RM 2, Barça 1, aka “It has to come from the players”


For years, Barça has had all the answers, for pretty much every question. But now, after having lost three of its last four matches, we are left with more questions than answers.

Feels kinda weird, doesn’t it?

I didn’t care whether we won or lost this match, and even predicted a 2-1 loss. But I most emphatically cared how we played it. For what it does to the standings, the loss is no biggie at all. For what it does to the psychology of a damaged team, the loss is immense for the simple reason that the wounds are self-inflicted.

Jordi Roura came out with a semi-rotation lineup of Valdes, Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Alba, Busquets, Thiago, Iniesta, Messi, Villa, Pedro. And simply put, those players came out and did nothing. Absolutely nothing. No slashing runs, no aggression, no verticality, no nothing except aimless possession. And toward the end of the match there wasn’t even that, as RM spent the last portion of the match embedded in our end.

And the only people who could have done anything about it, we allowing it to happen. Because this isn’t about coaches present or absent — this is about the FC Barcelona players, OUR players, and how they are approaching this game that they used to own like a well-worn pair of boots.

Because for the first time, I see fear. And that fear is making the club play tight, a quality manifesting itself in tentative play, runs not made, passes not attempted. The FC Barcelona of recent legend inspired sonnets of praise by playing swashbuckling football. It was daring and fearless, even as it was rooted in possession. That Barça played possession because it was waiting to strike. This Barça plays possession like a married couple that shouldn’t be, going through the relationship motions because it’s been going on for so long that they don’t know what else to do.

The aggression isn’t there, only pique at referee decisions. The joy is gone, along with the magic. And what’s left is a group of players who don’t seem to know what to do, even as they do. And we know this because the times they do it, good things result. Look at the first goal, for example:

— Messi skulked up to the shoulder of the defense, and made a run that dictated a perfect pass from Alves. He took that pass, beat the keeper and that was that.

— Pedro made two lovely runs into space, and passes found him to create real danger.

Then, as if chastened, the runs stopped. And when someone like Pedro did begin a run, the action was met by a midfielder who was already passing the ball laterally to another blaugrana shirt.

You could see the tightness manifesting itself in the lineup constriction that led to fatigue, that led to injuries, that led to malaise, that led to this. When you are in the gym, and work to failure, your muscles can’t move the weight any longer. It’s as if our beloved football club has worked to mental failure rather than physical failure. Whew!

Song rarely plays, Bartra doesn’t play, Montoya? Who? when Thiago starts it’s “Whoa, Thiago is starting!” Why is that? Constriction. Let’s not lose. Our great players can tough it out for one more match, right? But then, suddenly, when you need those players, their qualities haven’t been honed through real match situations. If this club has players who aren’t good enough to play, sell them, loan them, do what needs to be done. Because every player on that roster should be able to be called upon for duty, and the club should be confident that said player(s) can deliver the goods.

And for those who say, “I want my Barça back,” this IS your Barça. This is our team. It’s a team that is struggling, a team that has been beaten handily, twice within the same week, by its most bitter rival. It’s a team that has to be thanking its lucky stars that the Milan return leg isn’t this coming week, so that it can find some way to regain the swagger, the boldness that inspired fear. Opponents don’t come to the Camp Nou anymore with fear in their eyes, hoping simply to not get killed. They come in thinking, “We can score, and if we score, anything can happen.”

What I don’t see is flair or creativity. The effort is there, but whole team has become like my nickname for Alexis Sanchez, 95%. At the terminus of every tika-taka buildup needs to be a run — a player asking questions of the opposing defense, making them move so that spaces are created for other attackers.

Instead, look at the times that a Barça player got the ball on a bust-out, only to look up, into the box and …. cricket! cricket. By the time someone decides to sashay into frame, the passer and attacker are surrounded by defenders, and that is the end of that.

Messi gets the ball in midfield, where he is doing little else except removing himself from the attack, and passes it to Iniesta. Then he trots over here, takes a pass from Alves, and trots over there. While he is doing that, Villa is standing on the left side, waiting for something to happen. Pedro is walking around on the right side, waiting for something to happen. And in that sequence, it’s so clear to see what the difficulty is:

Nobody is MAKING anything happen..

Cycles of team greatness don’t usually end because of physical pressures. They end because of mental pressures. At some point, the team has won so much that rather that seeking, desperately wanting to win more, it desperately wants to not lose. It is at that very subtle cusp of effort and determination that an opponent who simply wants it more can have success.

And yes, I think that right now, Barça is in that delicate state of playing not to lose, and it is permeating everything that the team does on the pitch, as players do “just enough.” So Alves got in front …. just …. of the RM player making the pass to Benzema. Lord knows what Pique and Mascherano were doing, and no doubt Alba was complaining to the ref somewhere.

On the Ramos goal, he was surrounded by blaugrana shirts, yet he rose the highest with the most strength, and headed home. Mark him out? Put a body on him? Why?

That last bit of effort and desire, that thing rooted in an athlete’s hunger, seems to be absent from our players right now. Pundits and announcers, during matches and after matches, say that struggling teams need for something good to happen to them, without realizing that the only ones who can make something good happen are the players themselves.

Getting want back is difficult. We see it time and again in all disciplines.

— The Clash went from “White Riot” to noodling around with dub music.
— Andy Murray got sick and tired of losing to Federer and those other guys.

Our players aren’t playing with urgency, with that sense of somewhere to be. There used to be risk. Guardiola brought up Busquets and Pedro, took a chance on Ibrahimovic, played different formations and systems, played around with things in a restlessness that made the team unpredictable even as it was very predictable. You just couldn’t stop it. RM didn’t work any harder during the match that Oil Can was yelling at his teammates to come and help him try to get the damned ball off of those insufferable sprites, as they capered about.

But we are working less hard, and with less success. Further, it’s less hard with a tentative quality. So the player receiving the pass stands there, instead of running to the ball and finding space in which to find a teammate, who has already anticipated that movement and is there, waiting.

When people like Sid Lowe write about how the team has lost its identity, this is what they mean — the absence of that weird, nebulous thing that used to make us unplayable, goals as inevitable as a loss. RM is fit, sharp and angry. They are (and who can blame them) sick of the prose, the gushing, the odes to the greatness of The Barça Way. And they want. SO much. We think we want, but we don’t want in the same way that we used to.

Guardiola left at the end of last season, and speculation was rife as to the real reason that he left, reasons that we will never know. But could he see such a thing coming? Can a coach know that a team’s edge of greatness, of desire-fueled excellence, is dulled? I honestly believe that he would have left even had the team done the Treble again last season. But I can’t help but wonder if he saw what was coming. Knowing him, the struggle was probably wanting to stay, to see if he could answer the challenge of what to do and how to do it.

Some of it is injuries. Some is fatigue. But for me, and I will freely admit that I could be wrong, it’s execution. They know what to do. But something isn’t clicking, something is dulling the edge. And now we get to see the hearts of champions. A weak club will mutter and moan, and start pointing fingers. A strong club will say “We have to get better, and set about the task of doing so.”

Is all lost? Absolutely not. But some significant self-examination is going to have to happen in the time between now and when Milan come to town, looking to advance by using the hide of a wounded lion as a doormat.

Here’s something that I DO know: This club needs our support. Cules are going to see all sorts of danger, and why this player or that player must go, or why so-and-so is the real reason for all the malaise. But this is a team failure, just as it was a team success. And your team never needs you more than when it is struggling, and hurt. Like now.

I still believe that we are going to overturn the tie and advance against Milan. Absolutely. But to do so, our beloved club is going to have to, between now and then, rediscover what it has been missing since it scampered off to that giant Liga lead: The want that makes excellent players superhuman. Meanwhile, support your club. Defend your club. Believe in your club.


By Kxevin

In my fantasy life, I’m a Barca-crazed contributor over at Barcelona Football Blog. In my real life, I’m a full-time journalist at the Chicago Tribune, based in Chicago, Illinois.


  1. A thought that I had and just Tweeted, since like Sinatra, I don’t edit posts (first word, best word, baybeeee!:

    “I also think that Guardiola’s legend will grow on the back of failure that was inevitable, which I don’t agree with.”

    1. “And for those who say, “I want my Barça back,” this IS your Barça. This is our team.”

      This is what I was hoping to read, thanks Kxevin!

      Now, what is happening to us?

      1. Defence!

      We are (were) a team that defended with attack, “Attack is the best form of defence” said our team legends. And our defensive problems were always shadowed by the strengths in attack. We conceded a very stupid goal to Madrid? So what? We hit back two at them!

      Now, look at the entire season. We have always conceded. Conceded more than our a club of our status should. Look at the way the Spanish national team (a barcelona subsidiary) plays. They don’t concede a lot of goals.

      Our attacking has become blunt and it has made transparent the defensive deficiency. When was our last clean sheet?

      2. Rotation

      Even if we were winning all the games and on the top of our form, rotation is still vital. Not only because our XI get tired, because we are Barca, we need to create new teams from our la masia. We need to keep players happy and excited.

      Every player must feel they have contributed to the victory/ trophy.

      3. Real Madrid just peaked at the wrong time.
      Face it, they look absolutely lethal. And just in time for the most important games in their season. If they continue this form, they’ll win the champions league for sure.

      4. About us overturning the tie with Milan….I absolutely believe that we can.
      And if we do, we’ll truly make a mark in history.

