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!”

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. “. . . a more traditional back line that doesn’t play Barca style and stays home in the box?”

    One word answer. NO. If our backline sits back and plays it safe we don’t have Masch making runs through the middle, splitting defenses, and picking out Cesc, who finds Messi, who fires a laser into the net. We DEPEND on our back line to play forward, and on occasion, become out of position. I’d rather have us stick to our guns and weather the storm, then cave to the defensive frailties we currently have. Great review. I rewatched the 3rd Deportivo free kick goal and will consent that it was a wonderful strike that any keeper would have been hard pressed to save. Still, Valdes is clearly not confident and needs to find his mojo fast!

  2. These are the games we would have lost last year and the ones RM kept wining and left us wondering how they won. I think it’s something to do with the orange kit, we shall call it “the lucky one”.
    I too think people calling for VV head are kinda being harsh. I think he’s going through a bad patch but, he’s not as terible as they say he is. He’s helped us win 3 CL, the one v Arsenal, he kept us in the game from Henry and in Rome kept CR out. It’s frustrating to conceed but, he’s human and goes through bad time too. Even D10S has bad days too.

  3. Great comments, Kevin!

    I can’t really pick on anyone for their performances in that match last night – it was extraordinary.

    I can, however, comment on a couple of things that I’ve noticed are becoming annoying practices over this season:

    1. Our back-line is coming under even more pressure because of this season’s VV habit of kicking the ball out, instead of passing it out from the back. It’s not allowing Barca to build up play from the back.

    9 times out of 10 (and I’m probably being generous to VV here because he either sends the ball over the sideline or straight to an opposing player), the ball is gifted back to the opposition and the pressure piles on again. It’s also not as if his kicks are any good – the ones that land in play either land too short around halfway or go too far to the other GK, and the balls that go out do so before the halfway line.

    2. The Barca backs playing a high line is key to the defence when played in conjunction with keeping the opposition forwards offside. What we’re seeing is too much space between the midfield and backline, and it’s this space that other teams are exploiting. The gap needs to be narrowed, and someone has to step into Puyol’s shoes (when he’s not playing) to ensure that the offside trap is being set. There’s no one leading the back 4 when Puyol’s not on the pitch. Puyol should be on the sidelines shouting at them! 😀

    I have to say, though, that despite the heart-racing and blood pounding that I experience when watching the team, this season it’s a different kind of tension. Even though everything seems chaotic and doomed, there’s the underlying, soothing presence of Tito on the sidelines to bring back order.

    If some of this season’s games had been played last season, I believe that we would already have seen some losses because the counter-action wouldn’t have come quickly enough.

    Tito is not afraid to pull out players and replace them for tactical reasons. His subs last night were again the right ones – and timely – especially when he most likely had to adapt his plans to take into account Masch’s sending off.

    This is what makes me feel a bit calmer – even when it’s nail-biting stuff. In Tito’s tactics and subs, I’m beginning to trust!

    1. BTW – just in case anyone should think so – my comments about VV are not personal comments as I would make them about any GK in the Barca team who would play this way. I’m observing the tactics, not the player.

    2. Your comments about Valdes’ long clearances are true of 100% of keepers. It’s why I hate the long clearance. It gets the ball out of the danger zone, but doesn’t do a damned thing except re-set the offense for the opponent. He’s been doing that a lot since the DiMaria gaffe.

      That space is just one of the many ways that teams are exploiting us this season. Note that when a CB who isn’t Puyol (whomever it is) tries to fill that space and something bad happens, people get on him for being “out of position.” In fact, part of the job description of a Barca CB is to fill that space, if one were to be written.

      The team also loses almost every aerial battle, which is to be expected. And yet it continues to head balls away, even when there is time to play it to the foot. Something else I don’t understand.

      Your Vilanova comments are why I think that Guardiola left at the perfect time, and Vilanova is right for the job. I hate to agree with anything that asshat Guillem Balague says, but he’s right about the Guardiola/Vilanova psychologist/coach difference.

    3. Note that when a CB who isn’t Puyol (whomever it is) tries to fill that space and something bad happens, people get on him for being “out of position.” In fact, part of the job description of a Barca CB is to fill that space, if one were to be written.

      Very true. It’s actually the other backline players who are out of position because they have dropped too far back instead of advancing further up the pitch. This allows too many opposition forwards to remain onside.

    4. I can’t for the life of me understand why VV is getting flack for not playing the ball out of the back. I didn’t see any instance in which he made a bad decision about playing the ball out of the back against Deportivo. He plays it out when he should and punts it out when he should. I have qualms about his positioning and form right now, but none about his play out of the back. We don’t have the right defenders(i.e. Puyol, Pique, Alves, Abidal) for him to take any chances on close calls. If anything, he’s become better at playing it out of the back because he’s become far less risky in his decision making. I remember all the calls for him to, “just punt it out”, in the last three years when there were some very close calls because of his almost stubborn instance at playing it out no matter what. I’m sure Pep had a lot to do with that and Tito has a lot to do with him clearing it more frequently. I for one, am a happy Cule for it!

    5. He’s had Alves, Masch, Adriano, Pique and Puyol in his backline this season, and still he has persisted in booting the ball out.

      The play is quite simple – take the ball up and pass to either Busquets or Xavi.

      Masch is one of the best players to take a ball up and make a telling pass.

      I don’t believe that it’s the other players that are the issue – it’s either in VV’s head, a tactic of the new GK trainer, or part of Tito’s way.

      As for the “punt it out”, it’s not usually VV that I’m screaming to do that, it’s usually when the backs decide to play tika taka in the corner with 5 opposition players around them!

    6. I couldn’t agree with you more Nzm. Valdes booting the ball like that takes away the one distinguishing factor that made him unique. I’ve always regarded keepers who do that as being selfish, just worried about being attacked rather than making it easier for their teammates to make plays. Someone needs to talk to him.

  4. Anyone heard if Mourinho was sent off last night?

    Karanka did the after-match presser, and TV3 commentators were rambling on about a “Mourinho expulsió”, but I haven’t seen any other mention of it.

    If he had been sent off, this would make about the 7th manager to be sent off in La Liga, this season. The refs appear to have a manager mandate!

  5. –Does Valdes really miss Busquets Sr. that much?

    Funny thing to say – some of us remember the times when Busquets Sr. was in goal and I don’t think I have ever seen a goalkeeper of a major European club allow so many cheap goals. There was even a saying going on that they should name the goal allowed when you let the ball go through straight through your hands after him – because it happened on something like half a dozen occasions.

    Those were some real bad times, BTW, 1994-1996, and this wasn’t the only reason but it was a big one

    1. He might have been a lousy keeper, but he was able to help Valdes lift his game to a level that few expected he was even capable of. Coincidence? Maybe, maybe not. Great players are not always great coaches and vice-versa.

  6. Good review as always, Kxevin. Thanks for it.

    This was a biggie for me. As you say this was a game where we could have collapsed last year. I’m excited about the prospect of our attackers starting to hit form and take some of the pressure off Messi – Cesc, Pedro and hopefully Villa now he is getting time. Tello in particular is one to watch as he is able to score goals from nothing as he did yesterday. Not the finished article but by nature he wants to take on defenders and I’ll say again he is a genuine finisher. I suspect the Cuenca / Tello discussion may be swinging irrevocably one way but we’ll see.

