Osasuna 1, Barca 1, a.k.a. “Who actually wants to kiss their sister?”

Um .... sorry 'bout that. No really .... so sorry.
Um .... sorry 'bout that. No really .... so sorry.

Yes, I want it huge. I want everyone to be able to return to this post, look at this picture and remember how it feels when we don’t play as a team, when we let a match that we should have won going away, slip away. Yes, it was a draw, but for me it feels like a loss. It certainly was celebrated like a win down in Osasuna, which is the story of the Barca life. A team will kill themselves just to draw with us, and we aren’t matching fire with fire.

I want to start with the goal, because it so completely sums up this match for us. After an Abidal throw in, a series of headers pinged around until one came Busquets’ way. He got a little shove from an Osasuna player, but not enough to send him to his knees as if he’d been poleaxed. But that’s Busquets. All of our players thought the foul call was going to come, so they went flat-footed. But it didn’t.

So when Osasuna played the ball out wide, Xavi wasn’t in his usual position to occupy that passing lane, and he went trotting, instead of running, after the ball. If he runs, he maybe intercepts it. Messi also had an excellent shot at disrupting the play, had he run for the ball, instead of trotting. And when it went out to Marquez’ man, the one shot that Marquez had to control the ball he blew, whereupon he tried some silly little back of the heel thing to at least knock the ball off line, to no avail. The attacker knew what he had to do, and smoked the cross in. It had to be hard, because Puyol was closing fast, and he just missed knocking it out. As it went into the box, every available Osasuna option was covered: Keita had straggler duty, Abidal had the other attacker, and that was pretty much it. We were shielding the goal with 5 men.

At this point, it gets really silly, because every defender knows that a hard-hit ball does weird stuff on a deflection. Pique was leaning up the pitch, standing splay-legged as the cross was hit. It was struck with such force that really, his only thought should have been “No ball hit that hard is going to bend, so I’ll just let Valdes punch it away.” Valdes should have done the angle math and said “Call Pique off, punch it away, and we celebrate a grinder win. Excellent.”

Instead, he didn’t say anything, and Pique forgot what every defender knows. So he stuck a leg out, the ball deflected off his foot and into Valdes’ head, for an own goal. Bad luck? Sure, I’ll buy that. If the ball hits Valdes squarely in the head, it bounds back out into play. If Valdes has his hands up, it hits them squarely, and he makes a reflex save.

But none of that happened, and the result was a draw, that saw us cede two points to the Evil Empire. Now, everybody is acting like it’s the end of the world, but we’ve been here before, right? With a one-point lead. And the next match weekend, they drew while we put the smack down. This is going to be a close race. Last year, we were able to run off and hide, letting everyone chase us. But last year was an extraordinary situation, and most importantly, it wasn’t a World Cup year.

Never forget that Cup years suck the life out of teams and players. Messi has been off all season, Henry has been injured, everyone has been traveling back and forth. Combine that with a short off-season, extended vacations and integrating new faces into the side and no, this isn’t going to be the all-conquering juggernaut of last season.

So get used to it.

What will follow now is a lot of stuff that folks might not like, so strap in.

We drew this match because our two most important players, Messi and Xavi, let down the side by being mostly ordinary. Can we win when they are off song? Absolutely, but everyone else has to step it up a notch, including the coaching staff. But by rolling out a lineup of Valdes, Puyol, Pique, Txigrinski, Abidal, Busquets, Keita, Xavi, Messi, Iniesta, Ibrahimovic, it left me thinking that we were going to have problems. Why? Because with the way that Osasuna has always pressed the ball, cutting off passing angles and not giving anyone time to dwell on the ball, width was what would be needed to break them down, width that comes from a legitimate scoring threat on the wing.

Usually, that threat is Thierry Henry, who was healthy for this match, but wasn’t used. Ostensibly, it was Iniesta, but he was running all over the pitch, popping up on the right, and the left, and the center. Yes, he played well, but sometimes you don’t just need someone to play well, you need them to be where they’re supposed to be, so that when somebody pops a ball out to the left he’s there, ready to break down the defense and provide a killer ball, or weasel his way into the box and just raise hell. But without that real width, when a team gets in our faces, as Osasuna did this go-round, and Valencia did as well, there isn’t an option to shift play and break them down.

Instead, we were left with a left-side attack of Keita, who has pace but isn’t going to break anybody down off the dribble. He also needs the pass to score. Or Abidal, who can cross, but he isn’t going to score a goal for you. So Osasuna’s defensive pressure was helped by our formation, which shaded from center to right. And the single time that we got a legitimate scoring threat on the left side, as Ibrahimovic drifted out there to take a pass, their entire defense had to shift and the result was a goal, knocked in by Keita, who was bombing the box as he should be. This was an excellent goal that came in our typical way, through movement and brilliant passing.

As Messi took the pass, Osasuna’s already overloaded defense had three defenders run at Messi, who calmly slotted a pass to Puyol. But because you still had Ibrahimovic running around free, there was some loose marking. Puyol made the cross, but I’m not sure he was making it for Keita, as Xavi was also making a run at the front of the goal, even as he was tightly marked by a defender. Frankly, a better cross probably wouldn’t have resulted in a goal. But Puyol’s ball rolled through to Keita, who had time to stop, control, and bury it. At that point it was 1-0 against a side that really never looked like scoring. No, they weren’t playing for a draw, but they rarely committed fully to the attack, because first in their minds was to keep us from scoring, as it should have been.