      But the challenges are:
      –> they haven’t lost a game this year. they are on the top of their form.
      –> they are mentally strong and put solid team work. Synergy!
      –> Remember, if we concede one more goal, we need to score FOUR!

      5. Whatever the results, it’s just a game. And we already have enough reasons to be proud of our club.
      Visca Barca.

    2. And man! Varane is going to create a lot of problems for us. Real Madrid bought a gem of a player. Yeah, they already had Casillas, Ozil and Ronaldo…but Varane…and when our defenders are shagging! How I wish we get a player like him

  2. Great review.
    Everybody here (with few exceptions) do believe in this club, and that it can turn around the tie with Milan.
    Just, that it’s going to be needed more than just words of encouragement to do it.
    More or less it’s very simple, at least on paper, THEY have to prepare every single match like it’s a final.
    Of course, we are lacking a dress room song.

  3. Very frustrating game to watch. Many times our mighty mice were plain and simply outmuscled. I wholeheartedly agree that the flare is gone that we have been used to seeing. It games like these where a player like Ibra is missed, I love Pedro, but too many times have I seen him get simply out muscled for a ball…. then begging for a foul.

    It was talked about a few years back, but why not really shake things up and put pique as a central striker, dude is tall, strong and has great ball control skills.

    horrible couple weeks for cules, but it will only make us stronger, and make winning and playing WELL that much sweeter….whenever that happens

  4. Hey everyone.
    I’m not a new signup or anything,and I’m not a band-wagoner. I used to comment on this site, then stopped around 1 1/2 years ago. Nobody is familiar with me, but I am with most of the fellow cules here. I follow most of the BFB community on twitter, just to see what type of reaction there is after every goal, after every game, after every win, every loss. It’s nice to have someone else celebrate with you, even if I don’t know you guys too well. Were Cules and that’s all that matters.

    I’m taking some time to write this because it’s been a tough couple of weeks for us. With Tito’s cancer situation, Abidal’s cancer situation(YAY that hes back!), and the recent losses to Milan and Madrid. These losses have hurt us fans, but I think it’s important for fans to talk sense even when we get defeated.

    I’ve noticed on twitter how some people are very…up and down about the views of this club. One week Fabregas is amazing, next week we bash Fabregas, and we say that he sucks. Messi is god-like in one game, next, he’s complete shit. We Cules, after having enjoyed some incredible success in the last couple of years, take things for granted. We tend to easily forget that these 11 players are flesh and bones at the end of the day. They get tired, they have there own problems, we tend to forget they’re just like us, and the level of commitment they’ve shown in the last couple of years would make neutrals think our players are aliens.

    Our players have done so much for us in the last couple of years, but we tend to forget it. Did we forget the manita’s, did we forget CL successes, League Successes? How about the treble? These guys were machines for a good 3-4 years. Playing 60-70 games a year, and yet i feel like we don’t appreciate it. We’ve seen a team that’ll only come around once in a generation, and yet we’re calling this season a disaster even though the league…THE LEAGUE is in the bag. Think about that. The league is basically ours, and were calling this a bad season. No other team would think like that. Man Utd wins the league?year was a success. Real Madrid win the league? success. Juventus?Success. Except us. Why? Because We’ve been accustomed to immeasurable success. Just please don’t take this set of players for granted.

    They’re are alot of new Barca fans, and that’s not a bad thing. It’s just easy to forget the hardships we’ve seen before. I cried when we lost 4-1 at the bernabeau. I cried when we had to perform a guard of honor for the whites. I cried when Ronaldhino(The biggest reason i follow Barca, Loved him in 02 WC) was sold. But I will NEVER forget the times I cried because of joy. When Iniesta scored against Chelsea, When we won the leagues. When we one in Paris, When we won 6 in a year, when we won CL’s. This team has given me so much. These guys were one of my few shining lights in a very difficult period in my life. I love them,from the bottom of my heart, and I will NEVER write them off this easily, because we as cules have went through difficult periods, but also because I know what this team is capable of doing.

    I’m not saying it’s wrong to bash on the guys, I do too, quite a bit, but that’s because were true fans, and were not ignorant. They’ve been nowhere near their usual standards as of late, and it hurts. We know when someone screws up, and were willing to call them out on it. We see the truth. But please, just please, don’t forget what theses guys have done for us fans. I for one will forever be grateful. No Way are our players bad players. From Thiago to Messi to Alexis, we have a wonderful, quality team. Just somethings not been clicking recently.

    I’m not writing this to bash on anyone, just wanted to share my 2 cents. I love everyone from this club, from the players to the fans. It’s just cut the players some slack. Brilliance needs to take a pause. I belive we’ll make it through Milan. I honestly believe if there is any team in the world to turn around this situation, its Futbol Club Barcelona. I love them, as we all do, just be grateful for what these guys have done. I love Barca, I love Messi, Tito, Pep, Abidal, Xavi, Iniesta, Alexis, Villa, Masch, Valdes, Pinto and everyone else from this beloved club. Just give theses guys a chance, don’t write them off. Visca BFB! Visca Catalunya! Visca BARCA!!!

    And PS: I don’t stalk anyone on twitter, just a happy follower. My twitter handle is gowbrownie13, if ever you folks want to have a nice convo, i’m up for it!


    1. Best comment i have ready in a while! Although it did make me feel like a dick for venting here earlier today 🙂

    2. Great way to put it. I’m like you happy for all happy moments they have created over the last few years and for the ones to come.

  5. That’s the problem. It doesn’t have to be the SAME 11 players on the pitch every single game. We have 20 of them capable enough to play football.
    Of course they’ll be tired.

  6. You pretty much said it all, Kxevin. Something is not right with the team mentally. Whether it is Tito’s absence, lack of rotation, cumulative fatigue after years of playing in every competition, or just the burden of being expected to be perfect in every single game, the team needs a major reboot.

    I hate when people analyze every play to find out who to apportion the blame to. The fact is, the entire team is not performing well, or at least not performing consistently. They look vulnerable, and more importantly, they look like they feel vulnerable. They seem to lack that self-belief that in the past has powered them through bad performances to eke out victories because they know they can.

    I don’t how to fix what is wrong with this team, but I do know that the solution is not tactical–it’s mental. They need to get their heads straight. And the coaching staff needs to show that they have confidence in all the players, not just a select few.

    (Oh, and Kxevin predicted a 2-1 loss?!? Sell Kxevin!)

    1. My 2 cents, this happens in the whole world week in and week out. The small club bunkers down against the better clubs hoping to come away with a tie, and a lot of times they manage to pull off the win. REAL MADRID played like the small club hoping to come away with something and did. It was all 11 players right outside the box plus the ref at times, lol. Chelsea did it last year twice, Ac Milan also did it recently, nothing new. FC Barcelona will stay faithful to their way of playing more often than not will win. I’m sure they will come back against AC Milan, the league is in the pocket.

  7. The result of this match was completely secondary. The teams prior brilliance & consistency in La Liga made the outcome of this Clasico such.

    What was really at stake was how the team played. Because what was really important was starting to improve form in preparation for Milan, a match where the team is going to have to be razor sharp to progress.

    It’s often been said that the team is somehow different this year. That we’ve gotten away from the possession based game of the past. Or that all we need is Puyol & Pique back in defense, or Xavi back in midfield, or Villa upfront and that’s going to fix some perceived problem.

    But from what I see, the real issue the team is faced with is needing to evolve it’s template further. The opposition has adjusted. And Tito not being there has created a paralysis in the team in trying to solve problems the opposition defense is devising.

    For me what was particularly concerning about today’s match was how the team just seemed to be floating through wrapped in a kind of vague uncertainty about how to fix the problems they are encountering on the pitch.

    I really don’t think they do know what “to do” right now.

    And in response what they’ve fallen back on is their comfort zone, back into very bad habits.

    The team right now is simply possessing the ball to keep it. There such little attacking penetration with the ball.

    Barca had 72% of the ball. Yet RM had 14 shot attempts & 6 on target. Barca had only 5 shot attempts and 2. Last match vs RM they also had 2 shots on goal IIRC. 2 matches vs RM-70% possession or so in each. 4 total shots on target.

    Even more startling and to me the story of the match in ways: despita Barca having 72% possession, only 18% of the game was played in the third that RM defended while 28% was played in the third Barca defended.

    Just think about that. RM only had less than 30% of the ball yet had much more total possession in the attacking third than Barca did.

    It’s as if the team has simply fallen back into automatisms it knows while the higher purposes have been fogged over.

    The whole team seems so worried about losing the ball that all they are doing is trying to keep it. The only players today who looked to create some vertical thrust were Messi & Alves.

    And the problem Barca is can’t solve right now is the same tactical one over & over. People keep saying that teams are “parking the bus” vs Barca. They really aren’t. That’s the problem. If they were we’d have a more ready set of solutions. Players like Cesc & Villa would be better tools.

    This second half of the season teams have started playing their defensive blocks in the middle of the pitch during the Barca build up phase. And Barca just can’t crack this problem.

    Instead of stretching the pitch vertically-which is fundamental the team sends attackers deep to facilitate possession. But rather than fixing the problem this makes the pitch smaller and smaller.

    This is the fundamental reason why Barca can’t get any shots on goal recently. They just aren’t getting the ball into the attacking final third.

    And right now Messi truly has almost no help. The amount that he’s forced to do is ridiculous. And while it’s often discussed that the system is so focused on messi that it cuts out others that’s not what’s happening now. That’s not the problem. This is very clearly other players not doing enough to support Messi. And in turn he’s trying to do everything which makes things worse.

