Bayern München 4 – Barça 0, as far as embarassments go…

This was a timely one.

Auto-Bus-Barcelona-2012-2013
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The prelude

Between 2008/09 and 2011/12 we won fourteen out of nineteen possible titles. Our unprecedented success left culés worldwide elated and our head coach exhausted. While over the first half of this season Pep Guardiola spent his time carefully chosing which team he would manage next, Tito Vilanova came, saw and conquered the Liga before the winter break.

27 wins, 2 draws, and 2 losses. The question was no longer whether we would win the league, but whether we would win the triple. When Messi would score his hundredth goal of the season. How long before Xavi would get a 105% pass completion rate and if Tello could break the sound barrier. After our first game against Málaga I wondered if we were peaking too soon. I argued that we still had room for improvement. We seemed unbeatable. Unstoppable. Undefeatable.¹

Now here we are, almost exactly three months later. Our defense beaten to a pulp. Our offense stopped without getting a shot off. Comprehensively defeated. And I’m okay with that. But more on that later.

Librarian Tito spelled out VV, DA, Bartra, Piqué, JA, Busi, Xavi, Ini, Alex, Leo and P. As it turned out, Jupp Heynckes is well versed in Catalan literature.

1st goal

The blame game

Offside. Rugby tackle. Run harder. Jump higher. Shoot more. Press, goddarned! When the ball comes at you, you stop it. When you’re not fit, you don’t play. And hey, when the opposing coach says he knows your team like the back of his hand, how about a little surprise in your line-up? I agree and then again I do not. Sometime after the game, Kevin tweeted the exact same thoughts I had after the game had finished:

“When your team gets beaten like that, nobody is to blame. Nobody. And everybody.”²

This was a team loss against a team win. I’m sure people have filled internet comment pages by now talking about how we didn’t play our hearts out and how we didn’t leave our skin all over the pitch. Oh yeah? Name me one player. Mmm, I thought so. Speaking of internet comment pages, if you want to blame anyone, start with ooga aga for predicting that we would win by four goals to zero. Four goals to zero is a ridiculous score.

Of course, it would not even have been 4-0 if it weren’t for the ref. It might have been 4-0 earlier, what with the hand of Piqué and all. And while Müller’s bodycheck on Jordi Alba bordered on the incredulous³, Gomez’s offside was very close. Anyway, the ref did us a favor. This is a good score for us. But more on that later.

The truth is, we looked tired. It could be that we had a rough flight. Or that we have too many first-year daddies in the team. Can you say for sure that Bayern Munich did not have bellhops in lederhosen stomping on the floors above our hotel rooms the whole night? Or maybe, just maybe, we haven’t rotated enough throughout the season.

messi & martinez

Were we that bad, or are they that good?

There is another reason why we looked tired. though, and that reason is Bayern Munich. They ruled the Allianz arena like gladiators, spurred on by thousands of Bavarian throats. When they attacked we seemed few. When they defended they seemed many.

I said before the game that we have better players, but they (right now) have a better team. And their team sure made their players look good tonight. Schweinsteiger and Javier Martinez locked down the middle. Boateng and Dante held it down, as did Lahm and Alaba. Franck Ribery was as impressive on the ball as he was a nuisance off of it. Müller played a part in all four goals and Gomez got his, too.

The most impressive on the night, however, was Arjen Robben. For years now he has been the one I have disliked the most of all the Dutch national team players (and that’s no small feat, let me tell you). Yes, he is one of the most talented players in the world and as such I am happy that he plays for Holland, but he has that arrogance that makes me go “ewww”. That selfishness that makes me gooooh”. That face that makes me go “dude, are you constipated?”.

So naturally when I read a story about how when the Bayern brass offered Guardiola to sell Robben and received the reply that he was quite fond of the player I went something like “huh? Pep actually likes this self-important star player who drives his teammates crazy by ignoring them every single time?”

