Barca 4, Mallorca 2, a.k.a. “Next time, don’t wear white.”

Hi, ladies. Check out this thigh. Nice, right?
Hi, ladies. Check out this thigh. Nice, right?

So you’re at this party in a gorgeous house, and the staff passing the drinks and snacks are supermodels. The music is perfect, and you’re having a great time. But there, on the corner of a rug that probably costs more than you make in a year, is a dog turd. It’s a little one, and nobody is really noticing it.

At least, they’re not actively acting as if they’re noticing it. And suddenly, you begin to notice other things …. that supermodel has nose hair, that other one has a sway back, you have a better music mix on your music player, if you really want the truth of it …. and so it goes.

And you’re cranky, because you should be having the time of your life but thanks to that little turd on the Bokhara, a little luster is gone.

That’s kinda how I feel about this 4-2 win, one that features a very deceptive score line. But not for some wayward shooting from distance and a few last-ditch defensive efforts, this one could easily have been a match that we were chasing, just as easily as it could have been a 6-1 hiding by us. Because we have crucial defensive vulnerabilities that were exposed by Rubin Kazan of all people. Valencia also got on them, as did Osasuna.

Simply put, we are vulnerable to fast counterattacks up the middle of the pitch. Yes, we have been since time immemorial, because of how our fullbacks play in such advanced positions. But this year it’s particularly acute because of how teams are playing Xavi, which affects our rock-solid midfield control.

So in many ways, when Guardiola rolled out with Valdes, Puyol, Pique, Txigrinski, Abidal, The Yaya, Keita, Busquets, Pedro!, Henry and Ibrahimovic, I was sore curious to see what would happen, with our 3-layer cake suddenly turned into a donut. Two things happened:

–Without midfield command and control, our playing defense with possession fell apart as Mallorca created dangerous chances that all had their ground zero in the center of the park.

–Without that midfield layer, we were reduced to starting attacks with long balls for Ibrahimovic and Henry, who would take the pass and make stuff happen.

In many ways, this last thing wasn’t a bad option, as Henry and Ibrahimovic are two of the best in the world at taking a pass with a defender in their back pocket, and holding the ball until the cavalry arrives, in the person of a hyperactive Pedro!. But it reduces our time of possession, not to mention meaningful possession, so the other club has more time on the ball, which makes us remember what Guardiola said, which is “We’re shit without the ball.”

And without the anticipatory Mighty Mites in the center of the pitch, attacks get to the heart of the defense very quickly, making those defenders do what they aren’t really all that good at, which is stopping a full-speed attack in a league filled with little, fast players with great ball skills. So a bad pass, as the one from Txigsuddenlynotsonasty, leads to a bust-out by Webo, which was just parried by an excellent Valdes.

But that pass led to a corner, where their first goal was scored. The excoriation for Abidal was present then, and lingers now. But if you watch the play in frame-by-frame, you see that he didn’t know what the hell to do, because he had responsibility it seemed, for two men, both coming in from the top of the box. So he was paralyzed a bit, and froze between two choices. Big error on his part, compounded by the Pique deflection of the initial corner.

And in my usual “it takes a village to concede,” what the hell was Henry doing standing around at the top of the box, instead of marking someone? Valdes was beating himself up over that goal because he moved too slowly with the flight of the ball, violating the keeper’s rule of always having the ball in front of you. This doesn’t even include the view by some (like me) that Puyol could have done a better job of marking his man and reducing the space at that post.

It takes a village, indeed. The goal all started with an errant pass that became the defense’s Kryptonite, a quick break by the attackers. And that’s life, right? Even more interestingly, the second goal happened in almost a similar way. It began with an awful clearance from Abidal. Mallorca came charging at the defense. Pique was nutmegged, and TxignotverynastyatallnowthatIthinkaboutit lunged at the ball, a cardinal sin for a defender, and something of a characteristic of his. Puyol, in full fireman mode, was running around just spraying shit with his hose. He ran over to spray that situation, leaving his man all alone in the box, who took the pass and slotted past a spectating Valdes.

