David Villa: A Star Behind the Scenes

This is a guest post written by reader SiempreBarça07 (twitter here). The BFB staff would like to them him/her for this lovely post and for giving us all a break from the action. Please note that this was written prior to the Getafe loss. Any mistakes are almost assuredly the editor’s. -BFB staff

Our #7 has been under constant attack since he has joined the blaugrana side because the goals have not been flowing for him as with his previous teams. With arguably the world’s best midfield behind him, everyone expected Spain’s top hit man to be even more prolific. Following the World Cup, the media, fans, his ex-teammates, his friends and family all placed bets that Villa would achieve one of his lifelong goals to be Pichichi of the league he didn’t dare leave, the league he loves so much – La Liga.

Before he joined Barça, Villa equated himself with the goal. And if you watched or read any interviews asking others such as Xavi, Casillas, Pique, and Iniesta how they would describe Villa, they all answered with one word: goals. Few knew – and few know – that for Barça, the job Villa was signed to do was not so simple. It seems that only two men really knew what el Guaje was in for: Pep Guardiola and Johan Cruyff.

Cruyff knew with Barça’s system already set to revolve around the world’s best player in Messi, Pep would assign Villa to the left. In his weekly column for El Periodico published on March 28 2011, Cruyff wrote in defense of Villa:

Just as Xavi is not in the field only to give assists, Villa plays not only to score. As they are two of Barça. Xavi was needed to be champions of Europe and the World, and reached 100 to receive the praise of all. With him, the selection is a bit of Barça. And a bit of Barcelona is a lot. Xavi brings style, balance and ball control; Villa, depth. His problem, not yours, is the burden up front, is that of a forward. And for that there is no field, there is no coach – the striker stands alone on goal. The error of appreciation is enormous.

Villa is no less dangerous at five games without scoring for Barcelona. Or does any less of a good job for taking three caps to overcome Raúl for the record. The strikers are selfish. The team can win, but they will not sleep easy if they do not meet with a goal.

But if he is already the top scorer in the history of selection, if the percentage of goals per match is high, it is because he does much more than wait for the ball and push it. Villa is synonymous with depth. It means being always ready to open passing lanes, to draw defenders and thus freeing space for others.

Will he always score? No. This failure is part of football. For me, whether a forward plays badly or not has nothing to do with the goal. Or just by moving near the penalty area and marking more numbers than any other. Playing good or bad depends on whether he does or does not do a number of details that mean just as much as a goal. In his case, we are talking about depth.

Cruyff emphasizes that Villa is used to allow Barça to play with its signature philosophy and style. Furthermore, time and time again, Guardiola has also defended Villa and reiterated his confidence in el Guaje, saying that he is “indisputable.” More tellingly, in his October 24th press conference, Pep said: “Thanks to Villa, we can play as well as we do. We do not find many like him. I would like to have more players like Villa by my side in my career. He has adapted and has the humility to do it… few would have the modesty to sacrifice themselves like that.”

And that’s what Villa is for at Barça: sacrifice. Guardiola knows well that he is not using Villa optimally – but Villa is being used to help Barça in the best way possible.  In a team sport, sacrifice is a necessity and in this team, Villa is a necessity.


Guardiola doesn’t fully utilize Villa’s excellent control with long balls and his searing directness in counterattacks. Longs balls are not Barça’s style – though some variability now and then really can’t hurt. However on the second point, the counterattacks, the team really needs to work on. When space is cleared for once, Barça’s counterattacks are miserably slow. Too many players pass sideways even when there is space ahead, throwing the advantage of counterattacking in the bin. But returning to the main point, it is clear that unlike with Messi, the team does not play to Villa’s strengths – Villa is made to play to make the team stronger.

Football Without the Ball

David Villa is one of the world’s best players with his off-the-ball movement and with his ability to desmarque  – to lose his markers, draw defenders, and wreak havoc in the back line with his tireless and intelligent runs.  Especially against teams that park the bus, Villa creates space so that the team, so that Messi and Cesc – or whoever is allowed to play centrally – can score.  Maintaining the width of the pitch like he does requires strict discipline and patience – the latter of which, many have failed reciprocate with Villa.

Taking on a lot more defensive duty and constantly pressuring, Villa became a more complete player but ceded his role as being the focal point through which goals are scored. And nominally known as a striker (and I say nominally, because at Barça he is really a winger), the primary thing people expect of him is goals, and lots of them. Failing to realize that his off-the-ball movement and link-up play up front is what helps create Barça’s goals, many continue to question Villa’s place on this team.

Moreover, Villa always expects himself to score more because that is what he truly loves to do. He achieves this mainly by cutting in from the left, connecting with his teammates, and playing clever one-twos. He also by making runs across the backline waiting for thru-balls. The second strategy has drawn criticism due to the number of offsides he has accumulated – last season. This season, he is in fact onsides a lot more, but the reputation has stuck so that for any 50/50 situation, the linesmen would now raise the flag.

Not Only Barça’s Rivals Are Denied Possession…

Perhaps compelled to fit into the Barça way of passing and eager to prove he’s compatible with Messi, Villa sometimes hesitates, overthinks, and is less bold than his former self. However this is a psychological matter – maybe one of confidence – rather than a matter of ability. He needs to feel that he won’t be reprimanded for not passing and for taking shots. In this team known for possession, he is afraid of losing balls. But look at Messi and you’ll see that he loses plenty – it’s only natural with forwards because they are the ones responsible for taking those risks. Villa needs to know that he is allowed to take those chances too. David Villa has shown and he is continuing to show with Spain, that he has plenty of technique and ability with the ball. With his national side, he still plays on the left but he is given much much more freedom to float between lines and move around. As a result, he receives the ball a lot more and scores at a much higher rate. It’s simple in this respect: in order to put the ball in the back of the net – you need the ball.

1-on-1s is not one of his strengths, but he rarely gets the opportunity to make those individual on-the-ball plays on a team of players who all love to play with the ball – Messi, Iniesta, Thiago, and especially now Fabregas. Often flailing his arms and screaming in frustration in attempt to receive the ball, the amount of ball this footballer sees is minimal. Even Guardiola has recognized that Villa’s runs too often go ignored. Why is this though?