So. Happy. Right. Now.
So. Happy. Right. Now.

Another thing that helped in the second half was moving Busquets to the back line, so that we had a back line of Pique, Busquets and Txigrinski, which freed up Abidal and Puyol to give us legitimate attacking width, even though they weren’t true attackers. Those two extra bodies in the midfield got us back the control of the match that was so lacking in that first half. So when we scored, it should have just been a matter of closing it out. And it would have been, except for bad luck, laziness and poor play. Ibrahimovic is a luxury, one that results in, when the attack is lazy, just banging the ball up the pitch to him and seeing what he can do. This happened time and again today, which doesn’t take advantage of his movement or passing acuity.

First thing that people won’t like: Last year, we had urgency. We moved as if we had somewhere to go. This year, for the most part, we’re moving like somebody who’s already arrived. No, everybody doesn’t have to run around in fire drill mode like Captain Caveman, but show some urgency at crucial times. That was the last play of the match. For players to be trotting was, to me, inexcusable. Pressure the ball, shut down passing angles, run to a spot. It didn’t happen, so we drew.

Second thing that people aren’t going to like: Txigrinski didn’t have as bad of a match as everyone, including me, believed. He had two shit plays, the lazy lunge at the attacker to cede the free kick, and the hatchet job that earned him the yellow card. But even this latter one had me thinking “Put Goliath out there against a winger with the ball, and what do you expect. Hulk smash!”

But he had some very good defensive plays and some even better passes. Sometimes, a couple of moments can come to define a player’s match. It shouldn’t in this case. Guardiola pulled him, I think, because he just wasn’t working as that lateral defender type, which makes sense.

Last thing that folks aren’t going to like (I promise …. but I might be a liar): We have to foul the piss out of people. If Marquez realized that he was beaten outside the box and just slid through the attacker, he maybe gets a red, maybe they get a free kick, but we can set the defense and control that, which would have been the last play of the match. A scrambling defense that now has to scramble even more because a defender got smoked, has a much greater chance of something bad happening. The professional foul can be a valuable tool.

I know, “We don’t play like that.” Well we should. We take enough of ’em where we can afford to give one or two back, and not have our petticoats get too dirty.

Okay, one more thing …. : We’re trying to half-ass our way through matches, because we know that the side is better this season. There’s not a chip on the shoulder. Last season, we wanted every ball, and fought for it. This meant absolute midfield control, even when teams pressed us. This year, we aren’t fighting. And we’d better start.

Team: 4. Not enough ball pressure, movement or unselfish play that is necessary to grab a match by the throat and kill it. There’s no urgency.

Guardiola: 3. I don’t like that he seemed willing to concede points here in thinking about the Champions League in midweek. I don’t like that he put on a damaged player (Marquez), who is still fresh off being awful against Rubin Kazan. And I don’t know why he still doesn’t realize that Iniesta is not a viable option for the wing. I’d rather have seen Pedro!.

Valdes: 8. Dude got screwed, yo. He played about as good a match as he’s been playing this season, fast off his line, doing all the right things until a bit of bad luck at the end.

Puyol: 8. Excellent match. He ain’t Dani Alves, but he’s still better than most right backs in the league. He also showed great range, and pace. Not to mention that assist to Keita.

Pique: 7. Very strong match, and he looked good moving forward on the attack. Major screwup on the own goal. What was also interesting is that he stuck a leg out during a similar situation, earlier in the match, and the ball popped up crazily. You’d think he’d have learned.

Txigrinski: 5. Solid. Committed two stupid fouls, one of which could have been dangerous. But that play in the box? That same attacker schooled Pique and Puyol in pretty much the same way. That said, I would never, ever play him on the wing ever again. Ever.

Abidal: 9. I was trying to find something that he did wrong, and I couldn’t. Play after play, save after save, even charging forward on the attack, he had an extraordinary match. The only thing keeping him from a 10 is the one time he guessed a bit wrong, and his attacker got the cross in.

Busquets: 4. Almost every pass that he made was negative, either back or lateral. He can’t defend without fouling, and he flails too much when he occupies such a crucial spot in front of the defense. And stay on your damned feet and fight for the ball. If you do that, we have a win today. “He got a lower rating than Txigrinski? Are you crazy?” Possibly.

Keita: 7. Excellent match from Keiiitee! Strong in the midfield, did what was required on the wing, and made run after run from box to box before being rewarded with the cross, and a goal. Man crush, anyone?

Xavi: 6. Usually, he has the answers for the kind of pressure that we were facing today. But he was off song. Granted, that’s still a pretty good song by his standards, but if he’s better, we have an easier time of it.

Iniesta: 6. A lot of nice passes, but not a lot of real effect today. And I still think he needs to raise his pace of play. Last year he was faster, mentally and with the ball. I know, I know …. I’m stupid, and hate Iniesta, blah, blah, blah.

Messi: 6. Drifted in and out of the match today. If most players have the match that he had, they’re getting a 9 or 10. But by his standards, he was off. And didn’t seem all that bothered by it. Not sure what his deal is, but we need him to be The Man. And I don’t mean tomorrow.

