So, what have we learned this pre-season, aka “Patience, Cules”

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Here’s what I know that I know: What I don’t know. This is true of all of us, right? As true as what we know being able to quite effectively deceive us into thinking that we Know.

At the end of last season, one bereft of major silver, people knew that we needed defensive help, a Plan B and a sandwich. Time went on, the antsiness grew and grew. The throngs wanted SOMETHING ….

And we got a squirrel. “Too small,” “We are going to be in trouble with he and Alves on the pitch,” etc.

What has happened? Without even being at all integrated into the club, Jordi Alba has done exactly what he was signed to do: provide a pacey defensive presence on the left, and open up the side offensively in a way that Adriano can’t.

Imagine that!

“Bartra isn’t ready,” is another thing that we “knew.” And all he did was roll out a series of calm, intelligent, assured defensive performances that have put the lie to what we knew. Yes, some will still say no, because that is the Way of the Cule. Every incoming CB has to be the next incarnation of Carles Puyol, or “What the HELL, yo!”

But Puyol wasn’t Puyol when he first rolled out.

Recall Abidal and the Cule Chorus that greeted him. Or Mascherano. “Card magnet,” “Bad passer,” “Will leave us a man down all the time.”

And now?

Alex Song.

Unlike the Catalan sporting press, I don’t “know” that we are going to sign Song. I know the headlines can be fun:

–New Song, same tune
–Song not yet on the same key

What I do know is that I don’t know as much as the FCB coaching staff about assessing football talent and suitability for the system. Alba wasn’t on my radar, until he was. And by all indications, he is going to be brilliant. With Song, we know what we see at Arsenal, which doesn’t exactly warm hearts and convert minds. But with Abidal, what we saw at Lyon didn’t exactly warm hearts and convert minds, either. He grew into the role and the system, to the point where healthy, he is one of the best LBs on the planet.

I don’t know what is going to happen with Song. I do know that often, not always, where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Sometimes, stories start and fizzle in the Catalan media. Other times, the rest of the world picks them up and if the conflagration gets big enough, one club or the other calls B.S. on the rumors. This hasn’t happened, and dollar figures are starting to float around. If those numbers are to be believed, as usual Arsenal will, if rumor has any truth, be doing a nice bit of business.

You can visit YouTube and find a video of pretty much any player, that will make said individual look like the second coming of Lionel Messi. Song is no different. People who tout him mention versatility, physical presence, etc, etc. Whatever. Here is one of them:

And it doesn’t mean a thing. Look at Ibrahimovic. The best striker in the world didn’t fit because he was a douche. So, simply enough, what I am suggesting is that we sit tight and let our coaching staff do what it does. Do they make errors? Yep. As we know, not every signing has worked out for the best, though I would suggest that none of them have been for purely talent-based reasons. Txigrinski deserved more of a shot, Hleb and Ibrahimovic were asshats, which couldn’t honestly have been predicted. Caceres blossomed into a fine defender, who I kinda wish was still sitting on our bench.

And now, still, we wait. Depending on who you ask, we have one or two massive needs: defender and natural forward. Maybe. I don’t know. I do know that if the club needed a player, there is too much riding on this season with the looming specter of Laporta, for RoSELL not to get Vilanova anything he needs. So we will discuss, and we will debate, and we will say that X or Y player isn’t suited for the club for X or Y reason. But at the core of it all, we know what we don’t know.

P.S. Few things speak more eloquently to the state of La Liga than the fact that to date, our 14m acquisition of Jordi Alba has been the most expensive transfer in Spanish football. Yow.

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201 Responses to “So, what have we learned this pre-season, aka “Patience, Cules””

  1. Messiah10 says:

    Feels good to be back! Was on a vacation in Seattle & Vancouver. Sounders gear everywhere in Seattle. They are crazy bout footie. I wore my barca hat and Messiah t-shirt around the city and I got quite a few nods of approval.

    Great point about Alba being the most expensive signing. Is it possible for a whole league except the 2 giants to go into administration? I still can’t get my head around Malaga? I mean, aren’t oil rich sheiks supposed to bail out their clubs financial troubles?

    Song would be a good addition. He’s young, athletic, physically imposing. He can become the player we want him to be. I like the make-up of the team heading into the season. There’s not as much depth as I’d like, but we still have time in this transfer market and in January to make a move if need be. Now only if beInsport can get a package together I’ll be set!

  2. Calvin says:

    Some random thoughts, most having to do with preseason:

    First – my understanding is La Liga has a rule that each team can have no more than 3 non-EU players (as a side note, I believe this was one of the reasons Chygrinskiy was sold after a season – he would have filled one of the non-EU spots for years – I think it would have taken 8 years for him to receive Spanish citizenship). Does anyone know whether Sanchez picked up Italian citizenship while playing for Udinese? I believe he is the only player who may be a non-EU member. Of course, one of those spots is reserved for a certain Neymar…

    Speaking of Neymar, I thought he had a good Olympics. I still don’t think he would be a good signing for the team. He is the type of player who shines when he is the hub of a team, when he gets the ball to his feet often. I have nightmares thinking about Neymar and Messi fighting for time with the ball at their feet.

    Of the players trying to impress in preseason, Dos Santos will be most disappointed. He didn’t give a glowing account of himself, but more worrying has to be the impressive performances from Sergi and Rafinha. Dos Santos is unlucky that he is coming through the club during this time of prosperity and unfortunately his path to success is going to be playing out of his preferred position. And then if we do actually sign someone like Song…

    I always considered Alba as a left back who was offensively strong but maybe a bit circumspect when it came to defending. I’m well on the way to deciding I was wrong about his defending.

    Ajax has been after all of our young stars. I’m generally against loaning out players, but if we decide that one or two of them would benefit from a loan there is no better team out there for them to get some first team action. Frank de Boer is a hot young coach who has the team playing some entertaining football and I think young players could learn a lot from working with him.

  3. messifan says:

    I think Sport.es agreed with my formation posted in the last thread. Except I had Messi on the right and Alexis on the left.

    http://www.totalbarca.com/2012/news/the-front-sport-13-08-2012/

    On a superficial level, I’m a bit disappointed we haven’t signed anyone of eye candy quality :p

    • Calvin says:

      I would prefer someone like Ronaldinho: ugly with a beautiful game.

      • simple_barcafan says:

        Ronaldinho wan’t ugly. Maybe not a “eye-candy”, certainly not ugly..his smile was contagious..I don’t think we need to call anyone ugly do we?

        • messifan says:

          Ronaldinho does have the best smile :D I will always remember his breakout role in WC 2002. That free-kick against England in the quarterfinal broke my childhood support for England.

          Re. eye-candy comment: I was just being shallow and silly. But I can still dream of us signing Hummels some days, right? :P

          • simple_barcafan says:

            It wasn’t directed at you messifan. There is nothing wrong with your comment. You can always dream. :))

  4. Josep says:

    “And it doesn’t mean a thing. Look at Ibrahimovic. The best striker in the world didn’t fit because he was a douche.”

    Now now, no need to call David Villa a douche, he did nothing to you!

    But seriously what you’re suggesting is that, we, the fans, can’t discuss what WE see as a need for the club? Is it not okay to disagree with management or are we supposed to just assume they know best for the club?

    So basically all opinions are incorrect unless the club happens to make the move you suggest? hm. Yes, the club has scouts and seeing as we’re not scouts they’re better suited for the job but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t add our own insight to what we think would work.

    What’s the point of any debate then? we know the powers that be won’t here it, why discuss it? Close Zonal Marking, close every bulletin board! The club aren’t reading them!

    • Kxevin says:

      Oh, not at all. I even write above that we will discuss, debate, etc. I’m only suggesting a little patience. I think that if Cules had evinced more with Txigrinski (not to mention Rosell), we might have had a hell of a long-passing CB, instead of another entry in the “expensive, failed transfers” book.

      We can (and will) debate all that we like, but I do think that should be tempered with the fact that yes, folks a lot smarter about this stuff than us have what’s best for the club in mind, and have a lot more riding on it than some debate points on a blog.

      I can say all I want that Song doesn’t convince me, that he has moments of psychic walkabout that I find terrifying when I contemplate him in Blaugrana. But that doesn’t really matter, except in theory.

      • Josep says:

        Had to look up the definition of evinced. Don’t understand how it works in that context but then again I’m stupid.

        But I don’t know where Chygy plays in all this. I thought it was well documented that he was gone because Rosell said so. A case of the club president saying, adios, no matter what the manager said.

        Well, nothing we say matters, in theory. None of this will ever reach club level. Nothing we say will ever effect anything relating to FC Barcelona, so I don’t understand the call in this post?

        Also Song has always shown that…he can fall asleep. He is prone to maybe being bored, and venturing forward when he should stay back. But he has also shone that passing prowess, the perfectly weighted ball. When I watch Arsenal he is always the one that stands out.

