Deportivo 4-FC Barcelona 5, aka “Bonkers Magazine has its October centerforld!”

“Really, I’m not that baaaad!”

Has anyone’s heart rate returned to normal yet? What. A. Match. If I was a neutral, I’d probably be, as many commenters are, raving about what a match it was. But I ain’t. What I am is somebody who spent way too much time on pins and needles, physically and psychologically trying to will this team on.

As if they needed my help.

A pigpile of things were conspiring against this club at the Riazor, including FIFA flu, a Deportivo side flush with confidence in their house, many injuries, players not being at their best and a gullible ref who, truth to tell didn’t have a BAD match, he just went kerflooey at a couple of key moments. And still, it was a victory. Say what you want, blame what or who you want, but it was a victory for a team that is still undefeated this Liga season. And like it or not, you can’t have a goat when you win.

The day started out pretty normal. Vilanova rolled out with Valdes, Montoya, Song, Mascherano, Alba, Busquets, Iniesta, Fabregas, Messi, Tello, Villa, in the striker’s first start since coming back from his horror injury last season. And the side played beautifully, banging in goals, moving the ball quickly, dynamically and accurately, substituting the iron-clad match control of the past with abundance. “We scored another one! Neener!” And suddenly, things went bonkers.

What made this match so crazy? Circumstances, and luck, good and bad for both sides. Is momentum something that you can reach out and grab? No, which makes it all the more startling that its shifting can be so tangible. We were up 0-3 and cruising, on three slash-and-burn goals that were more hallmarks of the Vilanova era, goals that should, once and for all, quell any sorts of bollocks about Guardiola vs Vilanova.

In the first, Alba took a flawless diamond of a pass from Fabregas, and slotted home. No tika taka build-up, but more the kind of goal that Fabregas used to facilitate while at Arsenal, with a willing accomplice in Alba, who capitalized on the fact that Deportivo was thinking “Villa and Messi. Noooo!”

In the second, Tello gets a ball from Messi, does a quick shimmy to get it onto his right foot, then smokes it past the keeper. It was, dare we suggest, an Eto’o-like goal in its speed and directness. No shilly-shallying about, no nothing. Ball. Foot. Net.

“That’s right! Tellovision! Get used to it.”

Then came the first of the three Messi goals, in which he took a pass from Fabregas (again), faked, baked and unleashed a rocket into the Depor net. Just like that it was 0-3, and looking to be a laugher.

And then came Riki. Let me be clear about the tone of my next statement: admiration. Frank admiration. Riki turned in the diving performance of a lifetime, with flops that earned a penalty, a free kick that resulted in a goal and a second yellow for Mascherano. Anything to win. Does it make diving right? That’s another discussion. But in a system, with a ref that rewards it, a player would be foolish not to try it. Recall Fabregas’ actions in getting Gary Medel red carded. It’s part of the game.

But in a broader sense, the penalty that Riki earned by essentially tripping himself over Mascherano’s outstretched legs, signified a larger trend that was happening — namely, sloppiness and loss of focus on another. Going even more macro, the biggest thing that made a difference in this match happened months ago: teams stopped being afraid of us. That fear was worth a goal or two, psychologically. It helped us, and paralyzed opponents. We’d roll our all-conquering selves into town, notch an early goal and watch an opponent become dispirited. “Here we go again, let’s at least keep a manita from happening,” went through their minds. But then, something else happened. From poor away form in the Liga to Chelsea holding us off to make the Champions League final, the fear factor went away, and people started thinking:

–Counters can work against their slow defenders.

–Press the midfield to work the ball loose, and attack Busquets.

–Long balls get directly at their sketchy back line, bypassing that terrier midfield.

–If we can just get a few set pieces ….

And all of those things caught us out as much as key injuries did. The Fear was gone, replacing a desire to try and keep from getting killed with the resolve to put in an honest day’s shift and let the chips fall where they may. And things begin to happen. A great team doesn’t just start losing, doesn’t wake up one day and say “Time to be vulnerable.” Human nature is, first and foremost, human. The edge dulls, and you don’t even realize it. An opponent decides to take a risk and suddenly, humanity has arrived. And when the world is watching, everybody sees it.

