Match Review – Getafe 1 – 0 Barcelona: Back on Our Feet

The hard part of beauty is making it last. You know before hand that probability is weighted against you.  That brilliance, as rare as it is, is even more infrequently sustained.  But lasting beauty at the highest levels is the true reference for greatness in football.

I wrote the above in my review of the Champions League final last year.  Eric Abidal had just raised that wonderful silver.  I had a picture of that moment that I’d been looking at, of him kissing the trophy that cemented this team’s place in history.  Wearing the arm band given to him by Puyol.  Guardiola standing apart from the team to make sure the moment was theirs.  Brilliance is rare.  We encounter it so infrequently in our lives.  And often we only know that we’ve brushed up against it, and appreciate how special the opportunity has been, when it’s no longer there.

The hard part of beauty is making it last.

And in the aftermath of the Getafe match many Cules are wondering what’s happened?  How have things changed so drastically from that moment in May?

Nothing lasts.  And every great team has their cycle end.

And all over, one can sense the eulogies being written.  It’s as if Guardiola’s Barcelona were some insect trapped in amber.  Look hard enough and you can make out the wonder.  But ultimately what you are looking at that past,  immobile and dead.

As the Getafe match ended, as Messi’s beautiful run – his equalizer in the making – withered into a deflection off the inside of the far post, as the team fell six points behind Madrid, the soul searching had instantaneously started.  All of this is unchartered territory for Guardiola’s Barcelona. And by association it is unchartered territory for supporters as well.  This simply isn’t supposed to happen.  Not to this team.

Part of the value of history, of the dimensions of it we can access immediately through memory, is that it not only expand our understanding of the past, but also of the present and the future.  That it enlarges the context and sense of perspective we can bring to any particular event.  It gives us a way of filtering and better understanding the small sample specific moments represent.

The team is clearly going through difficulties now.  But to say that this is somehow the end – that the season or over because they are six points behind is premature.  Not in November and not with two Clasicos remaining.  This team deserves not only the benefit of the doubt – but our belief.  They’ve earned that.  That is their history.

Any discussion about this being the end of an era, of the cycle being closed are completely overblown.  Just months ago this team thrilled us with their play and performed at the highest level.  There are always new challenges but this squad is set up very well to continue excelling at the highest level for years.

And this is why the talk about this team becoming complacent and self-satisfied doesn’t hold for me.  You can look at any small sample of games a team underperforms in and describe them as complacent.  But those kinds of conclusions presuppose that one can understand the heart, that one can fully unlock and interpret motivation and desire.  That we can gain that kind of insight from a small sample of matches.

But character and heart aren’t that malleable.  They are best understood by looking back at history rather than trying to discern new patterns over a small sample of matches and call them true change.

If the team has become complacent or lost its hunger then that means that individual players have done so.  What else is the team besides the collective of the individual making it up.  So if you believe the team is complacent – then who is responsible?

Messi?  Xavi?  These are the two dominant players on the team so if the team is losing its edge than it stands to reason that these two players would have to be the ones who are at least partially losing their hunger.  But we’ve seen no evidence for this.  If not them – then who?  Alves – yes he’s not having the best of seasons – but he still runs constantly each and every game.  Do players who lose their hunger do that? Villa is having significant difficulties scoring.  Yet he works tirelessly to track back, defend and win the ball back.  I see a player who may be lacking confidence – but heart?  Not at all.  The same is true of Pedro.  Abidal – a player blessed to be back on the pitch after what he went through last season.  Has he lost his passion for the game?  If not – who?

Is it the manager?  Has Pep – who lives and dies with the team lost his passion?  Has the man with the anguished look on his face, the man constantly concerned about his players somehow self-satisfied and unable to motivate them?

We can go through the entire club this way. Who amongst this team of champions has lost their hunger?  Who do you point to – because a team isn’t an abstraction.  It’s made up of individuals and if the team is faltering through lack of hunger than it has to be the individuals comprising it who are faltering.

But there clearly are problem. So right now we look for reasons.  For a cause we can point to.  Without identifying what is causing a problem it’s difficult to fix it.  But in doing so we often want to look for “the” reason there’s a problem.  We look for a discrete cause we can point to.  X is the problem. If we fix that then things will be ok.

But in the messy world we live in, there often aren’t discrete causes we can point to.  Often it’s multiple factors that are small and difficult to see.  Factors which interact and are contingent and change dynamically.  But those are realities that are hard to acknowledge.  Because we can’t point to something and say look – here is the why.  If we fix this we can take control again.  Instead we look hard for that one answer.  And from that answer we build a narrative, a story about the way things are.  We find comfort in those stories.  They are the lifeblood of the internet and our world in which media is ubiquitous because we are all part of it.

 

Questions, Questions, Questions – What are the Right Ones?

So here are some questions I’ve been asking myself.  And at this point I think formulating the right questions is more important than trying to jump to comforting conclusions that can be articulated into narratives.

Right now Barcelona’s biggest problem is likely the following.  They have one player who is scoring consistently.  If that player is off or if the defense choses to overplay him then Barça has struggled greatly to score?  Why has this happened? How does the team widen its distribution of scoring, especially on the road.

Is the Barcelona system becoming too homogenous and narrow?  If so in what ways? As teams continue to focus heavily on stopping the Barça attack does the team have the range of skill sets needed to respond efficiently?

Are players sacrificing too much of their individual skill and becoming too risk averse in order to maintain possession and play within the system?  Rather than becoming a platform that multiplies how effective a player performs, is the way Barcelona plays becoming confining?  If this is an issue, how can the team get back to a better balance of individual vs. collective play?

What is the impact that the cumulative minutes these players have played almost continuously since 2008 finally wearing on them.  What is the physical toll?  What is the mental toll?  Does the squad have enough functional depth to make up for any wearing away due to fatigue?

How fatigued is the team?  Does it have enough depth to make up for the injuries they’ve incurred to a squad that is already small.

The team had a grueling international break with extensive travel.  They came back to play at Zaragoza at home but then had to travel to Milan to play a very difficult match.  How much did that influence how they played?  Was it a surprise that they looked out of sorts?  If scheduling and travel is just part of the game now how can it be best addressed?

Why has the team been so much stronger at home this season than on the road?

How much has the lack of continuity this season due to injury affected the team in how they can interact and play dynamically together?

Each season Guardiola looks to push the team to play in a different way.  How are these experiments going this season?  Are they part of why the team is struggling?

What can we learn by looking at their recent history of accomplishment that will help them get back on track?

I’m not proposing any answers here.  I just want to think through those questions and get us to start exploring them together.  I do think the problems the club is going through right now have many root causes to them.

 

Match Analysis:

Guardiola more or less put the best line up out on the field he could given injuries and recent form.  No one can resort to the notion that he didn’t take this away match against a bottom of the table side for granted.  Valdes-Alves-Pique-Abidal-Maxwell-Busquets-Thiago-Xavi-Messi-Villa-Sanchez.  That’s a team more than capable of ending a match aginst Getafe in the first fifteen minutes.

The only slight surprise was how they lined up.  Villa started off in the center with Messi on the right.  Guardiola has mentioned a few times this season about wanting to find Messi more rooms against teams that defend in numbers and stationing him on the right for that reason.  Perhaps that was the thinking against Getafe.  However, that switch seemed just as much about doing something different to get David Villa going. (Later on – interesting to see Villa take a free kick later on in the game from a space where Messi- who has become the team’s best free kick taker – usually lines up).

And from the outset we saw what was expected – sort of.  More precisely, we saw the team play almost like a copy of itself.  There was the same dominance in possession.  The same overall shape to play.  But from the opening, you could see that the last cutting edge was missing.  The crispness this team plays with when it is on and clicking just wasn’t there. You just had to hope they could somehow find a way through to the back of the net.

Getafe played very well. They defended in numbers, maintained shape, pressed selectively (especially when Valdes had the ball – this is becoming a more and more frequent approach towards Barça – press high to prevent them from systematic build up from the back – defenses that like to sit high feel comfortable doing this because they don’t feel threatened by Barça changing their patter and attacking with speed).  They expended tremendous energy defending and looked to hit Barcelona on a counter or set piece.  In otherwords, Getafe implemented an approach that Barcelona has seen dozens of times in the past.

And Barça knows what to do in those situations.  You have to force a defense which is doing everything it can to maintain its shape and utilize number to break its shape and open up by covering more of the field.  This requires decisive and aggressive off the ball movement, rapid ball circulation, and utilizing width to make the defense cover as much space as possible.

Unfortunately, Barça did none of those things effectively.  They owned the ball but did almost in the same way someone supposedly owns a cat – indifferently.  It’s there.  It’s around.  You can stick it in a room but it’s just not going to do what you want when needed.

The most striking factors about the game were the marked lack of off the ball movement and slow tempo in possession.  Getafe defended with shape – the purpose of doing this is to make the game static.  The response from the attack has to be to try to make the game more dynamic.  This means very fast off the ball movement and high tempo ball circulation.  Instead, Barça added to the static nature of the game.  They helped defend against themselves.

At the heart of the team’s problem against Getafe is that they fell into a stale pattern that made them very predictable.  Once the ball crossed midfield it was immediately funneled to Xavi.  Xavi then held the ball reading the defense trying to play to thread a through ball between the tightly packed defense to the forward line.  If he was pressured or if that pass to the front three wasn’t there he utilized his other two midfielders as outlets.