        They usually lose those games, too. :D

    • mom4 says:

      Josep,
      Lately it seems that Kxevin could write the words, “the sky is blue” or “water is wet”, and you’d pick a fight with him about it.
      Sorry, just an observation.

      • Josep says:

        I guess I could say that it would seem Kxevin could write, “the sky is orange, water is dry” and most would agree.
        Also, just an observation.

        • mom4 says:

          So to you, we are mindless followers.
          I disagree with many here, often, but being contrarian just just to be contrarian isn’t the best way to start an intelligent debate.

        • Kxevin says:

          I prefer to think of debate as sharpening a contention. Disagreement is healthy. My only quibble with one of Josep’s points is that most people in this space DISagree with me more often than they agree, so Josep isn’t alone in that worldview.

          Where Txigrinski plays in all of this, is had Cules been more approving of his performances, rather than greeting them with the customary scorn when someone doesn’t fit in immediately (Fabregas, Krkic being notable exceptions), he might have had some compunctions about overriding his coach.

          But my point is an even broader one, about patience and trust. It doesn’t presume that our coaching and scouting staff always make the best, or correct decisions. Just that we should weigh their knowledge into the debate, and wonder “Hey, what IF X player is has qualities that we aren’t seeing right now,” and might in a season or two?

          • Josep says:

            But if we weigh the opinion of the club on club decisions, higher than our own, why should we even debate anything we think?

            If that’s the case, the club makes the move, we should back it 100%.

          • Kxevin says:

            Because debate is healthy, and brings out sides of a situation that we don’t often see. For example, you and I aren’t all that impressed by Song. Someone below thinks he’d make an excellent box-to-box midfielder in the Toure Yaya mold.

            So there you go.

          • Jim says:

            My problem with Chiggy was twofold and not anything to do with fitting in immediately I don’t think. He was very slow and we have enough slow defenders and he had a terrible tendency to try to tackle with the wrong foot. As a person I thought he tried really hard to fit in and I admired that but I’m not sure things would have improved had he stayed.

  5. njwv says:

    I mentioned this to Kxevin on Twitter too but it seems like the more a player is agreed to be “Barcelona Quality” the more I have to question the transfer.

    In the press, “Barcelona Quality” seems to mean that he’s capable of being THE guy on another team. This is exactly the kind of thing we don’t want. I wouldn’t call Ibra, Villa, or Cesc failures (we can’t forget how well Ibra settled before imploding) but none of them were as “sure things” as people expected them to be.

    More better to get a good squad player in whom the coaches see something that the rest of us don’t.

  6. mom4 says:

    Song?

    But. The. Hair!!!!

  7. G6O says:

    But Puyol wasn’t Puyol when he first rolled out.

    Very good point. I remember very well the early 00s, as blasphemous as this may sound now, but Puyol was considered a liability in defense at the time by many. Which was because the defense as a whole really sucked in those years, but that’s how it was.

    But he grew into what he is now in those years

    • Josep says:

      Puyol wasn’t Puyol, but that Barca wasn’t this Barca.

      I mean Oleguer would consistently make the XI then.

      • Kxevin says:

        But the question then becomes whether team quality has a bearing on an evaluation of player quality, pertinent to the point that you raise. That Puyol was a liability at times, whether the side was world-beating or not, is beyond debate. Was the side more tolerant of his issues because of its overall quality? For sure. Cules in this day and age would boo young Puyol off the pitch, I rather imagine.

        • G6O says:

          I’ve said it before, I will repeat it here – I highly doubt we could train another Puyol right now even if we had that player in our ranks and this is for the very counterintuitive reason that we are too good for this to be possible.

          The reason Puyol has been playing like a lion and has been able to save hopeless situations in which the defense had been horribly exposed with desperate last-ditch defending is that in his first 6-7 years on the team he would face such situations several times every game just because the team as a whole could not control games the way we do now. And he often failed to put down the fires which is why he developed a reputation of being a not very good defender which only went away in the last few years, especially after the success of the NT. But by trying and failing he seems to have learned how to cope with such situations like nobody else.

  8. Vj says:

    Song has 17 sisters and 10 brothers?! Wow!

  9. mom4 says:

    As per the EU player status, the Arsenal site has Song listen as a “home grown” player. It also says that he moved to Paris at age 8. Wikipedia has him playing some U16 stuff with France. Certainly he has EU player status by now?

  10. blitzen says:

    So Xabi Alonso has allegedly refused to renew his contract with Real Mordor. Weren’t we looking for another DM?

    *dons flameproof vest* :twisted:

    • mom4 says:

      OK, I’ll bite.
      I used to like him before it became evident that he had drunk Mou’s kool aid. Not convinced he fits the system. Not convinced the Camp Nou crowd can come to accept him after the past two years.

      Does living in Barcelona as a child and having a dad who played for us count as Barca DNA?

      If he truly wants out, good for him. But one does not simply walk out of Mordor.

      • Messiah10 says:

        I don’t see what he could add to the starting 11. If he started with Busi then we’d be talking about the problem of the NT all over again. He is getting older and could be used sparingly to give Busi a rest. He could also be used or converted into a LB??? I love your line above! “If he truly wants out, good for him. But one does not simply walk out of Mordor.” CLASSIC!

  11. Kxevin says:

    Interesting comment from a board member:

    Mestre (board member): “With Deulofeu, we don’t want the same thing to happen as with Bojan. We have to go slower, that’s clear.” [md]

    Also, from same board member:

    Mestre: “Youth transfers are a jungle. Unlike others, we don’t pay U16 players anything. If someone doesn’t want to be here, they can leave”
    “Tello will continue to be registered as B-team player? He needs playing time, him and Deulofeu can be a great duo.”

    • blitzen says:

      Yeah, I just came here to post that first quote. It’s from MD, so who knows if it’s reliable, but if so, it’s very interesting to see someone from the club acknowledge that Bojan was badly mishandled.

      They are clearly being much more cautious with Deulofeu. The boy has oodles of talent, but he musn’t be rushed, and his ego must be kept in check.

      I initially wanted Tello be promoted, but I think if he is willing to be registered as a B team player this season, it’s probably the best thing for him. He will get a lot more playing time there, and Tito will surely call him up for most of the CdR games. It’s win-win all around.

      Also, it seems that Dongou has been included with the squad for the NextGen tournament again. The rest of the squad is made up of Juvenil A players (and Grimaldo). Dongou was a huge star in this tournament last year, and this will be excellent for his development.

    • Clouseau says:

      I like those quotes but i’m not sure if the Club will follow that route. Sport and EMD are already doing everything to remake a Bojancase.
      Deulofeu’s Agent keeps leaking Infos about interesses of several engl. Clubs and by that pressurize the Club. Bojan used that method too as he was linked with Olympique Marseille and talked about his dissatisfaction in playing segunda B before finallizing his promotion. Don’t know everything looks so hastened so far.

      Tello is fine playing another Season with the B-Team a ‘Pedrotreatment’ will workout for him.

      • Kxevin says:

        If Deulofeu pulls that crap, let him go. Sanchez is young, Cuenca is young, Tello (assuming he stays) is young. And there’s also Pedro as the incumbent. I have zero patience for that crap. And look where it got Krkic. The club knows better now.

    • ooga aga says:

      those of you who were around will remember that bojan’s early playing time was rushed due to huge injury problems we had in the front line. rjikaard was practically forced into a rushed initiation. it wasnt that the club was necessarily eager to put bojan out there when they did.

  12. Kxevin says:

    Whoa!

    From Pedritho FCB on Twitter: Ya es oficial, Cristian Tello ficha por el Liverpool a cambio de €9 millones con opcion de recompra de €18 millones. Suerte, Tello.

    • Kxevin says:

      Um, never mind ….

      Nos han hackeado la cuenta, los anteriores tweets son FALSOS. Pedimos perdón por los anteriores tweets, gracias por la comprensión.

      @CanalBarca was hacked.

    • mom4 says:

      Good piece of business if it’s true. 9M for a B teamer? And if he becomes a superstar we can get him back at maybe not a great price, but at least a fixed price. Now while we were wheeling and dealing with Liverpool to sell Tello, couldn’t we have put more effort in the Agger thing? He makes more sense than Song (to me at least). To be honest, I’m in the save the money and give Bartra and Roberto a chance camp now that they’ve played so well.

      • Kxevin says:

        It isn’t. @CanalBarca was hacked. But I kinda said the same thing: If he Assuliins, we’ve made 9m from nothing. If he blows up big, 18m would be a bargain. Would have been a better deal than the Krkic business, frankly.

        • Calvin says:

          Does anyone actually have a concrete understanding of the Krkic business? It always seemed sort of fluid and shady to me.

          But if we have to buy him back next summer I’m not going to be happy.