Just let me give credit where credit is due. Robben passed, and tracked back, and dribbled, and passed, and passed, and dribbled, and defended, and passed, and tracked back, and passed, and defended, and scored the goal of the match, and then some. He has never played such a complete game as tonight, possibly the best he has played in his life. Basically, he outmessied Messi.

And although Bayern did not quite outbarça us, they definitely outclassed us. They made us look tired from the very beginning.

tito

Barça – meet – Mirror

This season we have played six clasicos and five CL knock-out games. That’s eleven games, of which we won two: the home supercup leg against an out-of-shape M*drid and an out of this world performance against the cheapest version of AC Milan the world has seen since more than 25 years ago, the same team that had beaten us quite comfortable some weeks earlier. We drew twice against our arch rivals and lost thrice, one of which an embarassing beatdown in our own house. We were unable to beat Paris Saint Germain in two games and went through to the semis on aggregate.

Let me repeat that. We have won 2 out of 11 games.⁴

In the league we have not looked the better team in either of our games against Valencia and we only defeated Atletico Madrid after spending the first thirty-something minutes on our back feet.  To make a long story short: as much as we have dominated against inferior opposition this year we have undeniably struggled against stronger opponents. To make a long story worse, they often dominated us.

Why?

Fatigue obviously plays a part. We have a nucleus of players that have gone to six straight CL semi finals. The Spanish nationals have won three consecutive international tournaments and have been flown out to Confederation Cups and friendlies all over the world. The most incredible thing is not that they are tired, but that they still look like they care about winning.

Furthermore, Kevin raised some really interesting points in this here post that did not generate a tenth of the discussion it deserved. I strongly advise you to read it and think about it. The premise is that our defense is not a problem, but that our risky vertical play leaves our defenders too exposed. There is much that I agree with there,  but unfortunately I think it is worse than that.

Our risky vertical play leaves our defenders too exposed AND our defense is a problem.

If Arjen Robben of all people almost scores his second career header against you from a free kick, your defense is a problem. In the eleven games I mentioned above, we conceded from six set pieces.

If you don’t replace Carles Puyol or Eric Abidal with players of similar defensive skill and physicality, your defense will at some point suffer as a consequence. And yes, I realize the sheer impossibility of replacing what have possibly been the best two defenders to ever defend our colors. Of course, if you expose that defense with a high risk strategy, a quality opponent will take advantage.

Equally worrysome is that in a lot of those games the high risk strategy has left us vulnerable on the defensive end of the pitch without adding potency to the attack. Against smaller teams it pays off, because we can always count on scoring more goals than our opponents. But in Munich we barely created chances. Likewise in San Siro and at home against M*drid and PSG.

Not only did the risk not pay off, it hasn’t given us all that many benefits to begin with. The big teams have found us out, and we need to figure out what’s next. How? I don’t know. We need to restore the balance. Neymar might be part of the answer, but only if we are patient. Victor Valdes departure might prove difficult, but he is not irreplaceable (again we must be patient). And whether we do so by rethinking our team strategy or by direct replacements/reinforcements, we need to figure out how to fix the defense.

Almost just as difficult as chosing who we buy will be who we let go. I won’t get into that right now, because I am not a big fan of knee-jerk reactions⁵. What I will say is the following: I am not all that upset about this loss. It’s football. It’s the semi-finals. We are up against an excellent team. And I prefer to lose by four goals than by one. I’d rather be humiliated now than to scrape through to the finals and lose to a better Real M*drid. And a 4-0 loss will make us a better team than a 1-0 loss. A team for a new era.

goal again

End of an era

Some fans never doubt their team. They will believe that their team will win it all, until mathematically impossible.

I am not one of those fans. I believe Barça will always have the possibility to win, until mathematically impossible. But I doubt we will go through to the final. And I’m okay with that.

Some fans say this Barça is not done. I agree. Always. Pundits and journalists will speak of the end of an era. I also agree, although they are wrong. The era ended when Pep left and we surrendered the league to M*drid while finding infinite ways of not putting the ball in Chelsea’s net. Between 2008/09 and 2011/12 we won fourteen out of nineteen possible titles. No club will ever match this.

