Valencia 0, Barca 0, a.k.a. “I HATE bats!”

I have some vexing to do.
I have some vexing to do.

Did anyone know that bats are the only flying mammal?

I know, right? We all figured that all they did was give us the willies, flitting around church spires in small European towns, screeching and entangling themselves in hair and whatnot. But no. They pollinate, disperse fruit seeds and do all kinds of good things.

But bats also do baaaad things, such as get knee-deep in your ass, keep you on your heels and make you rely on superhuman efforts from your mop-topped captain and a goal keeper who I don’t want to hear anyone give shit to this season. Period, full stop.

I didn’t like the way that this match felt when I fired up the DVR and frankly, I’m pretty thrilled that we got out of it with a point. Why? We were collectively awful, saved once from a loss once again by individual performances. This is not a big surprise, given that 10 of the starting 11 were away on International duty. Guardiola rolled out Valdes, Alves, Pique, Puyol, Abidal, The Yaya, Keita, Xavi, Messi, Iniesta and Pedro!. It was a lineup that gave me pause, because I just didn’t see where the goals were going to come from.

And I thought we were going to need goals for sure, as those damned bats came storming out of their cave, putting the kind of pressure that you put on a side that has 10 of its starting 11 still groggy from serving their countries. They applied the kind of forward-looking pressure that we customarily do, and decided that rather than man-marking Xavi, they’d just flood the midfield with numbers, cutting off every available passing lane to, from and anywhere in the vicinity of Xavi.

It worked. Rather than the calm back passes that our attackers can feed back to Xavi that he calmly collects, waiting to pull the string on another assault, bats were flitting all around, sticking legs out, stealing stuff and running the other way. And when Messi one-touched a sloppy, off-target ball back to Xavi, I just couldn’t believe that it was going to be 1-0 so early in what looked to be a difficult match.

But as the Valencia attacker came storming in, there was Eric Abidal, flying in to remove the ability to cut and beat Valdes. Suddenly the only option was straight on, and Valdes made himself huge, smothering the only real shot that the attacker had. It was an excellent save, and there were more to come from the man who might never give me an easier Man of the Match selection. I so want Phil Schoen to keep talking shit about Valdes, because every time that he does, Valdes has an excellent match. The man was Zamora last season. Yes, he had some cock-ups. So did Casillas, a keeper who Schoen and Ray Ray believe shits gold nuggets.

Victor Valdes was the principal reason that we drew today, against a side who were better than we were for almost the entire match. We had better individual players, but they were a much better team. Which was why we spent almost the entire half on the back foot, with our defenders scrambling, Abidal clearing ball after ball into the box as Puyol made like a fireman.

But even then, we had chances. Pedro slipped in a ball to Puyol that found our Captain right on the doorstep, with a big, fat problem: The ball was on his left. As he struggled to shift the ball to his right foot, rather than just poking it toward the goal, Valencia’s defense shut him down. And Messi had a rotten touch in the box, on an attack that could have, and would have been dangerous at another time.

And Valencia were rampant. Even Xavi lost a ball, that he and Alves quickly double-teamed back into our possession, and Puyol knocked off a horrifying giveaway. The defense was running around like it was fire drill day at the insane asylum, and The Yaya was seen telling Abidal, after the latter ran into him trying to clear a ball, to calm the hell down, because The Yaya was in control.

Then Valencia were sprung loose on yet another attack, off a perfectly weighted ball that was sitting there, waiting for the attacker to run onto it, until …. what was that!? Valdes streaked into the picture to smother and cover that pass, as if he had been shot from a cannon.

The Yaya and Keita were more important than ever in this match, as their abilities to become midfield attackers should have become paramount. But the entire side was playing on the back foot, as tight as you will ever see us, worried about conceding and not being able to get the goal back. So The Yaya just took the ball from anyone who came near him, and Keita buttressed the efforts of the back line as Captain Caveman found his sea legs and went from ??!! to flat-out spectacular. Pique even got his act together as he came sprinting in to save a sure-fire goal, knocking away a pass attempt to a wide-open Valencia attacker.

And my misgivings about our attack proved to be well-founded, because Iniesta isn’t a real goal-scoring attacker, Pedro! is a sub not a starter, and he needs service to work his magic, and Messi should not have been on the pitch. But even if he was on, the defense was completely set up to play him and only him, because they knew that Iniesta or Pedro! weren’t going to beat them. Our attack calmed down as the match began to come to us as Valencia tired, but we couldn’t capitalize, because half of the players who were playing, shouldn’t have been. Yes, that means: Xavi, Messi, Pique, Puyol and Iniesta. But without capable backups for them, what options does a coach have, really?

And now, a public service annoucement: Did anyone miss Henry today? You should have, as Abidal waited on the sideline time after time for a place to pass the ball to, missing our French winger’s constant presence and availability for the pass. Never mind the fact that our offense was forced to exist in this narrow corridor, because we lacked true attacking width. I would have preferred to see Jeffren rather than Pedro!, frankly, because a pure winger might have helped. Instead, Iniesta made thoughtless runs into the box, that found him with no passing angle and even if he had one, no attacker within easy passing distance.

Which is what Henry does, and why his injury is as vexing to our attack as that of Ibrahimovic. Because with a club such as ours, that is possessed of such midfield magic, the wings have to provide midfield space. We didn’t have that crucial element that was badly needed against a club that was told, “Just keep your body between the ball and the goal. Period.”

Then we started to work our way into the match with a bit more possession, and a spectacular counterattacking chance that produced a pretty staggering choke from Pedro!, who received a perfect pass from Xavi, with plenty of time for a one-timer past the keeper. But by the time he controlled the ball and dicked around, the defense closed him down. He was left to wonder what might have been, and let me help him out with that one: You had the match on your boot, and you choked.