Ibrahimovic: 6. Learn to hold your run. Simple as that. I know it’s hard, because Messi passes sooner than Xavi passes sooner than Iniesta, etc. Still …. you’re the best in the world. Make it happen, because you can’t be offside that much. Really. And when we’re flowing, you’re that striker who can also play midfield. When you park it in the box, or wait at the shoulder of the defense for the pass, you limit our options. So stop it.


Marquez (for Txigrinski): 2. Now in his defense, he had an excellent long pass to Ibrahimovic, along with a fine sliding tackle. But he didn’t have enough time on the pitch to cancel out his more egregious error. As I said, I start from zero when I do ratings, and players work their way up with goodness.

Pedro! (for Iniesta): incomplete. He was, in effect, a time-wasting, momentum-breaking sub. Osasuna was getting a little bit of life, and there’s nothing like a stoppage for a sub to derail that. And it worked, too. Or it would have, if not for …. you know.

So. We have a one-point lead at the top of the table, going into a Wednesday match in the shivering cold against Rubin Kazan, who are going to be looking to make it two of two against us. What will happen?

I still believe that this squad is better than last year’s, and is even more capable of winning the triplete than last year’s. But the luck hasn’t been there, so we’ve had injuries to muscles that are a little more tired. This club needs a real break, one that isn’t coming any time soon. So brace yourselves, we might not even be at the top of the table at the break. But after that rest, when all the qualifiers, and friendlies, and other crap is all done and the boys can focus on the job(s) at hand, I expect our juggernaut to return, and destroy all.

Yes, I do.

P.S. What the hell was Mark Hughes doing at the match?
P.P.S The Yaya is up for a contract sweetening. Give him whatever he wants.

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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. Eduard
    October 31, 2009

    Messi was an island out there. We were attacking from the left, and without Henry on that side we’re not that sharp. Messi had opportunities for goals and assist, so frustrating.

    • PM
      October 31, 2009

      Messi has been off for last couple of matches. There were chances that he usually buries in his sleep.

  2. Kxevin
    October 31, 2009

    Oh. Yeah. In the LiveBlog post, somebody asked why this team isn’t the same as Rijkaard’s. Because at that time, we would have lost, rather than drawn, this match.

  3. yogi
    October 31, 2009

    This year the players playing at their potential are maybe Abidal and Keita. The players playing at their potential last year were Xavi, Messi at al. Difference is quite clear in a sense that as team, we are not exactly at top of our game.

    Last year, Messi wins games like this but recently, he has been off. Worrying!

  4. Hilal
    October 31, 2009

    Form is temporary, class is permanent. I am not worried about Messi. He is human and will have his ups and downs just like every other player in the world. Like Kxevin said in his review, any other player gets a 9 or a 10 for playing like Messi did today. We should count ourselves very lucky that we have a player that is so good that even when he is off form he is better than most. I think he needs a rest. I think after the Kazan game he should get a break. We have a home game vs Mallorca that we should be able to win without him. What annoys me is that I heard Maradona called him for the upcoming friendles in November. Can anybody confirm or deny that?

    • jordi
      October 31, 2009

      yes Diego called him up for the game against spain.I remember last year we had an agreement with the AFA to keep him out of friendlies.

    • Jose35
      October 31, 2009

      Yeah, Messi is in the Argentina squad for the Spain friendly. It’s at the Santiago Bernabeu, though, so the travel won’t be a problem 😉

      And Argentina needs it. With the way they’ve been play, they have to play friendlies with their starters–gotta build a team.

      • Jose35
        October 31, 2009

        Correction, it’s at the Vincente Calderon.

        • BA
          November 1, 2009

          i don’t worry about Messi coming off form, but i also don’t think that’s the worry here. the real worry is that Messi is drained and needs some rest, having been strung out for too long in too many high-intensity, high-pressure matches. that kind of weariness and lack of sharpness doesn’t just go away, it gets worse the more he plays. Pep really needs to leave him out for 2 matches running sometime soon, at least. the upcoming game in Russia is too important, but i’m starting to really believe that at some point before the middle of the season (games against Sevilla, Madrid, Inter + massive trip to the Club World Cup) Messi needs to be able to refresh himself, physically and mentally, if we’re going to stand a chance in the long haul.

  5. Jose35
    October 31, 2009

    And Kxevin is right on. We have to start fighting. Sure the goal was stupid. So was the Real Zaragoza goal last week. But we were so on on that match that WE MADE THE MISTAKES NOT MATTER.

  6. Kxevin
    October 31, 2009

    I think that Guardiola is saying that he’s content with a draw because that’s what he has to say. And he knows that the players are NOT content. In many ways, I would rather have had this kind of a match going into the Champions League round at Rubin, than an easy, comfortable win. We’re going to see one hungry, angry bunch of players on Wednesday.

    • October 31, 2009

      Nice post Kxevin! Although perhaps it was a tad too harsh on the players. Sure we expect the best from our side week in week out and it’s extremely difficult to accept when we lose in the last second but credit has to go to osasuna cos they pressed us the whole game. Ordinarily we would have been comfortably passing the ball around in the closing stages amongst ourselves sending osasuna in to a state of coma but they pressed and pressed and pressed us into making mistakes.

