Barca 3, Celta de Vigo 1, as Barça sounded like a broken record

(Lev is in the house again, with another guest review. And if he keeps this up, his match chronicles won’t be carrying any such qualifiers for much longer. So here ya go, folks.)

Once upon a time, a legendary Barcelona team started the league with 9 wins and 1 draw.

No, this was not Helenio Herrera’s Barcelona, a record-breaking team in its own right, snatching the league out of Di Stefano’s (or should we say Franco’s) clutches. Nor was it Cruijff’s dream team, which for all its brilliance was as lucky as it was consistent. It finally improved upon the start of Van Gaal’s Barcelona, whose methodical offense and Dutch invasion never quite captured the culé imagination. Today Rijkaard’s Barcelona, the first team since the Blue Elephant took over Camp Nou, is almost a sweet distant memory of Ronnie juking and grinning his way past defenders. And despite all the records shattered under Guardiola’s reign, he never quite started the league this well. But…

Make no mistake – this is still Pep’s team. In New York City he may be, weathering the storm like any other mortal — but he is also in the heart of every culé who watches the game in the stands of the stadium, behind a low-resolution stream on their laptop or in my case, in front of a large-screen TV at a Chinese restaurant, drinking cheap beer.

More importantly he remains in the heart of every player who was on the pitch today, each with a new-found hunger that can only come from losing. I daresay he is even in the heart of Jordi Alba, the one player who has never been Pep’s player, but of course a culé nonetheless. Tito Vilanova is the manager, the head coach, the man in charge — and oh boy, do I love that he is the man in charge right now -– and he will make the team his own eventually, but at this moment this team is still as much Pep’s as Tito’s.

Back from beating up a 3rd grader for his lunch money in our mid-week Copa game, we came out in a 3-4-3 formation featuring Valdes, Alba, Mascherano, Adriano, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Fàbregas, Villa, Messi and Pedro. Huh? What? Three at the back, you say? I thought he wasn’t going to do that anymore! Maybe it was because he wanted to give his old club a fighting chance — or perhaps because, after steadfastly refusing to play the same central defensive duo twice, Doctor Tito had simply run out of new back line combinations. But, with Puyol and Pique watching the game from up high, and Song and Bartra from the sidelines, our very own Jefecito was left to play the lone ranger, waiting for any Galician outlaw to step up and make his day.

It’s game time, and let’s not mind the defense for now, as it soon becomes clear that defense is not on our mind. Within 3 minutes of play el Guaje loses his marker with an almost Brazilian sombrero and passes to Cesc for the first warning shot -– a blast of the cannon that goes soaring over the Celta goal to put fear in Javi Varas’ heart and smoke in his ears. We mean business and try to finish the game from the start, attacking Celta de Vigo relentlessly with the ball and fighting tooth and nail to get it back whenever and wherever we lose it.

If he’s half as good a father as he is a footballer, Thiago Messi will be one lucky kid.

Soon Messi is found dribbling around the box, as playful as a dolphin daring its human defenders to swim along in rough waters before setting up Iniesta, whose left foot shot curls just over. A minute later Don Andres returns the favor and then some by putting Daddy Leo alone in front of the goalkeeper, but his attempted lob has the trajectory of a dirty diaper kicked straight into the air, and is easily kept out by the Celta defense. A delightful Messi-Xaviniesta combo platter also comes to nothing as Villa is offside, and Xavi’s shot is saved anyway. The referee either ignores the offside or plays the advantage and Celta counters quickly, reminding us to, yes, mind the defense.

But never mind the defense, because even with three at the back our fullbacks attack. Iniesta slices a beauty of a pass for Jordi Alba to latch unto, reach the back line and cut a cross into the box, which after not getting cleared properly gets played back in to Messi whose attempt is easily stopped by Varas. And then Celta shows us they are not dead but playing, and were only playing dead to begin with. They never mind our “defense” and put Iago Aspas one-on-one with Valdes. Luckily for us our Victorian Secret is not that easily skinned and he saves our hide. Not for the first time this season, but hey, who’s counting?

Victor Valdes prevents us from having to mount another comeback attempt.

Phew. Deep breath. Saved from having to come back again, just as we were getting used to not spending 90 minutes in heart attack city every weekend. A nice and easy win, please. Our 3-4-3 formation sure makes our defense look nonexistent oh, I don’t know, anytime our opponent decides to launch a counter attack!

Never mind that. Villa, from the top of the key, passes the ball ever so softly in front of the penalty area. It almost gets intercepted but still finds its target in the form of one-third of our defense. Adriano Correia receives the ball, plays a lovely one-two with Pedro and penetrates the box to finish off the move like a natural born poacher. After 21 minutes, it’s F.C. Barcelona, masters of Earth, Wind and Grass, 1; Celta de Vigo, recently promoted fishermen testing their sea legs on the Catalonian shore, 0.