    And unfortunately with Tito gone there’s just a breakdown in leadership-both tactical & in terms of game preparation/ management. It’s a huge problem. The players are encountering difficulties in unlocking defenses & difficulties in their physical condition related to periodization/injuries and they just don’t have a manager to help them solve those problems.

    And it’s not Roura’s fault. It’s very clear that he just doesn’t want any part of this. He looks like he’s in pain on the bench. This just isn’t viable.

    I think the club should consider removing Roura and making Zubi the interim manager until Tito gets back. Give Zubi an assistant to do tactics/scouting and let Zubi focus on man management. I’d prefer someone like Lucho but don’t see that viable. Few are going to want to come in for a month to 6 weeks. The solution has to be internal. At least with Zubi the players will have a respected figure to stabilize the dressing room.

    And long term-the club has to continue to evolve. Part of why the club is struggling now is because the skill sets on the team have grown too homogenous. When the players are on form-they can generally get around that. But under greater difficulty they lack needed dimensions and tools on the pitch.

    Barca should continue it’s philosophy. No question on that. But how that philosophy is implemented needs to change. As much as we’d like to think it possible, we cannot go back to ’08-’09 or ’10-11 again. It can’t have a summer like last year where glaring needs were just ignored as if they didn’t exist and would just magically go away.

    Finally-I really do believe the team will get better. It’s just a question of whether they can do it in time for Milan. But either way Kevin’s point is very much on target. Whatever the outcomes at hand the team deserves our support.

    1. Euleri. Totally agree, as usual, particularly with the homogenous skill set bit, which is why I think Neymar would be a disaster. Do you think a cromagnon centre forward – Andy Carroll ? in that central block would change the dynamic and create space elsewhere?
      It seems to me that teams are happy to let Dani and Jordi gallop forward into cul de sacs because they don’t fear our crosses, cutbacks.

    2. This is a complicated, controversial subject that I don’t want to get into in detail here. But I think highly of Neymar’s skill set. Will he succeed here? Don’t know given how high expectations are. But he is very skilled.

      Neymar in fact does add important aspects of diversification to the skill set of the team. For example-he has remarkable pace, but as important he his ability to pivot across this line of acceleration is just fantastic. Very few players on Barca can do that.

      One of the team’s biggest problems is that they simply don’t have a winger with pace who can beat his defender 1 v 1 & finish. As you know I think very highly of Sanchez but he’s lost mentally & will most likely be sold.

      Now at the same time is Neymar enough? No. Is he the top need short term? Perhaps not. Does that make him a bad signing? Not necessarily as you always have to balance trade offs.

      The team needs 2 players added to the front line IMO. Neymar can be one of those. But they should also add a striker -but not a target man type (not as first choice at least). Cavani/Falcao are near impossible. The player I would personally target is Jovetic.

      But if they don’t bring in a striker (which I’m guessing they won’t) then it’s not fair to blame Neymar for that either. The club has avoided the need for a striker x2yrs.

    3. Thanks Euler for those comments. I’m a huge fan of Sanchez too. But I think that too often he has to play as a back-to-goal striker, which is a total waste. Barca basically rotates CFs standing with the CBs (often including Messi). So why not use a big specialist.
      We both agree Barca probably needs a striker. The question is what kind. If I was the manager of a normal side I wouldn’t pay 5 cents for Andy Carroll. Too slow, too clumsy. But Barca doesn’t need a guy who can run the whole field and lead a counter-attack. It needs someone who can go into the RM “cage” and put his body on Varane and Ramos; it needs someone who can camp just outside the penalty area and hoist a sign that says: ready for service. Barca still has lots of product. It just doesn’t have someone who can put it away.
      They shoulda got Klose a couple of years ago. He would have been fantastic.

    4. p.s. I am being a bit flippant using Andy Carroll as an example (I’d get Gomez if available because he could step out and play wall passes with Messi), but I use him as an example of a big unit striker who usually plays close to goal.

    5. Oh, and I’m not sure I disagree that Alexis’ confidence is shot. Wingers always look good in counter-attacking teams, but Barca’s wingers just don’t get that opportunity. For Chile against Egypt, for instance, with a bit of room, he was fantastic. His problems are systemic, not personal, I think.

    6. This second half of the season teams have started playing their defensive blocks in the middle of the pitch during the Barca build up phase. And Barca just can’t crack this problem.

      The team that came up with the template of a high defensive block right smack where Barcelona’s midfield likes to operate was Michel’s Sevilla as far back as the 6th round of La Liga. That was at the end of September.

      Barcelona were completely dominated in that match. The team performance in that match cannot be explained by player fatigue, periodization, lack of desire, or what have you. This happened while Barca were winning left and right.

      Leaving aside serious illnesses, I’m tempted to think that Medel’s getting himself sent off in that match may come to be the key to Barcelona’s season. Once Sevilla were outnumbered, Barcelona stormed back. Order was restored and the fact that Michel had managed to figure out the key to this Barcelona was completely swept under the rug.

      Until Milan, then Madrid, and Madrid again.

    7. Completely agree on the Sevilla point. La Real then revised parts of that strategy this 2nd half of the season & it’s quickly become the standard approach.

      Getafe was on the sides that elected to defend deep & we saw what happenned. It was also a notable mistake from Emery IMO to play his block so deep.

    8. Agreed about Emery. I’m still completely mystified as to why he turned his back on Michel’s tactics, right after they had been validated by Milan.

    9. One other pt on this-this strategy has been used in the past as well e.g. FC Coppenhagen.

      But what in part disappoints me know is that this was exactly the approach RM took last spring at CN to win 2-1. And the club largely explained away that match as a kind of outlier event.

      But it wasn’t. I knew that watching that match. Mou had finally arrived at the right solution vs Barca. It took him much longer than I thought it would. But he got there.

      And Barca has still failed to develop a response. That’s a major failure from the club.

    10. Good analysis. What glaring needs that were ignored during the summer are you referring to though? A CB? More depth at FB? A big #9 (I don’t think so)? A winger who can/will beat their man and drive towards goal or the touchline?

      I agree with many who think we can’t buy our way out of this, but we needed more than a backup LFB and DM this summer (though Song is a great one), and still do.

    11. If they were going to bring in an attacking LFB then augmenting the CB was a must. Team also needed a multidimensional striker to play in front of Messi when needed. Not easy to get-but a need nonetheless.

  8. My issue with the past 12 months, including the run in to last year’s titles being decided is that we miss Abidal… badly.
    Defensively we are absolutely terrible. We are scoring but not consistently but we are consistently conceding goals.
    Yes, Puyol is past his best and if we are being honest, he is just past it. And Pique isn’t as consistent as he was but we are conceding goals in two ways that we rarely did with Abidal – from corners and on the break.
    How many times did we see Abidal rescue us by covering the left centre back positions on a break away, or getting his head on a cross?
    I don’t think he will displace Alba, even if he is fit again but we need someone to replace Dani Alves who is a massive liability at this stage. I can’t recall what writer suggested that Brazilian footballers generally get 4 years in a club before they lose all interest.
    If we could find a right back with the same characteristics then that could be every bit as important as signing a new centre back.
    Defensively we are extremely stretched in most matches and Busquets is playing further back than in most matches last year.

    Offensively Alexis, Villa, Pedro and Tello are all off form although it’s harder to prove Tello’s bad form because he gets 10 minutes in any match. None of them are shooting from distance so unless someone gets one on one with the keeper, they are not shooting so that’s why we’ve got the shooting stats that we’ve seen recently.
    When you look at footballers like Gareth Bale and Ronaldo, when they get 5 free yards in midfield, they make space and shoot. Mostly they don’t score but they do more often than any of the rest of our players.

    1. Long time no see Ciaran.

      I don’t think that Alves is a liability. It seems that you’ve missed out on his recent assists. And he is slowly becoming the player he used to be.

      Our defense is not world class and we also didn’t concede too many goals from corners. Kxevin laid the numbers down a few says ago.

    2. Defensively he is a liability and his consistency in crossing is still way off. Yes he has a few assists but a few years ago he had the most assists in the league and it’s a long time since that happened. He can’t challenge in the air and gives away silly freekicks now where he wouldn’t have done before.

  9. The solution is tactical and mental. This all starts with the deployment of the Gala XI against Milan and then Madrid. That is a tactical decision. It is a tactical decision to play Xavi and Iniesta almost every match and not give Thiago the opportunity to play valuable minutes to be ready for a match of today’s caliber. It is a tactical decision to play Messi every match and to have him look like a shadow of himself. These past two weeks resemble the two weeks last April when Chelsea and Madrid beat Barca and Barca looked like it was out of gas and out of ideas.
    And yes, today Barca looked scared of Madrid. Maybe more intimidated of Madrid than Perez Lasa. There was space to be exploited but risks were not taken. But why shouldn’t they be scared when every counter seems to end up in the back of the net? Individual players should be criticized for playing without energy and discipline. I give Alexis credit for coming in today and showing some sort of drive.
    And there is no reason to pine for players that are no longer with the team. Zlatan? What would he have done? He would have probably earned cards leading up to the game and not have been available to play. Keita and Toure? Wanted more money and move playing time. Former players would not help Messi and Iniesta reappear during the second half. Former players would not help the back four organize itself during transition.