Hope that helps.

And it almost looked like the killer miss, but then Valdes came up with one of the saves of the season really, off of a David Silva attack that found him latching onto a perfect pass. Valdes, in effect, played the one shot that Silva had, and cradled the ball in his belly to end that danger. It was towering, a moment of excellence that overshadowed a moment of shame, as Alves was laying on the pitch with a severed jugular vein, clearly from being brushed with an opponent’s arm hairs. Oh. Wait a minute. No, he’s fine. He isn’t going to die. Whew!

And that was pretty much it for the match, with neither side really threatening much after that, being content to take the point and go home. Everybody was predicting a very, very difficult match for us, because of the World Cup duty by so many of our players, and a series of rather unimpressive team performances. I only wish they weren’t right. It was a defining match, one that if we had put Valencia to the sword, would have caused the Liga to stop the season right now, and declare us the champions. Instead Valencia played their hearts out, and came away with a draw that they can rightly believe should have been a win.

But here’s something to think about: Valencia played an amazing match, and we were collective shit. And we drew. We shouldn’t have, but we did. We’ve all watched quite a bit of La Liga. Does anyone think that any other side in the Liga would have gotten out of the Mestalla with a draw, with the match that Valencia played today? Let me help you out with that answer …. no. Does this mean that we have the makings of Champions? Frankly, I can’t tell yet. I still haven’t seen a convincing team performance, because as predicted, World Cup years are a bitch. But we’re in with an exceptionally good shot, the best of anyone, I think.

No, they didn’t have Villa, who might have kept himself on side where Mata strayed. But we didn’t have Ibrahimovic either, which made Messi’s day a lot harder. And does anyone think that Henry would have choked on that ball in the box from Xavi that Pedro! did The Thinker over?


Team: 3. Charity begins at home, not on the road, dammit! What was with all of the giveaways and generally sloppy play? You’d think that you’d all been away, serving your countries or something. Jeez.

Guardiola: 6. He understood what we all came only late to understanding, which is the guys weren’t going to be all that good, and his options were limited. Ibrahimovic? He was ready, and had we gone down a goal, we probably would have seen BANGS. But there really wasn’t anyone to bring on, just stabs in the dark with the likes of Krkic, though I would rather have seen Jeffren.

Valdes: 10. Find me a flaw in the match he played today. Valencia had three glorious chances, and he stopped them all. His distribution was smart, and he controlled his box. He just knocked me out today with his play. If he isn’t the keeper he is, we lose this one.

Alves: 5. Defense was solid, but he is too risky with the ball when surrounded by defenders. You can’t always dribble or ticka-tack your way out of a jam, and he lost possession more than usual. And his playacting was unforgivable, leaving us 9 on 11, counting the absent Messi.

Pique: 6. Funky early, then really came into the match. Quite the goal-saving tackle, but I would have liked to have seen him more in his Piquenbauer role, bringing the ball up to start the offense and relieve pressure on Xavi.

Puyol: 8. Like Pique, he was way off early, and that giveaway could have killed us. But man, did he come on with extraordinary defense in both team and one-on-one aspects. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: That man deserves to retire with this club. When he plays the kind of controlled match that he played today, I just don’t know if there is a better central defender in the world.

Abidal: 8. He wasn’t funky at the beginning, nipping in to steal ball after ball, showing off with his pace as he ran plays down and making a general wall of himself. He had a little bit of a tendency to run around too much, which The Yaya reminded him of. He also knew not to get too far forward, given the wing attacks of Valencia.

The Yaya: 6. Solid but unimpressive. His usual attacking prowess and ball control going forward wasn’t there today. Ox-strong on defense, however.

Keita: 7. Quietly effective in his thankless midfield role.

Xavi: 6. A few fine passes, but generally ineffective. This was in part because of the conscious decision to remove him from the match, but he wasn’t moving with his usual precision and quickness, either. If we have a real option, he probably doesn’t play today.

Iniesta: 7. Very good match, with lots of energy. But you could watch him make runs into the box and think “Dude, where ya goin?” I don’t think he had a real answer except for “That way.” So defenders would just shut off the back door and funnel him toward the end line. If why anybody who advocates for him as an Henry replacement at this time, needs to think about it a bit longer. Not yet.

Pedro!: 5. Some good moments, some great passes, including that ball to Puyol that deserved a better fate. But man, did he choke on that ball from Xavi, and he gave it away a lot.

Messi: 2. He shouldn’t have been out there. He had the thousand-yard stare, and was walking around the pitch when he wasn’t directly involved in a play. Perhaps this was the match he needed to shake the national team malaise out of his system.


Busquets (for Xavi): 5. He started so well, then began trying to gild the lily, and scare the crap out of me. I am so worried about January. Simple Busi is Good Busi.

Krkic (for Pedro!): 3. Man up, kid. You could have made a difference, but you’re thinking too much. You think yourself out of an advantageous position.

Next up, after a few days of much-needed rest, is Rubin Kazan at home in what should be a winnable Champions League tie. Ibrahimovic will be back for that one, which will make a ton of difference.

Until then, Forca Barca!

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Written by:

In my fantasy life, I’m a Barca-crazed contributor over at Barcelona Football Blog. In my real life, I’m a full-time journalist at the Chicago Tribune, based in Chicago, Illinois.


  1. OhYes
    October 17, 2009

    Pedro! has won enough games for us this season, anyway. He’s allowed to cock up once in a while, but damn dude any kid would have buried that one.

    Damn those batmen and their bat-caves.

  2. Kxevin
    October 17, 2009

    Oh, and in the feel-good story of the season so far, Montpellier, just promoted, is joint top of the table with Lyon. My favorite big French city. Pretty cool.