    You just have to admire the difference Xavi made to the game. As Cesc said ( courtesy of Barcastuff)

    Cesc: “When Xavi replaces you, you can only sit down, enjoy his football, and applaud.” Exactly.

    As soon as he came on the wine was out and we watched as he slowly played them to death. Incidentally, a propos the Valdes discussion, he is usually a great trusted outlet for Valdes to pass to. With him not on the pitch i felt Iniesta could have done more to take on that responsibility ( wow – not often I criticise Ini !) Teams are pressing our defence much more to avoid the pass out as they know their chances of winning the ball against our midgets with a long ball are pretty high so we should be ready for more of this. I would agree that Valdes isn’t the most accurate over a distance. I was thinking last night that we never see him throwing the ball out. The EPL goalkeepers are particularly good at this and it may offer an alternative.

    I’ve said enough about the CB situation and don’t want to continually bash Masch. What I would say is that he hasn’t suddenly become a worse player. These things were going on the whole of last year but were covered in a welter of praise for him making headline grabbing (but often unnecessary) tackles while often posted missing positionally. At times, Pique bore the brunt of this (undeservedly imo) but Masch is a better CB when he has either of the top two beside him because they both know the position and can talk him through it ( tbf esp. Puyol). I know it isn’t fair to assess a partnership of him and Song but we are in the position of having to do so as it is affecting games in a negative way. Where I wouldn’t agree with you is in your assessment that every goal is a collective responsibility. To say that Messi in the other box losing a ball is contributing in any meaningful way to a goal against us I would struggle to accept. If this were the case any time they attack is a failure of our whole team ! For the penalty we had enough cover back when the forward ran at us and the lunge wasn’t necessary and could easily have had us down to 10 at that point.

    Your comment about missing Abidal got me thinking. Those older posters will know that I wasn’t as big a fan of Abidal as some at LB as I felt he wasn’t good with a winger running at him, he allowed too many balls across our area by turning his back etc. but I felt he was a revelation, totally against my expectations, at CB. I think this was because he had the pace to get himself and the team out of tricky situations. I remember occasions when we got the offside wrong yet he managed to get back and cover. So I suppose we do miss him.

    Anyway, no matter what we think this is fast becoming an historic start to a season. Bearing in mind what we need to do to sort things ( basically get the twin Ps back) we should still be able to enjoy things. It could be worse. We could be Madristas sitting willing on the opposition and then having to watch Messi destroy their chances.

    Btw, can I award him an honorary 10 – at least on this occasion 🙂

    1. Jim,

      I agree with your assessment of the game. Tito subbing Xavi, Pedro, and Adriano in was pure class. I found myself smiling while watching Xavi metronome all over the field. I can say with 99% certainty that Xavi did not lose a single ball once he came in. It was a thing of beauty. I saw that Pedro got flak from some on the last thread and didn’t understand it. He was brought on to track back and defend. He brought the pace and energy to get the ball down the wing and kill time. He did all of those things masterfully. I will only disagree with you notion that the Tello/Cuenca question is swinging in Tello’s favor. It’s a bit harsh to Cuenca when he hasn’t had the opportunity to play. I wonder where he’d be at this point if he’d had a full run of games. I can only think he’d be even better than before. They really aren’t the same player anyway. Cuenca brings much more fluidity to the offense and is able to move around with the ball and inter change with his teammates. I think Tello adds a lot because of his pace, directness, and finishing, but he lacks the qualities Cuenca has and vice versa. My point is that Tello is playing and playing well at that. Of course our memories of him will be positive and fresh and our memories of Cuenca are fading. It’s been a millenium since he’s played.

    2. Thanks. I think you’re right that nothing is set in stone regarding Cuenca. My concern for him is that I haven’t seen that finishing ability and I think in the end we will only fire on all cylinders when we have three up front contributing at least twenty goals a season. The elephant in the room for us atm is what happens when Messi gets injured. Do we win that game last night without him?

      Anyway, I’ve nothing but hopes for Cuenca when he does come back. It’s horrible to see young players get serious injuries.

    3. To say that Messi in the other box losing a ball is contributing in any meaningful way to a goal against us I would struggle to accept. If this were the case any time they attack is a failure of our whole team !

      Exactly, Jim. What made that 08-09 team so devastating was that every player was part of attack and defense. It understood that slacking off even for a second was letting the team down. So yes, every ball was contested because when in doubt, each player considered themselves the last line in the defense. The most effective cover is always before the attack gets started. Messi had the best shot at that. From them on, everything else was a band-aid. And Riki played it perfectly, we shouldn’t forget.

    4. I think you using 08-09 as some kind of reference is not only misguided but doesnt add to the point youre trying to make. That season was one of our worst, defensively, out of the 4 Guardiola years. We conceded almost 40 goals..all similar to the ones we’re conceding now. This is fact. Attackers like Eto’o and Messi and Titi lost the ball a lot cause they took more risks and were direct, we played more open AND we had a 3 year younger Puyi, a fit but new Pique, Marquez, Milito, Abi and Dani, in what I would say was his prime. That season was supposedly the marquee season of atackers being defenders and defenders being attacker yet we still had to contend with teams running at our backline, when either of the front three lost the ball, mostly Eto’o.
      Anyways, while I agree that some goals being collective failures there is no denying the fact that individual mistakes and defensive errors are biggest contributors to conceding.

    5. Jim, it’s almost as if you stole the words right out of my mouth with regards to Mascherano and Abidal. Mascherano was exhibiting some of this bad plays last season, including sliding in unnecessarily, but because nothing bad happened I cut him some slack. Even in this game, Montoya was behind him. Sliding in was unnecessary and risky.

      I mentioned last season that I’m not a big fan of Abidals’ running backwards in a zigzag fashion when a winger is running at him. A skilled player will destroy that style every time. Alba actually covers the left back position very well. Yes he gets beat, but he recovers very quickly and puts pressure on the wingers by closing angles.

      On Cuenca, I agree with Messi10. I think he has better dribbling skills than Tello. Goal scoring ability he may have to display.

    6. I see Cuenca as someone with mid-fielder skills who plays in a wing position. He’s not really a finisher but a crosser. Same goes for Alexis though he can finish a bit better especially when playing in front of Messi. They both think pass first. Pedro is a more complete player than either. Tello is a finisher. Of course so is Villa. They all complement Messi. We need at least two players in addition to Leo who can score 20+ goals a season. Villa, Pedro and eventually Tello are capable of that. I don’t see Cuenca or even Alexis ever becoming 20+ goal scorers.

  7. Excellent review! I would just like to add that I have been really impressed so far with the way Tito handles substitutions. How many times over the last few seasons have we been sitting on the edge of our seats screaming at Pep to make a change, any change, just do something that will affect how the team is playing? Only to have him wait until there are less than 10 minutes left to throw on a different player?

    Tito not only makes his subs with plenty of time for them to have an impact, but has a knack for making the right subs. Cesc had a brilliant game yesterday…but when we were a man down we needed a calm, controlling presence in the midfield, so he had to make way for Xavi. And it worked. My gut feeling is that Pep wouldn’t have made that call, he would have put his faith in Cesc and left him on. And that might have worked as well, but it would have been much riskier.

