Barca 2, Granada 0, aka “Why must EVERYTHING be a lesson?”

“Calm down. I GOT this.”

I rather imagine that we are going to be repeating this question a lot this season:

What did we learn today?

To start with, we learned that yes, an opposing player can be MOTM. “Tono” Rodriguez, a 32-year-old keeper formerly of Racing Santander, was spectacular today. No. He was absurd, that kind of head-smacking good where you make yourself wonder what just happened, that forces players to change their performance expectations.

We hit shots against that dude that go in against 99.9% of keepers in the world, on any given day, but not against him. It wasn’t that the shots weren’t good, it was that he was better. Fabregas missed a wide-open net, we thought. But the slightest of touches pushed the ball wide. Granada’s keeper was astounding today, and is easily my MOTM.

That’s one thing.

We can not be great, yet have great players

The attack wasn’t good today for many reasons, not least of which was its static quality. Villa isn’t part of the offense the way that Pedro is. He stands at the shoulder of the defense, waiting for the killer ball. If he doesn’t get a pass his way, he isn’t part of the offense. Pedro runs, jumps, passes, receives, defends, is always around the ball in a way that doesn’t make it at all remarkable when …. well …. he finds himself around the ball. So the lack of movement from the forward line meant fewer real opportunities. Let’s look at the starting lineup for some answers: Valdes, Alves, Song, Mascherano, Adriano, Busquets, Thiago, Fabregas, Sanchez, Villa, Messi.

First question is “Who runs the offense?” In our possession-based style, there always has to be a home base, so to speak. That is Xavi, when he is in there. Today, he didn’t start, so Fabregas and Thiago were sharing those duties, even while performing them in a way that made offensive continuity impossible. Because both would pass and then run somewhere. In an ideal world, another player slides into the spot they have vacated, for that series of triangles.

In the real world, with Fabregas and Thiago running around, Busquets becomes that home base, but triangles don’t form because the players are too scattered, and we have difficulties keeping meaningful possession. But as usual, Vilanova got the subs right, bringing in Xavi, Pedro and Tello. Instantly, the offense got more dangerous because the attackers saw more of the ball and thus were more involved in the offense, which had a home base: Xavi.

Great players can elevate

The excellence of Tono meant that ordinary shots weren’t going to beat him. That Xavi goal, the one that broke the deadlock, was an extraordinary, extraordinary thing. He aimed at the crossbar, knowing that the only way to beat that keeper was going to be with a shot that there was no way in hell he was going to reach. So Xavi hit a howitzer that spanked off the underside of the crossbar (that’s how fine he cut it) and bounded into the net. The goal was an example of a great player readjusting his reality to compensate for another player having a great day. It was remarkable, when you think about it.

Further, these great players are ultimately what make it so difficult to play against us. I am going to blaspheme here, and say that top to bottom, talent-wise, That Other Spanish Team has a better team than we do. But we have more great players, and in a 90-minute match, in which one great play can make all the difference, such a thing can be huge. Granada played a perfect match for 85 minutes, then that one great player did that one great thing, and that was that.

Messi is human

Now we already knew this. He is flesh and blood, born of mortal beings. But the way so many folks act, you’d think he was divine. So when he showed a normal moment of petulance, born of frustration coupled with intense desire, it became something much more that it was. David Villa didn’t play a ball the exact way that Messi would have liked, and Messi let him have it. And a shouting match erupted on the pitch, with the match in the balance. And much was made of it.

At the time, on Twitter, I said “I don’t like bitchy Messi.” That is still true. Vilanova said that he also didn’t like it. Duh. Messi said those sorts of things go on all the time in practice as well as in matches, and it was no big deal. We’ll have to take his word for it in practices, but it is a rarity, from what I have seen, in matches. Be that as it may, it’s understandable for many reasons.

Last week, the Chicago Bears were getting pasted by their most-hated rivals, the Green Bay Packers and the quarterback, Jay Cutler, wasn’t having a good game. Nor was his offensive line. So he laid into his left tackle not only verbally, but amplified that commentary with a shove. There was consternation, media hoopla and other sorts of hand wringing. The involved players squashed that beef, publicly.

But one player came out and said, essentially, that Cutler shouldn’t have laid into a teammate when he was having as bad a game as everybody else. Keep that frustration to yourself. This is an interesting point, because Cutler’s reaction, just as Messi’s reaction, was crap.

Alves dropped a pass at Messi’s feet that should have been a goal. Blocked by the defense because of one touch too many. Alves didn’t scream at Messi. Villa made an exquisite run, Messi’s pass was too hard, and bent too much. Villa didn’t yell at Messi. Didn’t do anything except run back and reset the offense. It happens. Nobody’s perfect. So no yelling. Period.

Some might lay such things at the feet of Messi’s efforts seemingly being worth more than everyone else’s. After all, Guardiola went from “Run you bastards, RUN!” to “Run you bastards, except for you. Save your energy for important stuff.” Messi’s only playing half the pitch, usually. In wider shots you can see him, as the rest of the team is in our end if an opponent is attacking, standing around midfield like he’s waiting for the bus. Pressure, pressure, pressure. You have the ball, No. 10, now be brilliant. Every. Last. Time. Madness.

Messi has been scoring goals, but he hasn’t been glittering Messi, just as his club has been getting it done on the pitch, even while not sparkling in the way that everyone on the planet is expecting. And personal pique can make us angry, as much at ourselves as others, and human nature makes us lash out. I hate playing tennis doubles because if I win or lose a point, I want it to be because I played well or screwed up. Then I know who to get mad at.

And I wasn’t even that good a tennis player. Now imagine being Messi, who has Messi Moments of such otherworldly grace that even he can’t live up to his own expectations. Like that crazy thing that resulted in the Granada own goal today. That was impossible. Yet it happened. However do you deal with being that good?

If you have a high personal standard, it can make you impatient and yes, bitchy. At the wrong times. Messi and Villa made up quickly, and Villa waited for Messi in the tunnel after the match to share a hug with Messi. All’s good, even as somewhere, Wrongaldo allowed himself a little smile, as Mr. Humility became, for a few seconds, a Spoiled Superstar who wasn’t getting his way.

So we know that Messi is human because he is subject to emotional frailty. But he also didn’t have a very good overall match, losing something like a dozen balls and recovering none, and leaving a few excellent scoring opportunities begging. And that’s frustrating. Couple that with the immense pressure of a season in which this club HAS to win big silver, and it must be making him crazy. Should we be a bit worried about the pressure that is on Messi? Yes. None of us can imagine how it must be, but he is in effect the absolute everything for two football-crazed nations of supporters.

None of which excuses what he did

Strikers have that elegant, eloquent two-armed “put the ball right here” gesture, that invariably generates an acknowledgement from the teammate in question. Voila. Shouting means ears close, and the teammate shouts back, because he’s a man too, dammit. And there’s an edge, that can sometimes develop into a fissure. Vilanova will ensure that such a thing doesn’t happen, irrespective of what he says in public, which is basically “I don’t like it, but I understand it.” We should justly emphasize the first part of his comment.

The press is silly

So MARCA has turned the substitutions of Villa and Thiago into a repercussion of the Messi petulance. In fact, they were subbed because both were coming back from long injury spells and aren’t yet fully match fit, but they were also suffering from varying degrees of ineffectiveness, as mentioned above. We weren’t going to win this match by staying pat, and Vilanova knew that, even if the two players were daisy fresh and match fit. Different skill sets were required.

So the substitutions had nothing to do with Messi. Period. Anything you read to the contrary, you can feel free to giggle at, then dismiss.

We should be striving for Mascherano II, not Txigrinski II

Let’s try some numbers on for size: 3 matches, 31 balls won, none lost, 17 won today, including one that led to the winning goal. This has been Alex Song’s contribution to the cause. Not bad, right? Yes, he has made errors, including a ridiculous whiff on a ball that fell to Alves for the Spartak own goal. But today, he had as good a defensive match as anybody on that back line, with key interventions, physical play at the right times, snuffing out two attacks, playing out from the back with Barca quality and always making himself available for the return pass.

Yet, there are those who saw the same match that I watched and said “Dude isn’t good.”

I don’t begin to know how such things happen, even as I have seen them time and again. Henry wasn’t as bad as so many said he was. Neither were Txigrinski or Ibrahimovic. But once some cules decide they don’t like a player, that’s it. The player can stop attacks, contribute goals, and it won’t be good enough.

I have been a lifelong Chicago Bears fan. The Bears used to have a fullback, Matt Suhey, who I didn’t like. He would score a touchdown, and I would say “Anybody could have done that. He sucks.” But if he missed a block that let to a negative play, it was as if a plague had been unleashed upon the Earth and it justified every last bad thought that I had about him. Fact of the matter was that Suhey was an excellent blocking back for Walter Payton, a reliable third-down receiver and a Pro Bowl-quality player. Not to me, dammit. I will confess that it was silly. Very silly.

When Javier Mascherano came, he was a bad passer and card magnet, who was going to leave us a man down every time that we had the temerity to play with him on the pitch. Reality has proven to be something very different. But because he came from Liverpool and was a proven player, he got patience and the benefit of the doubt. Now he is an excellent center back, having adapted to what isn’t his natural or learned position.

Alex Song isn’t the player that anybody wanted, except for our coaching staff. “We need a real defender. That dude sucks. What the hell did we buy him for?” The cries for Javi Martinez, etc, etc, rose far and wide, amid mutterings about a crappy summer window. He took the pitch as a sub in the second leg of the SuperCopa, and owned. He would have provided the winning assist had Messi been able to finish a shot that he usually makes, and there wasn’t much that anyone had to say.

But with the error in the Spartak match, nothing good that came before mattered. Song sucks. And for me, such a worldview is wrong and unfair. People can think as they like, but if Puyol has the match that Song had today, the chatter would be about how awesome our Capita was.

I don’t know how it happens, even as I know that it happens, because I did it. But having watched the match today twice, and the Spartak match three times, Song isn’t anywhere near as bad as too many cules believe, not that this reality will stop them from believing that he is a disaster.

Tito Vilanova is an excellent coach

This will inspire a clamor of “Duh,” but recall the reaction when he was named. It was as though so many forgot that Vilanova was an essential part of the success that has graced this club since Pep Guardiola took over, and now that Guardiola left, the players would suddenly start to suck and the tactics and approaches that Vilanova had a part in shaping weren’t going to work any longer.

And yet, Vilanova’s club has shown amazing resilience in winning matches that should have been draws or losses, and doing so at times because the coach has made the exact right substitutions, or tactical alterations. Is the club playing as well this season? Nope. But recall that things weren’t all that hot last season, except in spurts. And this season, opponents have found new ways of attack that successfully neutralize tactics that have heretofore made us successful.

All of the long balls this season are no accident, as opponents know that even when our back line is whole, we don’t have pure defenders in there. If you can get directly at our back line, bypassing that pesky, ball-hawking midfield, you can do some damage. If you can get a defender one on one or in a pace situation, that’s even better. The Spartak attacker ran past Mascherano like he was in quicksand. The RM long balls in the SuperCopa were no accident. This season, we are being played more physically and much more in the air. Yet we are still winning matches, and Vilanova is a big part of that. Will that stop the “Oh, Lawd!” attendant to every different lineup that he offers? Nope. And that’s a pity, because even if he will never get it, he deserves the same support that Guardiola received. Here’s hoping that results will mean that Vilanova, too, will earn it.

Fabregas isn’t going to get a whole lot better

Cesc Fabregas’ last few matches have been, for the most part, very good. If a few shots go the right way, people are saying “He’s back!” rather than “Sigh, is he ever going to get good?” But in our system, we are pretty darned close to seeing a Fabregas that is as good as he’s going to get. He passes, helps in possession, defends, including tracking back that belies his sluggardly pace, and creates chaos on the offensive end by popping up in places where midfielders aren’t supposed to. Because in our system, that’s what he’s supposed to do.

At Arsenal, he ran the offense. He was The Man, making key passes, taking key shots. It was his team. And we kicked the crap out of Arsenal, let’s not forget. So even if we sign their best player (at that time), whatever did we expect? Xavi is our Fabregas. So is Iniesta, depending on which hat Fabregas would wear for Arsenal. Nor was he playing against packed midfields that were bound and determined to prevent tika-taka. He had space to be creative, and he used it to shine. It’s different in Barcelona, and Fabregas is adapting. But there is a standard, or more correctly a price tag-based standard being applied to him that, if it persists, he is never, ever going to meet.

It’s going to be a long season ….