They will talk about the end of an era that has already ended. This season we have started a new one and we are starting it by winning our league. By getting Tito back from his fight against death. By the return of King Abidal. By being forced to improve upon what is no longer the best team in the world but in my opinion still the most talented. I do not only believe that this is possible, I believe that we will. I believe we will keep adding to our trophy cabinet over the next years. I believe that we will be the best again, and if not, that’s okay.

A couple of weeks ago I had a conversation with a friend of mine, a lifelong Internazionale fan. He asked me what was up with Barça. I told him we have the most beautiful club in the world, to which he replied, “the most beautiful, but not the best.”

That is fine by me. Visca F.C. Barcelona, the most beautiful club in the world!

"They were the better team, we congratulate them. That's football." Xavi Hernández i Creus
“They were the better team, we congratulate them. That’s football.”
Xavi Hernández i Creus

 

¹ We were to draw and lose the next two matches

² Yes, dear reader, we do think alike every now and then. Oh, and it’s @kevvwill and @barsalev

³ First of all, what, exactly, is the fifth ref’s job? More importantly, Jordi Alba never fully recovered emotionally from that foul. Even though it made me giggle, I feel it is a disgrace how he threw the ball into Robben’s face. We have attracted a lot of haters over the last couple of years by winning gracefully. We should regain some respect by remaining graceful when we lose, also.

⁴ During the first half of the season (up until jornada 19 against Málaga) we won  83.7% of our games. The second half up until now? 45% winning percentage. Against top opponents throughout the season? 18%

⁵ Unless the jerk is Mourinho’s face and the knee is, well, somebody’s knee. Then I’m all for it.

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Written by:

Culé since way before football boots were of the neon yellow and lizard green variety, Levon is a deep thinker with increasingly shallow thoughts. He lives in Barcelona with his gorgeous wife and daughter. The lucky bastard...

180 Comments

  1. April 24, 2013

    4-1 your final. RM left with a shard of hope, given the away goal, but not much. A wee bit more than us, though. Both Liga sides would need minor miracles to advance. In many ways, we have a more of an infinitesimal chance of advancing than they do.

    But in both cases it sounds like (didn’t watch them) the German sides figured out exactly how to play them. They neutralized Xabi Alonso, from what I gather from the social media universe.

    • Jim
      April 24, 2013

      It was certainly pleasing to watch the much lauded Varane and also Pepe having such a torrid time 🙂

      • Nav
        April 24, 2013

        Varane is probably the most overrated player right now. It’s him, then Ozil.

      • April 25, 2013

        The truth varane’s success came mostly against us. He was never tested by a striker properly. We used to negate ourselves playing the false-9. But don’t over blow it, that kid is good.

      • Nav
        April 25, 2013

        Good and overrated aren’t mutually exclusive 🙂

      • barca96
        April 25, 2013

        Ozil over rated?! I still think that he would’ve been a better buy than Cesc. And still wishing if he could jump over to us.

        Varane is good. How many young CB’s out there are better than him?

  2. Clouseau
    April 24, 2013

    Mourinho outsmarted himself hahaha. His team looked clueless on that 4-1-4-1 formation.

    Well done BVB, rooting for them if they manage to advance. Pretty interesting to see how Borussias defence manages to win majorly their aerial duels.

    And yes Mom4 having Lewa would be a treat unfortunately he is said to be a Bayern bound 🙁

    • KEVINO17
      April 24, 2013

      Mou’s one-dimensional strategy (counter-attack only, please, gentlemen) really rose up and bit him on the arse, particularly when they were chasing the game.
      Lewandowski’s third goal was just sublime.

  3. KEVINO17
    April 24, 2013

    If Lewa is going to Bayern we must grab Gomez.

  4. TITO
    April 24, 2013

    Pique was a subject to drug test last night. 😀
    Of course he was. What a hell was he thinking with that “haircut”.

