Rayo Vallecano 0, Barca 7, aka “The post break-up breakfast”

So many of us have done it. You break up with someone on good terms, and you decide to have a meal in the aftermath of the event, because how bad could it be, right? And it’s brilliant. You laugh, you joke, you remember the good times, you remember everything about the relationship except the parts that made you want to set the bed on fire, with that charming, wonderful person sitting across from you, in it. Then you remember, and you wish you could be someplace, anyplace else.

And so it was today, in a demolition of a brave, plucky, misguided Rayo side that conceded early, then opened the floodgates. But the cameras before the match were all following Pep Guardiola, the now lame-duck coach of FC Barcelona, a man who spent the entire match looking as if he wanted to be anywhere except there. The team scored, he looked glum. They scored again, he looked even more glum, as did the newly announced coach, Tito Vilanova. The reasons for that, only they know. But for me, it was a fascinating match for so many reasons, that I will just throw up in bullet points, since my ability to string coherent sentences together has been disarmed by the weirdness.

I stayed clear of BFB and social media, because I wanted to watch this match fresh, without picking up any notions or impressions about how things might or might not have been. And even in its fundamentally meaningless state, there are a great many interesting things about today’s match:

Goals were in the house again

And it was more than the quality of the opponent. It was off-the-ball movement, aggression, dynamic play that was at times vertical. It was all of those things, that we used to see regularly and wondered why, for two desperate, crucial matches, we didn’t.

The pressure was off

There is a common misconception that Barca doesn’t feel pressure. EVERY team feels pressure, but that pressure manifests itself in different ways. Yes, we had injuries, yes, we had a great many complexities coupled with two key missing players. But we also had pressure, by the ton, pressure that makes legs kick not as freely, that makes players hesitate when they shouldn’t. Some of it is the pressure of fatigue, of having played pretty much non-stop for the last 4 years. Some of it is the pressure release that many of us feel at the end of a long run or bicycle ride. You’re hammered, but knowing that you’re in that home stretch makes you perk up and suddenly, you’re feeling pretty darned good. Fatigue, and relief from that fatigue, can be as mental as it is physical.

Someone tell me the last time they saw Lionel Messi smile during a match, as he did today a few times, smiles that he tried to hide, but they leaked out. When has Pedro run as freely, worked as much magic as he did today? Having said that, let’s be clear about the fact that I in no way, shape or form think that the team buckled under pressure. But I do think that they felt that pressure, in ways that I can’t begin to imagine.

And it’s okay to feel pressure. Our gladiators wouldn’t be human if they didn’t feel it. Today, however, was the result of that presure being released. And it was spectacular.

Messi was back, in full effect

Part of the grand design or not, it was so great to see Messi playing the entire pitch again, running at defenders, working balls loose, dashing about outside of our box and generally raising hell. I haven’t seen him play a match in as unfettered a style as he played today, in a very long time. Same defensive pressure, same phalanx of defenders saying “No, not in our house,” and he still knocked in two goals himself, and contributed spectacular passes, including an absurd nutmeg to set up Keita, on countless occasions.

The game was fun again

Today, the club played like it had nothing to lose. Yes, as a consequence, defense was a little loose at the back, but it was a match that felt much more like a scrimmage against a talented opponent. Even more, that first goal, which looked inevitable, seemed to loosen up the side even more. Our players were romping, and not just on the scoreline.

Keita served notice

Of all the players that might be sold this season, he is one of the most likely. And he gave us a taste of what will be missing, with a display of classic Keita, with flair and style added. Spins, slick ball control, incessant running and omnipresence were a few of the reasons this was a Keitastic match, and one that showed him off in a way that should, if there’s any justice, quiet his detractors, at least for a spell.

Afellay is back

In his first match appearance in a very, very long time, 3M took to the pitch, and the look down at his chest was funny, almost as if he was thinking “Man! I still can’t believe I’m playing for this club.” Was he himself? No. Which is to be expected. But it was good to have the squad move toward being whole again, in the vibrant presence of Afellay.

Um, about that Alves thing

Martin Montoya started at right back, and had an excellent match. He was calm, assured and present on defense, a very different kind of match from the marauding Alves, who entered as a sub in the second half. And when Rayo Vallecano unleashed an attack that took advantage of the space created with Alves up the pitch as usual, you could, when the camera cut to Guardiola and Vilanova nattering and gesturing, exasperated, at the pitch, almost imagine them saying “See? See!?”

They weren’t for everyone knew exactly what kind of player Alves was when he came, what kind of player he still is, and that he is one of the best right backs in the world. But interesting questions will be raised in the off-season, questions that I don’t think any of us are prepared to deal with right now. So we won’t.

Puyol will be missed

Thiago bopped in a headed goal off of an excellent pass from Alves. After the goal, the two creators started dancing, a choreographed little move. Puyol charged up, broke up the party, and sent them back down to their end of the pitch, to prepare for the kickoff. Man, I liked that. We were killing Rayo Vallecano. Why rub it in like that? Celebrate briefly with your teammates, and return to the task at hand. He was all business, even as he knows that we are just playing out the string. His committment and complete dedication to the cause is inspirational.