So, should we be worried about this turd on the carpet? Good question. The answer comes later, because we have some joy to discuss.

Henry came back, and so did our width. He let it be known right away that this was to be the case as with the first play he had, he burst past a defender and slotted a pass into the box that was intercepted, but let Mallorca know that now, they had to play the entire width of the pitch. The positive effects of this were evident, as Pedro! had acres of space, as did Ibrahimovic, my Man of the Match. Yes, P! had the brace, but Ibra made everything happen with his movement, passing and compression of time.

Great players have the ability to compress time with talent. Ibrahimovic has it. So does Xavi, Messi and Henry (P! doesn’t by the by. No knock on him.) So when a long pass from Pique for Henry was misplayed by a Mallorca defender, falling to Ibrahimovic, they were thinking “Whew! Got him! He’s outside the box, and surrounded by four of us!”

But a play that seemed to take all the time in the world, he very calmly threw a fake by sliding the ball under his foot, then batted a little side-footed sort-of-backheel-pass to Pedro!, who curled it around the keeper. It was an absolutely sublime goal that almost killed Ray Ray, and put us ahead 1-0 with that crucial early goal.

Do you love me? I love me!
Do you love me? I love me!

But P! wasn’t done. Keita laid on an exquisite pass for P!, who volleyed it but was stopped by an extraordinary Aouate, the Mallorca keeper. Then Henry had a blast that was parried with a reflex save. Then Busquets had a blast before finally, P! knocked it home through a deflection off a defender because you know what? Aouate had that shot covered, too. And suddenly, it was 2-1.

What do both those goals have in common? Long passes from defenders, Pique in the first instance, Keita in the second.

The third goal came from a set piece started by P!, who laced a ball into the box. A lovely setup header by Busquets found Henry at the far post, who knocked it in, and took his frustration out on the post, to the amusement of Ibrahimovic.

Take that,!
Take that,!

And make no mistake, despite my rumblings about defensive complexity, we had some beautiful play in this match, one that really shows how good the side is. We built a 3-1 lead on the 5th-placed side in the Liga, without Messi, Xavi, Iniesta or Alves. And it should have been more, but P! fluffed an amazing cross from Henry, almost as if he didn’t believe that the ball had gotten there. Which is what I mean about him not having that same time-compressing greatness. He was surprised, and tried to control it instead of just one-timing it, which would have beaten the keeper cold, and given him a first-half hat trick. Somehow, some way, we need more P!. There is a directness to his game when he’s on, that is difficult for defenses to deal with.

Our fourth and final goal was a thing of beauty. Xavi laid out an inch-perfect ball for Messi, who was able to get off to the races without even having to control the pass. He bombed toward the box before passing (again, perfectly) to Ibrahimovic, who was just fouled by a defender. Messi buried the penalty, and there you go.

This wasn’t a 6-1 mauling, but it was a good match, and one that showed us all just how good this side is. We didn’t play great, though we were very good in spurts, and still weren’t really that stressed by a top-5 Liga club. Yes, with better shooting by them it could have been very different. But it wasn’t, so be consoled by that. More importantly, there are signs of life from our beloved lads. Messi showed them, as did Xavi and Iniesta. And Henry was on fire, though inexplicably starved of possesson, as we continue to be a right-side-oriented offense. Have to work on that.

Team: 6. Much improved display, but that defense needs some work in communication. Several times, players got in each other’s way. There was also intelligence to the play, though I would fault everyone for not getting the ball to Henry and Ibrahimovic more. Every time we did, something good happened.

Guardiola: 7. Smart lineup, his rotation of Txigrinski and Pique was spot on, and he knew when to make the substitutions that would enable us to tiki-taka the match away. Keep rotating those players, dude. They need the rest.

Valdes: 6. He should have followed the flight of the ball better on that first goal. He needed to look no farther than the other end of the pitch for an example on how to do it. Still, some excellent play, including that killer deflection off of what should have been a goal by Webo.

Puyol: 7. Knows when to do the Alves impersonation, and when to play defense. Between giving up his body for the side, and snuffing out attacks (that flying Ninja header was crazy!), he is the raw, beating heart of this club.