Busquets and Thiago would look to play the ball back to Xavi or redirect play so that it could be returned to Xavi.  He would then try to play the ball back to the front line.

One of the frustrations of watching this match is that what the team needed greater diversity in midfield play.  Not only was too much being run through Xavi – but too much of the play was dependent in short passing through densely defended spaces.

The team desperately needed three qualities from midfield.  First and foremost, it needed runs from deep. Second,  beating players off the dribble with the ball.  Third, shots from outside of the box.  Given how Getafe was defending runs from deep were particularly critical.  And this season Barcelona has exactly the player needed to do that.  One of the best in the world at it.  Unfortunately, Cesc Fabregas was hurt and unavailable.  He was sorely missed against Getafe (this is why Guardiola brought Keita in for Thiago – to get more direct runs from deep).   Iniesta’s skill on the ball and shots from outside the box were also lacking.  Injuries are something everyt team needs to overcome however and they are no excuse.

The front line was pinched in for most of the match.  Overall they played narrow, clustered in the middle of the eighteen yard box just in front of Getafe’s back four.   It generally seemed like the team’s plan was to get the ball to Xavi so that he could get the ball to the front line in a position where those two of those three players could combine for a final ball to goal.

This pattern lacked diversity and became very predictable very quickly.

The way Getafe defended meant that the two Barcelona full backs were the players with the most time and space on the ball.  They had the best opportunity to create danger.  Unfortunately, the ball generally stayed in the middle.  When it did get played out wide there wasn’t much opportunity to create combination play on the flanks because most of the attackers were in the middle.

Alves didn’t have a particularly good game and resorted to trying to cross the ball into the box.  Maxwell is very conservative in possession and was content to act as an outlet for the midfielders and to circulate safe balls back to them.

And so it went on.  Over and over and over filling up 70% possession without much in the way of any threats.

Guardiola clearly saw this and did try to make some changes.  In the first half he moved Villa back to the left and played Sanchez as false 9.  This led to what was likely Barcelona’s best stretch of play until the final two minutes of the match.  Sanchez generated two strong shots on goal that were saved well.  He demonstrated the close control and dribbling skills in tight spaces that are skills the team is short on.

However, having only played a small handful of games with the team, his play isn’t closely enough integrated with the rest of his teammates.  He often looked unsure of what he should do out on the pitch and how aggressive he should be with the ball.  In turn he simply looked to safely circulate the ball to retain possession.

In the second half, Guardiola moved Messi back to the center and had Sanchez move wider right.

Unfortunately, none of these changes in the frontline positioning made much of a difference.  The team remained relatively static, their tempo of play slow and overly dependent on Xavi.

As the game progressed, Getafe became more conservative in how they defended.  They sat back deeper and deeper to conserve energy and clog up space.  As time passed in the second half and Barça were unable to find a way through, the match became one that became increasingly at risk for being decided on an isolated play.  And ultimately that came on a corner kick that never should have taken place.

In the 66th minute Getafe had a throw in off their right flank.  The ball was played through to Miku just in front of the eighteen yard box.  Pique stepped out and closed him down quickly as the striker attempted to shoot on goal.  The ball angled towards the byline, wobbling on the way suggesting a deflection.  Valdes, assuming the ball was last touched by a Getafe player allowed the ball to go out for a goal kick.  Only it wasn’t.  It was ruled a off of Pique and instead a corner was awarded.  Getafe had a set piece almost out of nothing.

Sarbia’s sent his out swinging corner into the area on a slight loop.  It was placed in the area where zone defending is supposed to be able to clear the ball safely from.  But with the loop in the kick it just got over the near post markers Busquets and Pique and dove quickly.  Keita seemed to loose sight of the ball and as it dipped quickly Valero had to actually bend his head downwards to get a touch on the ball.  And just like that Barça was behind.

A few minutes later Guardiola tried to change the game with the players he had available on the bench.  Pedro and Cuenca came on for Sanchez and Maxwell.  This game Barcelona an extra attacker with three at the back.  It was clear from the outset that Guardiola put Cuenca and Pedro on to correct one of the major issues in the match – the lack of width.  Both wingers played very wide and looked to cross the ball into the box.  But by then Getafe was even more determined to defend conservatively and deep and while Pedro generated a few chances his shots on goal weren’t dangerous (and on at least one occasion  – perhaps two – he should have slid the ball across goal to Villa).

It wasn’t until injury time that Barça threw the game into that extra gear needed to break a team trying to maintain shape.  And in the final moments of the game Xavi switched fields sending a brilliant diagonal to Messi that put him free in space.  As Messi broke free he looked set to score – but the ball hit the inside of the post.  Pedro did well to keep his shot on goal off a deflection down and on target but Moya deflected it away.

Evaluation

Guardiola:         Put out an appropriate line up.  Didn’t take the game for granted.  His team just didn’t respond.  This was a match where Pep’s trust in his players to work through the problems at hand didn’t work out.  More decisive changes would have been beneficial before Getafe scored rather than after.  The problems were there throughout.

Team:         Poor all around.  They faced an opponent playing in a way they’ve seen many times.  They just didn’t execute at all at the level required.

Valdes:  Had very little to do.  His distribution out of the back was good.  His decision to let the ball ultimately called for the corner that Getafe scored on was largely unnecessary.  Just pick the ball up rather than taking the risk of it being called a corner.

Pique:  Played well at the back against Miku physicality when called upon.  Given how Getafe was defending, Pique making runs into the box would have been a strong route to generate chances.  Unfortunately, that tactic wasn’t deployed.

Abidal:  As with Pique had a solid match.  Did well shutting down Getafe’s counters when they occurred.

Alves:  Was repeatedly open as an outlet.  But the team didn’t need another  outlet.  They needed a source of threat from the flank.  What was most absent from Alves’ game was that he rarely made runs from deep that he is so good at.  Not having runners from deep was one Barcelona’s major problems.

Maxwell:  Played his game and was generally proficient at it.  Unfortunately, his skill set isn’t particularly useful against a team that is going to defend as deep as Getafe did.  Was the player on the Barça with the most time and space on the ball.  But he plays so conservatively that he isn’t a source of penetration.  Should have been taken off for an additional striker much earlier.

Busquets:           Sergio seemed to emerge out of nowhere.  And in a very short period of time has emerged as one of the world’s best one touch footballers.  However, it is concerning to see a player so young not progressing in his development.  Busquets does what he does very well.  But his game is not expanding and he looks like he may become a specialist player.  A very good one – but one who impacts matches in discrete ways.  In a match like yesterday’s he acted as an outlet for Xavi in midfield.  Quite honestly – that’s not enough.  His ability to help retain possession suffers from diminishing returns when the team is being defended the way Getafe was. Barça needed a midfielder who could make runs from deep or shoot from outside of the box.  It would be very useful to have a holding player who can add that when needed.

Xavi:  When Barça are at their best they have creative, dangerous play distributed across the pitch. Yesterday the team became far too focused on playing through the middle through Xavi.  The attack became funnel shaped – with everything running through Xavi just behind the front three.  They needed more dynamic midfield play from wide areas.

Thiago:  Still feeling his way into the first team.  This is only to be expected at this age.  One of the active weaknesses in Thiago’s game in the past has been that at times he’s spent too much time on the ball and been too elaborate with it.  This season he is actively trying to make sure he doesn’t do that and fits into the larger team concept.  But it’s possible that he’s giving up too much of his game.  Against Getafe he was too focused on not making a mistake that would cost the team possession.  He was risk averse and too deferential to Xavi.

Sanchez:  His game in many ways was similar to Thiago’s.  He is still trying to establish his place on a team that has strong ways it likes to play.  He exhibited the kind of individual skill that the team needs to expand how it can play.  But in trying to fit into the team concept he often looked to circulate the ball quickly to retain possession rather than do something dangerous with the ball.  He’s playing trying not to make a mistake.  Again, this is almost inevitable for a player trying to fit into a complex system.

Messi:  Not his best game by a long shot.  Getafe basically decided to stop him at all costs and force other Barcelona players to beat them.  This is going to happen more and more often as the season goes on.  This was a match where Messi had to emphasize his role as a creator.  That didn’t happen.

Villa:  Just lost out on the pitch.  Tentative, thinking rather than playing, short on confidence.  Yesterday Pep moved him back to the middle – and his presence still wasn’t felt.  Why Villa is struggling so much is unclear.  But what is readily apparent is that the team has no second scorer – and that was the role Villa was brought in to play.

Keita:  Little influence on the match.  The biggest contribution he could have made – and why he was substituted in for Thiago – was to add more direct play.  Runs from deep and shots from outside of the box.  In games like this it can be difficult to get integrated into the flow and Keita never did.

Pedro:  Again – very active and energetic.  But his finishing wasn’t there.  Last year or the year before he would have put that rebound off Messi’s last minute shot into the back of the net.  Against Getafe it was blocked.  Should have squared the ball to Villa rather than shooting on a few occassions.

Cuenca:  Little impact on the match but hardly his fault.  The rest of the team didn’t look to play him the ball and he stayed wide to fulfill a tactical role.

 

The End

This Barcelona team has performed at such a high level for the past three years that it’s difficult to process and understand their current inconsistent play.  But excellence – even sustained brilliance – aren’t perfection.  They are human creations.  And as fallible as we all are, no one can be perfectly consistent.  Not even when you are the best in the world.  Success is too fragile, too mutable to be taken for granted in that way.

