Fearless predictions post, aka “This season and you … sorta”

When looking at a new season, it’s always best to begin with what we know:

–New coach in Tito Vilanova
–We have the best player alive
–We have among the best players in the world
–We’re the best club in the world

All the rest is up for grabs.

Last year, we were visited by everything short of a plague of locusts; injuries, concentration lapses at key times and opponents that played the matches of their lives against us. And the best club in the world came away with no major silver.

What will this year bring? Sit down, strap in and read on as the BFB team breaks it all down.

Kxevin

The Cule in me says we are going win. Everything. Then go to another league and win their stuff. Because we’re the best, and that’s how the best roll.

The footy pragmatist in me says that this is going to be a complex season. Meddling president, “new” coach, players coming back from long-term injuries, there is a lot to be concerned about. I’ll break it down competition by competition, beginning with an overall notion: Barca will need a LOT of luck to accomplish things this season. There is insufficient squad depth and far too many uncertainties, particularly as regards the back line. Yes, we were amazingly unlucky with injuries last season, even as I believe that injuries are a function of things other than luck — preparation, for one. It’s happy news that the pre-season is European-only. This will be huge in preventing the fatigue that comes from jetting about. But the club can expect to play more than 60 matches this season. That’s a lot, on legs that have done friendlies, Olympic qualifiers, Euros, etc, etc. Vilanova will have an immense task on his hands in getting everyone to jel. I don’t see us making any more transfers, which means old folks and kids will make up our squad, something I am not at all comfortable with, particularly given that I think Afellay will move in the winter window. So, here are the predictions:

Spanish SuperCopa: We lose to That Other Spanish Team in a closely fought, semi-violent two legged affair that sees their depth making the difference. The aggregate score will be close.

Noteworthy event: The team will lose Jordi Alba. “How am I supposed to keep track of something that small,” will say Puyol. “You gotta put it on a leash, or something!”

Copa del Reig: Out in the semi-finals, after a clunky first leg that will see fatigue from multiple competitions coming home to roost. We will fall just short in the return leg, and our opponent will act as though they had just won the entire tournament.

Noteworthy event: Tito Vilanova will look something other than bewildered/annoyed.

Champions League: Out in the semi-finals again this season, as poor finishing once again rears its head, as well as a key player struggling to regain fitness after a long injury layoff. It will again come down to one goal.

Noteworthy event: Carles Puyol will bite Gerard Pique during the match and scream, “Focus!”

La Liga: 2nd place (again) to That Other Spanish Team as another season comes down to a few unfortunate draws, and a Clasic home-home split.

Noteworthy event: Xavi will make some passes to himself, saying after the match, “To ask why would be like asking the tide why it comes in. Just know that it does.”

Other predictions: A key attacking player will suffer a significant injury. The odds are on Messi, who has spectacular fitness but takes an incredible amount of abuse. This season, it will begin to tell. Vilanova will have to watch out for the long knives, particularly in the club’s own boardroom. He will start the following season as coach, but on a verrrry short leash.

Isaiah

These days, I like to take deep breaths before I begin to write about Barça. It’s been a while since I was happy to delve into a world of expectation and entitlement. For a couple of years now it hasn’t been a question of watching games, but rather of waiting to win and, if that failed to happen, finding whose fault it was. That’s a weary and, frankly, rather boring way to approach sport. I found it increasingly difficult to enjoy the wonders that existed throughout Pep Guardiola’s time on the bench simply because there was always another blog post to write whenever something wasn’t a manita or there was another intense (if also usually intelligent) discussion about politics to become embroiled in.

If a positive can come from Guardiola leaving (yes, these are some thin straws I’m grasping at now, but please, let me at least try to find a silver lining), it’s that we can reset our expectations. We have a chance, right here and right now, to take a deep breath and let it all go. Every time we find the words “should” and “win” coming out of our mouths in the same sentence, we should sing the entire Cant as a form of penance. It has become a question of how many trophies we’ll win rather than whether or not we can play beautifully and while that is a natural outgrowth of so much success, it brings nothing but pain to a sports fan such as myself, who watches for love of the moment rather than for success. Don’t get me wrong, I love winning, but it hardly feels like there was a celebration of the Copa del Rey. It came off like a “meh, okay, it’s the Copa, great,” which is about as Yankees fan as you can get. Admittedly I was traveling during the game to my sister-in-law’s wedding (a far more important event than a Copa del Rey final, at least in my life), so perhaps that throws my perspective off a bit, but as I got Scorecenter updates and celebratory texts from an elated friend while wending my way through Brooklyn and Queens on the A train, I felt that sense of “meh” with a half shoulder shrug thrown in. It’s just the Copa del Rey, after all.