And just like that, let the party begin. This is gonna be a blow-out. The gaping holes in our defense are easily forgotten (or simply not minded) by everybody in the stadium that wears a blaugrana uniform, but not by those wearing the sky blue and white of the Galician flag. In an absolutely beautiful combination, Celta sling the leather back and forth as if the Camp Nou were a giant pinball machine, to free up Iago Aspas once again with a clear path to our goal. Again Victor Valdes saves, but this time he lets the rebound fall right in front of the goalmouth where Mario Bermejo, or Mario B, according to the MC’s name on the back of his shirt, reacts faster than Adriano to put the ball in the back of the net. And just like that, we’re level.

Besides great skill and self-belief, Celta de Vigo showed a lot of heart on that play, the heart of a team that will not be back in the Segunda next season. To come to our house and get bombarded for the first 20 minutes of the game, a lot of teams would have taken the first goal as a cue to lay down and roll over. Shut up and take the pain, stupid! Only a giant nut case would try to defend against our squirrel attack.

To their immense credit, Celta did not roll over. But they are not alone in possessing that undefinable quality, the one that although I can’t exactly say was missing last season is on such prominent display this season: heart. Ours has been pumping full throttle as of late and we have most definitely matched those of any opponent we have squared up against this temporada. So when a minute after the equalizer, Don Andrés is 40 yards from the goal and passes the ball to David Villa on the left flank, he isn’t merely content to see what will happen or maybe offer himself as an outlet for Villa to pass the ball back to. No. When el Guaje cuts inside, Iniesta dashes forward to receive a deft back-heel flick into the box. He then proceeds to turn any defender that faces him into a ghost, and gives the ball back to Villa for a self-assured tap in.

Who doesn’t love our MOTM Andrés Iniesta?

The rest of the half is spent waiting for the inevitable, namely Adriano getting injured. Or maybe he just likes to handle his groin a lot in public, who can tell? Papa Flea shows us that fatherhood has not softened him one bit when he fights the ball off of a defender to take on Javier Varas man to man…That is, until he rounds him, finds the path to goal blocked, dribbles back to where he came from, a bit further back…and helplessly loses the ball amid a forest of Gallegos. Adriano and Dani Alves perform the great Brazilian switch trick, as the former is finally taken off in order to lick his wounds. He will be out for three weeks; another defender bites the dust.

During the break Vilanova sensibly brings on Bartra for Cesc to give us a bit more defensive solidity. Bartra then looks on in horror when, at the start of the second half, Mascherano sleepily misjudges a pass and almost lets Aspas bring Celta back into the game. Mostly though, truth be told, a highly entertaining first half gave way to a definitely sluggish second. It’s not that nobody tried. It’s just that they didn’t pull it off, the notable exception of an otherwise very uneventful 45 minutes being Jordi Alba treating us with a carbon copy of his latest goal for the Spanish national team, offside and all.

Alba: “Whenever I’m offside, I just dribble past the keeper.”

Nonetheless the game ended with our collective hearts in our stomachs after Messi stayed down upon receving a knock on his knee. Haaaa….You could hear a whole stadium exhale as he got up. It was just a bruise. Ain’t no paternity leave at this here company – don’t scare us again like that. And at the end, we left the pitch with the best Liga start ever: 9 wins and 1 draw. Better than the 97/98 team of Rivaldo, Figo, Kluivert and Co.

No team has ever started this well and not won the league, we were told a couple of games ago. That age-old adage, “what does it all mean,” might be ringing in your ears.

Nothing. Zip. Nada. And yes, we are clear at the top now that that other team lost. No, not that other team. We are 8 points above that other team, though I wouldn’t want to write them off just yet.

But records are meaningless unless they come with titles, and they are especially meaningless during an era in which they are broken left and right. The league is long, and far from over. Van Gaal did not have to deal with Mourinho, at least not as an opponent. Our rivals did not have half a billion Euros worth of players back then. Anything can still happen. Let’s try to be 8 points clear after Hlebuary, and even then, let’s keep our feet on the ground. After all, it ain’t over till the fat lady burps. And right now she’s just loading up on the kool-aid.

Once upon a time a legendary team won 14 titles in 4 seasons. This was a team whose backbone came, just like its coach, from its own youth academy; a team heavily influenced by the footballing philosophy of Johan Cruijff; whose most important players debuted under Van Gaal and Rijkaard. This was a team that was talked about as one of the best teams in the history of the game, that showed the world football as it had never been played before, that stayed true to its style, win or lose — but mostly win. And when that team finally did bow out in the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2012, it had a whole stadium give its players and coach a standing ovation for all that they had given us. This was Pep’s Barça. And maybe, or actually, it was Tito’s Barcelona as well. Aren’t we the lucky ones?

“The record doesn’t give us titles, points do.” –Doctor Tito Vilanova
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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.

98 Comments

  1. Jim
    November 4, 2012

    Good review, Lev. Well done. I like the style.

