Categorized | La Liga, Review

Espanyol 1-1 Barcelona: You Win Some, You Draw Some, aka, Barca Show Their Humanity

I know what you are all feeling. I know because I’m feeling the same way.

Well, actually, I don’t know about you guys, but I feel like doing this:

Those Pericos. How I loathe them.

Just when the perfect opportunity to sit down and roll over nicely presents itself – really, we weren’t even planning on scoring that many goals against them—they have to go and play out of their skins against us in front of their fans.

The bastards.

So Barcelona struts onto the Cornella pitch with a 3-4-3 formation consisting of: Valdes – Puyol, Pique, Abidal – Xavi, Busi, Fabregas, Iniesta – Alves, Messi, and Alexis.

It was the same eleven that started, and won 1-3, in the Bernabeu in December. Iniesta and Alexis were able to shake off their injuries (well, in latter’s case, make a full recovery). There was no Cuenca, or Maxwell, as they didn’t make the bench.

The match started off at a frenetic pace, which suited Espanyol just as well.

Wait…Espanyol?

What?! There’s another team on the field?!

Barcelona with their superhuman tippy tappy from hell tends to make the other team seem like they’re training cones. Turns out they’re actually aren’t.

…Yeah, I’m pretty shocked too.

Hats off to Espanyol. They made things difficult. How difficult? I’ll get to that. But they definitely played out of their skins.

The concept of deserving things – goals, cards, wins, sweat soaked shirts– in football is one regarded with some disdain: you don’t ‘deserve’ things, you earn it. And I’m hard pressed to say that Espanyol didn’t earn their goal.

It was coming, it really was.

Composure, composure, wherefore art thou?

A 3-4-3 is a great formation when executed properly. You can create a boat load of chances, gain numerical superiority in advantageous places on the pitch, and score a lot of goals. However, there is one very important thing you need to make it all work:

Possession.

With possession, you can compose yourself, find a rhythm, dictate the tempo, prevent your 3 man backline from being exposed and just generally cause the other team problems while minimizing yours. It’s why we love it so much, we could marry it.

But if you don’t have it, 3-4-3 is a bit… risky, to say the least.

Barcelona did not have good possession, regardless of what the statistician says.

(They’re probably getting lazy and already have the possession stat before the game’s played, I bet. :D)

Espanyol came out with a game plan, which was: press the heck out of that team in black and turn this game into a scrimmage. Don’t worry about keeping decent possession or anything impossible like that, just make sure they can’t.  Stay narrow, flood the centre, and when you get the ball, don’t worry about scoring on the counter. Just make sure you have more players than them when countering and work from there.

Needless to say: it worked.

Sergio Garcia and Joan Verdu in particular did a great job in drifting in between our lines. Sure, they can’t finish to save a dying puppy, but it seems like Alvaro can.

It’s a cliché but midfields win matches.

The main objective of our midfield is quite simple: keep the ball. From there, they usually establish the team’s rhythm and dictate the match’s tempo.

As mentioned above, the first half was end to end stuff. That was partly down to Espanyol’s press, but our players also had a large effect.

They were far too direct today and played far too fast. And they let themselves get caught up in Espanyol dynamics and didn’t try to settle the match down.

It was weird seeing our team play like they were Speedy Gonzalez on speed. (Don’t doubt my similes, okay. They’re brilliant.)

I didn’t like it.

The Cesc Complexity

I'm really scoring dem headed goals!

I find Cesc Fabregas a very interesting player. He’s not particularly fast, his first touch isn’t the best on the team, but he has a wonderful GPS in his head that probably flashes green arrows every now and again that tells him ‘Hey, Cesc, move that way! You’ll find space there!’ and more often than not he’ll do some kind of damage using that space, whether it be scoring a goal or providing an assist.

Take the goal he scored today in the 15th minute, after being denied minutes before when Messi was adjudged to have used his arm to control the ball (silly refs, don’t they know he’s Argentine?): Xavi shifts the ball to Alves on the right. As Dani prepares for the cross, Messi makes a barreling forward run towards goal, taking a multitude of defenders (read: two) with him. That leaves a small gap – really, I doubt we could even fit Bojan in there (if he were still here) — and Fabregas took advantage, directing a fabulous header into the bottom right corner from just inside the box.

Wonderful goal. He shadows Leo’s runs so, so well.

That being said, he brings a host of other issues both directly and indirectly.

His role in the team is still a weird one. It’s kind of like he’s in a free role, but not really. When he’s playing in an advanced position, he’ll have a positive effect. However, when he’s playing in said advanced position, shadowing Messi’s runs or creating confusion – “anarchy” as Pep calls it, as when the opposition defenders see him they think, “Wait, when you get here? Aren’t you supposed to be in the midfield?”—there’s no one to support Xavi, Iniesta and Busi in the midfield, particularly during counters.

In other words, sure, we have another player up front, but we’re a man short in the midfield of all places.

So not cool. And totally rains on Pep’s total midfield domination parade.

So whenever we lost the ball, our transition defense (ie. When we go from ‘let’s score a billion goals on these mofos’ to ‘ah crap, we lost the ball, all hands on deck!’) suffered. Badly. We didn’t have enough players to defend the Espanyol ones that were streaking forward.

Added to that was Alves playing too far up the pitch in his right wing role. When he’s playing that high, and Cesc is off to scale Mount Shadow Striker, he’s got to make sure he’s careful not to lose possession on his side. Why? Because he’s only got Puyol and Xavi, who probably drifts to the middle, behind to cover. As much as I love ‘em, they’re not exactly the Spanish Usain Bolts. And there’s only so much ground Busi’s Bambi legs can cover. (A lot, to be fair, but still).

Basically Alves shouldn’t lose the ball too often because he’ll be too far up the pitch to run back and cover and leave poor Puyol, Xavi and maybe Busi to cover.

Problem: Alves lost the ball too often, leaving poor Puyol, Xavi, and maybe Busi, to cover.

Yeah, this isn't working.