Pique: 5. Between wayward passes and funky positioning, his little bout of The Funk continues. Sophomore slump? Maybe, but not as bad as Busquets.

Txigrinski: 5. For almost every good play, he had a bad one. Love the long passing and the position defense. Hate his inability to stop an attacker running directly at him. The Liga puts different pressures on a defender, and he has to work on that aspect of his game.

Abidal: 6. Uncharacteristically average match from him, with some poor positioning and wayward balls. He really played into things, however.

The Yaya: 8. Ah, The Rock. Command and control were his hallmarks today, though I thought that he could have been more assertive in patrolling the pitch and moving the attack forward.

Keita: 7. Excellent all-pitch match that had a defensive focus. He was the guy who stopped a lot of breaks by just getting in the way, or playing stalwart defense.

Busquets: 6. Man, was he stanky to start, but he settled down. Let’s hope this is the start of something consistently good, because we need him. Bad.

Pedro!: 8. Great match. You can almost see him improving from match to match, as he learns to play with truly extraordinary players. Still gets a little wild at times, and doesn’t know what to do with the ball at other times. But I love what he brings to the side.

Henry: 7. You might not like him, but you can’t deny his effectiveness in passing, creating chances for himself and others, and providing much-needed width. We have to pass him the ball more.

Ibrahimovic: 8. Staggering match from BANGS. After his assist, the ever-annoying Phil Schoen said “That is a play that Sammy Eto’o would not have made.” Why single out Eto’o? That’s a play that few footballers alive would have even had the wherewithal to think about, much less make. Ibrahimovic keeps attacks alive, holds the ball to wait for runners (that don’t always come) and functions as an advanced midfielder. He even clears balls on the defensive end.


Messi (for Pedro!): 7. He’s playing his way out of the funk, as he lit up the pitch today. I can’t wait for the day when he fully comprehends the power he has, and understands that sometimes he can do so much more damage by passing more often.

Xavi (for Busquets): 10. He was spectacular, and almost single-handedly got the match under control. Everybody got better when he entered and suddenly, we had full midfield lockdown. From then on, Mallorca hardly ever saw the ball. Amazing player.

Iniesta (for Henry): 7: He returned to his rightful role in the midfield, and was part of the magic that saw us play defense with possession.

Now, back to that turd on the carpet. No, we shouldn’t be that worried about it because with Henry healthy again, Iniesta can return to the midfield, where he and Xavi will exert the kind of control that keeps our defense from becoming vulnerable. We saw it in the second half of the Mallorca match. Yes, we are going to leak a goal or two, because we have tall, strong central defenders who aren’t that fleet of foot. But that height will also prevent a goal or two, as a pass that would usually get over the top is intercepted by a towering noggin.

P.S. Yes, this is late. My apologies. Life intrudes sometimes, and I had a really hard time with this review. But on my fourth(!!!!) match viewing, it all came to me. And here’s some goodness to send you all home smiling.

So I said, don't you like my new ears, and do you know, Leo, she said no!
So I said, don't you like my new ears, and do you know, Leo, she said no!

By Kxevin

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. What the hell kind of crazy crap is going on in my absence??!! Rumors of an 85m bid for Rooney? Bwahahahahaha!

    I like him, but not for 85m. We also want us some Mascherano. Jesus.

    Oh, and Txignasty’s brother says that he isn’t playing like himself. No shit.

    Finally, Zambrotta says that Pato is a match for Messi. (Always leave ’em laughing, right?)

    1. I’m pretty sure even Florez would baulk at his transfer fee although the move could boost jersey sales.

  2. hhmmmm… Ibrahimovic, ‘my man of the match’ gets an 8 and Xavi gets 10? Huh?

    nice review as usual. keep up the good work.

    Ever notice that for a winger, Pedro can only play football in the box?

    1. True! But I’m very impressed with his finishing… any one remember a certain Ole Gunnar Solskjær!?

  3. True, Ciaran. Because MOTM is an evaluation of a player’s effect on the match, while an individual rating evaluates how well that individual played in context. So MOTM will often have the highest rating, but not always.