  3. El Tel
    October 17, 2009

    I hate bats, too. And what was with the big-ass bat on the Valencia jerseys?? Didn’t see those in an earlier match.
    Puyol & Pique defended heroically today, though. I suppose 1 point will suffice, as it keeps us top of the table.

  4. bill
    October 17, 2009

    Valdez was very good, but valencia’s finishing was pretty bad. Does anyone still think la liga is weak? Valencia gave barca more of a fight than Man U, Inter, Chelsea, Lyon and Bayern! Sevilla, a team that ran circles around madrid, also lost to an average team. This league is very good, and im impressed by valencia.

    Bojan Krkic should have started as a striker if he was fully fit.

  5. SoccerMom
    October 17, 2009

    SoccerMama officially declares that Puyol is BACK.

    • SC
      October 18, 2009


      well, as Prince informed Justin: Sexy never left. 😀

  6. Helge
    October 17, 2009

    Just came home and after reading the preview I’m fine with the draw. I expected this match to be a tough one, but not that though… Nevertheless, we are still first place and I’m sure we’ll do better against Rubin on Tuesday.

    Visca’l Barca!

  7. Cesc Blanc
    October 17, 2009

    Sorry but I don’t really get the criticism against Messi. I thought that he was rather well or at least played rather smart.
    You have to keep in mind the circumstances(transatlantic flight and all that) plus the fact that Emery put a wrong footed fullback on him and Mathieu forced Alves to be rather ineffective, and Messi still created 2 of our 3 most dangerous chances, had an excellent shot on goal and overall, played very very smart. So I really don’t get the hating on him, because with all due respect, this is just hating and nothing else. I don’t really know what was expected of Messi, specially given that Messi didn’t have either Ibra or any other 9 next to him to play and connect with but did the horseload job of a centerforward more or less on his own too.
    I can’t blame much of the team to be honest either. First half was pretty bad, second half was given the circumstances, namely 2 key players injured, 1 key player coming off injury, okish and obviously in the first half Pep was found a bit off guard by Emery’s tactics. But we faced a very strong team with a very good coach, so the draw while we didn’t play well and got lucky, is a good result.
    I thought our major problem was that we were quite slow in the build up and didn’t know how to play without a reference point in attack. But as said, it was a good result. Not a good game but good result.

    • Kxevin
      October 17, 2009

      I don’t do hating for hating’s sake. I hope that everyone has been around to know that, just as I hope they’ve been around long enough to know that nobody is above criticism. It isn’t “hating on Messi.” It’s calling him out for a poor performance, same as I would call anyone else out.

      Put it like this: If Henry had the same match that Messi had today, that began with a giveaway that almost led to a goal for Valencia and proceeded through bad touches, walking around the pitch and general anonymity, what would people be saying about Henry?

      Yes, we had excuses. Which doesn’t negate the poor quality of the overall team performance. Our most dangerous chances came from Pedro! (pass to Puyol) and Xavi (pass to Pedro!). Both those should have been converted, but weren’t. That’s the breaks of the game.

      • Museum
        October 17, 2009

        Ah, didn’t realize that was Messi with the giveaway. Justin TV makes things difficult sometimes. Still wouldn’t go as low as 2, but whatever.

        • poipoi
          October 17, 2009

          messi played horrible today, he only had one good dangerous shot I think. mata had more than him for sure

          but he’s not henry 😉

      • Cesc Blanc
        October 18, 2009

        Well, either you are quite selective on occasions or we just see things different. Messi lost the ball somewhere close to the attacking third. If he loses the ball there and Valencia get a chance to score, it’s maybe not his fault but the fault of people behind him. If he had lost the ball somewhere in midfield or in defense, we could talk but not when he was much closer to the oppositions goal than to ours.
        The chance for Iniesta in the 36th minute was also Messi, the most fouled player was again Messi, the shot from distance was Messi, and everything else that looked like any danger was Messi too, except for Pedro’s chance.
        Valencia made through their pressing and fast transition from defense to attack and vice versa life extremely difficult for our midfield, so he obviously didn’t get the usual service and had to drop deeper in midfield and help more with the play and couldn’t focus as usual with just finishing or the final pass.
        But to give him the worst grade among all players, when in fact Iniesta had a much worse game, just like Pedro, Yaya and Xavi were not any good in the first half either and not to mention Alves who was just a pain in the ass, is quite ridiculous.
        Maybe you expect more of him, I really don’t know but on a day where he filled in the needs and played as a 9, 10, 11 and sometimes 8, I can’t blame him much for anything.

    • Museum
      October 17, 2009

      I thought it was about as uninspired and invisible as I’ve seen Messi. And there’s plenty of mitigating evidence you can point to, fatigue, lack of effective help from his teammates. And that’s all relevant. But I think it’s fair to expect more in bad circumstances from the man most think of as the best in the world. I probably wouldn’t have gone as low as 2, you have to be shooting your team in the foot for that, but for such a neutral performance from Messi, a man who is held to higher standards, criticism isn’t out of place.

    • SC
      October 18, 2009

      I think saying Messi shouldn’t have been out there isn’t really “hating.” Just like you asked, what WAS expected of him given that he wasn’t playing next to a 9, came back from a transatlantic flight, and was essentially a centerforward? Only Pep can answer that. The point is, he shouldn’t have been out there. He was anonymous for MOST of the game and did have a pretty crappy touch in the box. Personally, I would have liked to see Jeffren start in place of Messi, and then bring Messi on instead of Bojan late in the game for a spark. I think psychologically, it would have been more beneficial for Messi to know that we need him to make some magic, rather than give him the start and let him walk around the pitch for an hour and half, content to draw.

      • Cesc Blanc
        October 18, 2009

        No..but giving him a 2, lowest grade of the team, while he wasn’t by far the worst player, is quite hating.

        Jeffren? Seriously?