Today, Granada came at us with a very intelligent match plan that almost worked. On defense, they didn’t bother with marking players, deciding instead that it’s easier to just put a leg or body in front of the ball. I can’t recall a match in which we have had more shots blocked at the defense, never mind a keeper having the match of his life. And long balls over the top are getting at our back line, directly. And people are going to piss and moan when we concede goals. But you know what? If we had a back line like Manchester City’s, big, strong traditional defenders who can deal with attacks, hoof the ball out and are physical, cules would piss and moan about THAT. Further, our play would suffer, because attackers defend and defenders attack. So Song is in the box, feeding Messi while Sanchez transforms into a right back and helps to break up an attack. We can’t have it both ways. Our best center back, Carles Puyol, is a converted forward. The ball skills and touch required to play in our back line means that ordinary defenders need not apply. This is a blessing much, much more than a curse. But at times this season, it will be a curse.

It isn’t 2009, and won’t be ever again

Guardiola’s first year featured an absurd team, the likes of which we will never, ever see again. Of the Top 10 attackers in the world, we had 3 of them: Eto’o, Henry and Messi. Any one of them could kill you and at times, they all did, with key goals, assists and passes that led to goals or assists. As our offense has evolved (in ways that I am not the biggest fan of, frankly), it has become more delicate, more capable of being derailed. In 2009, we could just bang a ball up the pitch to Eto’o who would take it, overpower somebody and bang a laser bean into the net. Or Iniesta would slide a ball up the pitch to a streaking Henry, who would outrun everybody and cut in toward goal. If you survived those two, there was Messi.

Those days are gone. Today, we have a highly pressurized Best Player Alive, an aging striker coming back from a broken leg, a Serie A bit of brilliance who is finding that he can’t play that same way with us, a player just finding his form but who will always have to rely on work rate rather than sheer excellence to make a difference, and a couple of recent Masia graduates. If Vilanova wins anything with this club, it will be a remarkable accomplishment, just as it was last season, when Guardiola came sooo close.

But it isn’t 2009 any longer. Cules need to stop applying that standard to subsequent clubs, and celebrate the hell out of what we have which, on its day, is still The Best Club in the World.

And yet, we’re perfect so far this season, 5-0-0

Our back line is a shambles, our attack is a mess, we’re too dependent upon one player and yet, we haven’t lost a match this season, losing the SuperCopa on the away goals rule. And even then, we weren’t beaten, we lost thanks to two defensive errors that were almost comical. Vilanova says that the team is still improving. Hell, it has to, right? It can’t keep pulling out victories from what in another time would be draws or defeats, right? That’s just absurd.

Which is pretty much what cules were saying about last season’s Liga winner, a team that didn’t play great all the time, but just kept on winning through key goals, well-timed substitutions and having the depth that meant play didn’t suffer to much when rotations had to occur.

Yes, we still have the Great Player problem that they don’t have. It’s easier to replace a Xabi Alonso than a Xavi, even as we acknowledge the quality of both players. They can pull Jughead for Ozil or Modric. If Iniesta comes off, nobody is as good. Without Ronaldo, a tag team of Benzema and Higuain ain’t too bad, right? If Messi is off for us, our only proven goal scorer in the kinds of situations necessary to create goals is a 30-year-old dude coming back from a broken leg.

All of which means that wins are going to be precious this season, not in their scarcity, but in the effort required to bring them off. They should be cherished and enjoyed, rather than expected. The scream that I uttered when Xavi scored that goal is still echoing in my TV room, because it was so glorious and no unexpected, like the legendary Iniestazo. It didn’t mean as much …. maybe. Because what it means right now is that this club has kept on winning, which is all that it has to do to pull off a remarkable accomplishment this season. So fasten those seat belts, folks. It’s going to be a hoot.


By Kxevin

In my fantasy life, I’m a Barca-crazed contributor over at Barcelona Football Blog. In my real life, I’m a full-time journalist at the Chicago Tribune, based in Chicago, Illinois.


  1. I hopelessly ..hope for a day with a Kxevin review without an anti-Messi paragraph.. doesn’t matter if there are 4 goals.. or 2 or none.. everybody else always .. always * million times..outshines Messi.. from my fav writer to my not so fav..

  2. I really liked it actually. Agreed with almost everything. A lot of these things needed to be said.

    Completely off topic, but Barca B played today, and Luis Alberto was very good. Again. I don’t know how it will all go down in the summer. Sergi Roberto will surely be asking for promotion, but is there a spot available? In a year’s time, I would let Rafinha take Cesc’s spot in the squad, but that won’t happen. Luis Alberto seems like a great player. If he can improve his shooting (it was pretty bad today) he can be challenging for a first team spot. Not to mention Araujo, Deulofeu, and Joan Angel Roman. These guys are likely to be ready for promotion next summer. How will it go down? Especially since all Tito wants is a new CB, and maybe a CF if some rumours are true.

    1. In a year’s time, I would let Rafinha take Cesc’s spot in the squad, but that won’t happen.

      Yeah, I don’t think that would happen. Does Rafinha play in the same position as Cesc? I heard they won, and Espinosa played about 20 mins and scored a goal. I’m boycotting the b-team in protest of not playing Espinosa; don’t want to see Eusebio’s face.

  3. Good stuff, Kxevin. Not much to add, really.

    Already aired my thoughts on the Villa-Messi thingy on Twitter. (For those not on Twitter, it just reminds me of the kinds of arguments I get into with my sister, especially when she takes my stuff. Not a big deal). I didn’t watch the whole match, but the situation looked like a normal thing that happens on the pitch. Like other have said, sometimes the cameras catch those discussions, sometimes they don’t. Pique and Alves had a moment caught as well.

    Not nice, but they happen. I dislike that, but I dislike people making mountains out of molehills a bit more. Marca, smh. So predictable…

    re 2009: When referencing that year, I think we should remember teams weren’t playing to defend us like they are now. Games were more open, and teams weren’t as disciplined. After those two meh years under Rijkaard, I don’t think many teams expected us to kick so much ass so quickly. We sorta, well, came out of the blue. (Doubtful a historically successful, multi-mullion dollar giant can do that, but humor me.)

    As the years went by, team steadily began to crawl back into their shells, thinking, “Well damn, screw trying to play this team. Let’s try not go get our butts kicked too badly.” And so we were forced change things offensively because people went about playing us differently defensively. I’m sure everyone would have loved to keep everything the same way – but it just wasn’t feasible. That’s probably why team cycles don’t last very long – they stubbornly stick to what works and end up being usurped because of it.

    I agree things have gotten very intricate and it would be nice if they didn’t feel the need to shave off a couple of years off cule lives, but hey – love ’em anyway. I would rather a team suffer awkward growing pains than root themselves to the spot.

    2008/2009 was a magical season – I kinda miss the thrill of ending games at halftime, smacking them 4-5-6-nil at times. But that’s what makes it so magical. *sigh*

    1. Ironically, last season we actually got more points and scored more goals than in 2008/2009.

      But a lot of those goals came in the second halves of games that we actually had very hard time breaking defenses and only after the other team got too exhausted trying to hold on to the draw. And we were getting exhausted too, which was not the case when it was 4-0 at the half four years ago, and in the end that did us.

      To me, it seems quite a settled case that we need to spend some money on a serious reinforcement for the attack. We desperately need another player that can create his own chances in addition to Messi, and it looks like Alexis is not going to be that player while Villa was never bought for the long term to begin with. That subject opens a big can of worms, though.

  4. Lots of very good points, just one minor quibble:

    Alves dropped a pass at Messi’s feet that should have been a goal. Blocked by the defense because of one touch too many. Alves didn’t scream at Messi. Villa made an exquisite run, Messi’s pass was too hard, and bent too much. Villa didn’t yell at Messi. Didn’t do anything except run back and reset the offense. It happens. Nobody’s perfect. So no yelling. Period.

    When execution fails, nobody has the right to scream at the other player. Execution fails for all sort of reasons, how exactly you kick the ball and where it goes is an inherently stochastic process that while largely in your control is not entirely in your control.

    But decision making is a whole different case – if someone made the wrong decision and ruined the play as a result, that’s a perfectly valid target for criticism.

    All of the examples you give were execution mistakes, while both situations in which Messi yelled at Thiago and Villa were decision making errors.

    1. Well, the last play of the game was a good opportunity for a counter-attack, Messi had the ball running with it, and what did he do? Instead of passing on his left where he had 2-3 open players, he decided that he should dribble on his own through the middle.
      That’s also decision making, and nobody shouted at him for that stupid play. Even though it wasn’t of a final score importance.

    2. I think that there are two major things in there.

      1) It wasn’t of final score importance. That makes the situation completely different all on its own.

      2) The way everyone has been relying on Messi to pick up the slack lately may lead to him feeling like he can’t count on them. Given recent history, if that is the case it’s something I can understand.

      Look at the second leg of the Super Cup. Valdes was clearing a lot more than he usually does, and while he got some criticism for it, the way it came across to me was that he didn’t really trust the defense to play it out. Given the defense that match, that’s perfectly valid, IMO, and I see some of Messi’s recent behavior as resulting from the same thing, except that it’s a pattern that extends beyond just one match.

    3. Regardless, he has no right to yell at them, especially not at Villa, who, for ONCE didn’t pass the ball right away to Messi. He’s older than him, played much more than him, was a star when Messi didn’t knew what football is, more experienced etc.
      A match is a public event, the cameras catch every single move that players make, so they better behave, especially in a club like ours.

    4. Oh, please. Villa was not a star when Messi didn’t know what football was. He’s five years older than Messi, not fifteen.

      Should Messi have yelled like that? Probably not. I think he did overreact. However, way too much is being made out of this. Villa’s a big boy. I’m sure he didn’t go home and cry because Messi snapped at him. I also want to point out that if it was anyone else yelling, nobody would have noticed – Puyol yells at the rest of them *all the time* when they’re not playing well, and Xavi and Valdes aren’t always the epitome of patience, either. That’s okay. These are professional athletes, not five-year olds.

      If you’re looking for perfection, especially in the public sphere, you’re going to be disappointed. Nobody’s perfect. Everybody lets their emotions get away from them occasionally. Speaking of Villa, how many reds has he gotten for smacking another player during the game, again?

      I love Villa. I do. But it’s not like Messi’s the only one on Barcelona who’s ever been anything but sweet and pleasant on the pitch.

    5. I think Valdes was clearing more also because he didn’t trust himself. Remember the first-leg (and the last visit to the Bernebau)???

    6. I don’t think the last visit had anything to do with it. Yes, he had that mistake early on, but he didn’t start clearing it for the rest of the game. He continued to play it out of the back, which will occasionally result in that sort of goal. It’s just how it goes. Keeping possession means that you give away fewer goals overall. That’s why Puyol and Alves immediately went over to encourage him.

      Similarly, I doubt what happened in the first leg changed anything. He didn’t seem to me to be clearing it early on in the second leg, and more importantly, he’s an elite athlete. We typically don’t see Messi’s play style change dramatically just because he missed a penalty the week before.

      Just my take.

    7. No, they were decision-making errors as much as execution errors. If Messi one-times the Alves pass instead of controlling and dribbling, it’s a goal. That was a decision. The weight of a pass and how said pass comes off isn’t just execution. A player has to decide any number of things when he strikes a ball. It’s why Xavi is so remarkable.

  5. I can count atleast 3 times where I’ve seen other players on the team have a go at another, that the camera has caught!

    Messi is human. So when he shows a normal moment of frustration, I dont understand why he’s being called petulant and a spoiled superstar..??

    Xavi himself has said he has done the same thing. Its really no big deal..

    Whatever though, people are gonna drag this non issue out for the remainder of the week till the Seville game it seems.

    The verdict is still out on Song at CB. Granada barely had any meaningful attacks on our goal and stats are decieving (youve said so yourself). Yes, in today’s game he did well but that doesnt mean I’m suddenly comfortable with him at CB against a better attacking side like RM. He still has DM tendencies. Goes towards the ball, rather than keeping disciplined at the back and he’s slow to get back. I’m not jumping for joy yet. Cules are fickle. Today, a player is the best signing ever, then the next game, “BENCH HIM!” and “why’d we buy him?!”

    Crazy match. After the first half, I was thinking bad but will improve in second. The second half came and we still looked sucky for the most part till Xavi came in.

    What more is there to say about the imperial Xavi? He is just magnificent though. Excellent goal to compliment the 20 mins of magic he displayed as soon as he came on. As soon as he came on our attack had purpose, looked more dangrous and we actually really began to work the goalie.

    Not to be outdone, VV reminded me and a couple other doubting cules why he’s the best GK for us with a game changing stop, imo. Had barely anything to do for the entire match then came up big when needed.

    Busi was EVERYWHERE in this match. CM, DM, makeshift CB, even attacking mid when necessary (see backheel to Messi). He was my MOTM…with Xavi coming a close second.

    Cesc wasnt bad today, but I could beat him to a pulp for some of the missed opportunities (the open goal miss and dive for a PEN when he could have shot).