    Right on about P!. But I don’t really think of him as a winger in same way I do Jeffren.

  4. The other nutso thing about these summer transfer rumors is that no way in hell does the board sign off on a transfer like that, with a lame-duck president in the chair.

    For the record, Rooney would be a kick-ass Henry replacement. But that is about the most absurd rumor I have heard in some time.

  5. Unfortunately, Ibra has a thigh strain, and that is why he has his shorts rolled up!!! He will be out for a week. Which is really bad news against Inter.

  6. The topic no one is talking about is Bojan. If Pedrito keeps scoring, Bojan will have limited opportunities and part of the winter transfer rumors.

    1. We’ve spent quite a bit of time on young Mr. Krkic, some of it rather contentious. 😀

      There are two schools of thought: 1. He’s never going to be any real help to the side because of his size, and because we have other players who do the other tasks that he can perform more effectively; and 2. He’s young and still learning the game, and has the potential to be a first-rate winger or second striker.

      Personally, I’m somewhere in the middle. I just don’t see a role for Krkic right now, except in Copa stuff. And do we really want a player on the big boys’ roster who is only of limited use? Good question.

  7. Thigh strain will be fine in a week, which is just after the International break, which Sweden kinda doesn’t have to worry about. Odds that he’ll be called up with an injury for a meaningless friendly are slim to none. He’ll be back and fine for Inter, which is on the 24th.

    And hey, Wednesday’s Leonesa match will be on Deportes, for those of you who have it.

  8. The Xavi part is what I omitted, and I was surprised to see a 10 for him too. undoubtedly a TOTAL CONTROL in midfield came back when he is on, and he also made the plays. but I can tell why you gave a 10 as this change is too influential to our ball possession tiki-taka-tok game.

    Ibra and Henry definitely need to see the ball more often than they did. Henry is truly special with his ability to deal with defense. We have seen enough Iniesta on the left in the past few games where he flew around the pitch without a destination but Henry really makes it look easy to cross a nice ball drawing defenders his way.

    Busiiiiiiiiiiiii, I hate him still. but he played ok as the game continued. still shaky in his passes to me but indeed, we need him. we need him very much. especially when yaya and keita will go serve their country in africa for a month, we will see more of him and probably he will continue to test our cardiomuscles and patience of breaking our computer. hope he gets better.

    Pique had a relatively bad game, but he is ok, i have more confidence in him than busi.

    by the way, the match alone makes me feel good, your reviews keep me happy! 😀 THANKS!

    1. We’re from the press. We’re here to help. 😀

      Busquets just has to adopt KISS (keep it simple, stupid) as a mantra. When he keeps the ball moving, he’s just fine. The big difference between last year’s Busquets and this year’s is that this year’s tries to gild the lily. Last year, he kept his head up and kept play moving, instead of trying to draw fouls/free kicks. Huge difference.

      I still think that we have to sign a DM in January, unless we are going to try Marquez in that role or something, with Busquets in front of him as the box-crashing Keita type, which he did with regularity last season.

    2. “instead of trying to draw fouls/free kicks.”

      He did the same shit last year. Heck, he rolled around on the grass even more than Alves did 😉

  9. Well the emergence of Pedro as a legitimate goal-scoring threat off the bench (and as a starter; some on this blog were saying he sucks when he starts but I think that’s being unfair on him) and the return of Henry from injury means that LW suddenly seems a strength rather than the weakness it was, uh, 3 days ago. This leads to an obvious question: if we’re going to buy ONE position in January, would you make it a winger (Suarez, Robinho, Rooney (!)) or a CMF (Maschers)? I used to think former, I suddenly think latter.