So Riki sashayed in, did his pratfall over Mascherano’s legs and suddenly it was 1-3. Still hopeless, or it would have been in the glory year, but this year is different. Depor thought “If we can get one …. look at them, playing as if the match is already over!” And they got in our faces. Last year, we lose that match. We know this because we did — time and again. This year, in the face of everything, we have responded when an opponent throws down a challenge in their house.

That is when you find out what a potentially great team is made of. It’s easy at home. But put the players in a jam-packed stadium, as hostile as a ground that isn’t Hell can ever be, and then see what happens. It’s funny …. we are undefeated this season and have, over the past four seasons, won 14 of 18 trophies competed for, or 15 of 19, or infinity times 47 or some such math business. This club has, for those past four years, won two Champions League titles, and been thisclose to progressing to the other two. It’s won Copas, Ligas, World Clubs this and Superthats. It’s a staggering group of individuals who have slogged their way through thick, thin, bad refereeing, injuries, afflictions and doubt to come out the other side, ready for business as usual with a new boss man.

And for my money, that team deserves a damn sight more than recriminations, and finger pointing. There was some crazy stuff going on in my Twitter timeline today, including folks calling Valdes poor. Someone else had the temerity to say he lets in more goals than he stops. This is true, because they give the Zamora to the league’s best sieve. Song was having a good match because our back line hadn’t really been tested today, Valdes looks good because it’s easy to play defense in front of Pique and Puyol, etc, etc, etc. There’s some crazy stuff going in this space.

But people haven’t adjusted their expectations to reality. This isn’t 2008-09, with Eto’o/Henry/Messi, a healthy Abidal, a three years younger Puyol and a fit, healthy Pique. This is a team riven by injuries, trying to integrate new faces into an attack that is adapting in the face of new threats. It’s a team with potential, that should be FUN to watch as it develops into something potentially extraordinary. It isn’t “Dammit, this didn’t go the way that it used to,” but rather “Boy, that was crazy! And they got it done! Yay for us!”

But people need to find a goat, someone to blame for when things don’t go …. wait a minute …. we won today! But you’d never know it from the mood in CuleLand, where the sky is always falling. So let’s look at the four Deportivo goals scored today, grab our hound and get to goat hunting.

Depor goal 1: It was a corner for us, so everybody was in the box at their end. The ball bounds around in the air, Messi has the best chance to stop the attack but can’t control the ball. A Depor attacker lifts it off his boot and feeds it to Riki who is off to the races, being chased by our slower players. It wasn’t that he sashayed through the midfield, it was that everyone was somewhere else. The first person in his way was Mascherano, and we all know what happened there. (So here we have lots of goats, or none. Depends. But if you take the “garbage in, garbage out” notion to its logical terminus, start with Messi, who shouldn’t have let the ball get taken off his boot, then stood there while the Depor player ran off. And everybody else, for not having the telepathic foresight to envision that Messi, our most dogged player in possession, would lose control of a ball and unleash a break. Could Mascherano have played Riki better? Maybe. Maybe if he stays up, Riki dances around him and scores. Who knows? But goat horns are pretty hard to place, eh?)

Depor goal 2: Deportivo have yet another corner, earned when Mascherano’s touch failed him and he gave up a corner kick. On the ensuing set piece, Busquets follows his man right into the path of Mascherano, hampering his headed clearance attempt. The now-weak effort falls directly to a Depor attacker, who strikes it hard past a screened Valdes, who saw it at the last instant.

Depor goal 3: A spectacular free kick. People are going to say that Valdes should have stopped that one. We can quibble about that until the cows come home, but that was a specTACular free kick, that if it came off the boot of Messi, people would be saying was perfect and unstoppable by any keeper known to mankind. But know that lesser beings can also create magic.

Depor goal 4: An aerial battle again works the ball loose but our defense is on the case. When the ball falls to Jordi Alba, he decides to play a soft little pass to his keeper, Valdes. Our defenders have done this a zillion times. But this time he misjudges it, hits the pass too hard, and scores his second goal — for Deportivo.

So there you have it, four goals all born of, for me, bad luck and collective failure. It’s so easy to say that X or Y player is inadequate, or was inadequate to the task. Analysis is one thing, recriminations yet another. But rarely is a goal the fault of a single player and an individual failing.