        We should have maybe started Rochina from Barca Atletic given that Ibra and Henry were injured and Bojan just coming back from injury.

        • SC
          October 18, 2009

          Yes I don’t think Jeffren could have done worse than Messi.

  8. stowe
    October 17, 2009

    I guess this match really showed that we need to sign some new players in January. We just don’t have enough depth. We don’t have real fill-ins if BANGS and Titi aren’t playing

  9. Hilal
    October 17, 2009

    A draw at Valencia is a good result under any circumstances. We drew there last season and we won everything. The fact that we managed a draw missing two of our best players and having most of the rest of the team coming off international duty just makes it more impressive. There was a bit of funkiness at the start, but in gerneral I thought we defended very well and in games where you cannot attack well you have to defend well. Anytime we came up short defensively Valdes was there. We are always a little off after the international break so i wasnt very surprised that we weren’t at our best offensively today. That being said I think we still did pretty well against a team that probably played their best first half of the season. Any other team would have lost.

    Abidal haters (and i know ur out there) need to take note of how much more solid we are when he plays. He had his wing on lock today and covered very well for his teammates when they were caught out of position.

    Zlatan would have made a huge difference for us today, I am pretty sure of that. I cannot say I blame Pep for not playing him though, anything to do with a knee injury needs to be dealt with very carefully.

    Messi’s in a bit of a funk, cant blame him with all the crap that had been going on in Argentina. Hopefully now that they have qualified (not sure how) he will get his groove back.

    • tyler
      October 19, 2009

      this is exactly my thoughts on this whole match. everyone complaining on how we didn’t win, or didn’t play as a team, needs to look at the facts. no ibra, no henry, international fatigue, iniesta is still just now coming back into form, for christ’s sakes messi was chartered from South America on a private jet to make this game! this is game we would have lost last year, without a doubt, but what it shows is that Valdes is 100x more reliable than last year, our defense is better than ever with Puyol and Pique and Abidal putting out fires left and right.

      We need to give credit to Valencia for playing as hard as they did. People need to stop saying, “oh man, they clogged up our passing lanes so we couldn’t play our style of football” NEWS FLASH we won the treble last year, teams aren’t going to sit back and watch us dance tiki taka around them! no one is going to roll out the red carpet in our presence, and let us just rack up ridiculous scorelines like last year. Give credit to Valencia for fighting back by using a tactic that didn’t involve hacking our players to death, or relying on ref’s to call things against barcelona. We are the world’s best team. We are going to have the bullseye in the middle of our shirts every time we play now. I feel sometimes it will take individual efforts to win games this year, just like it took iniesta’s goal at stamford to get us into the finals. We are going to need big plays from every single player to win.

      I say enough with the negativity and look on the brightside. We have room for improvement and we are STILL UNDEFEATED. none of the players are complacent, and we would have lost this game last year, without a doubt. Look at what happened to madrid when they were challenged by a strong side, they choked and lost. We played at the Mestalla against an inspired Valencia team and walked out with a point. That seems like a win to me.

  10. Museum
    October 17, 2009

    My main thought today, after petitioning the gods to give me those 90 minutes back, was “Are we really ready to let Puyol go?”

    And what’s up with Chygy? Haven’t been paying attention recently.

    • SC
      October 18, 2009

      He’s injured, Museum. Another 1-2 weeks out, I think. He didn’t suit up for the game.

  11. Boat Forever
    October 17, 2009

    I guess Pique was better off not to don his regular Piquenbauer role because of all those quick runs from Valencia front line players… In fact wasn’t Pique caught off-guard in the early minutes of the game!? Of course that was not his mistake, but I guess he did the right thing just minding his defensive work…

    P! totally let us down today with that miss but that’s okay he’s scored a few ‘too good’ goals so far. He deserves to be shown more patience, moreover we’ve already agreed he’d be more effective only brought on as a sub than started a game. I still wonder why was Bojan not started, don’t understand what was the need of playing 2 wingers & a mid-fielder as the front-attacking line… Bojan would not have choked on that chance P! had imo

    Coming to Iniesta’s role as a winger, finally people will get to realize he’s not gonna be as good as he’s expected to be as a winger… He’s not gonna score goals from that position(not that he does while playing his usual CAM position) That’s why I keep saying we need to sign a winger/striker… AHEM Suarez scored AGAIN! 😉

    If & when Iniesta needs to be rested/played LW, The Yaya could be more useful than Keita in that LM role considering just his powerful & more precise shooting than Keita I suppose… Need not even mention that The Yaya has better technique and can take on defenders more easily than Keita!
    Do we need another mid-fielder during ACN? YEAH!

  12. Museum
    October 17, 2009

    I would love it if this weren’t a Champions League week. At least we don’t have to go to Russia. We look like we could use some time at the spa.

  13. jordi
    October 17, 2009

    I honestly think hes depressed, so yet again a big F U to Maradonna.I really felt if henry had played, this would be the game where he broke his driught as he always scores against Valencia.

    But the biggest absence was ibra, he gives us the extra element where we can pump long balls at him all day to relieve pressure.Plus he would’ve given the attackk more bite with his aggressiveness, like when he came on against Malaga, he wouldve pushed back against their agressive defending.

    Its better though to drop 2 points without him than win all 3 with him,but he instead aggravates the injury.He deserved a break because i think hes played every game for club and country since hes joined us, without ever being fully fit.

  14. BA
    October 17, 2009

    Pedro was really 150% better than Messi today? REALLY?

    the result is acceptable under the circumstances of just coming back from exhausting qualifiers and with 2/3 of our attacking triumvirate out of action, but all that notwithstanding it does expose our lack of depth.

    we have at best 15-16 true 1st-team quality players; i just don’t think that’s enough for all the trophies we’re competing for. i understand that Pep wants to get the team to gel to a slightly new system with Ibra in it, but for some of the smaller games you have to wonder if he shouldn’t bring in some promising cantera players like JDS or Muniesa or even Gai in 1s or 2s to give a few of our stalwarts a rest and help prepare the younger guys for the big stuff. i really worry about a few key long-term injuries or just general fatigue putting us seriously absent on-form, quality options at crucial times, particularly as as the season progresses and wears on the players.