Second half: Pep tries to make adjustments

Team came out of the second half after getting their Pep talk (pun had to happen, sorry) and they kept possession much better.

And by much better, I mean slightly better than what it was before. Which wasn’t much.

That had to do with the fact Alves was pushed deeper; first to the midfield, then to right back around the 65th minute. When that happened, we switched to a more conventional back 4 and Fabregas moved to the wing. It was necessary as our right flank was being overrun.

We needed to regain some lost composure. Then build a rhythm and get that second goal.

Ultimately, Barcelona couldn’t. Espanyol’s dynamism dictated the game and that was the Pericos’ greatest victory.

Two Schools of Thought: We’re all gonna die! Vs. Relax muchachos, still a long way to go

A good chunk of cules, maybe 90%, ascribe to the former. I’m that rare 10% that believes that giving up on the Liga with 17 games to go is…pretty silly.

Is it a challenge? For sure. But impossible? Not a chance.

Yeah, we’ll drop points, but they will too. A draw here, an Alcorconazo there, et voila! We’re back in it.

This might shock some people but…

We’re still not a finished product. Experimentation is still in effect. Seriously. Just like the first half of the season saw about a billion backlines (something like 9 different ones in La Liga alone) so that we could seamlessly go from a 3 man backline to a 4 man backline with no subs, I think our second half of the season will see us doing more experimenting with our frontline, especially given Villa’s unfortunate injury.

Honestly, I’ve always seen this season as the transition for next season when Alexis is fully integrated, we find out what the heck to do with Fabregas, and Thiago…okay, maybe not Thiago.

Penalties and Barca, like Di Maria and Staying Upright In the Box

The majority of the blame lies with us, but no one blaugrana would mind if referees didn’t stop applying the rules of the game to us. We can be crap and still be allowed to get penalties. Really. First Valencia, then Getafe, and now this game…

Is it because of Qatar Foundation? Or the Coke Zero? Because that’s not our fault. (Okay, maybe the first one, but that’s all RoSELL man. And the cules who voted for it).

And I don’t even like Coke Zero. Aspartame sucks.

Thoughts:

Pep: game-plan didn’t work. Should have set them up different, like you did in the Clasico with Alexis up front, Messi as 10. And personally, I’d have put in Thiago instead of Pedro. He can play LW and still maintain possession. But I know you wanted it. Look how sad you are in this video.

:(

Team: Not the best of games. Too direct, passes more wayward than Liverpool’s sense of justice. They’re human after all. Your punishment: Being in the middle of never-ending rondos, courtesy of the Barca Babies. Then having Carmona and Armando on your team when playing against them. Don’t worry fellow cules, I have a heart; I need it to live after all. Conscience? I have no conscience.

Valdes: Didn’t really have much to do. Some erratic passes and weird positioning at times, but awesome save in the first half when you pushed Verdu’s shot off the post. That, and the save from Sergio Garcia too. Maybe could have done better on the goal, but that was an all around stinker.

Puyol: Lots of heart, full body blocks and some great covering for Alves. That said, Espanyol were prioritizing that right flank and so you were by yourself for a while. Alvaro also broke away from you on the goal. Sad face.

Pique: I liked your defending today. Great interceptions, won a lot in the air, some good tackles and that goal line clearance? Me gusta. Your passing? Could have done without it today to be honest. Missed their mark and tended to gift possession right back. Your form’s improving though. Good news.

Abidal: Mr. Reliable. Espanyol took one look at you and said, “screw attacking this flank.” Your flexibility and ability to play as centre back is one of the reasons why we can seamlessly go from a 3-man back line to a 4  man one. I loved that full body block in the first half on Sergio Garcia too.

Busi: I thought you had a great game. You’re just so smooth. I like your deft passes. You keep it simple, and it’s wonderful to watch. There was this lovely turn you did in the centre of the field in the second half that I could seriously watch all day. There were times where you were in fireman mode too and used those Bambi legs to cover great distances. Under-appreciated.

Xavi: A lot of people are blaming you for not controlling the midfield, but then those people probably don’t get that you’re not the one who’s solely responsible for Midfield Domination ™. When you did have the ball though, you did some good things, like that assist to an assist for our goal. You also misplaced passes on occasion, which is notable only for its oddity.

Iniesta: I missed you. Oh how I missed you. Silkiest player I’ve ever seen. Combinations with Alexis were very nice, and one of our best players in both halves today. A selfish part of me likes that you are sometimes overshadowed a bit, or lumped together with Xavi, because then you can become subject of a cult. A fanatic one.

Cesc:  see above. What I’m reminded of when I thought of this game is a Barca youth team coach who said that he felt that Fabregas was making us too ‘English’ and that worried him. Interesting shout and after watching this game, I’m inclined to agree a bit.

Alves: The cross for Cesc’s goal was immaculate. I see Cuenca’s emergence has been keeping you on your toes. Just stop dilly dallying with the ball. Please. I know you’re playing right wing, but if you’re not going to take on a player, which you should have given how narrow Espanyol was, then at least keep the ball moving. The hesitation really isn’t necessary. Disappointed with you today. You need to take ‘Keep It Simple And Moving’ lessons with Busi.

That said, incredibly saddened to hear the monkey chants directed at you. It was very clear on my TV. Shameful.

Messi: Generally, most people will be thinking, “we lost—uh, I mean, drew! Where was Leo!” Those same people tend to forget teams prioritize defending him. There will be games where it’s just too much. And when he’s being defended by so many players, everyone else has less players on them and are more open. His job isn’t just to score and be the hero all the time. Team game, etc.

That being said, it wasn’t a shining example of what he can do. Didn’t have much direct effect as we’re used to seeing, didn’t press as hard as he could have, and was just generally meh. By his standards.

Alexis: Chut de bol, chileno! Shoot! His game was a mixed bag for me. While he was very lively, he tended to be too differential to other players. That, and when he DID decide to shoot, it took about a million years. And he didn’t get it on target either. Bad Alexis. Also, take on players more.  You’ve got skills, bro. Use them! His workrate was as great as ever though.