      We’re clearly missing an outlet to ease the pressure, perhaps that outlet is Henry but then how do we expect pep to put out a side with our regular midfield of xavi, toure and iniesta with Keita playing probably the best football he’s ever played.

      This draw hurts for sure but we have to take into account we might not be as lucky (as we’ve experienced last night) when it comes to results this season compared to last.

      I’m extremely optimistic though 🙂 as we all are!

    • inNYC
      November 1, 2009

      The term for that, Kxevin, is “hangry.”

  7. Phil
    October 31, 2009

    I was getting annoyed at the offsides calls on Ibra as well, but I think it’s just due to the maturation of his relationship with his teammates and also a desire to try and jumpstart a match that saw little quality offense from us. When he first joined the squad he always seemed a bit off and a little lost in the system. That’s to be expected. Now that he is more comfortable he’s trying to push the limit a bit more on reading his teammates – or he just had a bad game and I’m reading too much into it.

    Anyone else think that the pitch was off a bit too? The movement on some of those passes made me think that at first.

  8. jnelson
    November 1, 2009

    That sucked. And to think I wore my yellow Barca jersey today. Oh well. I’m looking forward to watching our game at Rubin, and not being there freezing my ass off.

  9. Boat Forever
    November 1, 2009

    Stats so far this season, in the order of La Liga, Champions League, CDR, Super Copa & Uefa Super Cup

    Goals :

    Messi – 6,1,0,2,0 = 9
    Ibra – 7,1,0,0,0 = 8
    Keita – 6,0,0,0,0 = 6
    Pedro – 1,1,2,1,1 = 6
    Bojan – 1,0,0,1,0 = 2
    Pique – 2,0,0,0,0 = 2
    Xavi – 0,0,0,1,0 = 1
    Alves – 1,0,0,0,0 = 1

    Assists :

    Messi – 4,0,0,0,1 = 5
    Ibra – 3,1,0,1,0 = 5
    Xavi – 3,1,0,1,0 = 5
    Alves – 3,0,0,1,0 = 4
    Keita – 2,0,0,0,0 = 2
    Iniesta – 2,0,0,0,0 = 2
    Pedro – 0,0,0,1,0 = 1
    Bojan – 0,0,1,0,0 = 1
    Busquets – 1,0,0,0,0 = 1
    Maxwell – 1,0,0,0,0 = 1
    Jeffren – 0,0,1,0,0 = 1
    Puyi – 1,0,0,0,0 = 1

  10. Boat Forever
    November 1, 2009

    We can’t excuse ourselves for our bad showing last night saying this is a World-Cup year or that the team is being caught up by fatigue… All the main starters got rested mid-week, I agree 1 week rest is not gonna bring a whole world of change but we seemed pretty good against Zaragoza!! Agree Messi has been off-form whenever he returned from his country, but seemed to have struck form against Zaragoza! On any other day I’d buy the ‘World-Cup Year’ argument but not yesterday, not against Osasuna after such an excellent display last week!

    Want to hear some weird guess as to why was Mark Hughes at the match!? Well, he’d want to have Abidal involved in a barter deal for Robinho… Abidal’s been our best man this season, all City lack is quality Fullbacks and we do need a LW!! Although I’d hate to lose Abidal in current form, it’s better than losing The Yaya

    • Boat Forever
      November 1, 2009

      Well, seems like it was not for Abidal but for César Azpilicueta… Thank God!!
      The kid would have perfect backup for Alves, but there’s Txiki always who’ll play Puyi at RB and play Marquez at CB if needed! FUCK YOU Txiki, you cost us 2 more points now, in total 4 you impotent Basque!!

      • Kxevin
        November 1, 2009

        Thank God, indeed. Abidal has been our best defender this season, match in and match out.

        Though I wouldn’t blame Txiki B. for the fact that we couldn’t handle our business. Puyol was fine at RB. It was just one of those things.

        • Boat Forever
          November 1, 2009

          He brought
          Ibra for Eto’o
          Maxwell for Sylvinho
          Dima for Caceras

          But then he off-loaded Hleb, Gudjohnson & VicSan… That when Guardiola wanted a bigger squad he had to go on and make it smaller during a World Cup year!! However inefficient these players might be, they still had minutes to play and were influential in keeping the squad off some fatigue & which was the only reason we dropped points against Valencia! Yesterday, though it was not exactly Txiki’s transfer fuck-up that made us lose but in effect he did have some role to play IMHO

          • jnelson1731
            November 1, 2009

            Hey Boat Forever, do you have a scouting report for us?

  11. fcbfan
    November 1, 2009

    sounds like you are right Kevin. The players thought that Busqets was fouled and I guess was waiting for the call, so stood around not doing much hence the og. Read Busquets comment. and of course he went down. I don’t like this. 9 games in and we are not getting pk etc. Pep should tell them to stop expecting it. Even if Busi was right, the fact that he goes down so easily make refs suspicious probably lol you know like Dani Alves. Am I being harsh on the kid? you know what teams will do? They are aware Barca aren’t getting calls this season, and the way Busquets is, all they have to do is, go near him and he will fall down and everyone on Barca will look to the ref, in the meantime the other team go towards goal. Not angry with the draw, but the way it happen. I remember us taking advantage of refs incompetence last season. The other team was busy arguing with the ref while we continue to attack. Also, putting Pedro in there probably have given us another goal, he seems to be effective for tight games. Take Xavi out and put Iniesta in his place while Pedro go to lw.

