The Alexis Sanchez problem, aka “Nature vs nurture”

So. Look at the player in that video. When talk was going around about Barça being about to plump for Serie A player of the year Alexis Sanchez, who didn’t watch that video and say to themselves, “Boy howdy, are we going to have some fun. Him AND Messi running at teams? Stand back!”

But that glowing promise has become a frustrating reality for the player, the team, its coaching staff and cules. Let’s have a look at what happened.

Here are Sanchez’s 15 goals from his first season with the club:

It’s important to note what kinds of goals he is scoring. In every instance, the goals are coming from open play. It’s a very similar situation to his assist for Alba vs Milan. Sanchez is a fascinating player in that where cules are used to Masia-trained wizards who view the game as a chess match and already know what they are going to do with the ball as soon at they get it, Sanchez gets the ball and says “Hey, look! Let’s go!” And he starts running.

Some cules scoff at that, because it isn’t part of The Way. But it’s just a different way of playing the game. Notice that Sanchez’s goals against Udinese are the same sorts of space-gobbling, flowing, almost chaotic kinds of goals. Sanchez is a player who thrives on space.

The biggest problems for Sanchez are that a) the way that teams play Barça takes away space and b) he is an instinct player. I was talking with someone today who said that “All he does is pass it back to the midfield or defenders!”

Well first of all, this isn’t true. Second of all, his passing options are usually limited on the wing but most importantly, he isn’t a thinker, so the easiest option is to reset, and then run.

When Xavi, Iniesta or Messi get the ball, they see this maze of angles, and players running around, and defenders and potential passing lanes. Dani Alves gets the ball and sees passing angles and potential crosses. Alexis Sanchez gets the ball and says “How can I get to goal, to set someone up for something?” Because that’s what he does. And if he can’t do that task, he hits the reset button.

More Problems

When Udinese first got Sanchez, they put him on the wing, and he wasn’t very good. Then somebody actually watched video of him leading the attack for Chile, and said “Hey, let’s try putting him in the middle, and let’s see what happens.” Boom. Player of the year.

In doing some digging, the term for what Sanchez was for Udinese, rather than a trequartista, is actually a fantasisti, the kind of free-role playmaker who might come from the center or wing. They can score goals, but will be most likely seen assisting and setting up others, kind of a 9 & 3/4s.

In the real world, Sanchez and Messi would probably switch numbers, but that isn’t going to happen. Because Alexis Sanchez had the great misfortune to come to a team who has the best player alive, who is already playing the position for which Sanchez is best suited. That is a big, GIANT problem because it means that Sanchez must become something other than what he is: a freelance hellraiser.

Complicating matters is that he is a freelance hellraiser on a team that likes to play a system, and build play methodically. So when the ball comes to Sanchez in a scoring position, it seems like he is thinking too much because he IS thinking too much, precisely because he isn’t doing what his instincts would like to do.

Numbers and stuff

In Sanchez’s first season with the club, he notched double-digit goals, and it looked like he was going to rock the house. In this, his second year, he has missed sitters, done the headless chicken thing and seemed to have been plagued with indecision.

But he has also demonstrated an astounding work rate at both ends of the pitch, set up goals, created space so that others can score goals and facilitated in-the-box attacking.

The question becomes what people see, and how they perceive what they see. Look at this video, posted by AllasFCB, and tell me that this is a player who isn’t Barça quality. Further, tell me it’s a player who had the indecisive, error-prone match that many say he did. Pretty tough ask, and that doesn’t even get into the defensive plays.

But intangibles aren’t tangible. “He misses sitters.” “he can’t score goals.” Which isn’t quite true. But he has certainly become defined by not only those misses, but expectation. He was supposed to improve upon his past season numbers. He is supposed to put away the chances that he gets. Really? I’m sure that many of you remember Samuel Eto’o his last season with the club, and how many gimmes didn’t get got. You can even flash forward and remember Lionel Messi gimmes that didn’t get got.

malsanchez

Now. The answer will be “Yes, but Eto’o and Messi have scored goals for the club, and buckets of them.” But that isn’t the point. The point is that attackers miss gimmes. They all do. But few of them are defined by it.

