Of Messi and Distance: Limited Statistical Analysis of How Far Players Run and What It Means

Virtually every comment on this blog over the last couple of days has been dedicated to an ongoing discussion/argument/flamewar/typofest on whether or not particular players are net positives or negatives for the club. Everyone has been involved, but it’s mostly centered around Lionel Messi and Alexis Sanchez. One comment went as such (typos and orthography cleaned up for readability):

People may not realize this but Messi’s non existent work rate has already reduced Neymar’s chance of success at Barca considerably. It has already helped push forward Villa’s transfer this summer because Villa can’t make up the ground to cover for Messi’s lazy bones. Just think about that for a second: we are soon to be without the services of the greatest striker in Spanish history because, at 32 yrs of age, he is required to cover twice as much ground as a guy 7 years younger.

I thought it important to ground any discussions of this nature in reality before we either blew it out of proportion as a troll comment, a Villa Fan Club drive-by shooting, or even as a legitimate critique of Lionel Messi’s contributions to the team.
There are a number of ways to begin dissecting what has been said and the various viewpoints they represent, but the thing that caught my eye was the last bit: “he is required to cover twice as much ground as a guy 7 years younger.” Is this true? Is it remotely true? What affect does distance covered have on the team? What is distance covered?

To begin, let’s dispense with the absurd: comparing an outfield player’s distance covered to that of a goalkeeper is not useful.* So we’re only going to talk about outfield players. I pulled UEFA statistics from their official matchcenter, so if you have trouble believing what is written here, look through those tables. If they’re wrong, I’m wrong by default. Statistics are also often skewed by small sample sizes. Take Tony Watt, for instance. He appeared for a total of 45 minutes in the Champions League group stage (and 1st leg of the Round of 16) and totaled 5,884 meters of running and a goal (against Barcelona). We can tell how much he runs per minute, but his goals to running ratio is going to be skewed. Thus I have left off everyone who played fewer than 90 minutes over the course of the group stage and 1st leg of the Round of 16, just the lessen the likelihood of sample size bias. It also made it simpler for me to look at everything.

The Statistics

Of all the players that I looked at, Lionel Messi ran the least. He ran 44,027 meters in 482 minutes of play, scoring 5 goals and getting 3 assists. Compare this to Xavi: 56,552 meters in 441 minutes. The raw numbers there are obvious: Messi is truly out-worked by Xavi. When compared to all the Barcelona players whose stats are available, Messi runs fewer meters. He played the most minutes, but ended up “working” less than anyone else.

In terms of meters per minute, Messi ran 91.34 meters per minute, compared with Cesc Fabregas’ team best 136.88 meters per minute. Jordi Alba was next with 131.31m/m. Then Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Dani Alves, Pedro, Adriano, Alexis, and Cristian Tello. The last name on that list, Tello, was closest to Messi’s work rate at 111.05m/m, still a solid 20 meters per minute higher than Messi.

Before we jump to conclusions about Messi’s laziness, how about we look at another team to see if the differences there are similar: Celtic.

Picked at random**, Celtic has 8 players with more than 90 minutes. Charlie Mulgrew the most meters covered with 70,751 in 562 minutes. He also led the meters per minute category for Celtic with 125.89m/m. That is quite a bit lower than Cesc’s FCB-best. On the low end was Giorgos Samaras with 103.97m/m. That is still 12 meters per minute more than Messi and is also only just under 22 meters per minute from Mulgrew’s team-best.

A comparison with a “lazy” player: Cristiano Ronaldo logged 70,696 meters in 630 minutes for an average of 112.22m/m. He also scored 7 goals and now leads the CL in that category and got 1 assist.

On what is probably the opposite end of the work spectrum from everyone on earth, Henrikh Mkhitaryan of Shakhtar Donetsk ran a competition-best 86,671meters in 630 minutes. This amounts to 137.57m/m, substantially better than Messi, but actually only slightly better than Cesc Fabregas. He also scored 2 goals and got no assists.

What Does It All Mean?

Is Messi actually “working” less, is he being asked to work less, or does any of this matter at all? Is Messi “working” a positive for Barcelona? Looking at the stats, it appears, at least on the surface, that if only Messi ran more, he’d score more goals. He scores one goal every 8,805 meters he runs. Besides Tony Watt, that is the best conversion-to-running ratio I have found. Imagine if he ran twice as much! He’d have twice as many goals.

Except, of course that’s not how it works. Given that this is a team sport, the offense is clearly built around getting the ball to Messi in particular positions. Average positioning shows Messi midway between the box and midfield. Given that he’s often in the box to, you know, score goals, it stands to reason that he’s just as often dropping towards midfield (that’s how averages work, after all). Given this, it makes more sense that he’s covering less ground than a box-to-box midfielder like Cesc, whose job is not to score boatloads of goals, but rather to create opportunities for others, defend, and generally harry their opposition into making mistakes. Xavi’s mantra of “pass, offer, receive, repeat” is part of that.

Without the numbers for defenders, it’s slightly harder to understand exactly how the offense functions, but given that the attackers generally have much lower average distance covered numbers than the midfielders and wingbacks (with a nod towards Pedro beating Adriano in this), it makes sense that Messi, the focal point through which everything is designed to go, has to move the least to accomplish this. Further, it’s possible that Messi is being protected physically from running so that he can put on his bursts whenever he needs to without worrying about the injuries that (literally) hamstrung him early in his career.

David Villa vs. Lionel Messi

The comment that originally sparked this is one about Messi making Villa work more. We don’t have Villa’s numbers from the CL, so it’s impossible to make a direct comparison, but it stands to reason that Villa’s numbers should be somewhere between Tello and Pedro’s. The hyperbole driving the original suggests twice as much, but we know that’s very, very unlikely to be true. Twice as much work would best even Mkhitaryan’s numbers to the tune of 43m/m, a difference nearly greater than the difference between Mkhitaryan and Messi in the first place.

Further, the idea that David Villa shouldn’t run more than Messi because Messi is younger doesn’t actually make any sense. Villa doesn’t play CF/false 9 in a 4-3-3 system. He plays wing, where running is expected, demanded, and required for team success. Messi’s movement is not independent of his teammates, but if the system is built around him, all other players become de facto support players. Xavi runs far more than Tello; does that diminish Tello’s contributions because they have a 12 year age gap? There is certainly an argument to be made that Xavi is a greater contributor to the team’s success than Tello, but that argument does not mean Xavi should run less and Tello more. This is the same thing that should be applied to Messi-Villa: Messi is by far the greater contributor to the team’s success. This is not to belittle David Villa in anyway, but rather to point out that Villa perhaps should be “working harder” than Messi.

A personal anecdote: when I was in high school, my team had an all-state striker. His job was to score goals, which he did: 27 in 10 games, if I remember correctly. My job was to get him the ball in a position to score. This meant that he did a lot of diagonal runs while I did a lot of full-field sprints. I probably ran twice as much as he did any time we were both on the field. He played 80 minutes (2 40-minute halves in high school) while I played 10-40 minutes, depending on the quality of the opponent. I probably ran more than he did total, but the sum of his contributions were extremely tangible whereas mine (pressing, sweating) were less so. Our coach made a decision: even seniors were instructed to do the heavy lifting and just get him the ball. No doubt there were players who balked at that idea, but it worked.

These ideas are not particularly different from what is going on at Barça, it’s just at a much, much higher level. The idea that Messi doesn’t work hard enough suggests that him working harder would actually give the team a leg up. It might in particular situations and I tend to agree that his lack of defensive pressing has been disappointing over the last several weeks, but it’s hard to pillory him for simply being so good that his inclusion on the teamsheet week-in-and-week-out is a net positive, even if he’s tired.


Like the player on my high school team, there was no one who would play better in that position. We could have adjusted the tactics, but beyond confusing the likes of me, we would still not have been as good while he rested on the bench. Against (excruciatingly, absurdly, preposterously) weak opponents, it would have worked out, but we wouldn’t have gotten the reps necessary to beat better opposition at a later date.