    • Lev
      November 4, 2012

      Thanks, Jim! Had the awesome benefit of an editor crossing my t’s and dotting my i’s, though 🙂

    • genesfut
      November 5, 2012

      Nice piece. Very good writing too

  2. alpinegroove
    November 4, 2012

    Villa’s goal demonstrated the most striking difference about how the team played, especially Villa.
    After the pass, he came to the center and intercepted a ball that was going straight in Messi’s direction. Messi would have surely scored from there.
    Villa, unapologetically, got there first, and ran to celebrate, leaving Messi behind.
    Messi paused for a moment, then remembered that he needed to run after him or else face another two weeks of questions about his relationship with Villa.

    • Come on, man. The pass was really meant for Villa. The speed at which Iniesta was moving, it is very clear that he could only spot Villa and it’s not the first time these two have been doing the same move.

    • mic
      November 5, 2012

      Not sure what Messi’s reaction meant but I really like how in the last few matches Fabregas was able to in a good way dominate when Xavi was present and Villa when Messi was present. Who said that Tito is not a psychologist? 🙂

  3. ooga aga
    November 4, 2012

    our “victorian secret” ha! yup, VV saved us big. where are those people who clamored for us to get a new keeper, after some miscue a few games back? next time you want to take out the axe, remember the saves VV makes in games such as this …

    • November 5, 2012

      Valdes definitely has his moments vs chelsea 2011(a part of me will never agree with anybody that says that drogba goal would have beaten iker or hart…krul even), vs Madrid (we all knw the story behind this 1), vs chelsea (should definitely have stayed in goal when ramirez wasnt running goalward)…those 3 AWFUL performances decided our season last year…dnt wanna talk abt d Spanish super cup(both legs)… he has saved us like 2006 when and other times too, up until last season he was statistically beta than iker but truth be told, valdes really shouldnt be compared to d saint…still havnt forgiven him 4 his recent hooha(dnt knw if i ever will)

  4. ooga aga
    November 4, 2012

    dirty tackle reporting on messi’s argument with celta player

    **http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/soccer-dirty-tackle/frustrated-leo-messi-punches-celta-vigo-player-back-010451833–sow.html

    • barca96
      November 4, 2012

      For some strange reason, I can never read those articles on my photos. Only the news headlines come out.

    • Lev
      November 5, 2012

      That was weird and I would like to see the full sequence again (what led up to the punch and what happened after). It almost looked like a prank punch. Does anyone know what minute of the game this happened? My girl and I watched the game together and both of us noticed towards the end of the game how respectful and friendly all the Celta de Vigo players were towards Messi.

      Also VV definitely saved us. Yes. But he was in my eyes also partly to blame for the goal we conceded, pushing the rebound right where it can hurt us. I wouldn’t mind at all if we started looking for a new goalkeeper to maybe not take over but give him some serious competition.

      • barca96
        November 5, 2012

        Now I see what the video is all about. When it happened I really thought that Messi was as usual illegally blocked off but when I played it on slow-mo, I got it wrong. The defender didn’t do anything wrong.

        Messi needs to stop acting so childish when things don’t go his way.

  5. sebanovic
    November 4, 2012

    Nice review!

    But I was wondering…if Thiago Messi becomes a (at least) decent footballer, will he choose to play for Argentina or Spain?

    • Xingxian
      November 4, 2012

      On a related note, as unlikely as I find it, the very idea of Benjamin Aguero growing up to play for The Three Lions as a talismanic player makes me burst out into poetic giggles.

    • Ryan
      November 5, 2012

      Isn’t Messi’s girlfriend also from Rosario? My bet is Thiago Messi plays for Argentina, if he actually becomes good.

    • November 5, 2012

      Technically Thiago Messi isn’t even a Spanish citizen yet. I think they have to wait a year to apply for naturalization.

      • Messiah10
        November 5, 2012

        Yep. Both parents are Argentinian. So, Thiago will most likely hold dual citizenship from Spain and Argentina. If I were Thiago, I’d want nothing to do with football. There’d be way to much expectations and pressure on the kid. Jordan’s sons had a lot of pressure and so have other super star athletes. It’s not worth it.

        • Barcaleya
          November 5, 2012

          Would love for Thiago to be an orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports injuries.

          He would still be in the sports world that I’m sure he will grow up loving but doesn’t have to follow in what arguably would be footsteps unlikely to be filled up by anyone.

  6. Xingxian
    November 4, 2012

    Lev I’m at a loss for words. This was a great review.

  7. Was some kind of cray experiment with the line-up. One good thing with Tito, he keeps this kind of experiments for the home matches. That was the mistake Guardiola did last season. It was a match where Tito looked at his team and said “If they score one, we will double it”.

  8. stefan2k
    November 5, 2012

    The problem with Messi having an off-day, although perfectly understandable, is that there is always a slight fear that the magic could be over.