  8. Read somewhere that Puyi, as part of his extention, is offered to stay at the club after retiring as a player. Maybe we need a special coach for defence? The defensive meltdown after Guardiola left was quite dramatic, even taking injuries into account.

  9. I have my disagreements on few issues that you brought on your review. I watched the game for 3 times, and i still stand by my conclusion that the ref had a bad game.
    On my first disagreement: you say that he didn’t had a bad game and later you listed some of the mistakes that he made and that led directly to Depor goals. Just watch some of the playacting again. As i said in an earlier post, players were afraid to make a tackle because he was whistling for every single contact made.
    Second disagreement is on VV. Form is temporary, class is permanent. Sure, it is, but when somebody is out of form, what do you do? You can’t just wait for him to find his form until is too late. You just sub him and make him think about it why there is such a drop of form.
    We asked the same thing for Dani, for Cesc, for Pique…why can’t we ask it for VV? Even when the only solution is Pinto.
    For me, it’s only that he hoofs the ball directly to the opponent, now i’m afraid even when the opponent takes a shot in our goal, regardless the back line.

    1. We’re waiting for Alves. We waited for too long for Pique. We waited for Villa. Why can’t we wait for Valdes? Look, Valdes isn’t the kind of stand-up keeper who will routinely make the kinds of saves that say, a Casillas does. If Valdes has to make those kinds of saves, we aren’t doing the job in the midfield and up front, pressuring. And that’s a different problem. I’m not saying that Valdes is perfect. No player is. What I am saying is that he isn’t the sole cause of the problem, even as he is an easy target.

      Re the ref, note the difference between the ref not having a bad game, and making a few errors. And Riki played the hell out of those dives. Might have fooled the best.

    2. As i mentioned it, he is a goalkeeper. He plays in the best team in the world in the last decade or so. His job is to make saves. Everybody agrees that it’s not the random saves and commanding that has made us wonder about his abilities. But the ridiculous goals over the years that we took and that cost us games. This season this is more evident than ever.
      I’m not saying that he should be sold or something, just subbed with Pinto and see if that results with improvement.

  10. Barca are appealing Masch’s red card. I expected as much, but glad to see it in print. What a con job by Riki. He’s the one who initiated contact with Masch’s elbow/arm. The assistant ref was suckered into raising the flag and that as we say, was that.

    1. I’ll be surprised if it’s rescinded. The committee will only come out and say that Masch was lucky to still be on the pitch after the “penalty” tackle. 🙂

  11. Minor correction: Villa also started the game against Granada.

    Unfortunately for him, he’s had more impact so far this season as a substitute than as a starter. I kinda felt bad for Villa when, after switching places with him, Alba made the kind of run for the first goal that Villa seems to have forgotten how to make (or at least how to make from onside position).

  12. And to point out how bad the ref was, just have a look at the first booking of Masch. He hesitated to give a yellow until he realized it was Masch, and then he pulled out a card.
    As for Mascherano’s penalty, it was surely related to the first needless yellow that he got. I’m sure he hesitated to bring down Riki higher in the pitch knowing that he is already on a yellow, otherwise Riki wouldn’t got to our penalty area so easy. And Busi, well, he is one slow MF. 🙂

    1. Mascherano wasn’t in a position to bring down Ricki any higher up to the pitch. He had to keep backing up because the Barca defense were outnumbered 4 v 3.

      Busquets was a lot closer to Rikki, but always behind him. Any missed tackled and it would have been a red card.

      And the ref would have been well within his rights to give Mascherano a second yellow along with the penalty call.

      Yes, the ref was too whistle and card happy. But I hate to complain about it when that kind of refereeing tends to favor Barca’s game. Teams tend to be a lot more physical against Barca than Depor was last night. For example, there’s no way Messi would have been allowed to make the run that led to his second goal (Barca’s 4th) unimpeded with a more liberal ref calling the game.

    2. We were not outnumbered in that attack, it was 3 on 3 and our side defenders were covering their 2 wide players. It was one on one situation between Masch and Riki, and if it wasn’t for the yellow, Masch would have either tried to stop him without fouling him, or make a tackle and foul him if it is a must.

    3. Whether Barca were outnumbered or not — and Busquets never really caught up with Rikki — I just don’t see how Mascherano as the last defender can commit to a tackle on either of the central attackers from this position:

      He had to keep backing off while keeping an eye on both central attackers. By the time he could commit to a tackle on Rikki, he was turned the wrong way near the top of the box and couldn’t quite manage to reach the ball.

    4. Agreed. He was,imo, correct to back peddle to allow Alba time to recover his position and cover his man. However, as you say in the end he had his body turned the wrong way and he had no time left to deal with his own man who was left with a straight run on goal.The smarter move was to meet him a good ten yards outside the box by which time both FBs had recovered and the only real danger was Rikki. He could then have forced him wide.

      In Masch’s defence though, it is a crazy situation when you’re only left with two players goal side of the ball just five yards outside their box at a corner when you don’t really have possession.

  13. Omg. I’m not trying to be elitist or knock anyone, but I was reading comments from TotalBarca Cules and they are shocking. A lot of them are ridiculing Tito and berating the job he’s done this year.??? Are you serious? I tried to reply, but you have to login to FB. Tito’s being criticized for not playing Bartra and having, “no faith” in La Masia. Unreal. I may have to stay away from the comments and only read the blogs.

    1. I haven’t commented on totalbarca, but on I’ve been one of the most vocal who think Bartra needs minutes. I think Tito is a fantastic coach, but I think the unwillingness to put Bartra in under the slightest bit of pressure is compromising our future at CB. At his age, Pique and Puyol each had their debut seasons and played in almost every game. Bartra played in 2 last season, 0 in this one. Tito is in general unafraid to make radical changes, which is why I’ve been shocked and frustrated at how conservative he’s been with Bartra.

    2. Not that I don’t share your concern. But I suspect that part of what’s been hampering Bartra’s chances is that the outcome of just about every league game that Barca have played this season has been uncertain until very late if not the final whistle.

      There have been precious few games where the team has been comfortable enough around, say, the 75th minute mark to allow Tito to make anything but a purposeful substitution.

      Last night’s game is a good example. With a 3-goal lead after less than 20 minutes, and Mascherano on a yellow card, Bartra would have been forgiven for feeling good about his chances of seeing some action in the second half. Guess again.

      If Mascherano’s appeal gets turned down — as it likely will be — I fully expect a back line of Alba, Adriano, Song and Montoya against Rayo Vallecano. With some minutes last night, Bartra might have had a prayer.

    3. Not sure that knocking Vilanova makes any more or less sense than knocking Valdes. Both of them are proven. So both are either fair game, or neither one is. I had someone suggest Hugo Lloris as a replacement.

      What boggles my mind is to think of what’s going to happen when we actually LOSE a match.

    4. I’m not you’re implying that I was knocking Vilanova in the post you appear to be replying to, but I want to clarify that I’m not.

    5. Lloris? Good grief. Straw-clutching desperation!

      He warmed the bench nicely at Tottenham yesterday. 🙂

    6. Oh not at all, replayed. Just pointing out that just as people can feel a right to knock Vilanova, others can feel a right to knock Valdes.

