The Weary Traveler Returns Home: Barcelona 5 – 1 Real Sociedad

It was a long summer, but the Tito era began as one would have expected: Carles Puyol heading in a 4th minute corner. By the 17th minute it was 3-1 and Real Sociedad was well and truly sunk. It felt familiar in so many ways, of course, but there was a palpable sense of novelty throughout the match as every action was a first. After some point it was just silliness to scream out “That’s the first Mexican wave of the Tito era!” while the Camp Nou denizens demonstrated their absurd boredom.

I was 2 minutes late to the match thanks to an all mighty mix up at my brunch place–the chef thought the mango popsicle they had for dessert was passionfruit! Mrs. The Lady would not stand for it!–and I nearly missed the whole damned thing. But fortunately I was beer in hand when Capi gave poor Ion Ansotegui a nifty little bump that some, including Ansotegui, would call a shove, but which regardless of what you call it left Puyol wide open to use his noggin to hammer in what should have been the match winner. Chori Castro and the somewhat befuddled Barça midfield had something to say about that, though, as they left Real Sociedad back in the match through sloppy play and a very nice finish.

Then Messi decided to make some sort of statement or maybe he just got bored with not scoring goals. It’s hard to say with him sometimes. It doesn’t matter, really, because by the time he was done getting into 2nd gear, it was all over except the final 75 minutes, which were obviously going to be some sort of passing ritual where Xavi was called “imperious”, there was a 10-minute discussion about width, and Pedro was called “spastic”. It was suddenly inevitable yet again that a good La Liga team was going to leave the Camp Nou humbled by the merciless juggernaut of Way More Money Than You.

I was excited to see the match and giggling madly after having checked the Madrid score (“Hay Liga!” a friend cracked), but only Chori Castro’s goal gave the final scoreline a glimmer of potential. The manita, while personally fun because I’m a Barcelona fan, is yet another nail in the coffin of La Liga. It’s not like La Real boasts terrible players by any stretch; it’s not like Sociedad “deserved” to lose 5-0 because they were ambitious and actually had a decent attacking strategy; and it’s not like Barcelona were playing at some high-octane level. Until Iniesta and Villa decided to light up the show (and Sociedad visibly tired), it was just another training exercise in front of considerably more people than usual. Messi was actually pretty crappy, but then again, that’s a relative statement in which he was by far the best player on the field, but somehow didn’t get a six-bagger to his name.

Tello was a live wire, Pedro was a whirling dervish, and Xavi was, yeah you guessed it, imperious. Busquets looked like he was still mentally on la playa de Ibiza; Mascherano wanted to earn 8 cards, but could only manage 1; and Alba had the look of a possessed chipmunk lost in a suburban mall: “Where do I go? Who are all these people? I bet Hot Topic has some interesting new stuff!” and off he speeds through the crowd, finding a ball or an opponent at his feet occasionally, which he would then kick somewhat fiercely. And no, I have not been to a mall in the last 15 years. I have no idea if Hot Topic still exists. But I do know that if it does, it has nothing of interest. None of that is to say that Alba was bad (it’s his first real match for the team and he’s going through some growing pains) and it’s not to say that anyone was bad, which is another way of saying that Barça is so good that a meh, shoulder-shrugging day at the office can be a 5-1 pounding. Which, frankly, is pretty boring.

What’s not boring is this:

Love.

Welcome back, Guaje. You were missed as much for your humanity as for your goals. Your teammates resoundingly cheered you on from the bleacher section on Twitter and that was touching. Maybe they were a bit lackadaisical today on the field, but when it came down to it, everyone was hungry for the satiating goodness of goals. And it feels good, no matter how boring the season may turn out to be.

Let’s let this be a season of rejoicing: Guaje is back, Fontas is back, Afellay is back, Thiago will recover shortly, and Abidal may return (the tears are waiting, King Eric). You know what:

The season is back and it is time to dig in for the long haul.

Images from Eurosport and Sport

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Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in the greater New York City area with his wife and daughter.

141 Comments

  1. flyzowee
    August 21, 2012

    Is Busi really the best defensive mid in world footy?
    I dont really know why im asking this question mind you.
    I guess that deep down im just not convinced.