Ignoring any biases players may have with each other and strictly tactically – the space in the middle has now opened up because of Villa and Pedro on the flanks; Messi is free to face the goal. And since it is obviously easier to score right in front of the goal rather than having to come in from an angle, the midfielder would opt to pass to the centrally located false-nine. Also, it must be noted that because Dani Alves is so much better at pushing up and playing the ball in from the right than any left-back at Barça is capable of replicating on the left (with absolutely no disrespect to Abidal), there is simply more action and goal scoring opportunities on that other band.

Behind the Numbers

Any player in Villa’s position, with his job and on this team, will have difficulty scoring as regularly as they may have on other teams.  Too often is the work behind the goals ignored.  Too often are people blinded by the score-line and statistics – the number of goals, assists, shots, etc. The work Villa does (and Pedro too) is immeasurable – often unnoticed and off the screen because it is accomplished without the football. However that work has a very tangible effect on the game and on the success that Barça has achieved.

Not many players of Villa’s quality – top scorer of a Euro and World Cup winning national team – will be able to fulfill that job description with as much grace and professionalism as he has. In addition to what he adds in the locker room (I hear from Pep that he’s a real joker), let’s not forget all the goals he has scored for Barça. David Villa is already a part of Barça history and I say he has done and is doing enough to merit a place in its future. El Guaje is here because more than he loves goals, he loves the team and he loves the game.

This piece was not written as an excuse for any lack of goals; on the contrary, this piece was written in condemnation of people who mistake goals as the sole means to victory and the end to the game. This piece was written to remind spectators, especially culés, that football is més que the numbers, and that there is much more to see behind those statistics. It was written with the hope that they will see the game… and the most beautiful game there is: Barça’s game.


The original El Periodico column is no longer available but the quotes can be found on these other news sites:

(1) http://www.lne.es/deportes/2011/03/29/cruyff-dice-villa-goleador/1052716.html
(2) http://www.goal.com/en/news/12/spain/2011/03/28/2414742/johan-cruyff-barcelonas-david-villa-is-more-than-just-a
(3) http://futbol.azumare.com/pep-guardiola-elogio-al-asturiano-david-villa
(4) http://www.fcbarcelona.com/football/first-team/detail/article/guardiola-eager-to-see-how-his-squad-will-react-in-granada

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Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in the greater New York City area with his wife and daughter.


  1. December 1, 2011


    I will get a couple prints of the article, carry it around with me and wherever I am and someone badmouths El Guaje, I will just take them out and smack that person in the face with it.

    Otherwise, I will just use this as a reference on any future Villa discussion. You made life a lot easier to me.

  2. jones.
    December 1, 2011

    thank you.

  3. December 1, 2011

    This was brilliant, really excellent.

    That Madrid goal in the Supercopa was one of the most remarkable finishes I’ve ever seen, when you consider (a) the stakes of the game, (b) the pattern of the game up to that point, (c) the innocuousness of the situation at the time, (d) the technique and placement required for the shot. Very, very few players alive today could have scored that goal under those circumstances.

    I think people also see his *relative* lack of ball skills and get frustrated because he is not of the same standard as the team’s stars in that regard (Messi, Xavi, Iniesta etc). But he’s not brought in to be fancy with the ball. As you say, the cleverness of his runs more than makes up for his lack of 1-on-1 ability.

  4. Kimcelona
    December 1, 2011

    Not to sound like a Villa fangirl(which I probably am lol) but I love this piece and I thank you for posting this, Isaiah, on behalf of the writer! This is everything that I think but can’t put into words about what Villa brings to the team. I would also like to add that he is also sooo unlucky infront of goal. Many of his shots (especially from last season) I swear are going in but somehow hits the post. I wish he’d have more luck infront of goal.

    • Chiu
      December 1, 2011

      Kim, what actually concern me about Villa this season is why he frequently shoot precisely to the keeper’s hand. I think it’s not because of the lady luck, I just felt he lost some sharpness or goal instinct. Right,the role Pep want him to play has limit his opportunity to score, but when the opening coming, many times he make the keeper job easier.

      I remember the days he was Valencia, he rarely miss 1 on 1 goal situation with keeper, though he’s not good at running pass the keeper, but he can find ways to get on target with the shoots.

      Anyway, I appreciate the attitude and his discipline with the tactical roles (maintainting width, tracking back). Never heard he complain about it.

    • barca96
      December 2, 2011

      Chiu, from my experience, when a player takes shots aiming at the goal keeper, is a suggestion that he is at low confidence. You just don’t have the confidence to drill a low/high shot into a corner so instead taking the safe option which is to hit in on target.

    • Chiu
      December 2, 2011

      yup, that’s make sense as well barca96. Just wondering what actually the reason if he’s at low confidence. He should be easing some burden after winning his first CL and liga title last season. He’s almost hv complete set of silverware available in world football.

    • can_we_go_Xalvies
      December 2, 2011

      you also have to remember that Villa usually has to come at the goals at an angle where there is a lot less space to either side of the keeper. Add to that the pressure from the defence and time to shoot or control is very strict. Even Messi at tight angles struggles, there has been numerous occasions where he hits the side netting instead of the goals.

    • mani
      December 2, 2011

      Well I think the reason Messi hits the side netting at times is because it is simply a bad shot. I’m not a professional by any means but I do play quite a bit and a shot to the near-side netting is always just a bad shot. We have a natural tendency to shoot near side, but are always told to shoot across goal. I get incredibly frustrated when I hit the side netting because I know that I’ve just taken a bad shot that could and should have been a goal.

      This is why Messi scores MOST of his goals just sliding in the ball towards the far post. In fact, he is the KING of shooting across goal. How he is able to sneak the ball in to the tightest of spaces between GK and post is remarkable.

      In any case, I agree with shooting at the keeper being a sign of a lack of confidence, not necessarily the angle. A great striker will (as Villa is) still be able to hit the corners almost at will. I myself (again I’m only a measly Sunday morning rec player) find that I shoot right at the keeper when I haven’t been scoring much and lack confidence. It’s just natural to want to hit the target when lacking confidence, as the fear of missing the goal altogether is quite high during these times.

