The Burden of Expectation

I like to think of Barcelona as a car (a fancy one) and the season as a journey, like a road-trip. Or a really long race.

At the start of said race, twenty teams are situated on their individual roads. Their destinations at this point are all the same: reach the La Liga title at the end of the line.

And so, the hunt begins.

But soon enough some start to lag behind, their rusty old death traps unable to keep up with the sleek, powerful luxury cars. And so they swiftly change course to a different destination: avoid relegation, or disqualification from the race.

The other cars manage to keep up with the two leading the chase until they run into a gigantic mountain, a mountain I like to call Money Mountain. Realizing there is no viable tunnel to pass through the insurmountable landform, they too are forced to change direction to another objective: automatic CL qualification and/or European spots.

On the other side of Money Mountain are two cars:  one painted blue and red, the other in white. These are the two that are competing for the title.

The red and blue car is a thing of beauty, one far ahead of its time. The car was almost entirely produced within the place it originated from. As flashy as it is efficient, it’s unmatched in distance covered over time. The engine is purring nicely, the tires study and durable, the paint job sleek and immaculate. The driver is a dreamer, a hairless risk taker with a sense of danger whose methods are as revolutionary as they are unconventional.

The white car is comparatively much more expensive, having cost almost a billion dollars. Each part, down to the paint, was imported from the finest regions. Second to none over short distances, the car is neigh indestructible. With a seemingly endless wealth of money, replacing ailing parts is no issue. The driver of this monster is no-nonsense, one who has no qualms taking off a sheet of paint if it means the car will drive faster.

Now if you all follow my analogy, let me continue.

 “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”

There are a lot of people who feel that way and do not like the changes that our driver is implementing. Why change something that was already working so well?

What these people don’t understand is that the other cars are starting to catch up, beginning to slowly close the gap in distance. They’re relentlessly studying the blueprint and are adapting themselves to fit into the design.

The structure of this car may be our philosophy, the model this current golden generation of players and the driver our incredible coach, but no matter how good or efficient it is, a 2010 model can only compete with a 2012 one for so long.

It has to be constantly push and reconfigured for it to stay on top. If you stand still, others will pass you eventually.

“The tires don’t fit as well as they could, the engine is stuttering a bit, and the car is lagging behind!” is all they see, not realizing that when the kinks come out and a groove is settled in, the car will tear down the road so fast, others will only see its after-image.

But it will be a bumpy ride.

The road we’re driving on won’t always be smooth. There will be slippery sections — even without being able to cross Money Mountain, the other teams are still able to put pressure on the front two, pushing them to the limit and sometimes even managing to derail them a bit. There will also be uneven pavement, with that rough patch of form, and times where we’ll be running low on gas.

However, the weather conditions depend on the fans. They can make it sunny, or a torrential downpour. A pleasant drive or heck on Earth. Seeing as the media already makes it a pressure cooker environment, I personally chose the former.

That’s not to say that no one is allowed to be critical. Some players need that criticism, those boos, to keep them competitive and on their toes. In the FourFourTwo issue I read recently, Cesc Fabregas had this to say:

“When everything is going well, [Barcelona] is the best team is the world, but when things go bad and they [the fans] get the white hankies out and whistle, what do you do? You go home and you don’t leave the house. You. Do. Not. Leave. In London, we lost and I’d still go out and eat, I had my life. You’re the idol, the captain, you play every game, you don’t win anything in seven years but no worries, the fans are singing…

[…] I wanted that step. I wanted to say, “B*****s, if I play badly I want them to whistle and boo me”. No one wants to be whistled, but I wanted that pressure, those demands. That helps you improve.”

The Burden of Expectation

The incredible performances by the blaugrana car means it is constantly under the pressure to succeed, under the (almost crushing) burden of expectation. They are expected to have maximum efficiency, they are expected to leave the others in the dust, they are expected to never slow down. They are never allowed to have a low fuel tank, nor are they allowed to make pit-stops.

They wouldn’t want it any other way, but we should remember that it wasn’t always like this.

This blueprint was one that took decades to design.  The idea was introduced and the path was paved by Rinus Michels, the philosophy was implemented and the route was designed by Johan Cruyff, and the structure was perfected and the route was memorized by Pep Guardiola.

And now Pep is redesigning everything so that it’ll become even more efficient.