Substitutes:

Pedro (for Alexis): brought on to assist in the scoring of, or actually score, the second goal. Composure on the ball isn’t his strong suit, his wayward shot at the death was a scuffed one, but he could have, and should have, gotten a penalty after Raul Rodriguez’s blatant handball. Ah well.

Keiteeee (for Cesc): Came on just before the goal was scored. Your sub was meant to restore some order in the midfield, and basically hang on to the 0-1 (which is always very risky) but with that equalizer the team was always going to be frantically searching for the winner. Now you’re off to the ACON (African Cup of Nations). You will be missed.

So.

Some food for thought:

– In the post match press conference, our mister was almost in tears. Seriously. He had look forward and up to stop them welling up in his eyes. This Liga matters. They won’t give up until it’s mathematically impossible and neither will I. There was a time where Madrid was 12pts back and still managed to win the title (ugh) and in the 08/09 we had a 12 pt lead in January cut down to 1.

5 points?

The league isn’t over until it’s mathematically impossible. We’ll fight to the end.

Our next match in the Liga is against Real Betis on Sunday (we play Osasuna away on Thursday).

Som-hi, Barca!

– Espanyol started a bunch of homegrown players, men from their academy, did that make a difference, however small it may be? Personally, yes, I think it did.

They hassled, they harangued, they moaned, they stomped – they did anything they could do salvage something in front of their fans. And for themselves. Because, well, they hate us. Sure, it’s been diluted a bit by Iniesta’s Jarque gesture, but the chance to put a wrench in our season is one they clap their hands gleefully at.

And… that’s something I don’t think Madrid have right now to be honest.

Am I the only one who noticed the...body...in the background?

—-

Images courtesy of: fcbarcelona.cat, Yahoo! Sports.

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128 Responses to “Espanyol 1-1 Barcelona: You Win Some, You Draw Some, aka, Barca Show Their Humanity”

  1. Kari says:

    Apologies for any glaring mistakes. It’s late and I’m tired.

  2. justsayin says:

    Español was able to run box to box without much of a defensive effort from our midfield. Busquets, who normally is steadfast as the last man defending the ball before it gets to the back line, was also non-existent. It was like we had 8 men pushing forward (including Alves) and 2 men defending. Surprised that Pep didn’t make an adjustment.

    Additionally, Messi should have been subbed, not Alexis who was having a better game than Messi. Would have liked Pep to have made this sub to show that everyone is fair game out there. Special treatment for Messi when he is having an awful game can’t be at the expense of a win. The game should have ended with Fabregas, Pedro and Alexis up front.

  3. mega_tajh says:

    I still have faith!! In Pep we Trust…..but seriously we need to pick up our away form…

    WE got a run of tough away games coming up before the end of January. Away to Malaga and Villarreal back to back.

    P.s- I hate it when we play on Sundays :(

  4. nia says:

    It’s the black kits i tell you. I don’t think the team has got complacent, i just think everyone else has figured how to play them. Especially away from home in the liga, everyone is playing at 200% against us. Although we should have got a penalty at the end (not much use to us now)but the refs also need to make more effort to award us with the right decisions. If the pain and horror of losing the championship to EE doesn’t wake the boys up, then nothing will and it wasn’t meant to be.

    I said it earlier in the season that Barca’s yr so far has a hint of Rijkaards last yr in charge where every 3 or 4 games we either lost or drew and in the end imploded. I don’t think that will happen with this team coz they are better than that. Hopefully Barca have a good second half of the season and finish the yr on a high and god forbid EE win ( a pasillo at camp nou ARGGGGG!!!), they would be deserved champions. Visca Barca.

  5. Kimcelona says:

    I’m just gonna summarize what I put in the last post:
    Pedro-good..should have come on earlier.
    Messi-bad..and horrible for his standards but we must remember he prob is still recovering with limited training..
    Xavi AND Iniesta subpar- Iniesta having silky moves for me does not equate to him having a good game. A few nice passes with Alexis was not a good game. Xavi was almost invisible at times..understandable though since midfield on a whole was outshadowed.
    Busi-best in the midield to me eventhough he had alot of wayward passes and bad giveaways.
    Dani- BAD.
    Abi, Puyi and Pique-Good at most times…a few mistakes but best trio compared to the rest of team.
    Valdes-MOTM for me, saved our buts and couldnt really do anything about the goal conceded.
    Alexis- not that bad..but decision making poor at times
    Cesc- weird game again. Good in final third but bad in midfield.
    Pep- took too long for subs but starting line up was good, imo
    Away form-poor, can’t continue if we want to fight for the liga.
    Every away game nervewarcking for me..not good, Pep needs to look into.
    The End.

  6. Jafri says:

    Man, the two league matches I’ve missed watching so far – both 1-1 draws. Gah.

  7. Jafri says:

    I still have hope though. Five points is just two bad matches for them, if we can get our act together. Need to watch the match right now, but I know this – there’s no team on Earth that can stand us even if we play to 90% of our capacity. So come on guys. You can still do this!

  8. BarcaGirl_Indo says:

    Thanks for this review, Kari. You make me proud to know this written by a girl. ;)

    And really, what’s up with this awful/poor/erratic/horrible/disjointed performances in La Liga away games?

    But it’s not the same story in CL away games though. We won all of them. 0-5, 0-4, 2-3. That’s impressive, even AC Milan drew their away games against Bate and Plzen.

  9. Jafri says:

    Okay, just saw the highlights so far and a few thoughts -
    -Pep needs to not start off with 3-4-3. We’re perfectly capable of morphing into it without any subs so it should be kept as a roll of the dice… It’s too risky to start off with, especially in a match the other team is so pumped up for, and especially considering how long it takes us to settle into a passing rhythm. They actually had more shots than us in the beginning. That’s almost as unexpected as a team having more possession than us.
    -Dani should play in a role where he’s expected to help in defense as well, maybe more of a midfield role like he played once or twice. Or improve his shot if he’s an out and out winger. There is almost no goal threat from the sides with the players we’re currently using, meaning that if Messi has an off day (like today), then we have big problems.
    -Cesc is welcome to burst forward and score, just like Dani is allowed to maraud in the 4-3-3, just like Messi is allowed to pop up pretty much wherever he feels like, it’s just that with the team and the formation still in progress it’s difficult to consistently find the balance; as a result when he makes too many forward runs we find ourselves caught with our pants down when the other guys get the ball.
    -This match needed calm, as Kari mentioned in her excellent review (no glaring errors that I could see Kari, in fact I daresay no errors at all), we needed to disrupt their high tempo game with possession and pass/pass/mesmerize them into making mistakes and stop them from being so gosh-darned ebullient in this match.