          • Kxevin says:

            Here is the statement from the Roma site:

            Bojan Krkic Perez has signed for a fee of €12 million, payable on July 1, 2013. Barcelona will have an option to buy back the rights of the player at the end of the 2011-2012 or 2012-2013 season, for a fee equal to €17 million and €13m respectively, both payable in two installments on January 31, 2014 and then May 31, 2014.”

            “This repurchase option becomes compulsory for Barcelona to take at the end of the 2012-13 campaign, but ​​AS Roma can choose to retain ownership rights of the player, to be exercised by June 20, 2013, for an additional fee of €28 million, payable in three installments on July 1, 2013, January 31, 2014 and July 31, 2014.”

          • Josep says:

            My understanding is;
            Roma could pay 12 million.
            If they did we could pay 13 million (I forget?)

            Now this year Roma could pay something like 28 million? All it does is establish a concrete value for Bojan, if he were sold, or bought back.

          • blitzen says:

            From what I understand, Barça has an “obligatory repurchase clause” at the end of the 2012/13 season, assuming that Roma doesn’t want to keep him (and they won’t, considering how much he will cost them if he stays). So we have to buy him back, for a million more than Roma paid for him.

            Then of course we can turn around and sell him straight away, but who is going to buy him?

          • mom4 says:

            I think it means that we are going to end up paying 13M Roma for babysitting CT for two years.

          • mom4 says:

            Or 1M babysitting fee. Maybe 1m was a bargain?

          • blitzen says:

            The one million probably represents most of the wages Roma paid Bobo over the last season. So if Roma doesn’t keep him (they won’t) they really haven’t lost a thing.

          • mom4 says:

            And like a bad penny…

            Gosh I feel bad for the kid. It’s not his fault he was rushed along. Maybe Eredivisie or Portugal? Talent was there but he couldn’t get out of his own head.

          • Kxevin says:

            But it IS his fault that he was rushed along. He and his entourage thought he would be the next best thing since sliced bread, and knew that the club would in no way, shape or form let him go. So the threats and rumblings came, and the club caved. And he got a promotion before he was ready. Did he have complete culpability? Nope. But at any point in the process he could have realistically evaluated his talent and where he was in the evolutionary process, and called a halt to things.

            And now WE are stuck with the burden. Essentially, we banked the transfer fee that Roma paid us, and will give it back to them next season, plus a million for the babysitting services. Then we will try to sell him for something, anything to get something out of the deal. And that will be that.

            What distresses me are the rumors that Deulofeu’s camp is doing the same thing.

          • messifan says:

            What distresses me are the rumors that Deulofeu’s camp is doing the same thing.

            What have Geri’s people done? Did I miss something?

  13. cliveee says:

    Yup, I don’t know either, but I like Song.

    Song is another Yaya to me. Like what Ramzi has tweeted about Yaya and that we need a box-2-box fighter, Song could be a good enough answer. Also his passing and tackling ability is one of the best in the Prem. The problems are price and Arsene.

  14. Clouseau says:

    Bartra played an impressive Preseason so far but Fontás did have one too and we know how that endet. He even had an impressive statistic backing him up where Barça starting with him won all games and concedet about two or three goals or something.Still he played only five games(1 LL,3CDR,1CL) until he got knocked out.
    Don’t get me wrong i trust him and i’m convinced in his abilities and having both as backup’s is a luxury.
    Luckily Bartra won’t have to deal with a 3 line defense as i thought hindered Andreu’s and his playing time last Season..

    Must say Pep history regarding working with younger CB is pathetically poor.Here is where his man management needs to workout in future as i don’t think his next Club will be that willing to loose out money…

    Song is ,like Lassana Diarra, a headless Chicken most of the Times i see him play. He tends to go forward without thinking about the consequences and i’m not sure why both catalan mags promotes him as CB as well as i remember him playing poorly against Barça.

    His athletism is exciting though but he offers nothing new to the rooster. Not excited rooting for a media game inistigated by his Agent.

    • Gogah says:

      I wouldn’t say he offers nothing new to the rooster.
      his hair?

    • Messiah10 says:

      He does tend to go forward with reckless abandon. I think that can be coached out of him? Hopefully. He has to realize he’s not an attacking mid. That’s why I like Yann M’vila. He’s definitely more disciplined and restrained in his approach. It seems he’s moving to Arsenal or Spurs though

  15. Ben says:

    Jonathan Soriano has made an unfortunate appearance in the highlight reels. If you thought Ramos’ miss was bad….

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/video/2012/aug/13/the-worst-skied-penalty-ever

  16. Jim says:

    “Vilanova will not play with a three-player defence anymore and has already decided his starting eleven.”. (Sport)

    If true, thank goodness. Less nervy live blogs for a start. Less chance for stupid concessions. More trophies :)

    On a side issue, has everyone written off Puyol as regular CB this season? I’ve kinda got him down as playing all but the diddly games ( which admittedly might be quite a few in La Liga ) Have I missed something about his injury?

  17. nzm says:

    If Song comes, someone’s gotta go.

    Squad’s at 25 already. It’s why so many of the borderline guys are planting sticks in the ground at the moment, and adamantly stating that they are staying.

    So we have:
    ~ Cuenca out until?
    ~ Thiago out until?
    ~ Muniesa out until?
    ~ Abidal out until?

    ~ a just-returned Villa
    ~ a just-returned Afellay
    ~ a just-returned Fontas

    ~ a fragile Puyol
    ~ a fragile Xavi

    Effectively, that’s 16 full-strength, match-ready players able to give it their all – provided Alexis and Adriano don’t pull something every second game.

    As Alfred E. Neuman would say, “What, me worry?” :D

    • ciaran says:

      With Muniesa and Abidal both out until after Christmas I can’t see the point of registering both.
      Also, there’s still talk of interest in Sergi Roberto and JDS.
      We probably need Song, or someone like him to fill the sizable boots of Keita and JDS isn’t there yet IMO.

      • nzm says:

        I don’t think that they can be on the club’s books without being registered? If they’re not playing/named in a club team, they need to be out on loan. That’s my understanding. Otherwise Madrid would have bought 40 players by now, just to have them hanging around. :D

        • ciaran says:

          Well, if they are not registered they cannot play but they would still be owned by the club. It would be very difficult not to register Abidal as he is a first teamer but Muniesa shirts probably aren’t flying off the shelves in the club shop.

      • nzm says:

        Only just read a barcastuff tweet, from 11 hours ago, that Muniesa is being registered with the B-team and won’t be registered to the First Team until January.

        That takes care of 1 of the long-term injured!

  18. bhed says:

    Meant to post this after the PSG game –

    Am I the only one who thinks that Don Andres is about to have the season of his career? Between the Euros and the Barca preseason so far (minus the Bucharest game – he was a bit shaky there), Iniesta is looking as good as I’ve ever seen him. IF he can stay healthy (a big if), I think we’re in for a treat this season. I’m not expecting tons of goals, but his runs and assists (think Euros) are going from sublime to sublimest!

  19. rand says:

    Hope Messi stays healthy and injury free. Can’t think of another top club in the world whose whole season depends on one player.

    • Kxevin says:

      I don’t believe, this season of all seasons, that our fortunes depend wholly upon Messi. If you look at a Messi-less lineup, it would be like this:

      Valdes
      Alves Pique Puyol Alba
      Busquets Xavi Iniesta
      Pedro/Cuenca Villa Sanchez

      You still have one of the best strikers in the world spearheading the attack, along with the versatility of Sanchez. Would Messi be a big miss? Absolutely. But you would still have the likes of Afellay and Fabregas coming off the bench as well, and we’d probably deputize Tello in the event of a Messi loss. But I don’t think we’d be doomed. Far from it.

      • rand says:

        I wish I could share your optimism, but I just don’t see it. Villa wasn’t in stellar form before he got injured, now that he is coming off a serious injury and at 31 years old, I have little hope of seeing the David Villa of old. Sanchez will be able to make a difference if he manages to keep himself out of the treatment room. Everyone talks about the defensive issues of Barca, but it is the offence that worries me. How did it get to this point? Ah yes, all those ridiculous transfers.

    • Ryan says:

      Have you already forgotten about TB? Granted, his team would finally get something out of free kicks, but he’s still a massive part of their team.

  20. Kxevin says:

    With Athletic Bilbao announcing that Llorente won’t renew his contract, that’s another marquee player who’s flown the coop. It is also, as Sid Lowe noted this morning, another nail in the coffin of La Liga, which is unfortunate. Llorente leaving has put paid to Bilbao’s ambitions this season, not that anyone really had any ambitions of battling for anything other than 3rd place, and we’re all reduced to watching matches and wondering which minnow will pull a rabbit out of its hat.

    Bummer.

    • blitzen says:

      I asked this on twitter, but do you (or anyone) think Llorente might have stayed with Bilbao if they had won the Europa League? Or even the CdR?

      It’s such a shame, I’m really unhappy about this. It is getting harder and harder to defend the Spanish League. I still believe they play the best football in the world, on a technical basis. But…between the economic problems in Spain and the unfair TV deal (and absentee foreign owners), no one can compete with the Big Two.