So it’s not about “working hard” except in particular situations. I do think Messi should get more days off simply because of the sheer talent on hand and the fact that I don’t believe the Copa del Rey is a competition best served by using our best 11. Even against Real Madrid. Were this a single-leg knockout competition, I could see it being worth the while (and 50 times as exciting as the CDR), but 2 legs is a lot of legs and because I value it less than both la liga and the Champions League, I don’t care to expend Messi’s energy on a competition that I don’t rate nearly as much as the others.

The very notion of “passion” and “leave it all on the field” is fairly anathema to what Barcelona has been attempting to do over the last few years. It is a fairly British/English construct that grit and power will surely overcome technical prowess, at least on the football field. David Goldblatt speaks eloquently to this in his football history The Ball is Round: it’s a holdover British imperial era public school doctrine and, by extension, the entire makeup of the British Empire. Obviously there is a need for physical ability and stamina in the modern game, regardless of technical level, but the players at Barcelona’s disposal have proven repeatedly to be both. There is little need to increase “work rate” for the sake of adding meters to statistics.

Lionel Messi scores immense numbers of goals and helps the team hold onto the ball. He occasionally makes mistakes, including several in last year’s Champions League semifinal that led to Barça’s elimination at the hands of Chelsea. These things happen, of course, but it should be noted that Messi’s mistake that led to Drogba’s goal in the first leg of that encounter was after he repeatedly worked to get the ball deep in midfield. He was putting in the work that everyone wants and yet it led, eventually, to elimination.


*I mean…right? it turns out that Fraser Forster, the only goalie listed that I could find, has run an incredible 32,671 meters in his 630 minutes on the field. That’s nearly 50 meters a minute as a goalkeeper. Methinks he must dance a lot in his box.

**Picked because I noticed Fraser Forster had a very, very high distance covered and then thought, “Why not use Celtic?”

[image source]

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Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in Germany with his wife and daughter.


  1. February 18, 2013

    If we can stop arguing over petty things like the ones in the previous posts, what chance do we have of achieving World Peace? (Not the Metta variety)

  2. February 18, 2013

    I don’t actually think it’s that much of a problem. I think you wrote this because of the last 10 minutes vs Granada, we all know what happened there.

    But the thing about covering distance doesn’t always show the defensive work, it also shows the offensive work. For example, look at 83.37-57. He didn’t even walk when Barca had possession, he just was sitting around, resting, waiting for a pass and then made his trademark run and in 5 second Tello had the chance to make it 1-3. IN POSSESSION he covered A LOT less distance than any other player on the pitch, but still was productive and useful for the team. And the other thing is that he wants to play every game and to do that he needs to stay fit, and to stay fit he runs less than others. He is still the match decider in too many occasions, one of the reason is that he is not dead tired when he faces a goalkeeper, unlike a certain Alexis who has to track back 60 yards, turn around, make another 60 yard sprint to face a goalkeeper on one on one. Of course if you are tired, you lose your composure as well and not so good with your control, touch of finishing any more.

    When it comes to defending, what he usually does is, after losing possession he puts an immense pressure on defender but when he sees they can put together more than 2 passes he gives up and starts walking again. Thats what he has been told by the coaching staff. Thats his job. I don’t see that as a major problem, since when Barca start to defend deeper, he stays up and he is fresh to ask to ask the ball and has the ability to hold onto it, like a true 9. And don’t worry, in important games he runs a lot more and is more useful defensivly as well. Though I wouldn’t mind Tito giving him a slight slap in the face and tell him to work a bit harder for the team. I think he’d understand it, cuz Tito was with him at La Masia as well and all that stuff.

    I’m definately not a big fan of Neymar and Barca would definately suffer a lot more defensivly when he comes. I still think Villa has a lot to offer on both side of the pitch.

    Here’s a proof that Messi rests in possession even more than he rests in defending. He virtually just did nothing there.

    • February 18, 2013

      First off, a mighty welcome to Allas. For those of you who don’t know, this guy makes the best Barça videos in existence, and also has a very good blog. I posted a link to a Sanchez piece in the match review thread.

      Your Neymar question is an interesting one. I saw him tracking back much more than he ever had against England, and in general playing like a player who was auditioning for a spot in the Barça XI. If he comes, it’s going to be a challenge for the coaching staff, and I suspect that there will be a LOT of pre-transfer attitude screening.

      The Sanchez point is also good. Fine motor skills are the first thing to deteriorate when a player is tired, which is why I always worry when Messi misses chances that should be easy for him. That usually means that he’s tired.

      It’s tough. If Abidal were still in the back line, I don’t think it would matter as much who tracks back and how. I also think that only now are people seeing the value of having a player such as Henry, who had the pace and stamina to get up and down the pitch. He would routinely have as many fouls as our defenders.

      • February 18, 2013

        A lot of times I have the impression that Messi misses chances because he already thinks he has scored them before he actually shoots the ball, if that makes sense.

        The Sanchez point also applied to Villa. In our system he runs so much that he misses a lot of one-on-ones. People now act as if he has been this scoring machine at Barça but I seem to remember a 15-game drought in the first season and he sucked – yes, sucked – the first half of the second season.

        • chop
          February 20, 2013

          Interesting article.

          Can someone post Messi’s meters per minute during 2007-2008 when he still played as a winger?

          If possible the 4 years between that as well.

    • Blau-Grenade
      February 18, 2013

      Hey Allas, We are all big fan’s of your video’s and we share and view your video’s as reference points for our discussion here. Welcome and look forward to your comments.

    • alpinegroove
      February 18, 2013

      It depends on how you define “do” and whether you equate doing with impacting.
      Look at Arsenal’s #6. As Iniesta starts his run, #6 thinks that the ball is going to Messi. He abandons his CB position and runs towards Messi, essentially creating a whole in the middle of the defense, perfectly exploited by Xavi. By the time #6 realized that, it was too late. He tries to run back but doesn’t make it in time.
      So yes, Messi walked around the whole time, but he did position himself in places that disoriented the defense, more than once.

    • February 19, 2013

      In my native place, villagers always agree on something – we recognise the real value of something only in its absence.
      Being here, I can only think about that.

      We all agree on something, that except for scoring goals and shooting the ball to the gallery from the centre circle, CR7 is mostly non existant in a RM game. And there are many games, in which other than for this shots and falling around he is not to be seen at all. Still, the RM fans never seem to complain (except for one or two occassions)about him and always seem to be extremely happy about having him.
      I am not saying we must not criticize Messi. But this is going a bit too much far now. This must be Cule hypocrisy, I am afraid.

      Older friends of mine(I am 39), who are not able to watch Messi week in out (because of the match timings in India/work) wonders why I think Messi has already shown a higher level than Maradona. I would say, they are both similar artists, but the advantage of Messi is his consistency. We are doing the post-mortem of a player, who has always been constructively consistent in the last four years, for this club. Never in the history of world football have a player shown this kind of consistency. Even CR7, who is at his peak now, cannot match. And in addition to scoring, Messi, if had adequate support, we are looking at a guy who would have had almost the same amount of assists as his unbelievable number of goals.

      Glad that the club and the coaching staff allows Messi to take his own rest at his own pace on and off the field.
      Glad that they will not listen to the cule post-mortem’s, in the online world.

  3. G6O
    February 18, 2013

    Cruyff once said that if players are running all the time then those are some very stupid players. Which seems relevant to me in this discussion.

    Obviously, that was said many years ago and the game has since then evolved in a direction that requires a lot more running and athleticism. And the system that Guardiola implemented initially was based on frantic pressing in the opponent’s half. That was necessary at the time but the system has evolved further since then and I am sure the core Cruyff principle of never running more than one has to and beating opponents with intelligent positioning and passing remains the foundation. As long as the team wins, there is no problem and it has being doing that this year.

    Still, I would hope to see Messi do the kind of pressing he was doing 4 years ago where we play against Madrid – that would seem to me to be the one game in which there should be no conservation of energy and he has not been doing that even in those game, which has been disappointing.