More numbers: Sanchez has 5 total goals in all competitions for the club, in 27 shots. Last season he had 15 goals in 60 shots. Messi has 55 goals in just over 200 shots. Does practice make perfect? Good question. For a player bereft of a natural scorer’s instinct such as Sanchez, almost certainly. Which isn’t to excuse the Sanchez misses. Far from it. But it is to provide a bit of perspective.

Pedro has 34 matches, 7 goals and 47 shots. That’s a 14% conversion rate, even lower than Sanchez’s just over 18% conversion rate. I know. “Pedro doesn’t miss sitters.” And yet we know that isn’t truth. Does anyone think that Pedro isn’t Barça quality? “Well no, he has scored buckets of goals for the club.” Yes. In the past. If Sanchez is being defined by his present, why isn’t Pedro?

Oh. Where is that sparkling. goal-scoring demon from Udinese? Sanchez’s last season with that club, he had 12 goals on 71 shots. That’s a lower conversion rate than this season, which is appalling to the cules who don’t consider him “Barça quality.”

Now, let’s really have some fun.

More Expectations

When we got Sanchez, I expected that he would score about as many goals as Xavi or Iniesta, plus a few because of his constant motion. He has 5 goals, Xavi has 6. Iniesta has 5, so not too far off. Why didn’t I expect that he would score more goals? Because he isn’t a striker. The difficulty, in part because of his number, in part because he is always running forward, people are judging him as a striker, instead of judging him as what he in fact is, a playmaker.

Now. The valid question could be, “What the hell is Barça doing buying another playmaker, when we already have 436 of them?” Valid question. An even more valid question is what did we expect Sanchez was going to be, at club and cule level? So the larger question becomes what is Sanchez? If his natural role is playmaker, why aren’t Xavi and Iniesta being held to the same scoring standard as Sanchez, who isn’t any more a striker than Xavi or Iniesta?

Some Thoughts From Euler

Ultimately Sanchez is best basically as a “midfielder” or “wide creator” (not even as a pure winger). But that’s not the requirement of the role he’s being asked to play now. And perhaps as importantly, those aren’t the expectations that supporters have. Just think about how different goal scoring expectations are for Sanchez and say, Iniesta. In substance they aren’t that different as players.

Barça bought a player who really was a trequarista and asked him to reinvent himself as a goal-scoring wide forward. That was always the risk of this transfer – for the player & the club.

I was just going through in my head all of the major transfers Barça has conducted over the past 5 or so years. It’s very striking how many players were bought for large sums only to be asked to change positions. It’s a major reason why the transfer policy has had this string of “failures.”

Regarding the system issues & Sanchez. A major part of it is that the Barça midfielders are essentially asked to play minimal goal scoring roles. Any goals they produced are viewed as “extra.” That means goal scoring really falls to the 3 forwards in an almost disproportionate way. Barça should be able to afford to play Sanchez as a wide creator — but doing so would require more goals from midfield.

For example — Busquets has appeared in 32 matches this season. He’s taken 3 shots all season (in Liga and CL). The player who is perhaps most comparable in terms of quality at the holding midfield role may be Bastian Schweinsteiger. He’s played in 29 total matches. He’s taken 44 shots. Just think about that. Busquets has taken that many fewer shots than a midfielder who himself doesn’t shoot all that much. Javi Martinez has taken nearly twice as many shots per game this year as Busquets.

Schweinsteiger has taken 44 shots on goal in 29 league & CL matches. So he’s roughly taken 15 times more shots this year than Busquets. That is stunning. 15x more shots

If you have 1 player in midfield who creates such minimal direct threat on goal, it’s very difficult to play a wide creator on the front line.