    1. why would we buy Mascherano? no-one’s ever been able to explain this to me. even putting aside the fact that he is (particularly with the departure of Alonso) a massively important player for Liverpool and carry a ludicrous price tag, he’s a PURELY destructive holding midfielder. there’s no guile or passing acumen, or desire to get forward and link up with attackers in him. he’s a fantastic player at what he does, but what he does seems antithetical to our system.

      look at our current DMs: Yaya, who started life as an attacking midfielder and who is an excellent passer and dribbler in his own right (note: opening goal in the Copa del Rey final last season); Keita, who also started as an attacking midfielder but in more of the box-to-box role and who works best when given license to get forward; and Busquets, who i believe began in the youth ranks as a forward and gradually moved back as he got taller and lankier, but who can also pass well and has a willingness to get into the box along with an instinctual understanding of the Barcelona system.

      Mascherano has none of this. he simply destroys an attack and hands the ball off to a more creative player. i’d MUCH rather we put in a bid for Marcos Senna than Mascherano if we’re looking for a stopgap; he’s just as vital to Villareal as Mascherano is to Liverpool and would likely cost less. he’s also, in my opinion, a far better player for the kind of football we play.

    2. “why would we buy Mascherano? no-one’s ever been able to explain this to me.”
      No! Don’t awaken the beast!

    3. If the board really wants to sign Fabregas in near future & has The Yaya as our DM in their long term plans… then Senna would be an ideal target. After all we need a new DM just to back up Busi during ACN!!

  10. i’m taking issue with some of these ratings.

    Chygrynskiy: was awful. at fault for not covering Pique on Mallorca’s first chance on goal, instead lumbering along on the far side of the player looking gormless in a totally ineffective position. i’d love to see some stats on his passing accuracy; it couldn’t have been more than 50% today, and that’s simply not an acceptable number for a centerback in our system. Pique had an off-game, and still completed far more passes and was vastly more effective defensively. will Chygrynskiy live up to his price tag of €25m? looking over at the €10m Thomas Vermaelen, it seems right now like we got shafted.

    Guardiola: why bring Messi and Xavi and Iniesta on? for god’s sake let them rest. we were more fluid with them on the pitch, yes, but we weren’t exactly hurting in the scoreline. let Pedro, who is despite his justifiably growing reputation an expendable player, go for his hattrick and give Bojan some minutes if you need to take Henry off. why risk our 3 most valuable players (in the sense that we don’t have adequate cover for their positions) for a game that’s already all but won, especially when at least 2 of them have been suffering from fatigue?

    Our Defense: looked like ass. whether that’s because both of our center-backs were having subpar games is open to question, but we really lacked communication and cohesion back there. that might be attributed to not just Chygrynskiy’s inclusion but Puyol’s position out wide and up on the right, preventing him from marshaling them as he still must do too often.

    good news, and it is significant, is that Zlatan Ibrahimovic is still awesome. this game may have just settled the longstanding debate going on in my brain about my next Barca kit purchase.

    1. it looked to me and i may be very wrong here, that chgyxyxyyysytryy and abidal had swopped positions. like abidal was a CB and txigrygrygxygy was LB

  11. To clarify, not saying Mascherano in particular, just a CMF. Maschers is the name that popped in my head because he’s had the most rumors swirling about him.

  12. epic review kxevin. thanks for all the work you put in.

    it was hard to pin this one down as you say. we didnt play that well in the first half but were up 3-1 at the end of it. maybe it means rubin is a better team than mallorca. i think we played better against rubin than we did against mallorca, but the scorelines dont reflect that.

    plus, we were more “acertado” in our finishing against mallorca than we have been recently… so despite the disorganization we still looked good…on paper. it’s so much about whether you can get that goal in the first 20-25 minutes or so.

  13. Is there a forum that you all (we all) use normally or is all discussion limited to the comments section? I really think a forum would be better.

  14. Nice review, Kevin.

    Henry made one nice cross and “provided width”. True, he can hold the ball like no other on the left wing, but too many of his crosses depend on luck nowadays (the one to Pedro excluded). The sight of him trapping the ball and teasing defenders is one of the great pleasures of watching the game, and lets hope he recovers to his last year’s levels. He hit the rebound right at the goalkeeper who was at one corner of the goal. Anywhere else, and it was a goal. To me, Henry is a forward .. meant to score goals, not just provide width.