      Villa just needs a few to go in and he’ll be devastating as always. Same goes for Lexus. You could see how much his game changed after he scored those two.

  5. Chiu
    December 1, 2011

    off-topic, BS.com write rumours that EE will sell Higuain to amass money for Rooney bid. I just feel Higuain type of play will perfectly fit with our team. his proven collaboration with Messi in NT and his attitude are the plus as well.

    • momo
      December 2, 2011

      Ewww no!

  6. can_we_go_Xalvies
    December 1, 2011

    In addition to the issue with who will start in our back three, whether we use a 3-4-3 or 3-5-2, shouldn’t the best passer or best long ball passer be placed in the centre of the back three? (so that we can send the ball easily to our wingers). So Ideally Pique is arguably our best defender on the ball and has one of the best distribution skills, Mascherano is also a good long ball passer but his ball holding skills is questionable. Another option is to use BUSQUETS!, yes people Pep can potentially play Busquets as a CB in the classico, ISN’T THAT JUST LOVELY!?!?!!! 😀

    I really appreciate Villa’s defensive positioning and despite the very few chances he gets on the ball, he always tries to utilize the ball at his advantage, even after he loses the ball more than likely its not because of a bad decision he more than likely makes the right moves.

    • Chiu
      December 1, 2011

      No No No for Busi as CB :p

      I will get heart attack!

    • barca96
      December 2, 2011

      I agree with Chiu. I am more sad to see Busi at CB than Messi not playing at all. Ok, maybe Im going a bit overboard. But I just feel that it’s a waste to play Busi at CB.

      Perhaps the reason why his performances this season has been hot and cold is because he played so much at CB in the beginning of the season.

    • Chiu
      December 2, 2011

      I feel Abidal, Alves and Pique would be a starter in classico, whatever formation we play, 3-4-3 or 4-3-3 or 3-5-2 or any hybrid formation that Pep can think about. Pique deliberately got the yellow card is the hint. So the last spot for our backline would be Mascherano or Puyol. Both have proven could cope well during last classicos. I bet Pep pick Masch. Though I personally prefer Puyol due to pyscological impact that his presence bring.

      Agree that we need all our best ball holders and passers (Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Busi, Alexis) on the field for classico. From the experience of last 4 classicos, Madrid high line pressing and running like bulldog must be countered with fast ball circulation. Keep them chasing the ball from the start because their stamina would not last till 90 minutes. Normally in the 2nd half, the intensity of their pressing reduce. Pep should prepare the game changer plan to capitalize from their weakening pressing and decreased stamina. Cesc or Pedro could be the impact subs if this scenarion happen.

  7. barca96
    December 2, 2011

    this piece was written in condemnation of people who mistake goals as the sole means to victory and the end to the game…

    and that there is much more to see behind those statistics.

    I’m so happy that you mentioned that. I’ve been banging on that same topic forever. I’m a midfielder or winger so even when I do all the hard work providing assists, all the love goes to the goal scorer.

    Whenever I score, I always thank the guy who assisted me first. Or when I have nothing to do with the play and I notice that most of the work was done by another person (who didn’t score), I always congratulate him first. Most of times, my mates don’t understand that.

    The same goes for professional football. I find it so irritating to see a goal scorer celebrating solo and so cocky acting like he’s dribbled the whole team when in fact 90% of the work was done by the guy with the assist and the assists maker.

    I love it when whenever Barca scores, the whole team comes around to do a group hug and celebrate together.

    Now on to the fans and the media.

    Especially those on the internet and especially those who love to criticize Messi on NT. They just love to say that he sucks because he didn’t score. I just don’t understand the rationale in that. Why is it so important to be the goal scorer?

    The media love to highlight only the goalscorer. Sometimes the goal scorer didn’t do anything for the whole match and suddenly had a tap in and yet they hail him as the hero. I mean, if the scorer did good work then I wouldn’t mind but not when it’s just a tap in.

    • Jnice
      December 2, 2011

      Whenever I score, I always thank the guy who assisted me first. Or when I have nothing to do with the play and I notice that most of the work was done by another person (who didn’t score), I always congratulate him first. Most of times, my mates don’t understand that.

      The same goes for professional football. I find it so irritating to see a goal scorer celebrating solo and so cocky acting like he’s dribbled the whole team when in fact 90% of the work was done by the guy with the assist and the assists maker.

      I love it when whenever Barca scores, the whole team comes around to do a group hug and celebrate together.

      Agree with this 100%. I can’t stand strikers who tap in a goal after someone else’s hard work and go off and celebrate as if they just dribbled the entire defense. Really annoys me. Said this before, but that’s why I loved Ronaldinho so much. Almost always gave credit to the person that assisted him and brought him in on the celebrations. Villa did that with Alves the other day. I like that.

    • Chiu
      December 2, 2011

      True football fans that value football as a team game wouldn’t solely hail goalscorers. They recognize the progression of scoring goal contributed by other team mates and winning a match is team effort.

      I believe every cules love the team celebration huddle too.

    • mani
      December 2, 2011

      AGREED. It really grinds my gears. And you know what else really grinds my gears? People bemoaning a “boring, nothing happened” 0-0 draw.

      The game is about the beauty that takes place between goal line to goal line, not simply about what crosses the goal lines. Hesus, man!

      *smacks 0-0 bemoaners with printed Guaje article

  8. Ambuj
    December 2, 2011

    Villa is a fantastic player, on doubt about that. Moreover, he is that kind of a killer anybody would love to have. But what i don’t like is that, he under pep is using him more deeper and deeper. What i liked about that rayo is that 3-5-2 formation where villa more forward and was a constant threat with messi. Love to see that sprouting in pep’s thick and able head. He is not a that tactical master or one win has a great influence on players as mou.

  9. Ambuj
    December 2, 2011

    Villa is a fantastic player, no doubt about that. Moreover, he is that kind of a killer anybody would love to have. But what i don’t like is that, he, under pep, is being used more deeper and deeper. What i liked about that rayo is that 3-5-2 formation where villa more forward and was a constant threat with messi. Love to see that sprouting in pep’s thick and able head. He is not a that tactical master or one win has a great influence on players as mou.