    Messi and Thiago were below par today. Alexis had a poor first half but improved in the second. Villa had a decent half imo. I wont judge him hard considering this was his first start in a year.

    And Dani had a great game except for that one time he was MIA at RB for a potential Granada counter and Alexis was there to mop up.

    Adriano is frustrating for me to watch at times. He’s so inconsistent he gives me whiplash. One minute he’s excellent in attack, the next he’s missing in defense/attack and youre asking where the heck is Adriano? And now he’s injured…

    Anyways, happy for the 3 points. Tito has said, and he repeats, the team will improve as the season goes on.

  6. Wonderful review Kxevin.Couple of thoughts…

    1. We can not be great, yet have great players
    Again raises the oft-raised question who shall replace Xavi..well right now none..but we can always hope one of Inesta, Fabergas, Thiago, Busquets (or someone from the B team) will turn out like him. Xavi was not as influential when he was young. He got better and better with experience. So too can the rest. And they have seen him play, and they will learn from him(they BETTER learn from him). Else we shall have a system where we have to come up with two players sharing the burden.

    2. Messi is human
    Do I think his reaction was right? no..But how do I look at it? well, we have to remember he is firstly young(25?), and players at that age are not Zen monks who can control their emotions. When you are the best player in the world, you think one step ahead of everyone else, and you EXPECT everyone else to be on the same high level. And when that doesn’t happen, you will get frustrated. Imagine sitting in a class, where you already know the solution to the problem or what needs to be done to get the solution, but everyone else in the class is still thinking about it. That probably happens to Messi as well. But he will learn with age. We don’t have the enormous pressure of being the best player in the world. How would we react if we were in his situation? hmmm…

    3. We should be striving for Mascherano II, not Txigrinski II
    You are spot on for Song. But one more thing, when Mascherano was bought, we had a whole set of back up defenders for Puyol and Pique. Also Puyol was fit at that time. So it was not like if anyone of them was injured, Mascherano was the only option. Also he was not bought as a back up for the defenders (probably Pep thought that way, but we, Cules didn’t) . So when Pep converted Masherano into a defender, ppl didn’t have ANY expectations. So when he performed well, he was praised. But for Song it is a different scenario altogether. Puyol is aging and we cannot rely on him as much. Abidal is recovering. So when we bought him, it was EXPLICITLY stated that he was bought as a defensive cover as well. So when THAT happens, Cules start expecting. And we have high expectations for a defender. Is it unfair for Song? yes. Are we wrong to have such high expectations? dunnno. The fault, if any lies with the coaching staff, they know what we expect and thought Song will fulfill our expectations. Hope that turns out to be true…

    4. Tito Vilanova is an excellent coach
    Agree. The world is swayed by flamboyant people. Pep had that flair. That charisma. That zing that people love. Tito doesn’t have that. He is one of the quiet types. One whom we rarely see, one whom ppl easily forget. Even his stoic disinterested look most of the time, is in complete contrast to the entertainers, like Pep (and even Mou). But does he do his job well? You are damn right he does, and does it well. Also he is more pragmatic. Not emotionally attached as Pep. and THAT is extremely important to make tough decisions.

    5. Fabregas isn’t going to get a whole lot better
    I disagree. He may or may not. Did you think when Xavi was 24, that he would be so influential as he is now? how can you judge how he will turn out to be 3-4 years from now. when Deco ran the midfield for us, Xavi was in the same situation as Fabergas was. I have hope that he will learn and he will become better. Hope is a good thing. 🙂

    6. It isn’t 2009, and won’t be ever again
    I agree it was a magical year, the standard was extremely high. But never will it be repeated? That’s what they said when the Dream team ended. And with regards to comparing, Cules will compare because that is a bench mark, like how the dream team was. Is it wrong ? No. But should we feel sad/ unhappy that we are not playing so well, instead of cherishing the current team? Yes.

    Enough of rambling…Must be the high I got from Xavi’s goal. My neighbors complained they would call LAPD if I ever shout so much again..ah well…

  7. I actually thought we were best in 2010/11. 2008/09 we were consistently overpowering and fresh and rather deep, in 2010/11 we had times where we struggled but the peaks we hit in terms of play in 10/11 were higher peaks of sheer perfection than in 08/09 for me.
    I thought in 08/09 we were a monster of a side that just overpowered teams, but we reached pinnacles of sheer perfection in the most purist sense at our best times in 10/11. As in, our highest highs were highest with the 10/11 side (the 5-0 Madrid, the spate of Manitas in mid-season, the Arsenal game, the CL final).

    And we were facing constant injuries and sheer exhaustion after two and a half years of almost every possible club and country game and the stress of Clasicos and of Abidal’s cancer, and playing against much a much tougher rival in Mourinho’s 10/11 Madrid as opposed to the 08/09 Madrid in the league (as well as imo a rather stronger lineup of La Liga sides including a much better Valencia, Espanyol, Atletico, Osasuna, Levante, Malaga etc but the argument stands equal even without that mention), AND were going into games as champions against teams that hunkered down and battered the hatches. But we still got considerably more points in La Liga, a higher goal difference, a much lower rate of goals conceded, won three more games, lost three less, dominated the CL, only missed out on the Copa.

    2008/09 was still an amazing side and the two are very close but in terms of sheer exhibitions of footballing perfection I think 10/11 is better. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that kind of sheer perfection on show by any side ever. (And in terms of sentiment considering what our opposition was and what we had to fight against to achieve what we did at the end, with La Liga in the bag and Abidal lifting the CL trophy.)

    I think we do have a better side player for player than Madrid does. I’d definitely put Alves over Arbeloa, Pique/Puyol over Pepe, Ramos has admittedly been excellent as a CB but at best equal not better than ours, Alba over Marcelo, Busi over Khedira, Xavi over Xabi, Iniesta over Oezil, Messi over Benzema. That’s the definite easy picks. And I don’t think Varane to Mascherano, Fabregas to Modric, Sanchez to Di Maria, Villa to Higuain, Song to Essien along with the likes of Thiago and Adriano leave us that outmatched in the bench either. I do agree with the us having more ‘great’ players than Madrid, though- Messi is an all-time great, while Xavi and Iniesta are among the all-time best midfielders and the two of them as well as Puyol and Villa are definitely among Spain’s all-time greatest ever players. I’d only peg Ronaldo and Casillas as real greats in the current Madrid line-up as things stand.

    On Tito, I think that he’s an excellent coach. But I’d remember that even if Tito follows through with trophies, the Pep team was so brilliant not only because they reached levels of success we couldn’t have imagined but because they reached levels of pure perfection we had never seen. Of course they could reach that kind of perfection, we have the team for it. But I’m just keeping in mind that say just powering your way to it or being super direct or whatever can win trophies and has won other teams trophies. Again, not saying Tito will do that, but just remembering that the reason this team was so great wasn’t just the wins but the wows. We shouldn’t forget that too quickly.

    Also I don’t think that we should think of ourselves as necessarily being around the tail end of our ‘cycle’, as many of us seem to be thinking of this team in the comments. This is still a great side with tons of absolutely brilliant players many of whom are still pretty young, and we’ve made a strong start to the season. All teams are occasionally inconsistent and occasionally win unconvincingly. I think we’re still very much in the cycle.

  8. Largely agree with what you’ve said. I just have a few things I want to add.

    1) Toño did not have the game of his life yesterday. He had a better game than he did against Madrid, but he did not have the game of his life last night. Toño is one of those La Liga keepers that just emphasizes how many truly amazing keepers play in the Spanish League. There are some keepers that *do* have extraordinary games against Barcelona – Javi Varas last year was a good example of that.

    However, I think it’s important to be aware enough of other teams to know when a keeper is having the game of their life and when they’re just showing their quality. Toño is just like this. He was at Racing Santander until they got relegated. He’s not this incredible every single game, but he does have these sorts of games a lot.

    Sorry – the characterization of any player as having an atypically good performance against Barcelona often irritates me a little, because I think that many Barca fans just don’t follow the rest of the league as closely as they should. That really bothered me in the spring when Valencia went to Madrid – I saw a lot of Barca fans saying, “Oh, they’re playing that other keeper that’s not Diego Alves, they’re not even trying against Madrid.”

    Now, anybody paying attention would have known that Valencia don’t really have a first/second choice keeper – they have two keepers they rotate a lot and sent their third option to Getafe last season, and all three have been successful at being huge thorns in both Barcelona and Madrid’s sides – and that Guaita was the best keeper in the league last year. That’s not my opinion, that’s the stat. He didn’t win the Zamora because he didn’t have enough starts – I think he was two games short or something. Guaita in no way had the game of his life against Madrid in the spring – he had a good game that was not atypical for him.

    So… yeah. I dunno. I know the comment about players changing their expectations was just a passing one, but it just reminded me of a sort of ignorance that’s pretty widespread among Barca fans that I just don’t love. (This may be in part because Valencia are my second team, so I occasionally become an annoyed Valencia fan when dealing with Barca fans.)


    2) Regarding Messi’s freakout… so much more is being made of it than needs to be.

    I think I said this in the other thread, but while yes, Vilanova does need to have a talk with Messi because that sort of thing isn’t necessarily conducive to helping the players do their best, everyone else just needs to stop talking about it. Messi is coming off of a season where he was our golden boy and saved the day so many times. He is still doing that. Part of the reason that’s falling to him is because the rest of our offense frankly just don’t always do their jobs, and certainly didn’t last year.

    I think that on some level, he doesn’t trust his teammates when Barca are in dire circumstances, because they’ve given him reason not to trust them. It’s not like, “Oh, Messi saved the day today, but Villa did it last week.” How many players who aren’t Messi have saved the day recently?

    A few. But not many. It mostly falls to him.

    So who’s surprised when he gets a little more selfish or a little more annoyed? We shouldn’t be.

    But moreover… if it had been Puyol, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. Why? Because Puyol yells at everyone. He’s not mean, and he can certainly improve player morale (see: Valdes mistake in December clasico), but if he thinks that players aren’t paying attention, he yells. For that matter, I’ve seen both Xavi and Valdes do it, too. I love Messi, but he’s not a little kid anymore, and responsibility is starting to fall on his shoulders, especially when there’s no Xavi on the field.

    I don’t think he’s becoming a diva. I think he’s just figuring out what exactly his role in the squad is and dealing with the changing dynamics in it as he becomes one of the most senior players on the pitch. Vilanova will talk to him and tell him that that wasn’t quite the right way to do it, and to deal with his frustration better. He will. The end.

    Other than that, though, I pretty much agree. Love VIlanova as a coach so far – great substitutions, and I think he’s pushing the team to be a little more aggressive than they have been. Very optimistic so far.

    1. I watch as much Liga as anyone, and in all the hours of matches I have seen, Tono was spectacular. It isn’t selling anyone short by saying that, him or the Liga. The only better keeper performance I have seen against us was Varas, last year.

      I think that just as people accuse Barca fans of only watching Barca and being arrogant as a consequence, it’s as important to note the arrogance that comes from the presumption that Barca fans ONLY watch Barca. This is, in my case, simply not true.

    2. I wasn’t trying to single you out – sorry if I didn’t make that clear. I know nothing about you, and would not presume to judge what your habits are and how much football you watch. The passing comment just brought that peeve to mind.

      I do want to point out, however, that I did use the terms “many Barca fans,” “a lot of Barca fans,” and “pretty widespread.” At no point did I say that it was true of all Barca fans, or even most of them, so I’m not sure why you seem to be accusing me of being arrogant for something I didn’t say at any point in my post.

      For the record, I also don’t see Barcelona fans as being alone in any of that. It just tends to annoy me more because I don’t spend much time talking to Liverpool (for example) fans.

  9. Report from the Camp Nou! (Well, not at the Camp Nou now. Right now am having sleepy Sunday morning at friend’s flat.)

    So. The match: Vale, vale, va. Va, va, bien Thiago, bien, va va va. Va Thiago, va Cesc, venga, venga va. Va, va Leo. Bien Song. Eh, por que Thiago? Va! Va, vavavava VA. Venga, va, va! (to our team, sleep-walking.) Oi, venga VA! (to Granada, wasting time from minute 10.) Va va va vavavavava Uuuuuyyyyyyy, VENGA. Ah, Xavi bien, va Xavi. Venga venga venga va va va va VA VA VA. AHHHHHHH, venga, por que no vas? Oh no no no nononono ah bien Valdés! Vavavav– XAVI!!!!! (Wordless roaring.) XAAAAAVVVIIII, XAAAAAVVVIII, XAAAAAVVVIIII!!!!! Vale, vale, no encajar por favor… Tot el camp, es un clam, Som la gent blaugrana!