Pedro was windmilling away

Is Pedro officially back? Good question. I rather imagine he will get more starts for the remaining matches, and if he plays as he did today, we might have to give him his exclamation point back. He was everywhere, and being a constant danger as the activity levels of Messi and Sanchez freed him up to be Pedro. That is, he isn’t the guy who beats somebody off the dribble. He’s the guy who runs into space, tucks under an excellent pass and does his thing. But more than that he tracks back, and runs constantly. Good to see that player back today.

Sanchez and Messi

Next season is going to be loooooooonnnngggg for our opponents as Sanchez and Messi continue to develop the fluidity and sense for where each other will be. Sanchez was a dynamo, wreaking havoc with intelligent movement, ball skills and constant danger. As for Messi, the more space that he can have, the more dangerous that he is. All that Sanchez will need to is start reliably converting the chances that he gets, and look for either a lot of goals from him next season, or more space for Messi. Either way, the result is a lovely thing to consider.

I know that Guardiola doesn’t want to ….

But he might want to consider handing over the reins to Vilanova earlier, rather than later. Part of his pained expression, I think, was him trying to mentally divorce himself from this club, from realizing that he isn’t going to be the man in charge of beautiful displays such as these any longer. But I also think that he just plain doesn’t like being the main source of attention, rather than his players. Finally, I think he’s sad, in the ways that we all are when we make decision that are for our own good, about something or someone that we don’t want to leave.

I reckon that from every match on out, cameras are going to be everywhere, and the scrutiny will continue. Guardiola is the kind of man who wants all of the focus on his players and how they play, which is as it should be. It will be interesting to see if his demeanor is as dour for the next league match(es), and Copa final.

And yes, it’s a pretty safe bet that the reins have already been handed over. I would guess that Vilanova has even more input into squad and tactical decisions as this season moves to a close, as he takes a look at every player on the squad, even a squad that he almost certainly knows so well.

Next up is a pair of matches that will tell us a lot about this club, as they come against more formidable opponents than Rayo Vallecano, in Malaga and the always-difficult derby vs Espanyol. Until then ….

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. But the cameras before the match were all following Pep Guardiola, the now lame-duck coach of FC Barcelona, a man who spent the entire match looking as if he wanted to be anywhere except there. The team scored, he looked glum. They scored again, he looked even more glum, as did the newly announced coach, Tito Vilanova.

    Oh bullshit. I’ve just rewatched the match and no one looked glum or like they wanted to be somewhere else. Pep spent some time prowling the technical area as usual, and he spent a lot more time sitting down. You know why? It was pouring rain! And we were already several goals up. And there was nothing to play for. To me, Pep looked relaxed. And he spent lots of time bending Tito’s ear, presumably giving him tips for next season.

    People need to stop reading things into every little expression (or lack of).

    1. i’m with kxevin on this one. dour was the word I would use as well. there seemed to a more than usual lack of joy. it was a helluva a week plus.

    2. I’d have to disagree..non-verbal communication(in this case facial expressions) can be very ambiguous. No one knows what he really felt during today’s game except Pep himself(maybe Tito too since they’re bffs).

    3. I agree with Kxevin that Pep did look down. Even Ray Ray pointed it out during the game that he would rather be somewhere else.

    4. He probably looked down, glum, and sad because La Liga is already lost. Or because he was tired, uninterested, bored, and wanted to be somewhere else. Or he just feel relaxed and no pressure like Blitzen said.

      You can dive and see what’s inside the sea, but you can’t see what’s inside someone’s heart unless they tell you how they feel.

    5. Well, I won’t disagree with blitzen as aggressively as has transpired, but to me, and apparently to others as well, Guardiola looked like something was eating at him. I understand a desire to defend Guardiola. I kinda don’t understand aggressive hostility.

      So we should agree to disagree. You’re a mod now. If you have your own view, write it. You have the floor. But I won’t, nor would I countenence anyone suggesting that your view is full of it. I just don’t roll like that.

      I, like everyone else here, has been watching that coach for four seasons. And I cannot recall ever, in the briad range of emotions he has displayed during that time, seeing him look as he looked today. Vilanova always looks kinda sour. But again, TO ME, not Guardiola.

    6. Of course he was dour-how could he not be? What a maelstrom of emotions he must be feeling at the culmination of a such an intense 4 years! The decision is made, the date is set, but he still has to go through the motions for another month.

      So, yeah–I imagine he was probably feeling a little bit of everything: exhausted, bittersweet, angry, disappointed, nostalgic, proud, frustrated, uncertain, and antsy. When you mix every color together, you get a muddy, greyish brown.

      When your heart is being torn in a million directions, even if some are good, the dominant sensation becomes pain. It’s why we cry when we laugh, when we’re happy, sad, and even relieved. It’s the most human thing in the world: when you feel so much of anything, it hurts.

    7. Vilanova always looks kinda sour

      Haha yes, he always has a sour face. He looks emotion-less 😆

      When your heart is being torn in a million directions, even if some are good, the dominant sensation becomes pain…It’s the most human thing in the world: when you feel so much of anything, it hurts.

      Very true. As much as I would like to not take too much into it, he does really look really hurt. Something else is really bothering him, not just the 4 years thing. He has never ever looked so gloomy.

    8. peace; rough week for all cules. but if this is how we’ll send pep off; what a way to!

    1. He’s a keeper for one more season. Hard to find a capable No. 2 who will play so rarely, but be very good when he comes in. He’s more of a traditional keeper than Valdes. I’d actually like to see MORE time for Pinto. But that’s just me.