    • August 21, 2012

      I always apply the litmus test of “name one better.” I’m hard-pressed to think of one who is truly better. And certainly in the context of our system, there is no one better. But it does seem weird, when you think about the number of positions in which we have the best in the world or close to it:

      Messi
      Xavi
      Iniesta
      Busquets
      Alves
      Puyol (yes, still)
      Valdes
      Villa (on form)

      In many ways it’s what makes signings so complex — the standard of the starters at each position.

    • Messiah10
      August 21, 2012

      I hate to say it but because Puyi has been injured most of 2 seasons I’d say he’s dropped out of that. Naming a replacement is tough, but a fit, in form, determined Pique is one! So we still have best center back IMHO. As for Valdes, I’m not sold. Still a lot of questions last year. I know he’s won the Zamora trophy 5 years on the run, but I think our offense(possession) has a lot to do with that. I would still take him as our keeper because of his ability to play out of the back, then any other keeper. I rate Saint Iker(blasphemy), Joe Hart, and Neuer higher in shot blocking and positional skills. I’ll have to disagree with Villa as well. 2 or 3 years ago with Valencia and 1st year with Barca I’d say yes. Although Eto’o was still playing then. Right now I’d say Aguero, Tevez(word is he’s happy, that’s bad news for everybody else) and even younger players like Marko Reus who can also play as a winger. I rate him very highly and would love him in our team. Imagine him on the left with Messi and Alexis? What speed and one on one ability for a front line. People underestimate his passing game as well. He has a brilliant touch. Still a lot to prove though.

  2. August 21, 2012

    Got a form reply from ComcastBill via Twitter about Comcast and BeINSports. As I explained to him, I’m not the only one who is VERY dissatisfied with my cable company right now. I want my damn Barca.

    Now, I must admit that Veetle worked great on Sunday. I can see streaming being quite the happy little thing except for Clasicos, where they always play whack-a-mole with the streams as fast as you can find one.

  3. tutomate
    August 21, 2012

    How about a welcome post for Alex Song.

    • August 21, 2012

      Coming …. coming ….

  4. flyzowee
    August 21, 2012

    I honestly feel that SMash on any other team than Barca would probably sit Busi on the bench.

    Also I always thought Yaya was a better Def Mid than Busi but since his move to City, ive realised that he wasnt even a Def Mid and was just improvising for us.

    I think Busi is great but also very lucky.
    I dont think there is any player throughout the Guardiola era who had more room for error during his developmental stage than him.

    It was like a personal goal for Pep to see this lanky reincarnation of himself rise to his current status.

    This makes me wonder if his talent alone would have seen him become what he is today on any other team.

    • flyzowee
      August 21, 2012

      Oops, this was supposed to be a response to kxevin

    • Momo
      August 21, 2012

      I don’t think so. The rise of tiki taka in recent years has made defensive mids in the mould of Masch, de jong etc pretty much obsolete at the highest level.

      Building out of the back has become essential as top teams around europe attempt to “barcelonify” their playing style. Players in the mold of Busi, carrick, Martinez, de rossi, M’vila, Yaya are the hottest items on the transfer market now.

      5 years ago… yes masch would have been chosen over busi in DM in any other team. Not so much now.

  5. mega_tajh
    August 21, 2012

    Feel so sad for JDS. Gave up a chance to win Olympic gold with his national team to complete a full preseason with us only to get loaned out to Sevilla(rumored)

  6. Blau-Grenade
    August 21, 2012

    All hail Marouane Fellaini. No player has excited me in my recent memory as much as him.

    I saw the Manchester United Everton game. I was very impressed.

    And then I started watching all the youtube video’s of him. What a player.

    Excellent first touch, and ball control on both feet. Great tackling and defensive play. Amazing holder of the ball in the front. What a header of the ball. Fantastic distributor of the ball. He took the game to Manchester United single handedly. Dude is a goal machine. He is destined to be great.

    The great Zidane comes to mind when I see his play.

    • Josep
      August 21, 2012

      Holy hell he plays nothing like Zidane.

    • swamidigital
      August 21, 2012

      I could kind of almost see your point until you got to the last sentence… what?

    • swamidigital
      August 21, 2012

      Also he only got that header goal by outmuscling a midfielder filling in at CB. Wouldn’t have happened against someone just a bit stronger.

