The right thing the wrong way, aka “You models can’t feed me ice cream until your hair is perfect.”

The original FC Barcelona tactical manual (not actual size)
The original FC Barcelona tactical manual (not actual size)

Once upon a time, there was a man. He was a humble man, who went about his humble way, doing humble things. And yea, verily, though he doth kicketh a football around, it was in the most humble way possible.

Then, one day, during his most humble of kickabouts with his most humble of friends, a great shaft of light shone from above. Struck dumb with reverence and awe, the humble men, led by the humble man, quaked in fear. And then, in a voice trembling with fear, in part because his brain was also trying to calculate how much injury time would need to be added, he asked “Wh … what dost thou want with us, most humble of men that we are?”

And a voice like thunder, issued from the glittering column. “Take this. Read this. For verily, this is the way.”

Then the world returned to normal, except for these stone tablets, that were still warm from their otherworldly passage into the hands of these most humble of men. And on those stone tablets were written many things, but first was this:

The Barça Way

What an interesting match today, one in which something extraordinary happened. Rayo Vallecano had more possession than us. Messi didn’t score a goal. And yet, we won. I had some pretty awesome Twitter dialogues after the match, and received some fascinating responses in reply. But what prompted this post is this one:

Barça isn’t about winning, it never was. Barça’s singularity is how they win. Trophies don’t matter if they’re not won beautifully

Barça has had a great many teams over the course of its history. It has had face-smashers, teams that scored from set pieces, teams that scored from counters, teams that relied upon the amazing Ronaldo to work magic, slashing, passing, running and dicing teams.

The Dream Team (pause so that heavenly hosts can sing) brought a different way, and later came a buck-toothed Brazilian named Ronaldinho. The football was less beautiful and more tricky, and fun. Ronaldinho’s bulging thighs rushed past, and bounced off defenders. Lots of different teams have won in lots of different ways.

But man, today just knocked me out. Yes, there is still tika taka, that most logical, elegant extension of the Cruijff way of thinking, triangles, beauty and possession.

What impressed me most about today’s win was NOT the scoreline, but the way in which it was accomplished. Possession isn’t the point. It’s a means to an end, a tactic that is (or should be) one of many in a coach’s handbook. Attacking football is beautiful. Our team didn’t clog the middle of the park, knocking heads with an opponent who still didn’t believe that we weren’t going to clog the middle of the park and try to walk the ball into the net. It slashed up the wings, sliding a ball to a sprinting forward, not once, not twice but three times. It took advantage of a moment of sloppy play and slammed another goal home. And that was that.

Messi ran up the middle, Neymar and Fabregas pounded up the left wing, popping balls for Pedro to dispatch. Because that was Today’s Way, against an opponent that wanted possession and a mostly open game, thinking that was the way to beat us. In the past, it might have been. Today, it wasn’t even close. Valdes, today’s MOTM by a country mile, came up huge, with some astonishing reflex saves of the kind that crap keepers aren’t supposed to make. Did he bail the team out? Nope. But he sure helped with the win, just as in matches where Valdes wasn’t as sharp, his defenders bailed him out. That’s what teams do.

The lower possession percentage was beautiful, the fact that we scored four and Messi didn’t have one was beautiful, because as Mike Tyson once said, everybody has a plan, until you punch them in the face. Rayo had a plan. We had a better, different one. And they got punched in the face.

Messi scores our goals. So a smart opponent who is also talented, says “Stop that little guy.” And everybody gets in the center of the pitch where Messi frolics, and that’s that. Today’s match, and its beauty, I hope, is the first step in an evolution in which opponents watch footage and say “Uh, oh … what the hell do we do now?”

There was speculation, post match, about that possession statistic. Some said it underscored the importance of Busquets. I watched it, and didn’t really think, “What this match needs is …” Part of why Rayo had the ball more is that they were trying to figure out how the hell they could get it past that big dark thing in the middle of the pitch, and we just watched them do it, pressing when they got too dangerous. Adaptation is beautiful.