But we had a fight on our hands, one that was, despite the anxiety it produced in us folks watching it instead of playing it, very well handled. Vilanova made three key substitutions, all defensive: Adriano for Villa, Pedro for Tello and Xavi for Fabregas, all (shudder) before the 60th minute. And then, despite Alba trying to kill us all, the match was under control in a way that it wasn’t even when we had a three-goal lead. And from that dazzling start, even after going a man down via a Riki who had our number*, Messi kept scoring, knocking a resilient Deportivo side to the canvas time and again, key goals that kept the tide turned in our favor, leaving us, as always, with this:

“Hey, everybody! Daddy’s home!”

This club isn’t as good as it is going to be, yet it is undefeated in the Liga AND Champions League. It is mentally strong and resilient, in spite of that baaaaad juju that somebody has placed on our back line. Alves isn’t anywhere near his best. Neither is Valdes, or pretty much anybody on the team. Form is temporary, class is permanent. There are many questions that are worth asking:

–Has Mascherano been heretofore overachieving, and is now finding his level as a CB?

–What’s the solution to teams bypassing our midfield pressure, a more traditional back line that doesn’t play Barca style and stays home in the box? (This would certainly stop the “out of position” stuff, since the way that this club plays defense means that at any given point in a match or run of play, EVERY CB is likely to be technically “out of position.” And what IS “position” anyway, on a side in which defenders attack and attackers defend?)

–Does Valdes really miss Busquets Sr. that much?

–Is the best side for Tello the right, and not the left, after all?

–Should Vilanova ever again wear a gangster suit on the sidelines? (Mr. Kxevwell says no.)

–Was Eric Abidal really that important to our defense, which has been mortal since he left, irrespective of who has been at CB?

This club also continues to make a liar out of me. In my season predictions post, I said no major silver this year. I didn’t count on a club that would continue to find a way to win matches. Last season, when our biggest rival won the Liga, they did so in the face of weaknesses, bad performances and determined opponents. We snarked and muttered and wondered how they were doing it. But they just kept winning. And you know what? That’s what we’re doing. And that, for me, is worth celebrating.

*Gratuitous Steely Dan reference

“Yay for us!”
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Written by:

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

151 Comments

  1. hammeronmessi
    October 23, 2012

    an real life experience from a cule in my country in his own words.

    “due to urgent reasons didnt have the opportunity to watch the depor barca match.though i did try my best to watch it via streaming while riding on the bus.when the journey takes a rest at dawn(out time is GMT+6),i was discussing the match with my friends in a restaurant.suddenly a waiter aged 23-24 came up to us and said”are u guys talking bout the barca match?man,messi scored a hattrick,a breathtaking match,result is 4-5.”i though he was a messi fan,but he said he is a barca fan.to check is asked him bout the starting XI of barca,to my astonishment he told it position by position.then he complained bout vills’s absence in this season,told VV is in a bad form and lambasted our defence.i was simply stunned.asked him when he start supporting barca?he told his futy was at night,around 2 years ago while watching TV he got into one of the team’s play.hearing the commentary he realize the team is barcelona and his favorite player messi plays in this team.since then whenever barca plays he watces it no matter how late it is in the night and he was rebuked by the owner for this countless time.

    a waiter working in the restaurant night after night to make end’s day he watches barca night after bight,happy when we win,sad when we loose.are we going to call him a Gloryhunter Barca fan?u may but i cant.

    this is the greatest achievement of barca for the last 4 years.taking over the minds of normal people. ”

    to put it into perspective,i can assume with an accuracy of 99.00% that the waiter’s annual wage is most likely 350-400 USD.

    A wonderful story to hear. i already shared it in my FB

    • October 23, 2012

      I don’t think that ANY Barça fans are “gloryhunter” fans. Whenever and however you come to the club is cool. I know that some cules like to claim some sort of divine right of long-term suffering, but that’s true of ALL sports fans.

      It’s generally the most dedicated fans of a club that are the most welcoming. Some years back I had the pleasure to spend time in Barcelona with a man and hisfamily. The man had been a socio since childhood. When I met him, he was in his late 50s. We laughed, talked, debated formations and players. To him, I was a short-timer but he didn’t care. A fan is a fan.