    • Boat Forever
      October 17, 2009

      I understand when you say JDS but Muniesa & Gai!? Seriously!? We have Marquez & Dima on bench before Muniesa; P!, Bojan & Jeffren before Gai… But the problem with these young attackers is there’s no quality to provide back-up to the frequently injured/totally off-form/ageing Henry. In theory we do have 6 attackers for our front3 meaning 2 per position but that’s it! We could remain confident with only 3 of them, 1 of them frequently injured, so only 2 of them!! Pedro, though bailed us out in a couple of occasions, in general is not(yet!) reliable; same with Bojan.
      When some body says that the growth of some our youth is gonna be hindered if we buy a new winger, I don’t quite get it! Sevilla, for example, seem to be doing just fine having four wingers in Jesus, Perotti, Capel & Adriano who are all potential starters!! Arsenal’s doing good(This is quite an example because all of them players are in their youths :P)
      I requested Kxevin to deduce 2 or 3 points from Pep’s rating for bringing on late subs, but then I realized… When Guardiola wanted a bigger squad, board made him be content with a lower squad and now he suffered!! He had no options to substitute the under-performing Pedro & Messi… I understand we are no Madrid to have an apt substitute for a below-par Messi, but having no other option than Pedro is quite frightening 🙁

      • Boat Forever
        October 17, 2009

        Have any idea who this Marti Riverola is? Didn’t see this coming at all!!!

        Man City is not leaving any stone unturned to get into that prestigious top 4 of EPL!!! BTW PL is getting too interesting this time, Tottenham & City breaking into top 4, Sunderland creeping past Pool up the table

    • SC
      October 18, 2009

      True, but is Valencia one of the smaller games? I think of smaller games being Almeria, Valladolid, Getafe, etc. I think Valencia is among the bigger teams (Madrid, Sevilla, what was once Villareal), where you actually gun it with the first team.

  15. vicsoc8
    October 17, 2009

    Once upon a time I thought that Iniesta would be a suitable long term replacement on the left wing.

    I learned better today. He too often dropped into the midfield and played like a central midfielder, thus depriving us of any width. He also didn’t have enough room in front of him to beat a defender and then find a killer pass – too often he simply just ran out of real estate.

    I hope we bring in someone in the winter window. Pep would have played Jeffren if he thought Jeffren would have helped us – I just don’t think Pep trusts him. (In an effort for full disclosure I don’t think he’s good enough either).

    My vote is for Suarez. We all know he is in fantastic form, and is a natural goal scorer. An added benefit is he can play in the center of the trident as well if we find ourselves in another situation like we did today.

  16. jordi
    October 17, 2009

    Well Marc could get a few games, because we might need him in scenarios similar to what happened in the cl last season.Dima cant play in the cl so one or 2 injuries and suspensions aand we’re throwing Marc into the deep end.I still trust him more than Caceres though.I see big things from muniesa in a few years.

  17. poipoi
    October 17, 2009

    In the end it felt Valencia should have won the game, but it was a tough one as it always is in mestalla… tough and weird without any 9 in both teams. And with messi and Pedro! out of the game Iniesta was alone in attack, that is all. We had poseesion but all the time in our part of the pitch.

    Should Bojan have played? He is supposed to be a 9.

    • Kxevin
      October 17, 2009

      Good question about Krkic. When he came in, he was subject to fits of the dithers, resulting in paralysis by analysis. Which is to say, damned ineffective. He isn’t a true “9” because he isn’t big enough. But he might have been more effective than Pedro!

      But that said, all of our Mighty Mites benefit from the presence of a grownup (Henry, Ibrahimovic). I think we saw today that having Henry on the wing gives us width and pace, which makes life easier for Xavi, Abidal, Keita, etc. And having Ibra as that target man means that you can play balls off of him, leaving space for attackers to run into. No way can they flood the midfield with Henry blazing up the line and Ibra coming down the middle. Both sides were handicapped with absences, but ours were much bigger, I think.

      Too often, Abidal was left as the only man on the left side of the pitch, and with bats swarming the midfield it was difficult for him to do anything with the ball.

      And for the record, before anyone gets to accusing me of it, I love me some Ghostface. I just think he’s most effective in the midfield, which is where he tends to gravitate toward. Problem is, as noted, it leaves us without width. I also don’t think that we switched the pitch enough. Every time we did, it created attacking space.

  18. jnelson
    October 17, 2009

    Man, I have been depressed all day. I’m glad we got 1 point, but we played HORRIBLE. Yes, one day we will lose and everyone will be bummed, but today just felt like a loss. Props to VV! Incredible job by him, and great work from Puyol and Abidal as usual. I can’t believe the Dani Alves throat slashing. WTF MAN!!!??? And every time he received a pass he lost it behind him and had to readjust. P! was off, as usual as a starter, and Iniesta did keep drifting back into his CM role, at one point (for an extended amount of time) pushing P! to left wing and Messi to striker/&?/left wing. Huh?! Very crappy play. Sad to see the streak end…F Robinho

  19. Kxevin
    October 17, 2009

    I can’t see bringing in the likes of Suarez hindering the growth of the likes of JDS or Assulin, who frolic more in the midfield. The only pure winger we have is Jeffren, and I still think that he and someone such as Suarez are different players.

  20. UAI
    October 17, 2009

    Agreed on everyone, except the Yaya, I felt in the first half he was one of the very few people that was reliable (i.e. not making a bunch of mistakes), popping up when he was needed.