    My friends and I agreed that we still haven’t quite figured out what to do without Xavi. We were saying that before he was subbed on. And then all the molecules snapped into place when he stepped on the pitch.

    Re: Song. Lots of approval in the stands for Song, applause for his play, cries of “Bien Song, bien.”

    So, could everyone hear the Independencia chants on the broadcasts? Every five minutes or so. They were very strong in my section. Also, at halftime, they had a group come on to dance a sardana. Around la Senyera laid out across the center circle, to an instrumental version of the Barça Himno. I’d never seen a halftime “act” in my previous matches — admittedly a very small sample — maybe nzm can tell us if they are not uncommon? At any rate, that sardana/Senyera/Himno was a statement, no doubt, and even my Catalan friends didn’t know quite what to make of the very overt nature of it. But it is in the air, here. It may be just my own perception, but it seems like there is a lot more Estelada being shown around the city, hanging out of windows and on railings. I mean, there were always Estelada, but now the Estelada-to-Senyera percentage seems higher.

    Next week: Sevilla!

    1. Oh dear. Sevilla. Am I the only one who’s a little worried about Jesus Navas ripping our rather sketchy defense to shreds?

    2. Good call on the number of Esteladas that you can see – there are definitely more around the city than ever before, and in neighbourhoods where it never mattered before.

      Half-time entertainment? Unheard of! I’ve never seen half-time entertainment at Camp Nou! So much for Rosell’s comments the other day, stating that the club should remain neutral! It could be that the entertainment was because the General Assembly was being held yesterday, but I don’t know for sure!

  10. Messi on his row with Villa: “This happens in training, but there’s no cameras. I have no problems with David.”

    You damn right there are no cameras in training lil boy. Now it is in a match, you don’t do it in public. Not only to Villa but to Thiago and Alexis before that.

    It just brings unnecessary media attention that will disrupt the preparations for future matches.

    First of all, there is absolutely no need to yell.

    Secondly, don’t expect other players to always pass to you. This will kill their creativity. Look what happened to Alexis. Same thing will happen to Neymar if he ends up at Barca. They will all be too scared to do something creative.

    Yes he is human but there are many other human beings who go around yelling around to team mates for making a wrong decision, a decision that could’ve resulted in a goal.

    The poor decisions by Tello, Villa, etc are not that bad imo. It’s not like they were trying to dribble through the whole defense or taking shots from half way line. They were legit chances. Why on earth can’t they take those chances? If they don’t try to take the chances, when will they learn?

    Not everyone is like you Messi. Nobody is. So don’t expect everyone to be on the same wavelength as you.

    I don’t like all this talk about contract renewal as well for the past few weeks. It’s only going to end in 2016 for goodness sake. And if that wasn’t bad enough, Rosell wants to give him a life time membership or something.

    This will just get to his head even more. As of now he already feels that he is above his team mates, what with this new lifetime contract. He will feel untouchable.

    Noone should feel untouchable. Noone is bigger than the club!! Not even Messi.

    It has gotten to the point where I can picture him moving when we go on another 2 trophyless season. Or he is pushed out the door by the manager and fans who will turn on him (like me).

    1. Wow. Holy overreaction, Batman!

      Messi is not perfect, and he did overreact a bit, but you’re ignoring two vital pieces of the puzzle:

      1) No, not everyone is Messi, but that doesn’t mean that he can’t have expectations of other players. This is a competitive football team, not a support group. It’s not always going to be pretty, and everyone is not always going to be 100% calm, especially in a high-pressure situation. That’s part of the game, you deal and move on.

      Did he overreact? Yes. Has a disproportionate amount of pressure been put on him lately, which may help explain some of his frustration? Also yes. If he didn’t feel like he had to make up for everyone else’s poor choices and execution, maybe he’d be a little less annoyed.

      2) Yelling happens. I mean, hell, how often have we seen Puyol chewing someone out for not paying attention? Xavi certainly gets on players up front for the same reason, and I’ve seen Valdes do it in the back. That’s what captains are supposed to do.

      For awhile, Messi was the most senior player on that part of the pitch. He needs to learn how to express himself better and something was clearly bothering him, but honestly, I have no problem with him giving everyone a little kick in the ass when they’re performing poorly and there’s no one else up front to get them in line.

      Puyol and Xavi are getting close to retiring. I’m glad to see Messi taking on some of that responsibility. It’s clearly still a work in progress, but hey, Rome wasn’t built in a day. I’d be just as happy to see Messi become a leader rather than stay a sweet little kid.

  11. -I like Tito so for having the cojones to rest key players.

    -Not liking the lack of pressuring from the players.

    -Not liking the hesistancy to use Bartra. If not against Granada, I don’t think we will ever see Bartra being a Barca player for too long. What will he think? He is a natural CB, the best young CB we have but instead of grooming him, our manager’s (Pep & Tito) decline to groom them.

    We already have a problem of finding a suitable CB capable of playing in our system so what better way to find a good CB if not from the youth teams. Now we have at least 1 who is capable of being a 1st team player, so why not groom him?

    1. Euler said on Twitter that Tito played Song to give him minutes to be prepared for Sevilla then for EE . may be he is afraid of burning Bartra in such diffcult encounters , and I think this sounds logical.

      Tito emphasized on this vision in his press conference.

  12. -And I don’t think that the GK had a great match. Most of the shots were directed to the middle of the goal, not to the corners.

  13. *In 2009, we could just bang a ball up the pitch to Eto’o who would take it, overpower somebody and bang a laser bean into the net. Or Iniesta would slide a ball up the pitch to a streaking Henry, who would outrun everybody and cut in toward goal. If you survived those two, there was Messi.*

    I have goosebumps just recalling that year.

    1. Dito, Kxevin’s writing made me smile. “. . and bang a laser bean into the net.” Eto’o can strike the ball harder than any other striker I’ve seen. I mean he has a cannon of a right foot. He also kept a lot of those balls on the ground, which ain’t easy to do when your hitting them that hard! Iniesta and Henry did have a great understanding. Henry would roam wide and just wait for that through ball by Ghostface. I loved that team. I have to agree with comment above though. In terms of sheer perfection 10/11 team gets the nod for me. There were some games where I had my mouth open and eyes wide the entire match. I used to laugh to myself how ridiculous the standard of play was. I hope we find that directness from 08/09 though. I think Tello has a bit of Henry in him as far as getting past players. He lacks the strength right now, but that will come.

  14. -What an amazing work by Pedro to track the defender all the way back and steal the ball.

    -sMasch was caught out once that could’ve proved decisive. He makes positioning errors far too often to my liking.

    -So disappointed with the lack of support from Camp Nou. Are Catalan people in general introverted people NZM?

    1. Yeah – they tend to watch games with a quiet reverence. They are actually great analysers of the match – there are a lot of tactical comments amongst themselves, and usually polite applause and little murmurs of approval when someone does something right.

      A lot of the issue, I feel, is the huge openness of the stadium – it doesn’t hold an atmosphere. Chants started down one end are often over before the crowd at the other end of the stadium even hear them and pick them up. It needs a half roof. Also, some stadiums now have sound systems which amplify the noise that the fans are making. In some stadiums, they play the home team’s chants through speakers aimed directly at the opposition’s fans in an effort to drown out the visiting supporters!

      There used to be a whole lot of supporters at every match who used to sit behind the South Goal and bang drums and get the chants going. I notice that they’re not there for every match now. Not sure what’s changed that they aren’t there every time. Maybe they can’t afford to go to every match nowadays.

  15. Had to take my good lady out for a meal last night so just watched the recording on my own late at night. It wasn’t our best performance but given the difficult CL match, the injuries and the team we were able to put out I would have bitten your hand off for a 1-0 win before kick off last night.

    And there were pluses. Villa got more playing time as did Thiago and Pedro confirmed that he is back to (or close to) his best. The team also got a bit more practice playing without Xavi, who got a bit more rest, and what we all knew about his amazing match controlling powers was confirmed when he arrived.

    The worries? For me Messi’s spat with Villa isn’t important in itself. We need to guard against believing our own publicity about us not only being the best team in the world but also the nicest. What happened wouldn’t have raised an eyebrow in any other side. Maybe there is more of an issue with messi starting to feel the pressure. I’ve talked before on this blog of watching Dalglish gradually becoming disenchanted with his situation at Celtic as players started abdicating responsibility and looking only to give him the ball. That led to him inevitably over time thinking the team around him wasn’t good enough and looking for one that was.

    What is more worrying is that the team we started with never looked like being up to the job. We were fortunate that the opposition were so poor and had such little attacking intent. In defence, I think Alba will hold down the LB position – the flu is just one of those things and. I don’t think he’ll be an injury magnet. He’s also a full upgrade on Adriano in the position. My thoughts on Masch as a CB are well known here so I won’t go there again, other than to say he could well have cost us the game yet again with his poor positioning on their best chance at goal. I do however think that he would make a good DM again now that he knows our system for all but the RM and late stage CL games where Busi’s quick feet are decisive. I’d be reluctant to pass judgement on Song in any shape or form for his play so far although I was never impressed by him in that position at Arsenal. CB is one of the most specialised positions in our team and isn’t a place for players who have different instincts. I know nothing about Bartra really so have no opinion other than to say he won’t be playing the Clasico now and that’s probably good for his development.

    Midfield is all about keeping the twins playing in the vital games. Agree with Kxevin that the Fabregas of Arsenal won’t survive in our system. We need to give him time to find a new place with his skills. In our team. Thiago still worries me. I’m not seeing what most of you see in him but he undoubtedly has great ball skills and may learn but we’ll need to see improvement in ball retention soon.

    Up front, I agree that the thers need to pull their weight. Alex’s for me is not the player I watched on YouTube. Trying to remember if I’ve ever seen him beat a man and go on to do something. Last night even his pace seemed to have gone. For me his position is the most vulnerable of the forwards.

    Can’t really argue with Tito’s teams or his subs so far. He’s doing a very good job in a very difficult job. Bit early to be giving him huge plaudits though. The tough times will come and then we’ll see. For now, we’re finding a way to win games and the longer we can keep this going the more chance there will be of an implosion across the way 🙂

    1. Well said, Jim! I agree with everything.

      Especially this part: What is more worrying is that the team we started with never looked like being up to the job.

      In the 8 games we have, only the first game against La Real gave me some confidence. The other seven games were too chaotic and almost seemed like we were just grinding out results. Too many air balls and not a lot of tiki-taka for some reasons. Like Outerspacedout wrote above, Pep’s team focused on winning and wowing, which elevated his team’s status. Right now, we’re focusing on winning, but not wowing much. Hopefully, team will find its rhythm soon.

      I’m with you regarding Mascherano and converting DMs to defenders in general. There’s a reason Song and Masch are called Defensive Midfielders because that is their natural position, something they are better at. I just want a friggin defender.

    2. I think that part of the issue with playing tiki-taka all the time is that it becomes predictable. Many of us called for some variation last year, and we are beginning to see it: more shots from outside the box, long corners, long balls.
      We need to mix it up. Just like in basketball, if a player only drives to the basket, the defender knows to wait there, but if a player can shoot from distance and drive to the basket, then it is much more difficult to defend.

  16. Serves me right for going on too long while typing on an IPad ! Sorry about the typos but you get the gist.

  17. Messi’s moment was something more than petulance. He played the entire match with a bigger scowl than the one Clint Dempsey wears when he plays for the USMNT. I have followed Leo since 16 and he has always struck me as someone that excels because he seems to genuinely enjoy what he is doing. He seemed happy to play. Yesterday came across as someone burdened to play. Guardiola needed to get him under control and now Tito needs to do the same. He is consistently given he ball up at inopportune times at inopportune positions through sheer stubborness to attempt to dribble through entire defenses.
    Fabregas is not going to get any better because his better days are behind him. Thiago will continue to improve with more playing time. Fabregas was quicker and more confident as a teenager in London. He is a solid player but I do not think he offers anything that someone like Sergio Roberto would give if he was given as many chances and minutes.
    Which then brings us to our lack of center backs. Song is too slow and will easily be exploited. What if the two Arsenal purchases had instead been Thiago Silva? What was the reason to not buy a center back? Fontas and Bartra? Then play them so we can find out if they can play. I would rather play Bartra, who has been trained to play cb, who has been trained at La Masia, and who plays for the national team than another stopgap. But at least stop gaps provide excuses.

    1. How about we assume that Messi not being overjoyed to play every single game is not an impending catastrophe?

      I just don’t get the attacks on Messi. The guy saves the day all the time. What do you expect? For him to do it with a smile on his face every single time? I don’t even think it’s fair to put all the blame on this shoulders – the Messi dependence is a bad situation that affects him, too.

