1. Calvin
    November 28, 2011

    Some things that bothered me about the match:

    1. Xavi was dwelling on the ball way too long. It seemed like every time he touched the ball he would take 4-5 touches, look all over the field, and then pass it to someone next to him. You might be as to blame this on the lack of movement around him, but in the past Xavi has always been able to speed the game up, to take our play into the next gear when needed by playing the ball quickly and forcing the other players to move off the ball with his passes. For whatever reason Xavi seems to be having trouble dictating that we play at a faster tempo this year – and that is a problem.

    2. I wasn’t happy to see Sanchez start. I understand Guardiola wants to get him as much game time as fast as possible, but to be fair he has yet to put in anything more than a mediocre to kind of good performance for us. I understand his injury has given him very little time to adapt, but that is an excellent reason for him to be coming off the bench when we have won, or to be a source of energy late game. Cuenca has been better in his starts than Sanchez has – give him the start (or Pedro who has something to prove). Pep chose to get him playing time, but this was a situation where we needed the points and were away from home – better to err on the side of caution than to gamble on getting Sanchez minutes.

    3. Is it me or has Thiago had most of his best games in the 3-4-3? Im getting the impression that at least for now (as he is still young) he doesn’t quite have the concentration to give a complete midfield performance the way Xavi, Iniesta, and Busquets can. I think he is thriving when he has more players who are able to cover at either end of the field and be is able to focus on a specific aspect of the match. He seems to get lost in the 4-3-3 when he holds a greater variety of responsibilities.

    • November 28, 2011

      Movement. If Xavi doesn’t have options, he will always keep the ball. The offense was so stagnant that none of the midfield passers had options.

      To a larger point, our offense used to come from attacking movement. Now it seems to come from Messi attacks. Not good. This diminishes the effect of Xavi, and also makes the presence of Busquets rather pointless. If the attackers are stagnant instead of active, it helps the opponent’s midfield pressure be more effective, as the mids have to hold the ball longer. And Busquets dwelling on the ball is never a goid thing. Same for Keita.

      What this match lacked was a dynamic player coming in from the midfield to destabilize. Bad time for noth Adriano AND Iniesta to be absent. I think Guardiola hoped that Sanchez would be that player. He wasn’t.

      But he offers more with the ball as his feet than Pedro, which is why I would have liked to see Cuenca get the start over Villa. Fabregas would also have been very useful.

      • Calvin
        November 28, 2011

        The problem with only blaming movement is that is a two-headed process. Its both the movement from players further forward and the passing from Xavi (and other players) that have made us successful. I think of it as a ying and yang deal – hard to truly separate. It’s linked with the eternal offside conundrum – did Villa run too early, or did Xavi pass too late? Anyways I digress…

        My issue with Xavi is that when there is not enough movement ahead of him he has in the past been able to create space for people to move into. He is able to be proactive and by speeding up his own play on the ball he is able to dictatethe match at a faster pace. During the second half of the match there wasn’t much movement because there was little space to move into – at one point I counted 9 players (5 defenders, 4 attackers) lined up on the edge of their penalty box. Xavi’s role in this case must be to move the ball quickly around the box to force the defenders to shift, and hope that by moving the ball fast enough one off the defenders will make a mistake shifting or won’t shift fast enough and space will materialize that we can exploit. By holding the ball longer it allows the defense to shift and set itself again – closing any temporary space that may have been opened.

        I don’t mean to single out Xavi specifically – as Busquets, Sanchez, Alves, Messi, etc were all holding onto the ball too long. I just choose Xavi because in the past he has been the man that sets the tempo on these situations. By playing 1 or 2 touch football himself he sets the pace for how fast his team mates move the ball. Yesterday he was just unable (or unwilling) to enter super-metronome mode, and the team struggled. This is a problem we are going to have to find a solution to sooner than later, as we aren’t going to be able to rely on Xavi to dictate forever.

  2. Lev
    November 28, 2011

    I don’t believe in arguing that player x would have suited this game better than player z. Logical as the reasoning might be, we were playing Getafe. Regardless of whether Iniesta, Cesc or Adriana would have made the difference, the difference in the quality of the players that we put on the pitch is such that those are minor qualms.

    I simply think that the accumulated fatigue of the last three years is catching up with us, both physically (injuries) and maybe even more mentally.