  10. December 2, 2011

    Good post. I concurred with lot of your points in my last post> What happened to FC Barcelona?

    Yet it is not all black or white. There is an offense problem in the team and everyone is responsible about it, including Villa.

    First thing first, I for one never expected Villa to play as a nine for Barcelona, simply because he is not one. His role was obviously to inherit Henry’s role on the flank and I was shocked when Pep started him in the center for the first few games. That’s where he performed badly, not on the flank.

    Cruyff’s point is valid when he says, forward’s role is to free space for others to score, and his performance is not measured by the number of goals he scored (and for the record, he said the exact same things about ibra when he was in the team). The problem is, freeing the space to who? Count the proven goalscorers Barcelona can count on in the best 4-3-3 selection possible. Deduct Villa, and you get the point. In this team, with the type of midfielders we count on, forwards NEED to score. They can free spaces, win races, and sell best sellers, but they also HAVE to score on consistent bases. Or else we are in trouble. But then again, is it only Villa’s problem that it is not happening?

    This is partially Villa’s responsibility as he is NOT taking responsibilities. He became too settled to serve as Messi’s copilot and regardless of Messi’s greatness that’s not the right attitude for a striker. You can’t play it safe and be as efficient as your qualities can provide when you only try not to do anything wrong instead of trying to do the right things regardless of the risk.

    A utility player is a GREAT player in midfield, defense, BUT not as a forward. As a forward you need to be a leader not a follower. There is no other way for it to work.

    But again, it is partially Villa’s problem as he was asked to play a role that add lots of limitations. Villa’s role this year reminds me of Henry’s role during Rijkaard’s last season: Hug the line, stretch defense and create width. He struggled. Villa is doing a great job tracking back, contributing in defense, and adding passing outlets for midfield buildup. But offense wise he is struggling. It is not that he is not doing anything useful, but he is a 40M worth player doing a job Adriano can do -better- for 10 M. And that’s why Villas role should be changed to match Henry’s role in Pep’s first season – that is acting as a Wing/second striker or what I like to call flanked forward.

    But for that to work, Villa need to take responsibilities as well and take risks. Which is part of the revolutionary change needed in the system or else every year their will be a scapegoat.

    I will leave you with two statements from “What happened to FC Barcelona?” post to brief the problem that goes beyond Villa’s performance to the root of the problem:

    “…season three completed the transition of the initial system from being an attacking based system structured on possession to become a possession based system with attacking vibes. ”

    “Such transition meant that the possession quality became -by far- a higher priority than offense drive. Losing possession became more drastic from the system’s perspective than missing a scoring opportunity. This situation put more pressure on the forwards to become less daring to take gambles….”

    • Gogah
      December 2, 2011

      brilliantly observed.

    • siemprebarca07
      December 3, 2011

      The forward flank players in the team carry the most diverse responsibilities in the team. Space-creation and drawing defenders without the ball. For the small percentage of time that they have the ball, they also have to calculate the options. Because Barça plays almost all the time in their opposition half, there will always be good options and quite a few players near/towards goal. In Valencia, this was certainly not the case. Villa was often the only man in the box and the only option for goal was through himself. At Barça, the problem perhaps is that he has TOO many options to choose from. If a player feels someone is in a better position to score than he is, the player is obligated to pass. This is the responsibility of being a teammate. This is the right thing to do. Villa is most certainly after good numbers, but because Barça have so many attacking options (this is part of their set philosophy), the way they play is inherently to follow the surest route/lowest-risk route to goal. They are often criticized for “walking the ball into the net” and this criticism is warranted. When it doesn’t work, it’s the most frustrating thing to watch for impatient fans – but when it does work, it’s classic Barça team-play.

      At the end of last season and even more so this season, our forwards rarely stay in one position throughout the match. Villa has scored goals for Barça from the left, right and center. When he does have the ball, his ability to shoot is not hindered as much by position as by available space. Villa is a striker totally capable of those distance from anywhere on the field, but in addition to confidence, again it’s also a matter of weighing options – this is the hardest part about being a Barça striker as there are so many. Even Messi rarely rarely attempts those distance shots aiming for the top corner – most of the goals he has scored have been off one-two’s and of course from his speciality, dribbling to goal.

      It’s very harsh to say “but he is a 40M worth player doing a job Adriano can do -better- for 10 M.” Seriously?! Come on. Villa is up front dragging defenders but especially for link-up play with Messi and whoever else is in/near the box. Those plays require special ball skills which Villa has and has demonstrated. These are all contributions to the offense. Again, it’s not just the goal and the assist.

      And to answer your question: “The problem is, freeing the space to who?” He frees space for Messi, and for midfielders like Xavi who love to run up from the second line. The whole “leader” and “follower” thing is very un-Barça. Everyone is expected to score and everyone is expected to defend.

  11. December 2, 2011

    I think one thing we’re missing out on is the psychological factor.

    In David Halberstam’s “Playing for Keeps”, he describes how when B.J. Armstrong (a serviceable but average player) first joined the Bulls, he got really, really frustrated b/c he couldn’t cope with being around Michael Jordan. Note, it wasn’t that Jordan didn’t pass him the ball. It was that Armstrong’s OWN quality went down because he couldn’t quite fathom playing with MJ.

    Armstrong eventually went to the library, checked out some books on the notion of genius (Mozart, Newton, other geniuses etc), and got a better sense.

    My point is as a forward it must be very, very strange playing with Messi. The only guy who’s really managed it without a drop in performance is Eto’o, and the key there is that Eto’o was the main scorer at Barca before Messi, so he was already established. Whereas Ibra and Villa have come in after Messi is established as the man.

    To reiterate, I think Villa is excellent and unfairly criticized. But if there is a lack of clinical finishing, I think it’s because he’s thinking too much of trying to set up Messi and trying to be a good number 2, rather than just smashing it in goal. There is definitely a psychological factor there, and since none of us (if I can presume) really work with true geniuses, I think it’s hard for us to understand how that works.