This team has challenges it needs to face.  But it has history, it has a track record and level of talent which provide the resources for fashioning a pathway forward.

The season isn’t over.  Far from it.  There’s still more wonder that going to grace us  Perhaps the real challenge is for us to see it rather than see past it – and most importantly to appreciate it as fully as we can.

After the match Pep described the state of the team well.  Nos levantaremos.  We will get up.

 

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152 Comments

  1. pr17
    November 27, 2011

    Tough game. Maybe time for pep for stick his version of best XI and give it 70 mins each for next 2-3 matches before clasico.
    Time for supporters to stick together and support the team. Also hope the crowd supports us in Nou comp to get us back quickly.
    Have seen Dortmund’s match against all teams. Their home support is outstanding. Have only seen rayo’s fans like that in la liga.

    • nia
      November 27, 2011

      The supporters were really good vs Sevilla, which was nice. They are usually quiet when Barca are winning, which is strange. I too hope for consistancy in our lineup and i hope the back line is whether it be Alves, Pique, Puyol, Abi or Alves, Pique, Masch and Abi. Just like garaham Hunter said before, ‘If Barca doesn’t attack well, they don’t defend well’. U don’t think this result was the end of the world but, it will be if nothing changes.
      OT: we are going to have the same ref vs Levante, mmmmm!!

  2. November 27, 2011

    If I had a conscience, I’d pity Rayo Vallecano.

    I don’t.

    • Dani_el
      November 27, 2011

      You made me laugh. In that respect, I also don’t have a conscience.

  3. November 27, 2011

    I think we need to have a distinction between the following two opinions:

    1. We can’t/probably can’t win La Liga this year.

    2. There is less desire/more complacency/less effort in the team this year.

    The first is (in my opinion) true, the second isn’t. We must not conflate the two because I see that happening in a lot of comments and so on.

    The fact is we’re still a fantastic team but then again so is Madrid and they are very, very hungry and determined right now, yes, perhaps more than us. They are not dropping points that we are. It’s as simple as that. Rather than bemoaning anything on our side, let’s just give credit to them.

    As I said in the other thread, this points total and form from us would be good enough for the title in any other country and any other league. One defeat all season!

    So let’s separate the dispassionate analysis of where we are (six points behind in a 90 point league) versus more emotional opinion of how we got here.

    • November 27, 2011

      As hard as it already is to give credit to EE, I won’t, not until Ramos is in danger of dropping the big eared trophy. A lot of things can and will happen – the two Clasico’s haven’t yet been played!

      So, even if we ‘probably’ can’t avoid the dreaded spectacle, we musn’t make it easy for them. FIGHT till the end! Coincidentally, the lack of fighting spirit yesterday hurt more than the result.

      Lets take the fight to EE. We definitely can!

  4. Jim
    November 27, 2011

    Agree with just about every word, Euler. Great review. Time for the lesser lights in the team to stand up and be counted. It’d be interesting to give Messi first half off and see what happens. Hope Iniesta is back.

  5. just listenin
    November 27, 2011

    For anyone who is considering looking for a good Man City blog, or joining Bojangles in Rome, or following Eto’o to Siberia or wherever he has planned to play out his swan song, get a grip. Be a cule, not a fule – get it? 😉

    The experimenting positionally and formation wise has been concerning, but makes sense in a certain context and it was touched on here in some ways, sustainability. We have a club that is very multi-generational in nature, probably more than most due to the strength of our youth system. The players begging consideration in the top flight cluster around 20-25-30, and come through the system like a conveyor belt. There may be no real way to evolve this club, but to play through the process of passing on the legacy of the previous generation, while adapting to the needs and strengths of the emerging one, and that can get messy with a y. I believe the strength of the system, and the depth of the talent pipeline, mean that this club can be managed beyond any one season from time to time to address the next horizon, and that these factors make it so – I hate the thought, but we may be in a transition cycle. Otherwise we’d be splashing money around to buy silverware like some other clubs -erhmm-ahem. But with the current talent, there is no way this season is lost yet.

    It also appears pretty clear that the “Beat Barca” playbook has made the rounds and been distributed. It seems to go something like this;
    – Pressure the heck out of them in the middle third, and tactically foul, or blantantly foul right up against and beyond if necessary the limits of fair play… until someone tells you to stop (and they likely won’t, i.e., see refs), and if they do tell you stop test their resolve and willingness to use those cards in their pockets, because others have already made sure they are super self-critical and second guessing themselves through a well structured media campaign to escalate the physicality of the opposition.
    – Then, if they do get by you into your defensive third, double down in the 18yard box like 8-10 Easter island statues, and don’t fall for any of that width nonsense, those guys standing by the touchline can’t hurt you, have they?? — you know where the attack comes from…
    – And should you touch the ball – kick it into midfield and run Forest run! like you’ve never run, and try to destabilize the back, get a break, force a set play! better yet!? A corner… Rinse, repeat.

    Now I know our clubs public relations and media strategy is not to complain about the refs, but I feel no such constraint, and you’d have to be silly to think it isn’t going on behind closed doors outside the public eye at the club, while I agree that with our philosophy it is tough to do something about – it is clear that others are having some impact (and, let me just state that I largely agree with our PR approach to the refs, in public at least). Stuck me odd this AM, Is it a coincidence that our last lost came under the watchful eye of Teixeira last April against Sociedad, maybe, but maybe not. Is it possible, probable, that there can be such a disparity in penalty calls with a team that spends as much time in the box as we do compared to others? And against whom teams tend to real park the bus and play less open than against others? Sorry, I don’t buy it. There has been an increasing number of very aggressive and dangerous challenges, bookable offenses, that are being let go early in matches. They are being used early to “set the tone” of what is to be expected and challenge the refs to have the courage to make exception to their ridiculous but often “three strikes and I’ll card you” kind of approach. Except by then, when it finally goes beyond the pale, we’re pretty battered, bruised and slowed and hearing footsteps. It is difficult to not see this as systematic and somewhat by design approach that has been being cultivated over the last 24 months or so to deal with our fluency of play. Are increasing injury rate, coincidence too? – horsehockey… I think the El Clasico will be El Nasty-co. Stage is set.

    I already hear you all, “we can’t complain about the refs…”, “you can’t do anything about it…” – yada yada yada. Save it, some larger overall nonsense that’s going on needs to be called out from time to time.

  6. El Diez
    November 27, 2011

    Complacency factor- yes to an extend. But main problem is the striker. Villa out of form and Pedro/Sanchez not able to perform full to potential has affected the game. Iniesta needs to be fit (yes we have Cesc, but Iniesta is different)

    An El classico win can really change the things, it will put pressure back on RM. A win at Bernabue is a must now…

  7. Humphrey Bogart
    November 27, 2011

    Question is what we do with Messi and Villa/Pedro in the next game: do we rest Messi and “force” Villa/Pedro to take responsibility as they can not play through Messi? Could work and they might force their way back to scoring. Could also be that it makes everything worse, if they can not score, and Messi is not there to bail anybody out.

    What do you think?

    • just listenin
      November 27, 2011

      Interesting question. I think given that Villa and Pedro several months ago were members of the Liga championship and UCL championship team as regulars in the cast… I’d play them, both… On their respective sides. Unless your trying to do something that doesn’t have to do with continuing to do what you already do, more or better… If they’re on their way out or something sit them and build for where you’re going. Messi seems to me looks around and says it’s working/not working and meters his intensity accordingly.. Been doing it of years. He doesn’t seem tired, more disinterested/interested in wasting/maximizing effort.

  8. November 27, 2011

    Good post, Euler. My only note is that Keita was introduced to play as a forward in the box, not in the midfield. Then later Pique joined him there. Keita’s inclusion there improved things straightforward, and with pique we became closer to scoring, and we scored (+?). Keeping in mind that none is a forward in the first place but still they managed to make that impact.

    I don’t think Cesc would have done better there as he plays either in the midfield or as false nine – none would’ve helped, as getafe were not interested in checking players but closing spaces that cesc as others cant operate without it. Keita is just the player needed for such situations (and I’m only looking at the options available in the squad), but he was introduced to this game a bit too late.

    Strangely, I am more excited about watching this team than ever. The “Access of quality” era is getting exposed to so many questions now and there is a need to go back and make systematic upgrades that I’m looking forward for (starting from the very next game). All what we need is to chose the best tactics for a game not for the players we want to use no matter what. And we will be fine. You enjoy winning the Liga most when you pass thru this kind of stretches.

    • Jim
      November 27, 2011

      Sorry,Ramzi, I’m not understanding what Keita offers that Cesc can’t. I can’t even remember anything he did. If you’re talking about runs into the box Cesc would have my vote. Do you mean height?

    • November 27, 2011

      Watch the last slice of the game again. We tend to guess players roles by default. Keita was not making runs to the box, he was playing as a forward, standing for center backs, keeping them static in the box rather than covering the space. He (and Pique afterward) received high passes, chested, held on ball, and passed. They balanced the physical battle with the defenders who were bulling the offense before. If we would have used this Keita-Pique combo earlier in the game we might have seen a much better outcome at the final whistle.

      Cesc in the other hand, is more effective in a mobile situation. The moment he stands, he fades. That’s nothing against him, but its horses for courses. In some games, you need mobility to confuse defense and create spaces. In other matches you just need to mesmerize the center backs in their positions so they cant help their teammates while defending the players coming from the midfield to the box – including Messi.