    Of course its dumb to see his performance as some kind of volatile gift which could be taken any day… isn’t it? 🙂

    • mom4
      November 5, 2012

      Cule pessimism much? 😀

      I know, sometimes I think I need to pinch myself to see if we are really that fortunate to have Messi playing for our team, or was it all just a dream. I mean, how can any one team be blessed with Messi, Xavi, and Iniesta all at the same time. It isn’t natural and it will have to be paid for…

      • Barcaleya
        November 5, 2012

        Exactly, mom! I can’t believe I am this lucky to be supporting a team with the most wonderful players, most wonderful plays and winning games too!!!

        I’ve loved the team since the late ’90s and I always thought we had the most wonderful players and yet…we never really won.

        Now that we are….I am so grateful. The team makes me happy, so often and so much.

        I can only be sad for supposed fans who can’t be happy with this team. Unless perhaps their happiness comes from criticism.

  9. November 5, 2012

    May be our worst match this season. We came out with 3 points thanks to Valdes.
    Neither can we score from a good counter, nor can we prevent one from a counter. Celta’s passing during transition was brilliant. If they had a Ronaldo or Villa like player, it would have been an embarassing defeat for us.

    • Ryan
      November 5, 2012

      I think you’re selling Tito short. You can’t drastically change a team by inserting a Ronaldo or Villa into Celta Vigo and expect that Tito wouldn’t have changed his lineup or tactics. If Celta had more quality up front, I bet Tito would have played in such a way to limit their chances.

  10. ooga aga
    November 5, 2012

    pique is given the medical go ahead to play in scotland!!!

    **http://www.fcbarcelona.es/futbol/primer-equipo/detalle/noticia/gerard-pique-entra-en-la-lista-para-glasgow

    • Jim
      November 5, 2012

      Not really fair to pitch him in after the time he has been out but we may not have a choice.

  11. November 5, 2012

    Best part about that match for me was that Messi was the worst player on the pitch, and we still won comfortably. As trends go, that one is a delight for me, because it shows that the team has strength and versatility. It also has other scoring threats, not least of which is our Killer Squirrel and Glass Brazilian. And Villa had his best match in the colors in a looooong time. Dude was everywhere.

    On the other end of the pitch, Bartra continues to impress, and Valdes! See, that stop he made is what I was hoping he would have done against Wrongaldo in El Clasic, instead of coming out and then stopping. Different play, but I still wonder if more aggression would have helped.

    Undefeated in the league, and alone atop the table. Feels good.

  12. barca96
    November 5, 2012

    – I feel sorry for you Jim. Can’t you get someone to fill in for you?

    – On an unrelated note, I read an artist from a British press that the lady (they were labelled as bf gf back then) that Cesc was pictured with in the summer was someone else’s wife. I’ve always thought that she looked like a cougar.

    • Jim
      November 5, 2012

      Don’t get many (any?) chances to watch the team as I’m a teacher so can only go over to Barcelona during the school holidays. I’m gutted but its a Parent contact evening and its my year group so I can’t really avoid it. Thanks for the sympathy though.

      Agree with Kxevin about being relieved that the team played well without Messi having to lead it but I’d also agree with Lev below hen he says that Messi, apart from finishing, actually didn’t play too badly. Especially when you think of his lack of sleep and how his head must be swirling.

      I’m also agreeing too much with everyone and will now have to go lie down 🙂

      • bhed
        November 5, 2012

        Another teacher – I wonder how many others are on here. I’ve got the same issue with holidays. Hopefully I can make the pilgrimage one spring (short break, but at least they’ll be playing football).

  13. Lev
    November 5, 2012

    Contrary to apparently everybody, judging by the comments of the last couple of days, I actually thought Messi had a good match. Usually managed to occupy a couple of defenders whenever he had the ball and played some mean passes. His finishing was terrible, though.

    And by the way… this season’s Villa is the one we’ve been waiting for for 2 years now!

    • mom4
      November 5, 2012

      Shhhh, Lev, don’t tell anybody but I don’t think Messi was as bad as everybody says he was either. He was so well defended that his mere presence on the pitch opened up space for others. Of course there was that one miraculous chance where he was 1v1 with the keeper…the one where I embarassed the heck outta myself in the middle of an Irish pub (where everyone else was watching college football) by screaming, “just shoot the damn ball, Messi!!!” He did some good stuff amidst a somewhat meh performance (by his standards).

  14. tiaali
    November 5, 2012

    The result, the yet-another record broken, our loneliness atop of the table, Villa’s form, our heart, and the substance and style of this post, can all be defined with one word: BEAUTIFUL!