I love Busquets. Best player in the world at his position, and 1 of the top 10 regardless of position. But it’s striking how little he looks to score. Just not in him. And in turn that puts much more pressure on the front 3, and confines their roles. On average the barca starting midfield trio of Iniesta/Xavi/Busquets takes only 2.6 shots per game. Again — that is just amazing.

If your midfield is going to do that, then that puts enormous pressure on the front line to score. And the issue isn’t Messi taking some huge number of shots. He really doesn’t shoot very much compared to how often he scores. That’s not the issue. The outliers are the midfielders just not shooting.

But even if Barça got more goals from midfield that wouldn’t make supporters happy with Sanchez I’d guess. Even if Sanchez excelled in a wide creator role (which he did in many ways yesterday) he’d still be deemed a failure and people would want him out. We often talk about Henry, Eto’o & Messi but I wonder if in a sense that’s become a destructive model in terms of expectation setting. It’s really not easy in any way to reproduce but it still sets expectations for new players brought into the front line. (Kxevin note: Note that many say it isn’t unreasonable to expect to have three forwards who score 20 goals a season.)

If Sanchez leaves and returns to playing the trequarista role — especially if it’s at Juve — he’s going to wind up being seen as an absolutely world-class player and people will wonder how Barca could ever let him go.

(Regarding the lack of midfield scoring threat) There is almost literally no reason to worry about Busquets as any kind of threat on goal. And you see that when teams do “park the bus” vs Barça. They play off Busquets and allow him to circulate in a very congested final third, but they don’t bother to jump out on him or track his runs deep.

Can’t have Sanchez or anyone on the front line play a creative role really in this context. Really difficult to do.

Ancedotally, I’m sure everyone knows the midfield doesn’t look to score. But looking at it quantitatively is just so stark as it’s so extreme. Pedro Leon take more shots on goal per game than Busquets/Xavi/Iniesta combined. Juan Mata takes 80% as many shots per game as Busi/Xavi/Iniesta together. David Silva takes 70% as many shots as Busi/Iniesta/Xavi do together.

Mata & Silva are in no way “selfish” players or ones who even look to score all that much. They themselves are primarily “playmakers.”

I guess this may be worth a post.

So What Does All This Mean

First things first. Euler and I don’t love Sanchez, or aren’t Sanchez “fanboys,” as a couple of anti-social folks via social media labeled me. But we both think that some perspective on the situation is necessary, as well as an attempt to understand what we bought, vs what we have and would like to have. And then there’s the larger question of why a player with such talent isn’t succeeding at Barça. For me, there’s a certain irony in that Sanchez would have thrived at RM, even as he never considered for an instant going there (and I hope he doesn’t now).

For me, it’s better if Sanchez moves on, as I don’t think he is going to succeed at Barça. His agent would be a fool if he isn’t shopping his player, and the player would be a fool if he isn’t letting his agent shop him. I can only speculate that Sanchez doesn’t want to leave. Far from it. Recall the promises made to a dying guardian, the promises that made him ignore all other suitors in favor of us.

But playing against instinct and type is too difficult for any player, even one as talented as Sanchez. And at some point, he has to cut his losses and go where instinct can once again reign. Whether our club will be the poorer for it is difficult to say.

deporsanchez

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Written by:

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

239 Comments

  1. barca96
    March 21, 2013

    I don’t understand what some meant by the fans’ expectations? Is it the fans online? At the stadium? Journalists?

    If it’s the fans in the stadium, I don’t recall him being booed on the pitch.

    If it’s the fans here, I don’t think he goes through the comments here.

  2. barca96
    March 21, 2013

    I love reading articles here but Kxevin, why did you write one specifically for Alexis? Why not for Cesc as well as he gets criticized a lot too?

    • March 21, 2013

      Because Sanchez was something that Euler, I and the other mods were talking about, and the e-mail chain became an easy post.