Possession is a means to an end. So is having Overmars/Rivaldo/Kluivert/Henry/Eto’o/Neymar dashing up the wing or the middle in a bust-out dash up the pitch, to feed or slot home a ball. Seeing the back of that net bulge is beautiful. Seeing a deeper-playing, Neymar-linking Messi celebrating those goals as if he himself had scored, minus the props to grandma, that’s beautiful. The casual way that Xavi dislocated his leg to keep a ball in play with a backheel volley, then run after as if nothing had happened is beautiful. 4-0 is beautiful.

Further, I would suggest that today’s win was beautiful for its elegant play, open style and effective finishing, rather than for its curlicues, triangle and shimmying sprites. Those wins will come, and they will be all purty and stuff, and we will celebrate those as we celebrate these. Personally, I don’t think that “just winning” is for pragmatic teams such as Chelsea, the example most offered up. I think that just winning is for championship football clubs, clubs that, when they just win enough, get to hoist trophies and get drunk on open-top buses.

And that, for me, is the Barça Way that is the most fun. I hope we get to see it this season, even if the only goals that we score come from hump-backed troglodytes shooting the ball into the net from between their butt cheeks. Yes, I rather imagine those goals will be ugly. But that bus ride won’t be.

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.

264 comments

  1. Before the circle began, people said, that it is impossible to field Xavi and Iniesta together. Nowadays people say it again, just because other successful teams play with two strong holders. If you want this Barça to be like Bayern or Real or Chelsea, go watch them.

  2. Different game, Different tactics.
    Barca fans think there is only one way we can play good – quite amazing that.
    Wait and the players might even suprise you.
    Hope Tata’s ideas come to fruition.

  3. Life is what it is and our choices are reflected by our needs. Circumstances often dictate what has/ hasn’t to be done. I believe there is no blasphemy in suggesting that the team moves on certain members of the squad/ curtails their playing time or influence. Every leader has a right to choose the path they want to follow; what becomes of that choice only father time has an answer. Martino as a coach has every right to set up the team the way he wants, to move on players and buy as he wishes.

    In my view i think if he persists with the counter attacking philosophy then the team will need to be rejigged. In that regime Song takes precedence over Busquests, Fabregas over xavi and Iniesta becomes superflous and has to be replaced. The wings will be ok since Neymar, Tello, Pedro and Alexis could fit this line of work. I am not so sure of Messi fulfilling that role quite well.

    But we will have to ask; what will be the relationship between the first team and the whole junior structures? Since the whole set up has been synchronised to the same philosophy what will happen? Will there be seamless intergration between the whole Barca structure? We await to see if there will indeed be changes and if they will to that extent.

    Which brings me to my own blasphemous propositions borne out of extrapolating the little we have seen so far from Martino and how Rosell has the Club especially in the most recent of times. We know Neymar was brought as a ROSELL statement signing the question is to what extent he wishes to push him out so he becomes the main man. Did Cryuff forsee something when he said if you have Neymar the next logical think is to ship out Messi. What does the current tactical switch mean for our star player? Mostly it affects Xavi and Iniesta but we don’t really know how it affects Messi only time will tell. I know Tata works independently of the Board and its President but is it a coincidence that the Board opted for a pragmatic coach and opted against an in- house type of appointment. Was it really informed by a need to refresh things up or was it to finally get rid of any link to the previous Laporta regime and Martino appointment is a gesture of really starting his reign that surely if things pan beautifully will forever be remembered as ROSELL’S TENURE?

    Like i said this is highly blasphemous so don’t take it too seriously.

    1. ok, after losing the possessional battle once with 1% less possession than the opponent after 350 games with more, we finally have to consistenlty reshape the whole team into that, what it obviously is and has to be since Sunday: a counter attacking team.

    2. of those 350 games how many has Martino been in charge of? What has been the possession trend been like? At this moment in time it’s all conjecture but it’s not ridiculous to think this team could be turned into a counter attacking unit.

    3. As Martino said (quoted from barcastuff), from something of 66% under Tito to 65.8% under himself as an average of the first 8 games of the season.