      Well…at least La Liga is better than the Scottish Premier League now that Rangers have been relegated. Might as well crown Celtic as champions right now before a ball has even been kicked.

      • Kxevin says:

        I don’t. By all indications, it came down to money. I think that Llorente recognizes that for the big paydays, he’s going to have to leave Athletic for greener pastures. He’s 27 years old, and probably has one big payday in him. Now’s the time. Interest and price will never be higher for him.

        But Athletic weren’t really going to threaten anything anyhow. They would get a good result or two against the top clubs, and settle for the usual top 5 spot. They’re that kind of a club.

        The tragedy of La Liga is that the big two are structured with Europe in mind. I honestly think that Champions League bothered the players more than Liga, though I can’t know for sure, obviously. But the power of the teams wouldn’t need to be as soul-crushing if Europe, rather than Spain, weren’t the objective.

        A more equitable TV revenue sharing plan still wouldn’t make clubs competitive, but it would keep them out of administration.

        • blitzen says:

          I don’t think money was the most important factor, actually. Llorente is pretty well paid at Athletic. I think he just wants to win things, or at least have a decent chance at winning them. I suspect he also feels that if he can succeed at Juventus (or whatever big club he ends up at) he will have a better chance of being a starter on the Spanish NT. It must really rankle to have a Euro Cup that he didn’t play a minute to earn. (Not denigrating his contributions at all, he has extremely supportive of the team.)

          • Ramzi says:

            Its always a mix of many things. On football level, he achieved everything thats relevant and could be achieved by Athletic Bilbao. Had Athletic won the EL, Llorente would’ve had a better reason to leave, not to stay. What can he achieve more there?

            Besides, It will be very tough for him to claim a starter role at Spanish NT as long as he is not playing for a CL contender. He need that Mega-Star aura for such international recognition.

            So while no football motive sounds enough, Can he earn more money elsewhere? Yes. Then he – as a professional- should leave. Not that I like it, but I’m just putting myself in his place.

          • Ramzi says:

            In other words, what you said exactly!

      • Jim says:

        You obviously aren’t aware of the strengths of St Johnstone :)

  21. Kxevin says:

    Hey, nzm …. I always forget …. which one is our semi-official mouthpiece, Sport or EMD?

  22. simple_barcafan says:

    We already know who is going to win the liga don’t we? either EE or we..That one single statement is enough to make me cringe..Sport after all should be evenly matched between two opponents. There should be excitement and anticipation for each and every game, not just the clasico. I would rather have a league where the title is decided on the last day between 3 or more teams as the title contenders, than watching a manita every game…The thing is, since it is almost impossible for any other team to break the Barca-EE control of La Liga that even it even puts off any potential super-rich people from investing in a La Liga team. I am not a big fan of filthy rich owners but just saying… There is no fun if it is always a David vs Goliath contest. And the sad part is even if David wins the battle, Goliath will always win the war…

    • messifan says:

      Teams used to have a collective bargain for TV right until the mid-1990s. Though, I’m a bit skeptical about people blaming the current league structure entirely on TV money.

      There are so many unanswered questions: the economy in Spain affecting ticket and merchandise sales and commercial advertisements, wage structure, corruption and admin costs, inflation, etc… I would like to read an in-depth piece exploring this inequality issue. *hint, hint* :)

  23. Ramzi says:

    I believe this club can compete even without adding any player compared to last season if everything went in the right direction (And I am aware of all the arguments that disagrees with that). The quality of the club is undeniable, it saved us from so many mistakes done in the past few seasons. That’s a bless no doubt. Injuries last season were just uncontrollable. Having a better preseason this summer (one of the reasons for last season injuries), and adding B-players capable to play in at least 30% of La Liga matches if Tito had the heart to rotate, and you get yourself a fresh squad all the way.

    - Alba is an added value. No doubt. And a needed one taking in consideration Adriano’s injury record and the uncertainty regarding Abidal. The main issue was the transfer fee rumored (taking his contract condition in consideration), not the known quality. At the end, we paid less than rumored which is good. We still paid a bit more than we should, but taking the player’s age and quality, the extra money spent could be neglected.

    - When it come to Song and the identical-s, the problem is not whether he can help or not. Denzel Washington can help in one way or another when the core of your team is already there and do most of the job for you. The question is can he add anything Thiago can’t in the midfield (anywhere there)? Is he really better than Bartra as a CB for Barcelona? If not, then you are buying a car that cost 50,000 by paying 75000. Yes, you will get the car, but that doesnt make a brilliant deal. I don’t think Song will enhance the probabilities for Barcelona to win the title to a level that match the cost of getting him. Anything he will do, will make me wonder if Thiago wouldn’t have done it in his place.

    And we can’t always come up with the casual “depth” argument. If there is a department where the team has too many players (and will struggle to satisfy all), its the midfield. We are even spreading our midfielders to play at back and front, out of position and outside the roles they can do best.

    The issue concerning the technical staff is more about the approach than the choices made based on that approach. For couple of seasons the technical staff became more reactive than proactive and that is one of the reasons that the gap with competitor was closed. We just try to make sure our best stay consistent rather than making our best better. That’s more pleasant for mass fan-base than taking risks, which makes it more secured to settle to.

    I’ve seen this before in many clubs -including ours- and I know where this approach usually ends. May Messi help us!

    ————————————————

    So while the team is still amazing and full of quality. We are not getting enough advantage from the historical group we have to push things more and try to get more out of it. We are settling to tested quality till it fades. I want something new. And it doesnt seem there will be anything that will make me raise my eyebrow and give a standing ovation to the technical staff for an unpredictable U-turn.

    But to be fair, I always offer the first year as a bonus for any coach to find his steps. Tito get the benefit of doubt there as well. We can hope Messi and co can help him to pick titles this season, and I’ll wait till next summer to see how he is going to rejuvenate the system and the approach.

    Because innovative change is the only thing that excites me. And daring revolutionists and pioneers who fixes it BEFORE it breaks are the only characters I crave for. Especially when the chance is there to catch.

    • messifan says:

      Alex Song does not look like Denzel, certainly not with that hair.

      And what kind of innovative changes are you suggesting? Playing 3 at the back and using midfielders everywhere are not for your liking.

      • Ramzi says:

        Denzel is by far my favorite actor. So He is the variable name used anywhere needed as he can impersonate anyone!

        Tito made his touch obvious already. Ten minutes to the first friendly and I noted the vertical play and the increased dose of directness. Added to the more structured use of a 10 in midfield behind two roaming forwards.

        But without a striker, changes will not has huge impact. A striker add at least four completely new tactical alternatives to current ones and make the team way more unpredictable.

        (I know we had Ibra, and I know Messi is superman, and I read all Xavi’s rants about Barcelona’s philosophy).

        • Calvin says:

          This is one of those rare things we agree on.

          It’s also why my overall impression of watching Neymar during the Olympics was “why are we always linked with Neymar instead of this Leandro Damiao?” Because even though Damiao isn’t the finished product and his play isn’t perfect he is a natural striker who has a bunch of tricks up his sleeve that we could really use on the team. For example he makes intelligent runs in and around the box and can hold the ball up which essentially creates a pocket of space in the box for a team mate to exploit. He can also turn and shoot on a dime, making that move unpredictable. Hell, I even saw him working the channels and making wide runs once in a while.

          I’ve been advocating that the club find the spiritual successor to Larsson for a couple years now. It’s possible that Villa will start to fulfill this role over the next couple of years, but honestly I’d like to see more of a traditional striker come in – this is even more true is Vilanova is going to lean more towards a 4-3-1-2 than the traditional 4-3-3 we saw in ’08-’09.

          In my fantasy world I’ve been drooling over what Klose could bring to the team.

          • barca96 says:

            Damiao is so stiff. Llorente is a much better #9. With Damiao it will be a hit or miss.

          • Calvin says:

            I agree with you barca96. I’m not advocating specifically for Damiao, just saying that we need a more natural striker in that general mold more than we need another tricky winger like Neymar.

          • Messiah10 says:

            How bout Soldado? Why he didnt get a NT nod I have no idea. He could bring that straight forwardness we need. He’s proven, unlike Damiao, and I like his physicality compared to Llorente.

  24. Lev says:

    “Villa wasn’t in stellar form before he got injured, now that he is coming off a serious injury and at 31 years old, I have little hope of seeing the David Villa of old.” (Rand)

    I really don’t understand the optimism about Villa’s return and I’ve been saying this for a while now.

    The first half season he scored goals but the complaint all across the board was that he wasn’t playing well. I and many others told everybody to be patient.

    Then he went on a 15-game scoring drought (I think) to finish the season, until of course he scored a wonderful goal in the CL final.

    First half of his 2nd season he was missing sitters left and right.

    Then he got injured.