    P.S. Distance covered is a very misleading statistic. Xavi always leads the team in distance covered but he actually does very little running of the kind the full backs do – he is simply constantly in motion looking for an opening to receive and pass the ball but he very rarely runs fast. While if you’re a winger and you have to do 50-meter full-speed sprints (not really in our system because we’re usually much close to goal, but imagine someone playing for a mostly counter attacking side), you do 20 of those a game, you do some other movement during the game and you’re still way below 12,000 meters, but you’ll be more tired than Xavi would be.

    • February 18, 2013

      Great post and great comments!

      Cruijff (and by extension, all of Holland’s 16 million coaches) do say that a lot: “Laat de bal lopen”, which loosely yet accurately translates to “let the ball do the running”.

      I was also going to point out the type of running Xavi does vs that of say our wingers and our fullbacks, but you beat me to it, hehe

      Allas, do you think that Neymar can adjust to the defensive responsibilities that would be asked of him at Barcelona. I haven’t seen the game myself, but apparently he tracked back plenty during Brazil’s last outing at Wembley.

      • G6O
        February 19, 2013

        When I’ve watched him play for Brazi, he has done plenty of running and pressing. So there is absolutely no question about whether he can do it – he can. Will he be able do it every game remains an open question – when he plays for Santos, he is in primadonna mode and he is not doing it, but that’s because nobody really presses in Brazil anyway

      • Messiah10
        February 19, 2013

        Pressing is essential in our system. However, just because Neymar was pressing against England doesn’t mean it was effective. My concern for him is his frailty. How effective will his pressing be? Will singers and RB’s be able to brush him off and get by him, creating a counter threat and making another Barca player abandon his space to cover for him? Only a transfer and game time will tell. I do think he’ll grow into his lanky body and gain muscle mass, so I’m not overly concerned with his “softness”. Still, it will take a couple of years for that to happen, so in the meantime, one must practice patience while waiting.

  4. fcbfan10
    February 18, 2013

    long time visitor, first time posting.

    I just had to register after reading previous article and replies.
    As a new football fan, I’m kind of confused about this ‘barca system’ woking itself.

    1. Messi is the best player in the world yet we’d be fine without him because anyplayer can score like Messi in this system? so cesc, villa, pedro, tello or even alexis can score 50 goals a season if they play in messi’s position(for liga)?

    2. if that’s not the case, we’d need 3 players score 20+ goals and total of more than 100 goals a season to win liga tropy (considering last season’s madrid, maybe more than 100 goals).
    who would those 3 or 4 players be? The system let above mentioned players score 20+ goals if messi is not out on the pitch? But they can’t score even 10 goals with messi on the pitch? Are we talking about the same barca system or is the system different with messi
    in it?

    I am really confused.

    • February 19, 2013

      Welcome to the world of the comments (officially). Let me help with your confusion, if I can. My comment in the preceding post wasn’t that we would be fine without Messi. Remove Messi from your line of reasoning, so that the blasphemy part can go with it.

      What I am instead saying is that the system can work without Messi if properly implemented. Rather than one player replicating Messi’s staggering numbers, many players would.

      Take the Getafe match. That is my ideal scoreline, because six different players scored. Messi got one, five other players got theirs. As an opposing coach, that is more vexing than if Messi scored six. Then it becomes, “Everybody on the little guy!”

      But if a lot of different players are scoring, it becomes “Well hell, what do we do with this here?!”

      That is my point. It isn’t anti-Messi as much as pro-system. We have an offense that is based on passing, movement and touches of the ball. In that offense, the ball moves faster than any player can. That offense is being played by a group of players who are better at it than any other group of players that I have ever seen.

      So it goes to reason that a natural outcome of that offense should be goals. For everybody, rather than just for one player. And further, if that one amazing player weren’t there, or were somehow diminished, that the system would continue its production through a re-emphasis of the fundamentals of the system, rather than “Give it to Messi.”

      I hope that’s clearer, and please let me know if it isn’t.

      • fcbfan10
        February 19, 2013

        thank for your reply, but i’m afraid it’s not clear at all for me.

        you are talking about properly implemented system works as getafe game. 6 different goal scorers. with 24 liga games played, how many of those played out like getafe? even 3 or 4 diferent scorers? specially away games.

        it seems to me your system eixsts in ideal world where everybody scores when chances created. my view of barca system is it creates clear cut chances by best players in the world like xavi, iniesta, and messi. wheather thoses chances turned into goals are different matters. here, we go back to messi because he’s the only one consistantly put the ball in the back of the net. maybe that’s why barca players think ‘hey, give it to messi’?

        barca system creates a ton of chances, but we saw what happened when those chances were not turned into goals with chelsea.

        difference between this season’s and last season’s messi goals is that he scores them in away games consistantly this season. To me that’s why we are 12/16 points up.

        • February 19, 2013

          Actually, we are 12/16 points up because our opposition has faltered, just as we did last season to allow RM to caper off to a lead in the standings.

          The Getafe match was certainly helped by the fact that Getafe didn’t seem all that interested in playing on that day. But yes, that match allowed the system to reach its full flower, and that was the result. Is it an ideal? Yes. But it is also an achievable ideal. It is also an ideal that will insulate the team more effectively against a lack of future success, I think.

          • fcbfan10
            February 19, 2013

            i’m sorry i didn’t make that point more clear. what i meant was we’re 12/16 point up because we are winning away games and our oppositions are doing what we did last season, losing away games. to win football games you need to put the ball in the net, and there lies difference in our opinion regarding the system. i do not think EVERYBODY can score like messi even in the system. and ideal is just ideal because it doesn’t happen everyday (or every game). if this ideal happens even in half of the games we play, i think we’d have won treble every season. that’s just my thought.

            again thank you for your sincere replies and i really appreciate all the posts on this blog. i learn a lot about football by reading them.

  5. blazeofglory
    February 18, 2013

    Does Messi run less? Proven, hell yeah!
    Well, hard to say what hasn’t already been said but here’s my take on why he should run less. like somebody pointed out, for stamina. He played more minutes than EVERY OTHER Barcelona player this season, yes even more than Victor (not for long) Valdes. And if you expect him to run as much as Xavi, or (dread) Alexis, then you wouldn’t get to see him working magic week in week out and in between!

    He saves up his energy for that brilliant burst of magic that we love. That comes simply out of nowhere. Here was no chance of a goal, and Lo and Behold, Goal, Who? Messi.

    Should he track back? On a playstation yes. In reality…NO! Why?

    1. Remember the pindrop silence at the Camp Nou, when Messi collapsed a couple of months back. Picture that for (doom!) two weeks even, (I shudder to think of more than that) Why risk the best player of the world?

    2. He stays back for the high possibility of Barca winning back the ball and passing it to him on the counter.

    3. While doing so, he attracts 2 defenders marking him. So when the opposing team has the ball you have atleast 10 barca players against at most 8 opposing team’s players. And you still want Messi?

    4. Whatever I say, yes there are instances when you wish he backtracked, because yes it is his duty. But I believe he performs better when he preserves energy for his goals rather than go defend for the occasional requirement of defending.

    And, great post Isaiah. I believe your (and the Brilliant Allas’s) take ends the debate somewhat I started accusing Kxevin of zero Messi bias 😀

    P.S. Messi scored in 14 consecutive La Liga matches, 10 consecutive AWAY matches, has scored against 17 of the 19 Liga opponents, has 21 away goals (2 more from beating Cr7’s record), has more goals in La liga this term than 15 La liga teams, has more Away goals than the entire La liga with the exception of RM. And he just scored his 301th goal. And I don’t even know how many assists, would-be assists, indirect assists he has.

    Do we forget he’s 25? And here we are debating on whether he’s a team player or not.


    • blazeofglory
      February 18, 2013

      and I just bookmarked AllasFcb.blogspot.com 🙂 Unfortunately, didn’t know he had a blog.

      You’re a legend, allas.

  6. mom4
    February 18, 2013

    He can do this:

    Gif: Dribble Messi vs Santos at World Cup Clubs in 2011 http://twitpic.com/c4y2n2 [via @fcbsphera] #fcblive(courtesy barcastuff)

    That’s all I need to know.

    Sorry, but I’m shallow that way. 😀

    • Bill
      February 19, 2013

      That’s the one I’ve been looking for! Thank you Mom4!