    2. Yeah, he’s getting older. And he certainly needs practice for the CdR.

      Maybe my view of VV is colored by the last few matches, but I really like Pinto in goal today.

      I wonder if the new goalkeeping coach has an effect on VV’s performance this season?

    3. The new Goalkeeping Coach is the same who worked with him and made him what he is today so no transitionphase needet for Valdés.

      Don’t know but after three superb Years this Seasion he looked like his oldself again without his strong reflexes he used to have.Tends to think more of a Player than Goalkeeper..

    4. So working again with Unzué should rather effect him positiv than negativ.

      Correction:more like a Player than Goalkeeper.

  2. On the Alves rumors that he is at the right age to command a huge transfer fee.

    Since when are we a selling club??

    1. We aren’t a selling club, but we will sell a player who has outlived his usefulness to the organization. That for me is different than being a selling club, that buys low, cultivates then sells high, because player sales are part of the business strategy.

      But if the Alba rumors are true, then the right side will need a more traditional RB. That might or might not be Montoya. Time will tell.

      If we DO deem that Alves no longer meets our needs, now is indeed an excellent time to sell him, to my view.

    2. Another thing is finance. Barcelona is not immune to what’s going on in Spain and Europe. Spain just released its unemployment data and it’s not looking good.

      Technical needs will trump other things. But if we deem Alves a surplus, mostly likely he’ll go.

      He’s one of the few players that has a good re-sale value. Others like Xavi, Iniesta, Puyi and Messi are untouchables.

    3. I don’t know. Alves is a key player for us. No one can link up as good with Messi as he can. I think Messi’s production will be lower if he doesn’t have an outlet on the RW in the form of Alves.

      It’s not like Alves had a slump like Ronaldinho, Deco etc. He still maintains his high performance in his 4th season now.

      It will be a big big mistake to sell him.

    4. I absolutely love Dani. I’d be sad if he goes. However, I don’t feel he’s had one of his better seasons for us. Think about the previous 3. I believe in 09 he was 2nd in the league in assists behind Xavi?(correct me if I’m wrong) He does leave us exposed a lot. Montoya looked great. He’s confident, steady, and strong. I’ve been impressed w/most of his performances this year. Dani is at the perfect age, high value & return on investment, & a proven winner. Teams will be lining up and clamouring for his signature. I don’t want to see him go, but it’s the right time for him to go. If that makes sense. We need to change a few things. He may be 1 of them or he may not. It looks likely that he will be based on the value he’ll command.

    5. kevin so are we going to sell alves this summer?? im afraid of your rumours, you said in one post that pep might nt renew and it came to pass,first of all where do u get ur exclusives? but for Alves at least 2 seasons more

    6. I got the Guardiola thing wrong actually. I was thinking he would stay one more season, until the signs became sufficiently clear that even I couldn’t miss them. So I’d hardly call me footballing Nostradamus.

      Do I think we’re going to sell Alves this summer? If the Alba rumors are true, then yes, even as I acknowledge the qualities of Alves. As for, as some note, he and Alves having an irreplacable sort of telepathy, look at what Messi and Sanchez have already developed.

      So we’ll see.

    7. I agree with Kxevin. If Alves, and really that means more the Alves role, is viewed as vestigial, now is the time to sell him. I am not endorsing that view or rumor, just reinforcing the obvious. The reasonable view is that Dan is worth more now than he will be going forward. The end.

      However, as with any rumor that actually gains traction there is more than one potentially true rationale supporting it. I see them as the following…

      First, after almost 4 years, lately good teams seem to be figuring out how to exploit the space behind Dani when he plays “the entire right wing.” Why our how are they seemingly more able to do this now than they have been before? Is it Dani’s fault? Or is it because of lesser cover from the CB’s b/c of and aging Puyol? Mascherano’s relative inexperience? Pique’s realtively poor year? The instability at leftback in Abidal’s absence requiring the CB’s to shade more to the left w/o Abidal’s covering pace? Or are other teams just finally figuring it out consistently, and therefore, the role is vestigial and the team must evolve?

      Second, the rise of the back 3. Dani has, more than capably at times, played in the back 3. He can in fact play defense quite well. However, he can only play defense where he is. When he is asked to be very high up very often he plays great recovery defense. When he is asked to stay back he plays great defense back, but that sacrifices the dynamism that makes him unique. As such, he is not the first guy you would pencil into a back 3 if you had a variety of options.

      Third, Dani has once again shown, at least in my view, that he is not a winger. He has said it himself, he works better running into space/the attack than starting up front and static w/ a defender marking him. Oh, and there are will be a plethora of wide forwards and wingers available and coming available for next season.

      Fourth, the expectation of a changing of the guard. Pep is going, Dani is arguably one of the primary hallmarks of Guardiola’s teams. His first big signing, and again arguably his most successful big signing. And depending upon your perspective, either the teams’ shape was built around Dani or he facilitated the asymmetry that allowed Messi to play the “false” positions. With Pep going there is a natural expectation of a shake-up, either through perceived necessity or simply for Tito to put his stamp on the team. Dani, being dynamic, flamboyant, not from la masia, and so linked to Pep, is an attractive target for such a housecleaning. On this point I will remind everyone that Tito was right there the whole time and I find it difficult to believe that Tito was not on board for much if not all of the Alves acquisition and experiments. That said he may very well have an evolution in mind that does not include Dani, but that is a different reasoning than simple housecleaning/statement making.