    • Blau-Grenade
      August 21, 2012

      Here are the reasons he reminds me of Zidane.

      Great control of ball with both feet.
      Mostly plays in the midfield but still manages to be among goals.
      Fantastic ball distribution.
      I have watched a few of his youtube video’s besides the Manchester United and Everton game. He, almost always, wins the ball in the air. In this respect he is better than Zidane.

      Regarding his 2011 – 2012 season.

      He finished the season having won the most tackles, aerial duels and made more passes than anyone else at the club. He won the second highest amount of tackles in the league and won possession of the ball 190 times, the most out of any player.

      source: http://www.eplindex.com/14562/everton-201112-good-bad-opta-stats-analysis.html/2

    • Blau-Grenade
      August 21, 2012

      Lastly, he just plays with so much energy, like a man possessed. It was just a joy watching him play the ManUnited Everton game.

  7. flyzowee
    August 21, 2012

    At times people assume that traditional def mids/destroyers as people like to call them cant build up play from the back.

    Did anyone watch dejong at the Euros? He was Hollands best player in possession esp vs portugal.

    Other players described as ‘destroyers’ like Essien, De rossi…. Song? do not exactly have zero technique.

    If we transfer-listed both Smash and Busi, I think Smash would get picked up first.
    I believe Smash still offers more pace, steel, a great tackle, flank to flank cover etc.
    Qualities which to me are still in higher demand than the brilliant one touch passing that Busi brings to the table imo.

    • Kimcelona
      August 21, 2012

      “I believe Smash still offers more pace, steel, a great tackle, flank to flank cover etc.
      Qualities which to me are still in higher demand than the brilliant one touch passing that Busi brings to the table imo.”

      But you see thats where I disagree with you. I think you are making the same assumptions you disagree with but vice versa. Busquets is technical but can be a great flank to flank cover and is a great ball winner. Winning the ball does not have to be from crunching tackles/sliding tackles ala Masche. Busi’s positioning is such that he doesnt need to tackle that way most of the time. He simple harrasses then takes the ball when the player is most vulnerable. His harrassment makes up for the “steel” which you talk about. He is everywhere. A constant niusance when he’s on his game. In addition to that he’s an excellent one touch passer. He is IMO one of the best DM in the world for both club and country, if not the best.

    • swamidigital
      August 21, 2012

      “Busquets is technical but can be a great flank to flank cover and is a great ball winner.”

      This exactly!

  8. August 21, 2012

    Rewatched the game against Real Sociedad last night, but I’m afraid I didn’t find enough inspiration to do an awards post. I’m out of practice, didn’t have a preseason, the refs were conspiring against me…oh, here’s a couple for you:

    Poker Face Award: Tito! Messi scores. Tito looks depressed. Villa scores. Tito looks gutted. We win 5-1. Tito looks constipated.

    MOTMOTMOI: The head of Puyol. Seriously, what that man does with his head. Not just the goal, but at least 4 or 5 other important interventions. They should make a bronze replica of his skull and display it in the museum.

    The Barbers Have Gone to Seville Award: They are certainly not in Barcelona, anyway. I haven’t seen such an outbreak of bad facial hair since the last Marijuana March here in Toronto. Get them some razors, stat!

    • August 21, 2012

      Dani is trolling us all with that facial fungus. If you were on twitter (ahem!) you would know how he enjoys retweeting his followers taking the piss out of him. Personally I think he lost a bet.

    • nzm
      August 21, 2012

      Dani’s image in the players’ tunnel (it’s been revamped and looks fabulous) is a shot of him with his beard. Ugh….

  9. August 21, 2012

    Diario de Sevilla is reporting a deal between us and Sevilla for a one-year loan with purchase option for JDS. Word is also that we will listen to all reasonable offers for Fontas. Nothing about Afellay, except his agent still saying “He’s staying, dammit!” 😀

    • Dani_el
      August 21, 2012

      Good news for me!

  10. Blau-Grenade
    August 21, 2012

    Song is a great addition.

    Like Tito said, Busi cannot play all the games.

    JDS is a no go. Too flakey from what I have seen in all the pre-season friendlies. He is at the same level, or worse, than last season.