      This is when Messi stopped being a human being to me. 🙂

      Notice how he used his left leg to punch the ball downwards to get it up, and used the same leg to change direction and launch himself over the goalkeeper. All these in a single motion! By the way, he got that ball up even before the keeper knew he Will lead with his leg…incredible!

  7. nia
    February 18, 2013

    Messi IS lazy. Ever seen the guy when he’s doing his warm up exercises? It’s a surprise he doesn’t get injured more often. He never does them well. Same as Pique. 😉 kkk

    I do think this Messi business can be overlooked a bit coz of his numbers. Like or not, everyone else works for him and he rarely lets the team down tbh. I’m sure this is why he cries/disappointed the most when the team loses a major trophy coz he knows they depend on him to win it for them when the going gets tough. Also, in times when the team needs him to defend, he does. We shouldn’t expect him to track back all the time and then turn around, dribble past 4-5 guys and score. Messi does a lot more than that ‘lazy’ comment makes him out to be.
    If everyone else finished his numerous passes, he’d have about 20 assists by now. He does a job for two people already. He creates and scores. Let’s not exhaust the little fellow by giving a third job. If Villa, Pedro, Tello, Alexis are not putting their chances away or, putting up the same numbers as Messi, they might as well run more and defend. Messi was tired last yr and we all know what happened, he wasn’t able to produce when needed. I’m sure Tito knows what he wants him to do so, lets leave it alone. Clutching at straws here.

  8. February 19, 2013

    As others have mentioned, I lean heavily on the side that Messi running less, and defending less vigorously is a tactical choice by the coaches and club. It is obvious that Messi is an unbelievable player, and a player like that does have to be managed carefully – very few players have been able to maintain form like Messi has for the past 4 seasons. And he’s not a selfish player – he has been creating countless chances this season with his vision and passing.

    The question for me is really whether the tactical role that Messi is playing is optimizing the potential of the team. I’ve seen too many matches this season where Messi is dropping deep and our wingers are maintaining width and we have no one stretching the center of the defense. Messi is excellent at finding space, but I think it would be beneficial if the team could stretch the defense so Messi could find space higher up the pitch earlier in attacks more often.

    Does this mean we need a #9 in front of Messi? I don’t think so. But with players like Sanchez and Villa I’d like to see more runs central when Messi drops deeper. I think there is too much emphasis on maintaining width from the wide forwards and not enough emphasis on getting penetration. This is a tactical choice, and honestly I think making some tweaks would be to the benefit of players like Villa and Sanchez, and to the team.

  9. February 19, 2013

    On an unrelated note, has anyone noticed that Xavi has assumed the role of speaker for the club in the absence of Tito? This is becoming more apparent as time goes by.

    I can’t roundly condemn Rosell, but his lack of ability to be the spokesman of the club is a major fault in my eyes.

  10. February 19, 2013

    This is a difficult one, mainly because Messi is so good at everything he does, we are struggling to have to pick and choose what he should do because he cannot and must not do everything.

    This is a difficult one, because we have tasted the Messi of 08-10, where he was a brilliant defender with his impeccable anticipation, pressing and hassling players to lead to turnovers, sticking his foot in the right place at the right time, competitiveness and tenacity. Damn, We’ve seen glimpses of his goalkeeping skills as well.

    The problem is that because he is so good at everything, the management have taken the easier / more attractive yet logical route and dumped the finishing responsibility on Messi. The team too has been designed for Messi to finish things off. But because of the way Barca are being defended, he is having to be hugely involved in starting plays and finishing them. That is quite a lot, and people are canning him for not running too much. This exposes the heights of Cule crap.
    I read a stat recently that the celtic game was the first game in some 3 years in which barca lost with messi scoring. Think about that for a second. When Messi scores, we win. simple. And the new system as we are calling it where messi needn’t run much, if anything, ensures that he scores. And Messi always scores. His reduced workrate is very much a conscious tactical instruction that ensures that The world’s best player is available for all games, relatively fresh.
    Do I want him to play all games? No. Would I Like to see him defend more? Yes, but at what cost? Unless we have confident forwards, who also have Messi’s confidence, he is bound to take on the burden of finishing. I look forward to a future, in which Messi again is able to play without any pressure, like 08-09, with nothing to lose, leaving the trivial job of ‘putting it in’ to able forwards, and just being.. well, an absolute Monster in the middle of the pitch. Until then, all of us bloody well shut up and accept his running less as a clear instruction.

    • teddy
      February 19, 2013

      Unless we have confident forwards, who also have Messi’s confidence, he is bound to take on the burden of finishing.

      I don’t see how we can have confident forwards if they’re subconsciously feels that Messi should do all the finishing works.

        • February 19, 2013

          Wrong. They don’t have Messi’s and the staff’s confidence, because they have screwed the pooch many a time. It is after multiple fluffed chances, Messi starts to assume finishing responsibilities and is instructed to do so.

        • Jim
          February 19, 2013

          No way Villa feels that. You’re talking about a record goal scorer. You don’t change that mindset.

      • Bill
        February 19, 2013

        Who do you blame for that? Messi? When Alexis misses great opportunities, when Villa can’t stay inside or beat his man, when Pedro & Alexis always prefer going backwards instead of beating their man, when Messi gives out incredible assists only for the other players to screw them up, can we really blame Messi?

        We can’t really blame Messi when our forwards don’t have the skills or mentality required to be successful. I kind of like Tello’s mentality when it comes to that. Tello don’t care. The boy takes his chances when he sees them regardless of messi’s hurt feelings

        • February 19, 2013

          Let’s start with this: System, not Messi. Now ….

          I think what Teddy means is that practice breeds confidence. Let’s look at some statistics. Sanchez has, this season, had 16 shots on goal. Messi has had 125. Fabregas has had 29 shots on goal. Villa has, like Sanchez, had 16 shots on goal. Iniesta has had 22 shots on goal.

          I’m not much of a math major, but I can tell you that if you don’t do something all that often, the times that you DO get to do it, you aren’t going to be all that good at it until you get to do it enough where it becomes reflexive. Yes, players have screwed up Messi passes. They have also screwed up Xavi, Iniesta and Sanchez passes. It happens.

          Messi is so good at scoring goals because he scores so many goals, if that logic makes sense. 24 goals from 125 shots is about what, a 20% conversion rate? That’s a high conversion rate, but that’s also a lot of shots. If you hit enough topspin backhands up the line, you become really, really good at hitting topspin backhands up the line.

          I think that Teddy’s point is that in a system that is focused on one player, it becomes difficult for other players to get the reps that result in the confidence that results in confident finishes. So they flinch and pass the ball back to Messi, because it is established by his production that he has the reps to be confident to perform the task.

          Yes, Tello took his shots. And Messi yelled at him for doing so. And TV announcers called him selfish for not passing it. If a player hears that enough, what happens? Tello, by the by, has a remarkable 4 goals from 10 shots. Now that’s a finishing rate. Yikes!

          Many have commented that Villa isn’t the same finisher that he was at Valencia. His most productive season for Barça found him with some 23 goals from 200 shots. The confidence to slot them home was there because the practice and reps were there.

          Again, it’s a systemic question, rather than anyone attacking Messi. I almost feel like if you don’t type his name, then the right questions can get asked. And for me, the right questions are “How can the system get more shots and reps for the other players, which builds their confidence/rote motor memory so that they can become confident finishers?”

          • G6O
            February 19, 2013

            To be fair, the main reason why Alexis has 16 shots and not 30 is that on about two dozen occasions he was in great positions to score but he fumbled and lost the ball before he could even shoot.

          • February 19, 2013

            “Two dozen occasions?” I’d like a tally, please, which I am certain wouldn’t come to 24 different instances.

          • Jim
            February 19, 2013

            Sadly you have to actually be on the pitch to take a shot, Kxevin. If you look at goals per minute played I don’t think you’ll find Villa wanting.

          • Messiah10
            February 19, 2013

            Alexis, Iniesta, & Cesc are all guilty of passing up shots on a consistent basis. It’s frustrating at times because we need to test a keeper and taking shots from around the box keeps a defense honest and prevents them from dropping to deep.