  15. psqd
    November 5, 2012

    First off. Fun review thanks Lev!
    I would like to chime in on a few points. Unfortunately, i watched the game on a stream, so i know i won’t be as precise as i would like.
    I think this was a great look at Tito, his vision, preferences, and potentially a glimpse going forward. It was also interesting to read, Busquets i think, say that celta played differently than they expected and that precipitated changes.
    The starting lineup looked like a 3-4-3 or 3-1-3-3 depending on how thin you want to slice it. However, it played more aggressively than the numbers read, at least in possession. To me the move to a 2-3-5 or 2-5-3, whatever, when busquets pulled back to play a in line with sMasche and squirrel and mr. glass moved to wingbacks, looked more defensive arrangement! Which is, come on admit it, ridiculous and awesome. The final and most conservative adjustment was back to the tried and true 4-3-3, again i would argue in name only. However, it was defensive in that an actual natural defender was brought in to play as a defender no less for a guy playing a false something or other, but most certainly an offensive false something or other. That and moving busquets back to his normal holding role was going to consolidate play and therefore relatively conservative. However, i will argue that any “4-3-3” with alves and squirrel in it, isn’t a 4-3-3 anywhere but in barcelona. I mean it played like a 2-1-4-3 or 2-1-3-4 depending on how you like to account for wingbacks.

    My point is that how can you not love a guy who uses 3 formations the most conservative of which is nominally 2 at the back? And this in a game he was arguably winning throughout, not throwing caution to the wind chasing the game. Though i guess you could argue he was in fact throwing caution to the wind.

    The other interesting part about the starting lineup was for me that even though it seemed built to break a bus of sorts and proved to have some effective tactical innovations, it could also just have been the best way tito could come up with to play his current best 11. i think it would be hard to argue that tito didn’t put his most on form players on the field and any substitution might have made for a more orthodox formation, but would have been a step down in form.
    Take for example the wingbacks alba and adriano. They trail only cesc, messi, and villa in scoring for the club this season. However, those goals have all come playing at LB. We can argue whether the wingers/wide forwards productivity has been sacrificed for those goals to happen, that maybe it was all just a bit of horse trading, but those two guys are putting the ball in the net better than all of those wide forwards sans villa. So, tito puts both of them on the field without making adriano play CB. In order to do this he leaves montoya, who has been playing well enough, and a returning alves, who is alves, on the bench. Both get on the scoresheet and when alves comes on he shows just exactly how and why adriano was more effective and prophetically chosen to start ahead of him.
    Otherwise, tito was shoehorning cesc, iniesta, and xavi into the side simultaneously. Finally, he chose Pedro and Villa on the “wings.” Best 11 he has at the moment, which “luckily” contained a few players flexible enough to allow them to play together in multiple formations. In many ways this game, to me, picked up where the team was a year ago in terms of flexibility, before villa went out, pedro went missing etc. This time last year was peak form for the season and coincided with some great tactical and formational flexibility. Also, it reminds us that tito was “around” for the 2-8 formation last year. Basically, we could be in for some more fun!

    Other points of interest for me were…
    As Kxevin pointed out, VV got his swagger back. That first one-on-one save was exactly what we expect to see from him and what he hasn’t provided as regularly yet this season. I could have sworn he grew a couple inches after he stopped that one. As much as confidence is king for strikers it is for keepers too. I know ideally he would have gotten even more of himself on the one they scored, but being fair he did all that could be asked of him. The “defenders” didn’t clean it up. Also, on the goal, yeah it was a mess, but they were playing like 1 1/2 at the back, that’s gonna happen.
    Finally, just want to point out that a key part of the goal was a guy getting into the space behind squirrel. We have seen him close that run down a number of times already this season, but this time he couldn’t and they scored. Squirrel was obviously an effective part of the attack this game and the space left behind was a calculated risk, but doesn’t this scenario seem a bit familiar? If not watch it in the mirror. Now you’ve got it. And yet i still haven’t heard anyone calling for squirrel soup. Maybe it’s cause he scored, maybe cause they won the game, maybe cause he still new and shiny, or maybe cause he’s la masia mafia. Just saying that if that happens on the right side of the pitch there would be a lot more comments on this post calling for a bowler hat wearing brazilian head.
    Other than that, how obvious is it now in hindsight that Villa was hurting more than we knew for longer than we knew last year. That guy is the new attacker we didn’t sign this year and the comeback player of the year, touch wood.
    And last but not least, yep i included pedro as a form guy right now even though he has only scored one goal. Tito once again used P! as a tactical sacrificial lamb in the name of width. That is especially isolating on the right side of this team. How is he any different than alexis, who i think has also scored once. In a couple ways, he has i think 4 assists to 1 for sanchez, and to my memory he isn’t missing the chances that alexis has been. To that he seems to be confident in what he is doing for the team, sanchez much less so.

    now hope they can win in scotland! it’d be a boost to be able to play b squads in the two remaining champions group games, especially in russia on the plastic.

    • Lev
      November 5, 2012

      You’re right. This was maybe the most attacking formation ever seen in football. The only natural defenders on the pitch were wing backs!