    • November 27, 2011

      Ramzi,

      I agree with you that Keita was playing a very advanced role and was often stationed directly up against the Getafe backline.

      It’s reasonable to describe him as playing a “forward” role. At times Iniesta and Cesc will position themselves in similar spaces so I think what we call it is secondary.

      More to the point, Getafe was playing so deep and they were squeezing space between the lines so much that what was a “forward” and what was a “midfielder” with respect to how the defense was positioned was somewhat arbitrary.

      If we take the positioning of players with respect to the opposition rather than to each other or the system then Maxwell and Alves where forward wingers who tracked back to defend more than they were full backs.

      Personally, I didn’t like Keita’s advanced positioning. Didn’t think that was what was called for in the game. Getafe was already maintaining shape stringently. Messi, Villa and Sanchez were already generally stationed directly against the Getafe backline.

      Adding another attacker to stand in the area and take on defenders wasn’t going to break their shape. He’s not Llorente. And ultimately, he didn’t. Didn’t think Keita’s advanced position created any major problems for Getafe for considerable opportunities for Barca.

      But I imagine this is probably a function of a deeper philosophical difference between us, particularly around play in the advanced center of the pitch and having a physical presence there.

      I personally think that what the team needed yesterday was much more movement off the ball, much faster movement, more decisive movement.

      Keita moving into an advanced role made the team more static IMO. I would have preferred him to make delayed runs from deep – like he did so brilliantly against milan for that first goal. That’s how a goal had the best chance of being generated.

      Teams maintaining shape can have real problems picking up runners from deep. Runners from deep cause defender operating in a structured block to make difficult decisions – do I track the runner or keep my relationship to the other defenders to stay in structure.

      That’s what Barca was desperately missing within how they play.

    • November 27, 2011

      But we actually scored thru a keita’s move in the box:) He cant control the refree calls. And we had another un-miss-able chance directed by Keita’s header. I strongly recommend watching the period where we had Pique and Keita as forwards. Am I calling for an Englich-like hoof the ball system? Absolutly not! But we need to have enough resources so we are not forced to use Keita or pique out of position whem diversity is needed. Yesterday Pep approved the validity of my argument during the summer. We had a larsson to defeat Arsenal and win a CL. We didnt have one to defeat Getafe. Cristal clear.

      The thing is, sometimes you can move around as much as you want -as a mobile forward. But if the opponent defense is discipline enough not to run after you, it will be aimless. And we’ve seen that too often now to keep it argument-al. But we will see how it goes throughout the season…

      I’m a prophet of diversity. It doesnt matter what painting color I like most, I will never buy a one color painting.

    • November 27, 2011

      I strongly recommend watching the period where we had Pique and Keita as forwards.

      HA! I remember that.

      I wasn’t really advocating for a nine during the summer (I was neither Team Rossi nor Team Alexis btw, all my energy was directed towards Fabregas), but I do think a pure finisher is needed. Pedrito used to be him, but he’s fallen off the rails. That, and maybe some height / physicality in the box. Don’t think we need a plan B; just a Plan A version 2. 😀

      On a different but slightly similar note, I was really impressed at how well Alexis held up the ball. Hope he gets into a groove soon so that his tentativeness wears off. He’ll be great.

    • Miguel
      November 27, 2011

      I think Pep’s first instinct was correct. Sure Ibra slowed down the tempo of the game and messed up the fluidity of play, but not all team’s defenses are created equal. I also don’t think you can really create width without the real threat of someone scoring off a cross from a person on the flank.

    • justsayin
      November 27, 2011

      Off the ball movement was missing, end of story. I don’t quite understand all the head scratching. You can’t play tiki-taka type football without off the ball movement to create space to score goals. Off the ball movement requires … well, movement. So, why aren’t we hustling? Mainly, because it’s difficult to physically sustain a high level of endurance. It catches up with you. Our forwarda – Villa, Pedro, Cesc, Messi have to consistently move, run, turn, track back, race forward in order to destabilize the defense like they have done in the past. While the forwards are doing the above mentioned movements – our midfield is scurrying around, making lateral passes, diagonal thru balls, chips into the box, quick give and goes. And while all that is happening in front of them, our defenders make runs down the wing, crossing balls into the box.
      NONE of that was happening yesterday. Like Euler explained, Xavi tried everything to get balls into the box. What’s the point? No one was moving?
      Yesterday, was so ordinary. Uninspired. If the players did care, they really didn’t show it in their play. Lot’s of walking around. If they did care, that’s almost worse because they couldn’t bring themselves to move off the ball. My conclusion is that they’re tired and they’ve lost their edge. It happens to the best of them. Hopefully, Pep finds a way to turn it around.

  9. Helge
    November 27, 2011

    Thanks a lot for the review and your honest words.

    @Humphrey Bogart:
    Honestly, I would rest Messi. And if the others don’t succeed in beating Vallecano at home, so be it. Because then we would not deserve to win the title (although we still could: For instance, ManUtd was 6 points clear in the 91 season after around 15 playdays, but they still lost the league title, finishing 7 points behind Arsenal).

  10. Anonymous_69
    November 27, 2011

    Sooooo, is my dream coming true? Are we going to start Pique CF on Tuesday?! We better… I mean it…

    Valdes
    Alves-Puyol-Mascherano-Adriano
    Xavi-Busquets-Iniesta
    Messi-Pique-Sanchez

    Or maybe, since we might see some tactical changes in the next matches, we might even get to see Ramzi’s 3-5-2!

    Valdes
    Puyol-Mascherano-Abidal
    Alves-Xavi-Busuquets-Iniesta-Adriano
    Messi-Pique

    I think Alves playing as a wingback in a 3-5-2 would be good for him, remind him to actually stay out wide and cross more. At the rate his form is deteriorating, I won’t be to see Adriano becoming a starter as a RB. Adriano isn’t as good as Alves, but he currently seems a lot more active, faster, better at beating his man, and definitely better

    • Anonymous_69
      November 27, 2011

      at crossing.

    • momo
      November 27, 2011

      Agreed, would love to see Adriano have a go at right back.

  11. Dani_el
    November 27, 2011

    Thank you for this insightful post Euler. We had so many chances yesterday, sometimes when the ball doesn’t wanna go in. And I know it’s not in our culture (Barça’s culture) to talk about referees, but it’s curious to say the least, that the same referee that give the game to EE last week against Valencia, gets assign for this match, and makes so many mistakes against us, I know Busi has a bad reputation, but I did see that penalty, and our goal wasnt offside, because Keita didn’t pass that ball, Getafe’s defender did, so it wasn’t offside. I know this is Spain centralismo, and EE historically has always had an advantage in that matter, but sometimes it’s to much to digest. As Pep says, it doesn’t matter the referee, if we would have taken those chances or created other ones, we may have won this game. Lets trust in this team, they deserve it. In Pep I trust.

  12. Jim
    November 27, 2011

    Can’t believe we’re seriously questioning the referee after that match. Sorry but I wouldn’t give Busi a penalty if the defender took a baseball bat to him. He needs to man up and lose his reputation. That incident was a nothing anyway.

    The Keita one is interesting. Not sure what you mean by Keita not passing the ball. The one I assume you mean is where Messi bursts through, passes to Keita, receives the return and slides it in. I had assumed that people were talking about Keita being onside which he clearly wasn’t when he receives the pass. If Messi passed the ball to him he was off. However, it may be that the touch was from the defender although I’ve watched it half a dozen times and it still looks like Messi to me. If I can’t tell after that ( in HD) how on earth can you blame the ref for assuming it was a Messi pass as well?

    I posted in the last thread that I wasn’t happy with the acceptance of the end of an era / better coming from behind mentality but this is on a different scale. I’d rather go down than end up in the SAF/Mou role of questioning every ref when we have a bad day – as we did.

    • Anonymous_69
      November 27, 2011

      You wouldn’t have given Busquets a penalty, regardless if it was a foul or not? You think ref decisions should be made based on reputations? Please don’t become a ref anytime soon.

    • Jim
      November 27, 2011

      Strangely, I actually do have a referee’s qualification from my youth ( don’t ask 🙂 ) but that is irrelevant to this. I was exaggerating to make the point. It would have been at best a soft award and of course it doesn’t matter if it was Busi or not. I’m just personally happy that another dive of his isn’t rewarded.

    • Dani_el
      November 27, 2011

      Well, even at Punto Pelota the Fifa referee turned journalist, said that Keita didn’t pass the ball, the getafe defender did. If you don’t believe me, maybe you would believe him. And my view is that it doesn’t matter to whom is the foul that leads the penalty, if it is a penalty the rules book (you must have read it) says the referee must call it. It doesn’t matter if it is Busi or Alves or DiMaria or Cristiano.

  13. November 27, 2011

    I watched the match 3 times (it was not a happy experience) but I did.

    The refereeing had very little to do with the outcome. The refs weren’t good but it was just the usual la liga issues.

    Barcelona lost because they played very badly. Really badly in this one game.

    Don’t get distracted with refereeing decisions. They were really peripheral to the outcome.

    We played one of the worst matches of the goatskins era. And lost. That pretty much it

    Can’t improve and fix problems if things get focuses on the refs. Completely beside the point. .

    • November 27, 2011

      “goatskins” should of course read “guardiola” stupid phone.

    • November 27, 2011

      Goatskins! Hah.

    • Eklavya
      November 27, 2011

      Lmao.