    One tends to worry that someone like Robinho might replace him in that position a few months from now 🙁

  15. Are Hector pills back in the market? Is it too early to take the Hector pills? Just look at today’s Sport and EMD..

  16. – I think Yaya was acting more as a third CB in this game when the two fullbacks move forward. Its a shame as it was an opportunity to see him in a more offense role where he do better. But the needs applied the structure.

    – Abidal poor repositioning played a role in the second goal as he was covering the offside by miles, for no reason.

    – And Henry is still way far from his normal form. The goal will do him good though.

    – Pique was just so bad in this game.

    – Pedro, our new Klinsmann 😀

  17. Like the review.

    Same with Henry, sometimes i do get feeling that we start using one wing or other quite a lot and it hurts our game. Am sure Pep would be aware of this problem.

    I hope Maradona does not take Messi to Nigeria. I think he will though.

    Well, I like Masch but he is more suite to defensive pivot in front of back 4. Not sure if he will add value to us.

  18. And by the way, Yesterday was the first complete game I watch for Ajax after fixing my Channels problem. Suarez was a shadow for his performance last season. I am not sure if this one was an exception though…

  19. Of course now the news reports are that Robinho is balking at a loan deal, and we’re balking at the whole thing with the emergence of P! as a goalscorer.

    And Bayern has allegedly offered Ribery to us and EE, for some 35m. Amazing what a persistent knee injury and a sulky Frenchman do to a club’s willingness to sell, if the rumors hold any water. My guess is that they want to cash out, before he gets a rep for being fragile.

    –As above, Pique and Txigrinski had the good, and the suck. And Abidal had complicity in both goals. The second one evinced the quickness of thought (or lack thereof) that some knock him for. You could see that he didn’t know if the guy was going to leak or not. I also don’t think he was planning on Puyol leaving his man, and was moving to help Txiggy. Not an excuse, just an example of the abovementioned lack of communication. Talking fixes all that.

    The sole reason for Abidal’s slightly above-average rating was his goodness, when he wasn’t screwing up. Which was true of all of our defenders. Even VV was a little off.

    –And we shouldn’t need Hector Pills in November, dammit!

    A win is a win, but this scoreline flatters to deceive.

    1. Huh, really? I read just this morning in a respectable UK paper that we had pretty much agreed a deal in principle for a loan. It did mention that Robinho preferred a straight buy, but it didnt say it was any sort of deal breaker. Its probably all mess, but the fact that I read it in an actual newspaper as opposed to some tabloid rag made me think it was a bit more serious than the usual crap.

      Havent heard anything about the whole Ribery thing, although 35m seems awefully tempting….whats the deal with his knee? havent really been following him this season. I heard he was very unhappy at Bayern, but nothing about serious recurring injuries.

      Also there is the usual mess re Yaya making the rounds here. Kolo is being fairly vocal about Yaya joining him at City, right now claiming his brother doesnt get enough playing time at Barca and that is a problem for him because he loves playing. Hmmmmmmm…

      As for the game, I dont think we played so bad. I think we played as well as was to be expected considering the starting 11. As soon as I saw who was starting i knew it would be a much more direct, Ibracentric game with a lot more long balls up to our target man. Yes, it means we sacrifice the usual control and possession that we have, BUT it offers something different tactically and at times I thought we looked very dangerous. Ibra truly is the master of receiving, controlling and holding the ball. What we really need to do is learn how to combine the two so that we can dynamically shift between the two tactics during the game. Maybe this lineup was supposed to help us get more accustomed to using Ibra properly. We aint there yet, but we are getting closer. He just keeps getting better and better and right now he is the one leading the front line, he is the one really bossing the games and I love it. Cant wait for Messi and Henry to really start getting involved because thats when we will see something truly spectacular….

      Who would have thought at this point in the season that Ibra would be the one really making things happen up front. I always knew he would be good but I kinda thought he would be playing in Messi and Henrys shadows for a while before really coming into his own. Maybe that is one positive we get from Messi’s drop in form, that Ibra can truly shine, so that hopefully when Messi gets it back, Ibra will be at his best. Now that is a mouthwatering prospect!!

