Xerez 0, Barca 2, a.k.a. “Sleepwalk your way to success.”

This is how bad I want it....
This is how bad I want it....

As James Brown sang in the amazing “Mind Power,” You know, we’re dealing with a very critical and crucial time, the most critical and crucial time that I’ve ever witnessed …. the educators, they call it ESP, positive thinking right? Some of the people over there on the other side of the pond call it mind vibrations. But I call it what it is is what it is.

So what your mind does is, it tells you things, even though you don’t want to listen to it. If you’re the mighty FC Barcelona, kings of all you survey, your mind is telling you “Dude. Chill. What have these guys scored, like 4 goals or something? We got this. Just relax.”

If you’re bottom-feeding Xerez, what your mind is saying is “You can make history today, if you find more than you think you have, more than you will ever have again. Be mighty. Now get to work.”

Let’s get back to James Brown for a second …. If you don’t work, you can’t eat …. so you got to have mind power to deal with starvation. It doesn’t take anything special mentally to enjoy the good times. You stroke the ball around, you score goals by the ton, everybody has a laugh and you collect the trophies.

But it takes something very special if all you have, all you can see, is nothing. If you’re a side that has round-trip tickets to the segunda, to play a match like Xerez played against us deserves some big-time, major credit. And do you know what? With a little more talent on their side of the pitch, we could have come out of this one with egg on our gold-plated faces. Which would not have been a good thing, rolling into a stretch that features something like 6,325,819 games in two days or something, a stretch where we can solidify our Copa aspirations, clinch the Champions League knockout stages and take a big step toward retaining the Liga title.

Other times, your mind tells you stuff, and it’s right. Then you need your coach to put things into perspective:

“It was very difficult for us. It was evenly balanced and in the end the quality of the players decided it. We didn’t play at our level but over the year you get this type of game. In part I understand it because we had to make a great mental effort after playing to remain in Europe and then facing the leaders. The head controls everything.”

So he rolled out a lineup of Valdes, Alves, Marquez, Txigrinski, Maxwell, The Yaya, Keita, Xavi, Pedro!, Krkic, Henry, thinking that these guys would be enough to scrape out a goal at worst. Because as an ex-player, the reason that Guardiola called the guys out before this match is that he knows the danger of a match such as this one, after a week that featured two ENORMOUS matches. And our lads hitched up their petticoats and strolled into a bar fight as Xerez and our own VicSan played like we were trying to steal something from them. And we were …. their dignity.

“If Getafe laid 5 goals on them, how many are Barca going to lay on them, 47?” Players have pride, and those guys clutched, and scratched, and ran, and clawed. They didn’t foul out of malice, they fouled because they were throwing their bodies around the pitch. And we just swanned around like a king frolicking with the peasants, knocked in a couple of goals and called it a day.

The first one came when Maxwell did exactly what we bought him to do: Took a ball in space, controlled it and smoked a perfect cross to an onrushing Henry, who knew exactly what was going down, and where his head needed to be to knock the ball home. So he hung back, then began his run at the precise moment that would make him unplayable, except at risk of a penalty, and headed the ball home.

And that's that, fellas.
And that's that, fellas.

That this goal came after a desultory, pretty much stankalicious first half by us is why this game is so cruel. Did Xerez deserve better than a bloody scalp and a loss? Sure. But sometimes you get what you get, not what you deserve.

Some will say that well, the pitch was bad, so we couldn’t really string our passes together, blah, blah, blah. Nonsense. We just weren’t sharp. As Marquez flicked around rotten pass after rotten pass, as Xavi popped a ball right to a Xerez attacker that a better side would have made us pay for, as The Yaya just stuck his legs out and lounged around, the evidence was clear. “Why take that extra step? It’s Xerez. Save yourself for the tough times to come.”

There goes that mind again.

Then came some key substitutions, just to get the lads some time before an important this weekend, against Super Depor. And consider for a moment, the luxury of being able to bring off of your bench, Ibrahimovic, Messi and Iniesta. For no other reason than to keep the motor purring in what for your side is a practice match.