  12. eklavya
    November 1, 2009

    Did anyone see the Milan – Palmera game? Dinho had a great game, providing two assists and a good display 🙂

  13. Jim
    November 1, 2009

    To me, a few of the issues about our play are lessened if we get Xavi and Iniesta back together in the midfield.
    We had trouble getting the ball out through our defense. Busi should have made himself more available but he’s a liability taking a hospital ball facing his own goal. You know he’ll go down if touched. Xavi and Iniesta can take a ball in any situation and make something of it.
    Xavi has been toiling to be the influence on games he was last year ( not his fault I would argue). however, he needs the guile of Iniesta beside him to carry some of the ball retention and playmaking duties.
    Iniesta playing on the left of midfield is one of our best ways of getting Messi involved with his diagonal ball inside the full back. They are on the same wavelength.
    Finally, I want to see Iniesta occasionally running straight at the defence from midfield and forcing them to make decisions.
    I’m a little concerned that Pep seems to be concentrating too much on bulking up the team (certainly height wise) at the expense of creativity. however, we won’t really know what’s in his mind till Henry gets back. Then he will have some interesting decisions to make.
    The other little niggle I have is the lack of playing time for Yaya. Am I imagining this or is he getting way less playing time this year? That in itself destabilises the midfield as his give and goes are vital to our fluency. We shouldn’t have to be protecting a DM at this stage of the season.

    On another note. It was good to see Dinho’s display yesterday, especially the speed with which he ran at the defence for the first goal. Haven’t seen that for a long time. Leonardo says he’s been pleading with him to do that no matter what happens. However, it needs to happen more often.

    • fcbfan
      November 1, 2009

      yeah saw Dinho. hope he gives EE a hard time in the cl.

      If we don’t play Yaya much, you know his agent is going to use that for a city move. not even ACN and we are already throwing away points.

      • Boat Forever
        November 1, 2009

        Seriously lets check our own times right now because we are not doing any better than them!! Last week, I was watching Liverpool match, because there’s no telecast of ours in India, and when they showed the scoreboard during half time I was so fucking happy seeing Inter losing 2-1 when my friend started laughing at me because we were also losing 1-0!!! Enough with the hatred please 🙂
        I know I seem superstitious but yesterday I got another reason to be one!!

  14. fcbfan
    November 1, 2009

    wow 11 hours journey to Russia and its gonna snow during the game yikes.

  15. Kxevin
    November 1, 2009

    I think that The Yaya is getting rested because Guardiola knows it’s going to be war in Russia. This also echoes his tactic of last season, which was platooning where he could, to keep players fresh for the later-season, more crucial matches.

    I do, however, worry about January. As Jim points out, that space between the defense and Xavi is where The Yaya is so valuable. He picks up the ball from there, and on the defensive side, very few things get past him. When he isn’t out there, Pique brings the ball up to the midfield which, with the right kind of loose pass or counter, leaves the defense scrambling.

    The long passing abilities of Txigrinski might prove to be very valuable in this regard, as someone who can start a play withOUT having to bring the ball up. As we saw yesterday, he’s fine as long as the attacker coming at him doesn’t have too many options. But that’s true of most defenders, when you think about it.

  16. Boat Forever
    November 1, 2009

    Wonderwall scored again today! Suarez earned a penalty and scored from it, while Pantelic took Suarez’s usual duty of providing assists, he was involved in 3 goals!!

  17. Ramzi
    November 1, 2009

    I already commenting on the prevvious –Blog-post briefing my match impressions in six points, so I will only add:

    1) We didn’t win in the first place because Osasuna played a great game. They were in their day and they got advantage of it playing the way that damage us most, and the way lot of other teams don’t dare to play: Pressing our defense and midfield even if that require employing two forwards rather than parking a bus. Credit for them, as we have to give credit where deserved. Its not always our team fault in the first place, sometimes your opponent just surprise you. That was not the case against Kazan, but lastnight Osasuna earned this result more than we flopped on it.
    2) We helped then with our selection indeed. We had lack of width. But it was basically because non of our fullbacks is a real offense oriented fullback. When the wings (Both Iniesta and Messi) had to drop deep to help the midfield, we became too narrow. Now of course they were able to stay on the flanks creating width, but only to put a table and have a drink. When the midfield offense build up doesn’t work, the ball will not reach the offense third anyway.
    3) Which takes me to Iniesta point. I will not repeat what I said before regarding his availability for left wing. He was at least as good as Henry while playing there last season (If we wana see it as numbers, Tactics, or anyway else) and this season –Judging players’ performance when they play, and not when they don’t- He offered the most to the team when he Started on the left flank than any other player did, including Henry. Now I know people will keep saying “now what?” everytime Henry play good or the team play bad without him, and will say:”Iniesta played well, but we still cant judge” when Iniesta play good on the flank. I will let this for time to tell. For me, He can play there, as well as Henry can. Period. And as a tactical note, performing as a midfielder during the game was an obvious instruction from Pep when Xavi and Keita were pressured and terminated. How would it be his fault if he did a great job where he was asked to play? The question is: Will Henry be able to operate in the same role Iniesta had to excute if he started instead? Of course not. We would have asked either Messi or Ibra to do that job as they are better in that (though not as good as Iniesta). But anyone who will play there would have been critisized as well, for not being on the flank.
    4) The Ukranian didn’t play a good game in my opinion. He didn’t do lot of direct mistakes. But that’s only because he was not where he has to be in so many times. His diagonal cover behind Abidal was so bad. His coordination with pique was not better. We were so lucky that we had Puyol in this game who covered lot of the center back towers mistakes. With Alves instead we might have lost (if we ignore his offense impact). It was better to have Abidal as a CB with one of the two guys we used there. Abidal was not impressive for France there, but who else perform greatly under that coach? He has the “it” to play there.