    2. I want to see how the team would respond to play double pivot… Having a purely DM along side a deep-lying play-maker(which Yaya Toure can be) with Iniesta in the hole just behind Ibra more like a SS. With Ibra holding up the ball, laying down long passes and providing neat passes to Iniesta… I think we cane get more goals from the mid-field this way BUT there’s a huge IF here! IF Iniesta comes to play with his shooting boots

  20. BA

    As for your questions, why put Xavi and Messi on, is a very legitimate question. Is it possible that sometimes coaches need to make decisions to make the fans happy ?

    1. I don’t think that Guardiola had full confidence in our ability to close out the match, the way the defense was playing, and without midfield continuity. Just my .02.

  21. Have anyone ever thought of Achille Emana in Real Betis as a legit winter recruit for the ACN………….

  22. I’m surprised no one has talked about the most important lesson that can be learned from this game:

    Pedro has been earning more playing time and has been so effective because of his hard work and the selflessness of his play. He went through a short span where he tried to do too much and was ineffective. The reason he is succeeding so much is because he is only playing FOR THE TEAM.

    This is a lesson some other players (I’m not going to mention specific names) could do to learn or relearn. Individual players were lauded last year, but that was because they played for the team and performed their roles within the team structure.

    In my mind this game was a lesson from Pep. Guess what superstars, we can win without you, as long as the players on the field perform their specific tasks.

  23. This was the saddest weekend ever. I got so excited for the game on Sunday because the schedule on this site said it was Sunday. Then I went to get ready to watch it and it already happened…

    My Girlfriend had to listen to me cry for three hours straight. Please update the schedule on the site so I don’t waste my gf’s time with my tears!!

    1. You’re right, Tom. So sorry. You know, I have never even looked at that schedule, but it does say Sunday. We post that one very early in the season, before the big brains at the Liga start switching stuff around. The best and most current information is always available in Isaiah’s match previews.

      Sorry for any tears. I can understand. On the up side, GolTV will be rebroadcasting the match about 413 times between now and the next match weekend, so you can “see” it, though without any suspense.

  24. i like how guardiola is pushing yaya up the field in this game. he is doing a lot more damage in the opposition’s area. he surged forward with the ball a couple of times successfully and drew defenders his way. the fact that he can protect the ball so well makes me think this decision has a lot more wisdom than it seems. without xavi and inieste, this midfield is all new to us.

    with this midfield, guardiola is obviously showing more faith in Busquets(i don’t get it) and Keita (ballon d’or of the month). and the defenders(who sucked). but the midfield has a whole new effect on this game. If,sigh, busquets plays better, which i think he is capable of, but not yet, sigh. he can supply the control and organization that xavi usually does (much less of course, but still much needed). and keita does his box2box attack-defend-win-balls-&whatnot thing. yaya and keita can switch their roles around, making it possible for yaya to drive forward when possible without giving up the defensive side of the midfield. They showed it in this game.

    I was re-watching the CL final against lucky united, and particularly paid attention to busquets who did tons of invisible things which were so vital in the game. the one touch directness, quick decisions making, no nonsense defense made him a selfless player which maximized the effects in his position. i wanna see more of that from him and this new midfield setup will work much much better.

    1. That’s what I meant with

      More like Liverpool formation here, Yaya doing the Xabi thing & Iniesta doing the Gerrard thing… Iniesta scoring would definitely be sweet to watch & the general would some times get the required rest 🙂
      I guess we have to try this some time against some week oppositions before going into January market for a MF

  25. Good review , Kxevin. I agree with your assessment that this could have gone differently. Think we have to bear in mind that this was by far the worst defensive display we have faced in the Camp Nou for a while. The worrying thing for me was that the lack of creativity and the disruption to the midfield flow were both predictable. I’m concerned that Pep thought we would get away with resting all three rather than two and maybe giving Iniesta the whole game. I’m not sure why anyone thinks Iniesta needs a rest at this stage of the season.