  10. You say it’s a problem with the players, but the vast majority of the problems you point out originate from the lack of a coach and poor management from the board room.

    Have to agree with Euler, the players look lost. When the whole team is poor and without answers you have to start asking questions at levels above the players.

    Right now the players need our support more than ever. Visca Barca.

    1. As I said in another space, if you talk to any classical music conductor, they will tell you that all the work is in preparation. During the concert, they are simply there to adjust balances and make minor corrections. But when the musicians take the stage, they know the piece and what to do with it. The conductor is mostly for show.

      So it is with a football team. For me, the matter is fatigue, mental and physical, and the effects of that fatigue on execution. And I believe the same things would be happening if Vilanova were here. The computer needs a reboot. Bad.

    2. “On the Ramos goal, he was surrounded by blaugrana shirts, yet he rose the highest with the most strength, and headed home. Mark him out? Put a body on him? Why?”

      This is a result of our zonal marking imo. Never liked it as if the opposition manage to swing in a decent ball you get today’s situation where a large centre back has a run and jump which immediately puts the defender at a disadvantage. However, given that only Pique has any height and RM have Ramos, Ronaldo, Varane etc. we’ve got to pray we get lucky and probably don’t have any option but to set up that way.

    3. That wasn’t a result of zonal marking. In fact the zonal marking worked perfectly in terms of tactics and design. Pique was exactly in the right position.

      The problem is that while we may want to believe athleticism doesn’t matter in football it does on some level. Ramos scored that goal because he’s a much better athlete than Pique. He was able to jump higher & more explosively than Pique was. That’s what it largely got down to.

      There is no chance Barca can defend RM with man marking on corners. They have far too much height. It’s not remotely viable. Zonal marking allows Barca to place their only tall, physical defender in the area that creates the highest risk scoring chances for the opposition.

      But if the opposition can simply out jump you than no coverage system is going to work well.

      The gap in athleticism between these 2 sides has become massive. And it’s a real issue now.

    4. I don’t dispute that Ramos is a better athlete than Pique, but it cannot have helped Pique that Ramos had the benefit of a long run before his jump.

      Pique’s jump was from virtually a standing position. No way he could have outjumped Ramos. All he could have hoped to do was to interfere with Ramos. Unfortunately, Pique’s positioning was just a bit off.

    5. Pique’s jump was from virtually a standing position. No way he could have outjumped Ramos.

      This is true as well. But that’s always the danger on a corner. It’s part of the attacker’s advantage. Athleticism helps mitigate that.

      You can use a mixed zone-man system which barca do but their other players are so small it’s difficult for any to impede Ramos.

      My main point was that I don’t think this was due to zonal marking as man marking would only leave them much more exposed.

    6. Zonal marking only works until a team can get a ball to a runner who steals a march on a static defender. Piqué can’t move towards that ball. Apart from anything else he has Ronaldo right behind him so he can’t leave his station early. It’s a no brainer that given even equal athletic ability, and replayed below may be right that Ramos is the better athlete anyway, the runner will win the ball most of the time.

      I repeat every time we concede a corner to RM, unless its Piqué who is against Ramos, Varane or Ronaldo we will lose out. As I said in my first post I do agree that maybe given the personnel we can’t do anything other than zonal but that doesn’t mean it’s not a liability for us.

    7. As I see it the fundamental liability is the lack of height/physicality and the fact that Pique is the only one with that kind of presence rather than the system of defensive marking.

      Any system is just going to try to cover that up best it can.

      Look zonal marking in that situation is completely predicated on the player stationed where Pique is winning that header. If he doesn’t it will lead to trouble. There is huge responsibility on that player.

      And I say this in part also based on several of these kinds of goals RM have scored vs us recently.

      Whether it was Pepe winning the header vs Adriano at CN last yr to set up Khedira’s goal or Varane winning the header to score last match with Abidal gone Barca have simply become too small and not athletic enough at the back.

    8. Nobody is mention it, but i will.
      I just yelled as hell at Valdes prior to the goal.
      Just have a look at the action before the goal. They had a free kick, and i think it was Modric who hoofed the ball in our box, and it was something like at least 50 meters of the ball fly, and Valdes instead of going out for it cause it was just 5-6m from the goal line, he decided to stay on the goal line, which in the end resulted to a corner kick for them.
      This is a problem that i have pointed out in more than dozens of times, the keeper must own his box, especialy during those balls, and after knowing that your team is full of midgets that becomes even more apparent. Valdes is not that kind of keeper, never was and never will.
      Was watching Juve last night and enjoying Buffon’s presence in the box which he so calmly mastered.

    9. But notice how Serie A teams solve athleticism gaps by putting bodies on players. It’s how you can close a gap. Just make sure that you are close enough to a player where if he has to jump, it will be with physical contact sufficient to draw a foul. Italian teams have mastered that.

    10. I think it’s obvious that the problem is in the preparation before the match. Classical music players will be off in the concert if they haven’t been properly instructed. So it is with the Barcelona players.

      It’s no coincidence that the team has never looked the same since Tito left and that they have been unable to respond to new threats.

      I’m not even looking to blame Roura. It’s obvious he doesn’t want the job that has fallen to him.

  11. Maybe the fact Barca has had to win so many games in the dying minutes also suggests there iis a tactical problem and the players have overcome that problem with will power and skill up until now. Remember, our opponents have evolved their tactics against us in combination, each slowly adding a piece. But there are no signs Barca has evolved.

    1. Exactly. And when the players get a little tired, mentally and physically, suddenly the will power and skill sets are a bit loose, and that’s all it takes.

  12. I can agree with a lot of the points made here about ways to improve but you wont convince me that there was any lack of effort on the players’ behalf. I just didn’t see that. This is one fearsomely physical and pacy team we’re up against. Our only hope is to keep them chasing the ball, getting into their third and having players moving in the box, something we’re not managing for a few reasons. It wasn’t all negative, though. We did make some chances apart from the goal. Villa’s ball to Messi’s right foot first half could easily have been a goal and despite Gerry Anderson’s blathering about Varane blocking Villa’s effort in the second half it was actually a great piece of goalkeeping by the keeper. Don’t know why we’re also somehow not allowed to talk about the penalty as if it weren’t a chance. What I saw was Adriano and the ball clearly past Ramos and Ramos stretching his leg sideways. He was beaten and had no right to make that challenge imo.

    1. Btw, in case it’s thought I never praise him, great back heel from Alex’s for the penalty shout.

    2. Very much agree with the point on not a lack of effort by the players. Meant to write that in my comment.

      This team leaves it out on the pitch. They are just lost right now.

    3. Our game has to be vertical. Whenever it was, we caused them problems. It’s almost like a more direct, vertical approach is aberrant behavior that has to be remembered, or they forget and just dither about with the ball.

      It’s funny how back in the day when people would talk about tika-taka as being aimless possession, they didn’t understand. But now it has kinda become that.

  13. Great piece Kxevin – you should seriously think about trying to get something published someday 😉

    Your (brief) mention of Bartra really pushed a button for me. I like to watch the pressers on Barca TV (on BeIn), and was happily surprised by Tito’s candor during the first half of the season. One comment didn’t pass the smell test though, something about not needing a CB because we already had a great backup CB – Bartra. Then, he uses Song at CB, Biscuits at CB, even Adriano at CB (who was actually pretty good), but no Bartra. What the ???? Something is not adding up. If he’s our future, he needs minutes. If not, buy one, but right now, he’s a first teamer in the same way JDS is a first teamer. I would love to be able to have an informed opinion on Bartra’s suitability at CB for the still (potentially) best team in the world, but we’ve seen him play like 10 minutes total. Now that we need a goalie and who knows what else this summer, this is a huge question.

    PS – this does not relate to today’s game, just looking at overall areas of concern.

  14. …and Kxevin is giving us hope that we can qualify against Milan which I totally disagree ….. we can no change drastically in 2 weeks …

    1. One thing we can change is having numbers in the box whenever there is a cross or cut-back. At the moment, that is pitiful. We don’t have numbers in the box we won’t beat Milan. Simple.

  15. Great post Euler! I can’t say enough how great it is to see your thoughts on each match. Always well thought out and logical.
    I pretty much agree with all you said.

    All this talk about mental issues (and yes I agree there are issues mentally) but could it be that these mental issues arise as a result of not having the tactical guidance of the coach present?

    Someone above said that they don’t think its lack of effort on the players behalf. I fully agree. One thing you can say about this team, imo, is that they always put out the effort. They just don’t have that tactical guidance that I talked about.

    1. Thanks. That’s very kind of you to say. I really think the team is stuck in a kind of viscious circle where tactics & mentality are linked together. The team is lacking direction & is at a low pt in it’s fitness due to perodization. That’s bad. But then they face new tactical challenges. That makes the loss of direction worse. Which makes it more difficult for them to then respond to the next set of tactical challenges.

      There are other factors as well. That cycle also has a component of execution to it. So it’s more like mentality-tactics-execution in that vicious cycle. If the mentality is poor on the team, the execution suffers which complicates the tactics which hurts the mentality, etc.

      That’s what I really think is happenning right now. It’s that kind of cycle – and that cycle has to be broken to get out of this fog.

    2. I am almost certain about one think that barca players get lost when they see physically big and pacy players…they equally dont have the thrust & motivation of pressing hard….t

  16. Hi gang, long time no see, been “just listenin”

    While players ultimately have to execute, what they execute has a lot to do with who is directing and guiding their thought processes.