Contrast that to my feelings prior to the 2009-10 season:

The dawn spreads its wispy fingers over the roofs of the neighboring buildings, sliding casually down Atlantic, splaying sideways at Flatbush. It dims the street light that shines through my window at that perfect angle where any attempt to block it from my eyes causes me to lose the air circulation in my room. I shift and try to sleep more, longer, anything to get rid of this feeling in my stomach. For once it’s not last night’s rounds with the boys that is causing me this insomnia. I look at my watch: 5 more hours to go. I roll over, pressing my face into the pillow. I roll over again, pulling the sheet over my legs then flipping it off moments later. I look at my watch: 4 hours, 59 minutes to go. I roll over, exhale….I can’t explain it to [my then girlfriend, now wife], she’ll never understand. It’s August 30 and I’m waiting as patiently as I can. I think she knows, intuitively, without having been reminded, that it’s Jornada 1, it’s el primer dia de la primera. It’s kickoff, it’s the beginning of another obsession. It’s gameday. No wonder I can’t sleep.

I want that back and with Tito, there’s an artificial chance to get it back. To think of blossoming rather than wilting. This team, this wonderful team, this collection of superstars who were once runts is simply too fascinating not to enjoy watching, but maybe this time I can sit back and breath in the happiness that it can bring me to see the Blaugrana, win, draw or lose.

One of the final lines of the preview I just quoted is this: “I am anticipating what will happen, rather than dreading what we might not accomplish with such a talented squad.…I’m like a schoolgirl the day before prom: excited, nervous, happy, and, above all, I can’t wait to show off my pretty dress to all my friends.” We are not so far removed from this at all, are we? Tito is an unknown despite being well known. Eric Abidal’s absence will be mourned, but Jordi Alba’s presence will be a fun inclusion. We’re healthy again and there are limitless possibilities to the fun we can have. Trophies? No, we won’t win any of those, but that’s okay because it will be well worth the journey even without silverware.

Spanish SuperCopa: A terrible way to start the year, at least from an intensity point-of-view. We’ll lose this one 4-2 on aggregate after a 2-0 mugging in the Bernabeu.

Copa del Rey: We’ll make the final to this one, but Real Madrid will come away with the trophy. Maybe Tito will poke Mourinho in the eye?

Champions League: A rough exit from quarterfinal at the hands of some team we all agree didn’t deserve to beat us, but, well, we spazzed at the wrong moments and missed our opportunities.

La Liga: 2nd because this is a two-horse race, of course. A 7 point gap, but a Pichichi for our little Argie man.

Other predictions: Messi will get 52 goals, 36 of them in La Liga. Xavi will face a lengthy spell on the bench with his Achilles problem (thank you, Euros). Also: Neymar!

blitzen

So it’s almost that time again. A new season is almost upon us. Are you excited? I am! We have a shiny new left back in our toolbox, an almost fully healthy team, and a new manager that is really an old manager who will take old ideas and renew them. Or something. Anyway, it’s going to be fun! It’s hard to make predictions about the upcoming season before we even know what our final team will look like. We still may sign another player, most likely a centre back. It seems pretty certain that Bartra will not be loaned out or sold, especially now that Muniesa is out. And with Keita gone, it seems likely that JDS will stay as well unless he really messes up in the remaining preseason games.

Predictions:

Spanish SuperCopa: Who are we playing again? Oh, yeah, them. I would never have thought I could get tired of Clasicos, but I’m really not looking forward to these games. All that good national team feeling from the Euros may well go up in smoke. I think the team will be extra motivated to win this cup to give Tito his first silverware as the sole man in charge. We will have a full complement for a change, and be fit and ready. I predict a narrow win at home and a tie at the Bernabeu to take the cup.

Copa del Rey: My crystal ball is telling me that something unexpected will happen this year. I predict that both Barça and Real Madrid get knocked out in the quarterfinals. The sports papers are caught between crowing over their rival’s defeat and rubbishing the CdR as a second-rate competition, and spontaneously combust from the force of the dilemma. Eventual winners: Athletic Bilbao.