    I agree with the width Henry gives us although didn’t think he had a great match largely due to Keita behind him not being a good offensive passer of the ball. He may be good box to box but he doesn’t create anything. Henry should benefit from Iniesta behind him and we may just be getting it right in time for the Classico.

    Not going to quibble much about the ratings other than to say I absolutely agree with the 10 for Xavi. I relaxed back into my seat from the moment he came on. The quibble would be how Abidal can ever get a 6 when he is to blame for both goals ( I’m not buying this “village” idea for these two goals – Abidal marks his man that first doesn’t happen and he couldn’t have done much more wrong if he tried in the second) and if you look back he also let his man go in the move where Keita got booked. His positional sense to me is deeply flawed, made worse as you rightly suggest by the fact that we encourage our fullbacks to play so far up. I’m also seeing nothing offensively from him so where do the positives lie that outweigh these? Maybe a bit harsh on Valdes?

  26. I’m a little disappointed that you didn’t talk too much about the starting midfield, the most striking aspect of the match. I suppose there wasn’t much to say, since it took about 30 minutes for the Yaya/Busquets/Keita trio to begin to pass amongst one another, though this was inconsistent until Xavi came on. For most of the match, it was defense to attack, back to defense, to attack, with the Yaya popping in from time to time.

    Really, I’m not sure if this was really a great performance. I’m really pissed about the last goal we conceded, since it just reeked of stoppage-time laziness. Ibrahimovic was perfect, Henry was good but just too uninvolved whether it’s his fault or not (glad he got off the mark, no matter how ugly a goal it was), and I like P! more and more. Valdes was excellent and I think you’re being a bit harsh on him. But everywhere else, I thought we were not too good at all. Pique played one of the worst matches I’ve seen him play in awhile, and the same goes for Abidal. Txiggy, well, I believe he will grow into the side, but he was awful. Puyol is not a right back these days, and it took something away from our absent midfield.

    Speaking of absent midfield, Busquets and Keita were invisible. I don’t buy the “defensive focus” line, because Barca is a team that is “shit without the ball.” The midfield trio is the most important part of our attacking game, where Xavi, Iniesta, and Messi triangulate, and where we did the real shredding of teams last season. In the midfield against Mallorca, I saw three players ignoring one another…yes, even the Yaya. Props to Guardiola for the experiment, which allowed rest to our keyest of key players, Xavi, but it just didn’t work for me. Yaya looked the best, though, and I hope that in the future he can play the Xavi role better.

    Question: was Messi rested, or was he benched because of form?

    1. Rested, beacuse when you think about, he hasn’t really played that bad. You could argue that his form now is better than other players in the form of their lives. It’s just ‘bad’ by his standards.

    2. i was talking about the same thing above, might as well join u. i agree the experiment is somehow failed. here is something i saw.

      there are so many times we kick the ball straight from defenders to attackers because we did not have anyone organizing the midfield and creating stuff. that’s why henry and ibra did not get the ball often. xavi does this very well because he makes sure every player in their position has the possibility to receive the ball. yaya, busi and keita cannot control the midfield, with busi largely invisible, yaya covering the piquenbauer and txiggrinbauersky, keita cannot unleash his true box2box fight. a lot of times pique and txiggy got the ball and try to create,so did abidal, which is why we used lots of long balls to attack. lucky ibra is so good and this here-you-go-whatever-you-do-with-it long ball option proven to be the best new element to our game.

      this experiment failed because busi did not provide the control we needed most. at least if busi did a little more defensive work to free up yaya to organize, we will have a better midfield than we did. but busi did not do either of them. so we ended up not defensive nor offensive. if he did, yaya can control the ball more often in the middle of the park. he can destroy all the defenders who come his way. he surged forward a few times when xavi joined. but he didn’t have the chance to in the first half. but i think this experiment CAN be a very unpredictable option if busi plays a little better. if he doesn’t play better, it will be unpredictable for us.

  27. nice review. came across it a little late. more drinks from the hairy supermodels solve both your problems, kxevin.

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