    • April 24, 2013

      Insult to injury. If he was on drugs, they sure weren’t “performance-enhancing”.

  5. KEVINO17
    April 24, 2013

    Funnily enough, despite the game against Bayern, I think we still have a better team in all aspects except structure (though we probably would have still won with a fully-fit Messi). The big problem is the absence of a serious TARGET in the box. People will be amazed at how good our wingers suddenly look with someone big to hit in the goal mouth (instead of waiting for a midfielder to turn up, if they’re lucky). So often Dani overcooks his crosses because he just can’t find someone to hit. Most depressing aspect of the game came when Alexis had the ball on the edge of the penalty area – looked up and tried to find someone in the goal-mouth and there was nobody there. That absence was far more ridiculous than the set-pieces we conceded.
    Whereas look at Dortmund. All of their goals came because, at the right time, they had a lot of numbers in the box.

  6. mom4
    April 24, 2013

    barcastuff‏
    “Picture: The boy to whom Xavi dedicated his goal against PSG by touching his hair has passed away http://twitpic.com/cgi822 [rac1] #rip”

    🙁

    • barca96
      April 24, 2013

      Argh. RIP.

  7. K_legit in Oz
    April 24, 2013

    Do not reveal in their defeat for their defeat does not take away the pain of ours.

    • mom4
      April 24, 2013

      Sure did make facing the Madridista at bowling a bit esier tonight. That much is sure.

    • KEVINO17
      April 24, 2013

      Actually, after years as a sports fan I’ve inured myself to the sting of defeat. Nowdays I only feel the joy of victory (oh, and Schadenfreude at the defeat of an enemy). Everything else passes me by. Superficial, I know, but worth trying.

  8. April 24, 2013

    Luis “Nom Nom” Suarez got a 10-match ban for making a meal of a Chelsea defender.

    • K_legit in Oz
      April 24, 2013

      10 matches for a nibble? And the worst of tackles get a 3-4 match ban?

      • barca96
        April 24, 2013

        I don’t get it. Did he injure sandwich? No. Did he make a career threatening injury to sandwich? No. Why go overboard and ban the guy for 10 matches??!!

        Ok. It was bad and inhuman like but he didn’t injure anyone and how can bad tackles get 3-4 matches while this which doesn’t pose any injury scare get 10 matches.

      • April 24, 2013

        I would encourage folks to consider how they would react if Suarez grabbed Puyol’s arm and had lunch. It was an act of barbarism that deserved 10 matches and more. Tackles occur in the heat of battle, and are misjudged. Even the bad ones are at least within the game’s boundaries. That bite was a new level of heinous.

        That nobody was injured isn’t the point for me.

      • April 25, 2013

        Agree. A tackle is made as a part of game. So a 3-4 match ban is fine. What Saurez did was disgraceful and the ten match ban is just fine. And remember he is a repeated offender. I would have liked a lengthier ban because of that.

  9. KEVINO17
    April 24, 2013

    Wonder who Jorge Mendes is going to shop this RM side to next. Price must be dropping fast.

  10. barca96
    April 24, 2013

    Go to Google and see who is on the cover 🙂

  11. Nick
    April 24, 2013

    Performance of Lewandowski is highly dependent of his teammates. Comparing his matches for Borussia and Poland is a good indicator. So he might well not be a good fit for us even if there was a chance of signing him.

    • Momo
      April 25, 2013

      Performance of any striker is highly dependent on his team. If they get him the ball in promising positions like at dortmund he will score, if he’s surrounded by mediocrity like at poland he will obviously be less effective.

      I would take him in a heart beat. The system needs to evolve away from messi at false 9. That tactic is always found wanting at the highest level now, we need a proper striker.

    • Puppet
      April 25, 2013

      I think it’s safe to say he’d get better service at Barca than he does with the Poland NT.

  12. barca96
    April 25, 2013

    I remember that there were talks of Hummels being better than Pique here last week. I was away on holidays so couldn’t comment on it.
    And I’ve only seen him play during the Euros.