If there is rust, they will repaint it. If the engine is stuttering, they will lubricate it. If there is a flat tire, they will take a spare one from the trunk called La Masia.

But if there is doubt, there shouldn’t be.

A car that has put in so many great performances, ones that will be remembered forever, doesn’t deserve some of the accusations leveled against them. Criticism is fine, just don’t go over the top. For the last couple of seasons, we’ve been traveling unheard of distances using the least amount of fuel. That’s not normal. Right now a team in progress is still finding its feet with some trips and stuttering along the way. This is normal.

If the white car passes the finish line before the blaugrana car, it doesn’t mean the latter is decrepit. The white car may have just had more gas for the home stretch, was more energy efficient during the campaign, or cut the right corners. The blaugrana car will be back next year with even more upgrades to challenge once again.

As long as it strives to improve, there should be no be reservations.

The driver will never let this car veer off track.

Categorized as Thoughts

By Kari

Just your neighbourhood Barca fanatic


  1. Great article Kari!!! Your writing has really improved!!! Perfect metaphor too!!! 😀

    1. At this point, I’ve seen this scenario too many times to get my hopes high prematurely – most likely they will turn it around in the second half…

  2. EE losing 1 – 0 in Palma de Mallorca. Thirty minutes to go.
    Check this out. Referee gets worried, and starts yellow carding Mallorca’s players. Good counter from Mallorca and the referee annuls a lawful goal from Mallorca. Let us see how much he is willing to help Madrid.

    1. People chanting: Así, así así gana el Madrid. Like this, like this, like this Madrid wins.

    2. I’m not watching the game but if it was indeed a denied penalty plus a disallowed goal and when you add the Valencia game, and the decisions that cost Barca points (about 6 of them by now), there is a worrying trend…

    3. Optajose should do an alternate league standing which shows where the Liga would be if every incorrect call were called correctly–Id be interested to see where we would be then.

  3. I wish I could say a player getting called offside from his own half is a shock but these ‘curious’ things are becoming the norm :/

    1. Why? This happens multiple times each year. Come on, Helge… you’ve been around long enough. You shouldn’t be surprised.

      This is what I was talking about last week. For us this is a match in which Mallorca tie late through a header or some type of own goal, for RM it’s a late comeback.

    2. No.

      Wrongly disallowed goal which would practically have settled the match, not given penalty in dying minutes does not happes multiple times each year.
      Not in such close matches.

      RM wins all this matches this season, because they have luck or ref on their side. We lose them due to lack of luck and sometimes stupid ref decisions!

    3. Try to be objective for once in your life. This whole “EE have the refs on their sides bull” doesn’t legitimize the 8 point gap, nor does it justify our mediocre away form in the league.

      Sometimes you gotta step back from being a barca fan and say they deserved to win, which they did.

    4. There is no deserve in football.If its a penalty its a penalty, offside is offside etc. they played as shit as we did, ever think that sometimes when you escape from being 2-0 down you see it as a lifeline and use it as an impetus to comeback? Its not like they haven’t had poor games away from home.At the Mestalla Higuain had a turn at goalkeeping but of course its character that won that game. If only character was as tangible as the shocking decisions ive seen with my own eyes.

    5. There are close games in each campaign, at least a dozen of them, no matter how non-competitive La Liga is supposed to be, and ultimately they decide who wins it in the end, not the 5-0 wins. And those close games are decided by things like 100% penalty kicks not being given or perfectly good goals being disallowed.

      So if all such decisions are in favor of one team and against the other, this does make a difference.

      Have we played well on the road this season? No, we haven’t. But it is not as if we have steamrolled everyone on the road in previous years – yes, we played better than we do now but we also had a lot of very close games where the margin was small.

    6. Too many calls consistently going one way, against Barca plus for EE equals going EE’s way. One, two by chance in decisive situations maybe, the laundry list that is adding up this campaign? Something’s up… Let’s not be naive either, this isn’t a sport with the most stellar reputation for corruption free integrity. Don’t forget what went on in the CL with the Ajax match (we have some not so well liked friends there, lest we’ve forgotten)… Too much smoke for me to not suspect some fire.

    7. Right, but don’t we say the same things each year? “WOWOW, that was a clear penalty against Madrid!!!111!!” “OMFG he was onside!!!”