    • Helge
      November 27, 2011

      And I was wondering ‘what the heck is the goatskins era?’ 😀

    • Chiu
      November 27, 2011

      goatskinn sound funny. Guardiola = goatskin haha 🙂

    • jaymin
      November 28, 2011

      Not the first time a Swype-o will have created a lasting pet name! The goatskin era is proclaimed in official history.

    • just listenin
      November 27, 2011

      You’re right the refs are par for the course… Great, let’s hold them up as ok for the liga, and why not others? … They’re exemplary, let’s start a race to the bottom. I watched the match 2x as well and they were abysmal.

    • just listenin
      November 27, 2011

      The refs always have “SOMETHING” to do with the outcome. Go put and randomly blow the whistle every few touches and tell me you’re not influencing a match. Or run around and don’t blow, not once… You had no influence? They absolutely, always ini some way shape a match.

    • just listenin
      November 27, 2011

      That is *out not put, and in… Not ini*, in – though that’s like Iniesta
      Sorry, autocorrect.

  14. momo
    November 27, 2011

    “Are players sacrificing too much of their individual skill and becoming too risk averse in order to maintain possession and play within the system? Rather than becoming a platform that multiplies how effective a player performs, is the way Barcelona plays becoming confining? If this is an issue, how can the team get back to a better balance of individual vs. collective play?”

    This. I tried to articulate that in the live blog post but couldn’t as well as this.

    I think that is something players (mainly ones brought into the system like Villa, Sanchez) are struggling with. A balance between using their own skill set and contributing to the effectiveness of the barca system. Messi is the only player constantly taking responsibility and risk with possession by shooting or dribbling. Our other attackers like you put it are “becoming too risk averse in order to maintain possession and play within the system”…

    • Dave
      November 27, 2011

      Exactly this match could of done with some individual brilliance from Sanchez.Is he being hampered in that regard?

      ‘Barça needed a midfielder who could make runs from deep or shoot from outside of the box. It would be very useful to have a holding player who can add that when needed.’
      Yes he now plays for Man City.

    • momo
      November 27, 2011

      I really do think Sanchez is being hampered in that regard. Even players like Villa and Thiago seem to think twice about risking possession by dribbling or shooting…

      What made the 08/09 team so special was that the threat was from everywhere. Sure we had less possession, but the responsibility to create chances, run at defenders. crash the box, was one shared by every attacker on the team. It was chaos within a structured system.

      Right now many of our games have followed a similar pattern, recycling possession until messi decides to thread a through ball or take a shot. That’s why Euler’s question is so interesting “is the way Barcelona plays becoming confining?”…

      This is why Cesc had an immediate impact most notably during the super cup when he came on as a sub. He got into spaces, tried to play through balls, attacked the goal but also helped maintain possession.

      That’s the balance that we need to achieve, a mixture of the system we have in place now and some direct individuality from our other attackers.

  15. November 27, 2011

    This. Review. Is. Brilliant!

    I was one of the folks on Twitter, questioning our committment. To explain: I remember a wonderful goal from Guardiola’s first year in charge, when a ball got away. Everybody was expecting Dani Alves to do what EVERY player does: Let the ball roll out, and take the throw. But Alves, sensing an opportunity, ran like a madman to chase the ball down and feed Messi, whereupon the two of them worked some crazy give-and-go that resulted in a goal. Remarkable. Also a remarkable example of full, unwavering committment.

    Today, this season, we let the balls run out for a throw.

    Irrespective of anything else, that reality is there.

    Now. My belief to and IN this club is unwavering. Those of you who were around during The Offside days, when we didn’t win the Liga, know that I didn’t let it go until it was mathematically impossible.

    The same will be true this season. Winning the two Clasics will be a huge help. We will need help, and we will get it.

    None of which stops me from noting this club’s qualitu to play loke “there will be another chance.” The Valdes play where he let the ball run out is a classic example.

    Solution? Dunno. I would have started Cuenca over Villa, I know that. Pedro and Cuenca brought width, and width brought chances. This team, the collective, sporting we, need a lot. Most important is a dedication to the notion that this moment, this pass, this chance on goal, is all there is. Then we go from there.

    Is there less committment? To me, yes. But it is IMPOSSIBLE to maintain that level of concentration and unwavering committment. But if we want the Liga, full glory, that is what it is going to take.

    • November 27, 2011

      I’m not so sure about the ‘continual’ lack of commitment. Wasn’t the first goal we scored against Milan the product of Thiago’s unyielding pressure against the Milan backline?

      Not an excuse, but working one’s @$$ off the whole 90 mins in the San Siro is a feat in itself. Combined with the absence of Cesc/Iniesta, the lack of firepower from Alexis/Villa and Messi playing incessantly for the quarter of a century, a slip up was bound to happen.

      Not to mention (again!), that one of the most important cogs in our think tank, the assistant coach was absent.

      Goatskins Guardiola acknowledged that he became sure that we’d win the 08/09 Liga when we came back from 2 goals down to almost snatching a win at Betis. A similar comeback is required. We still have our destiny in our hands. The tiger is cornered. It just needs to realize its a tiger..

      *Cues The Eye of a Tiger*

    • November 28, 2011

      Spot on about running our hearts out in San Siro it was certain that we’d be dead tired against Getafe especially since we’ve put on this effort week in week out for the past 3 years inlike EE.
      Injuries to key players have minimized rotation and we’re paying for this now. I just hope we’ll at least enjoy having a fresher Pedro,Sanchez,Andresito and Pique later

    • mom4
      November 27, 2011

      Hope you’re having a great time in London!

  16. November 27, 2011

    On the whole, I agree with Jim re: referees. Don’t think we even remotely deserved to win with the football we played. The refs weren’t good — it was a penalty, yes, and Messi’s goal was valid — but they rarely are, so although there is nothing wrong with pointing it out, that’s no excuse. We had enough firepower to win, and we should have. We didn’t, and we should take responsibility for that. Nothing more to add really.

    I admit I kinda like the do-or-die situation we’re in. We’ve already won two titles – European and Spanish SuperCups – and we have the CWC coming up too, so I won’t be damning the team if we don’t win anything. (But I believe we will still win everything of course).

    Like Ramzi, I’m actually really, really excited to see how we go on from here. Interested to see how Pep lines up the team and what variation he makes. I like to think of this as a transitional season of sorts. Testing out new players and formations. We might not see the results of the hard work until next season, when Thiago, Fabregas and Alexis gel even more into the team, but some fun times are ahead. I, for one, can’t wait.

    To the next game!

    • just listenin
      November 27, 2011

      Party line

    • just listenin
      November 27, 2011

      If it’s a “penalty, yes” do we not deserve an opportunity to equalize, no?… And is Messi’s goal valid? Then we are down 5 not 6 and it’s a very different story line.

    • November 27, 2011

      Not quite what I’m getting at.

      We know the refs are terrible. If we played better, they’d be a non-issue as usual, like they have when Messi was denied a million and one penalties. Or when Fabregas got chopped down in Milan (which was as a far clearer penalty than Xavi (which was a penalty)) and there was no really moaning.

      Yes, we were hard done by; yes we could have won had those decisions gone our way; but that shouldn’t overshadow the fact we were eleven levels of terrible is what I’m trying to say. Let’s not forget Messi could have equalized at the death, but he hit the post. Or that Pedrito had at least two opportunities to square the ball to Villa for tap-ins. Or that said Pedrito had more shots on goal (4) in the 18 minutes he was on than the whole team before that (1).

      It’s a talking point, and it really sucks that we didn’t get the calls, but we really should have had enough to put Getafe away. I mean, really. Burger King Team Dubai FC? C’mon Barca. 😀

    • BarcaGirl_Indo
      November 27, 2011

      ^ exactly this, Kari. we, FC Barcelona, needed a penalty in the dying minutes just to get a goal against Burger Boys?

      terrible referee sucks, no question. but Barcelona have much bigger problems to solve by ourself.

    • just listenin
      November 29, 2011

      Ah, I got you, and agree. We should have been able to put the burger king in a bag, no problem – what concerns me though is the little bit of an always “Oh well, refs will be refs”, attitude – I’m really torn by it, because I’m proud to follow a club that doesn’t whine (I whine though, not much, sometimes boil over, this match irked me, a lot) when we’re in impeccable form these things don’t matter, these calls, or lack of, are an annoyance. If we’re off – and we appear to be as of late, they can become difference makers. It’s like the guy from Atletico said about the match in the Bernabeu, it’s difficult to play 9 v 14. Those 3 guys can turn the tide, and if we’re not getting the breaks and don’t have the form – we might need to look for just a little more accountability from them, just the deserved amount, not the trumped up overcompensating stuff our buddy Mou looks for, just our due.

  17. Anonymous_69
    November 27, 2011

    If Messi got injured for more than a few weeks, I think our La Liga season would go down the drain. But I actually think the team would benifit playing without Messi for a bit. It would force Villa and Pedro to become leaders of the offense, and it would remind them of what they need to do. Then when Messi came back, our offense would be back to the standard of last season, when not every attack went through Messi.

    • mega_tajh
      November 27, 2011

      Thats why i still believe Messi injury last season helped him and the whole team.

  18. mega_tajh
    November 27, 2011

    What is haunting about this season is how luck hasnt been on our side when we needed it. From leading by 2goals to end up drawing to Sociedad, from missing a pk at the death to win a hard fought game or conceding from a corner in the last play of a game(home Milan game) or even Messi hitting the post at the death in this game. Yes we have been poor this season but lady luck havnt shined on us either.