    I fail to see where the optimism stems from.

    If Barça were to sell him and use the cash buy Neymar I would not complain (not saying that’s a realistic option, because I don’t know how much we could sell Villa for). Huge talent. Can take players on and is a goal scoring threat. Is seemingly maturing. Obviously wants to play for Barça.

    “I’ve been advocating that the club find the spiritual successor to Larsson for a couple years now. It’s possible that Villa will start to fulfill this role over the next couple of years” (Calvin)

    Interesting. All of us have wanted a “Larsson” ever since he left. Villa is kind of expensive to fill that role, but since he isn’t going anywhere…

    • Ramzi says:

      Villa can’t be a Larsson (regardless if that’s what needed or not). Villa is a roaming forward who doesn’t hold on ball. he expose space brilliantly but he only create space through movement, not through positioning (which is needed when opponents basicaly dont show any care toward how you move and stay disciplined to their defensive shape..

      Villa’s work could be done by Cesc or Messi. But none of the three is equipped or willing to do the work of classic 9 when you need one.

      Barca can survive without one. Barca can win titles without one. Players available are that good. But for Barca to reach (almost) perfection, thats the missing piece in the puzzle.

      It is always tricky to find the perfect fit for any position, but that doesnt mean you should give up on what’s needed. Many keepers flopped before Valdes. We tries Olegeur, Belletti then Zambrotta. Then Alves arrived to provide the excellence needed at FB. Same goes for strikers, we need to keep fishing for the fitting match. Then the rest will be history.

      • barca96 says:

        I really don’t understand the optimism about Villa’s return and I’ve been saying this for a while now.

        I am excited to see him return like everyone else. But I really don’t expect him to be even close to the player he was. 10-15 goals this season would be enough for him. I don’t expect him to score >20 goals.

        But did you forget how wonderful he stared his 2nd season before he went on a decline and started taking practice shots on the keeper. I suspected a lack of confidence back then.

        But now it could just be because of his cracked shin bone. Not enough bending of the muscle at the ankle to generate power and precision.

      • simple_barcafan says:

        Eto. I am hoping one day he would return for a Larsson like cameo…

    • Jim says:

      There is virtually nobody IMO who has read a game like Larsson in the last decade. Technically, not the best I’ve ever seen but he saw things before anyone else.

  25. Oil_Can says:

    To be fair, Villa was suspected to be playing with a fractured leg for quite some time before he broke it.

    As time went on, Villa scored less and less often, but at the same time he got better and better tracking back, and built a higher defensive work rate.

    Even though he struggled to score, he still contributed to the team’s strengths.

    • barca96 says:

      I remember he was having his best matches in a Barca shirt in the first few matches of the season and then in the 2nd month of the season he went on a decline.

      Now I don’t really expect much from him. Was fan before and still am but I just don’t think that he is the same player. Impossible.

  26. barca96 says:

    I’m sorry if I come of pessimistic but I have been holding this back for a few days now. I don’t think that our other forwards will contribute much, just like last season. They do contribute some goals here and there but it just won’t be enough.

    Our attack just isn’t good enough. Pedro just doesn’t confident anymore like he did in the last couple matches at the end of last season.

    Sanchez will play good on some matches and be injured again.

    And we are back to square one and have to rely on Messi for goals.

    We’ve got our LB woes covered now but of course it is still not as good as Abidal. We are 60% there.

    The only position where we’ve improved on is CB (and LB if you count Abidal as our LB). Nothing’s changed anywhere else. Unless Cesc and Iniesta are going to score >20 goals each, I just don’t see how Messi can do all the scoring work.

    On the other hand I just don’t see anyone who can improve our attack. Pedro and Alexis just need to step up big time and Cesc and Iniesta need to shoot and be more lethal.

    Now compare our pre-season with Madrid’s. They’ve scored boat loads of goals. I happen to have watched more of their pre-season than ours due to my cable showing all their matches.

    They are back to how they ended last season, scoring and scoring. And we are the same too, over relying on Messi.

    And no, Fontas & Bartra or even Song won’t make much of a difference. It’ll take at least the 1st half of the season to see how Villa will turn out.

    Alba will provide more penetration on the right. I know Messi will score his crosses and cut backs but I just hope Cesc, Iniesta, Alexis and Pedro will make good use of it.

  27. barca96 says:

    I know a couple of posters here are quite knowledgeable regarding injuries. I have a question.

    How does a back injury (Dwight Howard) affect a player? What kind of skill will he lose as a player after the injury?

    Will he still have enough air time to slam dunk? I suspect air time has more to do with the knee. Correct me if I’m wrong. I remember Vince Carter used to be one heck of a slam dunk baller until he got a knee injury.

    Is it possible for Howard to be the same player who could dominate the paint (defensive and offensive rebounding?

    • Bill says:

      It depends on the kind of back problem. You can’t jump if you are having serious pain on your back, and if you do, it gets worse. This is what stopped Tracy McGrady from becoming a truly great player. A back problem can also make you try to move in ways that end up over burdening other parts of your body and cause other injuries. Having said that, some back problems can be eased with support and a change in form.

  28. Alex says:

    Looks like BeInSport is coming to DirecTV tomorrow, taking the spot of GolTV on channel 620:

    http://www.livesoccertv.com/channels/bein-sport-1-usa/

    Hopefully they get some kind of streaming service set up.

  29. Bill says:

    Larsonn? Great, another blunt striker when sharpness around goal is what we lack. Why would we need a player to hold up the ball? We already have 70% of it! We have to remember that there is a difference between striking in an open match and striking in a Barcelona system, where all defenders have been pushed back to around the 18.

    We need a natural striker who is mobile, knows how to run the channels, read spaces and passes and get themselves in good positions and finish of those Messi moves. And after Villa and Ibra, someone who can read an offside trap. Right now we have a bunch of guys that either shoot directly at the goalkeeper or rush and shoot off balance shots. Even Messi is trusting guys less and less, opting to go for it alone.

    • Jim says:

      Not sure if we’re talking about the same player but if you’re talking about Larsson who came from Celtic he was one of the most natural goal scorers I have ever seen live – and I’ve seen him about 6 or 7 times. Yes he could hold up the ball but his main talent was the Xavi-like perfect through ball or the run that nobody else saw to finish off a chance.

      • Bill says:

        Yes, he was good at Celtic, not knocking his achievements, I just think with a team that operates in very small tight spaces, he wasn’t the sharpest striker around. He held the ball well and set up others, but we have enough of those type players. We need a striker that is sharp around the goal.

    • Ramzi says:

      Hold on ball has absolutely nothing to do with possession rate. Holding on ball for 5 seconds will not increase possession rate for any team. So possession % and holding on ball are apples and oranges.

      However it should be noted that sometimes all this possession take place in midfield basically because there arent enough ideas to move forward. The trick is simple: Keep the ball till Messi figures out what he want to do about it.

      Teams that play against open defenses may not need strikers who hold on ball. Roaming forwards can generate counters and do the job (Villa/Silva partnership in Valencia). When you play against teams that press high and check your midfielders( as some Barca opponents do), You need to release the ball to a player who give you enough time to re-position your team from defense set up to offense setup. This will also offer players to make off the ball runs without being worried about passes exchanges and dribbling.

      And in the offense third, you need a striker who can tie the two center backs to him so they have no chance to create diagonal cover for fullbacks or defensive midfielders. A player who has patience to stay in the box to do the boring job rather than running after the ball like cats here and there and everywhere. Something that we do not having now. All offense line currently is sinking in midfield and opponent defenders are there with no striker to mark (just put a well disciplined defensive midfielders in front of them and the center backs start acting as sweepers).

      And it is a very common mistake that such forwards is a static bull. You can get a striker who is mobile enough to serve the current system, but has enough unique attribute to enrich the offense, bring more diversity, and offer an added value.

      Will Barcelona need that all the time? No. But many times they will. And it all starts with convincing Messi that this change is positive for him (first) and for the team. That’s a coach job as well. Or else, we’re back to square one…

      • Bill says:

        Ramzi, are we talking about Barcelona or Stoke? The very idea of a ball holding player so people can run into positions goes against Barcelona’s one touch system. It also insinuates that the team has a problem moving the ball forward, because that’s what teams without the ability of moving the ball usually do by getting such a player. I pointed out the 70% possession to explain that keeping the ball and moving it has never been the teams problem. We don’t need to kick it to some guy then run into position. The only problem is finishing. If we needed to hold the ball up(which we don’t), we have Messi, Iniesta, Fabregas and Alexis for that. Holding the ball up should never be the criteria of getting a striker for Barcelona

        • Kxevin says:

          Bill is right on. The other complexity, and the reason Llorente wouldn’t seriously consider coming to Barcelona, is what player of starting quality for another club wants to come and sit out on our bench (except for Fabregas)?