      • hammeronmessi
        October 23, 2012

        i think you didnt get what i am trying to say.
        we are talking bout a man who is living on the edge of extreme poverty.despite showing such passion in barca where he cant achieve any financial gain,thats why i am focusing on.

        you,me and the fan u talked bout has nothing to endure like this

      • October 23, 2012

        Oh, I got it. But without knowing what any of the other commenters here are dealing with, I don’t know that it’s exactly fair to consider this person any more or less extraordinary than other people here.

        My comment was strictly dealing with your statement that many here might consider a newcomer, whatever his circumstance, a “gloryhunter fan.”

      • October 23, 2012

        Was he Genis?

      • October 23, 2012

        Yep. I still wonder what happened to him. It was a great couple of days.

  2. Richzorz
    October 23, 2012

    Have you checked your ass? There certainly seems to be something lodged up there…

    • Richzorz
      October 23, 2012

      Oh good, that was meant to be a reply to Senyera but now I just look foolish…

      “No Banning” policy or something?

      • October 23, 2012

        The poster was banned. But because of how it worjs, the dedicated person can switch IP addresses, post from a mobile, etc. We do what we can.

      • Richzorz
        October 23, 2012

        Sounds like some crazy dedication there, good luck!

  3. October 23, 2012

    A few things:

    –Roberto Senyera has been banned. But the way it works is via IP address. A determined person can use different IP addresses, mobile devices etc, to circumvent the ban. We are exploring whether a username or e-mail based ban will also work.

    In the meantime, he will return. Don’t reply. Deleted posts do funny things to the associated posts, which is a WordPress complexity. Don’t worry, someone will clean up the mess.

    –On a housekeeping note, this is my last review for a while (don’t all sob at once). The dates for Masters Worlds have been announced, and my intention is to bring home a first-place medal from Manchester. This means that I have 11 months to rehab an injury, and get fast again. This also means that all of my energies, positive and negative (as I do beat myself up for not meeting my own standards) will be going into my training, with the bits that are left being reserved for my lovely ginger.

    For the curious, that’s a 7 week on/1 week off cycle, 9 p.m. bedtimes, 5 a.m. training calls, etc, etc. Yikes! Even as I type this, it’s 6 a.m. Chicago time, and time for weight training and standing starts. I must be crazy. Anyhow ….

    I threw out a request in previous threads for guest reviewers, and that request still stands. Reach out to me a kevvwill@yahoo.com, or respond to the team@barcelonafootballblog.com e-mail address, and let’s see what we can do.

    • October 23, 2012

      Good Luck Kxevin! Hope you get Gold!

      Guest reviewers? You mean the are some people who wanna get abused/be called biased for sharing their opinions? 😛

      • October 23, 2012

        *there are

    • Cy
      October 23, 2012

      Good luck Kevin! Been regularly reading BFB posts for close to 2 years now, some of the stuff written here are even better than those produced by real footy journos. Will miss your posts, as I’ve sorely miss Euler’s!

    • olbucky
      October 23, 2012

      Good luck Kevin, you’re a workhorse. I worry about BFB without you. I haven’t seen a Euler review in what seems like a year. I know there were several criticisms of Eulers reviews and I hope he didn’t take those to personally. Someone is gonna have to fill your void or this site is gonna get awfully lonely.

      Maybe a tip You can sen on to Euler, if your reviews were abbreviated, maybe you’d be inclined to do them more often since I’m sure they are an enormous amount of work. We all learn so much from yours insights. I’m coaching my sons soccer team and would love to read your take on games now that Kevin is on hiatus. something between what Zonal Marking does and what you do now. Something that doesn’t take you forever. Come on, your public is asking 🙂

      • October 23, 2012

        Thanks, and to be clear, this has nothing to do with the site, and everything to do with the limited amount of energy that I have in these old bones.