    • momo
      November 27, 2011

      It’s no coincidence that when teams play well it seems like they have all the luck in the world. Play well, and “luck” will follow.

  19. Dave
    November 27, 2011

    I think we should find a new Yaya Toure, if Keita goes this summer. Remember his stampede like runs?

    • Anonymous_69
      November 27, 2011

      Keita is the best for now. Let’s see how Oriol develops at Chelsea.

    • Dave
      November 27, 2011

      But oriol is mainly a destroyer. Yaya could run from deep, score and offer a physical presence

    • Anonymous_69
      November 27, 2011

      Oriol is definitely capable of that. He plays mainly as a destroyer and a CB, but he has very decent technical skills and can hold up the ball well. Or it can turn out to be the other way around, with Oriol DM/substitute DM, and Busquets given the Keita role.

  20. mom4
    November 27, 2011

    Euler brings the life lesson football lesson!
    A eulergy not a eulogy.

    One thing haunts me about last game, though. Kxevin noticed it, too:
    Today, this season, we let the balls run out for a throw.
    I’m baffled by this one little behavior.

    Just for yucks, just for the hell of it, I’d like to see last year’s starting XI starting the next game. Maybe just to comfort my footy soul. Maybe just for a reference point for my confused footy brain.

    On to the next game. And may God have mercy (but not too much mercy) on poor hapless Vayo’s soul.

    OT @ Kari- Do we get to add goatskins to the BFB lexicon?

    • mom4
      November 27, 2011

      I meant Rayo’s

    • Chiu
      November 27, 2011

      yes adding. Goatskins = Guardiola nick name anytime barca lost a match.

      In Goatskin we trust, anyway 🙂

  21. Miguel
    November 27, 2011

    Another brilliant reviw, Euler!

  22. messifan
    November 27, 2011

    Great review Euler!
    This is sort of off topic – I just saw a report on the death of Welsh manager, Gary Speed. So sad 🙁 Not sure what the reason was behind his suicide but this somehow led me to think of depression. Certainly, this news and the recent suicide attempt by a German ref. have put things in perspective. The game is meant to be won or lost, and at the end of the day, it’s just a game. Like others, I’m excited and anxiously looking forward to what lies ahead for the team. It’s gonna be a great year 🙂
    Also, I think we, supporters, are handling this loss pretty well. I’ve read a lot of clear and rational thoughts, and this just reconfirms why I really enjoy visiting this site 🙂 And lol @ “goatskins” 🙂

    • blitzen
      November 27, 2011

      Thanks, messifan, I was just going to post something similar. Obviously I didn’t know Gary Speed personally, and I admit I don’t know much about him professionally, but I am profoundly saddened by this news. I lost a friend to suicide earlier this year, and almost another one just this Friday (he’s OK for now).

      Here in Canada we have had a rash of suicides among ex-NHL players and we are having a national discussion about how the stresses and expectations of pro sports have negative impacts on players.

      This is something all sports need to be looking into.

    • BarcaGirl_Indo
      November 27, 2011

      terrible, terrible news for football.

      his friends said they don’t understand, they just don’t. why, Gary?

      From Daily Mail :
      Only hours earlier, Speed had appeared happy and optimistic on BBC1’s Football Focus programme.
      He talked enthusiastically about his team’s improving fortunes and his hopes for success in World Cup qualifying matches next year.

      Robbie Savage screamed on his twitter : why? why? why?

      what was the thing that so painful for him to live, until he made a decision to suicide and leave his wife + 2 kids? was it football?

    • Chiu
      November 27, 2011

      just wish the reason is not football. yup, this is just a game, there’s more other important thing in life beside football.

    • mom4
      November 27, 2011

      🙁 RIP

  23. SoccerMom
    November 27, 2011

    Catharsis and illumination. Eureka!

  24. BarcaGirl_Indo
    November 27, 2011

    this is a very Messi review by Euler. thank you.

    first part of the article warmed my heart..

    then I read Questions, Questions, Questions – What are the Right Ones? Paragraph followed by Match Analysis:, and my heart was aching.

    the last part, you warmed my heart again. Nos levantaremos.

  25. lyd
    November 27, 2011

    This was a wonderful review in these dark times…

    I’d like to share some thoughts from our system’s perspective which is complex yet so elegant. I want to treat this evolving foot-balling system like the number system, from a mathematical point of view.

    Which makes me want to ask:

    “Is our blaugrana system more complete or more consistent, at this instance?”

    (** In logic, a consistent theory is one that does not contain a contradiction.
    a theory is complete if it is a maximal consistent set of sentences, i.e., if it is consistent, and none of its proper extensions is consistent.
    Each time a new statement is added as an axiom, there are other true statements that still cannot be proved, even with the new axiom. If an axiom is ever added that makes the system complete, it does so at the cost of making the system inconsistent.**)

    For example, the explanation behind the creation of the universe. If god did it, then god is merely an axiom used to complete the idea. But the introduction of god gives rise to paradoxes, as questions like “can god make a stone so heavy that he cannot lift?” cannot be answered with a yes/no or true/false.

    (And a system cant be both totally consistent and complete at the same time.)

    IMO this season, Pep has managed to make the system more “complete” by introducing the rotational policy and strategical ploys like the 3-4-3, which has led to a greater source of motivation (much needed) at present and higher creative output for the near future. But that led to “inconsistency” as the intensity is varying especially in away matches, far too frequently. And the lack of “consistency” resulted in contradiction/paradoxes in the form of ultra defensive opponents, injury crisis and a hectic schedule. Staying motivated and learning new things as a team is of utmost importance now but in the long run we dont want to face any paradoxes unless the paradox is more sophisticated than ‘parking-the-bus’ method!

    It is evident that our opponents are evolving defensively at a good rate. So are we in overall but it seems that we are decelerating with the rate, a bit deceiving with so many games being played.

    It’ll be great to win 8/10 la ligas under Pep than to see 4-5 ligas in a row and witness the inevitable fall of an empire. As a matter of fact, the hottest stars die young. Even Pep himself needs to stay motivated and we should always appreciate the experiments and the improvisations on the pitch. Its crucial that he stays and maintains a good level of artistic freedom. And its obvious that he intends to reach the level of higher “consistency” (greater creativity in terms of decision making on the pitch and all over the pitch)in the long run where the “incompleteness” will mainly depend on the availability (the lack of it rather) of certain players. Then we’d have almost all the solutions, the variety of strategies and the will to execute on a high intense level week in week out. Killing the game in the first half would be a increasingly serious issue that would be solved with ease.

    So how is our system poised at present?
    Its fascinating to ponder on the myriad of possibilities that might come out of this beautiful game…

    • mom4
      November 27, 2011

      Oh boy, now you’ve done it.

      We’ve covered physics (namely mechanics and angular momentum), Thermodynamics, and the use of mathematical models to describe football on this blog already. So why not Logic?

      🙂

    • lyd
      November 28, 2011

      @mom4: I dont know if i did it a cohesive way or not but the idea was to ask some questions regarding the state we are in, after the getafe game.

      cheers!

    • mom4
      November 28, 2011

      Oh, lyd, don’t mind me. I was just having some fun with you. We need fun after
      Saturday. We may be taking it well but have you read some of the comment threads on other blogs? Some prettyy vile rxns are happening out there. When somebody finally develops a sarcasm font, they should also make a just messin’ with you font.

      I actually loved your post and I love the talent and intellect of the bloggers here that allow us to look at our beloved team in different ways.

      Cheers back at you! 🙂

    • lyd
      November 28, 2011

      I actually had the privilege of going through a few blogs.

      Say, if we had turn the score 2-1 at the injury time, then you would have seen a complete rosy pictures instead of the vile reactions that lives now.

      And yeah, the invention of a sarcasm/’just messin’ font would be totally cataclysmic!

      😉

    • November 27, 2011

      If a formal system of football is consistent then it’s possible to to construct propositions about the that game that are true but not provable.

      I can demonstrate that this is true.

      But I’d have to use the notation of Guardiola numbering to prove that this is the case!

    • mom4
      November 27, 2011

      Oh dear…logic.

      I can do this.
      So if Barca losing is bad…and xingxian complains about his cereal being cold when Barca loses…then Barca losing is the cause of cold cereal worldwide? No, that’s bad deductive reasoning. Or is it inductive…dangit!

      Just kidding. Have fun, boys1

    • Eklavya
      November 28, 2011

      ^I lol’d here.

    • Chiu
      November 28, 2011

      nice try mom4..

    • lyd
      November 28, 2011

      GuardiolaGödel numbering!! 🙂
      makes the whole analogy “sound” fun.

  26. beautifulgame
    November 27, 2011

    Good review again! Especially the questions you posed – they are all legitimate points to consider.

    I truly believe that this team has not lost its desire. Watch the anger on Xavi’s face when the ref continuously made calls against them. Watch how desperately Villa tried to slip the ball in for Sanchez even as he was pulled down (would have been a goal had the ref chose to let play go on). Watch how Pique attacked and played as center forward in the last part of the game.

    Perhaps they took a little too long to wake up yesterday. Perhaps their heads were still in the clouds after that adrenaline pumping win at the San Siro. What’s clear is that they were tired and did not play with the usual spark. Iniesta was heavily missed. There were COUNTLESS misplaced passes and passes moving at a snail’s pace… Against teams that park this bus, speed and accuracy in passing is crucial so that the opponent does not have time to predict and block the passing lanes.