      The drawback is that when we inevitably let somebody slip through he will have a clear path to goal, which was why I was really happy to see Bartra warming up at the end of the 1st half.

      For both the one-on-one where VV saved and the goal I don’t even think the “defense” was to blame. The formation was.

    • alpinegroove
      November 5, 2012

      Finally, just want to point out that a key part of the goal was a guy getting into the space behind squirrel.

      I don’t think he got into space behind Alba but rather behind Mascherano. The run doesn’t come from the far right, but is pretty centered. In the replay, you can see Masch lunging forward in Celta’s half, and when he is beaten, there is no one there to cover for him. To me that means that Masch should know when Alba is not there and not risk it. Rather, track back.

      • psqd
        November 6, 2012

        Watched the goal against again, and i’m more sure that the first ball in, the one VV partially blocked, is from the guy running on the left in the space behind jordi and iniesta. iniesta is actually the player closest to him, chasing. Which is not to say that sMasche did well on the play. It was a chaotic mess, but that’s to be expected given the formation and tactics.

    • bhed
      November 6, 2012

      Disagree on Alba vs. Alves – Danny would always have a few defensive lapses, but made up for it with overall quality play on both sides of the pitch, and that was at his best. Jordi is playing at that level now. You can’t be a perfect attacker and defender all the time.

      • psqd
        November 6, 2012

        First, i certainly didn’t mean it as Alba vs. Alves. Which just might be the lamest cage match ever, especially because everything but the flailing around on the ground would be happening too fast to see.

        But anyway, my point was simply that Alba has been given similar freedoms, orders, responsibilities as Alves. However, I haven’t seen anyone complaining that jordi didn’t get back on their goal. Whereas Alves has taken loads of stick in similar situations. That’s it.

        Also, at lest against Celta statistically they were working down their right for more of their attacks than center or their left. I don’t watch them enough to know if this is normal for them or if they were targeting the space behind the squirrel hoping to catch a time when he couldn’t super speed back.

        And i really do love what squirrel is doing. i thought he’d fit in well, but this is something else.

  16. November 5, 2012

    Villa should have atleast left that ball for messi as a welcome to father hood gift, messi will definitely hold that one against him

    • nia
      November 5, 2012

      NO WAY!!! What if Messi had missed it as well? Better Villa scored it besides, Messi will have plenty of games to score and dedicate to his son. He did have at least 3 chances to score as well.
      On the other hand, i know that Barca have one of the best and closest dressing rooms in footy and everyone was excited for Messi’s son but, i can’t help to think it might be annoying his team mates slightly the way everyone is making it seem that that’s the first child to be born in the current sqaud(i know i would).

    • G6O
      November 5, 2012

      Messi had the best chance of the game and blew it. He can only blame himself for failing to score

    • Messiah10
      November 5, 2012

      Why are you speculating as to what a player will “think” in the future? It’s absurd. Stick to facts not speculation.

    • swamidigital
      November 5, 2012

      This is a very weird comment.

  17. Blau-Grenade
    November 5, 2012

    Lovely review Lev.

    Villa should not have left the ball for Messi.

    Firstly Villa was tracking Iniesta who was running on his left with the ball, there was no way for Villa to know that Messi was behind him. Unless he has vision that makes him look with a wide view of greater than 180 degrees which is highly unlikely.

    Secondly, Villa is a striker. So if he sees a shot on goal, as a striker, he takes it, especially a first time shot, and that is what he did, and it was the right thing to do.

    Villa had an awesome match. Messi played well too. The entire team played well in the match. I cannot find a player to criticize in this match.

    • Lev
      November 5, 2012

      Agreed. Don’t even think that Iniesta played the ball to Messi to begin with, but even if he did, a scorer’s job is to get to the ball and score, I’m sure that Leo knows that more than anyone

      • TITO
        November 5, 2012

        Well, if it was Alexis instead of Villa…

  18. nia
    November 5, 2012

    OT: Tristiano said that if he could, he would vote for himself for the Balon d’or and too much humility is vanity(a little jab at Messi think)
    I think this why most people don’t like him, know i don’t . Messi is far from perfect and he can be a little ass too from what i’ve seen on the field sometimes but, he’s a more likeable character and his humility is far more relatable.

    • Jim
      November 5, 2012

      As a role model, so far I would say Messi has been the best of the players over the last thirty years to be considered best in the world.

  19. yana
    November 5, 2012

    Well, Messi’s “badly” is never actually bad…

    He just looked so exhausted, for understood reasons. Probably more mentally exhausted — for joyous reasons, but still exhausted — than physical. During that mazy run around the area, I counted four different moments where we’ve seen inevitable goals from him on any other day: breakaway from last defender, 1v1 with keeper, shoot! — or, there, dribbled around keeper, narrow angle but hey it’s Messi, shoot! — or, there, broke through two defenders back into center of area, shoot! — or, there, turned the onrushing defender, shoot! …but he just didn’t have that lightning speed of thought and foot that he usually does. That look of complete bemusement when he was dispossessed said it all, really.

