Spain isn’t Barca, except when it is

Zzzzzzz …. huh? What? It’s over? What do you mean?

Ain’t backlash a beautiful thing? Spain went from everyone’s darlings to a team that was boring, seemingly in about 12 seconds. And why? The parallels between Spain and Barca fascinate, and I don’t just mean the players. For instance:

Bandwagon Backlash

Spain rolled through the group stages, quarterfinals and semi-final, barely breaking a sweat. They dispatched their opponents with ease, never really bothering to get out of third gear.

And what was wrong with that? Is there some sort of rule that says a team must play its absolute best, every last time or they suck? When I first started bicycle racing, I would win races by 4-5 bike lengths, until I got a coach, who said “You only need to win by enough to make it clear that you won.”

Spain, as with Barca, coasted. And that coasting was usually good enough, though Barca was caught out on more than a few occasions this season, trying to low-effort a match. More importantly, it is this quality that outrages, that makes people cry “Foul!” as though they are disappointed every time Spain didn’t win 235-0, with 125%of the possession. And when that didn’t happen, when Spain played only well enough to win, they were “boring,” in the same sort of backlash that saw Barca go from being the team everybody loved, to the team that people suddenly tired of watching win everything.

Is playing well enough to win boring? Good question. I’d wager that Spain or Barca don’t care a whit. The job got done. Time to move on.

That Passing Stuff is Boring

No, it isn’t. You know what’s boring? Opponents who won’t come out to play. So like Barca, Spain is content to pass the ball around and wait for the opening that almost always comes. And even when it doesn’t, it matters not, because Spain/Barca has the ball. And as long as you don’t have the ball, you can’t beat them.

Much of made of how “exciting” Spain was in the final, but people forget that Italy came out to play, once they went a goal down. But before that, the first goal came from a profoundly absurd bit of play that resulted in a spectacular team goal of the type that Spain and Barca score. Then Italy had to come out and play. Spain stepped it up early precisely because it knew that an early goal would fundamentally mean that the match was theirs.

Spain gave up one goal in the Euros this go-round. One. Goal. And scored 12. It doesn’t take a math whiz to note the stultifying nature of that statistic. Yet Spain doesn’t play defensive football, right, just like Barca. The hell they don’t. That lateral and back passing display that Spain and Barca put on are every bit as parked a bus as 9 men in the box. It’s just a (mostly) positive bus parking. They’re passing the ball, looking for attacking holes.

Much was made of the two times in the Guardiola years, Mourinho’s Inter and Di Matteo’s Chelsea, that Barca was beaten in Champions League play. But people forget that it was only an incorrectly ajudged handball call, and appalling finishing that kept Barca from the final both those years. You can’t really stop either Spain or Barca, but they can stop themselves.

Look Ma, no striker!

Xavi makes the pass to Iniesta, who fakes, dribbles, leaves a defender grasping air, floats to the wing to float in a cross and …. cricket! Cricket!” Nothing. Both Spain and Barca employ a fundamentally striker-less formation. Call it False 9 all you like, but what those systems both do is capitalize on the fact that a running player is more difficult to keep from finding space than a stationary one. Messi runs as Alba runs as Silva runs as Mata runs. It’s an offense predicated on getting there, rather than being there.

And it works.

Spain Don’t Give a Damn Who Score

I was watching an FCB match out in public once, and a civilian asked me why the Barca players ran to the guy who didn’t score, to start the goal celebration. I explained that the pass makes everything possible, that it is the perfect pass that will lead to a goal, which is often incidental to the assist that fed the player through. Assists matter.

Once a team decides to play a strikerless system, movement and passing become paramount. This often means that the goal scorer has a header or tap-in.

Is not conceding boring?

Barca and Spain have in common a miserly quality on defense, when they are at their best. Is a 1-0 win more or less boring than a 5-0 blowout? Depends on who you ask. Three points is three points, right? More importantly, Spain is Barca in that the passing game is used to play defense. Is it parking the bus in the same way as having 9 men in the box? Nope. Is it as effective? Absolutely. Either way, it’s a tactic designed to keep an opponent from having the ball to score, while also looking for ways to breach the defense.