    My question to the guys who think so is, have you seen him play many times (league + CL matches) to come to that conclusion?

    I think he is on par with Pique and I don’t think he is the answer to our CB woes. We need an Abidal like player. I hope our scouts are watching Ligue 1.

    ps. I haven’t seen the Dortmund Madrid match. So I don’t know how he performed.

    • Momo
      April 25, 2013

      Agreed on Hummels and Pique being of the same mold. I do think he will improve our defense but it will not be the same it is when pique and puyol are partnered. We need some pace at CB. Although hummel’s set piece defending and attacking is fantastic.

      Hummels like you mentioned isn’t very quick, I would say at the moment that positionally he is better than pique this season from what I’ve seen.

  13. barca96
    April 25, 2013

    How did Gundogan play?

    Over the past few weeks, his name came up a lot on the Guardian blog. I’ve only seen him play once early in the season and wasn’t impressed.

    • Puppet
      April 25, 2013

      He was really quite excellent.

  14. ElJefe
    April 25, 2013

    Neymar, welcome to Barca.

    bild-jose-mourinho-to-return-as-chelsea-manager-will-be-joined-by-radamel-falcao-for-e60m/

  15. barca96
    April 25, 2013

    Love reading comments on the Guardian whilst uploading dozens of large photos on the net with a slow connection. Good way to kill my time.

    And amazing atmospheres.
    Old Trafford, the ‘Etihad’ and the ‘Emirates are libraries in comparison, (though still better than the hanky-waving plastics that frequent the Bernabeu and Nou Camp.).

    Real Madrid obviously decided to get thrashed out of sympathy for Barcelona, that’s their excuse anyways.

    Real Madrid starting XI: £345m
    Borussia Dortmund starting XI: £29m

    Regarding the stadium. I’ve always wanted to ask why Camp Nou uses an announcer who looks like he is more suited to a sombre occassion like at a funeral or something. Compare it to the Bundesliga announcers. They help create an atmosphere!

  16. Gogah
    April 25, 2013

    Is a Dortmund Barca final still possible?

    • Momo
      April 25, 2013

      Don’t bet on it

    • Chiu
      April 25, 2013

      🙂 I just keep some faith. Read statement from Dante (via barcastuff), he said if Bayern can score four, they can also concede four.

      If they can score 4 in their home, we have probability to score 4, too, in our home, no matter how small the chance is. Hope for a miraculous night next Wed. When everything goes well and the team give 100%, anything can happen. Keep hope till the final whistle.

      Visca Barca!

  17. April 25, 2013

    I thought Reues was the real star for Dortmund yesterday. His dribbling his crazy.

  18. Gogah
    April 25, 2013

    Can Lewandowski win the Ballon D’Or if they win at Wembley?

  19. barca96
    April 25, 2013

    Iniesta: “if we want to keep on
    winning, we have to improve many
    things. Not talking about 4-5
    transfers, it starts with those who are
    here”

    Really surprised that Iniesta would say this. I guess there is something going on.

    • April 25, 2013

      Depends on whether he means himself too, or if he is talking about others.

      My guess is he talks about the team as a whole.

      • barca96
        April 25, 2013

        For him to imply that there are many things needed to improve suggests that he, or maybe a lot of them already knew that something is not working for quite some time.

        Besides that, I also find it strange for him to say this publicly. I can’t remember our players doing that.

  20. ooga aga
    April 25, 2013

    interestingly, tickets to the semifinal 2nd leg became very available (on the official website) after the loss vs bayern.

    it was much much harder to get a ticket for the PSG second leg than it is right now to get one to the semifinal.

    im guessing a lot of socis have written the team off.