        The people here, and the comments therein, are great. If everyone agreed, this wouldn’t be very much fun. But here’s a sample training week:

        Sunday: 3h ride a.m., body-weight work p.m., flexibility
        Monday: Rest or easy 1-hour ride
        Tuesday: Heavy weights a.m. followed by standing starts, 2.5h ride p.m.
        Wednesday: 3h ride, big gears (heavy load)
        Thursday: 2h ride, max interval efforts a.m., body weight work p.m.
        Friday: Heavy weights a.m., body work+plyometrics p.m.
        Saturday: 2h ride with intensity, high cadence drills

        This is in addition to my full-time job. My wife is a goddess, who met me during all of the serious national-class stuff, and put up with all that. The masters bug/return to serious racing is something of a gyp for her. But she’s super understanding.

        I will be around, for sure. It’s just that it takes a LOT to do these things. Luckily Saturday was my last full rest day, so I could watch the match, then watch it again, take notes, write the review, etc. I could half-ass it, but nobody would like that.

        The other folks will be around and in the house, and given the new tone of the site, reviews/previews and that standard housekeeping stuff is being de-emphasized anyhow. Now we see about this going fast stuff.

        I’m too old for this …. 😀

      • barca96
        October 23, 2012

        All the best Kxevin. I shudder to think of your absence again like last year or so when the first thing in the morning I do was to check this site to see if there is an “aka” article or any of your article. It’s definitely going to be quite here especially in the review posts.

        In any case I wish you all the best. I love cycling too! Grew up in Holland so cycling is a big part of life 🙂

        Yeah you’re wife is really cool. A dream wife. You can have so much leisure time 🙂

        One thing though. I was under the impression that the lighter, the better for a cyclist especially for a climber specialist like those Colombians and Spaniards in the late 90’s.

        But why are you doing weight training? Are you a short track cyclist? I remember you posting a photo of you looking really horrible (just kidding) on a bike, outdoor doing a mini climb.

      • October 23, 2012

        Ha! I’m a match sprinter, one of the guys who, facing off against another guy, goes really slow and then suddenly starts going very fast. We’re essentially bodybuilders who ride bicycles. Anything more than the uphill portion of a track banking, and I’m looking pretty miserable.

        This is what I do, only about 5-8 mph slower than these guys.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ibMQSrXFa4U&feature=related

      • mom4
        October 23, 2012

        Train well, race well, and when you win, post about it- with links!

        OT “with the bits that are left being reserved for my lovely ginger”
        Both you and my hubby had the good taste to marry redheads. 😎

  4. October 23, 2012

    I always miss the fireworks. Just as well.

    • barca96
      October 23, 2012

      Haha. When I saw him posting his last comment before he was banned, I really wanted to plead to him to stop and just be nice so that we all can get along. But didn’t have the time as I was reading it on my phone during work.

      Just like when Josep and Kxevin had a little thing a few years back. Josep kept on disappearing and only appear back to take a shot at Kxevin. I wish I had the balls to tell Josep to calm down so that he won’t get banned so that we can enjoy his usually good comments.

  5. Cy
    October 23, 2012

    Love the behind the scene stuff captured by Canal Plus’s “El Dia Despues” (“the day after”).

    In this video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N8SQPMftS14&feature=BFa&list=UU8sdjIzW4-naq5gTKQQD7lg) seems that Messi was still tired from International duties, showed glimpses of exhaustion. At one point, Xavi even had to tell him “Come on, a little more”. And great to see the hugs he got from team mates in the end and a “Gracias” from Busquets especially.

  6. Bill
    October 23, 2012

    Interesting piece from Ben Hayward over at goal.com:
    ” That maturity extends to his free time but also to Messi’s minutes on the pitch. Due to the explosive nature of his game, the Argentine has always been at risk with muscle injuries but with the help of Guardiola and Brau, learned to limit his work-rate in order to maximise his impact. Pep instructed his young star to stay upfield and conserve his energy for short, sharp bursts. He also improved his positional play and, with the help of Xavi and Andres Iniesta, he would have the ball when he wanted it – and when he needed it. So when he did, he was more effective than ever before and able to play 60 games per season because, despite his incredible influence, he now actually covers less ground than most of his team-mates. Less brawn, more brain.”

    I know it’s goal.com, but this guy usually seems to know what he is talking about.

    • barca96
      October 23, 2012

      Thanks for the excerpts. It’s basically the same as what Danie_l has been saying about Martin Perenau’s article for months.