    It occurs to me that in most recent times, these good times that are causing our angst these days, that there’s a bit of a pattern.
    Pep – prepared to perfection, hyper-vigilant about details. The team would say they sometimes felt like they played the match before going on the field.
    Tito – Tactical, adaptable problem solver, the team while not looking as prepared, seemed to be able to adapt and solve problems and win
    Roura – looks confused, and the team… You guessed it

    Probably not his fault, given his role as an opposition analyst he may know exactly what the other team is doing, does mean he has the foggiest what to do about it, that’s a different skill set. I’ve coached kids from 8-13 years old, and often, very often, as I go, they go. Unless they are lacking fundamentals. And then we build those, and then, as I go they go. If I lack confidence, they do. If I stay calm and believe, they do. If I demand excellence and lead by example, they follow. It’s pretty basic human nature. The coaching situation is hurting us. It’s not the only reason but it is inseparable from the other reasons.

    Win, lose, draw, Visca Barca. Here’s hoping we find an answer and open on a can of whoop @$$ on Milan.

  17. Having lost the first leg in Milan hasn’t helped the players at all. In every press conference, they are asked about it and if they are going to win which, I think, is actually not helping the team as I feel they are now distracted and very anxious about the upcoming second tie. I don’t doubt at all that the players are not giving their all, I think a little leadership is just needed and a little more flexibility.

  18. You all are missing the trick, missing the whole point. All this is a scripted master plan by god almighty, to show the world how important Pep was, and how important Tito is.

    36 days, just 36 days it took since Tito left to NY, for Barça from having the Best Ever First Liga Round, to the present situation. Many predicted Barça was on course for a treble, The 1-3 win at Málaga being the Best Barça played since Nov-Dec 2010, some said it’s the Best Iniesta they’ve ever seen. 36 days later, Doomed.

    Tito need to be back. This situation has no other solution. As simple as that. I don’t know how we’re gonna turn it around against Milan in 12 days time. Pessimist inside me is working overtime…

  19. Boy, I sure hope that I didn’t leave the impression that there is a conscious lack of effort on the players parts. But I do think that there is a psychological diminution of that effort level. It is unconscious. Even at their most honest, none of our players would detect it. But it is psychologically inevitable.

    I see signs, such as panicked clearances. Recall the Thiago looseness that led to the turn of possession that led to their goal. It wasn’t a question of doing anything with the ball other than getting it away from our box. Yes, there was a Barça player near where the ball went, but somebody wanting to complete that pass wouldn’t have made that particular pass.

    There have been a great many books written about the psychology of winning, and how the mind is an amazing thing. I recall watching a women’s tennis match, Steffi Graf against …. I want to say Jana Novotna, but it wasn’t her. Anyhow, the player was an underdog, up a set and 5-2 on her serve, serving for the match. And something happened. She almost seemed to say “Holy crap, I’m about to beat Steffi Graf.” And that was it. Graf came back to win the match, and I recall John McEnroe saying that the player might as well retire.

    The mind is amazing in how it works on athletic performance. And I think that our team is more mentally than physically fried. Yes, they are tired. But their brains hurt, so to speak, and I think the same conditions would exist if Vilanova were here and on the bench.

    Yes, Roura is a caretaker manager, but he isn’t an idiot or incapable of managing our squad. I just don’t think anyone was counting on the psychic wheels falling off.

    It’s funny, when Sid Lowe predicted Milan to win and RM to win both matches, so many cules scoffed. But hats off to him for being to see what we all quite couldn’t. I sure as hell couldn’t, blinded by love as I was. It’s so clear now ….

    — Another thing is that RM has been working, buying for years to overcome us. Varane, Ozil, Modric, adapting Pepe’s role until Varane was ready to be rolled out. We have made purchases, but they have been purchases of players that we have then made fit the skill set. As I noted on Twitter last night, we all remember when Sanchez took a pass, skinned Ramos, hurdled Alonso’s challenge and high-tailed it for the box. Today, he would just pass the ball back to midfield.

    1. Sorry, just don’t agree, that this (playing like this, its not even about results only) would be happening with Tito on the bench. “Psychological diminution” as you call it is as a result of not having the coach on the bench. The coach that in these instances would be the “compass,” so to speak, of the team. No one’s blaming Roura but its clear to see he’s just not suitable or capable for the job. Look at the pained look on his face during most of the match.

      “The mind is amazing in how it works on athletic performance. And I think that our team is more mentally than physically fried

      I think this is where youre confusing things. Based on what I’ve been reading in the comments I havent seen any consensus that the team is just physically tired. Its clear from the comments that we are all calling for someone on the sideline who can be that guidance that the team needs. Whether one wants to admit or not, a good coach is very important.

      Also, I don’t want to jump to conclusions, but what I’m getting from you is that the team really doesnt need a coach, just a change in mentality? Please correct me if I’m wrong. And if it is just a change in mentality that we need, where does that come from, is it not from the top aka the coach?

  20. I think something is happening and it is something big. The players like messi and iniesta are now looking like they have there energy sucked out of them. The team doesn’t play with intensity anymore. And we also have some players who do nothing positive for the club. Like Alexis Sanchez. Probably the worst signing Barcelona have had in years. Just gets the ball and falls! That is not an athlete. And our “coach”, is abysmal, he sits cluelessly whilst barca is getting humiliated. Never have a seen a coach who cant lay down the law and tell the players to change there play(hence the reason why we surely do miss pep), it is ridiculous these days. Our performances have been absolutely terrible since the start of 2013 besides getafe. If you ask me something is goin down in the club. Iniesta a man who owes everything to the club comes out midweek to say the locker room is fucked up. A man like messi who loves barca doesn’t seem enthusiastic about playing anymore. I remember in the dying moments of Chelsea messi was playing his heart out but against Madrid in the copa del Rey no intensity. Something is effecting the players. We have no manager, and It is a miracle we are 13 points above Madrid without a manager. I love barca but something has to change, because watching today’s Clasico hurt, it really did.
    Visca barca vista Catalunya

    1. When did Iniesta say the locker room is f*cked up?
      Can you give me the quotes and the source? Must have missed it.

    2. Oh ok. I’m not saying youre lying but I really highly doubt Iniesta would come out and say such a thing.
      Sport.es as the source gives me as much confidence of it being true as Marca. Which is not saying much.

    3. Or it might have been a google Spanish to English mistranslation, but iniesta did say when things go wrong means that there is something wrong

    4. If Iniesta had said anything to imply that the locker room was damaged, it would have been all over the news, I think. He did say that the team missed Vikanova.

  21. For those saying we shouldn’t criticize and just be thankful for what they gave us these past years.. of course we are, we are forever grateful, they have accomplished some amazing things and if they didn’t win a single game the whole year I wouldn’t care and would still love them unconditionally, but those feelings are reserved for when the season is over, when they are out of every competition.. until then, while the trophies are still on the table, I prefer to keep them to the high standards they set for themselves and voice my opinion when things go wrong.

    And I believe others feel the same

  22. Euler said above:

    “And right now Messi truly has almost no help. The amount that he’s forced to do is ridiculous. And while it’s often discussed that the system is so focused on messi that it cuts out others that’s not what’s happening now. That’s not the problem. This is very clearly other players not doing enough to support Messi. And in turn he’s trying to do everything which makes things worse. (emphasis mine)

    OMgosh…it’s as if we’ve become Argentina

    1. Yeah indeed the argentine problem has now found it’s place in Barcelona.

      Disagree on the lack of support part the Team never him down but only did what they we’re told to do.

  23. First half was still acceptable, in fact I thought we were the better team. Iniesta and Messi tried to take over the game.

    In the 2nd, these 2 best players that we have stopped trying and it affected the whole team.

    Countless times I see Iniesta half heartedly follow his man only to stop after a few strides only for his man to receive the ball at the edge of our box. That to me is a passenger.

    As the 3rd captain and the 2nd best player on the team, I would expect him to show more leadership and courage and try to take over the match. Instead he played it safe.

    Messi just stopped trying in the 2nd half. In the first half, I think he heard me screaming “RUN!!” before he made the run that led to a goal.
    Many times the Madrid defense had a high line so it was a good opportunity for Messi, Villa and Pedro to make a run behind the defender.

    I seriously don’t understand why Messi wants to stay deep. I understand when he does that for Argentina, but they have Aguero and Higuain for goodness sake. Forwards who actually play in the centre instead of in the wings like Villa.

    With Alonso and Arbeloa out, I thought Messi would attempt more runs.

    A great player should inspire the team, offer the ball, move off the ball, run, show desire, not walk aimlessly.

    If it’s because he’s tired, then it’s his fault for always wanting to play and Tito’s fault for not having the balls to rest him when ever possible.

    ps. I stopped think that they are the top 3 player’s of this world but to stay on top you gotta be consistent and perform in big matches. They both haven’t showed it for the past handful of matches. Great players are supposed to take over and shine in this big matches.

    1. This and a few of the other recent games are the only games that your argument is valid. It’s ludicrous to say that Messi and Iniesta do not perform in Big Matches. How many times has Messi or Iniesta saved our Bacon?

    2. You consistently dog Iniesta, and I’m not sure why.

      You and I must not be watching the same matches.

  24. Our game has to be vertical. Whenever it was, we caused them problems. It’s almost like a more direct, vertical approach is aberrant behavior that has to be remembered, or they forget and just dither about with the ball.