    4. Interesting. I think that Messi would be as adaptable to a vertical, countering game as any player alive. As to your thoughts about the Rosell remake in his own image, Eusebio is already spurning doctrine in the way he has the B team playing, let’s not forget.

      I think that Rosell is a mean, petty little man, but he isn’tstupid. But, expect a lot of renewals to be until 2016, election year. A new president will either have a huge headache, or I think at THAT point if Rosell wins reelection, you are likely to see his real plans for the club/team.

      As for a team reshaping to a more dynamic entity, if you look at potentialities … Rafinha and Deulofeu can thrive on that kind of game. So can Suarez, who is up for auto promotion next season as part of his contract. We know Fabregas can. Messi and Neymar would thrive as well. But defense and the back line would have to be reshaped. Different, more traditional back line.

      As I said, interesting. Thanks for the comment.

  4. Hello fellow Culés. My first post here. I read lala’s post and simply had to respond.

    @lala, Messi plays in a counter attacking system for Argentina and has been scoring lot of goals since they have started to play this way. Brazil also play a fast transition game and Neymar has been absolutely brilliant since Felipao took charge. I have no doubt about them shining in this new style that Martino is adopting.

    Barça was in dire need of some verticality in their play. They were taking too many touches and this gradually started affecting the form of all players up front except Messi. From March 2011 till the end of last season, our wide forwards were really suffering. At times, the likes of Villa, Pedro and Sanchez just couldn’t buy a goal. This happened because of the system rather than their lack of ability. Other teams wised up to the way in which Barça uses width.
    There is no point in having 75% possession and just 3 shots on goal. Martino isn’t making Barça a counter attacking team. Barça is still a possession orientated team. He is simply adding new variations to their game which doesn’t make them too predictable. It’s best to experiment early in the season when the risk of defeat is lesser against some of the league’s weaker teams. I fear for Martino though. He is being criticized even though Barça is yet to lose. The reaction is going to be so much worse when they lose a game.

    Usually when Barça are not playing well, it’s the wide forwards and the defenders who receive the most flak. But in the Bayern defeat and Spain’s defeat against Brazil it was the midfield which was completely outplayed. Bastian-Martinez and Paulinho-Gustavo did a man to man marking job on Xavi and Iniesta and basically bullied them out of the game with lot of tactical fouls. Xavi & Iniesta are the symbols of tiki-taka domination but they seem to have declined and that is what worries me most about Barça.

    PS: Barça’s best game last season was the 4-0 win against Milan. The first goal was an amazing one by Messi but all the other goals were at the end of midfield interceptions and 3-4 quick passes towards the goal. Some seem to have forgotten how Barça won that game.

    1. Wait …. THIS is your first post? That’s like having your first running race be the London Marathon. So much win in your comment, which I love, and not just because it shares my worldview.

      Welcome, and don’t be so quiet in the future. Another thoughtful voice is always welcome.

    2. “Usually when Barça are not playing well, it’s the wide forwards and the defenders who receive the most flak. But in the Bayern defeat and Spain’s defeat against Brazil it was the midfield which was completely outplayed. Bastian-Martinez and Paulinho-Gustavo did a man to man marking job on Xavi and Iniesta and basically bullied them out of the game with lot of tactical fouls. Xavi & Iniesta are the symbols of tiki-taka domination but they seem to have declined and that is what worries me most about Barça.”

      absolutely spot on

  5. Random plug for something that should be good: Sid Lowe’s “Fear and Loathing in La Liga,” which is a very in-depth look at the Classic, and tangentially a broader look at La Liga, is on shelves this Thursday.

    I have already ordered mine (Amazon UK), which should be in my hands by Monday. Review/author interview, a la the Graham Hunter book, should also be happening once some of your Team gives it a read.

  6. Genuine question to everybody. Have you bought anything this season from the new official kit, training equipment etc.?
    I don’t know about you, but i think i have maybe to much of it in my closet, collected over the years. Luckily my wife ain’t complaining about it and i’m trying to get my kids into that groove.