      Personally, I suspect that Messi’s “attitude” would pretty much evaporate if the rest of the offense actually started coming through and scoring when it really mattered, so it wasn’t all up to him. I don’t see him yelling at Busquets or Xavi, and there’s a reason for it that extends beyond “Xavi is a legend” and “Busquets is a little further back.”

    2. It’s a bit harsh to say Cesc’s best days are behind him already. He’s still relatively young !
      He may also have a part to play as the season goes on in moving the ball forward more quickly than Xavi does. We still need to work on the speed of our counter for teams who may actually commit the occasional player forward. I’m backing him for the long run.

      Fwiw, I thought Messi was wrong on the Villa incident in pure football terms. The pass was never really on and Villa knew it. However, the criticism is a bit much for me unless you were sitting there thinking anybody else other than Messi was likely to save our bacon. it is a fact that we rely on him far too much so dont blame him until we can lessen the dependance. he doesnt stop Alexis taking on his man, not if he doesnt stop Tello. he was right to tell Alexis to lift his head and have a look if he has time.

      Villa also has a huge part to play if we try to move the ball more quickly. There is nobody better at sitting on the shoulder and knowing when to go. I’ve a feeling he and Cesc could have a decent understanding.

    3. Spot on, Jim. I didn’t mind his chatter at Sanchez at all. He was absolutely right. It’s also important to note that, as you say, I don’t think that Messi says “Give the ball to me all the time,” and stifles other players. I think that people tend to want to defer to the better person, whatever the field. If someone can edit a story better/faster than I can, I will want that person to have a look at a crucial story on deadline. It’s just human nature.

      That, for me, is what Vilanova is going to have to make part of his bag of tricks. There is no reason for Sanchez not to play the way that he played at Udinese. Maybe he just thinks that he can’t. Your Dalglish analogy above is excellent. A truly great player doesn’t want to be deferred to, but he does want others to strive to reach his level.

      Michael Jordan broke hearts and minds in Chicago Bulls practices. But those who survived him, became astounding. Brutal.

    4. Agree Kxevin, loved the Dalglish analogy. I honestly don’t see anything wrong with Messi having a go at Villa either. World class athletes are sooo competitive. They WANT to win more than anything. Messi could care less about the goals if Barca won every game. His outburst was more of frustration than anger at any one individual. Villa was just the straw that broke the camel’s back.

  18. What kind of folks do we have in here.. A striker is allowed to lose balls.. Pedro.. Sanchez do it all the time.. Villa is offside more than needed.. Stop blaming the players.. Messi Villa was more cause Barca had to win… Not cause of some selfish reason…
    Everybody on the pitch yesterday were playing their hearts out…

    I really do not understand all the negativity in here.. This is sad…

    1. I’m not seeing that much negativity here. If anything, I see matured discussion or debate on this or that. If you have something to disagree, join the discussion 😀

  19. I’d like to see the front line interchange positions more often. I don’t like the idea of Messi being in the centre all the time. Wherever Messi goes, 3 or 4 defenders follow, so with him always in the middle, coupled with our tendency to play a lot through the middle, its hard to find space.

    Let Villa and Sanchez play in the middle more often. They’d certainly score more often and take some of the pressure off Messi to score.

    I’ve noticed that Messi is losing the ball a lot more often nowadays. In 2008/09 he hardly used to lose the ball. And if anything he used to dribble the ball MORE often than he does now. Despite what people say about him being selfish, he passes the ball a LOT. I don’t think he suddenly forgot to dribble, it’s just that defenders know what he’s going to do as soon as he gets the ball.

    I think he should play on the left more often. In the centre and on the right, his left footedness leads to him dribbling towards the left or passing to the left, so defenders play for that. On the left they won’t know what he’s going to try to do.

    Sanchez needs to shoot more.

    Right now Pedro is our best attacker. When he comes on its like a shot of NOS gets injected into the attacking machine.

  20. A few things on this lovely, but chilly Chicago Sunday morn:

    @Manish: If all you got out of my Messi section was “another negative Messi paragraph,” give it another read, please. Now I am not at all shy about admitting that for me, Messi is just another player on the club that I love. So yes, I treat him differently — which is to say, without reverence. He’s more talented, and can affect a match more, but I won’t treat him any differently in my evaluations than anyone else. This is true of every player.

    –Analysis is often misconstrued as “negativity.” People are asking questions about behavior and play. Nothing wrong with that.

    –I don’t know if anybody is really attacking Messi. I also don’t believe that he is exempt from criticism. Being a spoiled, petulant superstar is very different from acting like one for a few minutes. The former is the norm, the latter is an aberration that will just raise speculation about what happened.

    Everybody who has ever played a team sport has had to yell at somebody. I can’t ever recall a time when I haven’t felt like an ass almost immediately after. Can’t imagine Messi is any different.

    –We have one hell of a football club, whatever happens.

    1. Dang Kxevin, I agreed with almost everything you wrote in the review and everything you wrote in this last comment. Strange. 🙂 Maybe I have a fever

    2. I rarely if ever use emoticons, but rest assured that my comment was with tongue firmly planted in cheek. I assume that by now, people know when they see my name that they won’t get anything approaching affirmation, and may well get something that will vex them. Either way, if I worry about it, I can’t do what I do.

    3. Just a point, since I think I’ve also expressed once or twice in my comments that the negativity directed at Messi is excessive – analysis is not an attack, and neither is reasonable criticism, but there have been comments to this post that, IMO, fall under neither category and are just unproductive attacks. I’m not sure if that’s what Manish was referring to or not, but I have seen comments along those lines.

  21. Busquets has been so routinely brilliant that nobody even takes note of it any more. Our players have funks, and fatigues and various moments. Busquets has become inevitable. Worth a mention.

    1. Busquets is so underrated. I point anyone who doubts him to the second Zaragoza match last year. It was a mess for the first 50 minutes, and then Busquets was subbed on, and suddenly everything fell into place. It was like magic.

  22. Been thinking about the whole “superstar” expectation thing. I think that people expect them to not be human because for much of what they do, they aren’t. Think about what it takes to be able to take a ball and have it do what Messi does, and to do it at the pressure-packed times when mere mortals are sitting in a corner, weeping.

    It isn’t human. So that probably makes it all the more stunning when our superstars have moments of mere humanity. We expect that they will be as they are on the pitch/court/course/field, superhuman, and deal with things that worry mere mortals with a mere shrug, as befits the Gods of Olympus.

    It’s why I think it’s always crucial to note that those players are human, but are merely gifted with an extraordinary set of skills that elevate their performance in a chosen field of endeavor.

  23. Liverpool not carrying a lot of luck today. Don’t have any words for the Man U “fans” who disrupted the tribute during Walk On….

  24. It seems to me that the most interesting facet of the Messi incident hasn’t been getting a lot of attention.

    What jumped out at me wasn’t the fact that one player yelled at another — Puyol and Xavi have never been shy — or even that it was Messi doing the yelling: he’s yelled at Tello at least once every game Tello has played for the club.

    No, what I found extraordinary was a) the target of Messi’s ire — I mean, we’re talking about David F*cking Villa here, and b) the impact of Villa’s reaction.

    What hasn’t been said enough is that when one player yells at another, most of the time the yellee simply shrugs it off. Sure, Pique will occasionally bicker back at Puyol for a couple of seconds. But Tello for example gets so much bollocking from Messi he doesn’t even acknowledge Messi anymore.

    But Villa’s reaction was something else entirely. He talked back. And note “talked.” He didn’t scream. His body language conveyed no anger. He simply explained. Dollars to donuts, we’re not talking about the incident if Villa had ignored Messi. But the calmness, I’d even say, the dignity of Villa’s reaction simply made Messi look bad as he continued to berate Villa for what seemed an extraordinarily long time.

    I mean, it shouldn’t have taken that much time for Messi to convey “hey, you should have passed to me sooner” to Villa. But because Villa chose — rightly — to defend himself, the whole thing turned into a flashpoint. So for me, the story is more about Villa than it is about Messi.

    Also, to Kxevin, where are these anti-Song sentiments being expressed? I confess to not being part of the Twitterverse, so no doubt my perception is limited, but it seems to be that Song has generally been well received among Barcelona fans. Aside from his susceptibility to aerial assaults, where he has plenty of company in the Barca back line, I get the impression he’s seen as a fine addition to the team.

    1. Agreed on Villa’s reaction. It wouldn’t have helped us long term if he hadn’t said anything. If he had screamed back at Messi we would have had a problem. Well done, David for me.

    2. Not that I want to speak for him but I read Kxevin’s comments as more preventative than anything else. We do at times have a habit of turning on some of our players and seeing everything through the type of specs Kxevin was referring to where they become responsible for anything that happens and stuff they didn’t do in the first place.

      Remember Maxwell ? (Stands back and waits . . . ).


    3. The Song negativity was expressed in the comments section of the previous Match Comments post.

      Silly thing is, most of the adverse comments about him were made before the game was barely 30 minutes old, and ALL of our players looked shaky, not just Song.

    4. I didn’t think we were that critical of Song in the last match thread (Spartak game?). Scanning over the comments, all I saw were reactions to what was happening on the field. Then post analysis of not having any experienced defenders.

      Not sure about twitter though.

    5. I was actually a fan of Song flattening that Spartak player when he did. Yes, he made no attempt for the ball. He just rolled dude. To me, it sent a message. Our players were getting kicked and physically abused. He saw it and said, “Screw this, you’all ain’t messing with my teammates!” Then, BAM! To me, it showed he’s willing to stick up for his teammates and get physical when it’s needed. We need more of that on our team. Puyol is the obvious physical presence on our team, but I like that Song will take a yellow for the team. Masch does from time to time to.

  25. I like this kind of game once in a while, at first taking things for granted, then worry, tense, frustration and finally, elation! Of course I like it only if we win.

    The game wasn’t that bad, the guys really tried to score. Many shots at goal by more than just Messi. To bad most of those shots were directly at the keeper. Tono really only had 3 or 4 good saves, only one spectacular one.

    Villa’s only mistake on that play was to try and pass to Messi. There were better options. Alexis should have been the one screaming.

    On Messi, it seems like he is trying to be a leader out there, more vocal. What I think he fails in realizing, is the magnitude of his actions due to his stature. My main concern is not Villa, a big boy with start power of his own, but the young kids coming up to the team. See, when someone calls you stupid, it depends on who did. If your friend or peer did, not so bad. But if your teacher or parent did, much worse. It can damage a young person. These kids coming up idolize Messi. So when he shouts at them, the impact can be much worse. You end up not playing for fc Barcelona, but for the Messi appeasement team(Alexis and Alves are members).

    Guardiola was the only person with enough stature to stop it, but didn’t. Tito is too new to get on Messis bad side. Its up to leaders like Xavi and puyol to try and talk to him.

    Funny thing is, Messi makes plenty of mistakes during a game. I tend to overlook those because of the big picture, but when he is overly critical of his teammates, then his decision making also comes into sharp focus.

    Oh, btw, I loooove Messi!

    Song doesn’t anticipate attackers intentions very well, and doesn’t know how to shepherd them into uncomfortable areas. Mascherano attacks the ball like a hound dog, but still needs to learn how to get into effective defensive positions and have spatial awareness. The way he let in that striker for his one on one with Valdes was why he is a defensive midfielder. He needs someone cleaning up behind him.

    1. Excellent comment. You’re right about Song and Mascherano. Song is definitely a reactive defender. I suspect working with the rest of our defenders will fix that. Look at Mascherano.

    2. I liked this comment; Hit the nail right on the head.

      To everyone who has been asking about Alexis play: the whys?, the why nots?… The above presents one the reasons “You end up not playing for fc Barcelona, but for the Messi appeasement team(Alexis and Alves are members)”.

  26. Xavi’s goal was sensational, but to say that he made adjustments and intentionally placed the ball in the one place the keeper couldn’t reach it is taking it too far.
    There is no question it required great skill, but how can we tell that he was aiming at the crossbar?
    FBC players, Xavi included, so rarely shoot from outside the box, even when they should. So this was more of a desperate last resort, like Iniesta’s spectacular goal against Chelsea a few years ago, than a premeditated strike.

    1. So why don’t they always put it there? If they could, almost every shot at goal would go in…

    2. Maybe its because Xavi himself said later that he looked up and saw the keeper was out of his line. And maybe its because the keeper did stretch fully and missed the ball by inches and the ball did hot the post at just the right place, hence it was put in the one place the keeper couldn’t reach

  27. Wow,so messi have so many haters? LMAO.. Deal with it,he is the greatest player the club has ever produced,so some hater’s rant wont change anything.(you can criticise him,but when you bring stupid facts like messi isnt smiling anymore(did u watch getafe match?just last week ffs),he is petulant,bitchy etc,thats all B.S just apply a lil bit of perspective here). This just shows a large portion of cules all want a new star in the team imo,yall tired of messi been the man… STOP overreacting,villa and messi both came out to say it was nothing,and here you are still criticising a player you dont even know personally. SORRY for the rant.

