One down, two to go. Instead of enjoying our last games of football most fans, myself included, spend more time thinking/worrying/wondering/talking/arguing about how we need to improve our squad for next year. Never mind that in this new age, where draws are losses and what were previously called losses are better known as the end of the world, we are only two wins removed from equalling the awe-inspiring hundred-point record that was set by our rivals only last season.
To any unruly child begging for some Thiago, Tello or even a Bartra, frustated father Tito repeated over and over again: Victor Valdes, Jordi Alba, Mascherano, Piqué, Montoya, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Villa, Cesc and Pedro. There ain’t no rotation under this here roof, and if you don’t like it you can go. Well, let’s hope it won’t come to that, but what if it did? More on that later.
Control was the name of this game, as we allowed only one shot on goal from open play. It was also our Victorian Secret’s 500th match for Barcelona, an impressive milestone indeed, and the little work Real Valladolid gave him he did well. He passed the ball with confidence and earned a large round of applause when he caught a ball with his chest outside the penalty area before clearing it. The game had already been played by then, while hopeful culés in bars worldwide were waiting to see if we could add to the score somehow.
Not much happened in the first half, in which we attacked a lot but created little. Our opponents gifted us possession and their goalkeeper dived over a ball that was shot straight at him. 1-0. Just when Iniesta was about to get Messi on the defense, his shot got nudged over. Marc Valiente scored the second goal right before the break, albeit in his own net. 2-0.
The second half was a bit more fun to watch. Xavi, Montoya, Cesc, Villa and Pedro all got good looks but could not score. Jonathan Dos Santos managed to lower his transfer fee with 50% by needlessly losing the ball which resulted in a dangerous counterattack. Montoya did not add to his stock either by giving up a needless penalty, one that left Valdes without any chance of saving. 2-1, end of.
Now, the morning after, I am thinking… I would like for us to end the season with an exclamation point, but we won the league way too early for that. It looks like it will end with at best a whole lot of question marks, or at worse an ominous dot dot dot… This game in particular gave me a lot of questions. I slept on them and found answers to some.
Why don’t we let Cesc play in his natural position? Because the next best thing to a false nine is a false false nine.
Why do we insist on taking long corners when we have nobody who can head the ball towards the goal? Because eventually the other team will do it for us.
Why did Pedro miss in front of an open net? Because without a goalkeeper he doesn’t have anything to aim at.
Why doesn’t Thiago get more minutes? Uhmmm….I don’t know. To piss off his dad? To run Xavi into the ground? This is becoming difficult.
What about Tello….? And Bartra…? Help. I’m running out of answers.
Here is what I do not understand. We started the league by rotating. Tello was a revelation in the opening game against Real Sociedad. Montoya played a lot. Thiago got his as soon as he came back from injury. Messi started on the bench when he came back from qualifiying his country for the World Cup. Bartra was carefully worked into the line-up. We did pretty well the first half of the season. We won the friggin’ league by rotating. So what changed?
As a reviewer, you might think it is my job to answer that question. Well I’m not telling, I’m asking.
Oh yeah, and one more thing… Visca Barça!