    1. Not yet. I would like to buy the senyera second kit, but it’s not a huge priority at the moment. If I get it (maybe for my birthday?) I will get either Busquets or Iniesta’s name on it.

  7. Just listening to Ten Cate on Revista. Thoughtful and quite decisive about our current state. Loving his defence of Valdes and how he and Rijkard told him as a youngster he was their number one and he could make as many mistakes as he wanted and would still be the number one. Way to take the pressure off your keeper.

  8. Hey, we get a lucky break! We’re not meant to get that…

    And now Messi with a diving header ? I’m liking this.

  9. I think even Soceidad wanted THAT to be a goal.
    Neymar has been great and Messi is only a whisker away from a few more goals

  10. Why so quiet? Our boys are looking crazy good out there. Neymar, Alexis, Messi, Iniesta, Xavi, Dani, Adriano, Busi (apart from trying to break Masche’s leg) serving up delight after delight. Alternating long and short passing, excellent use of width, accurate crosses, through balls and balls over the top, fantastic control and linkup in the area, making “the stingiest defense in the league so far” look like training cones. And no one here to scream and shout about it?

    1. Seeing some screams and shouts now :)) I guess everyone was glued to their screens watching replays. What a team!

  11. So, after jumping up and down with joy at the beauty of our football, I decided, as is the custom on this site, to focus on the only two negatives I saw today: Masche’s injury and Messi’s unhappiness with being subbed (plus some other things cules like to fret about).
    And to do it in a constructive manner, I looked at Tata’s rotations, and how the numbers correlate with our perceptions.

    Piling together the Liga, Champions League and Supercopa (basically, all competitive matches so far – not differentiating because of the small sample size, and not counting extra time), there was a total of 9 games and 810 minutes to play.
    Valdes played all of them. Brilliantly. (Martino: “Chants for Valdes to stay? I would also have sung…)

    CB minutes were split as follows: Pique 99%, Masche 93%, Bartra 8%.
    Martino: “Centre back is the position where I least like to rotate, it has always been like that, you need stability there.”
    Last season, Bartra did not feature at all until late October.
    He looked decent in his extended cameo today – could’ve been more aggressive trying to intercept Sociedad’s pass for the goal, and gave away a shot by heading the ball away weakly, but also scored, won a few aerial duels, and looked confident with the ball at his feet. That said, the backline wasn’t under much pressure today – easy match for a Barca CB to shine.
    “Mascherano, subbed off with thigh muscle injury tonight, would be out for around a week. He’d miss Almeria game and maybe Celtic game”. [md]. Quick recovery to him. Meanwhile, we might get a better idea of Bartra’s quality and whether we need a CB in January.

    Fullbacks: Alves 83%, Adriano 59%, Alba 46%, Montoya 11%.
    Alba’s injury aside, Martino seems to prefer Adriano: he played twice as many Liga minutes, completed the CL match, and didn’t feature in the Supercup only due to injury+suspension. The line of thinking is that Adriano works better if Alves is your primary right back – a view many on this site would support.
    Last season at this point, Montoya had played the exact same #of minutes: 90. He had real trouble dealing with Rayo’s tricky winger/fullback Mojica, and his wing was frequently the source of dangerous Rayo attacks. Not to forget that shocking back pass. Was conservative in attack, but had one or two great dribble+cross sequences.

    The DM minutes were split neatly between Busquets (78%) and Song (22%). Probably fair, as Song has not really been.. um.. on song to start the season. Yet, he’s way too young and talented to keep solely as backup to Busi (he played 42% of available minutes last season). Tata will either have to experiment with double pivot, try Song in a more advanced position, or bid him goodbye in January and rely on Masche, Dos Santos and Roberto as cover.