      I think it was Euler, from whom so many good things come that I assume it was and apologize if it was another, that pointed out on twitter that Messi shaded further left this game than we are used to seeing. It was also suggested that this was due to Sanchez playing on the left. I would toss out that it was also affected by Dani NOT playing on the right and a continuation of a trend in Messi’s play. My expectation, supported by the freakish number of assists he’s dished out this season, is that we will see Messi moving towards something approaching an orthodox 10. Much of what he does is already there. I expect with this summer’s acquisition(s) and both sanchez and villa available next season and xavi’s limitations going forward, he will be playing behind players more often and it will be more comfortable to call him a 10 than a false something or other.

      We have also seen that playing with players wide up fron helps open the spaces in the opposing back line that Messi likes to run into. That also cuts off the space that Dani likes to run into and pulls him up short in the midfield. That is when he isn’t playing the winger, which we already covered, he isn’t that good at. It’s hard to expect that teams aren’t going to increasingly park the bus and that Dani isn’t nearly as effective when teams do so. (He was benched for just such a tactical reason recently.)

      Finally, there is Montoya, one of the youngsters most prepared, in my opinion, to contribute to the first team. Except that he has been behind Dani, a freak who is rarely injured or in fact stops moving. Montoya is also, by nature, a better fit for a back 3 than Dani. So there is, if not real, another perceived pressure on Dani’s spot. As an aside I was pleased to see Montoya experimented with at LB. A worthwhile experiment, but based on the game situation I don’t see any conclusions being drawn yet.

      For all of these reasons and the speculation that naturally comes with any change and a less successful season it’s reasonable that Dani/the Alves role is called into question as the primary or default right side option. And all that is w/o addressing any economic machinations, which are at least to me, less interesting.

      oh, and thanks to Kxevin for the review and comments and BFB for the space in which to ramble.

  3. I’m so happy that Messi embraced and had a chit chat with the kid who controlled the ball in one touch.

    Was really hoping to see a clip of him controlling the ball and it’s already up.

    1. Thanks for the link.

      Goes to show the fine line that Rosell treads between pleading huge debt and being profitable enough to please UEFA and the creditors.

      Interesting point that Swiss Ramble makes about the figures presented at the General Assembly not being “fully explained”. Transparency, anyone? 😀

      The asset part is also interesting, because so much of FCB’s assets are of the human type being developed in La Masia, and have no real book value. There’s a big cost to develop them, but not much in the way of income unless they are sold.

      This means that it’s practically impossible to record a price/value for the all the players in the teams who come from La Masia and are not bought from the outside.

      So, the likes of Messi, Xavi, Iniesta, and Busquets would theoretically have a book value of +0.01 until they were sold!

      Accounting – creativity at its best.

    2. The other thing that has to be noted though is that Madrid are in better financial shape than us anyway you look at it and are set to continue to be this way for the foreseeable future due to the significantly higher revenue they generate. They have a lower wage bill than us while the difference in what we make and they make amounts to the price of at least one superstar player every year. So they will continue to buy anything they want and it’s going to be the same battle if not even more heated, unless their form really drops after Mourinho leaves; but that’s not much of a consolation because we all remember that Pellegrini got more points than Mourinho in his first season so other coaches will probably be able to approach 100 points too.

      You can sort of understand why nobody would want to play the Alex Ferguson role in such circumstances – the pressure under which he has been for those 25+ years is nowhere near what the pressure is in Spain now for the coaches of the big two.

    3. Oh – if you want to compare clubs, then that’s another story.

      I’m only interested in the finances of FCB, though. 🙂

      RM will do whatever they want to do – I don’t care.

    4. Sorry, gonna have to disagree. SAF would be under immense pressure if he weren’t SAF. He’s earned the right to not be scrutinized for every decision he makes(which he still does, look at todays derby tactics/lineup). Manchester United is the biggest club in the world. Fact. The British media are extremely harsh. The coaches in England come under pressure from every angle. I’m not saying it’s worse than Spain. However, I wouldn’t say SAF doesn’t have as much pressure as FCB & EE. He does. He’s just earned the extra time before it piles on. I would bet the house that is he had a down year there’d be calls for him to retire.

  4. I’d love to hear what Guardiola thinks of the fact that he is the first coach in 110 years of history to be leaving without the fans wanting it.

    dunno, would he be proud, would he be sad?…

    1. Mixed feelings, I believe. Proud, sad, relieved, happy. Well he did say something about all the praises he got after the announcement exit.

      Guardiola: “Praise after announcement exit? I’m grateful for it. Although I didn’t pass away. Don’t know where, but I’ll still be around.” 😛

      But really, a coach left after his club lost 2 trophies, and yet the fans, the players, and the board begging him to stay, it’s not something you will see every year.
      And he got so much love around the world in just 4 years.

      *sigh* Imagining him as other club’s manager gives me a heartache.

  5. Didnt see Pep “looking as if he wanted to be anywhere except there,” nor did he look glum all the time. I watched the match twice. I think people may be reading too much into stuff, as usual with Barca and cules. LOL. Ofcourse, I did not expect him to be happy and chirpy but I didnt see this depression that people speak of.

    Umm, I’m not sure what you’re trying to imply about Alves..must be the journalist in you that makes you sensationalize things. As far as I’m concerned Dani is a very important part of the club’s plans.