  10. barca96 says:

    -Was it worth it to play a sick and a Messi who just came back from holiday?
    I don’t think so Pep!!

    -I thought Andy Caroll moved to Espanyol.

    -Do most of you guys still side with Platini that we shouldn’t use video technology?

    I have always been a supporter of video technology. I hope that now that we have a very important decision (Messi offside & hand ball) going against us, people here will start to see the benefit a video technology will bring us.

    We should not suffer from human-error anymore!

  11. Gogah says:

    Just a couple thoughts.

    I was one of the few people vehemently against the purchase of Fabregas this summer. Not because i thought he is not good enough, but i felt that it was somewhat an unnecessary luxury. Everyone was quick to tell me, “see?, see how good he is for us?”.
    Yes he is scoring a lot of goals and thats helping.
    But his link up play and ability to add to the possession game is still quite poor. He is enjoying the time of his life having the likes of Xavi, iniesta, messi and alves creating for him, but i think the amount of goals he is scoring now is going to work to his disadvantage for sure. He will not always be able to keep this up.
    Its great that Pep is rotating a lot this year, but i think Fab’s inclusion in the squad is being forced a bit. The Barca game is not being accentuated with fab’s presence. It is Fab’s game that is being accentuated with Barca’s play. and that is a dangerous sign which we must fix soon.
    Lexus, take a shot boy. i know you want to fit in and everything and chip in with all those cheeky assists, but take a shot.

    Now…
    Pep must prove to the world that he is not as partial as he seems towards Messi. Yes he is the best player in the world by some margin and yes, he may not have any bad games, but this one was it.
    The boss must display courage and take him out if need be.
    When was the last time Messi was subbed? EVER?
    Who is more powerful in Barca? Messi or Pep? good question.

    Finally…
    the liga is not over by any stretch of imagination.

    • BarcaGirl_Indo says:

      I know, I know he should’ve been subbed out.. You’re right about that.. I’m not arguing with that argument.. But I can see why Pep kept him on the pitch..

      How many times in Messi’s career he saved our asses despite playing bad/really tired like the whole game? Suddenly “bang!” he scored a goal or even two.. and we’re like “and how the hell he did that?”

      That’s why sometimes Messi got 3,4,5,6 rating from Kxevin despite scoring goal/s, because other than his goals, he didn’t play well..

    • Srini says:

      Atypical over-reaction. Cesc might not have integrated as well a la Iniesta/Xavi in the midfield as yet, but he has been a great alternative to Villa’s poor form/injury this year. He also adds a component of play – directness that makes Barca less predictable than before. Cesc has been tremendous this season as a newcomer and the only thing left for him to do is to become an integral tiki-taka exponent, which is not a tall order for him. In many ways, his work-rate has been as good as any – Villa’s/Pedro’s and that is boding well for him.

      I think Euler got it correct (as usual and expected) about the real reasons for Barca’s under-performance against Espanyol. It has not necessarily been individual failure as much as a failure to transit into a better tactical positioning against a very motivated Espanyol team.

      I have problems with Pep’s laissez faire approach to Messi’s time on the pitch generally, but I don’t think he got it wrong this game. Messi had only played half a game after holiday and fatigue surely was not going to bog him down and keeping him on the pitch was certainly not a bad decision in this game.

      • Gogah says:

        1. I’m not suggesting that Messi needed to be subbed off yesterday as much as thinking aloud if Pep ever considers it all. It certainly doesn’t seem so.

        2. I already did mention that Cesc’s goals are helping. Helping us deal with Villa’s absence easily.

        It is funny how we fans operate. Earlier we were crying about the lack of directness and elaborate buildup. Today we are complaining that yesterday we were too direct and hurried.

        on the whole i’m not blaming anyone for the loss (err..draw), i agree with kari that the mister may have got his tactics wrong.
        you could totally tell from the body language throughout the game that pochetino was more at ease even 0-1 down. The match was playing out as he envisioned it.

        This 3-4-3, i’m not a big fan of. It tends to leave us with no width and vulnerable in defense.
        I’d rather Pep tinker more with the 3-5-2.

  12. hammeronmessi says:

    simply put we played at a frenetic pace which is not our style.there is no patience in the buildup.almost every time we got the ball they got it from us and forced issues.we didnt slow the game,thats where espanyol managed the game.this is normally when messi bails us out,but apart from the last 5 mins he was simply bad.

    we can all cry bout the penalty,but how did iniesta missed the goal from there???

    any way the liga is not over but our chance of winning it reduced to atleast 20%

  13. Barcelinha says:

    we should’ve shown our humanity vs. L’Hospitalet as well as Christmas spirit, not now.

    everything about this game was pathetic and shameful, from the way we played with a complacency worthy of a copa del rey return leg after winning 4-0 in the first and ending with the atrocious refereeing.

    i think putting in Keita was just the cherry on top of a mismanaged game from start to finish.

    something has to be done about Pique and Messi tbh and fast.

    • Jnice says:

      Thought this was Pique’s best match in awhile.

      • Srini says:

        Indeed. Pique was Piquenbauer after quite some time. No silly fouls, great distribution from the back, very good tackles and some last minute saves from the goal-line that saved our blushes. I thought Puyol OTOH had some role to play in the Espanyol goal, when he lost his man after the striker had headed his ball in.