    7. Lloris is a hell of a keeper and I like Kxevins suggestion. I question whether Spurs would sell him since they just signed him and Friedel is at the twilight of his career. He is 41 after all. I was surprised Lloris didn’t start against Chelski since his performances so far have been exemplary. I think he would’ve helped Spurs not concede 4 goals, even though Gallas was responsible for at least 2 and maybe all 4. I don’t see any straw-clutching desperation at all when mentioning Lloris.

    8. I watched him a lot with Lyon, and I wasn’t that impressed – he’s not in my Top 5 keepers playing right now. But he’s young – has a good few years ahead of him.

  14. Ooof – Falcao nets a last minute of normal time goal to seal the win vs. Sociedad and keeps At. Madrid on equal points with Barca.

  15. Sooooooo…I go from work right to the Irish pub we’ve been catching the games at (they have Direct TV) expecting to meet with hubby and watch the game (shown delayed on the Spanish beIn station). Only the pub doesn’t get the Spanish station. Soooooo we go have dinner and go home to find a download which we think we can trust (you know, one that won’t give us a virus or pop up with nasty pictures ) and find none. Soooooo… the night ends with us watching highlights. We need to explore Comcast again or Direct…in my copious spare time, of which I have none.

    Sounds like the game was one heck of a ride.

    It’s great to have that talented flea at our disposal.

    Do we have more Xavidependencia than Messidependencia this year? From what people said, it all settled down with Xavi at the helm…again.

    1. Well, we still don’t have anyone who can do what Xavi does, for sure. And to say that he was a defensive sub is very true. Control. We play defense with ball control, and that means Xavi.

    2. While Xavi did a great job settling the game down, I thought Cesc finally showed some understanding of how to play the game similar to Xavi. Not in his adventurous passes, which were definitely in his own style. But if you watch the match he did a much better job of positioning himself to receive the pass than in previous matches, where he runs to wherever space opens up, rather than where he needs to be to help the player with the ball get it to him.

      What Xavi has is the experience to understand when to retain the ball, and when to press the attack. This, along with his vision, is what makes him a brilliant footballer. In this game, even if you look at the game aside from his assists, Cesc showed he is starting to gain some of that understanding.

    1. Freeking hilarious!!! I thought I got worked up! However, in his defense, it was a HUGE game and they were relegated. I loved it when his wife? brought him a pill. You know she thought he’d have the big one soon!

    2. This is the best comment… fast forward to 1:40 seconds.

      Ai, meu Deus! 3 passes seguidos. So 3 passes. O Barcelona da 28 passes seguidos.

  16. Thanks Kxevin for the review. When I saw the title “…October Centerfold,” I was expecting some abs of the players, not a goat 😀

    I had fun watching the game; a little bit nerve wracking, but it was entertaining. More of this please 😀

    And Tito in suit this time looked way better than his black polo. I think he probably took the suit to the tailor shop. He looked good with skinny tie, vest and all. More of this look on the sidelines too.

    This sounds shallow, but I thought Riki looked rawr(!) yesterday.

    1. Have we ever played well when Vilanova has worn a suit? Surely there’s some stat that keeps track of that, suit vs black polo.

    2. hmmmm…I’m surprised there’s no useless stats on the interwebs about Tito’s outfits. Don’t worry, I’ll do some research, post it up tomorrow 😀

  17. Well done Kevin! Happy to see you defend our team. I agree that pressure from behind by Messi would help the defense significantly even his shadow would help. Not sure why that the team doesn’t ask for it but I won’t question.
    Masch is such a last ditch defender, and doesn’t get in good positions to contain. His cover has to be really quick and any space is easier to exploit. Song can get a lot better but this defense is really not 1rst rate without Puyol. It’s getting clearer that Barca need another beast of a CB not a converted mid.

    1. For me, we need another Abidal more than another Puyol. I know. Blasphemy. But after watching our defense with and without him, there is just no comparison. He provided so much freedom for the other backs with his range, pace and ball skills.

      I wouldn’t have ever advocated spending 40m on a CB, but I sure as hell would for another Abidal.

    2. Alves made such a huge impact his first year solidifying the attack, I guess the staff decided that the way forward is pace and attacking flair. Who can blame them but it sure puts enormous pressure on the CB’s. makes for exciting games but I miss seeing Alves and the big three with Yaya in front of them destroying all hope and reason. Abidal could handle any strong forward in the game. Amazing team

  18. No.
    First Pep, then Carles. Then Carles. Have a heart, Kxev!
    After all? After … all of the above!
    Liga: sporty caz’. Champions: spiffy ‘ster.
    * No such thing as a “gratuitous” Steely Dan reference.

  19. i just want to reply to the valdes hate spewed in the last thread. to the valdes haters who are so up in arms, i nominate you to be barcelona coach. you obviously know better than vilanova, and the FCB board.

    this isnt fantasy football. you dont just get to go buy your favorite player at every position. the world doesnt work like that.

    valdes is a *great keeper*, i cant count how many one-on-ones he has won over the last couple years. additionally, with barca, the goalie doesnt just have to be a good shot stopper, he needs to be able to play with his feet. can you think of a goal keeper who can play one touch passes better than VV? i cant. and THAT is what the club has decided it needs. you know better? you have yet to convince me.

    there is a reason he is our keeper. citing a few mistakes here or there is cheap and easy.

    AND, i also say that probably one goal AT most could be pinned on VV yesterday. and even on that goal, his reaction time was limited because of poor line of sight and a deflection. it happens. it’s football.

    1. Too bad Valdes only got fingers to that free kick and not a couple of knuckles. Would have been the save of the year

  20. Best part about the BarcaTV broadcasts that air on BeIN is seeing the highlights from the young’uns. There is some staggering talent in the pipeline in the Sampers, Ebwelles and Traores. And there is nothing cuter than watching the Benjamins scamper about, until you see the talent those kids have on offer. They even have a little Xavi running around, who grabbed goal of the week.

    Too much fun.

    1. Hi Kxevin, thanks for the suggestion. Do the BarcaTV broadcasts always show Barca B highlights, and if so at a particular time within the usually 3-hour slot? I watched a couple (yes, I admit with the FF button), and didn’t see any. Thanks.

      (By the way, they’ve once had a “90-in-30” program that featured a Barca B game, which I appreciated.)

    2. I’ve seen the highlights a couple of times, usually in the last hour. This past week was especially good, with the Guardiola/Kluivert/Rivaldo/Luis Enrique crew destroying Depor back in the day, then the kids’ roundup.

    3. I love watching the little kids – they decimate the opposition like little copycat robots of the First Team.

      Messi watched some of them play a few weeks ago, and the play surprised him into commenting, “They play like us!”

      This style that is being taught all through the age groups is the reason why I’m puzzled as to why they would let Eusebio break the cycle when it comes to the B Team.

    1. Yeah, I saw that documentary a while ago (I think it was for Informe Robinson). I’m aware of some the sufferings he had earlier in his career. Goalkeeping is probably the loneliest job in the world, always get the blame for every goal conceded. Remember Robert Enke? 🙁

  21. Oltra (coach Deportivo): “Told Messi: Your wife will give birth, you shouldn’t have played. He said: I had to dedicate goals to my mom” [ie]

  22. As for the Abidal thing, I always have maintained that he was the biggest piece in our defensive puzzle. With him we even looked comfortable with a three man defense. Without him even four man defense looks vulnerable. Abidal’s pace was crucial, allowing the likes of Mascherano to go forward and intercept passes. Having said that Alba is a doing a fine job with his speed. Had that unbelievable own goal hasn’t happened, i thought he was the best on the pitch.