The bottom line, however, is that as long as Spain/Barca have the ball, you don’t. This means you can’t score. Which is just fine by them.

No speculation, thank you

For long, we have lamented the fact that Barca doesn’t take speculative shots. Neither does Spain. The reason is simple: speculative shots cede possession, which ruins the team’s defensive strategy. It accounts for Messi’s astonishing finishing efficiency rate as well, as unlike his major rival for best in the world, he doesn’t take speculative shots. If Messi hits one, it has a chance of scoring, or there’s no point.

“They try to pass the ball into the net.” Exactly. It’s a tendency that I don’t see changing for Spain/Barca, either. Ultimately that’s an impossibility, as it’s no coincidence that Spain’s success has arrived at the same time as Barca’s golden period. Barring injury, Puyol, Pique, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Fabregas and Villa would most likely have been starting for Spain. That’s Barca. So anyone who asserts that Spain is not Barca is kinda messing with themselves.

Greatest of all time?

Spain is making a case for being the greatest international team of all time, just as Barca has made a case for being the best club side that anybody has ever seen. Again, with the same players playing the same essential way, it could be argued that both Sparca has its success inextricably linked. But if you look at how the two sides make this argument, again there are parallels galore, most notably the sheer inevitability of their success.

When Sparca turns it on, the only real question is how much you are going to lose by. We saw it against Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Reig final, we saw it against Italy in the Euro 2012 final. In high gear, both teams are unstoppable, primarily because they not only have more talent than anyone else, but that talent plays a system that always maximizes the skill sets of that talent. Is Iniesta, for example, playing in his “best” position when he dons the national shirt? In the context of how that side plays, yes. It’s why he was so decisive at Euros, and why he is so decisive with Barca.

So how is Spain not Barca

In three words, Messi changes everything. Without that same sort of galvanic talent running around, Spain become a different club and are forced to play a different way, even as that way is the same because that is the way of its nucleus. But what Spain doesn’t have is the genius that can take a ball, run around and create something amazing.

It is this quality that makes Spain a bit more deliberate in its approach, in lacking the “Here, go make something happen” quality that makes Barca so dangerous.

But what’s probably most fascinating is that both sides, the “Spain is Barca” or the “Spain isn’t Barca” both have supportable arguments. But what say ye? Discuss.

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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. July 5, 2012

    That passing stuff is boring Depends on which games. That Portugal game was horrendous. Italy games were fantastic. Games in between were meh.

    Someone on ZM (I think or maybe reddit) commented along these lines: Spain is not Barca because Spain is content to holding out for a draw or two in the group stage or playing to win within 120 mins or else gambling on penalty. Barca doesn’t have that luxury. In La Liga, they have to score within a 90 minute time-frame since draw is a new defeat. In the CL, group stage is a breeze, but in the play-offs, away goals are vital and it seems that the team always look for those away goals, thus playing a more expansive and attacking style.

    I think fans can criticize sideway and backward passes b/c in my opinion Spain normally uses this tactic for control/defensive purposes, whereas Barca uses it to find holes in order to score goals within 90 minutes.

    Is not conceding boring? Similar to what I wrote about the time-limit. Spain has more time not to concede or play for a draw, and at times they seem content to just doing that. For me, it’s boring, similar to teams that park the bus.

    The greatest of all time Don’t know. Difficult to judge and it’s a matter of personal preference. They maybe the greatest of all time in terms of accolades, but they are not my favorite team because they don’t play with a certain vulnerability that I tend to look for when rooting for a team. That’s why I like Argentina and Holland, these teams have flaws but at times they can improvise. Spain almost plays like a machine, no feelings.

    Two good things about watching Spain: 1) Barca players are happy. 2) this tournament has made me appreciate Xavi even more. Yes, Iniesta was the spark but Xavi was the conductor of that team. When Spain played “boring,” Xavi didn’t have good games. I didn’t think that was a coincidence. The final was a clear example of Xavi’s influence on that team. Without Xavi, Spain would not win anything. MD published something the other day about Xavi providing some tactical inputs before the final. VdB asked Xavi what he meant about him “wanting to have greater influence on the team.” Xavi discussed some tactical options. According to MD, Xavi suggested that Iniesta, Cesc and Silva played closer to him in order create more effective passing triangles and the result was seen on the pitch. I suspected that Xavi probably told del Bosque that he wanted to mark Pirlo.