    The Dani/Thiago/Puyi thing was hilarious to me. Though I never once thought they were doing it to rub it in the Rayo fans face. They were just dancing to celebrate the goal, happy in the moment. I dont know why this was surprising..Dani always dances..he danced with Abi after he scored the winning goal in the Copa quarters 1st leg against EE at their home..
    However, Puyi breaking it up was funn-ee.

    Although Pinto gave me mini-heartattacks at times with his passing out of the back, he had some excellent saves. For an old guy he has good reflexes 😛

  6. They both seemed annoyed by the press and felt unconfortable. It seemed they overthought whatever action they took to me still there were flashes of good ol’ pep with gestures towards his player.

    Was happy for Ibis Comeback if Keita would leave,which i still won’t hope, he may become his successor as b2b player. But i still consider him only a short-term solution.
    Seydou Keita was man of the match to me. Superb performance.

    Regarding the Alves-Rumours imo it is a simple declaration that he is not unselable anymore.So if someone is ready to splash cash club is open to negotiate. Would it be smart to sell him?No because i think he has min. 3 Years of top level Football to offer.

    Don’t know right now Barça Squad is about to not to meet the League restriction rules. 22 Players are now registerd, three or four youngin’ should follow and then the possible reinforcement..
    damn.a lotta work to do for Zubi/Bartomeu. Loandeals seems likely for either Cuenca or Tello it depends mainly on how the Club plans to use Afellay(Midfielder or Winger).

    Anyhow the game last night was quite enjoyfull las Vallecas had something to offer a very sympathic crowd:)
    Club reminds me a little bit of St. Pauli ^^

  7. I have not been reading the tabloids, but why the sense of a squad clear-out this summer? I had the mistake of watching the game with Gerry Armstrong commentating.

    This team was right there till the end. A couple of balls in the net instead of the woodwork and they are immortals.

    Despite Montoya’s good game and resume, Alves sold would be a big loss. Keita leaving, a big loss.

    I will also admit to not wanting Dinho or Yaya to leave.

    1. Was that the UK Sky Sport stream? The commentary made me want to kill someone. I was watching it (better picture) and listening to GolTV and Phil & RayRay (better commentary/bad picture) until the GolTV streamhost switched to a Russian channel Gah!!!!!!!

    2. yes I believe so, but I think my broadcast was through Al Jazeera.
      I wish I could stream GolTV (I would gladly pay for it) I miss listening to RayRay.

    3. You should have stuck with it, the GolTV stream came back after a while. It was too choppy for me, though.

    4. Hey, I’d still love to have Yaya back. He is such a force. Busquets replaced him and has become one of the best DM in the world. However, Yaya is a lot better going forward and adds the size and strength we’ve missed this year. He was a big loss regardless of how we performed after his exit. As will Dani be if he does leave and we do well next year w/out him. I’m not a fan of how Yaya ran his mouth about Pep, but I think he was hurt and felt unwanted. He still should’ve kept it in house.

  8. Is it allowed to already dream of the return of Pep?

    He is blaugrana through and through, I don’t think he can ever mentally divorce himself from this club. The desire of coaching this particular generation of players (let’s face it, it’s not only Guardiola’s brilliance that made this team a legendary one, it’s also an unusual high density of talented players) again – will it return in one year?
    What I do believe is that Tito Vilanova would gladfully welcme back his friend, and also step down to the assistant coach role without any resentment. If we had taken a new coach from outside of Barca, I would not have thought so. But with Tito, the door for Pep is open.
    Don’t get me wrong, I like Tito a lot – I trust in him – I will support him unconditionally, nonetheless a man can still dream 😉

    Wonderful match by the whole team, plus seeing Messi smile makes me smile. Practically 4 assists and 2 goals, well done Leo!
    I hope we’re gonna see Pep smile in the CdR final, mixed with tears of joy and sadness. My eyes will not stay dry on May, 25, that’s for sure.

  9. Once the rumblings start does it become a self-fulfilling prophecy or were they mostly pointing out the inevitable?
    Alves does seem ripe for selling and clearly he continues to lack discipline as a defender. Additionally, his crosses have left a lot to be desired. However, his work rate is immense and he would be hard to replace as far as quality. If you move up Montoya to the starting eleven, who is there to back him up? I hope Alves stays.

    1. Great article.Some random football analyst in my country was too blinded.When asked about whether Barca losing to RM and getting dumped out of CL was because of fatigue,he replies saying that Barca are a World-class side and fatigue is an excuse.Bah!,he thinks players are robots.I nearly broke my TV in anger.

      What’s more?He comapres himself and his team with Barca.What team?Sheffield!.Goes on to say that he played in Championship/PL and some 2nd string tourneys and said it is the job of the players to play a game every 3 days.As if Sheffield has players which were core of an international team who were World and European champions or they competed for the league and CL on the club front till the end.I have a got mind to tweet this link to him.

  10. psqd has an excellent breakdown of the Alves possibilities above. Worth a close read. Sometimes, it isn’t quality that makes a player transferable, but circumstance.

    Yes, the space behind him is being exploited more and more. Certainly Abidal not being in the house has a lot to do with that. But it’s also a function of how teams are attacking us. But that’s easily fixed, tactically. The circumstance could potentially be that we haven’t had a right winger in a while, since even before Guardiola came. Now, suddenly, we have one in Cuenca, and potentially Pedro.