    • Kxevin
      November 1, 2009

      Dunno, Ramzi. I just don’t think that Iniesta was as good as Henry on the left wing. He was good in a different way, and a way that subtracted from the because of his excellence in the midfield. His rapport with Xavi is so good that for me, having him anywhere else except tethered psychically to our Maestro is blasphemy.

      But I also think that Iniesta lacks the burst of pace to open up that wing, and create chaos in his wake. Yes, he can take the ball, fake a defender out of his jock and work his way into the box, making the killer pass from there. But again, I think he’s more effective doing that from the midfield.

      He’s still rounding into form, however, so it remains to be seen what effect he will have this season for us. This is also true for Henry and, frankly, Messi.

      • ElShowDeJason
        November 1, 2009

        I think that the reason people don’t think iniesta is good on the wing is not because he is bad on the wing, but rather because the team is better with him in the midfield.

        • Kevo
          November 2, 2009

          second what Jason said. Now, when Henry plays again and return to his better self and Iniesta moves to the midfield, what will happen to Keiteeeeeeeeeeeeeeee?
          He’s been solid in our offense and disrupting the rival’s offense and lately most of our opponents have been playing counterattacks. Soooo it’s pretty much a tactical decision, UNLESS Iniesta plays a Xavi and give him some freaking R-E-S-T.

  18. Jim
    November 1, 2009

    I hope you didn’t take my comments on Iniesta as criticism of him, Ramzi. I, too, think he is capable of being a real danger on the left – as much as Henry – but I’m sure he is seeing the problems in midfield for Xavi and is drifting back to lend a hand. I think the whole system works better when, as Kevin says, the midfield have the width upfront and the secure knowledge that Henry won’t move from the flank. Then we have three to aim at rather than hoping Iniesta isn’t back helping when you look up for a pass.

    I’m sitting here thinking about the CL game during the week. We know they’re going to try to do the same to us as last time. Would there be any value in – for once – sitting back a little, playing 4-4-2 and hitting them on the break? A midfield of Messi, Yaya, Xavi and Iniesta with Henry and Ibra up front? Just asking . .

  19. Diane
    November 1, 2009

    I didn’t stop by yesterday because I thought everyone would be demoralized (my house was not pleasant for a few hours after the match, but some people here are sore losers 😉 . It’s nice to see that productive analysis showed up instead — I’m going to have to get used to the intelligence of this blog, both the posts and comments.

    I didn’t see much player trashing in the post, just reality, along with some general reasons for their those realities. The things that have an impact on players and team don’t have to all apply to each game but (both positive and negative) they’re an overlay that applies across matches. World Cup, international breaks in general, possibly the “arrived” thing subconsciously. Don’t forget that international breaks caused transfer rumor feeding frenzies because the papers don’t have a few dozen teams to write about each week and have to make up material to fill space. I don’t care what anyone says, those rumors can unsettle or at least be a distraction.

    I was particularly interested in the “arrived” issue. I have no doubt that its subconscious. Pep wouldn’t allow it to even twinkle in a players eye. And the more experienced players rarely suffer from it. I think it will only be temporary.

    In the meantime, with the Wednesday being a must win game, I want the most experienced and hungry players. I think we could have easily won the match without Henry yesterday, but I wouldn’t want to play without him in the icy north, and I would want to be sure he’s as fit as possible once we get there.

    Re Iniesta on left wing. I agree that he’s best when paired with Xavi in the middle, but he does a lot more over there than shows up on TV so I can see why he still get the spot.

    • Kxevin
      November 1, 2009

      Thanks, Diane. I think the reality is that we’re still in first place and still, I think, have the best side in the world, even if sometimes they don’t play like it.

      I chalk up the draw to one of the those crazy-ass things that happen every now and again. It’s just that we could explain this one. 😀 Nine of 10 times, Pique knocks that ball away, no problem, and the sproing off Valdes’ head …. madness that was meant to be.

      I think the “arrived” thing is definitely subconscious, which makes it simultaneously more and less difficult to overcome.

      And I’ll echo Jim in saying I hope that nobody thinks I don’t dig what Ghostface does for the side. It’s just that I don’t think he has the same sparkle on the left side, in part because he won’t stay there, but also because I like him with options, and the ability to become the surrogate Xavi, so that our attack continues unabated.

      But when he is playing the left side, what I want to see him do is what wingers tend to do, which is realize more rapidly that he doesn’t have a shot at scoring, and make the right pass. Right now he dribbles, beats one defender, then two more show up. But he keeps dribbling to one of his “dribbles to nowhere.” I’d rather see him beat the defender, evalaute and make a decision before the wall forms in front of him because at that point, you have to either be bigger and stronger (Henry, Ibra) or have some mad crazy skills (Messi). When you are neither, you run into the defender, fall down and lose the ball, which isn’t a viable attacking option.