    • hammeronmessi says:

      something has to be done about Pique and Messi tbh and fast.

      may i know what this something is?

      pique may have his best match for a while

  14. Barcelinha says:

    also, i can’t read a match report that uses irony in copious amounts to cover for the fact that we played like shit.

    we could’ve beaten Espanyol – who were, indeed, on fire – had we actually played some consistent football.

  15. messi_fan says:

    Guardiola looked like he has a cold, moreso than holding back tears.

  16. barca96 says:

    Like I said a million times before, Pep needs to learn how to handle Messi. When to rest him.

    Pique was a beast at the back. And whenever he joins the attack, he creates a chance. Every single time for years now!

    Instead of Pep unnecessarily playing a lot of key players in the Copa, he could’ve saved their energy for a La Liga match. Same case with Messi. Instead of forcing him to rest, he played him vs. Osasuna because Messi said he wanted to play.

    What if Hleb calls and says that he wants to play?

  17. barca96 says:

    @Gogah

    Cesc adds something different to our team.

    What if he was closer to Xaviniesta type rather than his current direct style, we would’ve never had those goals.

    And do not forget his amazing link-up play with Messi.

  18. BarcaOwl says:

    As a general rule, I tend to avoid Barca blogs after matches when the result is either a draw or a loss. Simple reason being, you get 95% armchair football managers going ‘Pep should have …’ or ‘Pep shouldn’t have …’ and 5% level headedness. Not worth the aggravation. Thank goodness I can find a good portion of that 5% in here.

    Yes, the team has had better matches. But ultimately, the players are only human and they will makes mistakes. Hindsight, to me, is something that of little use beyond the lessons it can offer.

    I’m sure the team will pick itself up and fight on. If they haven’t given up hope, neither should we.

  19. y2k156 says:

    Well played to Espanyol. They took the game to Barca and asked questions. Barca did get few unlucky breaks but thats football. We only played at 100% for last few minutes.

    Messi had a poor/average game yesterday. I do agree with Pep on keeping him though. He was very involved when we finally came to life in last few minutes. Before that though, he was starved of service. What i read above is same comments that people state about him and Argentina. He needs his team as well. Yesterday he got one stupid yellow and one incorrect offside when he could have been off to races. After yellow, he was cautious in tacking. I saw more then few times when he wanted the ball but Cesc or Alexis played it to player who was ahead of him to no avail. So lets all calm down and look at match.

    No just him, i saw lots of Xavi balls that were overhit yesterday. Iniesta was getting dispossessed and Alves and Cesc looked lost. Cesc brings good and bad and positionally when he and Messi cannot dovetail, we got problem.

    It was derby and Barca did come up short. For me, more then players, it was opposition and also i felt that tactically we were not set up that great yesterday. This was same conclusion i had in Bilbao game as well. It seems that 3-4-3 to click, we need to be perfect. Against teams that pressure us through the game and are willing to commit men up front, this formation does need to improve.

    Though 5 points is a lot, its still 5 points for me. Visca el Barca!

  20. nzm says:

    Simple fact: if you play a 3-man backline and the opposition comes at you with 5 in the front, something’s gotta give.

    We started with a 4 man backline against Madrid, and then swapped to a 3 man to apply some pressure, once Madrid’s early pressing dropped off – that worked. This time, Pep was really stubborn in keeping the 3 man backline when it was obvious it wasn’t working. At one stage, even Pique was yelling that the others had to come back quicker than they were to support the backs.

    Watching that game, my subs (much earlier) would have been:
    Thiago for Xavi (direct swap – get some movement going with Messi)
    Adriano for Alexis (direct swap)
    Masch for Iniesta (drop Masch into CB, Puyol into RB for a 4 man backline and Alves into a roving wing)

    I would have started Pedro instead of Alexis and Cesc for Iniesta in midfield.

    But there weren’t enough subs to replace all the misfiring players on the pitch last night – that was the real issue!

    Again, we were too slow. I was afraid that this would happen, because in his pre-game conference, Pep stressed that they would need to play quickly, and each time he says this, the team plays too slowly.

    Aargh – not quite the end of the world, but definitely can’t afford to lose any more points.

  21. blitzen says:

    Good review, Kari. Must have been a difficult one to write.

  22. The biggest problem for us last night was that we had two guys trying to play “False 9″. Guardiola should have made the Pedro(and for Fabregas) switch at half time, that should have solved the issue. That would have gave the team the proper formation. I do agree with Karri about Cesc, he was all over the place. Never understood what his role was.

  23. EvaDaniu says:

    I guess we need some inspiration right now so here it is.

    In case someone like me have trouble in downloading video.
    Here is SpanIsh Super Copa with Ray Ray comment.

    The first leg:
    First half
    http://www.tudou.com/programs/view/AV2lTTZb1Z8/

    Second half
    http://www.tudou.com/programs/view/sBjK3Ida5zA/

    The return leg:
    First half
    http://www.tudou.com/programs/view/9KQzGfJZBKc/

    Second half
    http://www.tudou.com/programs/view/gQ1dZZbu0ko/

    Enjoy it.

  24. Helge says:

    Valencia vs Real Madrid:
    94th min, Valencia hit the cross-bar, the rebound is blocked by some EE player’s hand who lies on the ground.
    Luck was on Real’s side twice in the dying minutes.
    The more I think about these two situations, the more I could smash something.

    We’ve had bad luck on our side. I wonder if the league was decided by these two moments :(

    We’ve actually never had luck this season when dropping points, right?
    I think that is the difference, not class or focus or something. In the end, Real was lucky sometimes, we not.

    Looking forward to CdR, because I still believe that we are the (far) better side!

    Apart from CdR, I will delve into my scripts and pdfs for the many upcoming exams and try to forget about la Liga …

    • hammeronmessi says:

      We’ve actually never had luck this season when dropping points, right?

      nope,against athl bilbao we are lucky to get a point,against valencia we r lucky that pablo missed that open goal,unlucky messi didnt get a penalty,against sociedad no luck was involved as villa has a brain firt,against getafe we were bad.

      so imho it was not luck but rather we are not in our usual standard in those games.

      real madrid dont know.dont watch them play,so cant tell.