        • Jim
          February 19, 2013

          I’m not blaming Messi at all. Any criticism of him considering his achievements is just being contrary for the sake of it as far as I am concerned.

          However, how can you describe Villa as not having the skills or mentality to score goals? That is crazy.

          Agreed on Tello.

  11. K_legit in Oz
    February 19, 2013

    I’d let him lounge with a mojito if it means 73 goals a season again.

    • blazeofglory
      February 19, 2013

      and 91 goals a year. That’s more than what most teams (except maybe 4-5 best of the world teams) in the world don’t score in a year.

    • February 19, 2013

      He is well ahead of last year numbers. I have a feeling it will be more than 73 this season

  12. hammeronmessi
    February 19, 2013


    thanks for those link to see barca match in Istanbul.

    to tell you the truth, for the last 3 weeks i have little time to involve anyththing other than work.hopefully by the successful ending of this trip,the workload will be less.

    @isaiah, thanks also to you.

  13. February 19, 2013

    I am the oddity in that I don’t want Messi to score another 73 goals. That tally was, in part, the sign of a broken system, as Calvin alludes to in his comments. Like all great players, Messi feels that the more he does, the more he has to do. The burden that he carried on those shoulders of his last season was immense. If he continues to carry that burden, it is going to shorten his career.

    Rather than Messi having 73, I would rather see him with, say, 40 or so, while Xavi, Iniesta have say 10-12, Fabregas and Sanchez have 15 or so and Villa his usual 20 or so. The Barça system can create those kinds of numbers, but to do so I think it will need to move back to the attack of the Treble year. That means a fast, dynamic winger. If Vilanova signs off on the Neymar pursuit, my guess is that it will be with this in mind.

    And no, this doesn’t mean I hate Messi because I want him to stop setting scoring records. It means that like Messi, I would rather have the team set records in trophy hauls. Resting in matches or not, Messi takes an amazing beating every match. A lot of the contact he rides off and deals with. But many of the fouls get harder precisely beCAUSE he won’t go down like a normal player.

    I would rather have Messi until he’s 30, and 2-3 trophies a year, than a broken Messi at 27-28, and some Copas and the odd Liga.

    • Bill
      February 19, 2013

      I don’t believe there is a cap on scoring goals per game. By that I mean, there is no correlation between Messi scoring goals and the other players missing their opportunities. Villa’s drop in form and confidence is not down to Messi. Neither is Alexis constant desire to please Messi. That’s on them.

      Messi doesn’t stop the others from crashing the box either nor does he constantly hoard the forward position to himself. He moves around and makes runs just like the others. Can’t really blame the guy for being more efficient.

      • February 19, 2013

        Good point, Bill. But see my comment above on reps and confidence, and tell me what you think. It’s something that I don’t think has been mentioned, and I hadn’t really thought about it until just now.

    • February 19, 2013

      No regular reader here would think you hate Messi, Kxevin. It is just that you seem to nitpick on anything about Messi.
      The club also might want Messi to remain Messi until he is 30/31. And hence his lack of involvement in the defensive duties.
      YOu say – Resting in matches or not, Messi takes an amazing beating every match. A lot of the contact he rides off and deals with. But many of the fouls get harder precisely beCAUSE he won’t go down like a normal player – and how can we expect such a player to run for 90 minutes too…

      Two seasons before, nobody would have thought in this modern era, a player would score 73 in a season. So when we were looking at a growing Messi, we never expected him to score 73 the next season. At the end of 2011, when he reached 53, we thought that was his best. Last season, 73 looked his best. Just that, it now looks like he might even cross 73 this season. Doesn’t mean, we want him to cross his previous season mark every next season.

      I am glad that the club lets him rest on/off the field as he pleases. Even when he is poor on the field he is much better than most forwards out there.

      • Rivaldo
        February 19, 2013

        “I am glad that the club lets him rest on/off the field as he pleases. Even when he is poor on the field he is much better than most forwards out there.”

        This here sounds like a messi fan and not a Barca fan. I berated players like Ronaldinho and Deco when they became lazy… moreso Ronnie. It might work but is not “best” for the team, at least not long term. I’ve been in too many of these situations as a player.

        I also have been looking at the “tactics” eversince we adopted this “false 9” thingy for Messi. I think it has become to frequent and has been great productively for Messi but I really don’t if the other forwards think so. (think about it… take a look at the facts yourselves)… maybe it affects fluidity sometimes… I don’t know, just my 2 cents.

        btw, I love Messi. Then again I dont really care what someone thinks of me… (based on the tone I’ve seen here lately… sigh)

  14. Manish
    February 19, 2013

    This is a debate with no end… Why don’t we make messi a left back… That should solve everyone’s issues.. You will see him running around and making passes.. And as usual Alexis and Villa fluffing their lines…

    how about he replacing Valdez…

    I just cannot believe people discussing this.. With one video .. Show me the other videos allas where Alexis and Villa and Iniesta screw their chances…

    of the other stats where Adriano with more goals than Alexis ot Villa..
    common guys I don’t want to hate.. But this discussion is not worth it..

  15. Manish
    February 19, 2013

    Also when we had Eto.. Henry and Messi upfront the.system was just fine… Are we all saying the system is broken… Now this sounds like the Matrix to me…

    • Rivaldo
      February 19, 2013

      Actually, if you watch it closely, the system has been tweeked quite a bit.

  16. Rivaldo
    February 19, 2013

    Heys guys, at this rate we’re selling both Pedro and Alexis this summer because we judge everyone by the same measuring stick right?

    I mena Pedro has been funky in front of goal since last season, right? And, is only good for Spain, right?

    “I want them both out in July”, said the angry UNBIASED Barca fans.

    • February 19, 2013

      I’m in favour of selling them both and buying Usain Bolt. Now there’s a runner!

      • February 19, 2013

        Exactly blitzen

        Since, any player in the system will be able to replace Messi, we should sell Messi and get somebody else.Why should we have a player who at just 25 is lazy.

        Usain Bolt will be brilliant. May be he can even teach others a bit more about sprinting.

        Cant beleive we are doing the post mortem of the most consistant player ever in football history.

        • Rivaldo
          February 19, 2013

          You sure you’re replying to the above statements?

  17. February 19, 2013

    I am just so sick of this debate. That’s all I have to say.

    Can’t do a liveblog for tomorrow’s game, but if I run one on Saturday for the game against Sevilla, will anyone show up?

      • Messiah10
        February 19, 2013

        At this point a LOVEBLOB may be the appropriate channel the BFB’ers need to make amends to each other! lol. Seems to be some pretty big resentments forming from some folks. Love and Tolerance. Love and Tolerance. Everyone has opinions and some may not be as I see it, but I respect everyone’s ability to think for themselves.

  18. Xymo
    February 19, 2013

    Dude plays almost every minute of every match. He has to find a way to conserve his energy. One characteristic of a great player is knowing how to pace yourself. There are times it seems Alexis is working too hard and asking the players to chase every ball will eventually take its toil. If the staff n his mates don’t complain, who are we to!!!

  19. barca96
    February 19, 2013

    I thought we would know the answer to all of this when Messi was injured a few weeks back but the staff decided to play him anyways. Sigh

    Please Tito, please rest him in the coming weeks 🙂

    I’m so glad we got Allas here. Some other guys from the Guardian, TB, B-Blaugranes and BF and we would be the best!

  20. February 19, 2013

    I’d like to interrupt your regularly scheduled programming. Sport says that Abidal will be available for selection on Saturday against Sevilla. If this is true …. I’m dancing a mambo of delight.

    For me, it isn’t that he will be able to make a difference, be his old self, etc, etc. It’s the fact that he kicked cancer in the ass.

        • February 19, 2013

          Mind you, the speculation is precisely that. And EMD is much more the club mouthpiece than Sport, so who knows for sure. But he has been practicing normally with the squad for some time now, and presumably if something had been funky with the medical tests that he underwent recently, we would have heard it, or he wouldn’t be practicing as normal.

          We will see if he is named to the squad for Sevilla, which is the first step.