    • December 2, 2011

      Agreed. People around me always suffer such symptoms…

      Joking aside, its mainly Pep’s role to manage this situation. I think Villa an Ibra cases are not the same, they are the opposing extremes. One of them crawled under Messi, the other one wanted to ride his back. What is needed is something between this and that. And it’s Pep’s role to work on it with Messi and “the others”.

    • December 2, 2011

      Yeah I agree that Ibra’s and Villa’s reactions were different, but the root cause was the same, i.e. how do I play with a guy is so much better than me and everyone else I’ve ever played with? Given their personalities it’s not surprising they had two very different answers to that question.

      One guy who I’ve noticed often does “look” for Villa is Pique, with his long diagonal balls from the back. Pique looks to reward the early Villa runs much more than Xavi, Iniesta etc, who prefer to slow it down.

    • Miguel
      December 2, 2011


  12. DavidVillaArmy
    December 2, 2011

    What this article talks about is nothing less than 100% reality!
    Every little idea about it is true.
    “Whether a forward plays badly or not has nothing to do with the goal.” Take it from the legend himself.
    Villa is a stiker and he has to score, true. But that’s not the only thing he does on that pitch!
    Instead of getting the support he deserves from some fans, he gets criticized to such an extend where some people actually talk about how he isn’t good enough to be in Barca and that they should sell him. Non-sence and extrememly unfair.
    I, for one, am proud of Villa in every single match he plays in. Goal or no goal, I see his efforts and the way he plays with his all.
    Proud of Villa; I am, always have been, always will be. And I’m positive im not the only one.

    illa illa illa Villa MaraVilla!

  13. Jnice
    December 2, 2011

    Just to be clear, I like David Villa, I like how humble he is, I like how he works off the ball and how hard he sacrifices for the team but he still does things that annoy me and frustrate me to no end (as with most on the team I must admit). I just can’t stand wastefulness and he is guilty of that a lot of the time.

    He’ll have the ball, hesitate, telegraph his pass, and still play it anyway only for it to be intercepted by the defender. Or he’ll cut inside over and over again even if the defender is playing him to do that. I like the fact that he’s cut down on the backheels, though.

    As for the amount of goals he’s scored this season. .. I said the same thing last year, he actually gets a fair amount of chances per match. He may not touch the ball as much as he wants to or should, but he gets really good chances almost every match. That’s a credit to his runs and the work he does off the ball (and to his teammates), but he needs to be more precise with his finishing.

    Nice piece, SiempreBarça07. I suggest you all follow his/her twitter account. Good stuff.

    • Chiu
      December 2, 2011

      Thanks Jnice, just followed SiempreBarca07. Yup, worth following!

    • siemprebarca07
      December 3, 2011

      Thanks for following =)

  14. just listenin
    December 2, 2011

    I was REALLY happy to see this post.

    David Villa has probably done far more without the ball than he has with it for Barca, and that is hard to show or prove, but it’s very true I believe, and must be frustrating at times for Villa.

    We talk a lot about the role width plays in helping Barca, and don’t talk much about the depth dimension, but it is equally important to attack and shape, and Villa as Cruyff rightly points out is what he is instinctively and naturally all about (as evidenced by those offside stats, which are just aggressive pushing forward that isn’t always in synch in a team that tends builds up play a little slower, – but it’s a force forward)

    Some have already touched on the psychology of the change in role and playing alongside Messi. I think those things couldn’t be given too much consideration in any defense of Villa. When you have a history of being the guy everyone looks to for the goal and you’re sacrificing or relegated to a supporting role, imagine the psychological challenges of adapting, and the potential frustrations and second guessing it would cause you. On the occasions where you decide to go for it and don’t make the extra pass and miss and the world’s best player is standing there looking at you telepathically saying with his expression (or sometimes more overtly) – “I wanted the back over here…” – it’s a tough spot to be in. Any loss of sharpness can easily be attributed to the mind game of being a forward other than Messi in Barca, and the fact that you just aren’t as sharp as you could be because there are in fact less chances to get sharp with and the few you get happen at lightning speed in compressed space from tough angles and you need to be near letter perfect. I like Villa, I thought he was going to score 30+ a season, but Messi scored 50+, something else is happening, cheers to Villa for playing his part.

  15. Chiu
    December 2, 2011

    Hi Isaiah, when will we have the Levante preview? :p

  16. December 2, 2011

    There are a number of things that have to be addressed here:

    1) There is the notion that calling a player out for not meeting standards is the same as disliking the player, or questioning his place in the squad. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I like this piece a lot, and it’s here at my suggestion, which will probably shock a lot of folks who think that I hate David Villa. 😀

    But the point is important to make.

    2) Villa has human qualities that make him vastly preferable for cules, compared to people like Ibrahimovic, Henry and even Eto’o. That’s fine. Everyone loves a nice guy. But nice guys still have to perform. I was struck in the Rayo match how Sanchez could manage to take passes, make runs and attacks and not get called offside 47 times. Not sure if others did.

    For me (yes, I’m an oddball in this respect) players are like chess pieces. I don’t have much interest in them beyond that, and I’m not a fan of any of them. So when I watch Villa sometimes and see him darting around, tracking back on defense and getting involved in the whole match, it makes the times when he stands around as if he’s waiting for the train, getting called offside with every touch, that much more noticeable. Same with the wastefulness in front of goal that Jnice mentioned. And I, like others, say “Hey, WTF!?”

    People who point that out aren’t churlish or haters, it must be noted. They’re just wondering why someone we paid 40m for isn’t getting it done.

    3) David Villa was a very good addition to the club. But if things work as I believe they should, this will be his last season with the club. We can get good money for him this summer, and his departure will allow the likes of Sanchez and Cuenca to more fully integrate. The minutes are limited, and if Villa is the automatic starter, what of Sanchez, Cuenca and Pedro? Good question.

    I was watching some great goals programs while in London, and Valencia Villa was popping up a few times. The difference then to now is remarkable. As someone above noted, there is a confidence issue that stifles creativity, aside from the step(s) lost to aging. Not sure how he’s going to get that confidence back, and perhaps the Rayo goal will help, like a free throw helps a good shooter get his stroke back. But we will need him this season for ultimate success. It’s no coincidence that his scoring drought came while the team was struggling offensively.