    I also believe that we have had a lot of bad breaks in the Liga so far this season, whether it is Messi hitting the post or the myriad of penalty / offside calls that have gone against us.

    • November 28, 2011

      I simply think that the accumulated fatigue of the last three years is catching up with us, both physically (injuries) and maybe even more mentally.

      I agree. I think that’s one of the major underlying structural reasons for what we’re seeing.

      This unit has played so many minutes – going all the way back to Euro 2008. And they’ve done it almost non-stop.

      The ridiculous Spanish NT schedule since the WC victory to generate revenue has only pushed that further.

      Coupled with the small squad – I think the team is fatigued. And as you point out – part of that fatigue is mental. Mental fatigue and “complacency” are two entirely different things. And I think people are mixing up the two.

      They look like a tired squad. That’s why their away form has been so different than their home form.

  3. November 28, 2011

    . Xavi was dwelling on the ball way too long…
    Is it me or has Thiago had most of his best games in the 3-4-3?

    I agree that Xavi was on the ball to much. The question is why?

    Part of it is that the team’s off the ball movement just wasn’t there for the decisive pass. There wasn’t enough movement seeking to create penetration for Xavi to deliver his pass.

    However, there was another dimension to this that touches on your third point about Thiago.

    A major problem Barca had against Getafe was that too much of the creative role in midfield was absorbed by Xavi. With Iniesta and Fabregas unavailable everything was played through Xavi.

    Thiago in this game – in an attempt to fit into the larger team structure – was too deferential to Xavi. Rather than trying to create himself all Thiago looked to do was to make himself available as an outlet to relieve pressure when Xavi needed it.

    It was almost as if Barca were playing two holding midfielders whose function was largely to promote ball retention.

    This reduced the Barcelona attack to essentially Xavi, the front three and Alves. It was as if Barca were playing 5 vs. 10 as Getafe were defending with the entire team.

    Part of why Xavi held the ball for so long is that he was only looking to play the ball forward to the front line to create attacks.

    Xavi wasn’t even looking at the other two midfielders as potential sources of danger. Rewatching the match I was really struck by that – how infrequently Xavi even looked to in the direction of his other two midfielders.

    This is why in games like that, Busquet’s lack of any sort of attacking game is problematic. With Iniesta out there Barca can cover it up. But generally with a team playing that defensively I don’t even know if Barca needs a dedicated holding player on the pitch. Xavi plays deep as it is. And all of the midfielders work hard to defend and will seek to get back on the counter.

    But with Thiago – who is really, really trying to fit into the first team and address some of the issues he’s had as a youth player (i.e. not to “showboat” or lose possession) – Busquet’s offensive contribution becomes an issue.

    That gets even further augmented by having Maxwell. He almost plays like a holding midfielder stationed on the left flank. He’s an outlet. He does that fine.

    But the team was reduced to five players looking to attack and 5 players looking to retain possession. Xavi was the only real link between those two teams.

    Regarding Sanchez – I’m of the opposite mind. I think they need to play him and play him regularly as many minutes as possible. He’s the player who has the skill sets that can in theory address some of the limitations the team is suffering from.

    He needs game time. He wasn’t great yesterday – nor was he worse than anyone else really.

    The team has to expand how it can attack. I think he’s critical to doing that. May not work out right now – but you have to try and see.

    • November 28, 2011

      Exactly, Euler. Sanchez is the X Factor. People are calling for patience with Villa, but I say that Sanchez requires MORE patience. He has to be allowed to fit in, to find his way into the side. His up side, particularly as it might benefit our style of play, is ginormous.

      He can beat defenders off the wing with pace a d ball skills. That is huge for our offense. And at this point in time I’d rather be watching Sanchez fail than Villa. We already know how Villa can fail. Same for Pedro. Let’s explore new options.

  4. Calvin
    November 28, 2011

    On a different note – I’m definitely not going to be able to liveblog tomorrow. As Kari is still on sabbatical, I wondered if anyone is interested in running it?

    It’s not hard, and if you’ve never done it before I can send you an email with all the instructions and help you navigate a little bit.

    • Gogah
      November 28, 2011

      I have never participated in or hosted it.
      so have no idea. Don’t mind trying though.

  5. mom4
    November 28, 2011

    More great Monday news! Andrés Iniesta has been declared fit and is available for the match against Rayo Vallecano!