La Liga: Regaining the league title will be Tito’s top priority, and I think we will do it. It’s going to be a very long and hard battle, though, and it may even come down to the last couple of games. I predict a lot of moaning about the referees, hopefully not from us, and at least one major kickoff from Mourinho. Oh, and a bunch of incompetent faffing about from the RFEF.

Champions League: PSG will win, obviously, now they have Zlatan.
No, seriously, I can’t make a prediction for this. Too many good teams and a lot depends on the draw. Barring any major upset we should make it to at least the semifinals, but it will all depend on how many fit players we have and who the opponents are. The only absolute certainty is that neither Milan nor Malaga will get very far. I would like to beat Chelsea at some point just to remove the bitter taste of last year.

Linda

For the first time since Guardiola’s appointment in 2008, Barca head into a season with far more questions than answers. Continuity may be the key talking point being sprouted by everyone involved with the club, but Pep and Tito are very different people, playing different roles, and that will be reflected in visible changes in the way Barca behaves as an institution, even if the basic playing philosophy remains the same.

Let me unpack that last sentence.

I don’t think we’ll see too many changes in the way Barca play. The template has been laid down for generations, and while each manager adds his own variations on the basic theme, all the noises being made by Barca technical staff tell us that Tito isn’t likely tear down Guardiola’s additions. To stretch the building metaphor to breaking point, he’s more likely to renovate or make additions of his own.

Add the above to the fact that the squad hasn’t undergone a significant overhaul, and it seems like a recipe for a steady, evolutionary (rather than revolutionary) transition. Tito will have under his command one of the finest first XIs in world football, a fairly small squad, and a few very promising young players who are – we hope – ready for the big time. How the new graduates adjust will be even more important than usual, given the gaps in the squad, particularly at the back.

And now for the uncertainties. First of all, we know very little about Tito Vilanova, in terms of how he might behave under the spotlight cast by the Barca entorno, how his people management skills are, and how proactive he is in match-day situations. The early indications point to a less intense approach compared to his predecessor. For what it’s worth, I think his approach to the media and the environment will be closer to Rijkaard’s than Guardiola’s. Which is no bad thing. He needs to do what suits him. Tactically, I trust him to know what to do, using a system he’s been bought up in. Man management is a big question mark. We’ll have to see about that one.

One thing we can be almost entirely sure he won’t do is get involved with broader club issues the way Pep did. Which is fine – frankly, those concerns aren’t part of the manager’s job, and I’ve always argued that Pep had too much to do because higher management at the club shirked their duties. More than ever, this season we’ll see how Rosell and co handle themselves in reacting to controversies, without the man who was so good at directing the discourse.

I don’t really do predications. (Pauses to duck thrown objects. Yes, I know this is a predictions post.) This is the closest thing I can manage. I’ll leave you all with some crucial questions – questions we can’t answer at this point – that will determine the course of the season:

How many games can Xavi play at something close to peak fitness?

What effect will an actual vacation have on Messi?

Can Bartra cut it as a first team defender? (By which I mean: reach the kind of level where you’d happily play him against Valencia or Madrid.)

Can Fully Fit Villa be just as good as Shiny, Newly Bought Villa was?

Is Fabregas’ reprogramming into a Barca Midfielder (TM) complete?

Will the real Gerard Pique please stand up?

(Kidding about that last one. Mostly.)

Colin

A couple years ago a mentor gave me a piece of advice: “under-promise, and then over-deliver.” Pep did this to great effect four years ago with his famous “fasten your seatbelts” press conference where he said he didn’t know if his Barcelona would win trophies, but they would work as hard as they could. And boy did he over-deliver.

Unfortunately Mr. Vilanova doesn’t have the luxury of under-promising. Pep has set the bar too high, Vilanova will be living in his shadow – pick your cliche of choice, but the fact is that expectations are high going into this season because of the success over the last four years. I worry that anything less than repeating Pep’s first season treble will be seen as a disappointment in the eyes of many.

I also think we will end the season without a single piece of silver.

Some random predictions:

The Spanish Super Cup will have a couple very acrimonious moments, setting up some very unpleasant Clasicos down the road.

Bartra will cement his place ahead of Fontas early in the season.