  4. I mean asfm vlshöoCZUC”

    first their Valencia match, than our Espanyol, now this match on Mallorca.

    I’m losing my mind aOQPV”OLolöäqp l!!!

  5. Honestly the match EE just won are essentially league winning games. Comparing their away form to ours, plus the 5 point difference, and it does not look good…

  6. Another thing is the hunger this EE side has is frightening. Mourinho really is a master man motivator. Whether he was at chelsea, inter, or EE his sides always show almost un-satisfiable hunger on the field.

    1. Mourinho… the little scratch on the roof of your mouth that would heal if only you could stop tonguing it, but you can’t.

  7. @jordi: I don’t want to start an exhausting argument about separate incidences where this or that should have happened but I will say this (as much as I hate to say it); EE based on the consistency of the level of play at home and away deserve to be above us in the standings. If they deserve to be 8 points is another question, but you would have to be pretty deluded to think they don’t deserve to be above us in the standings (or at the very least tied on points).

  8. Everyone calm down. This is how EE have been playing since time immemorial, and will continue to do so. Leave them.

    What I really want is for us to break out of the rut we’re stuck in, in terms of our away form. Doesn’t really matter to me how EE wins. Cruyff’s dream team won on the last day twice, lets try to show the same spine away..

    1. Yeah, we can hope they mess up, but really the onus is on us to improve our away form, stop dropping points and give them a real fight. No use blaming the refs or accusing teams of rolling over for them.

  9. An uplifting article, Kari! I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I hope we rediscover our form tomorrow. It’s been a tough start to the new year with injuries and dropping points, but the team is evolving and I’m confident that they will pull through!

    On other hand, what’s going on the B team? Are they in relegation zone?

    1. Thank you, messifan!

      The B-team is currently 14th in the table. The problem, in a word: Eusebio. (he’s the b-team coach). He simply has to go. The B-team is regressing badly from Lucho’s days and there’s a really worry about the gaps in communication, playing style, etc. between the B-team and first team.

      At this point, our priority should be to avoid relegation. Staying in the Segunda is imperative for development.

      I dunno if I’ll have time to write a post about it, but hopefully I’ll be able to outline this sometime in the future.

    2. I’ll chime in on this, even though I missed today’s Barça B game. I agree that it is imperative that the team stay in the Segunda. Pep and Lucho worked so hard to get them where they are, and it is incredibly frustrating to watch how they have been degenerating under Eusebio.

      Obviously Eusebio isn’t 100% responsible for the state of the team. There are some very good reasons for the drop in form. The absence of Thiago, Nolito, Romeu, and Fontas, as well as Soriano for most of the first half of the season, has deprived the team of some of their best players. Some of the younger players, like Deulofeu and Rafinha, although undoubtedly talented, have struggled at times to fit into the team. The average age of the B team is much younger than last season, and that does make a difference–remember, they are playing teams of fully grown men who are quick to use their physical advantage over the “snot-nosed kids” (per the wonderful Henok Goithom of Almeria).

      But I do honestly believe that the main problem is Eusebio. He knows the Barça system, but consistently fails to utilize his players correctly. He favours certain players and is inflexible about changing his lineup when things aren’t working. And most importantly, he doesn’t seem to inspire his players. Luis Enrique had an absolute belief in his players and they would have done anything for him. This excerpt from an interview Lucho did last year tells you everything you need to know about his relationship with his players:

      “I think my players are better than those in the first team. I think they could beat the first team… Some people will say that that’s impossible nonsense, but I really want my players to think that, that the coach has blind faith in his players, that’s basic for me, with confidence you can do anything. I won’t accept any player not being ambitious, who doesn’t try their hardest, because they’re kidding themselves, not me. I think a player grows more with demands, needs and confidence. That’s what I’ve always thought anyway. It is so easy to train with players like these. I have tried to give every player what I think they need to perform to their best.

      Does anyone here see Eusebio coming even close to that? No, I didn’t think so. No one expected the B team team to repeat it’s top-three performance of last year, for the reasons I mentioned above, but even a decent mid-table finish seems to be getting further and further away.

  10. There is no denying that Madrid are playing a pretty effective brand of football at the moment. For me, the problem is that teams are scoring early against them and giving them a long time to come back but in matches when Madrid go ahead they just score more to put them out of sight.