  7. ooga aga
    October 23, 2012

    hey, so uh, champs league match day huh? are we so underwhelmed by celtic that we dont talk of this match? they have 4 points in the group! we need a win, cant wait to see the line up tito puts out there.

    VV
    monty masch adriano alba
    song iniesta xavi
    pedro messi villa

  8. barca96
    October 23, 2012

    Real Madrid and Spain captain Iker Casillas will vote for Sergio Ramos to win the Ballon d’Or. Ronaldo second, and Xavi third.

    Iker wouldn’t have make any sense at all if this were to be true. Ramos? Seriously??!!

    – Watched the match today on DVR. Random bits.

    30.07 – We were quite lucky that Song didn’t get booked for pushing Riki on the halfway line.

    76.08 – Alba own goal. Song and Adriano did not play the offside trap!! We really need to work on those. Alba was the only one trying to play the striker offside. During El Clasico it was Adriano who played ROnaldo onside.

    84.24 – Messi received a yellow card for playing on after the whistle for a tug on the bald defender. My question is, why wasn’t baldy yellow carded for his unnecessary foul on Messi after being nutmegged by Messi?

    It’s not just this play but this happens quite a lot in football. Players’ who committed fouls after the whistle has blown for a foul by his marker never gets booked.

    What is the difference with players who are booked for entering the pitch when celebrating at the sidelines or when taking off a shirt???

    I really despise some of the ridiculous rules by FIFA. They really need a few ex-players up there who actually understands the game.

    87.71 – I wish Messi had more confident in his right foot. He was dribbling here and had a clear path on goal at the edge of the box. He could’ve either taken a shot with his right foot or dribble further towards the goal (clear path). Instead, he opted to pass the ball with his left foot to Pedro who couldn’t capitalize.

    88.50 – Messi lost the ball and harrassed the defender who was on a counter attack. With that, Messi killed the possible break away. Yay!! 🙂

    The talking points of your review; Messi’s miscontrol of the ball that led to the counter and VV.

    Messi on the 1st Depor goal

    Messi didn’t mis controll the ball!! He controlled it but the defender stuck his leg out. Messi was facing the goal and trying bring the ball forward. When the defender intercepted the ball bounced 5 metres
    behind Messi. There is no way Messi could’ve caught up. The defender also had momentum with him as Messi’s movement was causing him to move the other way towards the Deportivo’s goal.

    This play is totally different than when he loses the ball while trying to dribble. In that kind of instances I also criticize him for not trying to recover the ball but you can’t really criticize him on this occasion.

    VV

    31.34 – VV could’ve easily passed to Song who was straight ahead of him or Cesc who was further back who were both free with Song the only one having a Deportivo close to him. Even then, Song had more than enough time to receive, look around, light a cigi and make a pass.

    He could’ve also passed Montoya on his right who had acres of space. No Deportivo player at all except the one who is close to Song. Montoya had a free run till at least the halfway line or maybe even further but the camera angle only went as far as the halfway line.

    90.53 – Again he hoofed it up with a few options. The worst part is that the score was 5-4 so we are supposed to play keep ball as long as possible. Another give a way could lead to a counter and the score could’ve been 5-5-.

    He had Alba on his left who was unmarked and with no one to pressure him.

    – He could’ve easily prevented
    – And on the Alba own goal. If VV would’ve stayed on his feet, he could’ve easily saved Alba’s Bergkamp like touch pass. I just don’t understand the need for him to go weak in the knees.

    • barca96
      October 23, 2012

      Accidentally submitted it.

      – He could’ve easily prevented the goal where he fumbled the ball. The ball went directly to him. It wasn’t as if it came from a tight angle. It was right in front of him. It was just a case of weak hands or butter fingers.

  9. mom4
    October 23, 2012

    I get to finally watch a game

    LIVE.

    ON TV.

    IN MY HOUSE.

    AND RECORD IT!!!!

    Linus and Lucy song playing in my head.( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JgoPl35n_AY ) Doing virtual Snoopy happy dance!

    Dang, but I’m starting to look forward to CL game moreso than league games just because I can see the darn things easier!

Comments are closed.