          • Messiah10
            February 19, 2013

            This would be HUGE! Thanks for posting this potentially uplifting news. Tito could take a lot of inspiration from Abi on just his recovery alone. Not to mention he could actually return to a top tier professional football club and begin competing for their 1st team again! That’s insane. He HAS kicked Cancer’s arse!

  21. Bill
    February 19, 2013

    Good debate guys, I find all the inputs very interesting.

    The issue regarding Messi is a tough one for me. I remember when Madrid came to Chicago a few years back, I went to watch the game. My biggest take away/disappointment was how little the original Ronaldo actually worked. Yes, it was a friendly, but still…even on offense, the guy made an effort only when it seemed he would get the ball, then when the play bypassed him, he just stood there and watched the rest of it.

    I love Messi, but I’m also noticing a little bit of that in him(from a defensive standpoint). The one thing I’m relieved about from Isaiah’s stats is that he is not actually putting in the kind of mileage that I thought he was from the number of games he is playing.

    Having said that, there are two things that could be happening:
    1. Team instructions: maybe its a compromise between his desire to play all the time plus the pressure from all involved to have him in each game. It could also be that the coaching staff and Messi himself noticed that even though he was consistent when he plays frequently, he needed to make less effort in defense in order to be more effective.
    2. Messi has gotten to the point where he doesn’t care about anyone else but himself, doesn’t bother helping out in defense. And everyone is scared to stand up to him and ask him to help out.

    Sooner or later, we will find out which one it is. I see players run for him, especially Xavi and Iniesta which might indicate they understand the blueprint, but I also notice a change in his attitude, so even though there is evidence pointing to both these situations, we can’t really tell. I’m hoping its the second one.

    With regards to Villa, remember the goal Iniesta just scored against Getafe? He made the run Villa should have. If Villa keeps running, Villa gets that goal. Of all the issues that conspire against him, this is the one that gets me. All too often he tries to hug the offside line waiting for the pass, but when the play bypasses him, he just stops and takes himself out of the game.

    I also remember a goal recently (I can’t remember which one) where Alexis was released over the top, he chested the ball down then passed it back to Messi, who was behind the lines! Thankfully Messi did score. Alexis had the talent and ability to do great things, but he over thinks everything.

    I would say of all the other players myriad reasons for not scoring, 10% is down to Messi. Same goes to the defensive mistakes we have been making (even less blame here).

    • barca96
      February 19, 2013

      Great points Bill. I would like to add something.

      I have been watching football properly for 18 years now and I have not seen striker/false 9 that is required to run a lot. Ronaldo, Ronaldinho (he was more of a LW/RW actually), Bergkamp, Kluivert, Rivaldo, Raul, Kanu, van Nistelrooy, Romario, Suker, Mijatovic, Vieri, Salas, Del Piero, Totti, Edmundo, Batistuta, Baggio, Crespo, Enrico Chiesa, Zamorano, Shevchenko, Inzaghis, Ravanelli, Shearer, Owen, Bierhoff, Zola, Hakan Sukur, Makaay, etc.

      And then the newer ones like Drogba, Ibra etc.

      I’m sure I missed at least a handful of other top strikers especially those in the last 5-10 years when I watched less and less football.

      Eto’o is probably the only striker that I’ve watched run a lot.

      Hmmm I just noticed that most of them played in Seria A. I used to watch Seria A a lot as it used to be the best league. A lot of competitive teams. Lazio, Inter, Milan, Parma, Juventus. I guess the creme de la creme of players used to play in Italy back then.

      What I am trying to say is, if we look at Messi as a normal #9 or false 9, he is just like any other good strikers of the past but in Barcelona, because of the style of play, a lot of pressuring, he does have to run more.

      • Messiah10
        February 19, 2013

        This is why I’d love to get Falcao or even Neymar. They do a lot of work off the ball. Both make intelligent runs and are clinical finishers. Neymar already plays the left wing most of the time, but he WOULD attack his defender and get to the end line. He would also make more diagonal runs into the box. Falcao is one of the most clinical finishers I’ve seen in some time. Only Messi takes his chances better. CR is clinical but he takes an awful lot of shots.

  22. barca96
    February 19, 2013

    We can’t go and say, Messi should have 30-40 goals. Do you suggest that we ask Messi not to take shots or miss them on purpose? It is up to the other players to make full use of their chances. They are obviously not critical enough.

    Pedro, Cesc, Xavi, Iniesta does take shots. The first 2 are just are just poor in finishing nowadays and Xaviniesta just doesn’t have the accuracy nor power.

    It is a problem if only Messi is allowed to take shots or looks like he is unhappy if others take a shot. Yes he does get unhappy when he somebody would take an ill advised shot when he or others are in a much better position to score e.g. Tello over the weekend.

    • February 19, 2013

      Agree with you completely.

      If I ever meet Pep, I will ask him – During one of those matches you said to somebody, that you will be coaching in segunda B, if not for that guy who just scored ie Messi.
      Could you explain that please, for there are many experts who think any player in Messi’s position would do the same. Its the system. The whole world might be interested in your answer, please?

      In our 29Nov, 2010 elclassico – David Villa scored two nice goals from two nice passes from Messi. Messi was a false nine then too and he still plays the same. And there are still Villa and Pedro and others who receives similar passes from Messi/Iniesta. Why they dont score now? I dont think there was a rule after May 2011, that scoring responsibility lies on Messi alone. Nor do I think Messi doesnt like it when others score. I have always seen him celebrating all most all the goals whoever the scorer is. In fact, all our team celebrates all our goals. There is a real team spirit, which is visible always. That is what Barca is all about.

    • February 19, 2013

      Well, the first question is what is an “ill advised shot?” Messi takes “ill advised shots.” Do his teammates yell at him that he should have passed the ball? It’s why this discussion will turn into a mess if it focuses on what Messi does or doesn’t do. The first reaction of many is to defend Messi, no matter what. So reducing things to simple tactical matters is best.

      I snarked about Tello taking that second shot on the weekend, and someone said “Messi was offside, so he couldn’t make the pass.” So there ya go.

      I wish that all cules defended every player with the protective vehemence that they defend Messi. I sincerely do. Because I think that we have a TEAM full of amazing players, even if one of them is more amazing than the others.

      Now, when you say that Pedro and Fabregas are “poor in finishing,” how do you mean? It can’t be shots to goals, because he has 5 goals for 31 shots, a 1:6 conversion rate is almost equal to that of Messi, with 25 goals from 125 shots. Fabregas has 6 goals from 29 shots, so he is converting at almost the same rate as Pedro. So what makes them “poor in finishing nowadays?”

      You say that Xaviiniesta doesn’t have power? Do you think a player without power in his shot could have scored that Chelsea golazo? Or could make the free kicks that Xavi makes? So what exactly is the point that you’re wanting to make?

      • barca96
        February 19, 2013

        And there are still Villa and Pedro and others who receives similar passes from Messi/Iniesta. Why they dont score now? I dont think there was a rule after May 2011, that scoring responsibility lies on Messi alone.

        Exactly. Everyone takes shots. It’s just that they’re not critical enough.

        You say that Xaviiniesta doesn’t have power? Do you think a player without power in his shot could have scored that Chelsea golazo? Or could make the free kicks that Xavi makes? So what exactly is the point that you’re wanting to make?

        Why are you only taking one example, the golazo? There have been hundreds of shots taken by Xaviniesta that were really poor efforts. They don’t score too many goals from outside the box and when they do take a shot, it is either softly straight into the keeper’s arms or out wide.

        Don’t tell me that you don’t realize that Xaviniesta are not good at striking the ball (at least Xavi can hit FK’s). I love Xaviniesta but I won’t deny that they are poor at shooting.

        What I meant by ill-advised shots are when X player could’ve passed to an open player, who is in a much better position to score e.g. Messi over the weekend with Tello and Villa quite a number of times.

        I don’t think that the majority of the people here are over protective of Messi. It is just that you bring him up and then we give our views. Same would happen with any player but it is just that you put Messi under the microscope.

        • February 19, 2013

          Xavi and Iniesta (when he is in the midfield) runs too much and might not be having that last bit of energy to make that precise shot. (I am sure they have powerful shots). Sure, I know thats what you meant.