    This is exactly what I was referring to in my earlier comment. The team is sort of in this fog now & they’ve just regressed to what feels safe to them by habit. What’s in their comfort zone – and that’s just circulating the ball put not using it to create danger because the focus is keep the ball & don’t put possession at risk.

    It’s as if those possession related automatisms have become so dominant that the team has just confined themselves to that kind of play & has to actively work, and right now work very hard, to do anything different-especially anything more direct & vertical.

  25. A point about execution-one of the overarching issues that concerns me with the team is that they’ve become progressively more & more execution dependent.

    That is to say, if the team doesn’t execute at a very high level they just don’t have that much margin for error. The system loses balance & the team doesn’t have the athleticism to counterbalance that.

    This is a major issue for example with the “gala XI.” It is so highly execution dependent that it isn’t robust enough. And that’s kind of what’s with the team right now. Execution has to be so high otherwise the team’s productivity really falls.

    Now you can say this about most teams. Ultimately almost any loss can be explained by execution. But I really do think the team has become extremely execution dependent. It’s lost a level of reserve that offered a margin of error that’s no longer as large as it once was.

    1. Not in offense.

      But he was the fast strong mobile defender that would collect whatever got through them midfield and provide safety at the back. Now, given that Barca has the different phases of the game integrated to a greater extent than any other team, any imbalance in the side one end of the field affects the whole team. But it is also true that even without the cancer, Abidal is going to be 34 in the fall, i.e. we could not have relied on him to play that role for much longer anyway, therefore we should have done something about the problem. Perhaps they thought that getting Alba will take care of the LB position and we do have enough players to fill the CB position (though how they could have thought this is not clear to me), but Abidal was both of those things plus more, and we’re missing that…

    2. That’s a very good point – we have won a lot of games because we have been able to thread a few passes in very tight spaces around the opposition’s box and get someone in position to score. But those are extremely difficult and in general, low-percentage plays, that have to be executed to perfection to succeed, as you point out. Eventually, it reaches a point when a combination of a very high-quality opposition and us not being at 100% closes that narrow gap through which we could squeeze through and score…

    3. I agree with your point about progressive execution dependance and about athleticism playing a part in that. On a more basic level, I’d say that this execution dependance is an innert aspect of posession football. Especially if you play it in an attacking style. That’s mainly because posession is a way of attacking and defending. If there’s a problem both the attack and the defence will suffer.

      For example, I can’t recall a Barcelona performance that was attackingly harmless but defensively solid.

  26. A big issue we are facing now is the domination of our midfield by opposition. Our midfield is getting over run again and again. That’s why we look pathetic in both attack and defense. Even Busi is having trouble. His release balls when pressed are putting others in trouble. There is no point in trying to run the same template again and again and hoping things will improve. We have to make changes to get domination in midfield back. I will start going to a 3-4-3 diamond formation for a start. That should give opponent’s DM more work to do than he is doing now.

  27. Pep said it best, Barca were the worst defending team there was that’s why it was essential to keep the ball. Pass, pass, pass until the opponent is tired and them hit ’em when they tire. These days although more direct, the team seems a bit more hurried. There’s no more pressing up front and our ‘defenders’ are not really defenders either so, they have been forced to actually defend which, they can’t do properly. Barca are a team where attackers defend and defenders attack. That’s how they were built.

    If one component doesn’t work well, the whole system goes south. This season, since Barca have stopped with the high pressing, that’s when we’ve been conceding a lot of goals and mid field has been poor at pressing and defending. Last yr we didn’t let a single goal in at the camp nou for a very long time, I think until the 10 match. Remember how we didn’t give Man U a single corner after all the pundits had said we were gonna be skinned at set pieces? Barca just needs to get back to basics. Stop giving away silly fouls and corners(although Varane was the first to score a header from one this season in liga) and concentrate more.

    If the coaching staff is telling Messi not to pressure more and reserve energy then, everyone else has to step up. Rotate the wingers more often because right now, Pedro just runs and runs and eventually runs out of ideas and he gets tired. A few weeks ago our bench looked stronger than EE’s when they were struggling now, all of a sudden we seem more vulnerable.

    I’d love to see Adriano, Alexis vs Milan. Change things up a bit give the regulars a break since they seem to have hit a block. Yes the team has been figured out but, I think with better prep and more hard word, the team can turn it around. Granted the other teams haven’t exactly played their skins off to beat us. The most annoying thing as a fan is seeing the same personnel and tactics match after match with the same results. It seems like the team is not learning from their mistakes and/or face no consequences for poor play. It seems like they are kinda resting on past glory a bit.

    I hope Messi, Pedro, Pique, Iniesta, Alves are rested for the Milan game and would like to see Tello, Monty, Bartra play. Surely the only way they are going to get better is by getting more play time.

  28. Don’t think its because the players aren’t trying and if watch closely you’ll see that they are trying to pass and move but the problem is that the formation has been figured out, Mourinho’s perfected the once “park the bus startegy”. Villa and Pedro try stretch the pitch but the Madrid full backs don’t care the remain narrow knowing that we don’t have anyone to cross to in the box. Our fullbacks bomb into the space left behind by Villa and Pedro but are tracked all the way by Callejon and Morata. They let us play possession football in our half and as soon as we enter their half they get into formation.

    Our movement doesn’t work because their team doesn’t care about winning the ball back early, they don’t care about tracking runners in the early phase of the attack and they don’t care if we keep the ball for long stages they each mark their zones. Messi drops deeper to try and move Pepe out of position but Pepe doesn’t follow this isn’t about man-marking its about marking a zone. They know that if they maintain their shape the only way we are gonna get through them is to commit more players into the attacking third but they have already congested the middle half of the pitch making short passing difficult its just a matter of time before someone intercepts our pass and then they transition into a lightening quick counter-attack with all our players except our centre backs in their half.

    1. The movement is not there though. The receiving player waits for the ball but the ball never gets there. Instead of moving into space or making it, they just stand there. The players are just waiting around for someone to make a move but no one makes it. Sometimes I notice when Alba or Tello do break through on the wing usually, no one is in the box, everyone is standing at the D for the pass back.

      I think you’re giving Mou a little too much credit for this. Yes they beat us back to back but, it’s not exactly like Barca haven’t made it easy for them either. Osasuna, Sevilla, Granada, Betis, Sociadad, Malaga have all given us very good matches this yr. They’ve all defended very well, maybe a bit better than EE have. The difference is that the EE players have decided to follow their coach and realise that’s the way to play Barca and win. They had a weak link in Marcelo and we made them pay for it before. Notice that since Marcelo hasn’t been playing that many clasico’s, they’ve got the better of us. They just found out our weak link is the whole back four for us unfortunately. Even Wenger noticed our defence was a bit wobbly last yr.
      This slump is going to turn over but, I hope soon. Everyone goes through a rough patch, even the best. Visca Barca!!!

  29. For me I’ve seen a lot of teams use this strategy this season especially in Europe but Madrid execute it best. Celtic sat back but their attackers weren’t quick enough to continuously be a threat on counter-attacks they also followed their men moving them out of their zones. Milan were great at marking their zones but once again weren’t totally committed to the stategy we were able to move them around more although they were more dangerous than Celtic. But Madrid play with absolute devotion to this stategy I never thought Mourinho would get them to totally be committed to such an approach given how many of their attacking players would want to dominate teams and control the game but he has its a seamless web of tactical perfection. The players have bought into it because they’ve realized sitting back is worth it given that they’ll create more clear cut chances on the counter-attack.

    1. Celtic’s and Milan’s tactics were not really equivalent. And Milan’s were *way* more effective. Painful reminder: Barcelona had one shot on target against Milan and it was a soft ball that had zero chance of beating the keeper. In the loss to Celtic, Barcelona got 8 shots of 25 on target, including one past the keeper.

      The key difference is the position of the defensive block. Celtic were stationed just in front of their box. Milan (like Sevilla before them, and Madrid after them) placed their defensive block just past the halfway line.

      Until Barcelona relearn how to punish teams for leaving space at the back, there’s no reason for them to turn down the opportunity of placing themselves one intercepted ball and one attacking pass away from worrying Barca’s shaky defense.

  30. Will be interesting to see them play against Man U. Don’t think that approach can work against United because they have more variety… They can counter-attack, they can use long balls, knock downs by Van Persie, width and wingers so its harder to make a strategy for them.

  31. Another loss and again RM were better.

    For me, the players are fatigued but the main reason is loss of direction. I seriously think that Tito being unavailable has impacted the team greatly in terms of how they prepare. Right now, they are simply trying to do things that they were doing with significant less success.

    Two problems which were apparent for quite some time are biting us seriously. Lack of commanding defender (Masche has not been as good and Puyi is showing wear & tear) & lack of support for Messi (Villa injured, Alexis out of form & Pedro unable to threaten a kitten).

    All in all, we are suffering & the causes are quite known. It would have been a miracle if we had not suffered. Our results in league blindsided most, at least me, to the natural course of things. And now it shows.

    Looking at current forms, i do not feel Barca will give a match to Milan. In fact, i think Milan will win the match at Camp Nou. Only exception will be some great performances by players, which is always possible with team like ours. I shall always believe though. Till the match is over with.