Don't hurt me, big daddy!
Don't hurt me, big daddy!

And then you get a second goal, that just comes from sheer quality, as Messi slid a ball to Ibrahimovic for a cheeky, chipped goal that was a lot more difficult than it looked. So we won. Yay!

Can we fault our lads for not taking this one as seriously as they should, for not playing with the sharpness that their coach demanded? Okay. But as I said, that mind is a powerful thing.

Team: 3. Mind or no mind, they didn’t put out, and with a little more quality, Xerez would have scored a goal or two.

Guardiola: 8. Did pretty much all that he could, and made the right substitutions. He tried getting them mentally ready for what they were going to face, but sometimes the kids just don’t listen.

Valdes: 8. Dealt well with the Xerez chances, and continued his excellent run of play. Mentally, this was a match that was hard to stay into, but if he doesn’t, things might have gotten messy.

Alves: 7. Laid up some crosses that deserved better, and didn’t succumb to the overall malaise. Yes, he got caught up the pitch on a few breaks, but you just aren’t counting on your teammates to screw up and just gift the ball to the opposition.

Marquez: 4. A coterie of awful passes kept finding Xerez players. And he strolled around with that “Waiting for the train” face that he has. He made a few reasonable plays, but overall, ick. Yes, he played better in the second half, but he was climbing Shit Mountain.

Txigrinski: 6. Just a nice, solid match as he works his way back toward being the player that he was before his injury.

Maxwell: 5. Man, how could I forget Neo Soul? Overall, some good, some bad. I like his offense, and want to see more of it. Positionally, he needs focus to make up for his lack of sheer pace.

The Yaya: 4. Played like he wanted to be somewhere else. After talking all that shit in the days previous, you’re supposed to take that starting spot, shake it by the scruff of the neck and dominate. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen our man mountain play a worse match in the colors.

Keita: 7. Nice job as the foul magnet. Charged the box very well on set pieces, but needed to finish better. Those don’t cost you against Xerez, but they could against Depor, Valencia, Sevilla, etc, etc. I love his defense. Love!

Xavi: 5. Mind. Vibrations. Yes, I give him some slack for coming off an immense week in which he was absolutely magisterial. Still….

Pedro!: 4. Where did his first touch go yesterday? Oh, wait. Never mind. Mind. Vibrations. He’s still going to be erratic as he continues his path toward excellence. This was one of those matches. Nice that he looked so bummed coming off because of letting the side down. I like that.

Krkic: 4. Dude, what the hell. This is supposed to be your kind of match, and you’re out there with Henry and Pedro!, taking feeds from Xavi. That excellent ball in from Alves demonstrated the Cuddly Quandary. A similar ball from Alves to Ibrahimovic on Sunday was volleyed past the best keeper in the game. Krkic took it, hesitated, ran around and the chance went begging.

Henry: 5. He had one of those Etch-A-Sketch matches, where the pitch gets a shake and he disappears. Again, he should have owned this match. Hell of a goal, for sure. He was working hard, and it was nice to give him time with Messi and Ibrahimovic as that trio tries to come together. But we need more.


Messi (for Pedro!): 7. He knew what he had to do, which was get some match time in his legs and get warm, and he did it. Had a few nice runs, and slotted through that excellent ball to help Ibra beat the offside trap.

Ibrahimovic (for Krkic): 7. Again, he knew what he had to do, and he probably played a little harder than Guardiola wanted. But what a lovely goal. Should he have slid the ball back over to Messi? Maybe. But no striker on the planet is going to give that ball back, not with the goal yawning like that.

Iniesta (for Henry): 6. Nice effort, but please, please, PLEASE tell me how you missed that sitter. Talk to a brotha.

Bonus news and notes:

–FIFA is considering some form of punishment for Henry, after the l’incident du main. Stay tuned for that one, but I’m with the announcer in calling bullshit on any sort of sanction. If you’re going to punish someone, punish the ref who blew the call. Shame on them for not manning the hell up. It was a mess. Add the 5th offcial and move on. But if they do that, that would be admitting that anything was wrong. Let’s instead punish the player. FIFA=Fail.