    Now, the fun part: Xavi 79%, Iniesta 70%, Fabregas 68%, Roberto and Dos Santos 2,5% each. Given Iniesta’s contract negotiations, his relative dearth of playing time has been cited as a potential problem. Yet Cesc’s goal and 5 assists make him unbenchable on this form, Xavi contributed more to midfield stability and scoring opportunities, Neymar staked a claim on the left winger spot, and I think for a pro like Iniesta competition from great players can only lead to improvement. Cesc: “It looks like he’s doing it with everyone, even the important players. We don’t like it, those of us who want to play every game, but it’s an intelligent approach and we’ll thank him at the end of the season.”
    My only quibble here is that, if Sergi Roberto is heir to Thiago’s minutes, and Tata counts on Dos Santos, why couldn’t they pick up some of Xavi’s load? But then, unbeaten record, 18 points and a trophy make me trust Tata’s judgement.
    Also, Martino: “My way of thinking won’t change, I repeated the whole time how I want to play, maybe this game helps some to see things clearer..”. We’re not turning into a counter-attacking unit with that midfield rotation.

    And the most fun part: Messi 80%, Neymar 71%, Alexis 64%, Pedro 49%, Tello 13%. What a headache. With all of the above in scintillating form and doing what they do best (Ney – lightning-quick transitions, creating magic, Alexis – speedy, strong, smart, tricky, team-oriented play, Pedro – scoring, Messi – everything, Tello – running, gunning, doing his best on the unfamiliar right wing), Tata has the luxury of selecting the best combo for any given situation. Luckily, the season is long and matches are many and varied. Also, this:
    Fb Messi: “I didn’t make any gesture when Martino subbed me. Nobody likes to be go off, but we must accept it as it’s the best for our team”

    Some implications of this “no fixed 11” approach will hopefully be tactical flexibility, tweaks in response to different teams and situations on the field, less predictability in our play, but also maybe some confusion – the telepathic understanding we’re used to seeing might not always be there. It was there tonight, and it was glorious!!!

    1. Great comment.

      Rotations are of low priority early in a season, The senior players need to get to rhythm and best physical capability as soon as possible and maintain it through out the season.
      The bigger reason is to avoid early screw ups like the plaque, We know experimentation are best done early, But doing that with a half mixed line-up of seniors and youngsters is asking for trouble, Losing points early means later in the season the coach to will be forced to play his best players to avoid losing more, Yet at that time they should actually be rested more because of copa and CL matches cramping their schedule, And exhaustion will be knocking at our doors.

    2. That’s a good point. However, at the moment I would struggle to name our best 11. It might be situational. Is it more important to get Xavi, Iniesta or Cesc going? Neymar, Alexis or Pedro? Dani, Adriano or Alba? We haven’t had so many healthy options in a while. Apart from the youngsters, who are still pretty raw, everyone else is staking a claim for more minutes and starts, at least in certain situations. The young’uns also need to be groomed for the moment team needs them. Hope Martino can read those situations well – so far I think he has.

    3. Brilliant comment. Tata really seems to know what he’s doing unlike the rest of us who like to create a storm in a teacup – “we are turning into a counter attacking team”. It looks like Tata approaches and plays each opposition team based on their weaknesses and strength which is also a factor in determining which players play on a given day. It makes us un-predictable which really is his goal as he and some players have already said. I foresee a lot of evolution, lots of joy and ofcourse some sadness as we cant expect to win all the time 😛

  12. Yeah alright I’ll take it. I couldn’t watch the match so I have nothing whatever to say about how we played.
    I think we beat la Real quite convincingly last year at home too. Let’s then cautiously wait for sterner stuff to come our way before making any proclamations. For me, and only for me, the first stern test will be vs Celtic, an uberdefensive team, where we lost last year. That match will tell us if Martino has learned anything or implemented something new.
    Until then, onward to Alméria.

    1. Having now watched the highlights, I cannot believe the chances Messi missed. There are reports of his being displeased with his substitution–it may well be he was pissed at himself. I know I’d be.