Valdes will not win the Zamora trophy as he will be under more pressure from less possession and more defensive mistakes.

The teams average ball possession stat in each match will be less than it was the last couple seasons (I’m thinking around 5% per match).

Messi will for the first time since Guardiola took over fail to score more goals than the season before.

Sanchez will score more than Villa.

The team will suffer more for lack of a player like Keita – a ball winning midfielder – than for lack of another centerback.

There will be several (more) high profile PR mishaps from the board.

We will get knocked out of the Copa after a serious howler from Pinto.

Vilanova will be forced to endure at least one very difficult month where he is lambasted in the press. Rosell will not go out of his way to protect him.

Luke

My predictions are fairly simple and to the point since I don’t have a ton of time to lay them out.

As has been the case with FC Barcelona since the introduction of Pep Guardiola as manager, the team will be playing a grueling schedule likely consisting of 80+ matches, not including friendlies, with a smallish squad during the course of the 2012-2013 season. This will mean the team must stay free from injuries (or at least long absences), must get solid play from the little depth it has, and use Barca B members at key points. But enough of this, on to the predictions:

Spanish Super Cup: A tale of sound and fury signifying nothing, I think. This will be blown up as another Clasico, and in theory it is, but in practice it will likely be an extremely chippy foul-fest (for both sides) decided by a 1-goal margin over the aggregate. I’m thinking 3-2 Madrid because while some of the team looks well rested, who knows about the Euro boys?

Copa del Rey: Out in semifinals, Valencia win it. Both Barca and Madrid finally decide these games aren’t really worth it compared to the Liga and Champions League. Delofeu, Bartra, and other B boys makes some memories but can’t get it done all the way.

Champions League: Champions. I mince no words about believing the UCL is much more important for growing the brand internationally and in terms of actual competition, because let’s all be honest, La Liga is two teams and a bunch of also-rans until some white knight investors come save other teams or the league’s TV structure gets reworked appropriately. Anyway, the team is currently constructed for UCL runs more so than any other competition. Less games mean the smaller squad can aim for wins here. I see a showdown with PSG at some point, which would be great fun.

La Liga: Runners-up. If the team beats Madrid twice, it still has to save a small squad and not lose to upstart small teams, which was the downfall last year. Madrid is more prepared for this competition from a team make-up and will win. The difference between Barcelona and third-place will be greater than between third-place and relegation.

Others: Messi scores 54 goals (13 UCL, 38 Liga), Xavi misses significant time due to lingering injuries and age leading to Thiago and Cesc getting a lot more time in the MF and more chances to grow as players. Alexis Sanchez scores 20 and Villa is crucial for depth. Busquets continues to be the second best player on the team and the most important to player and ball movement. Puyol misses more time but Pique finds his old form (that he showed some of in the Euros). Finally, Valdes wins another Zamora and Deulofeu gets more action than many are predicting.

Visca!

Euler

Themes to Look for in the Upcoming Season: This season will be one marked by transitions for Barca. Tito assuming the role of manager is the clearest. This will be a transition that will be both large scale change, due to the scope of Pep’s accomplishments, and familiar, due to Tito’s contributions to past success and his familiarity with the squad and the club.

Tactically last season many felt that the continued experimentation (much of which was forced by injury) was a detriment to the team, that moving away from the well proven 4-3-3 was a mistake. This interpretation in my opinion is one that is far too narrow.

This season I think we’ll see Tito continue to push the team in new directions, with increasing levels of fluidity. Shifting between multiple formation within matches-something Pep experimented with more and more last season-will be implemented on a more regular basis. One definitive tactical transition that we’ll see if the team will utilize two attacking full backs with decreased height at the back. This will require adjustments to be made the defensive template involving the team as a unit. We will see other areas of tactical evolution as well. For example, new approaches to how the team defends between the lines in midfield may be necessary, particularly if a new central axis defensive player (CB or DM) can be added.

For years the central axis of the Barca system has run through Puyol and Xavi as key pillars. Last season we saw Puyol return from injury, regain outstanding form and then be compromised by injury again. Puyol is still capable of playing world class football – but at this age greater modulation of his minutes, efforts and stress would be beneficial. Given the lack of depth at the back – this may not be possible. But it’s something that will likely be needed if the team is to have Puyol available for critical fixtures. Xavi has played enormous minutes over the past 5 seasons and the wear is starting to show. He was brilliant again for the majority of last season but at the end the campaign he was clearly trying to play through some kind of injury and doing so at the time when the team needed him most. Barca would do well to try to lessen the burden on Xavi proactively to ensure that he’s in better fitness for key stages of the season.