  21. Obii
    April 25, 2013

    Don’t know if anyone has mentioned this, but I feel this team was unable to evolve this season. When the season began, we saw Tito trying to change the way Barca attacked and defended. We were quite impressed with the changes Tito was able to make during the game to alter the team’s tactical dimensions. I believe that had Tito been able to spend the whole season with them, this team would have been a different beast all together. No team coaches itself, and no team is able to deliver results when their main coach is indisposed for half the season. To get this far without that sort of guidance, and without being able to implement a plan that was designed to take this team forward is an accomplishment in itself. Next year will be different. I genuinely believe that.

    • barca96
      April 25, 2013

      Great points but I don’t totally agree with you.

      Tito had enough time to prepare this match and enough time to make some tweaks during the match.

      Football, especially this team, doesn’t need to change something drastically. Just minor changes. If you mean that the team had to evolve then yes, it would’ve been possible if Tito was there.

      But this team only has one style. I don’t think Tito would and should’ve changed its ways.

      • Obii
        April 25, 2013

        I disagree, this barca team does need to change the way it plays. Unless the players are all on top form, this team does tend to struggle against the high press. Also considering the fact that they aren’t at their peak physically, it gets even harder. Other teams have evolved to counter the way Barca plays. Why would you say Barca doesn’t need to? I’m not talking about a plan B, as in stick a tall guy in the box. I’m talking about the counter to the high press being more than having all 3 of your midfielders drop deeper to facilitate sterile possession, without any forward thrust, which is what is happening at the moment. I’m talking about the insistence on using your wingers as just a means to stretch the opponent’s backline, with no direct threat on goal. That approach NEEDS midfielders to make runs down the middle, which is impossible when you’re dropping deeper and deeper to retain the ball against such an aggressive pressing system being employed against you.

        Tito had enough time to prepare for this game, but old habits die hard. Changes need to be methodically drilled into your brain over the course of a season in order for you to not resort to what you feel the most comfortable with when being pushed to the limit.

        In this match, did you see how Barca was beginning to have more of an attacking threat when Sanchez and Pedro started moving between the lines? Tito, i’m sure, did the best he could. This team may have been lacking for want here, but they weren’t underprepared. I just think the solution to the problem being presented by Bayern was just not second nature to them as yet.

  22. barca96
    April 25, 2013

    Jupp Hynkes’ post match was awesome. Watch or read it. He really has done his homework on us. And I could see it. The way many of our passes were intercepted, how they pressured us. Th

  23. barca96
    April 25, 2013

    Would anyone like to replace Reus for Pedro or Alexis?

    • April 25, 2013

      You mean replace Pedro or Alexis with Reus? (English lessons from the reviewer who wrote foots instead of feet and misspelled Messi – blame a 12 hour workday and staying up until 4 in the morning to write the review)

      I honestly haven’t seen enough Borussia Dortmund games this season, and I kind of regret it. Let’s see how they do at the Bernabeu next week, first.

      • barca96
        April 25, 2013

        Oh snap . The way I constructed that sounded like I’m a Dortmund fan.

        Based from what saw he did a pretty good job as a winger. Have only seen the first half so far though.

        I still dont know what the fuss about Gundogan is.

      • Obii
        April 25, 2013

        Gundogan worked hard and was very intelligent with his distribution/marking. Ran has socks off, just like Javi Martinez against Barca. Not the most technically gifted players both of em, but very valuable to the team.

  24. Ahmad
    April 25, 2013

    Since Alba is out for the second leg after his temperamental display, am I the only one who thinks that Abidal could fill in the left back position next leg?

    I think he’s out best choice and although its uncertain if he’s 100% fit or not he should definitely be a consideration.

    • Jackieboy
      April 25, 2013

      If we play with a back four, then he’d be a decent choice, given how Adriano injures himself literally in every game he plays recently. But does he have the stamina to run up and down the pitch? Personally, I’d like a back 3 a la the Milan game, with Abidal, Pique and whoever else is fit (Barta? Masche? Adriano?) as the CBs. Go all out at Bayern and either make a miracle happen or get knocked out of the CL with a bang. Nothing to lose.

  25. barca96
    April 25, 2013

    I somehow think that this current team is like the current Federer.