    In short, Xavi for Balon d’Or 😀
    He deserves it.

    • Eduard
      July 5, 2012

      I heard about the talk they had. Can you elaborate on what was discussed?

      • ooga aga
        July 5, 2012

        because most people are too myopic to see his greatness? or because you are? i think messi will deservedly win, but xavi deserves something for his genius, for the body of work that is his career. an award should be invented for him. some acknowledgement.

        • Peterj
          July 6, 2012

          all am saying is you cant base xavi season on just THE EUROS,can you?..there is noway he had a better season than messi or even ronaldo

        • Messiah10
          July 6, 2012

          I think that’s a bit harsh on Peterj. All he is saying is that there’s no way Messi doesn’t win it. I agree. There’s NO WAY you can ignore 73 goals(82 including international) and 25+ assists. It’s insane! That’s over 100 combined goals scored/created! Never before has that been done. I don’t think people fully realize what Messi’s done. Those that still doubt whether he’s the greatest of all time either don’t know the game or are seriously biased. I completely agree about Xavi’s genius. I love Xavi! However, this season was injury plagued and his form dipped. He can’t be mentioned in the same breath as Messi for Ballon d’Or

          • ooga aga
            July 6, 2012

            fair enough, i just caught whiff of a diss on xavi and had to stand up. but i agree messi wins hands down. sorry for the flame-ishness

          • July 6, 2012

            Realistically, the race will be between Messi and CR.

            Messi is a phenomenon, BUT Messi doesn’t play for others, it’s the way around, his teammates play for him.

            Xavi is the opposite of that. He plays for others; he makes them better. His most important asset is his intelligence. Understanding when to pass sideways, backward or forward. With him at his best, we can see the brilliance from him as well as from the likes of Iniesta or Cesc or Messi. I can’t say the same about Messi or Iniesta. At their best, these players create moments of awe but they don’t capture the brilliance of those around them.

            Sid Lowe used to call Xavi the ideologue of Spain, and I didn’t truly understand that notion until this Euro. So since the Ballon d’Or is the highest achievement for a footballer, my vote is for Xavi.

          • Messiah10
            July 7, 2012

            “At their best, these players create moments of awe but they don’t capture the brilliance of those around them.”

            Messi doesn’t capture the brilliance of those around him? How many assists did he have last season? How many times did we see him make a sublime pass that no one could make, but maybe Xavi? He made passes to players making runs that weren’t even in view until the ball arrived at their feet. His vision is on par with Xavi’s and I think better considering he plays further up the pitch and doesn’t have a view of the whole field.

          • Nav
            July 9, 2012

            The Ballon D’or is not for the “highest achievement for a footballer”, it’s for the ‘best’ foodballer as judged by FIFA country captains and managers. Don’t make it out to be what you want it to be about, there’s a very clear definition of what it is.

      • nia
        July 6, 2012

        There are a lot of tweets from Spanish press ex EE players etc wanting for either Xavi or Casillas to be balon d’or. Xavi, maybe but for Iker, i think not. He is a very good keeper but, if you look at last season, yes he did win the liga but, VV had a better recored or conceeded the same. Don’t know the stat for CL or Copa but, i think some keepers were better than him. In my eyes, i don’t see what warrants a keeper to win the award compared to an outfield player who runs 90+ mins like Messi and actually scores and wins a game than, a keeper who might save a shot to save a game but hopeless if his team needs a goal to win coz he’s unable to score a goal himself. Although he only let 1 goal in the euro’s, i think most of that credit goes to the defence because he really didn’t have to make that many saves tbh.
        If VV didn’t win it in the years Barca won 5 and 6 trophies respectively, i don’t think Iker should win it after one liga cup. 2010/2011 season VV was awesome, the best keeper by far to Iker that yr, how come nobody said he should win it then? Spanih media, always hating on Messi. For me, Messi should win it for obvious reasons.
        Top three finalists should be Messi, Xavi/Iniesta, CR7.