–Laser pointers? EE players are saying that there were some naughty cules pointing laser pens at them during the match. It gives the likes of Pepe and Casillas the chance to grumble, and Jorge Valdano says “they are both dangerous to the eyes and violate fair play.” Agreed. But come on, dude. That was war.

–And the burden of excellence can be heavy, but did everyone know that this year, we are off to our best start evah, with 10 wins and 3 draws? I know that last year felt like we were doing a lot better, but feelings can be deceiving, right? We also have tallied one more point to this stage in the season than last year’s treble-winning squad.

And to send you off smiling….

In addition to scoring goals, I also give horseback rides.
In addition to scoring goals, I also give horseback rides.
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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.


  1. Vj
    December 3, 2009

    No wonder people liken Ibra to a horse..

    We NEED the three points against Depor.. Too many away draws keep reminding me of the awful time two years ago..

  2. stowe
    December 3, 2009

    why’s it titled 0-1 if the score was 0-2?

    • Hilal
      December 3, 2009

      And what happened to Maxwell’s rating? looks like the players are not the only ones being sloppy 😉

  3. December 3, 2009

    Hey, I’m still jetlagged. Gimme a break. 😀

    We’re all edited and stuff. Whoops!

  4. Eklavya
    December 3, 2009

    How in the blue hell did Alves jump so high?

  5. Blow-Granite
    December 3, 2009

    “Some will say that well, the pitch was bad, so we couldn’t really string our passes together, blah, blah, blah. Nonsense.” I will respectfully disagree with that statement Isaiah. If the pitch is bad, neither Barca, nor anybody else, can play the passing game. I play soccer as well, and and sometimes on artificial turf’s that is so smooth that you can you can shoot a snooker ball at one end of the field and it will go into the net on the other (metaphorically) without changing its course. It is a totally different passing game when the pitch is smooth. The anticipation of tiki taka is unbelievable. We have no hesitation taking first time shots and passes.

    • December 3, 2009

      I can agree on that. Field leaves an impact. I noted it in the previous post as well. But we cant consider it as being THE deciding factor. The question is: How far can we accept it to damage our efficiency against a team like Xerez-with all respect? If the pitch makes us play this kind of games, then expect a defeat in snowy Kiev. If we qualified, some extra water on the field anywhere we play means we are knocked out. The pitch was a challenge. True. But we had to overcome that challange. Anyone remember the game against Malaga last season? That was the spirit we lacked in this game. And it is not the same as saving energy. We saved lot of energy against Almeria last season (if I remember well), but we were still playing.

      They are professional footballers. I bet that guys like Chigsomething, Marquez, Alves,Maxwell, Keita, Yaya, and henry played on worse fields than this before. Even some muddy fields. So last night they were not victims.

      Adding to that, if you review our selection last night, we had Iniesta,Messi, and Ibra out and our selection was more the Direct type than the possession oriented. So I didn’t expect a lot of tiki taka when we start this combination regardless of the field.

      I am not over criticizing because I understand this is a game that we need to expect every once and while. Specially after a week like the one we had. You are either lucky to win or not in such game. We won. But lets make it clear, we were bad, without any excuses. And the good thing about it is that we are in a position now to bounce back and react against depor. Which is better than winning 6-0 in this game then play depor. That’s why I am glad we had this bad game that we won. It came in a perfect timing.

      I am probably labeled as the one who over-estimate Keita. But honestly, he was the only bright light in the selection (the one that started). Disciplined, serious, dedicated, and hardworking.

      This is not the first time Iniesta miss a scoring chance. But still it wasn’t much easier than the one Messi missed. We are missing lot of these recently.

      Regarding Henry, My opinion about the whole incident was clear from moment one. And it didn’t change a bit. But suspending him from world cup sounds more as a compromise than justice. That won’t be right. Even though I think we need to move forward now and learn the lessons (Extra referee-better than technology that I am still not so excited about) FIFA may end up suspending Henry for the first two games for example. Even if they want to do something to release the pressure the media put in them, they don’t have to act as butchers. I think this compromise is the less damaging to all parties. But the right thing is again, to move forward and learn from it.