        • February 19, 2013

          Mmmm, no. I don’t put Messi under the microscope. The problem always arises when I evaluate him as fairly as I would any other player, and people have a hard time with that, then it becomes about Messi, rather than the rest of the piece that was written. Let’s be clear about what happens there. It’s why I say that Messi is a player that can no longer be evaluated. By anyone.

          Once I had to review the Harlem Boys’ Choir, and I said that they sucked. From the hate mail and phone calls that I got, you’d have thought that I kicked a puppy. They DID suck, not only in comparison to their past performances, but by any musical evaluative standard. But they are review-proof. I feel it is the same way with Messi. And then the overreactions become the fault of the person who dared to say anything.

          Now. There have been shots taken by ALL of our players that have been really poor efforts. Heck, that is true dating back to Kubala, probably, and it’s also true of Messi. So again, what are you getting at? Fabregas struck a rocket of a shot that rebounded, so that Messi could put it back. Fabregas has also rolled ridiculous shots directly at the keeper.

          And every attacker takes shots where they should have passed, again including Messi. It’s why I like a simple tactical discussion, because it’s hard to avoid what I perceive to be a double standard when it applies to Messi. So it’s best left alone.

          • Messiah10
            February 19, 2013

            LMAO! Kxevin, you kill me! HAHA. You took a shot at the Harlem Boys Choir! Hilarious. I bet you were hiding in the fetal position under your covers for weeks! lol. Now, just curious. When you were writing the piece to be submitted for print, were you aware you would get blowback?!

          • February 19, 2013

            Um, no …. I know. Crazy in hindsight. But you kinda can’t think about stuff like that, or you won’t evaluate anything honestly. I did a Jethro Tull review that broke the department fax machine (in the days prior to e-mail, for you young’uns).

  23. February 19, 2013

    I think the problem with this debate is that it always becomes a defense of Messi, rather than a discussion of systems and tactics. I advocate that we replace Messi’s name with “Player X,” like the “Jehovah” skit in the Monty Python film “Life of Brian.” If nobody can say the name, perhaps we can talk about the other stuff.

    Because for me, Player X’s greatness, durability, quality, goal scoring abilities aren’t the question. For me, it’s a simple question of tactics, and nattering about whether the machine can work better. It’s all speculation and should be fun and interesting. I, for example, didn’t really think about any correlative between practice and execution (i.e. my above comment about confidence and reps), even though it makes sense when you think about it. Or does it? Dunno, as nobody has responded to it. Or is the lack of response to it a statement of its truth? Again, dunno.

    But this space is characterized by its thoughtful, rather than knee-jerk debate. Even above, no matter what has been said, someone above said “You might not hate Player X, but you nitpick him to death.” But it’s like the season that “everyone” said that I loooved me some Henry, then when the season aggregate player ratings came out, Henry was somewhere in mid-pack. Reality isn’t always what it seems.

    So rather than bothering with who doesn’t, is, isn’t, whatever regarding Player X, what about the system, what about tactics? Last thread I raised a point about a tactical shift that might be worth discussing, that could approximately replicate the attack of the Treble year.

    Let’s TALK, people. Not accuse and/or defend. There’s good fodder here.

    • bhed
      February 19, 2013

      This is a good discussion. I think aside from injury concerns and season fitness issues, one reason Messi has been walking is his need and ability to flat out explode when it counts – 0 to 60 in half a second. I was rewatching some game recently, and was just floored by his burst speed, which is such a big part of what makes him dangerous. As an athlete, and an athlete who needs that “burst” from time to time, do you think that’s what’s going on? Conserving some energy to release all at once?

      • February 19, 2013

        From his muscular development, Messi looks to be to be built like a sprinter. The way he moves, he almost certainly has a preponderance of fast-twitch muscles (explosive bursts). Sprinters tend to get injured more as they accumulate miles, speaking as a sprinter who used to try to ride as much as the other kids and got hurt a lot.

        I’d bet you that Adriano is also a fast-twitch guy, which kinda makes sense given his injury history.

        • bhed
          February 19, 2013

          Ahh…makes sense. I’ll try to make less “made of glass” comments about Adriano in the future.

  24. ooga aga
    February 19, 2013

    whatever. messi (best player in a generation) is being TOLD by some of the worlds best soccer minds to rest and not exert himself the way he did, say, 5 years ago. they are telling him do to this for more than one reason. he is doing his job.


  25. Rivaldo
    February 19, 2013

    Please don’t make this “one of those” blogs; I’m begging you guys.

    Responses of contempt or what I deem immature responses are getting to me.

    Why respond “whatever”(like above) when someone has communicated a point with substantial evidence to support their idea/viewpoint.
    The funny thing is we’re all supposed to be Barca; but sometimes i wonder.
    People don’t always have to agree but intelligent discourse would be welcomed. If we don’t agree at least make each other think.

    Yours sincerely,

    (I would swear it’s the “silly season” already… almost took my regular vacation)

    • ooga aga
      February 19, 2013

      you’re right, the ‘whatever’ was snarky, but it wasnt directed at isaiah, it was directed at the entire convo. it is exhausting. it is more useful, or interesting, to me at least, to think about the next match. why arent we talking about milan? why are we all just criticizing our best player (essentially what we are doing)? it was more like an abbreviated ‘whatever we might might all say, and however much we might go on and on’ to me, it is like someone in the US complaining that the water in the shower doesnt stay hot enough, long enough, when many people around the world barely have dependable water source. first world concerns and drama.

      so for me, i think it comes down to something simple….that which people are knocking messi for, is that which he has been instructed to do. now are those instructions poor? are the coaches wrong? i would say, not at all. we are the best team in the world, we were last year even though we didnt have the silver to show for it. sometimes i feel that cules are spoiled.

      yours sincerely,
      barca-fan-since-rivaldos-cheekbones-graced-the-camp-nou, when we werent winning anything!

      • Rivaldo
        February 19, 2013

        Lol @ your “yous sincerely…”

        I can live with this. And you are right; we haven’t spoken one bit about the Milan game.

  26. February 19, 2013

    To take the conversation away from Messi, look at Sanchez who receives the exact opposite criticisms Messi does. People say Sanchez runs all day, has a fantastic work rate, makes a lot of intelligent runs off the ball, BUT HE CAN’T SCORE!!!!!

    I’ve been a strong supporter of Sanchez because I think he does a lot of things right in the role he is asked to play. It is however very frustrating that he has this mental block when it comes to scoring goals – in many instances Cules are upset when he misses difficult chances, but he has missed his fair share of sitters as well.

    The problem becomes, how can we address it? We have this phenomenally talented, hard-working, intelligent player who has no confidence at the moment. Is it a salvageable situation? How long do we wait before deciding to make a change?

    And don’t say it’s Messi’s fault, because since January I’ve seen Messi put the ball on a golden platter for Sanchez dozens of times.

    • February 19, 2013

      And don’t say it’s Messi’s fault, because since January I’ve seen Messi put the ball on a golden platter for Sanchez dozens of times. — Tito calls them ‘put me in’ balls, if I remember well (from an old interview when Pep was still there, sometime after the last Copa America)
      A forward who is running around all the time, will definitely lack that last bit of energy – required to concentrate/precisely aim/shoot the ball with the right strength required to net it. This is very clear when it comes to Pedro. And that is what is happening with Alexis as well. And this is also the reason why Xavi /Iniesta cant always score.
      That is why the club/the coaching staff are still happy with all players, because they all seem to do what they are asked of. Every body seem to do what they are asked to. For me its clear, why Messi doesnt press like others.

  27. barca96
    February 19, 2013

    I really enjoy reading everyone’s comments. I hope nobody feels offended for having different views to others to the extent of not wanting to comment again.

    We went through a similar phase 2-3 years back and it became awkward afterwards for a while. Was pretty sad that it became that way.

    Let’s keep the discussions going!

  28. barca96
    February 19, 2013

    Do you guys think Arsenal is going to get thumped? I thought Man United was gonna get one but they survived and I hope Arsenal will be able to match up.