    Messi was horrible, but he’s allowed to be like that in the 5% of games that he is

    Pedro was horrible, but he’s also allowed to be, he has a lot of time to develop into someone that can carry a front line, he can’t be expected to given the sub-par performance of his front-line-mates today

    • Kxevin
      October 18, 2009

      UAI, The Yaya dragged himself down with his uncertain performance as he tried to become the World’s Biggest Attacking mid in the second half. He lost an uncharacteristically high number of balls. But defensively, he was a stud.

      And yes, he is usually so exceptional that he, like Messi, has a very steep grading curve.

  21. BlaugranaDOOM
    October 17, 2009

    I didn’t watch the first half so forgive me if I disagree with the review. We didn’t create many chances in the second half, but Valencia didn’t either. So, away to Valencia when their team has been training together for the past week (except Silva and a few others) without our starting striker and left winger and with all of our front line playing out of position after an international week and the team gets a 3? I would feel that getting a 0-0 draw to one of our strongest competitors would at least get a 5 while dominating possession in the second half.

    Good result for Barcelona in what is one of the trickiest fixtures of the year. The next most difficult one will be against Sevilla during Afican Nations Cup. I think that will be a more difficult match than el classico. Great start to the season so far.

  22. Jnice
    October 18, 2009

    Pep is happy we got a point, so I guess I should be too.

  23. yogi
    October 18, 2009

    For me, it was creditable draw though Iniesta is way more effective in midfield then attack.

    Messi was bit jaded but was as good as most of our midfield/attack players so do not agree with 2. I would rather give him 5.

    With Pedro and Iniesta, i find the same things that Messi is guilty of sometimes, running with ball without idea what to do. That is luxury and having three such players is quite something.

    Defence, esp valdes, was immense today.

  24. Hector
    October 18, 2009

    I am ecstatic with the point. This is exactly why I was so worried about this game. Some observations:

    – I was depressed as soon as I saw the lineup. One of our thinnest areas is the 9. If both Henry and Ibra are out like today then we are in trouble. Like Kevin said, we need our grownups. No finishing at all today. Too much playmaking and not enough finishing in that line up. I actually beg to differ on Pedro’s providing of width. He did a good job in the second half of providing width. However, Iniesta was most effective in his usual role and would go on solo runs to nowhere thus vacating space and cramping the middle way too often. He is rusty, tired, and playing out of position but I was a little disappointed in his role. I think he was the one compromising our width more than Pedro.

    – Emery seems to have a magic touch when it comes to Barca. Yes, I remember the Henry hat trick in the first leg last season but they did not play bad at all and even though we drew at the Mestalla last season also, they had us against the ropes both times and in fairness should have won and Emery had a lot to do with it. Deploying Mathieu to take away Alves was a good move and not starting Zigic surprised the hell out of me but proved to be effective with Pablo, Mata, and Silva pressuring the hell out of our defense and at times kicking our ass at our own game and playing possession ball. Pace and technique for height.

    – Remember when I was rambling about how the Valencia wingers and forwards are “Barca Types” in that they don’t mind pressuring and putting in their defensive shift? Those midgets where pressuring like we usually do and provoked a lot of turnovers and made it almost impossible for us to play the ball out of the back like we usually do. They played at times a 6 man midfield and when they got possession sometimes kept the ball for very long periods. Those guys are of the few that can take us on at our own game and give us a run for our money. Great job by them minus the finishing 😀 .

    – This game would have been PERFECT for Ibra. I am so disappointed he didnt play. With a flooded midfield, a big tall 9 to get the ball to and hold it up would have allowed us to bypass the Valencia minefield and solve some of our possession problems. Playing like that is not our first choice but it is one of the many exciting new options that Ibra brings to us that we could have used today.

    – I credit Pique not only on some fire drill challenges but also covering el Capitan when he went to do his last ditch heroics.

    *Sigh* On the bright side, “hay Liga” as they say in Spain. Its gonna be a much more exciting season.

    • October 18, 2009

      agree with you completely Hector.. I’m ecstatic we got a point at the Mestalla! This was by far our trickiest game in the last two seasons i think.. Valencia in top form, all our players coming back from their international commitments, playing at a bogey ground for us, ibra and henry unavailable.. Great point for us!! It will be interesting to see how EE does there.. doubt they’ll do much better than us but then again… I couldn’t be bothered bout em.

      Contrary to most of the bloggers here, I don’t think much of Pedro!. He only becomes a force to reckon with when he comes on as a sub against tiring defenders. Bojan used to be like that but he’s adapted brilliantly. wish Pedro! does the same.

      Really happy with the result again! it’s as good as a win IMO

  25. Hector
    October 18, 2009

    Messi has never been a 9. I expected him to have a bad match the moment I saw him positioned there. Its just not his thing. Maybe Pep was thinking false 9 but Emery unleashing relentless high pressure and flooding the midfield with Mata, Pablo, and Silva would have sabotaged that plan. He hardly touched the ball. Granted, when he did he didn’t always do as well as he usually does but he is a rhythm player that needs to get touches to get into a groove. We did not dominate midfield and thus could not get him the amount of touches he’s used to do. That said he also looked exhausted.

    • Cesc Blanc
      October 18, 2009

      thanks. at least someone else who sees things similar. I guess the point was about him either playing as a false 9 or play without any 9 and the 3 switching around, which they quite often did but specially in the first half the midfield let us more down than anyone else and he had to drop pretty deep. Add to that Alves not being in the game offensively at all and Messi lacking anyone he can put touches together in attack and that was all he could do and you can expect him to do.

  26. Ramzi
    October 18, 2009

    I am glad with the result to be honest. Playing against a great team like Valencia away from home is not an easy mission.