    Great news for goatskins.

    • Eklavya
      November 28, 2011

      Cesc too! I hope Rayo players hot cereal for breakfast cause goatskins is gonna make sure no culé gets served cold! (makes no sense I know but whatever)

  6. Dani_el
    November 28, 2011

    Causes and not-causes by catalan journalist Martí Perarnau.

    a)Three causes that help explain Barça’s defeat in Getafe:
    1.Without the ones that live between the lines:
    The basic principle of positional game is to create superiority behind each line of pressure. For that matter is most important that players who live between the lines, as Iniesta and Cesc, are the best on that role. Both couldn’t play, so Getafe got together their men leaving little air between lines. It’s to say, there’s little space (room) and the players that gives us oxygen are ausent. The lack of combination means choking.
    2.Without width
    To move the ball inside, to open up the play on the outside (width), in order to disorganize the other team and conclude the play on the inside. This was our usual movement. Milan faced it by giving away their lateral sides, and closing the aisles with their interior midfielders. Granada imitated Milan. On the third time, Mallorca copied the antidote, and Pep replicated by taking advantage of width with Cuenca and Adriano. Getafe applies the same method and in this occasion, Guardiola takes time in seeing it or correcting it. The solution isn’t to open up the play, in order to give aerial crosses for a 1.70m interior midfielder to head the ball. In hard days, to climb the mountain seems harder.
    3.With a blocked mind.
    Three and a half years competing in the highest level every three days. Legs aren’t the ones that weight the most, the mind is. It wears down, even in the elite. Djokovic said yesterday : “ I feel worn out”. His season has been glorious, but hellish. Barça’s last 3 seasons had been a luxurie to us all, but also a hell. The mind gets blocked and gives cause to a feeling of going uphill in complex situations. That is the answer to our low intensity in Getafe.
    And Getafe, lets not forget the wit in their plan, pressing without chasing nor getting our of order. Slowing us down in the wait of a chance. They saw one. They took it.

    b)These are NOT the causes of the defeat:
    1.Physical Condition:
    Legs don’t work. In the 93rd minute, under San Mames’s flood, or in the cold in Getafe, Barça gallops without doubts. It finishes games inside the rival’s small penalty area. We are in good physical condition, according to the hard work of Barça’s physios.
    Rijkaard’s Barça faded in between spirals of Self-complacency. Guardiola keeps ambition and hunger alive. This coach will never give up, nor will he allow this team to sleep. He will make mistakes, but he will not droze off. Neither will his captains: Puyol, Xavi, Iniesta and Valdés. There’s no danger there.
    3.Our style of play:
    Our mistakes aren’t related to our style of play, but in its implementation. It only takes a lower degree of intensity, or a lowest implication on off ball movements for the machinery to appear imperfect. Guardiola will no question the style. He will seek to correct mistakes, and maybe, to substitute one piece on the machinery of Barça. There is not more to it.
    Translated by Dani_el

    • blitzen
      November 28, 2011

      He makes some excellent points.

      Thanks, Dani_el, for translating it.

    • November 28, 2011

      Thanks so much for the translation!

      His analysis is interesting and on the mark. As Lev said earlier – I do think the team is mentally fatigued rather than complacent. It was good to see him explicitly make that distinction.

      • Dani_el
        November 28, 2011

        You’re welcome Blitzen.
        It’s intereting how many issues in his article you (Euler) and Kxevin also addressed. Tomorrow, hopefully, we will rise again.

        I know its the hispanic masoquist in me, but I did see Punto Pelota yesterday, and it’s almost unbereable to see Roncero and the other guy saying this is the “end of cycle”, I can’t count how many times they have said this. I trust this team as most of us do. And most of all I trust Pep, here are some of his quotes in the preview presser for Rayo’s game:

        “We’re willing to try and catch them (EE), We will give our best effort as we said from day one. Will it be enough to be champions? I don’t know, But we will try, take it for granted.”
        About the players: “From what I have seen, they are as usual. When they see a defeat they also respond well, but it is true that it’s the first time that we are second trailing this far on November.”
        “This team’s greatest virtue is that the boys look to themselves on bad and good times, it’s the only way of growing, we have to improve ourselves to get better. This players have won Ligas and Champions and have left this institution’s image very high. I am most proud of this team.”
        “I could find reproaches (someone to blame) but that is of no use to improve a football team. The only way to be able to grow up is by looking on oneself. There’s no other way. There are mistakes, on my behalf as maximum responsible of this team, and mistakes from the players, forgiven and forgotten in an instant.”
        “If I am cautious is because I respect our rivals. They only deserve my respect, it is not a pose(…)I try to give the same respect to my colleagues, that the respect I want to receive from them”

      • November 28, 2011

        First off, Dani, you really are a masochist for watching Punta Pelota! Roncero is ridiculous.