      • December 3, 2009

        Look, we shouldn’t need a billiard table to play our game. Of course teams are going to muck up their pitches against us. I would. So put more weight on the pass and make your game happen. That’s what championship sides do.

        It is said (and I sort of agree) that Arsenal always get off great, until the pitches get crappier thanks to the English winters, then away they go from the toppity top top of the table.

        We’re better than that. The pitch was playable. And playable means that professionals should handle their business. If they’d taken that match as seriously as they should have, the pitch wouldn’t have been a problem. Hell, we were able to play tiki-taka in that quagmire that was (????) last season, when the guys could have used scuba suits to play that match.

        As Guardiola said after the match, “We were not fluid with the ball and we played too slow.”

        • Blow-Granite
          December 3, 2009

          Kxevin, Do you frankly think that Inesita missed that shot, or was it a bad bounce on the ball that caused the shot to go into the side netting. Did you give him less points because he missed that shot. I respectfully disagree with that rating as well. Iniesta is one of the few players with an almost perfect first touch on the ball, and it is very hard for me to imagine that he could not get the ball into the net when all he had to do was tap it in, unless there was a bad bounce.

  6. December 3, 2009

    Not gonna lie to you, the pitch wasnt that bad at all.

    Cut up in a few places as the game wore on cause it was raining just before kick-off but on the whole it was a playable surface, and the few times when Barca did get in the ‘zone’ they passed the ball around like they always do. I didnt notice the pitch making much of a difference.

    Besides, this was like a cup tie for those guys, all about getting the win and getting the F out. Totally agree about Bojan though, he was shoddy yesterday.

  7. Helge
    December 3, 2009

    lol, great finish of the article, Kxevin 😉

    I would give Bojan a better note than Pedro. You are mentioning that he’s been out with Pedro! and Henry, but they both sucked. There were not many feeds from Xavi, either. My impression simply was that Bojan was not quite as bad as Pedro!.

  8. stephen
    December 3, 2009

    I did not get to see the match, but now i really do not want to. Im happy for the points, but really? how is that the same team can make Inter look like fools (without Ibrah, without Messi), and now cant do it to this practice team?
    If we become Ibrah-dependent, although great for the spectacle and say our signings were better than anyones, it might be bad !!

    • December 3, 2009

      But Stephen, you should see it, or at least highlights. The goals were spectacular, as was the Ibra high leg pictured above. That dude is crazy, yo!

  9. Kyle
    December 3, 2009

    This is what NFL pundits call a “trap game.” A game where a team is coming off a HUGE win, or two HUGE wins in our case, and the following game they are matched up against an inferior squad. Everyone expects them to win because they are a far superior team, but the focus just isn’t there (aka mind, vibrations). All that matters in a trap game is the result, which we got. And that makes me happy 😀

    • December 3, 2009

      Word. As Al Davis says, “Just win, baby.” People talk about the style of last year’s squad, and how it played the game compared to this year’s squad, etc, etc. But as I note above, we’re off to the best Liga start in history. It’s results.

      Would I rather be annhilitating sides 5-0 and whatnot? Yes. But given the current state of things, and all the matches in the guys’ legs, that just isn’t going to happen. Here’s something else that’s interesting. Only the Valencia draw was legitimate, meaning that lapses cost us the two other draws.

      I’m happy that we won, and happy with where we are right now, given all of the extra matches, Internationals, etc.

  10. December 3, 2009

    “we are off to our best start evah, with 10 wins and 3 draws”

    this should be displayed more and more right now. anybody who says, “we aren’t playing that well this year” “we aren’t the same team as last year” can look at the results and realize we are a stronger team. we are more balanced, we are better defensively (when marquez isn’t on the field), and we have a striker who can do taekwondo kicks above his head. all that matters is winning, and that’s what we are doing right now.

    honestly I don’t see us even possibly losing in la liga till we play sevilla, and even then, I think we can beat them. could we go undefeated???