      Fabregas is another victim of perception, in that people think he was “bad” in a year where he had double-digit goals AND assists. Complicating matters is that it was heavily biased, as it would be this season, toward the first half of the season.

      I’d also add that Fabregas doesn’t get the stick that Sanchez does, so our minds just didn’t go in that direction. But they might.

      What we’re talking about now is goal distribution/scoring ratios, by the by. Something interesting could come out of that. We’ll see.

  3. barca96
    March 21, 2013

    Every forward/player misses chances as well. I don’t see a point in bringing up numbers such a conversion rate and what not because it’s not really the quantity that matters. It’s the wastefulness. We can’t see the level of difficulty of a shot in the stats. There’s no way to measure it.

    All us fans can remember are that Alexis’ misses and I am one of them who can remember his many missed chances.

    I don’t have the stats to back me up but I think that Alexis missed the more easier chances than any other player from our team. So it’s natural for me and others to remember his missed chances.

    I find it silly actually to talk about Messi, Eto’o etc. They converted a lot and had less easy chances to miss (ok, take Eto’o out).

    Alexis vs Pedro.

    Obviously Alexis is the more talented player here but he maximizes (or used to) his talent. Scored a lot and we know he still can do it but Alexis? I am still not convinced that he can provide us goals week in week out or pull out a surprise like Pedro did many times before. (Where are you now Pedro???).

    ps. I never wanted him (Alexis) to leave, still don’t. Like him a lot. Just want to point out some things that wasn’t mentioned.

  4. barca96
    March 21, 2013

    So Levon, is Messi’s “standard” now 73 goals per season? That’s what he got last season, so that should be the expectation, yes, as the Messi benchmark?

    No, 73 goals is too much to ask from Messi but isn’t 15 goals from Alexis, a player who gets into scoring positions quite often too much to ask for?

    You can look at the stat and say that he has a better conversion rate but that could also mean that he took less shots and doesn’t try to take enough shots.

    He gets into the scoring positions a lot as any player playing forward/winger in Barca would get. It’s just that he doesn’t try to shoot enough.

  5. barca96
    March 21, 2013

    Kxevin, I did 10km (cycling) under 24 mins today. Is that anything to shout about? Just got on a bike again for a long period of time after more than a decade (used to bike a lot as I grew up in Holland). My … hurts!! I guess I forgot how to sit properly on a saddle.

    What are your numbers?

    • ooga aga
      March 21, 2013

      barca96 has something for kxevin

      consider that a very fast runner can run 1 mile in 4 minutes — this is world class speed, basically.

      that is about how fast you rode your bike. that how fast i ride my fat-tire mountain bike on city streets. workinghard but not my hardest.

      i am sure kxevin has you beat. but dont compare yourself to him. just be the best you can be. 🙂

      • March 21, 2013

        I bonded with a mountain bike racing friend, who said that race is insanely hard, and it’s over FOUR DAYS!

      • March 21, 2013

        Your friend is misinformed. It is over EIGHT days.

      • March 21, 2013

        Then that’s even more badass. And my friend is a guy who, on most roads that don’t involve a MASSIVE application of power over a very short work duration (less than a minute), could grind me into dust.

    • March 21, 2013

      Don’t compare yourself to anyone. When I do my miles conversion, that’s a tick over 6 miles in 24 minutes, or about 4 minutes a mile on a bicycle. Not sure of the terrain, etc.

      The beauty of cycling is that somebody has somebody who can whip their butt. It’s why it is so beautifully ego-less.

      It’s funny, I am about to go to California for a cycling vacation in mountain terrain, where my big self (230 lbs/105 kilos) is going to get hammered. But the work will be fun, as will the descents.

      So just have fun, and don’t worry about how fast you go, until you want to start worrying about that kinda stuff.

      • barca96
        March 21, 2013

        Please don’t take it as a challenge or anything.