    I think Brooks is being deadpan with the “Messi Punches Someone” article. With “punch” actually being “sulky thwap” and “angry Messi held back by Celta players” actually being “gently cradled and patted on the head” like a cranky child past his bedtime. Really, really should not have been on the pitch. Someone on twitter said lip-reading, Tito said “joder” when Messi went down; think he knows a bullet was dodged there. Remember that later please, Tito.

    “Other than that, how obvious is it now in hindsight that Villa was hurting more than we knew for longer than we knew last year. That guy is the new attacker we didn’t sign this year and the comeback player of the year, touch wood.” Yes, this exactly. They said he was carrying the injury since Wembley, he essentially never had his second year. This year is it, and looks very promising.

  20. Messiah10
    November 6, 2012

    Poor Ronaldo is tired of comparison with Messi. He spoke of the “weight” of the comparisons in reference to the Balon d’Or award.

    Funny, for someone tired of the speculation of who the winner will be, he sure seems to be talking a lot about it.

    • swamidigital
      November 6, 2012

      To be fair, he and Messi both are asked about it alot. And no matter what their answer, there is always a big article about it.

  21. November 6, 2012

    One trend I am also noticing with Vilanova seems to be when players come back from injuries. The layoffs seem to be longer with Vilanova, or am I crazy?

    • nzm
      November 6, 2012

      No – he’s giving the players longer to heal.

      The team doc/surgeon, Cugat, said that with Villa, Tito was the driving force as to when he could return and is also still strictly controlling Villa’s playing time.

      Tito’s being very sensible and not panicking. It’s still early in the season, the heat isn’t on high yet – better to take the time and (hopefully) have everyone healthy for when the results will matter.

      I’ve also noticed some changes in their warm-up routines on the pitch before the games. Lots more stretching than before and more emphasis on limbering up. Good to see.

      • barca96
        November 6, 2012

        Kxevin is right with Pique but then Puyol
        proves that that theory is flawed by again
        coming back earlier than expected.

        Did the Sandy super storm affect your
        preparations Kxevin?

        What is limbering up?

        Could the emphasize on stretching be because of the high number of hamstring injuries last season?

        • ooga aga
          November 6, 2012

          puyol destroys all theories. but in general kxevin seems to be right.

          though i am worried we have not heard one mention of cuencas name.

          limber is an adjective meaning flexible. “limbering up” means stretching and warming up.

        • psqd
          November 6, 2012

          Puyol is a freak! However, his recent injuries are different. Broken bones and dislocations, but importantly to his head and arm. It was freak stuff and not likely to develop related injuries due to weakness. Plus he could maintain fitness differently with those injuries than could guys like pique who have leg injuries.

    • psqd
      November 6, 2012

      Not crazy, think you are right. Villa is obviously the poster child, but seems to be true across the board. In a related matter, i think he is more intentional about player rotation as well. It’s impossible to say for sure, but he does seem to have picked out fatigue as a reason for “underperformance.” I also wonder if this difference isn’t effected by his experience as a player, especially compared to Pep’s.
      Pep was a star, not familiar to the substitute’s bench or perspective. To generalize he seemed to want to maximize what he could get out his starters or stars and understanding their desire to play as much as possible. He also once mentioned that the other coaches were often the people helping him recover when his starting strategy wasn’t working. Tito wasn’t a star and seems to accept that even though some players may be better overall that doesn’t mean they are always better or that subs aren’t better suited due to form, tactical circumstance, or fatigue. Tito has so far given the subs much more time and a better chance to perform. I know that’s overly generalized and not terribly well put. My main point is that i think part of the change with tito in control is player management and we are seeing that manifest in injury recoup times, squad rotation, and substitutions. All different facets, but related i think.

      • Lev
        November 6, 2012

        On that note, it will be interesting to see how he will manage Thiago’s playing time when he’s back.

        Also am I the only one hoping he will rest la Pulga against Celtic tmw?

  22. barca96
    November 6, 2012

    Ronaldo;

    Messi can win [the Balon d’Or] but so can Xavi or [Andrés] Iniesta. And we cannot forget [Didier] Drogba or [Radamel] Falcao. They can also receive the trophy.”

    Funny how he didn’t mention Xabi Alonso, Iker or Ramos (seriously Iker??!!. Kudos to him for mentioning Xavi & Iniesta. He knows it.

  23. barca96
    November 6, 2012

    Kxevin is right with Pique but then Puyol proves that that theory is flawed by again coming backup sooner.

    Did the Sandy storm affect your preparations Kxevin?

    • nzm
      November 6, 2012

      Puyol had an operation on his knee, and his knee isn’t the problem!

      As psqd points out above, the damage has been a broken cheekbone and a dislocated elbow. Both of these are one-offs – results of Puyol being Puyol.