  2. Eduard
    July 5, 2012

    The similarities between Spain and Barcelona are uncanny. Everyone knows that Del Bosque has watched every Barca game. There is only one difference in formation, the double pivot(which I keep predicting we will see). look at the difference in formation from Pep Guardiola’s starting line-up for the fifa club world cup and you’ll see Pique-Busquets-Xavi-Iniesta pushed out wide and Fabregas as a false 9. I do feel Del Bosque approach to a knock-out tournament is better because there is more cover to the counter. Any how, several talking points already.

    • Messiah10
      July 6, 2012

      Interesting point about VDB approach to knock out tourney’s. Question: Would we supporters be in favor of a more subdued and cautious approach by FCB in Champions League in favor of just getting through, similar to Spain? I rather like the FCB, Pep instilled, “just go for it” approach. I would be supportive of Tito if he went the Spain route in the CL, but I like what Messifan said above about vulnerability. There’s something in it that makes us fascinating to watch.

  3. Megster
    July 6, 2012

    The ones who are in complete denial about Barca’s influence in Spain, are the RM-influenced media.

    Xavi for Balon D’Or? I would love for him to win. But he’ll be competing against Messi, who has done so much wonders this year. But I love the idea of having an award just for Xavi.

    As usual, wonderful article Kevin. 🙂

    • lyd
      July 6, 2012

      Messi wont let Xaviesta win a Balon D’or and likewise Xaviesta wont let Messi win a World Cup, ever. Tit for tat or tiki for taka, whatever it is! :p

  4. Gogah
    July 6, 2012

    I don’t know why people are so hesitant to call this spain a barcelona side without messi. In my mind, the trio of xavi iniesta busquets has been instrumental in barca’s and spain’s recent successes and key in the identity and style of both teams’ play.

    dull bosque may know to play the political game very well and has done exceedingly well to balance the team out. One could easily come up with a complete barca 11 for the spain squad and they may even continue to win like they do, but we’ll never know, will we?

    barca is not spain. spain is not barca. but spain are better off being barca.

  5. lyd
    July 6, 2012

    Spain VS Barca: Some thoughts..points (mostly redundant)

    a. Spain, as if driven by some weird superstition, looks not to maximize their skill sets/resources/philosophy, unlike Barca. They have answers to some strange questions such as “How can you have Sergio, Ini and Xavi in the mix and still not play as crisp as Barca?” -> with a doggamed pouble divot! By doing this, they pay tribute to their teams of the past who struggled AND raises the bar of excellence high (playing wise, not achievements) but not beyond the reach of future teams. Spain basically, pays tribute to everybody! 🙂

    b. Spain is more of a realist than a idealist compared to Barca. You’d rarely see Spain score 2 or more. Or score two then give up the lead.
    Spain knows their players are stressed out from the previous season, aware of the quality (rather the lack of it) of potential opponents. So they find its sensible to go through a major tournament on optimum performance. Hence nobody gets hurt, goes happy and healthy on vacation and then the pre-season.
    Focus on mileage rather than acceleration, per say.

    c. Unlike Barca, Spain never plays opponents who presses them intelligently, intense and high like Athletic. And for 90 mins. Spain at best plays against teams composed of top quality defenders/individuals and others who basically looks the same. Unlike Barca, Spain is left-centric + reserved right side which suits them defensively as most teams are left centric on offense (abundance of right footed players and Navas-like-crossers).

    d. In a way Spain WANTS you to park the bus, deep down. Cause everyone is watching! Barca isnt that sadistic and don’t look to breach castles, instead they invite opponents (drag centre backs) on the battle field (midfield) and let them have a noble death.

    e. When Barca steps up on the pitch, they are, as if, already a goal down (opponents are usually overwhelmed with a draw) and therefore must score at least 2 more than the opponent in 90 mins. Whereas Spain steps up knowing their opponents are impotent, i.e, can’t score, and they have the full 120 mins to score one goal.

    f. Spain plays in uniform quality surfaces, where it’s just Camp Nou for Barca.

  6. Gogah
    July 6, 2012

    Why are we not being linked with Vertonghen at all?
    This guy could really be something for us.

  7. July 6, 2012

    Spain and Barca share the same engine. Barca has an extra gear that Spain apparently doesn’t need..