        Like I mentioned above, it’s my first time doing a long distance (10km lol) after more than a decade and since I don’t have any friends who ride bikes (it’s 35 degrees here, who wants to ride?), so I just wanted to check if my time is reasonable for a first ride. Why I asked you is because I know you’re a cyclist.

    • March 21, 2013

      My numbers. Hard to compare. But working at my hardest, on my road bike, I commute the 27 miles door to door to the office (a tick over 43km) in about 1:05 or so, if I time stoplights properly, etc.

      • March 21, 2013

        Yikes! I’m happy the workspace that we share is on the internet!

        That’s pretty bad ass though. As a kid I used to hate riding my bike to school, lol. But I played soccer every day, though.

      • ooga aga
        March 21, 2013

        insane, brah

      • March 22, 2013

        Thats incredible numbers. I cant bike anymore, but during my university days, could do the 14km to collage in about 30 minutes (in Indian road!). That looks too silly in front of you.
        I can still run 5Kms under 20 minutes.

  6. TITO
    March 21, 2013

    Look at Neymar’s run and pass to Oscar…one of things that we are missing when we attack.

    • nzm
      March 21, 2013

      How often is that amount of defensive space allowed to Barca? 🙂

      Was beautiful though.

  7. nia
    March 21, 2013

    I’m so glad Balotelli didn’t play against us the other day. He’s a handful. That was a goalazo v Brazil.

  8. March 21, 2013

    Interesting. A Turkish footy pundit showed how the UEFA CL draw can be rigged. On live TV, he duplicated the present draw (Turkish supporters are outraged that Galatasaray drew RM, thinking their team is a sacrificial lamb).

    Video is here:

  9. Nik
    March 21, 2013

    Recent months had been frustrating as further niggling injury problems kept interrupting his recovery, Villa admitted.

    “I have had various other little problems, different than the tibia injury, which have stopped me from being at 100%,” he said. (source: http://espnfc.com/news/story/_/id/1383354/david-villa-plays-down-potential-barcelona-exit)

    He forgot to mention how those niggling injuries were caused by the combined evil efforts of Roura, Villanova, Messi, Sanchez, Cryuff, Santa Claus, etc. etc. #FREEVILLA

    • March 21, 2013

      heh heh. Thanks for that. It’s true there have been a lot of people muttering about an anti-Villa “conspiracy”, or at least a willful waste of his talent by benching him. Graham Hunter (whom I normally respect a great deal) even wrote a piece on it just this week–I’m sorry I don’t have the link to hand, but you could check his twitter timeline.

      The fact is that we can never really know what is happening with a player behind the scenes. None of us suspected that Puyol had been carrying an injury since October, for example. Now we learn that Villa has had some other physical issues–the kidney stones, and who knows what else?–that have led the Barça physios and coaching staff to be conservative with his playing time.

      I know we all think we know better than the people who are in actual contact with the players on a daily basis…but sometimes, just sometimes, a cigar is just a cigar.

      • Nik
        March 21, 2013

        I agree 100%. I read that piece by Graham and facepalmed while doing so.

        Sometimes, we as fans in the internet age mistakenly assume we have all the pieces of the puzzle just by hyperanalyzing line-ups, moments in a game, new conferences, Twitter rumors, articles written by fantasy authors “journalists”, etc. etc. It’s amusing and a little depressing observing that hubris in action.

        Sadly, Villa’s comments probably won’t change the minds of people who have already decided that there is an active, evil campaign against him at Barça or that his return has been mismanaged by the physios and the coaching staff. I’d rather just trust that those accused at Barça are good people who have the best interests of the team at heart.

      • replayed
        March 21, 2013

        I still say that a cigar that’s fit enough to sub in is fit enough to start, especially in the big matches right after the cigar had put in performances such as those in the home matches against Celta and Osasuna.

        That the cigar’s niggling injuries somehow managed to befall the cigar in such a way as to allow the cigar to start several matches throughout the season while preventing the cigar from starting even one single high-profile fixture prior to the Milan return leg makes me think that this must have been one hell of an unfortunate cigar.