      • Diane
        November 1, 2009

        It’s clear you appreciate Iniesta, and I couldn’t agree more that he is at his best and most valuable next to Xavi — and that the two are breathtaking together.

    • eklavya
      November 1, 2009

      Hey! I read that whole comment looking for the ending “)” bracket but it never came!

      • Diane
        November 1, 2009

        Sorry, eklavya (if it was my parenthesis you were talking about), the www apparently thought it was part of the smiley face! I was hoping no one would notice 🙂 . Let’s see if that period shows up.

  20. Cesc Blanc
    November 1, 2009

    Good stuff(no really!). I think, and this is almost blasphemy for me but still, Guardiola should try to make the third sub in the 90th minute or 93rd minute, when he still has one left, in order to waste a bit more time. Bring in Maxwell, he understands it, played in Italy, knows this stuff, kill another 30 seconds, and go home with the win.

    • Kxevin
      November 1, 2009

      Excellent thought, Cesc Blanc. We still had a sub left, but it SO looked like we had things well under control (and we did, actually).

  21. Kxevin
    November 1, 2009

    So. At this same time last season, our record was:


    As late as Week 10 of the season, we were in 1st place by a point (hmmm …. sound familiar?) over Villarreal.

    Today, we are at:


    And this year, we already have two pieces of silver, Spanish Super Cup and UEFA Super Cup. We are in 1st place by a point, over the EE.

    This year, we’re in a better place even with Iniesta and Henry coming back from injuries, World Cup duties for all, Xavi wrestling with a knock and working 3 new players into the side. We have the same number of wins, and two more draws instead of losses, along with 2 trophies.

    So stop worrying, everyone, until there’s something to worry about.


    • eklavya
      November 1, 2009

      I’ll stop worrying once we get ten wins a row! Last year our best was 20 consecutive wins, wasn’t it?

      • jordi
        November 1, 2009

        It was a 22 game unbeaten run with- 10 wins in a row, a draw with getafe ,followed by 10 more wins ,then the “crisis” when we lost to the pericos and Atelti .

        • Kxevin
          November 1, 2009

          I just don’t see that happening this year, everyone. Last season we were daisy fresh and fully jelled. Everyone was healthy, there were no Internationals or other duties, and we were coming off a year in which we had the whole off season to prepare.

          This year, in the same position in the standings, we already have two trophies, and are still in contention (or haven’t yet played for) four others: Copa, CL, Liga, World Club.

          The Joy of Sex?

  22. November 1, 2009

    Some quick thoughts:

    1. The most worrying thing for me is not this or that player, but a collective lack of urgency. It was only in the second half when they started pinging passes first time and went hard at Osasuna. It’s not quite

    2. I don’t know about Xavi and Messi, but Marquez and Busquets have just dropped off a level. I think it’s time for Marquez to stop being trusted with a CB slot, and to play him as DMF, at least until he strings some good performances together for a while.

    3. We must give credit to Osasuna — they played very well. Their defense was organized, and they didn’t just sit back either and threatened on a number of occasions.

    4. It was hilarious to hear Phil Schoen completely miss the point of the JW article in the Guardian on false nines. Good going, Phil.

    5. Real’s problems have been overblown. If you read the Sid Lowe piece midweek and the comments in response, you’d think they were talking about Hull or Stoke. They had a bad couple of weeks, but they will be around all year, I promise you. And if they get knocked out of CDR (which they probably will, although you never know), that gives them the exact same advantage they had on us last year, when they were in fewer competitions than us. Bottom line: winning La Liga this year will be extraordinarily difficult. It can be done, but there’s no doubt a couple of purchases need to be made in January.

    • Kxevin
      November 1, 2009

      I can’t see us not making a buy or two in January, Ahsan. Like the rest of us, I just can’t believe that Guardiola, who is such an astute observer of the game, hasn’t seen the deficiencies in Busquets as the full-time DM. Granted, The Yaya has set a hell of a template in that regard.

      The comment about Marquez as DM isn’t a bad thought. That way if we gets beaten, there’s still the back line. But does he have the pace? I believe that he has the ball skills, and as long as play stays in front of him, he’s very good.

  23. Kxevin
    November 1, 2009

    Hey, so we rolled out in the 3rd kit yesterday. What happened to the boss-ass, salmon-colored away kit from this year? Probably the pink socks that put the lads off. 😀

  24. Jim
    November 1, 2009

    I will worry if we ever come to having to stick a sub on with 30 secs left in a game. Nobody, anywhere plays keepball like we do. It’d be interesting to see how long we could keep it if that’s what we set out to do 🙂

  25. November 1, 2009


    Moreover, the DMF is closer to what Marquez’s role is for Mexico, if I recall correctly (I don’t watch them regularly, so others can correct me here if I’m wrong). He has the positional sense and the understanding of the game to succeed there. But having him be the last resort in defense has gotten rid of Pep’s remaining hair, that’s for sure.

    Busquets is exhibit A in the Sophomore Slump Syndrome. I have no idea what’s happened to him. What pisses me off more than his falling over on the slightest contact is his trying to get fancy in the middle of the pitch when there’s three guys around him. It’s one thing if he has the touch of a Zidane or an Iniesta (yeah, I compared the two…what are you going to do about it?). But it’s another when you’re as unsure as him.