    This means that Alves’ duties as right winger aren’t really that important, tactically, because the tactical questions might be different ones now.

    Another tactical consideration is Alexis Sanchez. As he roams, and begins to develop his skill set, notice the number of times that Messi popped up on the right and Sanchez in the center, etc, etc. Our attack could, next season, have two players whose mobility and fluidity in attack means that they could pop up anywhere.

    Chelsea and EE have shown the way to defending Messi. Use numbers, funnel him in toward the middle, where the defense can take advantage of our center/center-right bias in attack, then deal with anything coming from the wings as it happens. But what if it’s Messi coming from the wing? What then?

    As our system evolves, it is crucial that it adapt, or be able to adapt, to any and all possibilities. A defender like Montoya, though not the ultimate quality of Alves, might well suit what might become a more conservative system on the right side of the pitch. This, of course, assumes that the Jordi Alba rumors are true. If so, suddenly we have a left-sided Alves, and you just can’t have two of that type of player. Yonder lies madness.

    As for cover, Adriano can play both sides, and a player like Muniesa can play all across the back line.

    Is Alves an amazing, at times spectacular player? You bet. Irreplacable? No player is irreplacable. As players come and go, systems adapt and change to deal with that absence. The biggest complexity comes when the player is so good that the system can’t adapt, and it develops exploitable weaknesses. Do we have players like that? Yes, but Alves isn’t one of them.

    Note that Abidal is. Look at the killer goals in the two big matches of the past week. They came, except for the Torres fluke, not on the right, but on our previously unassailable left.

    So is selling Alves crazy or unadvisable? Dunno. Depends on the offer, and what Vilanova has planned for next season. It’s worth noting that, opponent quality notwithstanding, we were destroying Rayo Vallecano as Alves watched. And when Alves came on for a suddenly crocked Pique, suddenly things got a little messy at the back.

    Ultimately, who knows? But usually in the transfer market, where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

    1. Note that Abidal is. Look at the killer goals in the two big matches of the past week. They came, except for the Torres fluke, not on the right, but on our previously unassailable left.

      Exactly. Abidal, with his pace and better defensive reading of the match, would have prevented the Ramires goal, I’m pretty sure of that. The more I think about the CL semi-final, the more I feel hard done-by. This was a tough season with many, severe setbacks that in the end were incompensable.

      Maybe, who knows, Abidal will defy proabibility, the doctors’ prognosis and return to the pitch once more.

    2. Hmmmm my best bet in anyone who can remotely do what Abidal did is Sakho from PSG.

      Although he seems more as a Thuram type defender, he has similarities and the skill set to Abidal. He can also play as a Left back despite being primarily a CB. He is also only 22 so improvement within our system can come with time.

      Personally I would rather we go for Sakho than buy Jordi Alba and keep Alves. With our usual back four of Alves-P-P-Abidal we already at points had a back 3 when attacking, Abidal missing just highlights how tight out system of play was.

      Being a conservative LB, Abidal allowed Alves the freedom to go forward and create space for our wingers/attackers with 3 players sometimes Busi covering at the back. Both played mighty roles in the way we attack and defend so to say Abidal had a more important role than that of Alves is a bit off.

      Yes Abidal is a beast at the back but Alves is a beast going forward, both players played their roles as fullbacks so now that one is missing we are seeing how important the roles every player in our starting 11 are.

      Without Abidal when we are caught on the counter with Alves up field, the space are now visible to us but it was always there just we had players closing it down. Before if an attacker got the better of Abidal, Puyol or Mash was behind to cover now it seems our CB’s are running to close down spaces left by both our RB and LB, something we never experienced with Abidal.

      We just need to adapt in the way we defend to suit the players we have. Right now trying Mash at LB can never hurt. Maybe we have all the tools here already just haven’t fit them in place as yet. Maybe Alves-Pique-Puyol-Mash is a back line to try sometime, giving us the freedom in switching our 4-3-3 into 3-4-3 or 3-3-4 when needed.

    3. Also if we do get Jordi Alba, I believe we can accommodate both Alves and him as fullbacks at the same time. Just we would need Busi dropping back much more when we attack and one fullback to be conservative while the other attacks. #Preseason Adjustment & Trial and Error.

      Alba despite what people are saying is great defender also. If I recall he kept Di Maria at bay in that 0-0 EE draw this season while also breaking free on the left. That game especially he started out on his own at LB without Mathieu covering him.

    4. I don’t think Alba is that good. I’ve watched him closely ever since we’ve been linked with him and i think he’s very good but not up to Barca’s standard. He is great going forward but has a lot of weak points defensively which would cripple our already weakened backline, his height, reading of the game, tackling and positioning are very poor and i mean VERY POOR. I think the club scouts should have a look at Domenico Criscito whom i think is great although hugely underrated.

    5. but its a question of wudnt it b d same for alba? he will overlap and leave spaces behind, if its for tactical reasons then i think alves cud be made 2 adjust, if its for money, why not stop the alba deal and try 2 promote muniesa? if mun iesa is inexperienced then so is montoya,and if adriano can adjust at right back then he can so same at left back, selling Alves i totally dun agree,dun forget that we dun change a winning team plus as someone said above, we are not a selling club.he can be told not to overlap for tactical reasons, we can decide not to buy alba for financial reasons.

    6. thanks.
      It will be interesting to see what happens. As we are largely speculating based on reading of tea leaves.