          Llorente could start almost anywhere he went, except for Barca. Regrettably, there isn’t another Thierry Henry out there. That is, ending his career but still has a couple of seasons in his legs. Pacey, capable of holding the ball in the attack with back to defense, but just as capable of leading the break or taking a long outlet ball and finishing.

          I think that our offense is brilliant, and I predict great things for Sanchez this season (now watch the madman go and prove me wrong) as he and Messi gel. And don’t forget the Alba/Iniesta magic potential.

          I don’t think this club needs a traditional 9. I just don’t. Drogba would have fit that bill, but he chose the giant money in China, and who can blame him. Even with no signings, we will be competitive on all fronts this season. People forget how close we were to the treble, how we beat ourselves with poor finishing, rather than other teams beating us straight up. Better finishing, and it doesn’t even come down to that away Clasic at the Camp Nou. But things happen.

          I just think it’s important that we realize that things aren’t really all that broken. The Alba addition alone makes us significantly wider and more potent, as we now have the left side of the pitch to add to the mix. And if Abidal isn’t kidding himself about a return by year’s end, what a signing that would be!

          • Ramzi says:

            When you watched Athletic Bilbao against Man Utd last season, was it Stock or an upgraded Barcelona system with less qualified players?

            Llorente beside Alexis with Messi as a 10 is a guaranteed starting offense. So no problem with starting games. At all. Not a bit.

            I will call our offense brilliant when players collectively scores half as many goals as Messi does. Or else, it is far from being anywhere near brilliant. Just good+Messi, untested without him (to say the least).

            Is the team capable of competing even without a 9? The team could’ve competed with the sae selection as last season. That is not the question. Can the team get way better by adding another forward. That’s not up to an argument.

          • Kxevin says:

            But the greatness of that offense makes Messi’s goal totals possible. You need look no farther than his NT for evidence of this.

            As far as a forward making the club a lot better, it depends on the forward. A brilliant-but-unhappy forward ultimately didn’t make us way better. There is no compelling reason for a forward of Llorente’s age and quality to come to us and sit. Sell Villa? Then more viable. But this season is very complex. It’s why an Henry type would be a better fit to my view than a Llorente, assuming we keep Villa.

  30. Vj says:

    I doff my hat to the people who saw fit to schedule the Gamper in between the start of La Liga and the Supercup vs. EE..

  31. blitzen says:

    Juvenil A (plus Dongou and Grimaldo) kick off their NextGen tournament tomorrow against Anderlecht in the MiniEstadi at 20:00 local time.

    Admission to this game is FREE, so I would encourage any of our members based in Barcelona to check it out! 10 years from now you might be boasting to people about the young stars you saw way back when.

  32. Kxevin says:

    The latest on the U.S. Liga TV front is if you have Dish or DirecTV, you will be dancing a happy dance of joy tomorrow. BeINSport will be supplanting GolTV on your dial. The Comcast addition is a bit more complicated, because of the essentially land-locked nature of cable — that is, because satellite comes over the air, they can just add a channel, or move one around with relative ease. Cable has to actually make space.

    Another complexity, the buzz mill has it, is that Comcast is waiting to see if all that Qatari money can prise loose the EPL contract, now that BeIN has a carriage deal that covers a skosh more than half of the U.S. viewership market. For those who missed that part of the discussion, the Prem will NOT let anyone bid on their package unless they have a guaranteed carriage deal in the market they are planning to bid. BeIN now has that. Fox and ESPN are quaking in their boots, because they can’t outbid BeIN, just as nobody could outbid PSG for players.

    As an aside, college football/sports fans are riled because BeIN bought its way onto the dial, which is displacing some of the viewing options for them. Ultimately, money talks, and they seem to have scads of it in Qatar.

    For me, I won’t be switching to DirecTV. I like my Comcast service too much, and was never happy with DirecTV when I had it. So it will be a season of streaming/downloading for me, it seems.

    And that’s what I know, or rather, what the rest of the world knows, and I can report.

    • swamidigital says:

      Thanks for the roundup. I was happy I was moving off campus this year and could finally order a cable package that covers football, but I was thwarted by these changes since I’m tied to comcast and my complex doesn’t allow dishes to be put up. Back to streams it seems. :-(

    • Messiah10 says:

      I had DirectTv a few years ago and like it. They have their own channel 101. Trailer Park Boys! Say no more! Looks like I’ll be calling AT&T about their unreliable service today!

  33. barca96 says:

    I agree with you barca96. I’m not advocating specifically for Damiao, just saying that we need a more natural striker in that general mold more than we need another tricky winger like Neymar.

    Yeah true. We have enough creative players. We need more finishers. But Neymar can finish too.

  34. Ramzi says:

    One common delusion that should be pointed out as it is growing as a snow ball with time:

    Whenever someone mention the need of a forward, or a change in Barca’s game approach, the “Barca ‘philosophy’” rant start roaring, as a sort of holy ancient tradition or religion that is untouchable. I seriously want to know what is Barcelona’s philosophy? What does it stands for?

    When did “Barcelona philosophy” became an equivalent of no directness in system dynamics? In which religious book of the “Barca philosophy” it says “If you buy a forward you go to hell where it is all white shirts and royal fascists”?

    When did such “Barca philosophy” started? I started watching this team since I was a child and followed cruyff era (then re-watched many matches afterward among many teams, while working on my own football approach). And I still can’t find any validity for this casual argument.

    Cruyff team was more direct than current Manchester United. Surprise! Cruyff team had Romario – one of the best beast nines ever and maybe the best finisher ever. Players like Laudrup and Stoichkov who get the ball and go straight for the kill.

    All the way till the new successful era, when was the moment that I missed where this -rumored- holy “Barca philosophy” was established? Ronaldo (the original)? Kluivert? Saviola? Give me a hand here…

    Then we get to the modern era. Both Ronaldinho and Eto’o were the no-joking type of offense players. Get the ball and go to the Big BAMG!

    Then you got the first season with Pep… Keep in mind Pep’s first candidate to join Barcelona was Adebayor. Was he unaware of that “Barca no forward philosophy”? First season with Pep we witnessed the best offense line and the most lethal team. The key factor there was the balance of possession in midfield and directness in offense. You either had Henry+Eto’o up to add directness in front of Iniesta-Xavi, or you got Eto’o up front supported by the continuous runs of Keita to the box from midfield (which was not as frequent later on).

    After Eto’o, Pep got Ibra. So he was still unaware of this holy philosophy…

    After the miss with Hleb, Chegrenskiy and the chaos with Ibra (the main Pep demands) added to new board fiscal direction, it was no more Pep’s call (or not to same extend) when it come to squad building.

    So where did this “Barca no nine” philosophy started? This is maybe a belief for those who brief Barca’s history in two years. We can call it “Barca’s new philosophy” if you want. And I am against it. I want Barcelona to stay loyal to its initial philosophy. What about that?

    Barca’s main philosophy is performing beautiful football. Barca’s historical approach has always been offense oriented NOT possession obsessed. If we don’t put the difference of the two concepts on the table, we cant think clearly.

    People settle to habits, routines, and customs and defend it. I can understand that – without necessarily agreeing with it. If the team fails to win titles this season again, everyone will get unsettled and start looking for answers. If the team win, no one want a party spoiler. Got it! :)

    —————————————

    I will not talk about how Barcelona’s actual football approach got defected in the past few years, if you want, you can find more in a post I wrote few months ago about the issue here(Villa wasnt injured yet if I remember well):

    http://www.footballmood.com/2011/11/what-happened-to-fc-barcelona.html

    What I want to say is that the team is becoming the hostage of its success. No one want to take steps forward but to stay where we are now. Xavi can preach about his assumed philosophy and I like it and understand it when he does so. He was underrated during the best years of his career, and now that it is going well he can promote and reflect his own qualities anyway he likes. Messi may like the offense to serve him, feeling that this is the best way he can work. Fans can (and should) get carried away by the brilliance of the players who are making the difference. But at the end of the day, the only person I’ll look at is Tito Vilanova as he is the one responsible to see the big picture from outside the box. He get one year to find his steps, like any new coach. Next summer I will have a magnifier in hand.

    The team is becoming like Rome before the collapse of the empire. We are all the goodies and everything outside doesnt worth learning from as we have it all. Too rigid to accept change of any kind. Few years ago we had a player like Henry for example who had so many flaws, but the group and the approach succeeded to absorb all his defects and got advantage of what he can offer. Even Gudjhonsen! Right now, players like Eto’o and Henry – with the current football attitude- might have no place on the bench.

    Finally, it is interesting that when we talk about defense and midfield, no one see the zillion player existing already or bother about playing time sharing. They are all not enough and we need more. Whenever you talk about forward the Villa-Messi-Alexis card (which is way more fragile than defense/midfield) is thrown on the table. You have three offense positions and some feel having uncertain Villa and Pedro, Injury concerning Alexis and out of position Cesc are enough. But you know… Tito said this is ok so…

    Bottom of line, the team need more directness, need more players to contribute in goal scoring, and need players serving as true forwards not as advanced midfielders of Messi co-pilots. Can current players do so? If all the ifs go well, there is a good chance. Same as if less ifs work, there is no need to buy a defender, or a midfielder and we can win it all.