  23. Unbeleivable was the fact that even with 10 men we looked as vulnerable as earlier(with eleven men) and more dangerous than earlier. Is there any team in the world who is expected to play this well even after going down to ten men?

  24. What a match.
    We have problems at defence, but we had such days in our 08 – 09 time as well isnt it, score as much as you want against us, but we will score more. just felt the same, except that our defense was panicking, like the Argentine team of the recent past.
    having said that, we would have lost 2/3 points, if not for Messi.
    Isnt it interesting that, after such a performance all what the review has done is take a dig at Messi.

    1. Isnt it interesting that, after such a performance all what the review has done is take a dig at Messi.

      You call it a “dig”, I call it an “observation”. 😀

      It’s very easy to wax lyrical about Messi’s performance, and his goals were most definitely match-saving.

      Kevin and I are probably 2 of the most prolific commenters when it comes to how much pressure the team gets put under when Messi loses the ball. The opposition pops the ball over/through the midfield and then the back line is scrambling to contain the attack. When it all goes wrong, then suddenly the “makeshift backs” are the root of all the problems.

      Back in the 08/09 period, we’d have seen Messi running as hard as he could to get that ball back. We don’t see that as much any more, and the team is suffering for it. Very seldom do we now see Messi coming back much past halfway to help recover balls.

      When Pep took over the team, there were player comments about how he stressed the importance of recovering the lost ball within a 5 second timeframe which gave the opposition little time to do anything with it.

      When this was in effect, the result was devastating to the opposition. And it’s important to note that during this time EVERYONE was involved in defence – Eto’o, Henry, Messi et al. When Yaya played, he was Messi’s bodyguard – feeding him the ball as well as cleaning up behind him. (Something which I notice that he does for Silva at City now!)

      When Ibra came in, the team kissed goodbye to 11 defenders on the pitch. 🙂 It’s also changed since the introduction of Tello and Cuenca – great going forward, but not so great in defence – especially in the lost ball situations.

      It’s why Tello was taken off for Pedro the other night. It was not Pedro’s attack that Tito wanted just then, it was his ability to track back and harass the opposition into coughing up the ball. It’s also why Cesc was taken off for Xavi. Cesc was having a great game, but he only knows one speed – pass the ball quickly in attack, while Xavi holds the ball and slows things down which was needed at that time.

      Barca’s strength in recent years has been that it has had 11 men on the pitch for defence and 11 for attack. When, suddenly there are now only 8-9 men in defence (when forwards aren’t tracking back), this has an effect – usually not a good one.

      It’s not so much a dig at Messi, as it is an observation about an element of his play which has now gone missing, but still has chaotic impact on the Barca defence at a team level. But then fans have to find someone to blame and that’s when the last defender usually cops the flak!

      We all know that Messi is one of the greatest footballers that we will ever see, but football is a team game, and I believe that it’s evolved to the point where there were specific jobs on the pitch for forwards, midfielders and backs – and Barca was one of the biggest proponents in this evolution.

      Now – this change in Messi’s defensive behaviour may be coming about for a variety of reasons, who knows why, but the effect on the team is what we are noticing. Without the early pressure from Messi trying to get his lost balls back, the opposition is often creating mayhem down the other end of the pitch.

      The team is certainly going through some changes in style under Tito – it’s exciting and exhilarating to watch.

    2. Rock on, nzm. The commenter must have also missed the praise …. and big-ass Messi picture. But looky here:

      If ANYONE cones to my match chronicles looking for any sort of affirmation of anything, they will not find it. As nzm correctly points out, it is no more a dig at Messi than anything else. It is a very fair observation that is buttressed by nzm’s example of what past Messi would have done. Messi had a brilliant match, but he doesn’t shit rainbows. No player does.

    3. Just one correction to what I wrote:

      and I believe that it’s evolved to the point where there were specific jobs should read:

      and I believe that it’s evolved to the point where there are no longer specific jobs specs on the pitch

    4. Thanks nzm for that detailed reply (I am not a novice on Barca, have been keeping track of this club since ’83, when Deigo was signed, in some ways as possible). May be my lack of English language proficiencies (from India, English still a foreign language for me learnt with difficulties) made me use that wrong word – dig. Apologies if it felt so. I should have used some thing else.

      Its fine, if it is an observation, however it would be nice if there are such excellent and critical observations on other players too. As this writer always seems to have some favourites in the team, (which is ok, of course).
      But making critic of just one player, who keep on saving us again and again, (without whom this Barca is either equal to or only minutely better than the Spanish national team) for a mistake, when similar or more mistakes are made by other players who shit rainbows (his favourites), does not look fair. All this after a match, which will go back in history for its scoreline, drama and many trivias (like the first assist by Xavi to Messi after 1 May 2011), which any Barca fan would agree, we would have lost if Messi was not there.

      I would have never looked at it this way. Its the over sensationalisation of the Villa Messi episode which made me look in a different way with Kxevin articles.

      After any match, it is possible to find mistakes on all 22 players on the pitch, just like you can find faults with even the most perfect cinema.

      Anyways, I just want to say – this is an excellent site and will keep on visiting as and when possible, for Barca. Nothing personal, Kxevin. All the best.

    5. But you seem to imply that because a player “saves the club,” he should be above all observation and criticism. Then explain the Valdes brickbats?

      Everyone accuses me of having favorites, precisely because I don’t affirm. I’d be worried when people STOPPED accusing me of having favorites, frankly. That would mean I wasn’t doing my job at calling things out for fairness or unfairness.

      As far as the “over sensationalisation” of the Messi/Villa episode, again, that’s perception. My perception is that the collective view is “How DARE you analyze, and find fault with the behavior of Messi, after all that he has done for the club?” To me, the two aren’t even remotely linked, nor should they be.

      It’s why I always say, players come and players go. I am not, and will never be a fan of any of them. Only the club. But people are, and that is their right, just as it is their right to view what I say through the goggles of their worldview. If it makes you feel better about things to believe that I have favorites, cheers.

  25. Been a long time since I commented here.It is entirely off-topic.I’ve recently bought a book named “A Catalan dream” by Tim Hanlon.I was rather surprised that no one mentioned this book(maybe it was mentioned and I dont remember).

    Coming to the book,it is written that Barca received financial support from the Franco regime and “he was also an honorary Barcelona member”!!!.I was totally shocked by this sentence for we all know Franco supressed anything connected to Catalonia.I’m rather confused.Anyone who followed the club long enough can care to explain please?

    The paaragraph as written in the book-“Barcelona were entering into one of their most successful periods and they received significant support from the regime financially.For obvious reasons it is glossed over by the club but while Real Madrid were seen as the flagship side for Franco,he was also an honorary Barcelona member.”