      The key point Kxevin has been making and I tried to reinforce is that players can become systematically or tactically redundant and/or vestigial. This is also something we should expect going forward. Though if Tito proves much like Guardiola, it will not be in the ways we expect. The primary forces for these changes the last few years have been Messi’s evolution and the emergence of talent from la masia, eg busquets. The next few years will add another factor, the aging and/or injury of primary components/players. Most obviously abidal, xavi, and puyol.

      Simply put, Abidal is proving to be as difficult to replace as alves. Surprisingly though, the replacement could entail systematic changes that few would have guessed at.

      Messi will continue to evolve and from my view that means playing more and more centrally and further back on the pitch. I think that generally as top players mature they move inside rather than outside and get more involved in the play rather than less. Until finally the develop more specific and limited roles as age limits their physicality. In his case specifically, messi has move further infield. This has already left at least Zlatan as a tactical casualty. Further, Xavi’s aging will draw Messi further backward. His replacements are more direct and likely will expect and demand comparatively fewer touches. Messi will demand more touches and options, which means moving deeper for greater access to the ball and other players.When the primary question becomes how to facilitate Messi’s continued evolution this summer, and that is one of a few primary systematic questions, nearly anyone is a potential casualty. The few who are not, busquets, iniesta, sanchez, are not precisely because they have proven flexible enough to do so already.

      Alves, as much as I enjoy him and his energy, is not such a player. He fills a comparatively specific role, albeit one for which he is uniquely qualified.

      I think there is a possibility to play both Alves and Alba/Bale in the same team. (Though I really don’t see Bale as a realistic option. He is too expensive and think he sees himself moving into a more expansive role rather than the more limited one he would be asked to play here.) That would look something like a 3-5-2 w/ Alves and Alba as wingbacks. I think that this is a fun option to have in your bag of tricks, but would be surprised to see a commitment to it as a primary system by Tito. Also, barcelona arguably already have the personnel to do this on a limited basis.

      All of this is without asking how cesc is to be shoehorned into the side on a more permanent basis. Something whose easiest solution seems to be more 3-4-3 and has recently left Alves out.

  11. Alves when asked to play a conservative role does it very well, e.g. vs EE. So I don’t find him a liability our weak in that area.

    He is just exploited a handful of times over the course of a season. And that is due to him being involved in attack.

    The goodness that he brings to this team far outweighs his indiscipline imo.

    1. Agreed, people are forgetting Alves is actually a great defender. Just this season he was asked to be involved in the attack much more than we saw past seasons. Combined with the experimenting 3-4-3 this season Alves hasn’t had a defined role in the lineup this season.

      I refuse to see him as a liability in our back-line but instead a player who offers great defense along with offense. The system just needs reshaping to keep a balance of when attacking and when defending.

  12. Alves at 29 is hardly a done player. It all depends on the future tactical decisions but as a player he is tremendous. More than that can’t say anything else.

    The dancing incident was funny at most. I guess Puyol and Pep wish to save the funeral atmosphere? 🙂 I guess it can be seen as offensive but that hardly constitutes a sound argument. He was not showing how great he is, how fantastic but only enjoying themselves. I guess the team was on a sober note and they should have conformed?

    As the ESPN art linked above points the team has achieved amazing stuff seen from a larger perspective. Let’s hope there are resources to keep going…

  13. seen some highlights. sad that Pep has not even applauded the team’s goals. is he mad that they could’t score a lousy goal against a 10 men Chelsea in out home?

    what’s up with that anyway!

    1. It’s what I referenced with the “something going on” comments above. I think there is a ton going on, and we can only imagine what it might be. I can’t imagine being in that situation. Must be heart-rending, which leads me to think that your evaluation of his motives is a bit harsh. I don’t think there is any anger at his players or what they could/couldn’t do. I do think the man has a heavy, heavy heart, which he is allowed.

    2. Agreed. I also think it’s not immediately obvious that while players get recovery time (or breaks, if you will) coaches don’t. Especially if they’re like Pep.

      After all those years of tireless preparation for every match, I can’t imagine how exhausted he must be. It has to show eventually. That combined with his desire for the focus to be on his players, not him, has to make it just that much worse.

    3. yes i realized afterwards that this issue has been raised. as i watched the game i noticed him but on highlights i noticed that there wasn’t any sign of joy… it just made me feel that something ‘between us has changed’…

      it just made me sad more than anything. i dont wish to speculate, more than the usual joke, but hey… in the end he can use some perspective…

    4. A complicated relationship that Pep has so delicately fostered is changed forever. Not unlike how a child reacts upon learning of his parents’ divorce, I imagine the players must feel an immense sense of abandonment, perhaps even a tinge of betrayal. This man, whom they vowed to follow anywhere–even off the top tier of the Camp Nou, as Alves once famously said– is leaving them behind. Tito is a welcome consolation, but it’s a bit like being sent to live with your loving uncle when your parents can no longer take care of you.

      Of all the emotions I cited in my post above, I neglected to mention the heaviest emotional burden of all: guilt. In this moment, Pep is, directly or indirectly, responsible for their pain. It eclipses all else, and there’s little Pep can do now to assuage the emptiness they must all be feeling.