    We need a situation where they get a goal ahead and relax allowing the opposition to equalise in the last ten.

    Meantime, all we can do is improve our own away form as has been said. I’m also with Ramzi on the Mou thing. I’m not seeing any more than a decent coach who is most concerned about being noticed. It’ll be interesting to see what he does next week. That’ll tell us a lot about him. He’ll doubtless try something wild to get the world’s attention . . .

    1. Depends what you’re looking for I suppose, Momo. For me, as Gullit memorably said when talking about Mourinho, it’s a lot easier to destroy a house than build it.

      I’ve never liked the play of any of the sides he has created – going all the way back to the disgraceful shenanigans of his Porto side against Celtic in the UEFA final and Lord knows I’m no supporter of Celtic.

      I didn’t like the style of play he instituted at Chelsea ( after spending £225m in 3 seasons) based on long ball and physicality and found Inter boring, even leaving aside the games against us. I think his first season at Madrid was a disgrace to the coaching profession and it remains to be seen what will transpire this season.

      Just personal preferences.

  11. a really good article Kari, you could say that Barcelona have similar characteristics to a Porsche 911, a car that has been build and improved over 50 years but its design and key backbone components have been kept ever since the first day it was built, they essentially had a philosophy and stuck with it.

    I don’t think we are in any way out of the running for the league, when all competitions start to wind down to the finals, league games start to become very complicated and even a coach like Mourinho will find it hard to “motivate” players.

    1. Gracies!

      One thing with the Liga is we don’t have the luck right now — the kind that gets you through those bad times and games. It’s not an excuse, just an observation. RM definitely have it right now, which is good for them, but the question is: how long will it last? And when they do slip up, will we take advantage? Good question.

      This RM has never been top of the table at the end of a season in 3 seasons. How will they cope at the end of it during crunch time, as you mentioned? We’ve been through it, and when the time comes, we handle pressure better as well.

      We’ll just have to wait and see.

  12. it will be very nice if the referees starting to give penalty to EEs opponent when they deserved it (or to Barça, when we deserved it), stop wrongly disallowed a goal, or give penalties because Cron rolling on the groud for imaginary tackle..

    but it didn’t happen last seasons, doesn’t happen now, and won’t happen in the future..

    when they played bad the ref helped them, when we played bad, we couldn’t even get the most obvious penalty in dying minutes..

  13. Barca don’t deserve to be behind by 5 points. We should’ve gotten a penalty against Espanyol, and they should’ve conceded penalties against Mallorca and Valencia. We don’t know what would’ve happened had the penalties been called. Each of those incorrect decisions most likely led to two points in their favor.

    I think the refs have succumbed to mourinho’s whining, pathetic by La Liga. I’m afraid its time to start thinking about the CL and of course, the copa.

  14. – Great piece Kari! I like the analogy of car race 🙂

    – I didn’t watch the Mallorca – EE match. But it’s another coming from behind for them. I always like the determination of any team that making comeback after trailing in score line. It reflects the champ mentality. This season, we haven’t demonstrated that type of mentality particularly in away matches, yet. I prefer we focus on aspects that we could improve rather than criticizing the referee, which is beyond our control. I’m talking about criticizing referee decision in general point of view, not about one specific game only.

    – Tonight we have important game against Betis. Let’s do our job and get the 3 points. It’s in Camp Nou anyway, so I have full assurance tonight we will cut the gap back to 5 points. I’m sure EE will also have the off day or dipping form in some matches. We should take that opportunity then. If they’re consistently can manage to win every matches till the end of the league, it means they deserved the winner, which I highly doubt that white car can run full throttle without Pitsop or changing lubricant, too. Right Kari 🙂

    – Then be ready for classico. As Pep said, we’ll go to bernabeu try to win the round. Let’s do it again.

    1. I’ve said if for a couple of seasons now, the fighting spirit in that team is much better than ours. With or without Mourinho.

      This is not the first time that a call has gone for them. Sometimes we get calls in our favor too right. If I’m not mistaken in the EPL, Man U is the team that get’s most of the calls in favor for them right? hehe.

      But yeah, it does get suspicious that it’s always EE that get’s calls in their favor.

  15. Lovely article, Kari. I’d respond to it more in depth but I think I’ll save what I have to say for the end of the season 😀

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