One of the biggest transitions the team will need to make on the pitch is the need to have younger players assume more of the responsibility for team’s success both in terms of performance and leadership. Alexis Sanchez, Cesc Fabregas and Thiago will need to use their experiences from last season as platforms to assume greater responsibility this season. This will be critical to the team’s success. These players have room to grow into the system and they contain much of the team’s upside potential for improvement, particularly given that no major additions are likely to be made to the attack this summer through transfers.

Villa, Pique and Pedro. All had difficult seasons due to a combination of injury and poor form. It’s difficult to understate how important Villa’s return will be to the team. But this too will require an important transition. Villa will have to again work on balancing how to fit into the system off the left flank while still maintaining his aggressiveness and individual goal scoring. Marred by lost form and injury, Pedro seemed like a ghost presence for much of the season. Fortunately, by the very end of the season he looked to be returning to form and then followed that up with an excellent Euro 2012. The team must diversify its scoring base so that Messi doesn’t have to carry such an inordinate load. Villa and Pedro are central to how the team will be able to accomplish this objective. But doing so will require a process of transition where both players are reincorporated back into the template on a full time basis and are able to play alongside not only Messi but Sanchez, a player both have only played limited minutes with, also.

For most of his career, Pique has been able to rely on his partner CB for leadership and consistency. That time is over. Pique was simply awful for a significant portion of last season. He only started returning to form after being benched for a run of matches. Pique needs to not only transition back to being one of the best CBs in the world – he also needs to transition to being a consistent leader on the team rather than the younger, “ball playing” half of FCB’s CB pair.

The final transition I’d like to touch on is injuries. Last season much was made of the club being unlucky with respect to the injuries incurred. And there’s little doubt injuries took their toll. But many of those injuries weren’t simply the product of luck. Stress fractures and recurrent hamstring injuries are a function of workload and cumulative fatigue. And part of why the injuries Barca had last season seemed so acute was that in the years prior the club had relatively few injuries. One can just as readily say that the club was “lucky” prior. In all likelihood, the team will again have to deal with injuries. There are a number of advantages to a small squad. But injuries an their impact are part of the downside risk.

Predictions for Competitions

Spanish Super Cup: The late arrival of Spanish internationals to training will create early season challenges, ones that will augment the slow start Barca often gets off to. These issues will also influence Madrid but differently due to the distribution of roles their Spanish internationals play. It will be a close contest but over the two legs Madrid will likely come out ahead.

Copa Del Rey: In Tito’s first season the Copa will be the contest that the team may not be able to optimize their performance for. The club won’t defend the cup.

La Liga: 2nd place. Madrid’s larger squad and ability to rely on athleticism to win on off performances will provide it with advantage to edge out the Liga trophy.

Champions League: Barca will take the trophy. I think the squad will have enough reserves to see out a difficult season while still taking the Champions League title. The return of Villa and Pedro along with the continued improvement of Sanchez will allow them to diversify the attack enough to get through the Champions League competition.

Michele

OK – hate predictions, but will put down a few general thoughts about how I think this season will be.

We’re all gonna die. (I can predict that with absolute surety!)

The team goes into this season with more newly-promoted B-team members than before. From last season’s promotions it has Fontas who received very little game-time even before his injury, plus Thiago and Cuenca who have yet to find consistent rhythm within the team. So, we have three players from last year who are still not fully integrated, plus incoming Montoya, Dos Santos and Bartra. Time will tell if they develop to be First Team material, and I have my doubts that all will succeed. This is nothing new – those who have followed what I write will know that I’ve always thought this way.

Where once the team had the luxury of time to develop the talents of the likes of Puyol, Xavi et al, this time no longer exists for FC Barcelona – nor for any of the top clubs in the world. The environment has changed – it’s all about the money and the marketing now. The club HAS to win – it virtually has to win every game if it is serious about competing for every trophy in an equal fashion. This means that the strongest team, with the best available players, is put on the pitch every time. The alternative is that the team has to win group play and the first legs (of CL and CdR matches) so decisively that the second-string First Teamers will then get playing time in any games where the result is moot. Another alternative is that the club decides which trophies are less important, and not must-win situations at the cost of burning out the key team players.