      How can he comfort them about his own departure, when the only comfort they need is to have him by their side? No apology could suffice; no new promise can fill the void of the one that’s been broken. Yes, he’s on the bench, but he’s already gone. Clapping and celebrating goals at this stage would almost be patronizing and meaningless, and would only serve to further remind them of what they are about to lose. It’s a difficult, sad, moment, but there’s nothing left to do but give them some distance and respect, and allow time to do what it always does: heal.

  14. It’s reasonable to critically consider the role & position of every player on the squad each summer. Whether or not a player should be sold really depends on first on issues of organizational strategy and priorities and then on the value of a potential deal.

    Is it reasonable to go through this evaluation process with Alves? Sure.

    But I’m really struggling to understand the argument for doing so barring some simply outrageous offer or Dani expressing a desire to leave for a larger wage.

    I’m especially struggling to see how removing Alves is advantageous tactically.

    For example, if you want to change the axis of attack to the left then you’ll need to formulate a coherent plan for completely changing Iniesta’s role on the squad and secondarily Busquets role on the squad. You’ll have to tell Messi to attack & position himself very differently and become more comfortable with his right foot.

    Are those things possible? Sure. Could they be the right thing to do. Perhaps. That said they will be exceedingly complicated to do. And I’m unclear what the payoff would be for the associated on field costs-which will be significant.

    Of course selling Alves is only part of the story-there’s the corollary of what one does with the money. But that’s difficult to assess as it’s so speculative.

    But I have seen an argument made amongst cules that roughly goes – sell Alves buy a player like Bale and then we can utilize Montoya at RB.

    It’s not remotely that simple because Barca plays very asymmetrically.

    1. All very good points.

      However, I think there are a few arguments/questions being lumped together.

      One question is do we need another LB in the squad and if so who? Alba and Bale are attractive names and so are talked about. You are completely right that you can’t just get one of those two and decide to orient the team around one them doing what Dani does now. The team has a chirality like RM w/ CR and it can’t simply be flipped.

      A separate question is, the tactical assessment you mentioned. Is Alves’ role still the most productive/desirable base system? The asks the sub-questions like…Is it better to play with a true right winger? Can Alves play with a true RW? Will Messi be dropping deeper/more central? Can we get better service from the right by playing anyone we have up front on the right than we do from Alves? Can we continue to cover behind Alves? Are we better with a back 3? Can Alves play as the RCB in a back 3? Who plays in Alves’ place? What does this player provide that is different that what Dani provides?

      The follow-up questions become…If the Alves role becomes a situational choice will he be happy with that? Will he accept playing 75%, 50%? What for example, happens if it is decided to play a 3-4-3 w/ wingers who are not Alves against teams that are likely to park the bus? That’s not an inconsiderable number of games, but not a complete change away either. Does Dani accept that? Can he perform similarly w/ half the volume of work? Does it make financial sense to keep him?

      I wouldn’t suggest I know the answers or that Dani should go. In fact I really enjoy him and would be disappointed to see him leave, but they are questions that as you said need to be asked, and seem to suggest he will not continue to be the guaranteed selection he has been.

    2. I really don’t understand how it would be beneficial. Look at the games we’ve played without Alves, Milan away in the group stages springs to mind, and how much the team has struggled. Dani is a beast, a unique one at that. We’d lose so much more than we’d gain.

      To me it’s like trying to sell Abi, or Busi, or Xavi. Sure, you’d get a lot of money from them but for a reason. They are unique, why sell when you could keep them? Plus you’d have to split up the role between at least two players. You’ve lost flexibility .you’re narrowing your options.

      Could go on but in summation : not a smart or beneficial move right now.

    1. Because there needs to be IMO.
      Let’s be fair, we will not win the league next season with our current squad. Real Madrid’s squad is considerably deeper than ours is and younger for that matter.
      I don’t think that there is any reason to sell Dani Alves but certainly we could trim some of the squad players to replace them with potential starters.

    2. This is a completely unacceptable post here.

      Insults are not arguments.

      If this is how you want to discuss the game then there are numerous sites where you can hurl empty insults devoid of substance at others. This isn’t one of them.

  15. Man, I thought this blog was safe from the nonsensical talk of a mass exodus in the summer all because we didnt win major silverware this season…

    Selling Alves? Really?
    Who’s next? Xavi cause we’d get good money for him and he may be not tactically useful anymore?
    Or how about Valdes..or wait, no MESSI!! Yes, He would provide the financial clout we so desperately need!!! /sarcasm *roll eyes*

  16. I read here:

    That Guardiola was mad at Alves because he came back late from his christmas vacations. Then that after a game where we got hit with a goal after a counterattack on his side, Pep supposedly said this to Alves “You must remember you’re a defense”. Now this makes me remember that the games for the Supercopa against EE, Alves was awesome. He defended pretty well and he owned Cristiano. Just speculating, but maybe Guardiola saw that even if his players respected him and admired him, some of them weren’t listening to him. Like Alves with the defending, and Pique and Alves talking about the referees. I don’t know. I like Dani, but I liked even more the way Puyi yelled at him after dancing like that, that felt so wrong, close to the dark side even. He must remember that this club now has some rules of conduct. Well, we’ll see what happens.

    1. I heard about these so called “issues” Guardiola has with Alves and Pique as well during Punto Pelota. They’ve said Alves hasn’t been the same since his divorce and the same goes for Pique since hooking up with Shakira.

      Maybe there is truth to this or maybe its all baseless crap made up by very crappy journalists..who knows.

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