    • Jim
      July 6, 2012

      Just have to say Well done Federer !!!

      Good to see him still on top. Now all we need is Andy to join him there.

      Go Murray!

      • July 6, 2012

        Agreed. Not sure if it’s the Paul Annacone coaching or not, but he didn’t seem as “deer in the headlights” against Djokovic as he’s been in the past. And that surface should have enhanced Djokovic’s game.

        One caveat about Murray making the final: Imagine how insufferable the BritPress is going to be. Thankfully, they won’t have long to get wound up. Tsonga is quite a character. Brilliant for a while, then he goes on walkabout. Weird.

        • Jim
          July 6, 2012

          I think it just gets harder to play the aggressive game you need to these days with the young guys who don’t know how to lose as you get older. However, today he was really hitting that forehand.

          And well done Andy. Thoroughly deserved. He’s carried an unbelievable pressure from the country because of our lack of success.

          Now who do I support in the final. Should be a no brainier being a Scot but this will be Roger’s last chance. Struggling . . .

          • July 6, 2012

            Jim, I would go with Murray. Roger has won this trophy so many times, Murray hasn’t. Root for your local boy 🙂

        • Messiah10
          July 6, 2012

          Tsonga is a character. He doesn’t even have a coach. I watched him while he & Murray walked out to center court and he looked intimidated/scared or anxious. I instantly thought, “Andy’s got this one in the bag”. He did initially. Tsonga made a tough go of it though and fought back w/admiration. It will be a Brit LOVE fest for Andy, but who can blame them? 1938. Again, 1938! That’s a long wait and the public want it badly. He’s accomplished the feat of getting there, but Roger Dodger will be to much for him. He was brilliant vs Djokovic.

  8. Josep
    July 6, 2012

    also Spain ROLLED thru the groups? semis? lol

    • July 6, 2012

      Yes, rolled. They weren’t stressed at any point in the tournament. Anyone who thinks they were is kidding themselves. Yes, they went to penalties to make the final but even then, there’s no money to be made in betting against Casillas in a penalty shootout. And the final was academic, as they just stepped it up a gear, scored a couple of goals and that was that.

      So yes, “lol” indeed.

      • Josep
        July 6, 2012

        I guess needing to come from behind to salvage a draw in the first match is no stress

        Or an amazing Casillas save and two “clear” penalties for Croatia denied is no stress.

        Or a Cristiano last minute breakaway, if not a terrible pass from Meireles they’re probably eliminated, but of course they didn’t stress.

        but i’m kidding myself.

        • July 6, 2012

          It’s always easy to point to moments. You could do the same during Barca’s Treble season, which had the same sense of inevitability about it. Great teams do what they have to in order to win, and luck also plays its part. And though I believe it was kinda arrogant and presumptuous on their part, Spain didn’t really play until the final. And even when it wasn’t playing like the best team, there was never a doubt for me that Spain was going to win the tournament, even as I hoped France would take them out.

        • Messiah10
          July 6, 2012

          Have to agree w/Kevin, which for me, doesn’t happen very often! 🙂 Spain didn’t look under threat or in fear of losing at any moment during the Euro’s. They didn’t play all out in the 1st game vs Italy b/c they knew a draw would be good enough. They could win the next 2 games. They were pressured high and most of the match against Portugal and I agree, Ronaldo should’ve ended it at the end. However, he didn’t and I don’t think Spain feared he would. VDB is responsible for Spain’s play in that game. He could’ve made his subs earlier in the 2nd half or even at half time and Spain wouldn’t of had to go to penalties. Spain played 1st or 2nd gear all tournament until the final when they kicked it to 5th.

  9. July 6, 2012

    11 august vs Dinamo Bucharest. I’ll be in the 11th row, center of pitch. Dinamo are kinda weak, not really a test, but who cares, I get to see Barca live for the second time:)

  10. Kimcelona
    July 6, 2012

    Spain is Barca? NO.

    How can Spain be Barca when they have 5 players from Real Madrid, 2 from Chelsea, 2 from Sevilla, 2 from Athletic Bilbao, 1 each from teams like Atletico Madrid, Manchester City, Liverpool and Malaga.