    The club are in absolute need of a Defensive Midfield player with good ball control on both feet like Song, to sub in for Busi, and give him competition for his position so he improves.

  11. mom4
    August 21, 2012

    I just watched the game with hubby last night.
    I couldn’t watch it live because of work so I had to download it. 1st half .avi file took 3 hours on Sunday night to download, 2nd half took 4 hours to load yesterday morning. That’s a lot of work for a Barca game so for the sake of my sanity and poor hobbling on its last leg computer, Verizon or Comcast better get its act together (not putting up a dish unless I absolutely have to)!

    Soooo good to see us again!!!!

    Had a thought about Pique not starting. He and Puyol only played a half. That means they are both well rested for the clasico. I think Masche sits this one (scary thought).

    Carles Puyol! Not much else to say.

    Messi was very messi in one of those very controlled I’ll chose when to unleash hell kinda games that he plays when there’s another important game coming up.

    Busi?—in answer to flyzowee’s is Busi really the best DM in the world question. Hell yeah! The players know this, the fans and announcers will never admit it (maybe Ray and Phil would). As Kxevin says, if not he then who else! I think his role will change a little with two marauding fullbacks to cover and he may be a little funky-clunky for a while until he adjusts.

    Loved how everyone worked so hard to get Villa a goal. Not even going to complain about the yellow card (I assume he got one- didn’t see) because sometimes it’s worth it.

    Pedro looking comfortable and on form. This is huge for us!

    Why the heck wasn’t Xavi subbed out after the half!!!!????

    • August 21, 2012

      Mom4, paying for a premium account on a filesharing site like Hotfile or Mediafire (the two I would recommend) is definitely worth it. I downloaded the game in about 15 minutes and my connection isn’t particularly fast.

  12. Dani_el
    August 21, 2012

    I know it’s a little to early for this, but I feel it has to be out there, when their jackals come crying that we have the refs on our pocket:
    http://l2.yimg.com/bt/api/res/1.2/BnQJw_3I0ku_ikXWuc_t_g–/YXBwaWQ9eW5ld3M7cT04NQ–/http://media.zenfs.com/es-ES/blogs/cristian-pulina-es/soldado.jpg

    Proof that Soldado’ goal for Valencia was onside (there was no repetition considering the whole play, weird right?) So Valencia should have won the game 1-2 against EE.

    “Una raya más al tigre”. Oh surprise, one more stripe in the tiger.

    • Josep
      August 21, 2012

      I watched it live, and it was rather amusing that for as often as they can conclude that a call went against Barcelona, that they couldn’t find ONE camera angle that showed the whole play. I kept seeing the ball be released, but no angle of the last defender. Anyways, Iker seemed to have given up after seeing the flag so we can’t say for sure it was a goal.

      And we can’t say that at 2-1, the game ends the way it does, so it’s all theory but yes, he was seemingly onside.

    • August 21, 2012

      I’d also say that it’s hard to make those calls. Yes, they are paid to make them and make them properly, but we know what semi-conscious crapheads Liga officials are.

      I can’t believe the conspiracy stuff is starting already. We just got here, yo!

      We can say for certain that there are going to be screwed up calls that benefit some ream in La Liga. Because the officiating in that league sucks. But you know what else? When you have grown men running at full speed, chasing after a little white ball, it’s hard to see everything, and stuff is gonna get messed up. Human error and all.

      But people will only care about the stuff that gets messed up when it comes to the Big Two, and shout “conspiracy” based on what side of the fence they’re on. Osasuna or Athletic Bilbao can get a bum or beneficial call, and nobody will care.

    • Josep
      August 21, 2012

      It’s not la liga officiating, it’s everywhere. If you were to watch an MLS match you’d be appalled by it. Humans making human mistakes disgusts me!

    • Dani_el
      August 22, 2012

      Refs can make mistakes. But what of the cameramen? Is it just a coincidence they didn’t show ONE proper repetition? I don’t think so. I’d like to leave this as proof, when they come crying, cause they will.

    • Oil_Can
      August 21, 2012

      Originally I was outraged, but I’d still take the 1-1 draw. I don’t care how little points Madrid will lose as long as they keep dropping points I ain’t complaining.

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