    1. Interesting. I am not knowledgeable about the time period in discussion, but I can hypothesize that Franco may have “contributed” financially for political and propaganda reasons. If he was indeed an honorary member, I can imagine it wasn’t a “choice” for FCB, but rather a, “you will do this or else”, suggestion. There are some truly fascinating books about the Spanish Civil War and Franco’s dictatorship. Check this link out for: In Hiding: The Life of Manuel Cortes by Ronald Fraser

      Ronald Fraser also wrote – Blood of Spain: An Oral History of the Spanish Civil War

    2. Yeah it makes sense if it was sort of done to keep the team under tabs or under control. There is of course the story of Franco’s visit to the Barca locker room before the Copa del Generalisimo vs RM where he supposedly threatened them to throw the game, and RM won 11-1 after losing to us away 0-3. This scenario would go more in line with the keeping the club under tabs, which sounds a great deal different from collusion! After all, the club had already been closed once by Rivera who was a much milder dictator than Franco, so I can imagine what threat they were under by him.

  26. Superb match and superb review as always.
    However i cant help feeling that kxevin has a few favorites whom he defends till death even when facts stare in the face. Anyway that is a minor human weakness.

    Good to see people pointing out the lack of intense pressing and lack of offside trap / high defensive line in our games. I think we are worse off without those 2 key ingredients. I hope to see the asphyxiating high line back when fit pique and puyi return.

    A potential flaw which i often see in pique and alves is that they keep tracking back on a counterattack instead of making a challenge. pique often backs away and even after that lets the player shoot.

    Alba has been outstanding. his forays are all about penetration and he rarely loses the ball.

    I still believe masche and abi combo is our most fluid centreback pairing, even better than pique / puyol. quick, imposing and capable of getting out of any tricky position with a superb pass. Abi can easily deal with high balls due to his excellent chesting ability.

    Interesting and far more open season. celtic attacked pretty well vs emery’s spartak.i would watch out for young attacker james forrest.

    1. Nice try. If you do some research, what you will find is that I defend fairness. When a player is (I feel) being unjustly maligned, I will point out the perceived (by me) lack of fairness. This list of players has included Toure Yaya, Thierry Henry, Eric Abidal, Sergi Busquets, Gerard Pique, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, etc, etc. And it will include the next player that cules decide is responsible for everything from goals to global warming and the resurgence of trenchmouth.

      If someone is new or suddenly unfashionable, cules pile on. “Yeah! And he turned me into a newt!” This is unfair, to my view, and I will ALWAYS point it out and defend not the player, but the fairness of that player’s treatment.

      That should be clear, and might be worth a cut-and-paste for you or anyone else who believes I have favorites because I don’t join the party line. Today it’s Valdes, yesterday it was Song. If it ever comes down to the likes of current favorites such as Messi, Xavi or Iniesta, you will find the same calls for fairness.

      Because for me, that’s what it’s all about.

    2. It was just a perception aired in a fair manner, i believe as was your rebuttal. We may never agree on true utility of keita amongst other things however what is important is the faith in barca.

      Fairness is subjective. I for one have still not piled on Song since i believe his recruitment is better for the long term nor am i criticizing valdes now even though form and class are disguised by a thin line. However i was against perceived bias (again that is my opinion and i am using forum to air it) in things such as giving zlatan too much benefit of doubt, Unimpeachablility of Yaya, treatment meted out to Villa even when he gave 100% etc.
      What is important is acting in good faith and in this case you believed your were fair, which is all that matters.

  27. Fairness? What is fair about attacking Messi’s supposed non-work ethic in every review?
    The midfield could stand around watching the ball be played through them but hey, Messi didnt control the ball right so he was the cause of the goal!

    All this tracking back and working for the team talk is contradictory. It is simply not applied as strictly to everybody.
    Whats worse is that blatant defensive erros are blamed on collective mishaps yet we still have certain players being pointed out for something such as trying to make a forward pass, that happened to be intercepted.
    I saw Messi doing some of his best defensive work for the team since the start of the season, even the commentator from Sky had to talk about his good work ethic. “He’s a hard worker..he always works hard for the team,” he said.

    Standing up for Messi doesnt have to mean we think he “shits rainbows,” which is every rebuttal. I believe in fairness too.

    Anyways, moving on, I pretty much agreed with your review except for those few quibbles I stated before.

    Another heart attack inducing match. I’d like a break now though. Barca owes it to my health. Probably like a six game run where we can win comfortably, please? Pretty please with clean sheets on top?

    One other point. Someone had made a post some time ago in which they explained why they thought the 2010/2011 season was the peak and I totally agree. Everyone always uses the 08/09 season as reference for defense, attacking, philosophy. But that season was nowhere close to the level of perfection in the 10/11 season, IMO. Though we won the treble in 08/09, teams were more open, we conceded alot and we had the least amount of possesion in all of the Pep era. Contrast that with the double winning season in which we conceded little, scored a ton, had the most possesion in the Pep era and faced teams who had supposedly “figured us out” and were “parking the bus” every game. The pressing during that time was better than anything I’d ever seen, and sometimes we’d pass a team to death for minutes on end.

    I wonder what everyone else thinks?

    1. ’10-’11 for me too. We were in total control of games that year, with the manita clásico being the best example. ’08-’09 was a special squad for sure, but I think ’10-’11 was Pep’s Barça at its finest.

    2. Not every review. You know that isn’t true, so don’t overstate. But Messi is the quickest player on the pitch, I don’t care who we have in the XI (note: Not fastest.). He could have easily overhauled that guy just after he lost the ball, and a couple of years ago, he would have.

      You are expanding a SINGLE comment to me saying that Messi is lazy and doesn’t defend, because it fits your disagreement narrative. Note that it is only that instance in which it is mentioned, but that becomes the thing that so many focus on, as is “Kxevin hates Messi. See, there’s the evidence.”

      Only a fool wouldn’t respect the work that he does for the club, and despite what many in here think, I’m not a fool. I’m also not a Messi fan (nor a fan of any player). I’ve said THAT before as well. But I’d rather see one less run to nowhere, if it means attacking AND defending with 11. To my rather dimwitted view, it is one of the more significant differences in how this team defends as a unit: its quickest player and best ball-winner in the open field is standing at the other end. Coach’s decision? Nobody is doubting that. This doesn’t mean that I have to agree with it.

      Messi played his best overall match for the colors in some time on the weekend. It was good to see, because it means that he is trusting other people to score, which means he can expand his range again, rather than staying home because his club needs him to score all of the goals. This is good.

      Finally, I am not equating a defense of Messi with thinking that he shits rainbows. I am saying that whenever someone has the temerity to suggest that he wasn’t flawless, that person shouldn’t be attacked as a biased blasphemer. This “Kxevin hates Messi” nonsense is absurd. Surely people don’t believe such a thing. And if they do, nothing that I can say will make anyone think otherwise. But you know what? I am going to keep on evaluating Messi like any other player. Because that’s what I’m supposed to do.

      And yes, it still staggers me that with that entire review, the neon-glowing bit of Messi analysis becomes the bat that people bash me over the skull with. Really? What about the fear factor or lack of? What about the breakdown of the Depor goals? What about any of the other dozen questions raised above that might have sparked discussion. Instead, it’s “he said something bad about Messi, again.”

      Try as I might, I will never understand.

    3. Yeah, youre right, not every review. I just really can’t tell the last time there wasnt some argument about Messi tracking back in the comments based on a review in which you either rated Messi lower cause of it or mentioned it somewhere in the review.