    I was happy with Ibra and Iniesta yesterday though. Ibra was a beast, so strong and so silken at the same time. Constant threat, and constant escape clause for the team — just boot it up and Ibra will chest it down to a teammate. And it was good to see Iniesta being the versatile threat yesterday, where you couldn’t pin him down. Puyol was regal, as he has been for a month. Everyone else was average or below average.

    • ElShowDeJason
      November 1, 2009

      last time I compared Iniesta to Zidane, i was almost burned at the stake, so be careful.

  26. Ciaran
    November 1, 2009

    My problem with Busquets is all mental. He seems as if, this season, he’s gotten over-confident and arrogant. He started the CL final. Whoopdeedoo. Busquets in last years CL final, he passed the ball first time practically every time he touched the ball and he was comfortable all night. This season he holds the ball far too long and tries too much.
    When was the last time you saw Yaya surrounded by three midfielders? I can’t recall, but every time I see Busquets he gets himself into a position where he can be pressurized. K.I.S.S. Yaya just does what he knows he can.

    Marquez as a DM works in some scenarios. In matches against defensive teams it can work because he can sweep between two very wide centre backs. Against more attacking teams, or teams that prefer offensive pressure, he spends too much time on the ball to be effective, like Busquets against Osasuna last night.

    I wonder who would be available should Pep see the need to sign someone else for the DM position. Mathieu Flamini is about the only one I can think of that would fill the gap.

    • Ramzi
      November 1, 2009

      There is the best DM in the world whose contract will expire soon and refused to renew. If his team get knock out of the CL group stage, and the world was perfectly set, he will move to Barca.

      In a more realistic tone, if we are not going to use the Ukrainian as a DM where he can perform, I seriously dont know why we paid 25 M to get him as a must buy. I mean…We would have been able to pay the fifth of that to buy Filipe after getting Maxwell and both can manage on the left Back when Abidal is needed as a CB. Especially if Milito came back and gained his form, plus the graduate involvement of the youth defenders that we have.

      • Kxevin
        November 1, 2009

        Wait, how can we sign The Yaya even if the impossible happens, and we get knocked out of the group stages of CL?

        Sorry, I was thrown by that “best DM in the world” statement, which clearly refers to The Yaya. 😀

        • Achraf
          November 1, 2009

          Haha kxevin u beat me to it I was about note my being puzzled at signing a player already belonging to us. At first I thought YAYA didn’t want to renew again 😀

        • Hilal
          November 1, 2009

          Haha, i was gona say the same thing. U beat me to it. Mascherano is great, but the Yaya is better….also Mascherano has been experiencing a particularly poor run of form lately. Maybe, like with Messi, the whole Argentina thing is affecting him.

  27. Tajh
    November 1, 2009

    Oh wow i now noticed that El classico is this month…..This is going to be a tough month for the guys…But I think Pep has some tricks up his selves since Henry is returning and now he can truly use the trident again….

  28. Kari
    November 1, 2009

    According to the official website, the MOTM of the Osasuna game was Keita. The Top 5 (warning: biases most likely in effect):

    1. Keita
    2. Messi
    3. Ibra
    4. Iniesta
    5. Puyol

    Funny tidbits:

    Henry (with 37/859 votes) was ranked higher than Txigrinsky, Busi, and Marquez.

    Bojan was also ranked higher than Marquez.

    You can also check out the MOTM from past games. Kxevin, maybe you can glance at these while making the rating 😛


  29. ElShowDeJason
    November 1, 2009

    so, i haven’t yet commented since yesterday i was really sad. Then i was really drunk.

    I will keep this one short.

    Last year lady luck was on our side. No injuries. A full squad. Things just went our way.

    This year something i keep hearing is “one in a million”, “9 times out of 10” “99% of the time”.

    We can do to things. Bitch about the bad luck that was Rubin’s first goal. Bitch about the bad luck that was the Pique/Valdes own goal.

    Or we can Man the fuck up.

    If we hit 2 or 3 past Rubin, who cares about bad luck.

    If Messi stops dicking around with ball instead of passing to a WIDE OPEN Ibra or Iniesta, or if he buries the 345,43,545 changes he had yesterday, then that momment of bad luck that WILL HAPPEN EVERY game, just doesn’t matter.

    It’s simple. We should have been up 2 or 3-0, but we weren’t We were up 1-0, so Messi dribbles. Xavi thinks backheels are a good idea. Ibra’s runs get lazy. Keita gets Monumentitis. Marquez hesitates, instead of putting his boot through either ball or leg (I frankly don’t care which one). Pique plays it too risky.

    being up 1-0 doesn’t mean the game is put to bed. Last year we decided games by minute 70. And if they wern’t, we were working our asses off to do so. This year our lack of depth means we are trying to conserve. Use efficiency. Score one. Then we take it down a notch.

    So again. We need to man up. Do our job. Do it well and fast so that when one in a million happens 2-3 times in one match, we are ready.

    • ElShowDeJason
      November 1, 2009

      hey jason, good job at “keeping it short” 😉

      • ballbeav
        November 1, 2009

        waaaaaaaaahhhh. i love armchair QBs.

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