  32. Another problem I see here is that every time you turn around, a Barca player is talking about Milan and how they are going to beat them. Since the defeat at San Siro, that’s all the players are mainly talking about which makes me think they are being distracted and are not playing the games with 100% concentration. They keep saying we are going to win against Milan in every presser and we all know with the goal deficit they have and people making such statements, it usually doesn’t work out that way. It’s do-able but, they should realise that they have to play a lot better than they have been doing.

  33. Nice article. Barca as a team is losing confidence slowly. I have noticed in many games that they want to feel weak and vulnerable. Pep had that ‘father-like figure’ over the team, and everybody followed him diligently. After he’s left they are like a child without the guidance of their parents. They are simply lost. The fact is until Tito arrives, I see no future for Barcelona.

    If Mr. Cruyff is not free, can’t he coach Bacelona for a while?!

    1. Cruyff would never agree and I am not sure he would do that good of a job anyway. He has not coached in 17 years, the game has changed a lot since then.

      The only coach who would be able to step in in this situation would be Pep. That, however, is not happening and it will be Roura again against Milan, which does not give me much hope 🙁

    2. He wouldn’t even come back if Laporta was still president. He promised his wife he wouldn’t coach again (the one game a year for Catalunya being an exception).

  34. I do believe the absence of Tito is having a massive effect on the team, and I am very frustrated at the lack of direct action by the club in appointing someone as an ‘interim’ manager. It’s obvious Roura does not want to do the job he is being forced to do, and all it is doing is destroying HIS confidence and the confidence of the team.

    Imagine if Sir Alex Ferguson retired and United gave the job to Mike Phelan. Mike Phelan does ok but has to step down for a while and suddenly René Meulensteen is in charge. Who? Exactly. He is Roura’s equivalent at United, and his only experience of being an actual manager was 6 months in charge of Brondby in 2007. He was fired in January 2007 with Brondby 19 points behind the leaders in 7th. Some men are great coaches but terrible managers – and Roura is one of them…

  35. The problems continue.

    With VV suspended for between 2-4 games (pending the result of the RFEF judgement) for his outburst, Barca B’s GK Oier was also red-carded (his 2nd red card in 3 games) out of Barca B’s match vs. Las Palmas. (A 92′ set piece goal from Las Palmas gave them a draw after Barca B was winning – sound familiar?)

    This leaves Barca with a dire shortage of GK options for next week – especially for the First Team who will really be counting on nothing happening to, or with, Pinto.

    At this stage we may see promising Juvenil A GK, Joseph Ondoa, come into play (maybe for Barca B).

    Heck, maybe Messi gets his turn in goal too! 😆

    1. Keeping RFEF policy regarding referee Insults i can see Victor getting banned for more than 4 Games just for the sake of it.

      Oier lost his place already to Masip who has massivly outshone him this season. Jordi deserves a temp. promotion.

      Would love to see Ondoa getting some playtime with Barca B was now always impressed with his mobility and reflexes.

    2. Ondoa played a massive part in Juvenil A winning against Cornella 3-0 today. Outstanding saves. Juvenil A has now won their championship with 5 games left to play and 16 points ahead of 2nd placed Espanyol who have yet to play today, as I write this.

    3. Yeah – I think that this is going to be bad for VV. Ramos got 5 when he got sent off and called the ref “shameless”, so expect a similar – or harsher – ban for VV.

    4. Does Oier’s red card in the Segunda carry over to the Primera? He won’t be allowed to be Pinto’s backup? Masip is better these days anyway.

    5. I’m pretty sure that if he’s red-carded out of one league then he can’t play in another. I’d be surprised if he could.

  36. Its nice to see, despite the bad run our team is having that people around this blog are realistic and not bringing out the famous “SELL HIM, BUY THAT, PLAY THIS WAY”

    Losing a game or few was bound to happen sooner rather then later cause that’s what makes this game so great, the chance of great teams falling from the crown.

    There is two things that’s bothering me bout how things have been of late with this team. Maybe am being to harsh, if so then plz slap me with a reality check 🙂

    1)As most of you will agree, the THE LEAGUE “is in the bag” and has been so pretty much since the 19th game was played which means by the time 50% was played we made our biggest apponent give up the league. Now THATS a major success in its self. But instead of recognizing that success and use it to our advantage, we just starred us blind at the “anything can happen” talk.

    Why not play ONE fringe player, a game at least at our home games?
    For many reason, to keep key players fresh, to help the fringe player grow and most of all to add smile to the others faces, and a freshness needed. It would have given the team new things to talk bout and new questions to answer “so Bartra is really stepping up this year huh” “yeah Thiago was good today” etc. I don’t think adding one surprise young player into the team on a home game would harm that much. That’s one of the things buggin me..

    2) So everyone knows how we play and we have played so and will never change FACT. But we also know how RM play and that they will never be able to play us any other way FACT. The reason RM play better at Camp Nou then at their ground is they don’t feel obligated to attack or even play 2 passes correct between each other. Knowing that and knowing we had a 1-1. Why not let them be the one to carry the burden and the ones to answer the question
    “Hey we have the ball, but in case we lose it there is no space to play or run into behind us, so now what”. Instead we kept letting our CB, so high and with the ball at their feet, or our mid with the ball with basically 6 players front of them, that a lost ball would be a chance for the RM. I part of me just wished we have the brains to show the world that RM is nothing if the counter space is denied against them, and no one in the world can do that better then us if we just for a moment wanted to keep it but with less players so high up the pitch, least till they get frustrated and start chasing all over the place….

    Ps1. Love this blog and am a regular reader, and comment bout 3 times a year. And i even have few twitter chats with few in here @wardhigleey. Enjoy the rest of the day and Visca Barca..

    Ps2. I really wish Valdes would not gone as far as he did, made us look bad losers, like other teams players we know.

    1. Our keepers tend to be a bit of a sore loser. Some find it good but I find it horrible.

      The outfield player’s also need to learn to play to this whistle. No matter how many hands are raised, it’s not going to make the ref stop the play and reverse his decision by calling a foul.

  37. And right now Messi truly has almost no
    help. The amount that he’s forced to do is
    ridiculous. And while it’s often discussed
    that the system is so focused on messi that
    it cuts out others that’s not what’s
    happening now. That’s not the problem.
    This is very clearly other players not doing
    enough to support Messi. And in turn he’s
    trying to do everything which makes things

    The way I see it is that he is burdening himself by dropping so deep when it’s not necessary at all times. Instead of saving that 10% energy for a short burst or a dribble or that last bit energy needed to have the composure needed to shoot on goal he goes into midfield to do shorts passes, back and forth.

    If there was an attempt of pulling off 1-2’s I wouldn’t mind but what he keeps on doing is, pass, stand still or take a few steps sideways and receive the ball back and recycle the same move to the same player or start with another player.

    I’d say it’s pointless if there’s no movement.

    1. Yup – the lack of movement is what’s killing the team.

      Players standing around watching the ball carrier and not moving into spaces, and then when they do, the passes aren’t accurate enough. Opposition teams are learning to play the spaces between the Barca players and not the players themselves because there is little movement and, what movement there is, is too darned predictable and too slow. Defences are intercepting balls at will.

      It doesn’t help when our 3 best movers – Pedro, Villa and Alexis – are stuck on the wings maintaining width, and largely being ignored by the defences because they know that these players pose very little threat out there.

    2. I think, it is when the ball doesnt seem to move out of the back line of our midfield, Messi comes deep. What is the use of staying up in the forward line, when there is absolutely no service at all. Teams have decided to press our midfield and our midfield is not able to get out of it and go forwards. I think he is just trying to come deep and get the ball out. I dont remember – if it was the Milan/the first RM game in the week – when we could see every time Messi came deep, he managed to go past his first marker effortless. But then he comes across a wall and there were no runners from his team as well.

  38. this is my first post here. I know lot of fellow cules are in pain now and looking for golden days of 08-11. But I don’t think that’s a right solution for us at this point. Our 08-11 game was based on pressing by our forwards. Right now madrid is executing the following strategy very well when they are without the ball
    1. advanced pressing when we are in deep positions
    2. quickly moving into parking the bus formation when we are in the final third.
    their athleticism helps them play this way.
    So even if our forwards press and manage to turnover the ball they will far away from madrid goal. Since our transition is slow & they’re athletic they will have ample time to close us down & move to their park the bus formation. We’ve to think of something new. Any comments euler/kevin since you people are the most knowledgeable about tactics.

  39. Who here prefers safe, sideways passing, slow build up?

    And who prefers a more direct approach?

  40. Nzm, were there any reports on any incidentally in the dressing room or on the training ground for the past 2 weeks?

    It seems that they’re not willing to fight for easy others anymore. I’m worried that it’s back to 06-08 days when there were cliques (not going all the way to the Dutch cliques).

  41. On a totally unrelated topic, does anyone here watches Diners, Drive ins and Dives?

    I’ve been watching it nearly every day (it’s aired every week day) for the past few months.

    I love these type of foods. You guys are so blessed to have so many variety of food and the restaurateurs really make a big effort to prepare and cook the food. In my country, even the it’s not called fast food, but everything is so plain and simple. Lazy bums!

    In US, even though it’s a fast food joint, a lot of the food takes hours to cook. And alot of them use an oven which takes hours. The meat is so tender and juicy. I’ve never seen such tender meats in my life. And it seems that must dish has a mashed potato on the side. I love mashed potatoes! The way its prepared is so beautiful. They pushed the middle part and fill the gravy in it.

