The little man is a magician. And he put on a bewitching display today against Getafe. From his defense-splitting pass for the opener to his own manita maker, Andres Iniesta was brilliant. I would be remiss, however, if I didn’t point out that the defense was actually rather stellar as well, with midfield play thoroughly pulverizing what little resistance Getafe decided to put up. The lack of a clean sheet is not down to defensive error so much as an absurd moment by Alba that, even now, I can’t really understand.
Whatever your thoughts about who should be Man of the Match–and I’m open to a variety of interpretations about who had the best performance–it should be pointed out that the Getafe were a willing sacrificial lamb on the altar of the beautiful game. Iniesta had acres of space wherever he went, Thiago was often surrounded by nothing but green grass, and Song was able to shut down the Route 1 attacks they sent out about once every 30 minutes.
That is, perhaps, the biggest point about this game: Getafe were dreadful. They didn’t press, they didn’t harry, they didn’t prod, they didn’t poke. Sometimes they fouled, but mostly they just watched. Interested, as I was, in witnessing the mighty, magical midgets creating physical art. Which is somewhat weird given their ability, earlier in the season, to take on teams and beat them. They beat Real Madrid in Week 2, after all and even as recently as last week beat Deportivo 3-1. Granted, Depor is hardly a good measuring stick, but Getafe weren’t truly slouching their way into the game. Perhaps they just didn’t want to expend the energy required to not get pounded by Barça.
So, instead, they got pounded. And how.
What could have been 4-0 at halftime was 4-0 after Tello subbed on and slammed home a beautiful shot (once again with little defensive pressure) and the game was effectively sealed. But for that looping header backwards for Jordi Alba’s second assist of the game, it was pretty much the perfect game. If you discount the possible injuries to Adriano and Puyol, of course. A neutral opponent, a full crowd, and about 18 quarts of sunscreen for Mr. Ghostface made for an exciting game, at least if you were a cule.
Despite his goal, Messi didn’t seem to be particularly interested in this game, much as he hasn’t seemed interested in the last few games. At least not in terms of a full-field, full-throttle match. He played little to no defense against Getafe, yet was kept from standing out as failing to do so by Getafe’s rather sheepish approach to, you know, attempting to score. Yes, he was bottled up by multiple defenders at points, but he did little to really pull them out of the way except dawdle back towards the center circle while Alexis darted in behind (see first goal). It was much the same for Villa’s goal and then Tello’s goal came from one of the only real “Messi runs” Lionel made all game. Once it was 3-0, it was understandable to turn the motor down to a dim idle, but before that, it was an awkward touch by Thiago that led to Messi’s only goal.
But here’s a question: would I be saying this same thing had Messi’s bicycle kick gone in? Given that the magic moments Iniesta had, even when they amounted to nothing on the scoreboard, made me drool and declare him the game’s best player, what if Messi had similar moments of skill? We know he’s got the talent, so if he turns on the jets for 5 seconds, it’s the video clip we’ll be sending to our friends, coworkers, and probably complete strangers for the next week. He scored an overhead kick, you guys. I don’t know that I really have an answer, but Messi is certainly one of those players who makes the impossible look simple; that he can do so at any moment makes him extremely watchable, but not always the best overall performer.
Watching a match live, you realize how amazing the centerbacks are. They’re everywhere and they’re nowhere. Then you watch the DM and you think, “This guy is tremendous,” what with the reading of the game and the intercepting of the passes. Then you look at the attacking mids and you’re stunned by the tempo and the vision. Then you look up front and you’re dazzled by the eel-slippery moves and the wicked bend on the ball as it curves into the net. But it started at the back with that gentle bump on the opposing forward that jarred the ball loose. On TV, the ball is always where you’re looking, but live you can look down and see Puyol’s hair flying all over the place while the ball is down on the other side of the field. You can see Song track back at a slight angle.
They say when you watch a game, you don’t see Busi, but when you see Busi, you see the game. Part of that is perspective. Literal perspective: from a couch or from the stands. Check out Song’s average positioning on this map from ESPN (you might have to select “tactical formation”). He’s literally in the middle of the field, as centered as you can get, meaning he was all over the field, both offensively and defensively. Sure, Getafe were pushed back constantly, but Song was still occupying the middle like a beast. Compare that with everyone’s average positioning against Valencia. The Getafe map is a tale of domination. Note in particular the differences between Alves and Alba’s positioning in those two matches. Even Valdes was higher up against Getafe.
And, of course, how could forget the long-toiling, long-suffering Alexis Sanchez? What a player, what a goal, what an outing by the Chilean. He’s looked extremely good for weeks now and has finally, finally gotten a goal for all his troubles. Much more on him in later posts, but I come down squarely in the Sanchez Deserves to be a Barça Player camp. It was great to see him smile a real smile, not that wry “Again?” smile he’s had while slapping his own forehead.