    They have the same philosophy because of the influence of the Barca players which happen to be the core of the team but thats about it.

    They may have the same philosophy but it isnt executed the same way as Barca. The style is slower, more methodical because the personnel is different in key areas and the competition they face in Intl footy may not demand as such.

    Thats my two shillings. 😀

    • Nik
      July 6, 2012

      Took the words right out of my mouth. *clap*

      • July 6, 2012

        “The style is slower, more methodical.” Look at that first goal against Italy, or the second goal, and say that those are slow and methodical. And the aggression with which Spain attacked Italy, leading up to the first goal, was pure Barca. Substitute Abidal for Alba on the run, or Sanchez for Silva on the headed goal, and voila.

        Now you could certainly say, as others have, that the differences forced upon a side by international football force Spain to not be Barca. And of course, Spain isn’t actually Barca. It can’t be. Different players, different coach. But in many key aspects of how the side functions, it is for me, as outlined above.

  11. July 6, 2012

    Buzz is that Bielsa is out at Athletic Bilbao after that hooraw with a construction worker about the state of the club’s new training facility. No definite word yet on veracity, or whether Bielsa was fired or resigned.

      • Ryan
        July 6, 2012

        I don’t suppose Florentino Perez owns this particular construction company? :/

    • Messiah10
      July 6, 2012

      WHAT? No way. They wouldn’t fire him over a bust up with a construction worker would they? He’s brought them much admiration and love throughout the globe. I find it hard to believe they’d let him go for something like that. I could see him resigning over something like that if they demanded he apologize or just because he’s Bielsa. This will be very sad if true. I certainly hope not.

    • nzm
      July 6, 2012

      He offered his resignation after the club issued a statement which basically backed the construction company and distanced themselves from Bielsa.

      They met for 2 hours after which, apparently, the resignations of Bielsa and some of the others in his coaching staff were accepted.

  12. providence
    July 6, 2012

    ah, what’s wrong with Bilbao? I.was shocked by the n

  13. July 6, 2012

    Van Gaal has been appointed as new coach of the Netherlands (via barcastuff). Hopefully, this time around he’ll be able to put together a competitive and harmonious team. And he and the press should work out their differences. Can’t wait to see what Oranje can do 😀
    But I wonder what Cruyff thinks of this?

    • Jackieboy
      July 6, 2012

      With all the egos already there, adding Van Gaal is just gonna make the dressing room explode. Unless he can actually get rid of the troublemakers and put together a great team – that’d be exciting to see.

      • July 6, 2012

        It’s time for Holland to move on from current players. Van Gaal has great track records of bringing up youngsters, e.g. Ajax, Barca and Bayern. Whether he can transfer that to the national team, we’ll have to wait. But the first time around, things didn’t work out so well for him.

        Kinda off tangent: Apparently a Dutch newspaper reported that Afellay was “amazingly arrogant” at Euro 2012. Not sure if we should be concerned about this.

  14. providence
    July 6, 2012

    the comment from the club was far from diplomatic and it felt
    there is personal attack against the coach, it look like the club
    was looking for excuse

  15. Jackieboy
    July 6, 2012

    “The reason is simple: speculative shots cede possession, which ruins the team’s defensive strategy.”

    Precisely the reason I absolutely hate Xabi Alonso – whenever he gets any kind of space within 30-35 meters of goal, he just pounds on the ball with all his strength, 9 times out of 10 just hoofing it into the stands, not even making the keeper work. His diagonal long balls are excellent, but the shots make me hit my head against the wall repeatedly.

    Which brings me to my second point – the redundancy of the double pivot. The only quality Alonso brings to the side are the aforementioned diagonal balls. He isn’t a good tackler, he gives away possession with his shots and his one-touch play isn’t as good as the Barca players’. When Spain is defending, they rarely ever seem to need the second DM. What they could use instead is a player to make off the ball runs behind the defence – a Pedro or a Jesus Navas.

    • Messiah10
      July 6, 2012

      I tend to agree but the results and facts are against us my friend. Spain conceded 1 goal all tournament. Alonso played a part in that. You could say a big part since he started and played almost the entirety of every game. He also scored a brace in a game where his goals decided the outcome. I don’t like the double pivot anymore than the next Barca fan, but it’s effective and VDB won’t stray from the results he’s gained. Would you?