    1. Deal with it,he is the greatest player the
      club has ever produced,so some hater’s
      rant wont change anything

      Didn’t feel like replying to your short and meaningless reply to my comment above but just a question though, are you a fan of Messi or Barça? If you think that Messi can’t be criticized for anything wrong that he has done just because he is the best player the club has produced, I think you should stop using the Internet.

      And I can’t recall reading a comment from anyone on this space that suggested that we want or need a new star.

    2. Peterj, you’re going over the top here. I’m not sure people are “haters” whenever they have the temerity to say that Messi doesn’t shit rainbows. And here I was, thinking that I was the only Messi hater in this space.

      For the record, nobody hates Messi. Not even his opponents. It isn’t the right approach to question someone’s credentials as a fan, or IF they are even a fan, because they call our star player out for his behavior. That is no basis for a discussion. Nor are leaps of logic such as “yall tired of messi been the man.” Statements such as that become like shouting. Ears shut down, and fingers fly for the wrong reasons on keyboards.

      If you feel differently, explain why you feel differently, and the discussion moves on from there, rather than suggesting that anyone who has a critical thing to say isn’t fan, hates Messi or wants a new star.

  28. Just calm down,they are the one playing on the field…not you and not me. Not like messi was born yesterday or something

  29. I too think that you’re taking it a little too far Kxevin. If Xavi and all the other guys can put the ball whereever they wanted to, Xavi would’ve had many more goals to his name.

    Yesterday’s effort was a weak shot. My commentator said that it was a powerful shot or something like that but based on the replay it was a soft looping shot. It looked like a blast because of the sound from the bar but it was actually not a blast at all.

    He shot it with the outer side of his right foot and it looped.

    1. But that shot was clearly beyond “hit and hope.” The quality and ability of those players, even if their intention doesn’t always work out, is amazing. And if you don’t aim for spot, something to orient, who knows where the ball will go. So you aim for the crossbar, and hope to come just under it. In this case, that’s what happened. It doesn’t always happen, to be sure.

    2. I too think, you made too much out of the Xavi shot. If Xavi could so precisely hit the cross bar in a tight match situation, then he would have scored more. He is one of our guys who takes more shots from just outside the box, especially from last season. So far only a couple of them have gone in or seriously tested the keeper.

    3. I’ll just quote Ray Hudson here, “if he goes for the net, the goalkeeper saves it, he goes away from the target knowing that the dip will it on to the crossbar, if you think I’m whistling dixie you don’t know Xavi”

      And Xavi said he saw the keeper off his line and went for that shot.

    4. Thanks Bill! I didn’t hear Ray Ray. That’s brilliant. “. . .if you think I’m whistling dixie . . .” He is a god among mortals!

  30. I think your comments about Villa are overly deprecating. You make it sound like he’s limping his way around the field with a cane. He’s a world-class forward, has been training at full intensity for about a month, and has scored two clinical goals this season. Yes, he needs some minutes to regain his form – so does our entire team. While I agree our current front line isn’t at the quality of Eto’o, Henry and Messi, we rarely had to face that kind of defense in 2009. I understand the feelings of fragility and delicacy that come with an offense that waits so long to deliver like ours, but if anything we’re becoming less delicate. We’re shooting from distance, working low crosses into the box. Moreover, Spain won the past 3 major tournaments in similar style to Barca’s opening games this season. Wearing down the opponents until the 70th minute with good passing, possession, hard work, and a lot of shots, and ultimately finding their way through. But I wouldn’t be shitting on Spain’s World Cup offense, despite the results, like you are on ours. We don’t have to, and we won’t, demolish every team. If they open themselves up, great. If not, we wear them down.

  31. I missed yesterdays game. Any anyone know how I can download it? I went to Pakmanns Football Blog but couldn’t figure it out. Any advice?

  32. Wow. Quite a lot made of the Messi-Villa squabble. I was late and caught the game only about 5 mins before Villa was taken out. But for me the important thing is Did they pass to each other afterwards? Didn’t notice because I didn’t know about the spat. Would someone shed some light? As long as they didn’t ignore each other, there is n

    -The most concerning thing for me is that nearly all our games so far have been ones that “we would have lost last year”. I understand 2 or 3 games being scrappy and tight affairs but this many is concerning.

    -I caught only the last 30 mins but from what I saw we had a great game But up against an excellent defensive setup. Their packed defence was so deep ( sometimes halfway inside their 18 yard box) that its difficult to play against. Through balls and over the top balls were not an option. IMO, we should start taking shots from outside the box. No one on our team does this enough, not even Messi.
    We should stop trying to beat that last line of defenders and just let fly. This way we force defenders to get close rather than standoff and may eventually create space behind them.

    -The CB debate- Anyone who plays football knows that playing as the last man is one of the toughest positions especially in the high line we play.Decision making and positioning is vital.Its for this reason I prefer at least one dedicated CB playing. (Although Song was good)

    Just my 2 cents.

    1. That’s nuts. In the Sky studio, Balagué cites a precedent, a sabotage incident apparently related to betting odds. What is this? Italy?

    2. That’s Vallecas – Rayo’s stadium.

      Valladolid played away with At. Madrid.

      So dangerous for the sparkies working up in the lighting rigs, trying to get the lights to work. We saw one guy recoil back when he got zapped as he touched something live. Madrid is wet and stormy with bad weather affecting a lot of Spain today.

  33. Btw Kxevin, Jordan was worse than Messi and Ronaldo combined when it came to shouting at teammates for screwing up a play. According to those players, What made it bearable to most of them was that Pippen would come to them after Jordans dressing down, explain to them what they should have done and then give them guidance while on the court. They all say that what Pippen did was huuuuuge.

    1. I just don’t remember a lot of yelling at teammates on court w/the Bulls, and certainly not a lot of shouting matches. I know that practices were brutal. Then again, those Bulls didn’t have the same level of media scrutiny that modern teams have.

      But yes, by all acknowledgements, Jordan was a bully.

    2. Thanks for that. I’d always see him on the bench jawing at guys, but I guess I don’t ever remember on-court shouting matches. But for sure, he was a giant asshat. In many ways, you wonder if he would have been as good had he NOT been such a prick. You should hear some of the Lance Armstrong stories. More of the same.

      Somebody should do a study about why so many superstar personalities are the way they are. I wonder, for example, had Patrick Ewing not been such a gentle giant, would he not have retired without a ring.

  34. One nice thing about only having internet for a couple of hours a day is that you can’t get involved in the inevitable knee-jerk reactions and post-game over-analysis. You are forced to sit back and get a little perspective on things. The main things I took out of yesterday’s game:

    –I was upset at first that Bartra didn’t get the start, but I realize now that it made more sense for Song to get practice in that position. No doubt if we had scored a few goals early Bartra would have gotten some minutes. Tito knows better than I do.

    –Messi was a bit of a brat, but I agree with Kxevin that it was born more out of frustration with himself than with Villa. It wasn’t Messi’s best game by any means. Not that he was bad, just very subdued and found it difficult to find space.

    –Thiago was a bit disappointing. I don’t think Cesc is his best midfield partner, the two of them sometimes seemed to be trying to do the same thing instead of complementing each other. Thiago/Iniesta or Xavi/Cesc work better.

    –I kept waiting for Song to make a big mistake like in the last game, and he didn’t. That’s good. His positioning still needs a lot of work, though. I’m very nervous if we have to start him in the Clasico.

    –Alexis works harder than just about anybody on the pitch. I can’t fault him for that. But he was missing some kind of vital connection with his teammates in this game. Something just wasn’t working right. I hope that gets fixed before the Clasico.

  35. Meanwhile, John Terry has decided to take his boots and go home, saying that mean ol’ FA had made it “untenable” for him to continue with the England NT. Class til’ then end.

  36. Is it just me or is Eto’o is finally beginning to get more love out here?

    Back in 08-09, I couldn’t believe how little appreciation there was for him and what he did. Most people just assumed that other strikers could do what he did, simply because Ronaldinho, Xavi and Iniesta passed him the ball. Others even crucified him for having a bad first touch.

    What most failed to see was how intelligent that guy was, how well he operated in our system and the kind of finisher he was. He made it look simple, but it wasn’t.

    We got Ibra, then Villa and Alexis, all very skilled players in their own right, but suddenly, operating in our system seems like such a burden. Things that were never a problem then, like offsides, latching onto passes, beating defenders in tight spaces, creating space and speed have all become an issue.

    Unlike some comments above, I disagree that we weren’t facing parked buses. After all, wasn’t that the very reason why many started calling for the purchase of Ibra and Villa?

    What was true then and is still true now, parked buses are best dealt with by having more direct counter attacks after getting the ball back, attacking the outer edges(around the 18 yard line) of the parked bus, forcing the defense to collapse, then simply pick an open teammate in the area. And strikers who can finish under pressure and in tight spaces.

    What we are missing now is someone who not only has the ability to score goals, but seeks that responsibility. Someone who could take out a defender or two inside the box with one or two quick touches, someone who could outrun, out think and out-muscle the defenders to complement Messi.

    We don’t have that. And frankly, I don’t see too many strikers out there who can bring that to the team. So for now, we have to convince Villa to track plays and stay onside, and teach Alexis how to go for it and how to finish. More plays should also be called for Pedro because that guy can finish.

    1. Uh, oh …. 😀

      I don’t know that there was any lack of love or respect for Eto’o. I think that if he had Villa’s attitude, he’d still be with the club, instead of freezing for dollars at Anzhi. He wasn’t just quick and strong, but he also drank from a giant goblet of crazy before each match.

      His first touch wasn’t the best, but it was good enough to get the job done, and there’s no question that he was a hell of a striker. He scored a lot of “easy” goals, but the hard part is often getting into position to score the “easy” goal, as you and others have said.

      But however folks wish to credit his departure, that is to him or Guardiola’s inability to deal with strong personalities, Guardiola took an immense risk with the Ibrahimovic deal. Potentially (ah, only for a crystal ball …) a striker of his quality could have made us unstoppable. We know how it all worked out, and Ibrahimovic’s snits eventually made Eto’o seem a model citizen.

      But there you have it.

      It’s also worth noting that had Eto’o stayed, Messi’s role would have developed differently, no judgments implied in that statement.

      Our system is different now, because opponents are playing us differently, and the ultimate front line quality isn’t there. As I noted above, Henry/Eto’o/Messi is one hell of a trident.

      You’re correct about what we’re missing. 95% (Sanchez) can do most of that job, but he can’t seem to finish. Correct again about the lack of strikers like that. But again, in the here and now, I don’t know how that kind of striker would work with Messi. Pedro is probably as close as we have.

    1. Dang, that BeIN HD picture is purty. I’m about to get mad at Comcast again. Just not mad enough to crap up the looks of the crib with a big, gray dish on the roof.

      Nice highlight, and indeed on the cooperation tip. Thanks for that.

  37. This could probably be the most petty thing I’ve ever typed here.

    And it’s not even that meaningful because we are only 5 games into the season.

    And Madrid has yet to play their 5th game.

    BUT Madrid is currently in SIXTEENTH place in the league. And just 2 places away from the relegation zone.

    teehee! 🙂

  38. Kxevin,
    We’re willing to jump ship from Fios back to Comcast, but everytime I type in our zip code at the beIn site it states that it’s not available in our area on Comcast yet. Any thoughts?

    1. It should be. My understanding was that BeIN/Espanol would be first, and is now available in all Comcast markets. Where are you located?

      Some major markets, such as Boston, now have both BeIN~ and the English version. It is coming more slowly for other markets, and who the hell knows when HD will come, since my market doesn’t even have Fox Soccer in HD yet.

    2. Baltimore- Washington area. That’s what’s so strange. I’m in a major marketing area!!! I go to the Get beIN Sport tab, put in my zip, choose the Comcast option, and get this message:

      “Here’s how you can find beIN SPORT on your TV
      Unfortunately beIN SPORT is not available in your area on Comcast.

      However, you can help. Send Comcast an email or a tweet requesting that they add beIN SPORT to your channel lineup.”

      It is; however, available in my area on Dish or Direct TV. Not sure I want to go that route. Grrrrr!

    3. My cousin in Boston just told me they got it there now. Call Comcast and let the representative confirm if they have it in your area now. A live agent may have more up to date info for you.

    4. Aren’t you in Chitown? For god sakes, Naptown has HD in about every format. We’ve had HD Fox Soccer for a couple years at least. I think is was after 08/09 or maybe 09/10 when we finally got it. Surely, Chitown is more important than Naptown since the population and potential customer base is much larger? I feel your pain! 🙁

    5. Better still mom4, look on your channel guide. It’s usually in the upper 500s. It might be there. For me it just showed up. No fanfare, no announcement. So it might be there. The BeIN website blows.