    • November 6, 2012

      No. I’m in Chicago, which wasn’t scathed. We saw a couple of days of exceptionally high winds, which just meant a nice, fat load to push against, so no worries there.

      But Isaiah and JNice were in the Sandy zone. Not sure if any other family members were.

  24. alpinegroove
    November 6, 2012

    If the rumors about Pep going to AC Milan are true, Bojan must be pissed…

    • Messiah10
      November 6, 2012

      There are also rumors of Pep going to Chelski. Abramovich obviously wants him because he wooed him before the beginning of this season. I hope he doesn’t coach there. It would ruin my image of him. I hate Chelski almost as much as EE.

      • Lev
        November 6, 2012

        And then there are rumors of Pep joining Soriana and Beguiristain in City.

        I don’t really wanna see him go anywhere, though Milan wouldn’t bother me as much. I can see he would probably like to coach in the EPL though, as he has never played there. His English is pretty good, actually.

  25. Blau-Grenade
    November 6, 2012

    Got to watch a few minutes of Mardid Dortmund game. Basically Madrid cannot defend against the Germans for some reason. At half time Dortmund is leading 2 1.

  26. Momo
    November 6, 2012

    How can you not love dortmund? Howwww can you notttt?

  27. mom4
    November 6, 2012

    At HT
    Man City 1-2 Ajax
    RM 1- 2 Dortmund
    Can it last?

    • Lev
      November 6, 2012

      Borussia beating EE twice would be quite something

      • Lev
        November 6, 2012

        btw Malaga is up 1-0 against Milan, too!

        • mom4
          November 6, 2012

          I know! It’s just too much goodness to handle! #cantgethopesup

  28. nia
    November 6, 2012

    Oh darn it, if only EE would have dropped those points in the liga:(

  29. ciaran
    November 6, 2012

    it’s getting a bit repetitive, conceding silly goals and still winning matches. i’ll be happy enough if we can keep this going for the rest of the season everything will turn out perfectly.

  30. barca96
    November 7, 2012

    Random bits from the Guardian comments section;

    empty seats empty seats bla bla bla

    Change the record United fans, Old Toilet was emptying out with fifteen minutes to go against Braga.

    Old Toilet (Trafford), childish but funny 😆

    With 20m City could have got the entire Ajax squad….instead they bought James Milner.

    Love that bit! Same as someone laying down the cost of the Ajax team after their first match.

    • olbucky
      November 7, 2012

      No U.S. politics on here please.

  31. Lev
    November 7, 2012

    Let’s talk about Barça 🙂 y’all watching the game today, right?

  32. ooga aga
    November 7, 2012

    yuppers. watching it at a bar where the owner is a big celtic man. well, a little celtic man.

    • ooga aga
      November 7, 2012

      i think this is going to be a great match esp. the beginning like jim said when the crowd will be going ape

  33. November 7, 2012

    Really enjoyed the Ajax – City match yesterday.

    Frank de Boer really has Ajax playing well in big games even if they have been crap in the league recently – an effect of having such a young team.

    I’d really like to see a resurgence from Ajax over the next couple of years – it will be incredibly difficult because of the financial restraints they face but they are brimming over the top with youth talent – I get the feeling that with all the ex-Ajax stars on the board these days there may be more focus on building a team for a couple seasons than just selling every decent player on their 23 birthday.

    On a more fantastical note – I’d love to see Pep coaching Ajax one day – maybe later in his career he can go over there and revitalize the club like Cruijff did with Barcelona. It would be the perfect atmosphere for him to work longterm – very similar ideals to Barcelona but with a lot less stress.

    • November 7, 2012

      The best thing about Citeh coming back is if they win their last two matches, they could come second in the group, and oust RM. And wouldn’t THAT just be delightful?

      And Arsenal are just dire. At what point does someone admit that Wenger isn’t the coach to move that club forward?

      • ooga aga
        November 7, 2012

        taht would require RM to lose to ajax at the bernebeu i believe so it is very unlikely. who knows.

      • Gogah
        November 7, 2012

        As much as that would make every cule happy, it would require city to beat them and dortmund while they draw or lose to ajax which is definitely not happening.
        still i guess we can hope.

      • Messiah10
        November 7, 2012

        If I were a Gunner fan I’d still keep faith with Wenger. For me, he’s still a top notch coach and can lead them forward to titles. He needs support from the board and money to spend. I admire his loyalty by sticking with Arsenal and not complaining about lack of funds. If Cesc, RVP, Song, and Frenchie stayed they’d have a hell of a team. Wilshere is still not 100%. They need an out and out poacher. Maybe Giroud will come around, but he’s definitely not providing them goals right now. The last 2 games they’ve played against Man. U. and yesterday they have had possession, but no creativity in the final third. I’ve never been big on Walcott, but maybe he can be their striker temporarily. He scored a hat trick recently and has provided a target up front for Poldolski & Carzola.

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