    After the huge pressure on Messi shoulders in the past few days, I wouldnt expect him to play better, specially in a game like this. He just proved that he is a human being.

    And wtih Xavi/Iniesta coming back from knocks, so as Bojan. plus the international break curse (we rarely perform after an international break). I am glad for hunting the point.

    Now of course those who were not availabe will naturally sound like the survivors. But we were not controlling the midfield in the first place even with three midfielders and Iniesta help when needed. We wouldnt control it with one man less. Ofensewise, I think what was mostly missed a “9” in this game rather than a wing. Its not a coincidence that both Pedro and Iniesta struggled on the flanks, so as Messi when he played there (either switching positions or after Bojan sub). If we had either Henry or Ibra as a 9, they would have pulled at least the two Valencia CB to the Center, creating more space for the flanks. Henry on the flank for example with Messi and pedro in the center and right wouldnt change anything beside less control in the midfield (something Iniesta can do better when he give a hand).

    I think it would have been smart to move Keita to play as a second holding mid, with Iniesta playing beside Xavi to dominate posession when we felt the game was running away. Or switching Keita and Yaya roles if we insist to play all out attacking.

    Generally speaking, good result considering all the situations.

  27. Ramzi
    October 18, 2009

    And the full credit for Valencia. Coming out from financial crises (didnt recover yet), they showed that Money is not “THE THING” in football. With a better resources managment and squad depth, they could have (and can in the future) compete with the Liga millionares.

    As a barca fan, You rarely watch a game that you wish it end as soon as possible just to avoid a loss. Against Valencia, that was the case. Amazing quality in the squad that exposed Barcelojna midfield forcing Keita for example to think twice before moving forward the Valencia box. Great tactical insight where they knew that without a true 9, Barcelona game on the flanks is useless as long as the wings will have to move the ball to the center eventually, Unless if Messi wear high heels. They had the option of closing the flanks with supportive CB moving out to create cover while the other CB and theFB of the oposite flank are more centered (Messi cant overcome that in the box), or leave only the fullbacks to deal with the flanks and gather the defensive troups in the Center of defense and midfield then generating fast counters.

    Who said its definitly a two horses race? If Sevilla or Valencia believed in their chances, they can create an exciting challenge.

  28. Cule
    October 18, 2009

    The main problem I saw in the first half was that our backline was always being caught way too far up the field. Because of Valencia’s speed the backline would track back and get cramped and find no outlet. After halftime the team did improve. Valdez had a monster game and I think deserves the MOM.

    I’ve said it before and i’ll say it again but playing Xavi, Alves, Messi, and Pique in every game will hurt us in the long run. Seems like they’re running out of steam. We definitely need another striker and some cover for Xavi. I think all 4 of them should sit out the CL game to be honest. Play Puyol, Marquez, Abidal, and Maxwell in the back as crazy as that sounds. Iniesta in for Xavi in Mid and Bojan in for Iniesta on the left wing. Pedro on the right and Ibra back in. Getting a draw in Russia is enough for me right now if it means our players get rested.

    This year the team played a Super Cup, a Spanish Super Cup, and they still have to play in the Club Champions Cup, not to mention the International games that most of our players are involved in.

    This year, I’ll take Away draws with some of our back ups playing any day of the week.

  29. Jonathan
    October 18, 2009

    Yo Kevin I just want to let you know man, I love your writing. It’s kind of a straight up way of saying things, no stalling. Respect.

    • Kxevin
      October 18, 2009

      Thanks, Jonathan. Blame the folks here, who wouldn’t let me do it any other way. 😀

  30. Kxevin
    October 18, 2009

    And in giving Valencia full credit, don’t neglect to mention that we deserve some pats on the back for salvaging a point against a better (on that day) much more energetic team. We were shit, and knocked to smithereens. Staggering to think that were it not for Pedro!’s stage fright, we might have scraped out a 1-0 win (or a 2-0 loss, it must also be said in full fairness).

    Also, the criticism (and not just from me) of Iniesta and Messi is encouraging, for the simple reason that I think this space brings a higher level of thought and analysis to match dissections. It isn’t just “I love him, so he can’t be bad.” Hector and Ramzi have raised the bar in that regard, so when I rant about Ghostface’s runs to nowhere, people say “Yeah!” instead of “You just hate Iniesta.”

    Pretty awesome, not because anybody agrees with me, but because we’re looking much more deeply at performances good and bad, and their underlying causes.

  31. Ramzi
    October 18, 2009

    To give Pep an excuse, I think if he reads this blog, he will make a comment saying:”Well guys, I knbow that Messi is not appropriate for as a 9, but what would you do if you were in my place?!”

    Seriously. Messi came with no feul in his tanks. It was normal to use him in a physically less demanding position than the wing, which is the 9. Or keep him on the bench? But who will play instead? I dont think even an inform Bojan panic Valencia defense as much as an exhausted Messi. But I doubt Bojan was fit enough to start.

    As for the flank, I think Pep put pedro because he is better than bojan in putting pressure on Valencia players at the flank to gain back possession.

    You cant predict who will be in his day and who won’t before the game. So I dont think Pep did anything wrong in this game. Its just the whole situation.

    If I would pick anything, I will say what I mentioned above: Against teams like Valencia, dynamic, energetic and counter attack masters, changing the tactical structure during the game has to be an option. Adding an extra midfielder in the mix may guarantee dominance on ball possession. We can’t live without it. So even when Ibra and Henry are ready, I think sometimes two holding mids, with Iniesta and Xavi infront plus two of Messi-Henry-Ibra will get you closer to scoring than three forwards infront of struggling midfield. And having the two holding mids it will keep you closer to win than the spaces we’ve seen against valencia in this game, where they had no resistance to face while slipping toward our box.

    Now I am heading the east, if anyone want anything from there that cost less than 2 cents, give me a call!