      Messiah, I’m in a northern suburb of Chicago, where Comcast is very laggardly about adding HD channels. It doth vexeth me so.

    6. OK, so since I don’t currently have Comcast anymore and don’t have a channel guide, I went to their website, typed in my zip code, and lo and behold there it was. Epic fail beIn. So this week I need to call Comcast and see what kind of incentives they have going on to get me back. I’m hoping that the incentives cover the penalties that Verizon is gonna hit me with for breaking the contract. When I change, though, I’m gonna lose all my DVRed stuff. My games, my Dr Who episodes… 🙁 🙁 🙁

    7. CONTRACT??!! WTF?! Comcast doesn’t have any contract. You just sign up. As for your DVR, that should be saved to the device’s hard drive, so you will be able to watch the shows even if you don’t have the service. That’s how my Comcast DVR worked, when I was (foolishly) considering switching to AT&T UVerse and so, didn’t have Comcast service.

      If not, you can offload them to a DVD-R (DVD recorder). Unfortunately, it can only be done in real time.

    8. Got a big incentive to switch to Verizon. We only get to keep it if we stay for 2 years. So the Verizon thing is sort of a contrat. NOT the Comcast thing. Otherwise, people would be switching carriers every week. $200 to switch to here- $250 to switch back, and on, and on. So while we might not really have a Verizon contract (although I thought we did), we are contractually bound to them for the $250 Visa gift card and for waved set up fees, etc. they gave us in the first place. Mind you, we’re bundled—so it’s a cell phone/ internet thing too.
      Not sure why or how- but a know we’ll pay a penalty that decreases each months until it’s gone after 2 years.

      Mind you, we didn’t switch to get the gift card. We switched to get more HD soccer and ESPN/ FOX Soccer Deportes (Verizon had them w/out having to get the mulicultural thing). About a week after we switched, you warned us about the beIn thing. We just assumed that by the season’s start Verizon and everybody else would have it, thought that if they had the money to buy the rights, they have a good shot at being able TO MARKET THEIR PRODUCT TO THE CARRIERS! Ironic. We moved to get more soccer and ended up with less.

      I think my response is as clear as mud.

  39. Would you agree that from the left side Tello is currently able to do more than anyone else? I don’t get why. I mean mostly he is not doing anything extraordinary, just positions himself there and suddenly more play is going through the left(him) and usually he is able to create several very dangerous situations from there even against the parked bus(by passing, dribbling or stretching the defence wide). So why other players are not in the same space when he is on the bench? 😉

    1. The things is that Tello doesn’t yet command as much fear and respect as the more experienced Barca players who otherwise play in that slot. He did give Spartak’s Kombarov a torrid time of it the other night, but Makeev handled him just fine after coming in at half time. In general, corner backs are content to give Tello space while cheating towards the middle where they know the real danger is coming from. They don’t bother closing him down until he actually has the ball. (The fact that his first touch is mediocre usually gives them enough time to adjust.)

      I know Tello got good notices against Spartak, and I realize it’s churlish of me to grumble after he made a goal and an assist. But given how much he saw of the ball and how much space he had that night, I still thought he could have done better.

    2. Agree fully with replayed. Defenses don’t even bother with Tello until he gets the ball. Even then he’s easy to play. Just stick somebody with strength and a bit of pace out there. He will get better. A LOT better. I actually prefer Cuenca over Tello right now, once the former is healthy. Guile counts for a lot.

      Tello is clearly working on his first touch. It is fast improving. Is touch born? Good question. Lord, I hope not, because when Tello gets a first touch like Pedro’s (never mind Messi or Iniesta) he will be on goal so fast our heads will spin.

      But our dangerous center creates space for our wingers, so that can still work, as it did against Spartak.

      As for now, I’d rather see Sanchez or Villa on the left, with orders to maintain tactical discipline, dammit.

    3. Makes sense, thanks for both answers.

      I’d rather see Sanchez or Villa on the left, with orders to maintain tactical discipline

      Yes, I don’t understand why is this not happening. Defences would not ignore Villa or Sanchez on the left what would create more space in the middle or on the right.

  40. The difference was etoo and Henry couldnt be bodied off the ball like our three strikers now. Lots of “easy” goals that helped put away games early. Tello and Delafeu both have tons of potential as they mature. The size and quickness without the static play of Ibraflop. If it turns out , Neymar would be a waste and Barca may again become the destroyer of 09.

    1. Regarding Tello and Deulofeu – right now we’re looking for another “special” player who can consistently beat defenders and create chances on his own because we can not rely solely on Messi to do that. However, if you look at the history of the game, that kind of players typically already display the ability to consistently do that against serious competition at the age of 18-19 or even before that. Messi was not the best player in the world around 2005-2006, but it was still damned hard to get the ball away from him at that time. A lot of people are comparing Deulofeu to Cristiano – yes, there are a lot of similarities, but at that age Cristiano was a starter for United and was regularly embarrassing defenders in the EPL even if we was a long way from the player who would be scoring 50 goals a season. While Deulofeu can hardly beat his man with the ball when played against adult opposition.

      So do not expect Deulofeu or Tello to ever be that second “special” player we need right now. We don’t need that player to be as “special” as Messi but still, they don’t seem like they’re going to be the answer. Neymar is the only option currently on the market that can fill that hole and still it would be a big gamble – he has been dominant from an early age, which as I said above is pretty much a prerequisite for a successful career at that position, but it is not a sufficient condition and he has not been at all dominant with the Brazilian NT, only domestically where defenses are a joke. We hoped Alexis would be that player and he still has time to fulfill that expectation but it’s been more than a year now and he is nowhere near the level needed.

      Now if Messi was still on the wing, we could try and find another Eto’o. Hopefully Dongou will be able to fill that role in a few years time but he’s not going to be the answer for the next two seasons at least. And we don’t play Messi on the wing so we’re looking for a player who can play on the wing and create more danger there than what we currently have, and that seriously limits the options.

    2. Ha! Ronaldo was busy embarrassing himself in the premier league. Did you watch the guy when he first started?

    3. Yes, I did, I know what I am talking about – he wasn’t a world beater yet but he was obviously a much more skilled player than those he was playing against

    4. I think Tello has been brilliant at times and always dangerous. Wait till he puts on 10 pounds in the next 2 years, he plays a lot like Etoo. When Etoo was let go by Real Madrid how old was he and what were his stats? Curious. A good thing they gave up on him and I’ll bet theyve wondered how they could have made such a huge mis judgment . Even better he plays on the left and we still haven’t seen the power of a gelled Alba, Iniesta and Tello combo

    5. Eto’o was kicked out of Madrid when he was 19. But he is not the kind of player I was referring to. It is common for pure strikers to truly blossom later in their career because positioning and physical strength are key to the position and you need experience to fully develop the former and you are still developing physically when you’re 20.

      But as I explicitly stated, while we have Messi playing in the middle, which means, for the foreseeable future, we will need dangerous players on the wing. That means not a pure striker of the Eto’o type but someone who can consistently dribble past his man and create danger on his own so that the defense does not have the option of putting a box of 4 men around Messi and only worrying about the wings when the ball actually goes there but instead is forced to stretch and open up space for Messi and that other player (or ideally, players, on both wings) to exploit.

      I hope I’m wrong, but Tello isn’t going to be that kind of player because he’s 21 now and at that age the great players of the kind I was describing had invariably already established themselves because it is skill on the ball that is their key characteristic and you become a great dribbler and develop your imagination and improvisation skills when you’re a kid, not in your early 20s. Tello will be a good role player – another Guly or Pedro, but he’s unlikely to become more than that, and more than that is what we need. He’s played 20 games for the first team now – yes, we like to say that there is no pleasing cules but “one-dimensional” is the best description of his performance in those 20 games, and that’s the objective assessment. He’s not at all like Eto’o, BTW, Eto’o was a striker, Tello is a winger, very different players.

    6. For me the problem wit Alexis is that he has already filled out and has a high center of gravity so when he gets any contact from the big backs he’s shut down or his shot is put off. He’s a fantastic player in every way otherwise . Tello has the potential to grow into a big name player. When he starts holding off defenders look out! Him and Iniesta and Alba are going to shred the left side. Maybe wishful dreaming but our left hasn’t looked this good since 09 when Alves then Henry catapulted the team into another world. Look at this last game even, all the attacks started down the left . Xabi looked for two players only Messi and Tello!

    7. The problem with Alexis is that he looks like he’s afraid to play – we know he is capable of generating a lot more danger than what he’s currently doing, he has been doing that for more than 5 years before he joined us, but that part of his game has almost disappeared. Yes, he works hard, but every time he gets the ball you know it is going to be cycled back to the midfield 90% of the time so if you are a defender there is no reason at all for you to pay too much attention and break your defensive shape. That effectively takes out the right side of the attack, especially given that Alves has been spending a lot less time in attack recently. That’s one of the reasons more is happening on the left, and part of this is tactical discipline as we can not afford to have both fullbacks bombing forward in the same time, but the point is Alexis, someone who does have to skills to wreak havoc on the right is not doing it and is instead playing a very conservative, toothless game. If the coaching staff has advised him to prioritize maintaining possession then I can understand but I see no reason to do that because as it is he is just not a serious factor in the offense.

      If at least he could consistently convert the chances he is presented with, things would be better, but that’s not the case – he consistently misses sitters.

    8. Yeah, Sanchez was an absolute beast of an offensive threat in Udinese, he had a bag of tricks and skill and was just really really dangerous. He’s been a lot more toothless and just nowhere near as dangerous as he’s capable of being and that’s worrying for now. But I’ll wait to judge his output this for this season until around November where everyone usually eases into form. Though he did have the same problem late last season too iirc.

    9. The strength of Alexis’ play comes from fast moving plays where he gets the ball and drives for the goal. If you watch his goals, most of them have been scored from open play where he gets the ball and runs with it.

      We’re not seeing a lot of that type of play with the team right now, so Alexis isn’t playing to his strength. He’s having to adjust to playing in traffic much higher up the pitch and to short passing. His diving is out of frustration, I feel – he’s trying to contribute in some way but it’s the wrong way. 😉

      A couple of things that I do like about Alexis is his movement off the ball – when he’s paired with Pedro or Villa doing the same, they can take a lot of heat off the play-makers and ball carriers.

      He also looks up before making his crosses into the box – that’s how he found Messi for his header in the Spartak game. Of course, the one time that he doesn’t look up during the Granada game, Messi pings him for it!

    10. You can’t question Alexis’ effort no one works harder except Pedro; he is fierce trying to penetrate but not very successful, and he hasn’t shown the killer shot that Villa and Pedro are capable of. Last year I was hoping to see Villa become a playmaker on the left besides being a pure finisher but it really hasn’t happened. Iniesta has done more there than Villa or Pedro. Now you can add Alexis. Fifty attacks on goal and the only one to score was an offhand snapshot. Messi is the only one successfully penetrating, surrounded by four defenders and thus losing the ball a lot.

      I don’t think the attack has shifted to the left for tactical reasons. It is simply that we’ve had more success there. Iniesta was our only focal point of attack besides Messi last year. A long exhausting season where every game went to the wire it seems.

      Now to belabor my point; Tello has the killer shot and speed of the other forwards but he is showing that he can be a playmaker also. He is consistently tying up two defenders cause he can and has the instinct to take it in strong for a shot. That is only going to get better as he is only 21 and will fill out. He will be big enough with his speed to hold off tackles, something our other forwards struggle immensely with.

      With that, he is connecting better with his teammates than the other forwards. Less back passes, over more distance and just better quality.
      He has made a couple of stellar assists with a composure that is built on his size, speed and touch and frankly lacking in the other forwards at the moment.

      I think its unfair to say that at 21 he is already the player he’s going to be nor am I saying he’s going to be the next greatest. I disagree completely that he is a one trick pony. He is making an impact right now as we speak against teams stacked 9 deep and committed. And I think we will watch him grow into another Barca favorite.

    11. Tello has a great future if nurtured well. I believe he is about 30 to 40% of his full potential.

      There are many area’s where Tello can be improved.

      I have only seen Tello take shots to the left of the goalkeeper. He can improve by shooting both sides of the goal keeper.

      I have seen Tello run onto through balls in excellent goal scoring positions, kind of like how pure strikers like Eto’o do, to miss timing of the run or the shot a few times. This development has to come from both sides, the player and his teammates understanding the capabilities of Tello.

      He is also strong and tall and I have seen him hold off defenders in the central forward position. He is capable of winning his headers and creating danger in that way.