      I dont think you have faves, I’ve never said. I just dont think you like anyone 😛 Kidding..

      Oh come on, its not a single comment that people are annoyed about its the constant NEED to point out or “observe,” as you say, that Messi doesnt track back. Its not just about the single commment in the review, its a combination of all the comments over the last couple of reviews (that I’ve read). I don’t have a narrative. Infact, how do we know that “Messi not tracking back” is not your narrative? Cause whether people come with valid points to disagree with you, you will say we all think he shits rainbows. And as you said, you will continue to pick on Messi.

      I’ve already commented on the other things you pointed out further up in the comments section but you only responded to the Messi bit. See? It works both ways.

    4. “And as you said, you will continue to pick on Messi.”

      No, that’s not what Kxevin said.

      He said, “I am going to keep on evaluating Messi like any other player. Because that’s what I’m supposed to do.”

      You comment about “picking” on Messi is derived from your belief that Kxevin “singles” him out. I’ve never thought that at all. I think he rates Messi based on his interpretation of how he thinks Messi played. Everyone, will have their own interpretation. Yours happens to differ from Kxevins. Frankly, it’s rather boring conversation when we have to see Kxevin defend himself every match review from people “defending” Messi’s honor. Just take it with a grain of salt and acknowledge that you disagree rather than criticize Kxevin and wrongfully accusing him of doing something he’s not.

    5. You have criticized either extensively, or just mentioning it messi’s lack of trying to disrupt an incoming counterattack, recovering balls in your last 3 reviews.
      This one, Sevilla and Granada.
      What puzzles me is that you go out of your way to do that as a reviewer. Why is that?
      Because I’m pretty sure a player does not do what he wants on the field, and as a reviewer you look more for tactical instructions given by the coach to players rather than impulses or whims that one’s have. Now players limit the range of directions a coach might give them according to their abilities but since messi has proven time and again that he can recover and challenge balls quite efficiently :
      what if Messi should not come back and recover balls for us since , you know, what got 10 players behind him most of the time, comes deep many times to participate in the buildup of an attack so forcing him to track back would cause us to not maintain shape long enough to build an attack quickly , and is quite efficient at leading and distributing the ball while counter attacking.

      Plus it’s not as if he does not recover any balls ever, or he has quit tracking back.
      But, as Fabregas lately put it , you can run a marathon in a match yet still make little difference to what the team intents to do, while holding position you may run less but contribute significantly.
      So, if you want to take a dig at someone because messi does not track back bothers you, and it has since a long time, how about taking a dig at the coaches that have instructed him to participate in some ways and hold his position for others?

  28. About Messi, and why he doesn’t track back.
    Marti Perarnau wrote a few articles a while ago stating that it was a technical decision for Messi not to take such an effort in defense in order to save his strenght for the attack. So, is it all right when Valdes kicks the ball out because it is a technical decision, but it is not when Messi doesn’t track back?
    What I find surprising, is that when Puyol saves himself from attacking to improve his defense awareness, it’s the right way to go, but when Messi does the same thing when attacking, well he’s not a team player that helps in defense as he did in 08′. Let’s count how many injuries has Messi have had since 08′? How many games has he missed because of injuries? How many of those games we would have lost if he didn’t play…?
    I think it was a smart decision made from our coaches to make Messi do whatever he does to prevent injuries. And I truly believe that without a few of our players, starting with Samper, going through Kubala and Cruyff, and finishing with Guardiola, Xavi and Messi (and lots more) this club wouldn’t be like it is. This club wouldn’t play like it plays.
    Thank you for the article Kxevin, it was a great read! And thank you everyonelse for those insightful comments, and the video about Valdes! And also the article from sportsillustrated.

    1. You are correct about it being a technical decision for Messi to save his energy, and it has been pointed out before in this space. So I agree that blanket criticism of Messi for not tracking back and defending as much as other players is unfair, but analysing how he reacted in a specific situation is perfectly fair game.

      We should also note that Messi hasn’t had a serious injury since the policy of “conservation of energy” came in (except that time that guy almost broke his ankle).

  29. We should make a Kevin bingo like the “WFPI Bingo” with phrases like;
    Thierry Henry
    Messi walking

    Anyways; I thought we weren’t into comparing Tito and Pep eras especially so soon? Messi walks after losing the ball? I think that’s what Tito has told him to do to conserve energy. How else does he make those darting runs late in games?

    And Tello’s goal Eto’o-esque? No, it was Tello-esque. Not everything needs a direct comparison, especially if it’s a sloppy one. If you said maybe like Eto’o’s goal versus this team, and then, then that’s cool. But as a generalization it’s rather lazy. Maybe Eto’o scored a goal like that once, sure. But it’s just lazy to say. Otherwise all Messi’s goals are Hidegkuti-esque, no?

    I can’t even judge Tito yet he hasn’t had his first choice XI for a full match has he? I’m not even sure he’s doing what he wants tactically, or what he’s allowed to do with his given resources.

    And the ref didn’t have a bad few moments, his whole career was poor throughout, and even missed offsides on each end more than once for each team. If we were Real, we’d have this ref banned from all of our matches!

    1. Mmmm, not really. We haven’t had an attacker as direct as Tello since Eto’o. Hence the comparison. Neener, neener.

      –And Messi should have chased the dude down. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. With his first 10-20 steps, he has the best chance of getting a ball back after he loses it.

      –I’d rather see a “Kevin loves” bingo. The board would be huge, and nobody would ever win. Perfect.

      What’s everyone going to do come November, when the training season gets really intense and somebody else will be reviewing matches? Lordy!

    2. WFPI bingo is alright until “The Big Wheel” has to mention on air every time he uses a “bingo” phrase. That gets rather irksome. Love that show though. I listen to it via podcast when I jog. I almost fell of the treadmill the other day from Dotun Adebayo talking about his goal during the 5v5 live show!

  30. Don’t know how many folks in here are socis, but the club has started a mandatory census, where ALL members have to update their data. Foreign socios can mail in a notarized copy of the form. Yes, the original plan was to have everyone have to do it in person, but the club realized what a pain in the tush that would be, and decided to have other “official” means. Here’s the scoop:

  31. Hey everyone. First off, I really liked the review. Thanks, Kevin.

    I see that the current narrative among culés (not here, but elsewhere) is that Valdes should be replaced. Now, I think we can all acknowledge he has dipped in form so far this season. For me, it’s not even the soft goals, because every keeper lets in soft goals. Even Casillas was heavily criticized early this season. As many have observed here, he seems to be hoofing the ball up more often than before instead of speeding up the play by dishing out passes to the CBs. People have suggested that he’s either being told as a new tactic from the coaching staff, and others have suggested that he is reluctant to trust this unfamiliar backline in moving forward with play and retaining possession.

    I’m hoping that it’s the latter, but my opinion isn’t important. We have also acknowledged that Valdes is the best keeper for Barça because of his foot-skills and bravery to play a short-passing game with his CBs in order to speed up the match and maintain possession. However, I do have a serious question. And beforehand, please excuse any perceived ignorance. If in fact he is being told to forget the short-passing style in favour of a more direct, “low-risk” style, what then makes Valdes different from other keepers. Yes, he still obviously has stronger foot skills in comparison to other keepers. But if his foot skills are not being utilized in the same way as before, what does make him different and the best keeper for Barça?