    Did you guys see Arsene’ press conference? I don’t understand why he lost it like that. Never seen him so pissed off. Ok they lost to Blackburn but they have more spectacularly to smaller teams many times over the last few years and he also of course had a lot of criticism back then but he was just so different yesterday. Totally lost his cool.

    Love the guy. Was hoping he would come here many years ago. Still do. But it always looked more likely that he would go to R. Madrid than to our side. He doesn’t suit Madrid at all.

    And if he does quit Arsenal, I think Pellegrini or Laudrup should take over. Arsenal should move quickly before Chelsea takes them and toss them out.

    • February 19, 2013

      Really do not want Pellegrini to leave Malaga at this point, same with Simeone and Athletic too.

        • barca96
          February 19, 2013

          Simeone won’t leave for EPL, at least not until he goes back to Italy. I also hope Pellegrini, Isco and the rest of the players will stay put but if they can’t overturn UEFA’s decision to ban them from CL next season, I don’t think they will stay.

          If they go, I hope they will both go to Arsenal. And perhaps make it a mini World Cup in EPL. You have French Newcastle, French turned Spanish Arsenal, United Nations Man City, Chelsea 🙂

          I wonder why Wenger is not able to bring in French players to Arsenal anymore. He used to get the best talents out of France.

  29. BA
    February 19, 2013

    was there not an article posted only a few months ago on this very blog about Messi being instructed as part of his overall fitness regimen to run less by the fitness/technical staff to allow him to conserve energy for when he does have the ball, to prevent injury and to ensure he can play 50+ games a season?

    remember how, back in the Rijkaard era, he used to get stress injuries (muscle tears, etc.) all the time? and now he doesn’t? i’ve since simply assumed that his decreased “workrate” on the pitch was merely a way to keep him fit and scoring goals all season. which is why under Rijkaard he played 35 games a season, but when Pep took over he was able to play 55 and never sustained a serious injury.

    • February 19, 2013

      Yes. It and an analysis as a longer piece is coming everyone’s way.

      The then and now injury thing is fascinating. Guardiola came in and immediately took a preventive tack with his physios staff, even down to diets and pre/post match regimens. And it worked. And is working.

      What I am curious about is in Guardiola’s first year, he was an all-pitch terror, and stayed fit/healthy. So what changed? Did an analysis of the player determine that this wasn’t sustainable?

      All this and more, coming your way.

      • ooga aga
        February 19, 2013

        while you’re at it, if you can find stats on how much he ran that first year, and how many minutes he played…would be interesting…honestly i dont remember whether or not he was any more or less an ‘all-pitch terror’ but i will say this: THAT FIRST YEAR WE HAD ETOO. messi was not playing the same position. might be hard to make a direct comparison between that year and this year. the system is not the exact same. things have changed.

      • February 20, 2013

        may be you could also look at the fact that, in the 08-09 season, when our forwards pressed like anything and still scored a lot, we hardly faced any parked bus. In fact, we started facing them only after the 2010 semi against Inter (if my memory is right), and we have been facing a bus almost every game since the beginning of 11-12 season. Looking back, we all agree that Villa had a great season in 10 -11, but was going down before his injury in 11 Dec. Would there be a connection between our pressing/space afforded/buses faced?

      • ooga aga
        February 19, 2013

        (that was at BA, thank you BA Baracus!)

    • February 19, 2013

      Yes, the article has been posted several times, most notably by myself and Danielj. But people tend to ignore what doesn’t fir in with their narrative.

      • February 19, 2013

        Sorry, it was Dani_el, who posted (and translated) that article. My bad.

        • Dani_el
          February 20, 2013

          Thank you Blitzen. And I totally agree with your assessment. I like the healthy discussions about our club, but I don’t get why we get stucked in the same subject over and over again, when journalists close to the team as Perarnau, thoroughly explained why Messi doesn’t run and track back like he used to, and why coincidentally he doesn’t get injured like he used to. This is a non-issue for me. We should be thankful that we have the best striker in the history of football on our side, along with 3 of the best midfielders, 2 of the best centerdefenders, and 1 of the best keepers in the world right now.

  30. barca96
    February 19, 2013

    One last thing before I head to bed. You Kxevin, are a strong and courageous man. I may more often than not disagree with your views but I really admire you. And you yourself know that a lot of people will not be pleased to read what you have to say but you still write your mind because of what you believe in. And best part is that you don’t give up despite what others think (most likely disagree).

    Enjoy the footie tonight fellas. I’m off to zzzz. Good night.

  31. Manish
    February 19, 2013

    And if there is a bigger article coming up.. it would be good to know how much he runs in comparisons to other strikers.. who have a “similar” stat…

  32. mei
    February 19, 2013

    One thing that is not spoken when discussing messi’s little contributions to the match throughout the game is exactly that it makes him such a danger.
    Not because he is well rested and can play all the club/national games in the season, not that he will be tired enough to become distracted/less composured while in front of the keeper.

    Arsene Wenger noted exactly that in the post match interview .
    I quote ” the thing with messi is , that he is not always on during the game.”

    Exactly that makes him so difficult to mark out of the game and to anticipate what he’s doing next.
    Sort of like hypnotizing the defenders/make them pay attention to someone else . And then bang

  33. REM
    February 19, 2013

    Arsenal Vs Bayern Munich 0 – 2. The best team apart Barca. Wembley final both team and I hope Barca win

  34. Jafri
    February 19, 2013

    Watching Bayern dismantle Arsenal. It’s been a while since I’ve seen Barcelona really dismantle top class opposition. Granted, we’ve only played Real Madrid recently, and there’d be some debate as to Arsenal’s top side credentials, but I can’t remember a lot of domination after that 7-1 last season. I hope we bring our A game against Milan. Too many twitchy 1-0/2-1 wins and tentative draws. If Bayern can do it, so can we.

  35. February 19, 2013

    So this is crazy, and why I don’t think that anyone in his right mind can argue with the quality of Messi, only the tactics of the team, etc:

    At almost a 30% conversion rate, if Messi were a baseball player he would be a .300 hitter, all home runs. How absurd would that be?

  36. nia
    February 19, 2013

    What happened to Malaga today? ONE shot overall all game today 🙁 vs Porto’s 17. Hope they have a good return leg. As for Arsenal, my favourite team when I lived in London. I was hoping they’d a least draw but, alas, it didn’t work out. Hope they can bounce back sometime. Bayern are scary though. I can see why EE wanted to avoid them.

    • Messiah10
      February 20, 2013

      Arsenal have no one to blame but themselves. Unfortunately, Wenger will take most of the heat because he didn’t reinforce his back line during the transfer window. That back line is horrendous. They left Bayern way to much space. There were also a lot of balls that were right at them to clear and they failed to do so time after time. Not having the DM available hurt them, but he’s been injured all season. I never thought the Gunners had a chance to be honest. I’ve watched a fair amount of Bundesliga and Bayern this year(mostly bc GolTv only has Bundesliga!) and I haven’t seen a better well oiled machine apart from Barca.

  37. mic
    February 19, 2013

    Interesting article and discussion. Looking forward to the longer analysis from Kxevin. In the meantime a few things that come to mind when reading this page.

    It seems to me that often we don’t know when to stop chasing the ball and use the organized zone defending instead. Most teams are doing it when under attack with good results I think.

    Maybe our forwards would not need to run and put out fires so much with our defense more comfortable with zone defending and less eager for a killer interception (after 6 seconds of course 🙂 ), which if unsuccessful leaves us vulnerable.

    Last 10 minutes with Granada was a great chance for the zone defending, instead we kept chasing them and allowed them 2 clear chances for the goal.

  38. krokodil22
    February 23, 2013


  39. krokodil22
    February 23, 2013


  40. Orlandu
    August 15, 2013

    all i can do applauding loudly , a perfect analysis.

    the only thing i can add i you can not explain everything with logic or statistics.there are sponsors that giving messi a lot of money to play in all the matches he can . like they did to ronaldo at wc 2002 final.he was very sick that day i remember but nike insisted and forced him to play at the final game.

    so why barca wastes messi’s energy at copa del rey game question becomes meaningless because they have no authorization on it.

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