  16. rightlps
    July 6, 2012

    Very interesting post!

    One question. Do any of you find it even a little bit concerning that Spain has very fluidly adopted Barca’s style of play? Could this possibly take a toll in the Liga since players from other clubs (most importantly RM) are now thorough with the tiki-taka style of play and will be able to much more easily beat Barca this season?

    • July 6, 2012

      No, Casillas is a keeper. Doubt he can understand the complexities of Barcelona style. Same with Ramos and Arbeloa. Alonso can probably spot some differences, but we can also say the same about our players learning about potential weaknesses of the others. Also, our attacking players are almost entirely different from Spain’s.

      And to quote Kxevin, “Messi changes everything.”

      • hansh
        July 6, 2012

        Come on, don’t sell the RM players short. Casillas, Ramos, Arbeloa, and Alonso are professional players who need to know tactics well, and I think they can do better than spotting some differences.

        Although, even if they spot all the Messi-related differences, it won’t help defend against him 🙂

    • nzm
      July 7, 2012

      It’s one thing to play tiki-taka – it’s another to defend against it. 😀

  17. providence
    July 6, 2012

    “Regarding the statements made on the 5th July by Marcelo
    Bielsa, relating to the work being carried out at the Lezama
    facilities, the board of directors at Athletic Club states as follows:

    1. Athletic Club does not share, in any way, the personal and
    subjective opinion expressed by Marcelo Bielsa in yesterday’s
    press conference in regard to the progress of the work, level of
    fulfilment of the contract and the professionalism of the people
    involved in the construction project.

    2. Athletic Club wants to highlight the good work realized up to
    this date, for which it publicly apologises for the damage that an
    employee of the club could have caused to the construction
    company and its workers.

    3. The responsibility for the monitoring and completion of the
    work which is currently being carried out at Lezema is exclusively
    with Athletic Club, an organization that has qualified
    professionals with a sufficient technical background to assess
    these construction jobs and whose opinion will come through
    the channels which the organization and common sense

    • culegirl3
      July 6, 2012

      Damn talk about public humiliation! I think a talk behind closed doors would have sufficed.

  18. K_legit in Oz
    July 6, 2012

    Its not entirely ethical but we should swoop for Javi Martinez/Muniain now with Athletic in a bit of limbo
    wow I even feel bad typing that

    • nia
      July 7, 2012

      I’m gutted as well. Now there will be no one to put Pepe in his place during the clasico. I’m suprised that he didn’t go to the EPL though. Well, at his age, it’s better to get one big paycheck.

  19. July 7, 2012

    Keita has gone.

    We will miss you. Thank you for all that you have done for the club, wish you all the best for the future. #GraciesKeiteeeeeeeee

    Bah. There’s a hole in our midfield now. Javi anyone?

    • ciaran
      July 7, 2012

      Javi Martinez will be signed up in the next couple of weeks my guess.
      It obviously helps that he can adequately cover Pique in defense also.

      • Jim
        July 7, 2012

        Don’t tell me we’re going to go through another season thinking Piqué is a weak link in our defence?

        I’m looking to this being the season where he takes over from Puyol as the organiser in the back line although I also think reports of Puyi’s demise are wide of the mark.

        Over the past season if the temperature on this blog and in particular the LB is to be believed we are carrying liabilities in Villa, Puyol ( admittedly because of injury), Piqué, cesc and Xavi.

        Roll on the new season, eh ?

    • Dani_el
      July 7, 2012

      Thanks Seydou Keita for everything!

      This puts us in a bad bargaining position with Atletic de Bilbao. Now we absolutly need a reinforcement, that can play as a central defender and a holding midfielder. I think we can all agree that Masche has become our starter central defender, and unless we want to try Dos Santos or Afellay as a Busi sub. We need the guy.

      • Jim
        July 7, 2012

        Sorry but you can’ count on anything of the sort where I’m concerned. Still, we’ll see what the new season brings. Agreed that a new CB is probably a wise investment though.

  20. Jim
    July 7, 2012

    *Can’t. Not great on the iPad yet 🙁

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