    4) Villa is more than goals. Yes. True. Same with everybody else. When Messi doesn’t track back, it affects our defense. Same with everybody else. But he is a forward, whose principal job is to score goals. Let’s not forget that. Ibrahimovic was being ripped a new bunghole because he wasn’t scoring goals. Same with Henry during his tenure with the club. Explain to me why it’s different for Villa especially when, like Henry and Ibrahimovic, he tracks back and contributes to the team in other ways. But this speaks to my by now well-known (and probably vexing as hell for some) notions of fairness for all.

    Eto’o worked well with Messi because Eto’o didn’t give a damn what anyone else thought. So where Ibrahimovic pouted and Villa becomes hesitant, Eto’o said “I’m going for goal, I don’t care if Messi does want the ball back.” That quality is important for an attacker to have, just as it is important for the team’s star to understand that quality. It’s why I noted before that we were a more diverse attack when Messi wasn’t the focus of it.

    The Arsenal Emirates CL match from 2010 was on last night, and the two Ibrahimovic goals are much like the goals that an on-form Villa scores: holds himself onside, makes a quick burst into daylight and finishes creatively. But Villa isn’t on form right now, and this club needs him to be. And irrespective of the other stuff, “form,” for a forward, means goals.

    • just listenin
      December 2, 2011

      Can’t argue with your points (I wouldn’t necessarily look to), they are all valid points of view and fair questions (no such thing as a bad question).

      I think the tricky part is that like all things in life, there are trade-offs, and you can’t have it all (at least I don’t think so, I didn’t make the rules, but sure looks to be the case). I too, try to separate my liking of Villa from his performance, and he can be frustrating, we debate his role across the spectrum of merit to uselessness all the time – some of have given up on him long ago, and that’s fair, people have different priorities. Yours might be productive chess pieces, others can disagree and neither are wrong or right, just different priorities. All of our individual priorities or views of which of the factors; goals, off the ball movement, work rate, fit with the team, locker room impact, likability etc. etc. don’t mean a hill of beans. It depends on what the managers, coaches, etc. think, what their priorities are at any given time, and what trade-offs and compromises they are willing to make at any time to get it.

      You can have mercenary strikers that don’t care what anyone thinks, and you have to send them off, to what was the term the other day?, P.I.P. Party in Peace?, because with them sometimes comes levels of ego, selfishness and entitlement that may be an uncontainable force on the pitch, but destructive off, because it takes some of that not to care what others think… and if you think a happy team is a productive team, this might not be a priority. You can’t have guys walking around kicking people in the head all the time because they are insecure 😉 These things can often be riddled with contradiction to get one attribute sometimes it’s really hard to get the other.

      These are difficult questions, often without easy answers – seems we often have to give something to get something, almost always… It’s challenging. If you manage people or coach teams, you ask interesting questions; like how much competition is motivating versus disruptive and divisive? Especially when in reality you might have someone that is difficult to compete with… I’ve seen environments set up to use competition to motivate performance that were highly dysfunctional, and flat out didn’t work and degraded everyones performance. No easy, or right, answers in my view. Lots of differences in opinion shaped by – expectations, perspectives, trade-offs, values and preferences and priorities…mostly.

    • Jim
      December 2, 2011

      Not sure about the Sanchez comparison, Kxevin. Are you saying that Sanchez is likely to score the same number of goals per season as Villa ? I just don’t see it. Henry created and scored – the complete Barca forward for a season.

      For me, Villa scores and Sanchez will create ( hopefully). However, as has been said, if we can’t find a 20+ goals a season forward to play with Messi we aren’t going to win anything which makes me ponder as to whether or not Sanchez will make it with us longer term. Don’t get me wrong. I loved his first goal last game (although the second in my book was a total fluke from Xavi imo). I still want to see us getting the ball to him quicker and see him go past defenders. That, I believe, will be his strength. If so, then it’ll be up to the third forward to deliver the 20+.

    • Kimcelona
      December 2, 2011

      I’d like to see what you say when Villa is still around next season. 🙂

    • siemprebarca07
      December 3, 2011

      I appreciate your “vexing as hell” notions of fairness for all – it’s in all honesty, difficult to maintain. So kudos to you. But I think for many – perhaps majority – they FOLLOW football because of their heroes, for the person who’s story inspires them. Even clubs rely on this “hero-bias” to sell shirts and merchandise.

      And obviously biased, I still believe that Villa has years to offer Barça in terms of skills and experience. He’s an investment – not worth just the 40 mil – but the time invested into integrating him into Barça. He’s worth more now to Barça because he has adopted its philosophy of pressuring/defending, of playing with/alongside Messi and the team.

      On another point…

      How different does “waiting for the train” and holding width look to a spectator? Pretty similar, especially if your team plays the majority of the game in one half of the field. That role simply doesn’t require covering too much ground against more defensive teams (this is most of the teams Barça plays nowadays). It may not look like much, but it’s still an option for a pass and occupies defenders.

  17. December 2, 2011

    off topic but the draws for euro 2012 are in

    Group A:
    Czech Republic

    Group B:

    Group C:

    Group D:

    So basically, group a is terrible and group b is absurd, at least one (ok one, sorry denmark) of netherlands portugal or germany will not advance.

    • Helge
      December 2, 2011

      Do not write off the Danish Dynamite!

      Basically, group C and D are also very strong. Looking forward to a lot of great matches in the group stages.

    • Chiu
      December 2, 2011

      Euro always have much more quality match compare to WC. Like others said before, just add Brazil and Argentina, than it’s much better than WC

      My favourites would be Spain, we hv lots of players called. My second team would be Holland :p

  18. Blau-Grenade
    December 2, 2011

    Villa is definitely a marvelous player. The things I like about him is that he hugs the offside line with the last defender. This always distracts a defender from the actual play.
    A lot of Villa’s offsides are because of anticipation of the play that is going to happen. In the best case he is able to get a significant advantage over the last defender and scores a goal – a good example of this is the two goals he scored in the manita classico. In the worst case he is offside because of his anticipation of the pass.
    I loved Villa’s role in the last game against Rayo Vallecano. He had the attention of two defenders which created a lot of space for Messi and Sanchez to operate.
    Also he is always moving into space to receive a pass. He has much improved his defending since he joined Barca. Lastly he constantly hugs the left of the pitch to create width. Not sure many strikers of his caliber would do it.