    2. So Celtic is now the real test? I have been noticing some of your comments since the beginning of the season,you always have something negative to say after every game.
      Why don’t you just enjoy the game,why the blah! Blah! blah after every game? Its tiring

    3. Maybe he sees it differently than me and you? I mean since Levante, there were many question marks.

      And I think he is right to see Celtic as a test. We narrowly escaped defeat at home and lost on their ground. We didn’t look like winning in both the matches and the match next week is at Celtic so it is indeed a big test.

    4. Celtic IS the real test. We lost there last season.
      I have some bad news for you. If you find my comments tiring, you don’t have to read them–you can simply ignore them. But don’t you try to impose anything on me or anyone else. That will not take you very far here. I’ll enjoy what I bloody well want, and criticise what I feel needs criticizing. Got that?

    5. petog4realz, i noticed the same thing about 86ed’s comments. a negative voice, time and again.

      and he/she admits not even having watched the game.

      what a delight this game was. we could have scored more, messi could have scored more…but this is a Champions League team that had absolutely no hope. a great performance from our lads.

      i wish iniesta smiled more, makes me worry, but then again he never was super bubbly.

      Visca!

    6. I have said it before and will say it again:

      No personal attacks. Hell, to me, almost everyone at this site is negative. That is absolutely no reason to call anyone out, or suggest that what they have to write is “tiring.”

      We don’t use the moderation hammer often, but it will come down when that sort of thing happens. It’s how discussions get out of hand, and how comments threads go to hell in a handbasket.

      This space is in a good way right now. Let’s keep it that way. Thank you.

    7. I did indeed admit not having watched the game. What has that to do with anything? How precisely is saying to be cautious until a better opponent comes our way a negative comment?

  13. Sad scoreline.
    Everybody deserved to be on scoreline today, they were that good.
    Pedrito, lexis, dani, xavi.
    Damn you crossbar.

  14. Alexis is pretty good in the air considering his size. Very good header of the ball, better than most tall players. It’s a shame he wasn’t rewarded for his effort tonight.

  15. Just watched the highlight:

    – the team played so well. i really enjoy the highlight and would certainly download the full match. some fantasy football were produced and lots of chances made, what a pity that xavi-iniesta-messi-ney combination didnt end up with the goal.

    – hopefully masche could be back soon and nothing serious. we’re pretty short of defender now (alba, masche, puyi still on recovery). Montoya as the only back up for fullback post and Song/Busi as alternative CB.

    – Neymar continue to impress. his contribution and his skill set really improving our game. Tata keep saying that ney sacrificed a lot for the team both in defense and attack; which I undestand it as a humbleness and team player. I really love his attitude, which 180 degree different than i thought before he joined us.

    – I dont believe Messi was upset. Its just the media that exxagerating everything imo. Tata from the first day have said about rotation and i believe he has been talked with messi and other key players too, to accept his policy. This is a bold approach from tata and i hope we all will thank him by the end of the season because the team will still be fit for the decisive part of season (April-May)

    Visca Barca!

    1. To be fair, Messi was sleepwalking, botching some promising chances and giving the ball away out there, and it was a bit more obvious against the backdrop of overall brilliance. It’s like he was a bit shocked at how good his teammates could be. And then he makes that amazing run+assist, and Tata subs him out on a high. Good decision, I thought.
      Reducing Messidependence was one of priorities for the season, and it’s looking good so far. I just hope it doesn’t piss Messi off too much. I want to see him happy an enjoying his football and winning trophies. The only moment he looked really happy was when holdong Thiago.

    2. adding Busi and Bartra to the list, shouldn’t we have like 11 different scorers now? Not quite sure

  16. Hey folks, long time since I replied on this board.

    Wanted to say that I love the new “Tiki – TATA”, frailties, warts and all.

    Thats all.

  17. Did not watch the match but hear the team was good. Glad for the nice win the way. Hope what this game was can be the future. Visca Barca.

    1. Very entertaining game, thanks for that. Have to say though, the “turkey call” that Catalan commentators give for every goal gets on my nerves.

    2. Yeah, I enjoy listening to Catalan announcers otherwise. Growing up I only really got Mexican or British commentary. I’ve enjoyed branching out the last handful of years. Arabic is fun to listen to in doses.