      Apart from CdR, I will delve into my scripts and pdfs for the many upcoming exams and try to forget about la Liga …

      please dont,madrid just have to play just one bad game before the classico,then we r back again although i admit our chance is now about 30%

      • Helge says:

        Getafe was a horrific match.

        But the matches against Valencia, Sevilla and Espanyol could all have been won if we had been lucky.
        We were not the better team in Valencia, but neither was Madrid when they won there.
        We were not at our best against Sevilla, but how on earth can a team that plays such a pathetic football during almost the whole season come away with a 0-0 draw from the Camp Nou? You could blame Messi for that draw, but I could still claim that luck would have won us the match.

        I do not say that we should have won them all, but usually one of those matches would have been a win.

        Last season, we were on 46 points after 17 matches. We surely do not deserve that this season.
        But being 5 points behind Real Madrid is not what we deserve, either. That is my opinion, and I adhere to it.

        I feel that we have not won any match this season when we were not superior. That’s fair, you might say, but other teams win despite showing a lacklustre performance. If this other team is Real Madrid, have already played at the likes of Valencia, Sevilla, Malaga, San Sebastian … it’s pretty much over.

        We still have to go to Malaga, Sevilla, Atletico, Osasuna, Villarreal and maybe one could even include Betis.
        And whereas Sevilla, Atleti and Malaga were no match for EE, I doubt they’ll leave it as easy for us.

        I’d say our chance of winning a 4th straight la Liga title is merely 15%. And that ****** me off, because we should actually be better off. And 2 ref’s decision against us (resp. one pro Madrid) can screw a lot in this league, against this Madrid – which is probably the best team ever against weaker sides.

  25. Lev says:

    “We’ve actually never had luck this season when dropping points, right?
    I think that is the difference, not class or focus or something.”

    Yeah, that and the black away jerseys. And I do believe those two things are related.

    • just listenin says:

      I’m not sure why?? – and will have to go back and look at which kit we wore when?, but I do think you are on to something!!
      There is something attitudinal or a “feeling”, it’s like it projects too much authority and boldness for our humbleness and is creating a disturbance in the force…it’s some kind of bad clothing Feng Shui or something. Too Regal,..gasp, too “REAL” – I like these kits, they look very cool,… I just don’t like them on us, It is draining our energy like a cosmic vortex – we should go back to the toothpaste ones all the time, or the yellow, or salmon. Unless in the Blaugrana,.. i think we play better in silly colors

  26. Bassam says:

    The panda and then NPH with his “Why? Whyy? WHYYYYYY?”. Awesome!

    On a serious note, any chance the english FA would intervene and ban some Espanyol fans? Someone has to do something. Something productive about this racism! Maybe we should have Alves shake the hands of the Espanyol supporters…

  27. mani says:

    Apart from the runny nose- finally feel better about the loss draw. This team is simply the best. Their class will propel them to the top in the end. Would love for EE to draw/lose a game here or there so the clasico at the camp really is a win-all scenario. Would make for a hell of a game.

  28. yassir says:

    Couldn’t watch the match as i was down with the flu, still am, but after watching a replay i can say the whole team had the flu or something, blaming the ref isn’t the right thing to do, we were just bad, and we are making life very difficult for us, now we move on.
    BTW nice review Kari.

  29. Kxevin says:

    So I have a question that is perplexing me. Was it just me, or was Alves the only target of the racist chanting? Yet we had Abidal out there, and also Keita. Can someone familiar with that part of the globe educate me on the differences in thinking, not in a “Hey, how do racists think” view, but more in helping me understand the views on the cultural differences that cause that kind of a situation for one player, but not another.

    • mani says:

      Can’t say for certain of course, but perhaps Alves got the chants because of his personality? He’s a fiery competitor, loud-spoken, always up to “no good” on the field. A bit of a diver at times, always mouthing off to the ref or the opponents. Maybe a mixture of all those reasons? A player that gets under your skin.

      Abidal and Keita are very different. Almost always quiet (if you can call the Keite-face quiet. It speaks volumes for me lol), subdued, not ones to argue or dive or get in opponents’ faces.

      • mani says:

        It’s all very stupid really. Those same Espanyol fans would give their left nut (mind the language) to have Alves on their team.

        Something has got to be done to stop this in Spanish stadiums. What’s more worrying though is the sheer amount of people with racist thoughts or notions, whether they are sitting in the stands or not. That’s the bigger problem and without a bigger-picture fix on that mentality first, all the stadium rules in the world won’t change a thing.

    • Ryan says:

      Maybe it stems in part from a recent game against them where Alves was sent off? (if memory serves that was when we won on Xavi’s somewhat harsh penalty) I noticed the boos against him were stronger the next time we faced Espanyol.

      I’m not sure why they don’t hate on Keita or Abidal – my Perico cousin is sure that Abidal’s story of cancer and recovery is a giant publicity plot to make Barca look better. So they’ve got plenty of anti-Cule to spread around. :/

    • nzm says:

      Yeah – it’s old history like Ryan writes, but it’s also because of Dani’s position on the pitch. Running up and down the sideline close to the crowd makes him an easier target for taunts and catcalls.

      Abi used to get them, and he probably still does, but he most likely doesn’t understand half of them if they’re in colloquial catala!

  30. Kxevin says:

    The match was simple: Pressure only works if it is actually applied. When our club is defensively reactive rather than proactive, problems will always arise. Milan home equalizer, Getafe goal, Espanyol goal.

    Our defense, when we are on our game, works in tandem with the midfield pressure. They work balls loose, the defense picks them up and feeds them back into the mixer, or picks off long passes and feeds those back into the mixer.

    On the equalizing goal, Iniesta was functionally our left back, while both Puyol (owned!) and Pique were in the wrong spots as regards to both their men and the ball. And Valdes was screwed. It happens.

    Those who follow me on Twitter know that it is my belief that there is a collective overall lack of desire, of the sheer want that makes a player go that little bit harder, make that little extra effort. And it doesn’t take much. Speaking as an athlete, I can tell you that you can convince yourself that 98% is in fact 100%. But it isn’t.