  19. Jim
    December 2, 2011

    The quality and quantity of Villa’s runs deserve better than he gets at Barca imo. When you are making a run like he does you have to go for it and hope that the ball comes at the right moment or you will continuously be off.

    Sanchez’s runs are different. He probably has the pace to stay onside and still make the run but Villa’s could be devastating if we can get the midfield to just occasionally take a chance. I’d rather Xavi and Iniesta were doing it though than Pique with a 40 yard ball. Early ball into the midfield and with Xaviniesta vision a first time ball inside the FB to Villa at top speed . Well, I can dream, can’t I?

    • Blau-Grenade
      December 2, 2011

      Exactly, first time ball to Villa from the midfield and he will kill it.

    • Chiu
      December 2, 2011

      Right, I feel that at some moment, Xavi Iniesta overlook the Villa’s run. Not so sure whether it’s part of tactics to distract defenders.

  20. December 2, 2011

    I’ve been surprised to see how many Barca supporters have been so quick to make some kind of judgement as to the nature of Sanchez as a player and his potential contribution.

    He’s played in 6 matches for Barca in La Liga.

    Isn’t it premature to start defining what he is as a player and what he’ll contribute?

    And I’m not specifically referring to anyone’s comments here. I’m not. I’ve just seen this in so many places about him. I’ve been surprised. He’s hardly played. Yet he’s a bust, he can’t do X, he can’t do Y, etc., etc.

    It really does seem that almost any player that does not come from La Masia/ youth teams or from the Spanish NT comes into Barca with a substantial doubts at baseline. People are looking for negatives.

    It’s completely different than perceptions/expectations for players from the youth system or Spanish NT. They so often get so much more benefit of the doubt. People are looking for positives.

    Now part of that is just related to the age of the players I suppose – it’s much easier to look at young players in a different light.

    But Sanchez is 22. That’s it.

    And with Sanchez- there’s nothing really concrete to incrementally doubt. He hasn’t really played. As with any new player there are open questions – but many seem inclined to answer those question in the negative already. 6 matches. 5 starts. Really?

    It was very common before Villa came to the team for people to say he’ll fit in “seamlessly” or “instantly” because of the type of player he is and the fact that he plays for Spain.

    That turned out to be largely untrue.

    We heard the same for Fabregas. La Masia, etc, etc.

    And that hasn’t been true. Cesc has been great – but in ways largely unanticipated. He’s been wonderful when put in a free role where most of his game is played without the ball. His patterns of movement and link up with Messi have in particular been sensational.

    But to be frank he’s struggled some in midfield when filling in for Xavi or Iniesta. Against Rayo he completed 78% of his passes, IIRC. That’s it. And it wasn’t just that he entered as a sub and the team had turned it off. For comparison – Thiago – who entered the match around the same time completed 91% of his passes.

    All this isn’t to say that Cesc is playing badly. It’s just that – he hasn’t even played much so there would be no point in projecting what he will do as a midfielder or what his total game will look like.

    And for the most part, Cule’s haven’t with Cesc. He’s expected to succeed and people look for the positives.

    But that hasn’t nearly been the case for Sanchez – and he’s played less than Cesc. But people are looking for problems.

    The expectations are just set at such different bands. Some players come in – and there’s almost a tacit expectation that they won’t fit in or workout because they are external to the system. And they have to overcome doubt to find success.

    Other players are assumed to be well fit for success and continue to be seen through that prism even when they struggle.

    On the whole, I think it’s much more productive to just keep an open mind. Not make assumptions about who will or won’t fit and how they will contribute.

    And I think this is really important because right now the team is really taking a risk of becoming far too homogenous. And while there are some players in La Masia now who can diversify that – there are going to have to be players who come from the outside.

    No “ecosystem” can stay healthy without a source of variation.

    But if players from the “outside” are always going to have twice as much to prove then that just gets more and more difficult.

    If Ronaldhino came to Barca now, people would be complaining that he loses the ball too much.

    • Jnice
      December 2, 2011

      And with Sanchez- there’s nothing really concrete to incrementally doubt. He hasn’t really played. As with any new player there are open questions – but many seem inclined to answer those question in the negative already. 6 matches. 5 starts. Really?

      It was very common before Villa came to the team for people to say he’ll fit in “seamlessly” or “instantly” because of the type of player he is and the fact that he plays for Spain.

      That turned out to be largely untrue.

      It really does seem that almost any player that does not come from La Masia/ youth teams or from the Spanish NT comes into Barca with a substantial doubts at baseline. People are looking for negatives.

      It’s completely different than perceptions/expectations for players from the youth system or Spanish NT. They so often get so much more benefit of the doubt. People are looking for positives.

      So, so true. This bothers me. Especially because it leads to me getting labelled a Villa hater whenever I say something that isn’t a compliment.

    • Jim
      December 2, 2011

      Not sure if the last sentence is meant seriously or not but it’s actually a good example, Euler. When Ronnie did come ( I think he was about 23 when he arrived, not much older – i was watching a documentary on him last night) within the first couple of matches he was destroying opponents – yes and losing the ball but nothing wrong with that in the last third. Ok, nobody is expecting Sanchez to be that quality but having watched the usual compilations on YouTube I had the impression that he had the pace and trickery to destroy opponents in a similar way, if not on the same scale. I thought we were buying genuine wing threat.

      So I have been a little disappointed in him so far – maybe as you say because I expected too much but tbh if you have the skill to beat people one on one you don’t need a season to show it – you show it in your first game.

      That in no way makes me think he’s going to be a failure longer term. All it would take to convince me is one flash of dribbling brilliance. I know he has the pace to make use of it once he has beaten a defender.

      Maybe, like Villa he’s trying too hard to show he can fit in, keep the ball and not lose it. Maybe Pep has given him instructions not to take chances. Whatever, he has had loads of one on ones with defenders and hasn’t made much of them so far imo, both before and post injury. It’s not that I’m wanting him to fail – just that I’m still waiting to see his dribbling skills. Last game was decent and nobody can doubt his effort or tracking back but as I said earlier I don’t think he’s going to score 20+ in a season and if not he will stand or fall on his pace/ dribbling/ assists.

