2008 Spain, that just had Senna as the DM and so much more firepower up front.

  33. jordi™
    November 12, 2011

    Watched the game on a sky feed.


  34. November 12, 2011

    Spain has issues they can either try to deal with or continue to treat as if they don’t exist.

    VdB continues to try to extend the template that won him the WC. But there are real limits to that approach.

    Even today, Silva really didn’t play as a false 9. He played like a midfielder stationed in the middle of the pitch.

    There is no reason for Spain to play a double pivot – especially against a team that’s clearly playing defensively. England played very compact and deep. On top of that Spain’s forwards were already dropping deep.

    This left far too many players trying to play through the same space. And not enough players creating dynamism in other parts of the pitch.

    Spain’s entire right flank was non-existant. Arbeloa offers little at RB to begin with. In the set up Spain ran today that issue became even worse. Arbeloa was often the only player on the entire right side.

    VdB needs to address these limitations. But to do that will require taking risk and engaging in change. And VdB has been hesitant to do that. Since changing Aragones approach and implementing the double pivot VdB has not wanted to evolve his model.

    • blitzen
      November 12, 2011

      I feel like Pedro would have been a good fit for this game if he was healthy (and in form). His chaos out on the wing would have been a game-changer.

      • November 12, 2011

        An in form Pedro would have made a major difference. But an even larger issue for Spain is that they are getting very little from their full backs and the double pivot.

        With their attacking players so focused on playing through the middle the full backs have to create danger.

        • blitzen
          November 12, 2011

          The last time they played without Xabi Alonso they killed. Just saying.

        • jordi™
          November 12, 2011

          The thing is there aren’t any great or serviceable attacking right backs if Ramos is going to play in the centre. Unless he tries Hugo Mallo, Montoya or Dani carvajal none of whom are in the 1st division, its going to be decent to average defensive types for the next 2 years even if arbeloa gets dropped. Maybe Mario Gaspar but I have never paid attention to him when Villarreal play so I have no idea of his style.

  35. BarcaGirl_Indo
    November 12, 2011

    such an ugly display from Spain..

    too slow and lack of width, imo… plus the unnecessary double pivot..

    I miss Spain 2008 a lot..

  36. blitzen
    November 12, 2011

    Anyone in Barcelona know how much tickets to a B game are?

    • nzm
      November 12, 2011

      Yup – here you go:

      Socis get in free and can buy 3 more tickets at Eur5 each. Other prices are in the link above.

      Tickets can only be purchased from the main ticket office at Camp Nou, and not online.

      We were going to the Girona match tonight but changed our minds and stayed in to watch Spain.

      Either way, we drew the short straw. 😉

  37. November 12, 2011

    If you get a chance – try to watch the full highlight of the B teams second goal today.

    What a fantastic run by Deulofeu down an extended length of the right flank. Wonderful stuff.

    Not only did he use his explosiveness but had to show a great deal of strength as the several defenders tried to knock him off the ball. That’s just so impressive given his age.

    Unfortunately, Sergi Gomez makes a terrible defensive play at the back which allows Girona to pull one back in the second half.

    The babies are now looking shaky at the back.

  38. ElJefe
    November 12, 2011

    Can’t find the match on TV anywhere. Any web links for this game?

  39. Jim
    November 12, 2011

    I know I’m biased but to me the RM outfield players didn’t seem to add much to the team today. However, I have to add that I thought Busi was also poor.

    Time for a gamble on a couple of their extra midfielders in the FB positions ? Cesc is actually a pretty good tackler as well as passer.

    Thought this was a good lesson for Xaviniesta tonight in recognising that unpredictability is important and occasionally getting the ball forward ( to Villa) much quicker is a big part of that.

    • nzm
      November 12, 2011

      Once Xavi and Iniesta went off, the game got much faster up front. Still a lot of wasted ops, but definitely sped up.

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