        Good thing that cigar smoke is now being appreciated as a good trick for keeping defenders at a distance.

        Here’s to continued puffing.

      • Jim
        March 22, 2013

        Great contribution by Hunter to the Villa debate on Revista this week if you can find it.

  10. March 22, 2013

    Man, The Valdes situation is actually a real blow to Barcelona. Not only was he groomed in the Masia, his skill sets match perfectly with our current system.

    I can’t imagine why any other keeper would want to join Barca.
    Its a pretty much thankless job.

  11. March 22, 2013

    Euler and I were jabbering about Neymar on Twitter. His talent is just absurd. Even better showing than against England, vs a better side and away from his natural position. He was again showing willingness to track back/defend as well.

    I then got to thinking “What if Neymar was Masia,” then banished that thought from my head. He would then be a very different player, developed in a very different way.

    The pass to Oscar was mentioned above. For me it was the conditions of the pass — off the break, pretty much on the dead run, then boom. Same with that shot he took from distance.

    I have no idea about rumors, or deals done or not. But man, I hope that dude comes to Barça.

    • March 22, 2013

      THIS! The more I see this kid the more excited I get!

      • March 22, 2013

        “I then got to thinking “What if Neymar was Masia,” then banished that thought from my head. He would then be a very different player, developed in a very different way.”

        Wow, that is an interesting thought. He probably would be a very different player, but maybe not as much as you’d think.

        Deulofeu, the next big thing to come out of our academy, usually shows some pretty non-Masian traits.

    • Blau-Grenade
      March 22, 2013

      Neymar is the works. If he came to Barca, this team would go to the next level. Counter attack would be back and there will be another person besides Messi who can take on defenders near the opposition box.

      The Italy vs Brazil match could very well have been the world cup final. It was played with that intensity. Both teams were outstanding in terms of their physical effort, tactics, and technical ability to play the ball.

      Italy looked very good with Montilivo DelPierlo in the back, Sharaway in the wings and Balotelli as the forward.

      Brazil looked frighteningly amazing with Kaka in the attacking midfield, Marcelo on the left, Alves on the right and Neymar in the middle.

      With the setup that Brazil or Italy have at the current moment, they would both beat Spain in a heartbeat. Based on today’s performance Spain are the underdogs of the tournament unless Torres can magically recover his form.

    • K_legit in Oz
      March 22, 2013

      Neymar that is!

  12. March 22, 2013

    Please friends – have a question.
    Mourinho says he didnt go to FIFA gala, as 1/2/3 people told him the votes appeared different.
    For all of us, we get to see this list – who vote for whom – only after the gala – right? So how did Mourinho (or these 1/2/3 players) see that the list is different from what they voted for.
    Do FIFA send the list in advance to the candidates – a day before the gala? – I dont think so. But his statement is quite misleading.

    • nzm
      March 22, 2013

      The list is published after the awards have been presented.

      The only way in which Mourinho could know was if people, who were qualified to vote, told him that they voted for him, and then on the published list it was shown that they voted for other people.

      HOWEVER: those people could have voted for someone else and just told Mourinho that they voted for him.

      Until those people, who supposedly voted for Mourinho but now are shown as voting for others, come forward to claim that this is true, I wouldn’t put much weight on this.

      The voters have to come forward so that FIFA knows who they are so that the original ballot papers can be checked – if they still exist.

      Mourinho somehow manages to come up with some little scandal in every International break so that the press continues to talk about him!

      • March 22, 2013

        Sorry, may be my question was not clear.
        Since the list is published only after the awards, how come these people/Mourinho knew that the list was not showing the right votes. Since Mourinho decided not to go to Gala because of this, (of course its clear he is trying to fix something here)how did they manage to see the Fifa list?? Hope its clear.