    Just trying to have some consistency in the argument…

    • simple_barcafan says:

      ” Barca’s main philosophy is performing beautiful football. Barca’s historical approach has always been offense oriented NOT possession obsessed.”
      Exactly..Rijkard’s team and the teams before that were direct. In fact Barcelona was known to have steller forwards or # 9′s..always. Stoichkov, Romario, Ronaldinho, Rivalado, Ronaldo, Kluivart, Eto’o, even GudJohnson..

    • nzm says:

      Agreed Ramzi – I would love to see the directness return to the Barca game. It has a place.

      Last season, the Rayo game was supposedly under Tito’s control, and in that game we saw more direct play than we saw in a long time.

      One might argue that it was “only Rayo”, but the signs were there that direct play was something that this team could do, and do well, given the right signals from the bench.

  35. Lev says:

    the no-9 philosophy started when we whipped M*drid 2-6 in their own stadium :)

    Agree with most of your argument. Hell, I was and remain one of the loudest mouths around for NOT selling Eto’o just because of his directness :)

    And yes, I agree our offense might again be a problem, especially if we have injuries or Villa/Pedro/Ibi (all three?) have bad seasons (again?)

  36. mom4 says:

    US programming notes:

    The Spanish supercup games at least WILL be on ESPN3 and ESPN Deportes (according to my DVR) the 23rd and 29th.

    Friendlies today:
    Argentina is on ESPN Deportes and ESPN3 today, USA v Mexico is on ESPN Deportes and ESPN3 tonight, Brazil is on GOLTV. Spain, France and Ned. appears to only be on ESPN3.

  37. Kimcelona says:

    My two cents on the “true number 9″ thing is simple: We dont need a traditional number 9 and I dont think we would be better with one. People with the fixation of the traditional 9 ideology are calling for it (like Ramzi) but times have changed and roaming forwards offer more in a tactics-obsessed game, today. Just my opinion.

    What we do need are forwards who will shoot and can score! Maybe our forwards need shooting lessons or something. Villa was one of the best finishers in the game before he came to Barca and for the Spain NT. Its like everyone else is afraid to shoot and finish except Messi. Maybe we should incorporate more shooting practise in our taining sessions rather than a whole session of piggy in the middle (cause thats all I eve see us do..kidding lol). I just want our forwards to have the confidence to shoot in the penalty box and with accuracy!

  38. Kimcelona says:

    Also, I am of the same attitude I had when the rumors about Jordi were being circulated, with the rumors of Song. I’m pretty much stuck in the middle, maybe indifferent. It doesnt seem like we want or need a player like him but if he comes I’d welcome him and immediately see what he could offer the team.

    My feelings for Jordi have drastically changed though. I was one who thought he’d be just another Adriano but he so much different. He’s actually everywhere on the left. From what I have seen in the two matches he played with the team and the matches I saw with him the Spain NT, he knows when to attack and when to be in defense. I like it. Looking forward to see much more this season.

    One last thing, I may be in the minority, again, I still look forward to see La Liga matches. As a football fan first, I love watching football, especially the technically pleasing kind played in La Liga, so I dont have the league table in my mind for not enjoying the league (when its not Barac lol). Ofcourse I want things to get better and for the league not to lose its quality but having three and four teams supposedly competing for top spot is not an important factor in my enjoyment of a league. And really which top leagues realistically have that?

    • messifan says:

      I’m in the meh camp regarding La Liga, but super excited for the Segunda. Javi Espinosa has a new admirer :D

      • simple_barcafan says:

        Hey messifan, you seem to be one happy cule..Most of your post have emoticons in them!..lol..just an observation. Also it seems your search for “eye candy” has made your shift your focus to the B team. :P

        • messifan says:

          :D :D :D

          heehee…yes, what not to be happy about? Football is back!

          The Segunda is more equal than La Liga. Villarreal fighting to get back to top flight, RM B team and mini clasicos, hating on Eusebio, “scouting” Barca B players, etc…
          Overall, I think results from the second division can be less predictable, thus more exciting. And I gotta keep looking for potential eye candy (18+ though) :P

    • Messiah10 says:

      I completely agree bout Liga. There aren’t many leagues that have 4 teams competing till the final day for the championship. I’m on the BBC a lot and all the trolls there always point out that Liga is a 2 horse race. Then, a intelligent troll will counter with the PL winners the last 6 years and it’s essentially the same. I enjoy watching Liga games regardless of where the teams are in the table. I do wish Liga was run more professionally and similar to the EPL & Bundesliga. Unfortunately, the RFEF have made a mockery of running the league and it makes every club look bad. I’m not sure where I stand in regards to T.V. rights distribution. I do think it could be handed out more evenly, but Barca & EE are the top draws and if not for them Liga would be another Ligue 1.

  39. messifan says:

    Germany v. Argentina and Belgium v. Netherlands start at 2:45pm US EST.

    Unofficial reports have Sosa in the midfield starting line-up :(

    For Holland, people said van Gaal might start Huntelaar over RVP. Afellay on the bench.

  40. mom4 says:

    Dani’s starting for Brazil. GOLTV, bad hyper announcer guy.

  41. mega_tajh says:

    Seems RVP is going to ManU and Javi Martinez have signed with Bayern Munich in a 40mil transfer fee deal.

  42. mom4 says:

    Messi with the penalty fail. Poorly taken. OK, very poorly taken. Hopefully gets that out of his system.

  43. Ezequiel says:

    The lack of movement from the Argentinian full-backs is alarming. No overlaps, no off-the-ball movement.

    The other issue is right in the center: you know a midfield is underperforming when Mascherano is by far the most creative player.

  44. Josep says:

    Barca’s Next gen team came from behind 1-0 to tie it 1-1. Adama Traore a good player on the flank if he can figure out how to put in a good cross.

    Samper had a great match.

    Kevin,
    “Llorente could start almost anywhere he went, except for Barca.”
    1. He could and would easily start here.
    2. “Almost anywhere” excludes some of the bigger clubs he’d hope to go to. He wouldn’t start at almost any of the big CL teams, so he’d have to settle for less cash (why not stay put) or a bit part apparently.

    “Regrettably, there isn’t another Thierry Henry out there. That is, ending his career but still has a couple of seasons in his legs. Pacey, capable of holding the ball in the attack with back to defense, but just as capable of leading the break or taking a long outlet ball and finishing.”

    3. Thierry Henry sucks.

    • Kxevin says:

      But where would Llorente start? LW in the Villa slot? Do you really see him out there? Or would you move Messi from the spot where he scored 70+ goals last season?

      If Llorente displaces Sanchez in the starting XI, do you see him tracking back and doing defensive dirty work like Sanchez? Or getting up and down the pitch like Sanchez?

      As for the other big Champions League teams, he’d have a challenge at Chelsea with a resurgent Torres. United just bought Van Persie. Llorente would be a better choice for them. Bayern? Mario Gomez? Slam dunk. Citeh? Would depend on formation, but tell me Mancini wouldn’t rather roll out with Llorente than any of the semi-reliables that he has, teaming with Aguero?

      –As for “Henry sucks,” I’ll assume you aren’t just arguing for the sake of arguing, and say that there’s an excellent second season at Barcelona, not to mention a long history of overall excellence that would argue against your assessment. You might as well assert that “Messi sucks.”

      If you want to debate something, that’s fine. But saying that one of the best strikers in the game’s history, and a player who helped us win six trophies in a season “sucks?” That’s a pretty tough sell. His last season with us sucked. We have Mr. Cheap Tackle Ramos to thank for that, and difficulties recovering from said injury. And no, Henry’s first season wasn’t all that it should have been. But if that’s the parameter we’re using, then David Villa sucks, right?

      • Josep says:

        Llorente would surely displace Villa. A Villa who looked lost at times, couldn’t hit the side of a barn door, and is recovering late in his career from a serious injury.

        Messi scored 70 goals from that position because we had no other goal scorers there. Llorente wouldn’t replace Mario Gomez (if that’s what slam dunk means?) City would never buy him. Juventus?

        The Henry sucks statement was a joke, but it does seem that he’s your Messiah. All arguments come back to how great he was and how we miss him. I think someone noted above, he was great for that specific system, but we don’t play that way now which is why we don’t sign a player like he.

        But how come you can hate on Bojan, didn’t he help us win 6 trophies? That’s not fair Bojan sucks..*pout*

        P.S. Villa sucks. so does Messi.

  45. mom4 says:

    Argentina are 0-3 up, oops 1-3 up, it’s a friendly, its the 80 somethingth minute, and I gotta ask…what the heck is Messi still doing in there??? It’s a freakin’ friendly!