  32. Messi probably works as he is asked. He is good at following instructions. I agree with the notion that he is given instructions to maybe ‘close down in the opposition half’ etc to preserve his energy and positioning for when it can do more damage.
    Generally Xavi covers a lot of the ground that Messi used to and doesn’t defend as deeply as he used to.

    Tito is a lot more tactically aggressive than Pep was, more direct and more attacking. Unfortunately, you can’t have all of this forward movement of the ball without forward movement of players which leaves us defending with less bodies than before.
    In games where Cesc plays in the midfield it equates to a 4-2-4 formation as he does more forward runs than Thiago or Xavi do.

    It’s a tactical trade off that has worked so far and would be even more successful if it were not for the massive amount of injuries we’ve had to players playing in similar positions. I would imagine that with an in-form lineup of Alves-Pique-Puyol-Abidal we would have conceded a lot less goals than we have done.

    In regards to the Tello/Cuenca thing, I don’t believe that Cuenca will have a place in our squad next season. I like the kid and he has ball skills but he doesn’t have the killer instinct to separate himself from the crowd. In a front three you need a goal threat from all three. It is the same reason as Hleb failed in our system, lack of a goal threat.
    In recent matches, any time Tello gets the ball in the final third he gets double marked so when he learns how to use the ball better he will be a deadly weapon in the front three.

    As things stand, Tello-Messi-Pedro is our best front three, IMO

    1. “In games where Cesc plays in the midfield it equates to a 4-2-4 formation as he does more forward runs than Thiago or Xavi do.”

      I might have agreed with this comment in previous games. He has a tendency to go wherever the defense leaves space, and with defenders occupied with Messi there is space for him to go forward often. But in this match he did a much better job maintaining discipline, keeping himself open for passes, than previously. He does look to pass more directly than Xavi, but if he can keep a bit more discipline in his movement and better balance the risk/reward quotient like he did in this match, he is on his way to controlling the game in his own way. Of course Xavi is still better at controlling the game better than him, and experience is the biggest reason imo.

      In re: Cuenca, the reason I would say our wide forwards need to be a goal threat is that then defenders have to play them for both the shot and the pass. This adds more guesswork and risk to the defense, and allows the forward to keep them guessing. The thing is, when Cuenca played last year, he still wasn’t a goal threat, and was still able to beat players and play in dangerous passes. He is much better than Tello at delivering those dangerous passes. Tello has improved a lot this year though, but it’s unfair to Cuenca to judge him when he was quite effective last year in his first year playing the position. Tello has stepped up the game, and we will have to see Cuenca play to see if he can recover and make himself more effective as well.

  33. The game would have been a blow-out were it not for a bad ref, 1.5 goals which our keeper could have prevented and a freakish own goal.
    If the ball is touchable, it is savable. VV should have saved the 2nd goal and could have and possibly should have saved the free kick. We had imo the world’s best keeper in 2009-2010 and 2010-2011, until last season he stopped bailing out the team with key saves while this season he adds getting us into trouble with key errors… I hope for the best but wonder where this is going.

    I am also concerned about Mascherano. Under Pep he played really well and I would have expected to see him improve further as a central defender, however the opposite seems to be true. Is he regressing, getting found out, or simply missing the presence of Puyol/Pique? Must agree with Kxevin that it’s king Eric who is missed most, our best defender for the two seasons prior to his illness.

    Messi is simply the best ever and we are lucky, so l u c k y, to have him wear the blaugrana. Three goals and an assist. Amazing. I honestly don’t care if he doesn’t track back as much as in 2008/20009 if this keeps him fresher for the duration of this season and hopefully many years wearing the blaugrana.

    Vilanova rocks! Bringing in Adriano, Pedro and Xavi and for Villa, Tello and Cesc were the 3 perfect substitutions and he did so without wasting time, straight after the red card. How many coaches would have taken out Cesc, who was having his best game ever for Barcelona? I am just left puzzling how the hell Pep always waited until the 85th minute to bring in Keita while doctor Tito must have whispered in his ear half an hour earlier exactly who to bring on and who to take out.

    And still we almost conspired to lose the match. Apparently 18% of our conceded goals have come from our own players (Mascherano, Alves, Alba). And I pray Song doesn’t feel left out from that list. Note to Jordi: you are NOT Bergkamp reincarnated! (repeat 10 times)

  34. Messi’s defense is nothing to make a meal out of in my opinion. Rather the lack of solidity in the back. The best CB’s in the world would have a hard time with this system. With the left back bombing forward Alves has been molested and Montoya exposed. Injuries for Puyol and Adriano at their age is to be expected and accumulated yellows in big games at the end of the season will happen. Song is no Abidal or Puyol or Yaya. Masch is fantastic but not a fantastic CB. As they say defense wins championships; Spain has absolutely thrived with that mantra on all levels. So Villanova pleasantly making early game adjustments but not with rosters is plainly at a crossroads. 60 million for Neymar? With Tello in hand I don’t get it. Cruyff as much as said that he’s enjoying a honeymoon period. Every forward in the league are licking their chops even relegation Deportiva has the nads to say it publicly. With the best midfield and Messi it just won’t do to have another end like last year. the defense is no better than when Milito and Thuram and Marquez cost titles. Really no excuse, the team deserves better.

  35. From the review: “Was Eric Abidal really that important to our defense, which has been mortal since he left, irrespective of who has been at CB?”

    The thing about Abi is that he was a great combination of speed, technical ability (both on the ball, and judging angles in defense), and just enough physicality. Alba, his bad luck own goal in this match non-withstanding, has speed, great ball skills, but he’s not as physical. We’ve mentioned many times that he’s like a younger left sided Alves. Like Alves, when he’s in form, he does know how to defend well, but he’s not someone who can cover for anyone else. Abi’s speed, physicality, and conservative positioning allowed him to cover a lot more. We saw him recover those long balls over the top, juke out a forward running at him, and send the ball back upfield to restart possession so many times. Alba is less able to do that, and even Montoya playing conservatively is not able to provide that kind of cover from the right side.

    I think that’s why we wanted Thiago Silva before PSG destroyed the market for him. He has speed, technical ability, and enough physicality. I really love Mascherano, and I think in the right pairing he can be a great center back. But I think Pique needs to be paired with someone faster as our long term first choice CB pair. Puyol has always been that guy, and he’s still a warrior, but looking longer term I don’t think we have the guy to go with Pique. I do think Song was a good buy, he’s a versatile player which was needed, but long term we do need to think about adding a player with those Abidal-type attributes but at a CB position. Of course that’s a tough job, which is why we weren’t able to do it over the summer.

  36. I don’t think CR and Mou will be happy with Iker’s descision. For sure he’ll lose his captaincy if this is true, after all the hard work Mou has put in campagning:
    Real Madrid and Spain captain Iker Casillas will vote for Sergio Ramos to win the Ballon d’Or. Ronaldo second, and Xavi third. [sportyou]

    1. If the rumours are true I’m sure there’ll be yet more “dressing room crisis” at Real (at least according to Marca!) can’t see the club or the fans siding with Mourinho over Iker though…!

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