  18. No mention of the double backheel? Highlight of the match for me. Goals are goals but the image of two of our captains showing such style and panache at the edge of the penalty box is one that will linger with me for a long time.

  19. just noted that atletico’s wins have come against the 11th, 14th, 16th, 17th, 18th and 20th ranked teams in the table.

    we have played the 7th, 8th, 10th, 11th, 16th and 20th teams…

    fun with numbers.

    my prediction: real m*drid will drop points against Elche today.

  20. Sometimes short-tem injuries to starting players can be a boon to players who’d normally be on the bench. Let’s see what Bartra does with his opportunity. Mascherano will miss, it is possible, up to three games.

    1. We don’t have too many backup fullbacks, either. Adriano is a starter on the left, atm. Either Bartra or Montoya will have to play against Almeria, Celtic and maybe Valadolid. When is Alba expected back, btw?

  21. Just gonna throw something out there that is worth considering: Martino has looked at the calendar, said “Boy howdy, there are a lot of matches coming up,” and decided to alter the playing style the team takes to not only suit the opponent, but the looming schedule.

    I would wager that longer passes and a less possession-oriented style results in less-tired players, which is beneficial given the conga line of matches we have coming up. Then dependent upon what rotation is planned and which players are going to be used, the style changes again for the opponent.

    Probably for Celtic, you will see the return of Fabregas, for that more vertical style that gets right at the Celtic defenders while they are unsettled, rather than doing the Dance of 97 Passes that has a logical terminus, at the feet of a defender in the passing lane.

    1. Interesting thoughts. Why do you assume that a style with less posession is less tiring? I’d assume quite the opposite…

      Long passes results in more runs, more defensive expense, more chasing the ball and opponent

    2. But more standing around waiting for the ball to come, rather than chasing it around and pressing an opponent. So note that with Rayo, the club was defending more rather than pressing, and passing long to attackers, who weren’t tracking back as much or as far.

    3. Need to be careful with that assumption. It can mean that but it can also kill the midfield who feel a duty to be up to support attacks then get back quickly. Never been lucky enough to play in a team that genuinely believed in tika Taka ( well it IS Scotland) but I personally preferred to pass our way up the park. Nothing worse than seeing a fifty yard ball fly over your head and trying to get up quickly to support the attack then losing it and hearing the defence shout “Where’s our midfield?”

    4. But note how the whole team was pushed up, which accounted for so much of Rayo’s possession being in their own half. Would love to see km run stats for Rayo vs La Real.

    5. Yeah, I’m happy with that although it’ll be better with someone like Puyol dictating the line to be held. I was more talking about the ball launched from deep in our half.

  22. Not over yet, but Elche just equalized at home vs RM, in injury time. 6 minutes of it, so plenty of time for them to get one back.

    But ….

    Tell me again how we are in crisis?

    1. Scratch that. Penalty for RM a minute after injury time should have ended. Oil Can converts, RM wins. And get this. Apparently Pepe pulled an Elche player over, convincing the ref that HE was fouled.

      Ah, La Liga …

  23. Ridiculous foul by Pepe!!!! And the game winning penalty by CR who has the temerity to celebrate?????

    1. Injury time was still rightly going on but there was no way in the world that was a penalty. Pepe pulled the man down plus the ball was flying about fifteen feet above their

      I’m not a conspiracy person but you have to start questioning the honesty of refs in situations like that.

      On the plus side RM were awful.

  24. BTW. Youtube elche’s goal. one touch pass from keeper playing as sweeper, headed by wide player over defender, run onto by attacking player, first time cross, striker hits near corner, all one touch.

  25. Same ref who took away the Sevilla goal, someone tells me on Twitter?

    And to be clear, the quality of the officiating in La Liga is in the toilet. It’s just that everyone watches the Big Two matches. Nobody watches Elche play Almeria except the locals, and dedicated Liga scribes such as @sidlowe.