    This club has already dropped more away points this season, at the halfway mark, than it did all of last season. Away matches are where you see the desire, that undefinable want that makes a champion a champion. As I said before, Clasics aren’t going to win the Liga. Mou Mou has his team understanding that. Grenadas are going to win the Liga. He has built a team that can win the matches against opponents that for us are difficult. Why?

    Because they are now the hunter, they have that want like we did after two silver-less seasons.

    None of this means that I think the Liga is anything vaguely approaching decided, as others do. 5 points is two matches, a purple patch that every team goes through at some point in a season. They will, as well. The question is will we be there to capitalize on it? I believe that their biggest nightmare is coming to the Camp Nou with the top of the table in the balance. Because when we see those white shirts, the want comes back, and we play at 100%.

    Espanyol deserved that draw, but the referee’s non-call came down to courage, or a lack thereof. It is impossible that they didn’t see that hand ball. But it takes an extraordinary official to make the right call when a match is in the balance, even if the play in question tilts that balance. La Liga has precious few extraordinary officials. And don’t forget that if Mr. Shakira doesn’t hit the crossbar, the handball is irrelevant.

    As Euler and others have noted, turnovers and a lack of midfield control in the face of a dog-wild, determined opponent are the reasons for not getting the points. You almost wonder what it will take to rev this team up, aside from big-time opponents. Again, these are signs of being overstimulated — you need a bigger hit to feel something. Even the Catalan derby isn’t enough to get you going any longer — it takes Champions League matches and Clasics to hit that button hard enough to get a big enough dose to fire stuff up.

    Am I saying that our team is complacent? No. I am saying that the desire isn’t there at the same level. That just makes them human, something that shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. I recall having a colleague confess to me that upon arrival at the big paper, this person stopped trying as hard, stopped wanting it as much. It’s human to breathe a sigh of relief after you have arrived.

    Problem in sport is that there is always someone who wants your spot. Again, as I’ve noted before, Guardiola’s biggest challenge this season was always going to be the want. It still is.

    It’s easy to lay yesterday at the feet of certain people, right? Messi was crap, Alves wasn’t far behind, Fabregas looked sluggish, etc, etc. But it’s a collective, systemic glitch that has to be repaired before we can do anything more than take one match at a time, and hope that the good guys show up.

  31. Hilal says:

    You know what annoys me most about yesterday, its not that we dropped silly points or that we didnt get the penalty or that they put in more effort than us, its that these teams that play out of their skins vs us go and lie down for Madrid. Same thing happened with Valencia and Sevilla who both played exceptional games against us and then played like kids vs Madrid. It infuriates me more than anything! It is almost like the other teams want to gift Madrid the league.

    • mani says:

      Barcelona is one of the best teams of all time. When you play such a team, you are bound to give it that extra bit of effort. If you are able to sneak a draw or even a win, then you will remember that game for the rest of your life. It doesn’t surprise me that Barcelona sees the best of all their opposition.

      An example would be my beloved Raptors. They beat Michael Jordan’s Bulls in 1996 (Bulls record that year? 72-10) and celebrated the win like they had just won the championship, confetti and tears and all. We Raptors fans (and the team) will remember the game for the rest of time.

      The problem is also that many teams believe they can go toe to toe against Madrid leaving plenty of gaps for Madrid to operate in. These teams really CAN’T go toe to toe with Madrid and should instead look to park a bus or two or hope to score on a counter. Against Barca they don’t dare play an open game.

    • Kxevin says:

      I don’t think that any team lays down vs EE. I think that their dynamic, fast-attacking style takes greater advantage of lapses. They can be from one end of the pitch to the other in 2 or 3 passes. That isn’t a luxury that we have, so our buildup gives sides more time to react and defend. We have less margin for error, so to speak.

      • nzm says:

        Agreed. RM doesn’t give the oppposing offence the time to settle and position themselves.

      • Bassam says:

        I can understand when some say Sevilla have been poor against us in the past two seasons, but Valencia this year gave a run for our money and almost snatched a point. They even deserved to win the game.

        This is like saying: Levante rolled over for Barcelona, but played their heart out against RM. Nope, Barcelona had an exceptional game vs Levante. No team wants to lie down or lose to any team. We beat some teams easily because, as Kxevin notes, we go out all guns blazing from the start. Thanks for giving credit where credit is due, Kxevin.

    • Helge says:

      Let’s see…
      if Athletic Bilbao also lie down for Madrid, the league is pretty much over.
      But whereas Valencia and Sevilla have often done bad against Real Madrid, Bilbao is one of the few teams that gives both (EE and us) a tough time at their stadium, each year.

      Talking about that match, does anybody know when the 1st playday will be played?

  32. Lev says:

    “So I have a question that is perplexing me. Was it just me, or was Alves the only target of the racist chanting? ”

    “Can’t say for certain of course, but perhaps Alves got the chants because of his personality? He’s a fiery competitor, loud-spoken, always up to “no good” on the field. A bit of a diver at times, always mouthing off to the ref or the opponents. Maybe a mixture of all those reasons? A player that gets under your skin”

    That’s just it. Dani Alves gets under everybody’s skin, so the fans try to get under his skin. He really is the Barça player everybody loves to hate (along with Busi of course!). His skin color just makes it easy for them to do so (get under his skin, I mean, not hate him) Should his wife have died of cancer they would chant about that to break his concentration. Fans lack class.

  33. barca96 says:

    Video-technology would’ve costed Madrid 3 points vs. Valencia or who ever it was and us getting the 3 points instead of 1.
    So if we take that into account, we’re supposed to be trailing them by only 1 point.

    I still don’t understand why so many people are objecting video technology. Human errors has made teams and fans suffer. What has to happen for this to stop? England losing the WC final because of a human error?

  34. nzm says:

    TV3 in Catalonia has, all day, been broadcasting the Barca boys heading to Zurich.

    They’ve just headed up the red carpet into the hall for the start of the ceremony.