        Anyways Fifa has published the paper which clearly shows Pandev voted for Del Bosque. There is an article in Fifa site too, but I couldnt find the attachment there, hence taking it from dailymail.
        http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-2297496/FIFA-publish-Goran-Pandevs-voting-slip-Coach-Year.html

        This man has a crocodile skin. He is not embarassed at all to air these kind of rubbish???? Disgusting personality.

      • March 22, 2013

        I mean, how did they see the Fifa list, even before the Gala, so that they decided there is something wrong and didnt go for the gala – hope its clear now.
        Sorry English is not my …

      • nzm
        March 22, 2013

        Ah – I get what you mean – sorry!

        I don’t know how Mourinho would know beforehand. Maybe he should reveal his sources? About time that some people stood up to him!

    • Ryan
      March 22, 2013

      Didn’t Mou win the award one year when all he accomplished was the CdR? I don’t remember him crying for an investigation then!

      • nzm
        March 22, 2013

        No – he hadn’t won the CdR by then. He won the Manager of the Year in January 2011 for his CL and Serie A wins with Inter.

        But it was also the same year in which Del Bosque won the World Cup with Spain.

        Last year, Del Bosque won the Euro Cup while Mourinho only won the Liga, so it’s more than a fair result to me!

      • Ryan
        March 22, 2013

        Fair enough! Well, fair enough when MouMou wins anyway. Any other time something smells fishy. 😛

    • nzm
      March 22, 2013

      Rafa. 🙂

      • barca96
        March 22, 2013

        Alba?

  13. nzm
    March 22, 2013

    BTW – Israel leading Portugal 2-1 at half-time in their World Cup Qualifier Match.

    • nzm
      March 22, 2013

      Gutted. In overtime, Coentrao scored to equalise at 3-3.

  14. March 22, 2013

    MD is reporting that Sanchez’s agent has rejected meetings with the rumored Italian suitors, and will NOT leave Barça unless the team asks him to.

  15. Archie
    March 22, 2013

    Sanchez.

    Now, who will write a similar analysis of the center backs and the defense when high pressure is broken by an opposing team? I’ll start: the fox soccer expert accused most if not all Barca defenders (and everyone else) of diving into tackles when staying in position would work far better. How dare he! Please include a discussion of who to sell and who to buy.

    A.

  16. Alex
    March 22, 2013

    Not sure if this has been discussed before, but Varane has been a monster every time we have played against EE. Kid is only 19 years old, fast, tall, strong, and does not have deep sentimental “roots” or “ties” with EE (not a canterano from Madrid). I think his buyout clause is 30 mil…..seems steep, but that would be a major blow to Madrid and give us a talented CB for at least 10 years to come.

    • March 22, 2013

      I have said this before but do not mind repeating it. I would make that deal without blinking. I would love that deal. Love it.

      • G6O
        March 22, 2013

        I would do it too, but the two clubs are supposed to have an agreement not to do this to each other and the promise has been kept for about a decade now

  17. mom4
    March 22, 2013

    Spain having a bit of a problem with a giant Scandinavian A380 airbus parked in front of goal.

    • Blau-Grenade
      March 22, 2013

      Everybody is bunching up in the middle, not too hard to defend. Game needs wingers like Jesus Navas.

      • mom4
        March 22, 2013

        Yeah, Spanish players have literally been bumping into each other in the box, getting in each other’s way.

    • nzm
      March 22, 2013

      Like watching paint dry.

      Ramos is the only player with any vertical movement. Horrifying.

    • Blau-Grenade
      March 22, 2013

      Great equalizing goal!!!

      • nzm
        March 22, 2013

        That’s what happens when you fart around passing the ball sideways for most of the match.

        Pique looked injured for a while too – he took a bump to the ribs. Maybe just winded.

      • mom4
        March 22, 2013

        This was pretty sad.

      • mom4
        March 22, 2013

        Busi just saved the draw.