  26. ooga aga
    April 25, 2013

    i know we can score four against em in our house. all it takes is one, two, and then it becomes panic psych mode for the germans

  27. April 25, 2013

    Iniesta and Bartomeu had quite a lot to say in the presser today. Iniesta sounded even …. dare I say …. angry.

    Iniesta:

    “The end of an era’ – “Talk of the end of an era makes no sense.”

    “Last 5 years, we’ve won 2 Champions leagues, reached the semi in the other 3 and won 4 out of 5 leagues. That’s a hell of an era.”

    On the tide changing – “All that is unfair. We’ve been winning trophies and in the running for everything for many years now.”

    “To analyse 5 years through one match in Munich makes no sense. The end of an era means going years without winning silverware”

    “People should have a lot of respect for this squad, the coach and the club in general. Obviously, we need to improve & we will.”

    Bartomeu:

    “This isn’t the end of an era. There is a structure and continuity here. There will be no overhaul this summer.”

    “I can not imagine Barça without the likes of Messi, Xavi, Iniesta, Piqué, Busquets, etc.”

    “Tito will manage Barça next year. We have confidence in him, it wasn’t an easy transition to make and he’s done a great job,”

    “This isn’t 2009, when we brought in 9 players. That was an era change. There’s a foundation here. Just a few tweaks are needed.”

    “Why can’t we spring a surprise? We haven’t conceded defeat. Madrid thinks it can turn its tie around and so do we.”

    • April 25, 2013

      I liked that press conference!

      The team won’t be overhauled this summer (nor should it be) but it has changed significantly since 2008/09.

      It all depends on how one defends an era, I guess… I made the argument for a double-era in one of the comments above.

      • April 25, 2013

        EDIT: defines, not defends

  28. April 25, 2013

    @barca96

    I don’t follow tennis, but at 31 yrs old Federer is past his prime and won’t get better.

    Do we need to make some adjustments? Absolutely.
    Is this the end of an era? It arguably ended last year.
    Is this team done? Far from it.

    With Iniesta(28), Cesc(25), Busquets(24) and Messi(25) we have some of the biggest talents in football They will probably be joined by Neymar (21) this summer.

    The comparison with Federer does not hold any water, imo. I think we are well placed to make another run at dominance in the next couple of years. Roger is not.

  29. Srini
    April 25, 2013

    I like the combative response by Andres Iniesta in the presser. The 4-0 was as much a tactical defeat to Bayern as much as anything else – personnel as suggested by others. The key for me was that Messi played his worst game in some years and was clearly unfit, unable to provide that initial burst of acceleration after receiving the ball that he always does. We only got to see the Passer Messi and that too a mediocre version of him, who was clearly unwilling to test his sore hamstring. I do think if Messi was being Messi, this couldn’t have turned out so bad at all.

    Second, the requisite zip in the midfield passing was clearly missing, with Busquets somehow being completely neutralised.

    I think Barca must try to go the Argentina way for one now. They have to play Messi as a 10 in the next game (fingers crossed, his hamstring recovers fully, although it is still doubtful if it really would). And then play Villa further along with Pedro.

    Heck, they could even try a 3-5-2 as was envisaged by Pep. Maybe play Abidal, Pique and Alves as the 3 and Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta and Thiago/Cesc/Song in midfield with Messi, Pedro and Villa upfront. Play Cesc in that diamond role that Pep envisaged and let him co-ordinate with the MVP upfront.

    By overloading the midfield, I think Barca can indeed put further pressure on the Bayern midfield. They have nothing to lose, not even pride. If they can make Bayern stumble in the first half and score a couple of goals, then it could make the tie very interesting.

    That doesn’t mean that there won’t be necessary changes next season. There has to be. A tall CB with proficient on-ball-skills, and a decent centre forward who offers some aerial threat as an another option are imperatives. Barca are increasingly being sorted out for their remnant but minimal weaknesses with no answers and that need redress come next season.

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