  46. y2k156 says:

    Ah, dear old argentina. Same old problems. Still have crap defensive system. Zabalate has been torn to pieces last few times i have watched him in Argie shirt. They do need to replace him. Messi had a very average game. He needs Kun to be really effective. I hope Sabella has at least learned that much. Sabella needs to ensure that Messi and Kun are in all the matches. Based on current performances, i think Q Finals are the best Argies can hope for in next WC. Germany would have whopped them if the fixture was competitive. As a argie fan, this makes me sad but better to be sad than delusional.

    Also those who measure effectiveness on goals scored, Messi’s return with Argentina in last year is as good as with Barca. I can claim that i have watched every match Messi has played with Argentina since 2005 in youth and main set up. And Messi has always delivered. Its the rest of Argie team which is usually sub par. So this argument about Messi being best with Xavi and Iniesta for me comes from only those who do not watch the match and only want to be a troll.

    Coming to possession v attractiveness, i am with Ramzi. In last year, there were number of matches where i was bored by the way in which Barca was playing its game. And i have supported them since Rivaldo days. Possession for sake of it is boring as hell. Barca has always been a attractive side and never only possession side. Possession helps but it has to be means and not the end.

    • Vj says:

      I’m sure Abidal and our doctors know whats best for him but I wouldn’t be unhappy if he retires too. But knowing what a champion he is I know he’ll be raring to make another comeback..

  47. nzm says:

    Anyone watching the Spain game. They must have the local high school kids doing the camera work.

  48. nzm says:

    Anyone watching the Spain game? They must have the local high school kids doing the camera work.

  49. Ramzi says:

    @Kxevin:

    We need another player upfront ADDED to the players available. If we sell Villa, it means we will need two. That is what I am trying to explain for long time already. It doesnt have to be Llorente, and it has nothing to do with the potentials of the existing players. I am trying to understand the counter argument but in vain. Like the phrase:

    “But where would Llorente start? LW in the Villa slot?”

    1) Where will the defender we buy start? CB in Mascherano slot? No? We shouldnt buy one then.

    2) Where will the midfielder we buy start? DM in Busquets slot? No? We shouldnt buy one then.

    Noting that having Alba and Alves on flanks means that we will play more with two forwards (hopefully) in front of Messi. We saw good signs in that direction during friendlies and hopefully we continue.

    Maybe, the club is putting a bet on Sergio Araujo. Maybe Tito is not seeing any improvement with Cesc as a midfielder so he will have to use him as a forward (Which is not exactly a good news). That we will see.

    I do remember saying last summer than buying Cesc instead of a striker (beside Alexis) decreased Barca chances to win titles (which was proven – BEFORE Villa’s injury). And now I say, buying a player for any position instead of offense will decrease -again- Barca’s chances to win titles.

    Note: Decrease doesnt mean eliminate. You cant eliminate when you have The Messi and The Iniesta.

    • Oil_Can says:

      1) We lose Abidal indefinitely, he had two main roles at CB and LB, we need two players to replace him.

      2) Keita was for a brief moment a backup to Busquets until he left, We definitely need another midfielder unless we want to utilize JDS more which I don’t think will happen.

      If we count all our forwards we have in our first team squad, we manage minimum 2 players per forward position which is a pretty healthy number if you ask me.

      Buying another forward means we have to give that player extra playing time to adapt and integrate and tbh I think its a waste of time and money.

      • Ramzi says:

        *http://twitpic.com/agw8cj

        *http://twitpic.com/agw719

        • Oil_Can says:

          -Alexis can play central and Afellay can play on either wing, same as Pedro. thus in a classic 4-3-3 there are 2 players per forward position available. I don’t know why Cuenca is uncertain maybe because of his injury, but I think Tito mentioned he was already in his plans.

          -You could also consider Adriano as a possible Left Winger because he has been played there a number of times last season.

          -Lets not get ahead of ourselves, Bartra isn’t completely cemented in the backup CB role, he still has hoops to jump through, and he will have to perform with limited starts during the season which is harder than starting almost every pre-season game.

          -LOL Thiago isn’t a DM full stop.

          • Ramzi says:

            I will start and end from your last sentence:

            Suggesting to use a player in a position fans arent used to see him performing in is always unpopular. And that is understandable. I will not go back how many times we had arguments here about using players in new positions, how unacceptable it sounded, and then how popular it became after being tested and proven. That is no problem and I can handle disagreement. On this same page you can see a debate between Kxevin and me (maybe the person I had more arguments with than all the others collectively) – but respect is there. Actually it is my strategy to always dig for little issues that are not tackled and throw it on the table (and magnify it sometimes) as feed for discussions and thoughts. It has to be controversial, and that come with a tax. All cool.

            But when you just “LOL” about it, you leave me no chance but to excuse you for being uninformed (as you clearly are), but not for being silly.

            As for the rest of the comment, its as irrelevant as it ended. If others are interested to know why, I can get to more details when I’m back tonight.

          • Oil_Can says:

            OK, maybe I was a bit too careless about my Thiago comment.

            I understand your point, and even I agree that the team should always be in a growing mindset, always looking outside the norm, and always looking for challenges. Hell even Thiago as a Defensive Midfielder sounds bad-ass.

            But again your kind of contradicting what you mentioned earlier about Cesc playing a more advanced role will hinder our title chances. Furthermore buying another attacking player further reduces the chances of us able to utilize other midfielders or even defenders in a forward or winger position, so don’t we want our midfielders maybe learning to be more adventurous and get used to finishing chances.

            The other problem also is with buying new forwards is of course the risk of reducing our pressing game (which it seems to be Tito’s number one priority). The front three are always the first to apply our defensive pressure when we don’t have the ball. This also relates to Llorente possibly fitting into our system, can he pick up our pressing game quickly? its a mystery for now.

          • Ramzi says:

            No problem.

            I may post my 5 cents about this later today. Now I have a training session to catch in 30 minutes. And I know my rambles get time consuming most of the time.

    • Jim says:

      Sorry, Ramzi, but imo I don’t think we lost titles because of our forward line. We lost titles because of Pep’s tinkering with the defence.

  50. TITO says:

    It looks like Song deal is done, at least according to goal.com (not the most reliable), but anyway, it’s just a matter of time before we buy an Arsenal player, again, and that’s almost 20 mill euros!
    Where the hell is he going to play? New Yaya? The old Yaya made way for Bisquits, so the new Yaya will probably end up warming the bench.

    • Vj says:

      IIRC Tito mentioned that Keita was in his plans for this season. I’m getting a feeling Song just might be his replacement. So I think he’ll do things Keita used to do with us – help us out defensively, add some physical presence, relieve some of the pressure while we’re defending a lead, add another passing outlet (if his passing/assist stats are something to go by) and get blamed for whatever crap happened through no fault of his such as the faltering economy, rising unemployment, skewed TV deals and so on and so forth.

      Thats if he comes. Big if mind you. I don’t claim to know whatever goes inside Tito’s head but it will become clearer once he starts to lose (or tear out – if you’re inclined to believe that) his hair like Pep did. So, to borrow from someone, strap in, you’re in for a heck of a ride..

  51. Josep says:

    Why is Ramzi allowed to disagree with Kevin but when I do its me “screaming bloody murder” or “being contrary just to be contrary”? y’all a bunch of poo butts

    • Ramzi says:

      Because it is already known that I’m a “bloody murder” or “being contrary just to be contrary”, so no one feels like pointing that out all the time:)

      I just got LOLed for god sake! Did you? Did you?!!

      On a serious note, I don’t think most have any problem with disagreement. Some may throw a plate in your face every once and while, but it happens to everyone. Do you want us to go back in time and see how often you were reticulated and how often it happened to -say- hm… ME! You just see it when it hits you.

      So I don’t think there is anything personal, Josep…

      If you want to be controversial, book a hospital bed on advance, just in case. That’s all I can advice:)

      • Josep says:

        Well, I know one of the two comments was personally directed at me without using my name so I guess I’m going places.

        I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. The idea of Thiago at DM has always been thrown around, seeing as it’s really only a “DM” in positionally theory with Barcelona.

  52. messifan says:

    OT: For stats lovers, this is cool!

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/blog/2012/aug/16/manchester-city-player-statistics

    City is planning to release stats of every player in the EPL for free this Friday.

    • Messiah10 says:

      Thanks for posting that article messifan. I’ve been a fan of StatZone on FourFourTwo’s blog for a couple years. There is so much insight to be gained from these stats. It’s surprising that football hasn’t evolved into a more stat friendly environment, but it’s getting there. I think this announcement will make clubs think about their guarded approach to stats and how releasing them can only help football as a whole.

      • messifan says:

        You’re welcome! I’m curious to see what they will publish. Maybe, we’ll get to see data on Song. City does have a really good media department. Their tunnel cam videos for match-days are amazing. Check those out on youtube, if you’re interested.

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