      Lastly his crosses, a lot of times his crosses have saved the bacon for Barca. But Barca does not make enough use of his crosses from the left. A lot of times there is nobody in the box to meet his crosses. The team needs adjusting to Tello which will only happen with time.

      And lastly, the winning mentality, and this is where Tito will come in. If Tito can take good care of Tello, by the end of the season Tello can play at 75% of his potential, and Barca can become really dangerous at that point.

      Now, on the point of my favorite forward for Barca to sign – The Belgian, Maroaune Fellani. With him, Barca can easily win all competitions. He wins 99% of his balls in the air, has a fantastic work rate, great with both feet. He is fantastic at holding the ball up and taking on defenders. I have only seen one match in which he played about a month or so ago, he single handedly won the game for Everton earlier this season against Manchester United. He played the false 9 role in that game, and no defender could mark him in that match.

    12. Totally agree with you Michelle. Regarding Alexis, he is wasting his golden years. He has the pace to burn defenders. And still he decides to pass the ball back when he can just kick the ball around a defender and run past him. Somebody give him a bitch slap and wake him up.

      He has all the capabilities to become one of the most feared front line players, and he shows moments of brilliance in every match that he plays, yet, he is just not consistently playing outstanding games at the moment by taking on defenders from the get go. He is good with both feet, and can feint and beat his defender. Come on buddy, please take on defenders. This is where Tito has to step in and give Alexis the instructions to take on players.

      I have to laud his defending though. He is a total pit bull in his defending and works hard at that aspect of the game.

  41. I think we’re all forgetting that we’ve started seasons ‘slowly’ in this era. We got one point from the first two games in 08/09, lost to Hercules and started slowly in 10/11, and each of those times we were worrying and panicking and especially in 10/11 we were wondering what was going on, but as the fitness program is structured we always peaked around November.

    This season we’ve scored won every game in the league and CL so far, so we’re getting the results- and that’s not something to worry about, getting the results even when not playing well is the important thing until we pick up steam and blow other sides away. I think we’re tending to start thinking of temporary issues of form and fitness as symptoms of a permanent malaise. End of the cycle, etc.

    We weren’t brilliant every month and every game even in our most glorious seasons, remember? We’re slow starters, where lots of players performed below peak and we missed shots and looked a bit sloppier than we do at our best, and all those players and the team as a whole inevitably went up a few gears around November and through to February, dip, and then gear up again. This slow start has us with a perfect 15 points from 5 games, 14 goals scored, 3 conceded, with our only genuine rivals at least 8 and unlikely but up to 11 points behind.

    Also, I think we’re making a bit too much of the Messi-Villa thing in the comments. I think the post was right to address it but I think we’re taking what is essentially a non-issue and getting all Marca about it.

    1. Look. Cules overanalyze, and see the end of the world around every corner. It comes with the territory. It’s easy to spot the tenure of a cule. The longest-term ones can be identified easiest of all — they are in the corner, wearing tinfoil hats and Ronaldo Barca shirts. They have charts that explain how exactly we will lose every remaining match in the Liga, and get kidnapped by aliens during the Champions League final, thus having to forfeit.

    2. Yeah. I learnt in the Pep era starting from Stamford Bridge and completely in the CWC final against Estudiantes to never freak out and always have faith that this side will put out a result.

      Not very Cule of me, I know, but among all the general mild dissatisfaction at our play here lately I felt it was necessary to point out that this isn’t something new, we saw this previous seasons too. I didn’t see anyone else mention that very relevant bit of info in these threads yet.

    3. Not a big fan of Romario. He used to have his moments of brilliance in matches, and got the goals for the club. He was never a very hard working forward.

    4. The way I see it the danger this season, and it has nothing to do with the start of it (which has been productive point-wise but unconvincing performance-wise) is that we will end up in the same situation we were in in that faithful week in early May – missing key components and with insufficient firepower against the top teams. We’ve added some good players, but we’re still one long-term injury away from putting the season in serious jeopardy because there are too may players for which there is no alternative if the level of play is to remain sufficiently high. We saw that yesterday once again, BTW. That is a very good reason to be worried. Now, domestically, I think we will be OK, 8 points is a good advantage and I don’t think we’re going to add some points to that in the classicos, but what the state of the team will be in April/May is an open question.

      And then there is what nobody wants to think about but Messi has been playing pretty much non-stop for more than 4 seasons now (he missed three weeks or something 2 years ago if I recall correctly after that brutal foul he suffered against Atletico Madrid but that was it) – what is the likelihood that he will continue to be injury-free indefinitely and what happens when that moment inevitably comes?

    1. When we left Comcast, we merely handed in our hardware. When we joined Verizon…well I leave such things to the hubby(I’d be the ADD mom in the store looking at the new phones rather than sitting patiently with the sales associate—every once in a while saying things like, “make sure it has this”, and “make sure it does that.”, but it sure looked like a contract to me.

  42. I think everybody has said everything already, although i just want to add a couple of other things i am noticing.

    ~ I’m sure the long balls are not accidental. Neither is the lack of aggressive pressing compared to the previous years or the obsessive ‘tiki-taka’ or whatever you want to call the quick interplay with multiple players with short swift passing in crowded spaces. this unlocks defenses and it worries me why we are not attempting it more often.

    ~ Say what you will but i am extremely pissed with the CB injuries. Wasn’t the pre season in europe supposed to alleviate this kind of casualties. If players are still going to drop like flies whats the point? It seems for all of barca’s intricate non physical style of play our players get injured more often than any other team. i don’t get it. puyol lands strangely and he is injured. pique falls down and he is injured.
    if anybody has any clues as to why we get injured so much more easily, i’d be happy to know.

    ~ it doesn’t mean song and masch aren’t able deputies. they may be, but they need not be.

    ~ regarding the messi villa thing.
    it doesn’t matter if you’re the best player in the world who shits rainbows, you don’t berate such a senior player for so damn long when you know the cameras are watching. I don’t care if this happens in training but not when its there for all the world to see.

    ~ I keep thinking that Villa is a born center forward whose both feet are devastatingly effective. When he plays in the center defenses are always going to get psyched as to which direction he may turn as he is comfortable with both feet. (like that goal which he scored from the cesc assist recently). Messi is almost always going to position himself so that he can belt with his left. This makes him easier to defend in a way.

    ~ I don’t like it one bit that messi is in the center by default, no questions asked. The false nine introduction made so much sense in the late 09, early 10 season, because it was different which caught opponents unprepared. Isn’t it time to introduce a little bit of chaos and reinvent ourselves time and again.

  43. It looks like everybody was just waiting for something like that from Messi to pounce on him. Things like this happen always on any pitch, football or any other game. But having said that we have seen many other players doing the same but no issues being raised, so here it all looks like a great opportunity to critic Messi.
    Messi is far superior, in his speed of thought, to anyone else in the planet now. Even Maradona has mentioned this aspect and how similar they were in this respect. In our team only Xavi and Iniesta are anywhere close to that kind of speed of thought. So it is normal for players like Messi to get disappointed at such situations. Now he might be feeling the same in many such matches, but there was a difference in this match that we were getting really frustrated about the 0-0 situation up then. And this isn’t 2009. Even big teams like Real Madrid and Chelsea employs 3 defensive midfielders for just taking care of our little man. While other star players might be man marked, Messi is CROWDED. How many times have we seen Ronaldo marked by more than a player, often he is found in acres of space in the wings. Now here is Messi who scored 72 goals last season inspite of being heavily marked in most games. And this season, there hasn’t been a single game in which we didnt see a bus. Messi is not afforded even an inch of space. It is only towards the latter parts of second half, when the opposition is obviously tired, he seems to find some space. And when there are such rare moments in such tight defences, his frustration is understandable. I too would have preferred him to have remain calm, but imagine the pressure on this man. Irrespective of Tono’s performance, there were 2 (?) easy chances, like the one to Fabregas, right? (In the Spartak game, Villa also got a straight look at goal) If others were taking up such opportunities, Messi wouldnt get this frustrated. I am afraid to even think about a situation like Messi’s with even 1% of pressure Messi face, in my playing days.

    However, I am worried about Barca this season. We are going to face a bus each and every game. And we have become more and more and more predictable. Our tempo has gone down to like that of an Indian football team. Those intricate one two’s and touches in and around the box are not to be seen at all. Above all, am afraid Tito is not sure how to use Messi. Messi seems to have been asked to remain more on the striker positions. He seems to have been asked to just concentrate on scoring goals, nothing else. May be Tito must play him in the no.10 position, looking at how much he is marked in the centre forward position. He will be marked there too, but he might have more space than now.
    I will be very happy if we will at least win Liga this season. There must be a big changes or temporary plan changes somewhere, subtly even, in our tactic. Most teams seems to know how to defend against us. I thin, Pep too realised this and decided to take a break, planning for new strategies.

  44. hmm. Good match though short of great moments or drama. kxevin has again done another excellent review. With my fav play keita eating dimsums in china, i am starved of grist for the mill. Some points i noted were
    – of our alternate midfield combinations, i think our best bet is thiago-iniesta. Both are dynamic with good movements. they controlled midfield beautifully in tight man marking match vs athletic at camp nou last year. Then i would prefer xavi-cesc. Iniesta-cesc would be a bit of too many loose passes and xavi-thiago is two similar players.
    – Song has been decent – seems adequate replacement for keita in DM atleast but he is too sleepy as defender. Also Masche has this annoying habit of doing a double with our other centre back on opposing striker resulting in free run if ball breaks loose. Has happened 3-4 times in last 6 months. He should simply trust song and sweep up the ball behind him. masche is attracted to the ball when sometimes he should stand back.
    – it has been mentioned before, i rarely see messi play much on left wing. I hope he can play on left, villa centre with either pedro or alexis (he played RW with isla at udinese and was dangerous). will be good to develop his cutting-inside-with-left-foot dribbling plus some good link ups with alba. Just for variation, once or twice a match. Villa/tello are best bets on LW.
    – Who is the front runner for our next second choice GK- Ter stegen of BMCGB seems to be leading. I like him and he seems tad better than other great young keepers in ger like leno, adler, zieler etal.


  45. Apologize for being crazy late to the game, but my two tardy cents…

    On the “CB situation”…
    Song has been good, great if you consider the external factors. calculated him as the highest rated Barca player in the Grenada game. It’s an interesting unbiased point of view IMO. The way the team is asked to play puts a ridiculous pressure on the CB’s and the GK to produce one-on-one or even outnumbered or the consequences are dire. That’s the nature of the beast and as such any mistake is glaring, whether it’s made by puyol, pique, sMasche, or Song.
    The secondary and longer term issues with the CB situation are, IMO, depth and fatigue. Euler mentioned that P&P being out puts an enormous pressure on sMasche to play every game and not get injured, etc. Song stepping in puts this same pressure on him & Busquets. It seems tito is trying to ease bartra more like what was done with thiago than tello or cuenca. Makes sense given the pressure on the CB in the team and the potentially disastrous effects on the kid’s morale. However, that means we are likely to seem him in the copa and maybe as a sub if the game is in hand. Busquets is now left without a proper sub and without hope of rotation. Especially given the makeshift backline, his ability to protect them becomes paramount and unlikely to be entrusted to any of the players left on the bench.
    Finally on the CB situation. It seems that the verdict is out on Fontas and Dos Santos, as if it weren’t already I know. This set of injuries is opportune only for them and they still can’t make the bench. Especially Dos Santos, tito has chosen not to have a DM backup on the bench in lieu of him.

    And a few thoughts on tito. The guy is cooler than the other side of the pillow. First, he actually sat messi. Second, he is rotating Xavi. I don’t think Xavi has the impact he had in the last hour if he was playing every minute of every game like he was last year. Which brings me to substitutions. I haven’t run the numbers, but his subs seem to make greater impacts, not only scoring, but scoring for sure. This is due in large part, i believe, to giving the subs more time to play a part. He has reversed pep’s, to me, most irritating predilection, subbing too late. Again, I haven’t run the numbers, but, tito is giving guys at least 15-20 minutes to make an impact. Compare that to making your first sub at 75 minutes and last at 88. The subs actually get more than one touch in a game. The armchair psychologist in me thinks it could have to do with pep sympathizing more with the starters and tito the subs due to their respective careers as players, but it matters not. Tito makes the subs and tactical changes earlier and gives them more chance to work late in the game when the other team is tired. This leads directly into the controversial 3-4-3. Dude is using it wisely. Going to it when he needs a goal and the other team has resorted to packing it in cause they are tired and would love to maintain the game as it stands. Also, pulling messi back into a proper 10 and having someone playing a nominal 9 in front of him is deadly.

    I’m tempted to weigh in on Cesc, but I’ll give him a pass this time.

    and cheers to Kxevin for a great review. Looking at the comments, their length and quality is largely due to the quality of the piece to begin with.

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