There’s no doubt that the newly-promoted (from last and this season) players are talented and have great footballing skills. If they didn’t, they would not have even been considered for promotion, and they wouldn’t have even made it into the B team. My doubts lie around whether these guys actually have the world-class skills and the mentality to succeed in an environment that is far different from what they have known. Can they play against the likes of Ronaldo and Rooney et al, and compete against that level of play and experience? They may have been promoted within the club, but the step from the B-team to the FC Barcelona First Team is a chasm, in terms of how they will need to now perform (daily, weekly, monthly) in every game. Time to put on the long trousers. However, don’t be surprised to see some of these guys either sold or sent out on loan. Loaning players has the advantage of giving them more experience at other clubs, and at a high level, while not being a burden on the First Team. If they turn out to be world-class, they’ll come back.

Supporting lesser-experienced team members is also going to put extra pressure on the tried and tested “old guard”. Puyol, Xavi, Messi, Busquets, Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Iniesta and Valdes have to show the way – the onus is on them to lead the team on the pitch. Alexis, Villa, Afellay, Adriano, Pedro and Cesc will have to find form and positioning on the pitch where they can create value. Alba, already showing promising signs, needs to produce consistent high-quality performances, and not go totally AWOL, as I did see him do in some games when playing for Valencia. (Especially when opposition teams tend to exploit Barca’s left.)

All of the players need to know that they can score goals. The ball doesn’t have to be given to Messi, and if Messi gives you an assist on a gold platter, make sure that it goes into the net. And please stop with the unnecessary backwards passing when you have the opposition defenders out of position – it only gives them time to regroup and stop the attack.

So, to summarise the team:

~ 1 x player on long-term medical leave: Abidal.

~ 6 x B-teamers with less than 2 years of experience in a top-flight football team playing at the highest possible level: Bartra, Montoya, Fontas, Thiago, Dos Santos and Cuenca. (Muniesa now won’t be registered until January, depending on his recovery.)

~ 5 x experienced players who still have to figure out their roles on the pitch, as they integrate into the team: Villa, Afellay, Alexis, Cesc and Alba. (Out of these, Alba will most likely be the first to succeed.)

~ 5 x experienced players who will need to really step up this season to help the team to succeed: Pinto, Pedro, Adriano, Pique and Mascherano. (I included Masch here because, although he’s excellent and I love him, if he remains playing at CB, the finer points of being a back-line defender will need to be learned this season – i.e. the offside play, in particular. Pique also needs to lift his game, and mature, this season – he can’t repeat last season’s often dismal performances again.)

~ 7 x players who are fully integrated into Barca and could play with their eyes shut: Puyol, Valdes, Messi, Xavi, Iniesta, Alves and Busquets.

Out of 24 players, 16 (counting Cesc, Pedro and Alba) are from La Masia. This season will be the time for proving the success of the cantera project. If the next 2 seasons are not successful with La Masia players, then I think that we’ll see a shift in how much La Masia contributes to the First team, and possibly a change in the buying strategies of the club.

Within the club and off the pitch, I believe that Rosell (or whichever board member he sends out to do his dirty work), will do more posturing than he did when Pep was there. Pep had the respect of the fans and the socis – he carried a lot of power. For Rosell to have disagreed with any of Pep’s wishes would have sounded the death knell for him. With Pep now out of the way, I envisage the stamp of authority being wielded more from the top. Just please don’t put Rosell in front of the press – he makes an ass out of himself when it comes to general chitchat.

Tito, if given this season as an year of consolidation, will play it safe. The tinkering of the 3-man backline will not be rigorously pursued, although it does leave questions about our attack if Pep felt the need to add an extra man up front, in order to be more effective. I often thought that there were times when Tito did not fully agree with all that Pep tried to do, so this season will be the time to see “Tito’s way”, if there is such a thing. Certainly, if the game against Rayo (from last season and the one where Tito called the shots) was any indication, we can expect to see faster, more direct play. I would like to see some of that. I also predict that we will see more long-range shots being attempted – with Alba, Afellay and possibly Busquets being groomed for this. The ball doesn’t have to be walked into the net.

My wish is for the club to be successful, for the players to remain healthy, for the fans to have fun, and if we win some silverware that will be the bonus!