    Also – the corners. It’s an embarrassment how incapable we are at taking advantage of those. Height is useful, but not a necessity – we’ve seen Barça pull off plays before by clever on the ground passing, with clever runs and keeping the opponent distracted. Pep really needs to spend some time on planning more of those.

    Our team is increasingly frustrated playing against teams that park the bus. In these kinds of games, each passing minute at which the score remains 0-0 is more of a victory for Barça’s opponents. These kind of games aren’t fun to play, nor are they particularly fun to watch… Unfortunately, most teams play like this against us nowadays and they are getting better at it. Rivals are getting better at keeping their shape, not falling for the runs on the wings… The only option that leaves Barça is putting in those crosses. And yesterday, the crosses never found their target and when they did, the goal never materialized.

    Before this game, Pep noted that Getafe won’t be easy and predicted that they would play defensively. For this reason, he tried to play Messi wherever there was room – not in the middle. Messi was kept quiet wherever he was throughout this match and didn’t really wake up until 5 minutes before the whistle. Is he tired? Should Pep muster up the courage and have more faith in the team and rest Messi once in awhile? I think so – not only would it help others take on more responsibility, but also it would force the team to play not only through one player – but to come up with more ideas through other avenues, utilizing the strengths of others.

    The team needs to keep its patience in these games, to not lose their passing accuracy and speed. And we culés need to have some patience with the team as well. There doesn’t need to be a revolution, but perhaps integrating some new ideas will help. We do have players with a diverse set of skills, but they are not utilized enough in favor of keeping the same philosophy of play.

    • BarcaGirl_Indo
      November 27, 2011

      I also don’t think this team has lost their desire.
      they still want it bad. you can see their painful faces after the loss. they hate to lose.
      it wasn’t like they didn’t care about it.

      but there were lack of effort/fighting spirit from the team (just for example, Valdes who allowed the ball to go out for a goal kick), lack of confidence (this is Villa), lack of creativity (that was obvious), and lack of understanding with the system and teammates (Sanchez).

  27. barca96
    November 27, 2011

    I don’t know what has been said but I’m just gonna repeat what I said earlier. The mistake was done vs. Zaragoza when Pep didn’t take Messi out when we were leading 3-0.

  28. barca96
    November 27, 2011

    Who believes that we can win at the upcoming Clasico?

    I don’t. Because EE doesn’t need a win, they just need a draw so Mourinho will set up his team defensively which won’t work in our favor. We all saw how we couldn’t break them down last season.

    • November 27, 2011

      Barca absolutely can win. No question about it. Let them set up and play however they want.

    • barca96
      November 28, 2011

      Barca can win but we all saw how difficult it was last year when they played extremely defensive at Bernabeu and I don’t see a reason for Mourinho change his tactics.

      He will have the semi-final 2nd leg at Camp Nou with Inter mindset. He knows they are safe, no need to win.

  29. November 27, 2011

    Regarding the holding midfield position – Busquets truly is a sublime one touch player. However, given his age and experience – I really do want to see him push himself further and become better. He’s still so young. There’s still another step forward he can take. Probably two steps forward.

    That said – I think it would help for the team to have a different look at that position.

    And in line with that – I’d like to see them experiment with Sergi Roberto playing the holding role for the B team. I think he might do very well there – and it’s a potential pathway for him joining the first team.

    Also, while watching the match against Getafe one of the thoughts I kept having was – this team could really use a player with the skill set of Gerard Deulofeu.

    Fortunately the club has one!

    That’s not saying that Gerard himself will be that key player – it’s more to say that one has to be very optimistic over the long term because many of the issues the team may be having now can be addressed internally through the youth players themselves.

    It’s difficult to predict if an specific player will work out in and of himself. But there’s so much quality in the youth ranks that it’s reasonable to believe that several of them will work out which will enrich how the team can play.

    And what’s especially exciting now is that there are some very talented kids at positions Barca hasn’t been traditionally adept at producing talent at.

    • G6O
      November 27, 2011

      I personally am not at all worried about the long-term – as you say, the system is in place to produce great teams that will win many titles in the future. And eventually, mad spending of the kind we’ve been seeing in the 15 years will have to stop at some point if there is to be competitive football on the club level. Which we will benefit a lot from. Also, Mourinho will be gone in the not so distant future whether he wins some titles this year or not and when he’s gone, his teams can only go downhill from there. But it is of critical historical importance that we win it this years because of the demoralizing effect it would have on Real’s whole organization – if they can not do it with all the money they spent, with all the players they bought, with Mourinho in his second year there, then how could they ever beat us? It would be a huge psychological blow to them. Remember that we are under more and more pressure ourselves too after all the escalation of the rivalry in the last 3 seasons, this can not go on forever. The problem is that so far they are winning it this season.

      Again – over the long run, we will be on top unless we do something truly suicidal and abandon the model that has brought so much success. We have been the most successful team of the last 20 years, we have all the pieces to be the most successful one in the next 20 too. But this seasons is very important.

    • lyd
      November 28, 2011

      “The 5-0 Clásico at the Camp Nou is for the rest of his [Guardiola] life. … He conquered Mourinho for the rest of his life.” – Cesar Menotti

      This season is important alright. But how important?

      Say we win the Champions league this time and lose the league by a small margin. Winning the clasicos along the way. Then, would you be devastated?

      Isn’t winning the champions league consecutively, a rare feat, makes up for giving up the league to mourinho?

      But still so far, they are not winning it this season. They are just ahead with two head to head battles left.

      If scoring one more goal than your opponent is all that it takes, then winning the league with a point margin would be enough.

      Pressure is on Real. They are ahead and its something they are not used to, recently. We of course wouldn’t be surprised if they sit back and just look to hit us on the break, at home.

    • Chiu
      November 28, 2011

      Psychologically, whether the pressure is on EE or us – depend on how we each manage and handle these circumstances. I think the pressure is on both team, as the classico always a high tension and prestige match, regardless the table position.

    • lyd
      November 29, 2011

      Agree.

      But what I meant was that EE will be under pressure to put up a show this time, at their home.
      They are supposed to face this dilemma of whether to play a ‘caution with aggression’ game or try to sit back all day being mou’s trademark buses. Dilemma will be there as they can stretch the lead to 9 points at the same time a bad defeat (again) at the bernabeu would be nothing short of a disaster. Mou will be clever enough to set out a team that will celebrate if it’s a draw. As he knows the league may get decided on aggregate this season so he’ll wait and see. But his players egos are at stakes and more mistakes are on the cards. El-clasico will be decided on the ‘least error’ principle. Whoever makes the least mistakes, will win!

      All i’m trying to say, even though we are obviously in a mini crisis, but el clasico perhaps would be an easier (or less tougher) game to handle at this phase.

  30. ElJefe
    November 27, 2011

    Happy Thanksgiving my Barca friends!

    To be honest I have been so focused on the holiday, nursing my 2 screw , 5 pin-occupied broken finger (I’m a goaltender), and in denial about this loss that I have yet to watch the match, and only lightly perused epic Eulergy & board highlights but I have two questions for the crew:

    1) Did we start a line-up intended to win? Based on the review I am guessing not (Maxwell, Keita, Thiago AND Sanchez). I will say that while I do trust in Pep, and we had a hellish week with CL that Pep has been accountable in almost every non-win with an overly confident starting line-up of non A-list players and some substitutions that came to late. Hope I’m wrong.

    2) I raised the question before the season started on the forums on if we would be better served by pursuing a strong #2 scorer if Villa continued to run dry vs. 28 (albeit amazing) mid-fielders.

    I’m all for total football and Cruyffosophy, but in my experience the killer instinct of actually scoring goals is something inherent or learned young vs. hoping we can have Messi as our lone striker.

    I’m starting to feel validated here, albeit injuries have contributed and one could argue Fabregas is the perfect combo. As we’ve seen, teams with overly amazing strength in one part of the field and gaps in others (see EE forwards vs. D) tend to lose to squads balanced across all (see us, Man U).

    In my opinion, even with injury we have the strongest, most balanced squad in a decade (additions of Fabregas, Sanchez, Masch, Abidal becoming a god), and we’re still not performing to potential, so clearly something more serious is afoot.

    That being said, I have faith in Barca, I have faith in our fans, I have faith in you, I have faith in us winning both Clasicos, and I have faith in the universe not validating Mou. Titles are more fun when they are truly earned, and if we can’t come back from adversity and 6-points, then we simply don’t deserve to win. Vamos!! Let’s do this.

  31. barca96
    November 28, 2011

    How come not a single person pointed out that the goal by Getafe is partly Keita’s fault? He literally just stood and admired while his marker leaped up and headed the ball in. I totally forgot to mention that earlier.

    • Dani_el
      November 28, 2011

      There was a discussion even in PuntoPelota (well known for his madridista’s tendencies) that Keita was pushed in that action. I don’t see it, but many of the journalist there did.

    • Dani_el
      November 28, 2011

      The correct term I believe is “shoved by the getafe scorer”

    • ElJefe
      November 28, 2011

      I just watched about 12 TiVo replays and don’t see anything noteable enough that would warrant a foul vs. the normal pushing that goes on all the time, particularly given it was from a skinny 20 year old kid of the same height.