    1. Sevilla’s goal was a clear foul. I wouldn’t use that as an example although I do agree with the general idea that we are also more often favored by refs than not (I don’t agree that this happens as often as RM are helped by refs though)

    2. That dude was climbing all over Alves. The defensive player always has the benefit of doubt when the play is in the defensive box.

  26. There is a reason why i never watch RM matches, I spare myself the unbearable nasty feeling after seeing similar robberies, I can’t imagine how it must have felt for those who watched it.

  27. From the replay it looked like a scandalous call, but I’ll give the ref the benefit of the doubt.
    Sometimes we benefit from them, sometimes Real does. It’s a shame that it’s happening in the first place though.

  28. How did Ramos escape, again, from not being sent off in this match? César Muñiz is a corrupt clown. He’s a FIFA official?? He need to name and shame this type of corruption and/or incompetence. The club should petition the league never to let him do one of matches — ever.

    Does the LFP have referee assessors in the crowd like the EPL? If not, they should. And also a comprehensive video review of officials’ performances after the fact should be implemented. I’ve seen him before and never cared for his competence. I’ll never forget this official, César Muñiz, for as long as I live.

    1. You could argue that there was a foul, but in reality that was a soft foul. That goal could have stood. Having said that, we have been hurt enough time by the referees. It’s time to take a leaf out of Mourinho’s book. We need put pressure on them before the match.

  29. Let’s look on the bright side, A league is won by sustainable high form through out all 38 matches, No amount of help from referees can correct the mediocre performances of a team that even struggles against newly promoted ones.

    Our squad is well experienced and perfectly adept to la liga, It’s ours to lose, Simple as that.

    1. There’s some famous quote along the lines of ‘it only takes good, honest, noble men to say nothing in the wake of continued injustices for evil to perpetuate and prevail’.

    2. They only need a few of these wins. They may well start playing well in a few weeks. It does make a difference.

      At this point almost everybody has forgotten but if it wasn’t for the refs both killing us on more than one occasion and pushing them to multiple undeserved wins, the 2011-12 season end up very differently.

      And we are in a quite different situation now.

      Last season there wasn’t nearly as much of that as 2011-12 but if this year ends up being a return to the 2011-12 conditions, we will have problems.

    3. To continue my thoughts:

      They lose points today, perhaps they lose points on Sunday too when they play Atletico. Meanwhile we play Almeria, Valladolid and Osasuna. It could well be 6 points or more difference entering the Classico. That’s very very different from startign the game with only a 2 point lead.

    4. Your view only takes the account that they will benefit from referees but never be harmed along the way, And we get harmed but never benefit.
      Is this PLAIN possible?, Yes, Is it statically likely?, Nope.

      Because of the large no. of matches in a league, From a statistical point of view, You’ll be harmed and benefit along the way and in THEORY the net result you’re left with is the team actual performances on the pitch, There could be skewness to one side (favoring), But to my own personal view, It’s negligible, Others may disagree on this point.

    5. How much we are harmed (or gain) depends on the following parameters (and under the assumption it’s a two-horse race, which is quite justified despite Atletico’s good start):

      A: How much we are helped by refs
      B: How much we are hurt by refs
      C: How much they are helped by refs
      D: How much they are hurt by refs
      E: The difference in sheer footballing class between us and them

      If (C-D – A-B) > E, we have a problem. In 2011-12 that was the case even though E was still in our favor

    6. Referees’ performances really do matter. RM picked up two points today based on a single referee’s corruption and/or incompetence. Neither aspect is acceptable for a referee.

      A league can be won by less than one point. A league can come down to head to head results.

      Let’s say that all 38 matches for both teams are officiated justly and we end up ahead of RM by just one point. Then factor in this one bank robbery today and that alone could put RM ahead of us by just one point to win the league.

      Point is: officiating does matter, must be unbiased, and must be perceived as being unbiased. That line was crossed today. Big time. Heavy duty.

    1. Just a friendly advice from my part, Stick to only reading the scores after a match of theirs end, Like i learned to do, It can make the difference between sleeping well at night which what i’m about to do and what is happening to you right now, You’ll thank me later.

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