        Ya know, this means that Xavi will probably force his way into the side for Tuesday and get himself fully crocked. 🙁

      • nzm
        March 22, 2013

        Yup – said the same thing myself when the game ended.

        France looked pretty sharp tonight. They won 3-1 vs. Georgia. Very fast game.

      • Blau-Grenade
        March 22, 2013

        Alba took a knock as well. He was holding his hamstring.

      • nzm
        March 22, 2013

        Damnit, really?

      • Blau-Grenade
        March 22, 2013

        I hurt my hamstring playing soccer yesterday. I was holding my hamstring yesterday. When I saw Alba holding his hamstring I knew exactly what happened. He has definitely torn or inflamed the muscle there.

      • nzm
        March 23, 2013

        Hope you recover soon, S – and Alba too!

  18. nia
    March 22, 2013

    Alba hurt his hamstring and will not be available for the France game. #fcblive.
    Gosh darn it. Very annoying, always the Barca players get hurt. We are already missing Adriano. Hope he’s not out for long.

    • March 22, 2013

      4-6 weeks for Adriano. Hopefully Alba won’t be as bad. Apparently he hurt it, but Spain was out of subs, so he had to keep playing on it.

  19. alpinegroove
    March 22, 2013

    Alba might be out for the CL match in Paris…
    With Adriano also injured, we seem to have three options:
    Montoya (who doesn’t excel there), Abidal (that would be amazing), or playing a three-man defense: Pique, Masch, Alves, with Busquets dropping low when Alves is up the field.

  20. alpinegroove
    March 22, 2013

    Masch is having an outstanding match for ARG.

    • Archie
      March 22, 2013

      What position did he play?

      • alpinegroove
        March 22, 2013

        DM, but he seemed to be everywhere, making his signature tackles all over the pitch.

      • mom4
        March 22, 2013

        Messi lucky to have walked off the pitch unassisted. That’s gonna be some shiner.

        Snow is coming down like crazy for US v Costa Rica. Who was the doofus who decided to have the game in Colorado in mid March? A couple of inches are on te pitch. At breaks in the action, guys are coming out with shovels to clear lines.

  21. Manish
    March 22, 2013

    MESSI was a monster on the pitch today.. Never seen him cover so much ground for Barca.. MOTM by a country mile..

  22. Kari
    March 22, 2013

    Dear Rosell,

    congrats on your astounding austerity. The decision to save on color copies was such an inspired move. I would never have thought of it.

    Now that Alba is injured, along with Puyol, Adriano and everyone else who matters, we face the possibility of playing canteranos. I am sure you had foreseen this issue with defense as it has been our “Achilles heel” if you will. Therefore I congratulate your supreme confidence in kids, especially in this part of the season and despite our coach’s calls for new centre backs.

    When you buy Neymar for an obscene amount of money and the cheapest available centre backs, I’ll know that, although you may potentially cripple the best team in our history and end our legacy early, you really stuck to your guns.

    – Sincerely, Your Biggest Fan

    /grumpy rant

    • March 22, 2013

      Silly! JDS has been in a supersekrit fullback training program all year, and he is ready to be deployed! No worries.

      (No really, we’re screwed.) 👿

    • BA
      March 22, 2013

      be nice if we could have a “possible CB options” main post sometime. i have a feeling that discussion is one we’re gonna be having soon anyway….

    • K_legit in Oz
      March 23, 2013

      Montoya to step up!

      And maybe Abidal (yaay!)

      • Chiu
        March 23, 2013

        Montoya as LB in liga games should be OK.

        For CL, perhaps we can play Mascherano as LB. Song and Pique fill the CB position. Aware that our left wing would be impotent to support attack with Masch there. But give some solidity, compare to play youngster like Montoya in crucial tie

  23. Jafri
    March 23, 2013

    OT – Am I right in thinking that Messi hasn’t missed scoring in a league game since his son was born?

    • nzm
      March 23, 2013

      I think that this may have been taken before the game started!

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