Finally …. yes, there is a name missing: SoMa. Life happened, as it does to all of us. So she’s decided to take a step back from the mod ranks, but we’ve made it clear that she is more than welcome to contribute any time she sees fit.

And that’s that. Yes, it’s long. Shut it. Like the Wu-Tang Clan when it could actually BE complete, you don’t question. Just revel in it. Yup.

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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.

202 Comments

  1. Barcathegreatestever
    August 18, 2012

    Barca have the players to win any and every competition.
    I Think that Thiago will have a break out season. Alexis and Villa will have their best seasons for Barca yet if Alba plays at the level of the Euros. Pique grows permanently out of last years funk. Tito shows he’s more aggressive in attack and more conservative in defense. Barca are more balanced and devastating. Win the Supercopa and the mods will all wish they were a little more optimistic in their predictions.

  2. Barca99
    August 18, 2012

    My predictions:

    Supercopa: EE will win it; too early for our team. The start of the saison isn’t our strenght…but I can handle with that.

    Copa del Rey: ‘La Liga’ is more and more comparable with the (earlier) Scotish-League. Every year two teams are fighting for the title and there is no space for surprise. So, I hope the Copa wins Atletic, Valencia, whoever. A change, in particulary, with the tv-rigths is obviously to allow the other teams to compete with the ‘two big teams’.

    La Liga: One year without the La Liga-Trophy is enough. We will win it! There are several reasons why I think it will be our turn. One of the most important points is that Real Madrid is fixated to win ‘La Décima’ and will be not so focused in ‘La Liga’ as last year. And there will be no experiments – in the defence – as last year with the 3-4-3! Tito will play with four defenders. Alba will give us a new (defending and) attacking reverence. The contrahents cann’t only focus on the Dani-(attacking)-Side; so it’s more complicate for them to handle that…

    Champions League: There are too many factors to predict it! We will see it…

    P.S.: If not done, euler and Kxevin should (must) apologise to ramzi!

    • Jim
      August 18, 2012

      Done, above, although on re- reading this has all been blown up a bit and I wouldn’t have put it as strongly as “must”. Difficult call modding a blog like this where we have higher standards than most. Nice that they did say something though. Be good if, in the same spirit Ramzi came back.

      • August 18, 2012

        Jim hits the nail on the head. It is complex moderating a blog such as this. I have also moderated message boards, and they are a lot easier.

        Had this conversation happened in person, in a bar, there would have been some shouting, a bit of gesticulation, then we would have all gone back to having our beers. But it didn’t happen there. So that’s that.

        Euler and I have reached out to Ramzi to apologize for the miscommunication. And miscommunication is what it was. Even now, people don’t fully understand what the issue was, which is why I extended the offer of a full explanation to anyone who wanted to e-mail me. Only one person has.

        I don’t believe (and again, my opinion) that people understand the challenge of modding a space such as this. It’s safe to say that Isaiah and I didn’t anticipate this when we decided to leave Offside/Barca, or we’d probably still be there, honestly. Back in the days when we had 3 or 4 commenters, everybody got along. As a family gets larger, that becomes less likely.

        But decisions have to be taken and things have to be said that aren’t going to make the mods who say them very popular. I’m used to being unpopular. It’s a new thing for Euler. 😀 As with my day job, I console myself with the knowledge that if everybody loves you, you’re doing something wrong.

  3. mega_tajh
    August 18, 2012

    Word coming out: Alex Song has signed with Barcelona for £19m

    • August 18, 2012

      Yep. He didn’t play for Arsenal. The only question is the money. I have seen 19m, I have also seen 16+4. But the deal is done.

  4. providence
    August 18, 2012

    Alves: “Mourinho wants to be called ‘The Only One’? Then
    Pep should be ‘The Anti-Only One’, or whatever you call
    the one who’s better…”

    • Messiah10
      August 18, 2012

      NICE

  5. Jim
    August 18, 2012

    Weird ! I clicked by mistake on the cloudy ball at the top and was whisked away to a much quieter place 🙂

  6. Roberto Senyera
    August 18, 2012

    After reading all the comments I’m still quite shocked that Ramzi was accused of being long winded by the likes of Kxevin and Euler. Pot/kettle comes to mind 🙄

  7. August 18, 2012

    Here is some unadulterated nonsense to cheer you guys up (or conversely make you all so angry you’ll rage in happiness. Wait, wha-?)