    Enjoy your time.

  32. Corrine
    October 18, 2009


    Andrey Arshavin (Arsenal)
    Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)
    Iker Casillas (Real Madrid)
    Julio Cesar (Inter Milan)
    Diego (Juventus)
    Didier Drogba (Chelsea)
    Edin Dzeko (Wolfsburg)
    Samuel Eto’o (Inter Milan)
    Luis Fabiano (Sevilla)
    Cesc Fabregas (Arsenal)
    Diego Forlan (Atletico Madrid)
    Steven Gerrard (Liverpool)
    Ryan Giggs (Manchester United
    Yoann Gourcuff (Bordeaux)
    Theirry Henry (Barcelona)
    Zlatan Ibrahimovich (Barcelona)
    Andres Iniesta (Barcelona)
    Kaka (Real Madrid)
    Frank Lampard (Chelsea)
    Maicon (Inter Milan)
    Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
    Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich)
    Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)
    Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)
    John Terry (Chelsea)
    Fernando Torres (Liverpool)
    Nemanja Vidic (Manchester United)
    David Villa (Valencia)
    Xavi (Barcelona)
    YAYA TOURE!!!!!!!!!! (Barcelona)

    we make up 20%-23% of the list depending on how you include samu/ibra

    • Kari
      October 18, 2009

      It it unfair for me to say that I don’t really get why Kaka’ is there? I really like Kaka’ , but I think he was nominated solely BECAUSE he’s Kaka’. Ac Milan weren’t all the great last season and I dunno about Brazil…

      Anyway, YAY for The YAYA! ‘Bout time. And hey look, they didn’t forget Iniesta this time 😀

      • Kari
        October 18, 2009

        Well, to answer my own question, it’s probably because he was carrying them (seeing the sorry state they’re in now) pretty much by himself

      • Corrine
        October 18, 2009

        i’m a bit angry that alonso wasn’t nominated and players like… cesc (who was injured half the season!) were. xabi was pool’s best player last season but i guess players like that don’t get recognition unless they win something! it follows the pattern of the sudden xaviesta worshiping this year

    • SC
      October 18, 2009

      All hail The Yaya!
      My vote, however, is for Xavi. 🙂

    • OhYes
      October 18, 2009

      Holy shit!! Yaya Toure nominated for Ballon D’Or?? Who would’ve thought wow that’s shocking. He’s often one of the most overlooked players on the team.

  33. Jim
    October 18, 2009

    A good point in the circumstances for me. Plaudits to the defence for holding firm. I also think the team deserved a bit more. They stank as an attacking force but after a poor first half their passing came on and they ran and closed down all over. Sometimes that’s all you can do.

    Agree absolutely with Valdes ! I think Pique a little hard done by in the ratings. I think he saw the writing on the wall early on and decided he had to stay at home covering others who were up raiding rather than moving forward.

    I think the same is true of Iniesta who can play wide left – he goes past a man easier than anyone, maybe even including Messi, but our passing was so slow and laboured he was never going to get a 1 on 1 so he dropped back to give Xavi a hand. The problem with that is that with Henry you know where he will be all the time whereas when you aren’t sure it kinda unsettles the quick ball wide.

    Not sure Pep deserved the hard time. Difficult to see what else he could do and he wouldnt have been happy sending out the forward line he did. Agree that the only way we were seeing Ibra was if we went a goal down.

    A couple of worrying signs though. Xavi wasn’t moving or turning well and I don’t think it was tiredness. He could do with sitting out midweek. The other ( stands back and waits for flack) was Yaya. For me his season hasn’t started yet. He doesn’t seem to be the force he was last year atm and is making too many mistakes. Still playing well enough but not for me the reassuring presence he was.

    Interesting how we can all watch the same game and draw so many different conclusions, huh? 🙂

  34. yogi
    October 18, 2009

    Everyone says that this season is not like last and how true it is. Last season, we were playing divine football. This season, though the results are ok, football is way below that level. Irrespective of titles, i just hope that we come close to that level in coming months.

    • Kxevin
      October 18, 2009

      I say just win, baby. We’re off to a better start this season, and that’s with the season wrapping up later for us, and that not entirely small matter of the UEFA SuperCup, etc.

      I’m not at all surprised that we aren’t firing on all cylinders. As I’ve said before, World Cup years are always, always dire when it comes to club competitions. Players go away, and they come back a) tired or b) injured. Between that, and the disjointed nature of the club side as players fly back and forth, it’s to be expected.

      As I noted, 10 of our starting 11 were off on Cup duty. Unfortunately, I don’t see any stretches coming up where the side will be able to get the rest that it needs. Luckily, Cup obligations are gone for everyone except Henry and Abidal, who have to be gone for the two-legged play-in attempt for France.

      But we need health and continuity. Last season, we were so lucky with injuries. But also, without World Cup obligations and no silver the previous season, we had plenty of free time in the off season, right?

  35. cliveee
    October 19, 2009

    Other than the obvious heros Puyol and Valdes, I think Abidal played very well so far this season. The best thing about him is his consistency. He gives me a sense of security with the strength in his pace and the way he can protect the ball. but yea, he blasted it away a few times but was generally dictating the left flank.

    • Kxevin
      October 19, 2009

      And there was a time, not so long ago, when people were calling for Abidal’s head. He has been our most consistent defender this season, fully the player we thought we were signing (but it took him a while to work in).

  36. stephen
    October 19, 2009

    I totally agree about Valdes, if anyone gives shit (which is still early in the season really) have to think about this match. Valencia was the home team! we drew last year there too!! except we werent the team to beat, AND it was a totally different scene. it was also 2-2 so, really it was mroe disappointing, more spectacle.

  37. tyler
    October 19, 2009

    wait, why did we wear our home jersey’s on saturday?

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