        But they can say what they want. Saying something doesn’t make it true.

        We’ll see on December 10. I think many people are going to be surprised.

        Those quotes from Pep are wonderful.

      • Dani_el
        November 28, 2011

        You’re both right, but I did enjoy the punto pelota after our manita, and Roncero almost crying .)
        We’ll see what happens in less than 2 weeks.

    • Eklavya
      November 28, 2011

      Thanks for trans. bro!

  7. ooga aga
    November 28, 2011

    since someone above used maths to discuss barca, i would like to use evolutionary theory and a bit of entymology. please refer to the red queen’s hypothesis, wherein competing species constantly change/evolve to get the upper hand.

    in this case we can look at the insect world for an example, where barca opponents play the role of, say, bed bugs, and our team are the temporarily snoozing victims who wake up and find that 3 points have been sucked from their veins.

    damn hard to get rid of bed bugs.

  8. Miguel
    November 28, 2011

    “somos unos enanos, qué le vamos a hacer”, bromeó ayer Alvés.

    “we’re a bunch of midgets, what are you gonna do, ” joked Alves, yesterday.”

    Not to be unappreciative of the team we have now, or question their ability to close the gap on Real, but we’ve gotta have some taller players up top. Whether that be a proper nine (i.e. Ibra, or someone like him), a tall, tricky goal scoring winger(i.e. Hulk), Pique, Keita, or Busquets. I just think the bath water was thrown out with the baby, or something like that- rough weekend, when Ibra was sent a packing. A real heading threat not only eases some of the pressure off of Messi scoring, it gives opposition defenders a reason to mark wide players. That’s width. That opens up passing lanes. That’s what made Keita so lethal when Ibrahimovic was in the team. Just saying.

    • BarcaGirl_Indo
      November 28, 2011

      Llorente? 😀

  9. Chiu
    November 28, 2011

    just wishing EE will play offensive againts us on the 10th. I think the chance of us winning in open match like that is much higher rather than they play parking the plane ala Mou2 Inter in CL semis years ago.

    More space on opponent defence is what we’re craving for soo long, as most teams we are facing now pile up their whole players just to defend. In goatskin we trust.

  10. BarcaGirl_Indo
    November 28, 2011

    6 points behind in November is not the situation I wanted to see and I’m not happy about it, but what’s done is done.

    now I just feel excited to see what’ll happen for the next few weeks.
    how are we going to respond this situation? can we turn things around?

    and this is November 29, which means : per molt anys, FC Barcelona!
    “This team will fight to the death for everything” –Dani Alves-

    • mom4
      November 28, 2011

      In some ways (only some ways, of course I wish it were otherwise) it’s kind of liberating to be behind/underdogs. The onus is now on EE.

      Sometimes you need to get hit on the head with a 2X4 before you wake up and smell the coffee. After the attack on Pearl Harbor that sparked The US’s entrance into WW II, Japanese Admiral Yamamoto is supposed to have said, “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.”
      Maybe this is the wake-up call our sleeping giant midgets needed and they will find this terrrible resolve.
      Maybe we fans have had a wake-up call as well and we won’t take anything for granted anymore. We’ll appreciate our cereal when it’s warm.

      • Chiu
        November 28, 2011

        I share the same wish as well mom4, hope its better that the lost against Getafe was our wake-up call this season, rather than for example lost in Classico, which is a wake up call + massive psycological blow. It came 2 weeks before classico, so we still hv plenty time to improve and correct the things.

        Maybe EE will get their the wake up call on the 10th??? *crossing finger*

  11. Víctor
    November 28, 2011

    Villa has already a year with the team and several times still seems that he hasn’t been able to adapt to the team. We already had patience with him… OK, let’s have more patience… but not so much… at this point he should have better and more consistent performances…

    As for Pedro… he will be back into form… there’s no doubt on that…

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