    FCB board discuss Alex Song Transfer

    [14:10 GMT, Barcelona board room – Secret Location – Barcelona — Spain]

    Josep Bartomeu: Alright, so we need to get around to finalizing the transfer of player X-10924323.

    Antoni Zubizarreta: [calmly nods] Yes, yes, of course.

    Sandro Rosell: [thinking] Oh God I have no idea what they’re talking about what do I do what do I do [nods confidently] Yes, yes, of course.

    Bartomeu: Okay, so I need you [turns to Rosell and hands him papers] to sign these. Then, I’ll fly over to London…

    Rosell: [takes papers] Gotcha. [thinking] Now I’ll just casually find out who the heck they’re talking about while cooly examining the papers I am a genius [reads first page]

    PL X-10924323: Alexandre “Alex” Dimitri Song Billong

    Age: 24

    Club: La Masia – London Branch

    Position: Unnecessary. Other: DM/CB

    Preferred Foot: ?

    Hair Level: SSJ3

    Power Level: 0.123 Raditz / -10,322 Mascherano

    Skill Le

    [Rosell stops reading]

    Bartomeu: …so hopefully I won’t be stoned by angry Arsenal fans, though, to be fair, it’s been a crappy couple of days for them. RVP apparently moved to…

    Rosell: [interrupts] Oi! What the hell is this?

    [Bartomeu and Zubi turn to face Rosell]

    Bartomeu: Is there something wrong?

    Rosell: Yes! This profile!

    Zubi: [confused] What’s wrong with it? I wrote it myself, after consulting some scouts…

    Bartomeu: [nods in agreement] Yeah, I don’t see anything wrong with it, really.

    Rosell: [stares] There’s clearly a problem with this.

    Zubi: And that is…?

    Rosell: We’re going after a player named Alexandre “Alex” Dimitri Song Billong.

    Zubi: Well, yeah. I thought you knew…?

    Rosell: [falters slightly] O-of course I d-do. Did? [recovers] Anyway, the point is: What kind of name is that?

    Bartomeu: An awesome one?

    Rosell: [slams hands on desk] I will not allow it!

    Zubi: Why? We spent so much of our Tapping Up quota to get to this point—

    Bartomeu: …though we really aren’t tapping anyone up just so we’re clear…

    Rosell: Because we’ll become the laughing stock of Europe with a player with a name like that! Do you know how many puns— how many utterly terrible ones — people will make? I can just see them now: “Barca on Song as They Destroy Real Madrid 5-0” or “Barca’s Song still out of tune”. No! This cannot go on!

    Zubi: [considers for a moment] I see your point… but just so we’re clear: you didn’t find anything wrong with the profile itself, did you?

    Rosell: Oh, no. It was tight. Good job.

    Zubi: Alright!

    Bartomeu: But we’re too far gone in this transfer to just say no, though…

    Rosell: Then we’ll protract this transfer as long as possible so they get offended and pull out! [thinks] I’m a genius I’m a super genius the greatest genius to have geniused since Genius himself!

    Bartomeu and Zubi: Alright. That sounds like a plan.

    *

    And there you have it. If Song signs, it’s because Arsenal weren’t offended. If he doesn’t, it’s because they were.

    Please, be offended, Arsenal!

    • Barcaleya
      August 18, 2012

      Kari, you’re a genius!!! Super genius. Hahaha

      We missed you. This post made me laugh 😀

      • August 18, 2012

        Success! 😀

        I missed you guys too!

      • August 18, 2012

        Now see, if you were still a mod, you could have made a new post, ya slacker! Hope you’re well, and it’s good to “hear” you again.

      • August 18, 2012

        Someone who is a mod could always cut this comment out and make it into a post, though…

      • August 18, 2012

        Yeah, whatever …. done.

    • August 18, 2012

      Hair Level: SSJ3

      😆 So what hair level is Cesc? And Dani’s flesh-eating disease beard?

      Well done, Kari!

      • August 18, 2012

        As noted before, the Song signing (though I almost typed “singing”) is genius. Now Fabregas and Villa have carte blanche with their hair. Ditto for Alves and Pinto. Cornrows with bangles? No problem. At least it’s not a blonde mohawk.

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