    • Ryan
      December 2, 2011

      He’s barely played yet, but I recall two or three times where he was surrounded by 3 players and was able to dribble around them and pass the ball to Xavi. Anyone that can pull several players away from Messi is a plus in my book!

    • December 3, 2011


      First, I really do want to say that my comment was not specifically directed towards you. It’s something that has struck me for a while.

      I’ve seen things where people are saying Sanchez is a failure and not good enough for Barca. That’s the context for what I was thinking. (Not saying you were implying that – just general comments being made by some supporters.)

      And as I said below – I really made this comment because the post has a great deal of nuance over Villa’s performance. I think that same level of nuance needs to be exhibited for all of the new players.

      And at that – Villa isn’t even truly a “new” player but is still experiencing difficulties integrating. Which should demonstrate how much patience is needed as players try to fit in with the team. Even players hypothesized to seamlessly integrate from day 1 – don’t. They often struggle to fit in.

      As you indicated, perhaps the main point is expectations and that’s really the issue.

      But as a counterpoint it’s useful to think about Fabregas.

      For several years now we’ve heard that he is the natural heir apparent to Xavi. He’s the only player in the world not with the club that could play in place of Xavi. Why should Barca spend so much money on yet another midfielder – because Xavi needs to be rested more (achilles, etc) and eventually he won’t be with the team.

      Fabregas has played significantly more matches than Sanchez. So should we start making determinations about Cesc’s future with respect to expectations also?

      Because so far, Cesc hasn’t been remotely close to Xavi or Iniesta in terms of control of midfield or dictating play. He’s been brilliant in his free role – but that’s not even close to how Xavi or Iniesta play in terms of defining match dynamics. Nor is that free role a part of the Barca “system.” Playing in that free role will not define the rhythm or tempo of a match.

      So should we be make determinations about Cesc’s future ability to fulfill a key midfield role in the Barca system (and the Arsenal system is not the Barca system so that track record is secondary)? Should we make a determination now about his ability to take over for Xavi?

      Because to be honest I’ve seen things from him that I could point to that could be interpreted as cause for concern. He doesn’t have the same level of close control or touch that Xavi or Iniesta have. His feet aren’t as fast. He doesn’t play the ball as quickly. And given how teams defend Barca, those are huge potential issues.

      But I don’t see people describing him as lacking or that there is a ceiling to his future or that he’s not meeting expectations. He hasn’t dictated play in midfield. And that’s what people were expecting.

      Now all that said, in no way would I ever make some determination about Cesc’s play or future capacities. It’s 10 games. It’s far too small a sample to determine what he can do.

      Ultimately, I like the diversity he’s bringing (just like I appreciate the diversity Sanchez is bringing). I like that he’s bringing something new and different. So even if we had a certain kind of expectation for how he would play and what role he would assume – our expectations don’t matter.

      What matters is that Cesc will ultimately evolve as a player and define his own contribution on his own terms within the system. But what those contributions will be will only emerge over time. We have to let these players define who they will be for the club on the pitch. That takes time, IMO.

      I would just like to see all new players given the same benefit of the doubt. And in general – I don’t think they are.

    • Kimcelona
      December 2, 2011

      “It really does seem that almost any player that does not come from La Masia/ youth teams or from the Spanish NT comes into Barca with a substantial doubts at baseline. People are looking for negatives”

      Yep, I can agree with this.
      What I dont agree with is correlating standing up for Villa with unfairly picking on Alexis. I’m not sure if you are, but it seems like youre implying that the same people who are willing to give Villa the benefit of the doubt because he’s from the Sapnish NT are the ones who are picking on Sanchez unfairly. Considering this a Villa praise post, it seems that way. Please do correct me if I’m wrong.

      I do agree that outside players are given a hard time. But Villa gets the same kind of abuse, and got unfairly criticized even in his first few months with Barca as well. So Villa might be a different case lol He may just be feeling the burns of being measured up to Eto’o and the treble winning season.

      I think Alexis has been great in the few matches he’s been able to play in so far this season and I look forward to seeing him become more comfortable in the system. Should be a treat to watch!

    • December 2, 2011

      What I dont agree with is correlating standing up for Villa with unfairly picking on Alexis. I’m not sure if you are,

      So let me make this 100% clear. In absolutely no way am I implying that there is some correlation between standing up for Villa and unfairly picking on Alexis. Those two things are not linked and its not as if those who are “defending” Villa are being critical of Alexis.

      The reason why I even posted this comment in this thread is because SiempreBarça07 takes a nuanced view in this post of Villa’s role.

      The point I was trying to get at is that it would be beneficial for the new players entering the team – all of them – to be viewed with similar nuance.

      I just don’t think that happens – and it’s the “outsiders” in general for whom there is less patience and more misaligned expectations. There is less nuance in how they are viewed.

      The other part of what I’m trying to point out is that if players like Villa and Fabergas don’t in fact integrate “seamlessly” and their performance needs to be interpreted with high levels of nuance – then it only stands to reason that goes even more so for players who are talented but needing to “learn” the system because they weren’t part of it.

      But in practice the opposite happens.

      In general I think a great deal of patience needs to be exhibited for all new/relatively new players and we should expect major challenges/problems to develop.

      I don’t think it’s reasonable to think any player not on the team is going to seamlessly integrate.

    • siemprebarca07
      December 3, 2011

      Agreed. I think generally spectators have a huge lack of patience. They’re always just waiting for something to happen.

      Supposedly the ones who hail Barça for their philosophy, culés also lose patience when the team faces a more defensive team and has trouble breaking down the wall. Supposedly the ones who sing “tots units fem força” are the same ones who want to sell a player when he hits a patch of bad form. Supposedly the ones who hail Barça for their educational values and La Masia, culés also have no patience in allowing a new player time to develop…

      Perhaps what we really need is an analysis of our roles as fans to the club. Perhaps what we need an evaluation of our loyalty to our team.

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