    All our boys are looking extremely smart in their suits, Pep is without his tasteless sweater(s), Messi in a purple jacket and Shakira is smokin’ in a red dress and short blonde hair.

  35. barca96 says:

    Who dares to beat that Messi won’t be the #1?
    I sure don’t :lol:

    But I do dare to bet that CR7 might push Xavi to 3rd cause for a lot of voters, not just this year but forever, goals count a lot.

    And I also wouldn’t dare to bet that Pep would win. Those people might give it to SAF because of sentimental reasons.

  36. nzm says:

    Pep wins!!!!!!!!!!

  37. Ryan says:

    Pep is coach of the year!

  38. jordi™ says:

    Neymar wins best goal of the year.I like how they never nominate messi’s solo goals :roll:

  39. Ryan says:

    Wait, didn’t AVB win pretty much everything with Porto in 2011? And yet Mourinho with just the Copa was over him? Hmmm…

  40. jordi™ says:

    Random James Blunt performance.Fifa always give me a chuckle.

  41. nzm says:

    Awesome – Homare Sawa wins the Women’s Award. She played so well in Germany.

  42. jordi™ says:

    And then Sepp dancing to waka waka :lol:

  43. jordi™ says:

    Only thing redeeming this is the current Ronaldo Montage *drool*

  44. nzm says:

    Fat Ronaldo! God, he’s almost unrecognisable.

  45. Ryan says:

    Real Ronaldo! He’s grown to be such a big boy. :)

  46. Alex says:

    wow, Ronaldo is HEAVY!

  47. Alex says:

    Im baffled as to how the gol that Messi scored against EE in the Champ League semifinals was not nominated for best gol

  48. nzm says:

    Messi!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  49. ooga aga says:

    FIFA team

    casillas
    alves pique vidic ramos (2 RBs, interesting, no LB)
    xabi xavi ini
    messi cristiano rooney

    • nzm says:

      Yup – and a recorded message from the Madrid guys.

      I would have been so disappointed if I had been them – to not attend this event which recognises them.

  50. mom4 says:

    I’m late to the party. All the right people winning at least..well kinda. Ramos? Really? And one of these days Busi will get the recognition he deserves, but then our secret will be out.

    @ Michele- check your inbox please.

  51. mani says:

    So Thiago Silva aka “you can only pray to try stop Messi” voted for CR7 over Messi. Tsk tsk tsk. NO BARCA FOR YOU!

    And the big one. Iker AND VDB did not have Xavi in their top 3. How can we expect the world to recognize Xavi when his own nationals don’t? Tsk.

  52. Helge says:

    Messi was wearing two different jackets, right?
    During the live ceremony it looked purple, but on some pictures he’s rocking a more conventional black one.

  53. Gogah says:

    any little respect i might have had for casillas has completely gone.
    he apparently voted for ronaldo 1st and ozil 2nd.
    i can understand not voting for messi out of personal vendetta for having been scored on countless times, but to not even vote for your compatriot xavi, who won your nation its first world cup, who is supposedly your friend?…thats just cheap..
    very sad.

  54. Helge says:

    btw, in the totalbarca comments, I read that Ibra voted for Messi as best player (which is confirmed by @barcastuff and not such a big deal) but also for Pep Guardiola as best coach!

    Can somebody confirm this (the link to the source in the totalbarca comments doesn’t work for me)? To be honest, that would be the biggest surprise of the whole Balon D’Or gala (far bigger than Iker’s votes etc.).

  55. kinukinu says:

    Hey mods–can we get a post about our winners today? You know, to help wash away some of the doom and gloom?

  56. blitzen says:

    So some good stuff happened today:

    Leo won his 3rd straight Ballon d’Or…and made a point of dedicating it to Xavi.

    Pep won Best Coach of 2011…and promptly dedicated it to Tito. <3

    Thierry Henry returned to the field for Arsenal…and scored the game-winning goal after being on for less than 10 minutes! (I am especially pleased that he did that after the HLH was shit for the entire game. :P )

    And to top it off, I finally got the latest issue of FourFourTwo…and they messed up and sent me two copies instead of one! So I have a spare copy of this excellent magazine (it's the one with Cesc on the cover) and am willing to donate it to a fellow cule–sorry, can only mail within Canada though. Who wants it? Kari?

  57. Megster says:

    I think you can now vote for your compatriot. Terry voted for Rooney, Nuno twice for CR & Nani, Silva for Neymar. Even Messi voted for Aguero.

  58. Kxevin says:

    Taking a break from packing and prepping to close to announce that you have been Hectored. Ha!

  59. lyd says:

    Awesome writing, Kari!
    Had a lot of laugh reading this, felt like talking to myself at times.

  60. lyd says:

    After we scored the goal, i felt Dani was hyper as hell. I dont know was it because of those racist chants or he just messed up the instructions after an assist. He must never forget that his runs and crosses should come as a surprise in order to effective. And one more thing the “cesc complexity’ brings is confusion for Dani. Cesc’s spacing skills is much like Messi and now Dani’s decision making skills is Mesci since now he has a two-body problem to solve frequently.

    In games like this, I would like it if Pep do this new rotation. Switching Pique with Dani and then Dani with Puyol. We may lose some width on the right but we’ll have more composure with pique’s presence and maybe get to see some role swapping with Bussi in transition. As i feel we need to get Busquetes move up on the left-ish side, a bit further at times to give iniesta and whoever is up front some assistance. The width on the right, however, can be implemented with Cuenca and Fabregas.

  61. Chiu says:

    I just watched the derby highlight.

    Why was it our 3 man defense sometimes looked so solid, sometimes looked so fragile. Espanyol really exposed our defense and had bunch of clear chance. Thanks to VV and goal line clearance from Pique. Not sure if it’s simply off day for us or some teams successfully find out strategy to break our 3-4-3 that Pep couldn’t counter,yet.

    The way Pep use Alves role in 3-4-3 would prove crucial. And here I’m also supporting the idea of Euler making analysis why our home and away performance level was so far-off.

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