  11. December 3, 2009

    Xerez’s president resigned today. Guess we were the last straw.

  12. December 3, 2009

    Tyler, don’t even mention crazy stuff like that. I think of the Arsenal undefeated season. So much has to happen, so much luck, so much everything. Do we have the squad and the talent to go undefeated? Yes. Do we have the squad and the talent to go undefeated, while competing for 6 trophies?

    I’ll get back to you on that one.

    • Eklavya
      December 3, 2009

      The ‘undefeated’ word irritates me a lot. Arsenal didn’t lose a game that season but they did drew.’Undefeated’ means TO NOT LOSE and not TO WIN ALL Besides they didn’t win the CL. Therefore we are better than ‘undefeated’!!! 😀

        • December 3, 2009

          well in football, drawing creates a whole ‘nother meaning of what can be “undefeated”. to me, it means you never LOST. now I’m not saying it’s likely, but its fun to dream. and kxevin you’re right. after we really start feeling the affect of competing for 6 trophies, I think eventually someone in la liga will beat us.

          but who? sevilla? deportivo? valencia? madrid? on a good day we can beat all those teams with ease, and I think that’s the better thing here. not the fact that we will go undefeated, but the fact that we could with the talent our squad possesses.

          but I’d rather have 6 trophies in one season than going undefeated for sure. club world cup here we come!

    • Aeneas
      December 3, 2009

      I would take our last season over Arsenal’s undefeated season all day.

  13. jordi
    December 3, 2009

    Not only did they go 38 games, but they managed 11 more in the next season.49 games defeated is incredible, it would be fantastic to achieve an unbeaten season but i just want trophies.Jose mourinho btw has not lost a home game in the league since 2002, 150 + home league games unbeaten at 3 clubs in 7 years.

  14. jordi
    December 3, 2009

    Not only did they go 38 games, but they managed 11 more in the next season.49 games undefeated is incredible, it would be fantastic to achieve an unbeaten season but i just want trophies.Jose mourinho btw has not lost a home game in the league since 2002, 150 + home league games unbeaten at 3 clubs in 7 years.

    • Helge
      December 3, 2009

      That’s quite a record by Mourinho. But I prefer Pep’s record of achieving everything possible (if we also win the Club WC) right at the start of his professional career as a coach on top level 😀

  15. Vj
    December 3, 2009

    Undefeated? There was once a time when we would LOSE AT WILL.. In those days I think it was obligatory for us to lose one or two here and there.. we just wouldn’t be us if it weren’t for that..

  16. Jim
    December 3, 2009

    Not going to catch me getting on the team’s back after this week we’ve had. They do everything we ask of them. Manner of win in a game like this doesn’t matter. We need to not lose them and be able to raise ourselves for the important ones.

    I do think the rating of Xavi is very severe, Kxevin. The man is at the absolute heart of everything we do, game after game – no rest for him – without Iniesta or Messi for most of the game and on a not great pitch. To me he’s magnificent almost every time he pulls on the jersey and gets little help from Keita in the passing sense.

  17. Kari
    December 3, 2009

    My take on the match:

    Xerez were playing like it was a Cup final, we were playing like it was a friendly we were already winning 3-0.

    • Kari
      December 3, 2009

      Oh, and I’d give Bojan a 5. True that he only had one nice play at the beginning of the match, but that’s one more nice play than Pedro.

      This is also probably an excuse (read: IS an excuse) but 1) the team was sleepwalking, so the service wasn’t as good as it should have been. They weren’t finding him (that said, was he making good enough runs for the team to find him?).

      There is another point I wanted to make but I don’t remember….Gosh darnit ! 😛

      • Kari
        December 3, 2009

        OH! NOW I remember, 2) Pedro was/is usually playing with Messi and Ibra. I’d like to see Bojan play with them and the A-team. I think Txigrisky also has that problem. YOu only play as good as the players surrounding you. That team yesterday was just not in it and I think that affects a player. Bojan did start brightly and got into pretty good positions during the first half (Henry as well), but they didn’t find him (or Henry).