    Before finding the show, one of the things on a thing’s to do list when in US is to visit a Diner because it looks something old school. Little did I know that they actually served good food. All this while I thought it were simple stuffs like burgers, fries, milkshake etc for truckers.

    I know McD’s is from the US but do the people prefer diners or McD’s there? I would opt for diners.

    How about the pricing? Which is more affordable?

    Btw. What is a dive? I don’t get why the word dive is the title.

    1. Oh dear. I’m afraid you may be very disappointed if you ever do get to visit a diner! Most of them serve bland, greasy, stodgy, fattening food. For every slow-cooked pulled pork & coleslaw masterpiece there is an equal and opposite from-frozen Salisbury steak swimming in a pool of its own grease. Guy Fieri’s job is to find the exceptional few, but I wouldn’t say his experience is typical at all.

      A “dive” refers to an establishment that is run-down, a bit on the gritty side, maybe even a bit dirty, definitely cheap and not the sort of place tourists would end up. Populated by locals who all know each other and are a bit suspicious of outsiders–at least until you buy them a drink.

    2. Oh! Except for breakfast. Most diners provide exceptional breakfasts (albeit heavy on the grease). If you are going out for breakfast, pick a diner every time.

    3. Diners in cities are the way to go. Like most things, intense competition brings out the quality. There are great places outside of cities, but you never know. Do you know about Yelp? Its a website that has customer reviews. Also, (at least in San Francisco) the “cheap eats” section of the local newspaper’s website should have some good ones.

      On a related note, I’m one month away from my Barcelona trip (unfortunately with a sprained ankle!), and I’ve been checking out a site called Spotted by Locals. Seems to be a great source for hidden gems/hole in the wall places. Anyone ever used it? I think they have guides for cities all over Europe.

    4. Thanks Blitzen and bhed.

      Blitzen, you recommended diners for breakfast but what about lunch and dinner?

      In Asia, most of the dish are fried but it seems that in America they use oven. And these are diners I’m talking about. I can’t imagine what a proper restaurant tastes like. Yummy.
      I don prefer greasy food though 🙂

    5. Well that’s what I’m saying. You are going to find a lot of fried or grilled food in diners, no matter what you see on Guy Fieri’s show. This is not fine dining.

      The best diners will have their “signature” dishes, whether it be the house meatloaf, fried chicken, or even something like this:


      But for the most part you are going to find the same lineup of burgers, fries, pancakes, and BLTs wherever you go.

  42. Anybody watching the Arsenal – Tottenham match right now? Tottenham is displaying a perfect example of what Barca is not doing. Winning the ball and quickly transitioning into attack rather than building up slowly. Also, Bale, Adebayor, and Lennon making the runs that our forwards don’t seem to be making anymore. Adebayor’s run dragged a CB with him and created space for Bale’s run. Then Lennon made a diagonal run to penetrate Arsenal’s back line. Great example of verticality.

    1. To be fair, you should also mention that Arsenal are playing with their usual kamikaze attack miles away from their woeful defense. An open invitation for a team with Spurs’ pace.

      Teams don’t play Barcelona like Arsenal is playing right now. And Barcelona don’t have Spurs’ counter-attacking prowess.

    2. Agreed. But the point I was making was that Barca don’t really attempt these runs consistently enough. Madrid played with a high line yesterday, only on a few occasions were there runs made to penetrate them.

      As for Barca’s counter attack, that’s the problem I was pointing out. They don’t have one, although they could. They win the ball back and proceed to passing the ball around instead of catching teams out of position.

    3. As it happens, Barcelona don’t play like other teams. Nor do they play by themselves.

    4. I pointed out what one team did, and what another team has stopped doing. I don’t see the purpose of your comments.

    5. The best counter attacking duo are Messi and Alexis and the best making runs behind is Alexis, and he was on the bench most of the game.

    6. We don’t get that much space anyway. Like Replayed said, teams play diffrently against barca. If we get that much space we would probably have smashed every goalscorning record there is to break.

      Against real, when our players made runs from deep, they were followed all the way by Callejon or Morata or others. All the way.

      Opening space for our players to run from midfield is not gonna work against real’s newest tactic. The only way is to start the run when the player is inbetween the defenders and beat the offside trap. Just like messi’s goal. Defence splitting passes and runs from the offside line is what we need IMO.

    7. I didn’t say anything about runs from deep. I said that our forwards aren’t making enough runs. Which is basically what you said.

  43. What a sad shadow of our former selves we have turned into.
    I did harbour some hope for this game as I didn’t expect THIS group to bend over to our biggest rival twice in the span of 5 days.

    We are definitely getting knocked out by Milan. Desperate times call for desperate measures. I would request Pep to drop in to the locker room on the eve of the game – just to talk to the guys, remind them of their own abilities, and touch upon some technical details that need to be corrected. One of those motivational videos wouldn’t hurt either. I cant think of anything else that’d lift these guys from this mess, barring probably Titos or abi’s return which is unlikely.
    The author is right when he identifies the primary issue to be psychological.
    We play best when we are happy.
    Remember and execute. That’s all we need to do and who better to remind and Instruct. #onelastpeptalk
    Forza Milan.

    1. Wait, by “sad shadow of our former selves,” do you mean gloomy cules? No, they have always been thus. This club does not need Pep Guardiola in any way. People who think that this wouldn’t be happening if Guardiola was still the coach should examine last season’s trophy case …. it won’t take long.

      Stretches such as this are part of the life cycle of a team. It surprises me that people didn’t see it coming and expect it. This summer will be very important if the team wishes to maximize the talent that it still possesses in abundance. It will also be a time for difficult decisions.

      But for now, support the club that you love and believe in, which I am assuming is Barça, as you are at Barcelona Football Blog.

    2. I’d be the last one to turn to Pep every time we are in a crisis. We should definitely move on from him and his time here. The suggestion that he talk to the guys in the absence of leadership is born, not from emotion and over reaction but a genuine rational analysis of what needs to be done for us to cross the next big hurdle. if you have suggestions let us know.

      as for your next point. Everyone knew that this was coming, only didnt expect to see it happen so spectacularly. also if you examine last season’s trophy case we still bagged 4 and the other 2 was a matter of inches so i dont get your point. Nobody is concerned about the recent results per se but the way in which they have happened.

      Barca for life.

    3. No. We won the Spanish Supercup, the European Cup, the FIFA Club World Cup, and the Copa Del Rey. 3 of those were in 2011, but they were all part of the same season.

  44. Wait. Masip is injured. Victor you ass. We will have to go way down the pecking order for a backup for Pinto.

    With Valdes and Oier suspended, B goalkeepers Masip (still injured) and Banuz are the candidates to be on the bench next weekend. [sport]

    1. Please do. I don’t remember having heard that he was so I was a bit surprised when hubby read this on barcastuff and told me about it.

    2. Uh no – we don’t have Pique.

      That was his 5th Yellow that he got in the clasico, so by rights he’ll be carded out of the Depor game.

      Barca – the team that just keeps giving the good news at the moment!

  45. Everyone seems to suggest that the problems the team is having are recent, the result of Tito’s absence, periodization, and the fact that the option has just figured out how to stop them.

    But to me this doesn’t seem like a recent problem. Don’t you all remember the countless matches last year with possession, possession, and more possession, without any apparent interest in attacking?

    When was the last time Barca won an important match against a team of its magnitude? If I remember correctly, it was the last CL final, a long time ago. Since then, has Barca defeated Madrid? Chelsea? Milan? No…all those matches were either draws or defeats. Or am I fogeting an important match against a big team that the team actually won (Malaga, Valencia, and Atletico don’t count as big teams).

    1. Barcelona last beat Madrid in the league in December 2011 and in the Copa del Rey in the 2012 quarterfinals, in the Supercopa last August (even though Barca went on to lose the tie.)

      The quarterfinals of the 2012 Champions League were less than a year ago. And Barca beat Milan in the group stage as well.

      I suppose one could still argue that last year’s Milan weren’t really all that. But then, even neutrals would agree that Barca outplayed Chelsea in both legs of those semifinals.

      Barcelona didn’t win everything last year, but at no point did they look quite as hapless as they did against Milan this year. In fact, I’ve personally never seen them so completely outmaneuvered and outplayed.

    2. This. ^^^^

      Here’s another thing: I can’t remember the last time that Barça won anything against a team of its magnitude, because Barça doesn’t HAVE any opponents of its magnitude. A great many cules are confusing a lull for a death, which I, personally, wouldn’t do.

      I have to go waaaay back in my memory to remember a club that played as poorly as the club played against Milan, a match that I consider to be a one-off in its lackluster dearth of any spark whatsoever from the club.

      The only opponent this club has faced that is at its quality is RM, and the results have been there. And they could have been again, but for awful execution and mistakes galore. That is the sign of the psychological stresses, when familiar tasks become rote then error-prone.

      At the end of Saturday’s match, the team had a collective, on-pitch meltdown over a call that wasn’t, and wasn’t going to be. We will see if that was the nadir. Sometimes, episodes such as that serve to smack a team upside the head, as seeing yourself at your worst often does.

    1. I am pretty sure that Xavi is the only one not fit, physically. Even Adriano played and didn’t hurt anything. This is as close to a full squad as the club has been since the summer, now that Abidal is being considered for roster inclusion.

  46. So all doom and gloom eh?
    Have to tell you its been quite a difficult few weeks and if my team hadn’t be doing well in the cricket it’d have been horrifying!

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