      No matter, however, we had scores of chances to finish. Watching the final fifteen minutes on Tivo :30 skip is comical really. Its scary how quickly this team can re-acquire the ball and generate a legitimate scoring chance when it wants to…literally :15-20 seconds in most cases. Which makes the lack of finishing and loss much more painful, actually.

  32. barca96
    November 28, 2011

    And Abidal hasn’t been his cool calm and collected self for the past two matches. He doesn’t have that calmness on the ball anymore. But it’s just two games, still no need to worry but I just felt that it’s been two matches in a row already so maybe he’s carrying an injury of some sorts.

  33. November 28, 2011

    We have two matches two rectify a lot. What we need importantly is to have the same formation and almost the same line-up which will feature against Real Madrid to play against Rayo and Levante. It’s very important. Considering that everyone of that starting eleven will be rested against Bate, we can afford to do that. When I say the same line-up, I want my captain to start. He could be replaced in between, but we need our leader out there shouting at our boys.

    I know it is still half way in the league, but this season will be decided in Bernebeu. We have to win there and if we do that, Real Madrid will also be under pressure as they know that they need more than three points lead coming into return visit to Camp Nou, next year.

  34. swamidigital
    November 28, 2011

    Every team and every run of glory has it’s dips. Victory without struggle is meaningless. There are tactical issues to be sure, and those should be examined. But I do not think it is wise to question the will or doubt the hearts of our champions! Great article Euler.

  35. November 28, 2011

    today was the first time i read anything barça-related after the loss…
    huhu.. that was painful. but, i shall recover and so will this team.

  36. November 28, 2011

    Mom4: Well your logic might actually be correct. Eklavya also told me that his cereal was cold as well the following morning.

    Also, I’m just here to say hahaha goatskins hahaha

  37. BarcaGirl_Indo
    November 28, 2011

    barca96, let’s hope for the sake of our club, our players don’t feel the same way as you do. and I know they don’t.

    there’s no point to go to a battle when you don’t believe you can win it.

    • barca96
      November 28, 2011

      Feeling that Mourinho will play for a draw and playing ultra defensive like last season and with Inter?

      There is nothing wrong for them to believe that because that is a possibility. I actually do hope Pep and the team feel the same way, at least they will try and learn how to counter that tactic.

    • BarcaGirl_Indo
      November 28, 2011

      no, I’m talking about this feeling :

      Who believes that we can win at the upcoming Clasico? I don’t.

    • barca96
      November 28, 2011

      Yeah I don’t. But let’s hope they figure out that Mourinho will park a bus and instruct their players to play aggressively so that they will have to figure out a way to beat that.

      The players just nearly beat them and the only time we beat them was after Pepe was sent off. We can’t deny that.

  38. November 28, 2011

    @barca96: Blaming Keita for the goal is simply singling out a player whom it has become gasjionable to slag this season. I was watching the match via phone (thank you, Hercules and ASDL!) and the announcers, during the replays, wondered why Busquets made hardly any effort, and said that in general the marking was atrocious. Keita’s name never came up. Also notice the talk Pique and Busquets were having after the goal, and how mortified Busquets looked during said discussion.

    But as usual, garbage in, garbage out. It all started with Valdes’ poor decision to let the ball run out.

    As far as Abidal, he was probably our best defender. Numerous interceptions and bailing out other defenders. Part of why he can be calm on the ball is that he has options. When our mids are out of position or not moving, the passing options for our attack starters are greatly reduced.

    But while you are noting the deficiencies of Keita and Abidal, please tell me that you also noticed how poor Messi was, and all the misplaced passes from Pique out of the back, etc etc. Why single out just Abidal and Keita, who had a better match than “Ow! My face!” Busquets.

    The team let itself down. Now they fight.

    • barca96
      November 28, 2011

      The reason why I singled out Abidal and Keita was because nobody did. I never said that Keita had a bad game. I never criticized him for his role in the game. I only mentioned in regards to the goal. People already blamed Busi for that but nobody mentioned Keita. I didn’t think it was right so I point it out that Keita had a role too.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FwHf3FB1xA0

      Skip to 0.24m.
      Looks like Keita had a more mortified look.

      And now to 0.55m.
      Keita had a lot of time to react but he jsut watched the ball and let Valera jump on him. No effort to de-stabilize him at all. Free header!! Early X-mas present for Valera.

      At least jump and he wouldn’t be able to leap forward like that. If Keita jumped, he would’ve definitely blocked Valera or fell down due to the force of the jump and if the latter happens, most of the times, the attacker will have the foul against him.

      Why I singled out Abidal was because he was below his usual self with his composure on the ball for the pass 2 matches. Again I didn’t criticize him but just pointed out that he is not so calm anymore.

      But you are partly right to note that it’s because he has no outlet. But he also rushes for the past two matches. Usually when he isn’t sure he would over step and turn.

  39. November 28, 2011

    My starting lineup would have had Mascherano at CB in a traditional 4-3-3, with Cuenca on the right. So the front line would have been Sanchez/Messi/Cuenca. For the width that Cuenca always brings. And Mascherano’s passing out of the back, and runs with the ball give the formation the option of 343 OR 433. But Maxwell had an excellent match last time out, so I’m sure Guardiola was riding the hot player. Adriano’s injury was huge. He would have been valuable in that Maxwell slot as well, for the added dynamism he brings.

  40. Gogah
    November 28, 2011

    Is Adriano back? Isn’t it about time?
    The way the next 2 games get played out will go a long way in predicting how the clasico will pan out. Let’s hope Pep and the boys give us a reason to fasten our seatbelts.

    • Ambuj
      November 28, 2011

      I think pablo sarabia had a gr8 game. Well a lose is a lose. Barca are taking this lightly. I am afraid, they don’t end trophyless this season except the inter continental cup where there’s no real challenge

  41. barca96
    November 28, 2011

    from FCBLive:

    I got an email notification that someone left this comment in my post. If it’s true, BUURN. http://yfrog.com/gy3lucrcj

    Pretty cool!

  42. Ambuj
    November 28, 2011

    As 4 classico i doubt barca will win as they are too overconfident, as villa was just quoting.

  43. messi_fan
    November 28, 2011

    Funny thing is that at the beginning of the match, I was saying how good the passing was across the board. There was a period of time where we had 80% possession. I never thought we would’ve lost this match.

    Another thing I find funny is how we’ve been saying for ages that Pep needs to rotate the squad, and now he’s doing it, we’re complaining and saying we need to stick with a starting 11.

    In terms of Sanchez and (to some extent Cesc), one thing that has been constant these last few seasons is: New signing starts off brightly => Gets injured => Returns a shadow of the player he was.

    And finally, am I correct in saying that every match we’ve lost over the past season and a half either Puyol or Iniesta has been missing?

    • November 28, 2011

      “Another thing I find funny is how we’ve been saying for ages that Pep needs to rotate the squad, and now he’s doing it, we’re complaining and saying we need to stick with a starting 11”

      Haha. Indeed. The grass is always greener.

    • barca96
      November 28, 2011

      Exactly. I said it earlier too in one of the older posts post-Getafe.
      Players need to rest.

  44. mega_tajh
    November 28, 2011

    Anyone who is having doubts right now about this team should go on sport.es and read the detailing article they have when comparing the 1991-92 season to this one.

    It was Cruyff in charge of a young dream team trailing Madrid by 8 points in the league to eventually come back and clinch the title on the last day of games.

    I know many here already know about the dramatic title wins on last day during the Cruyff age but for a young fan like me it helps looking back to a time when I didn’t know Barca existed much less me 🙂

    • barca96
      November 28, 2011

      Wow thanks for bringing that up. I didn’t know about that. Only started following in 1995 when I moved to Holland.

      But winning/losing titles happens sometimes. The most memorable one is Lazio vs. Milan in late 90’s or early 200’s.

  45. yev
    November 28, 2011

    “And from that answer we build a narrative,
    -Part of the value of history, of the dimensions of it we can access immediately through memory, is that it not only expand our understanding of the past, but also of the present and the future. That it enlarges the context and sense of perspective we can bring to any particular event. It gives us a way of filtering and better understanding the small sample specific moments represent.”

    my non mallable heart can only say wow! thanks euler. i wish i could say more to describe my appreciation, but am at a loss for words; it is really a messi world we live in 😛

    Thanks again! amazing post, goatskin would be proud

  46. November 28, 2011

    The unbeaten run will cost us more. I like it when we lose our game RIGHT NOW because our away form has been so bad that everyone needs a wake up call. Of course I am only taking positives in the negatives, but we need this defeat to end our lackluster form.

    As many had noted, our movement and work rate are way below par this season, not just in this game, but the whole season so far. If this defeat means we will go back to our winning streaks in the past 2 years, this defeat came at the best moment because:

    1. Injury problems are fading away.
    2. More important matches begin.
    3. Our form will only get better if we hit the bottom now.
    4. Chasing from behind in a two horse race allow us to be more focus, especially when we are now SIX points from that other horse.

    Quote from Barcastuff – https://www.facebook.com/barcastuf:
    Dani Alves: “What did Guardiola tell us this morning? We’ll keep that under a thousand locks and keys.” #fcblive

    Probably a good long lesson and hopefully that is enough to wake everyone up!

    Visca el Barca!

    • November 28, 2011

      By the way, Madrid plays Heehon next saturday and that will be one of their sternest tests. But we must count on ourselves to win.

    • Chiu
      November 28, 2011

      hope heehon do us some favor,at least hold them draw

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