        That said, they did have the Stank and I didn’t see Bojan pressuring the defence that much and he didn’t have the excuse of playing the Sunday match. I also didn’t see Pedro do it either…

        Anyway! Bojangles was clearly affected by the team’s lackluster display at the beginning and I think he lost the incentive the take the game by the scuff of the neck after that… Me thinks to get his confidence back, he needs to play at the Camp Nou. He definiately plays better with home support (but a pro should be able to play anywhere…I need to stop counterarguing myself) a la Sporting Gijon in August.

        Excuses, excuses, I know. But I’m on Team Bojan (as opposed to what I don’t know 😛 )He’ll get his mojo back. After all, he’s the first teen in Barca history to reach 100 appearencecs!

        • Dee
          December 3, 2009

          Again, totally agree with you. Even Messi couldn’t play well when he doesn’t get good support in the national team.

      • Dee
        December 3, 2009

        Agree with you. Pep also said the same thing.

  18. Diane
    December 3, 2009

    1) Xerez did a great job. I felt a little bad for them a couple of times when nerves hit in front of the goal. Would a shot have gone in? Maybe not, but who knows if they hadn’t balked. Which means we would have had to score some more!

    2) I often think that player ratings are harsh, but Xavi adjusted pretty well to the pitch and did better than he was credited for here. It was fun to see a few moments of Bojan’s trickiness when confident on the ball, hopefully signs of more to come.

    3) Welcome back Kevin! Hope you had a great trip and I’m insanely jealous. I may be the only person who visits the blog who doesn’t know this, but how have you come to learn Catalan, and did you speak Spanish first? (Jealous again, I hate not being able to watch the best sports shows — Catalan — when I’m in Barcelona!).

    • Diane
      December 3, 2009

      …sorry to have left out your x !

      • Kxevin
        December 3, 2009

        Ah, it’s nice to be argued with again. 😀

        The trip was spectacular. I learned Catalan through the “Teach Yourself” book/CD package, the one by Poch and Yates. It’s excellent, because it dumps you right in.

        I don’t speak Spanish at all, though many of the words are the same. As a French speaker, Catalan felt comfortable for me right away, and I figure that I’m only going to be visiting Barcelona and the immediate area, so why bother with Spanish, though I’m sure that I’ll pick it up as things go along.

        And as with any language, the person speaking is critical, until you achieve a comfort level. Some people I could understand really well. Puyol, for example. Iniesta, no way. He speaks through clenched, smiling teeth all the time. Guardiola is hit or miss. As with anything, you get better at it. I was better on the day I left, than the day I arrived.

        There’s a big post coming up about the trip, if we can ever stop playing 47 games in 4 days.

        • Eklavya
          December 3, 2009

          So it’s not too difficult to learn Catalan if you speak French (did you learn that from a CD/book package as well?)?

          Looking forward to your trip post! Will we get a glimpse at our behind-the-scenes-review man? 😀

        • Diane
          December 4, 2009

          Eh, I could have argued more, but you guys do such a great job that its would have been splitting hairs anyway! I have four kids around the same age as many of the players I follow these days so I’m probably more sympathetic than some. On the other hand, I’ve always been a players’ fan and tend to look for what went wrong team-wide or in the back-room/front office (or with a player’s national team coach 😉 ) first if things aren’t going well!

          Glad you enjoyed the trip and look forward to your post. Impressed with the language handiness.

  19. tutomate
    December 3, 2009

    Anyone know where I can download the game?

    • Jnice
      December 3, 2009

      1st half:

      2nd half:


  20. Kevo
    December 3, 2009

    So my question is, why did we play mid-week and other teams didnt?
    Were we a match behind everyone else?

    I dont follow the fixtures that much that’s why i ask. Thanks!

    • Kxevin
      December 3, 2009

      We got moved up because we’ll be on World Club duty next weekend.

  21. Corrine
    December 4, 2009

    Henry: 5. He had one of those Etch-A-Sketch matches, where the pitch gets a shake and he disappears.

    The Yaya: 4. Played like he wanted to be somewhere else.
    you stop that right now kxevin

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