Myths, legends and difficult times for a football club, aka “The myth of Pep”

bunyan

So, there was this lumberjack named Paul Bunyan, and what a lumberjack he was. When he came into the world, it took not one, but five storks to bring him home. His hand claps and laughter broke windows and he was sawing legs off beds even though he could barely walk. He made a mountain, though he didn’t really know he was doing so, simply by piling rocks to put out his Bunyan-sized campfire.

Mes que un lumberjack Bunyan is described as being “64 axe handles high,” which by the 18-inch measurement of the average axe handle, makes him about 95 feet tall. And he traveled with the only blue ox in the history of mankind, Babe, who was sized to the same colossal scale as Paul Bunyan.

Obviously, there was no Paul Bunyan. There might have been a logger by the name of Paul Bunjean, who battled the British during a rebellion. But there was no ox, and he sure as heck wasn’t almost 95 feet tall. But as legends go, it’s difficult for even Paul Bunyan to match the legend of Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona.

The Treble season came and went, and everyone knew that team was going to be great, followed it every step of the way as it made history. Everyone was there, remembering where they were when X or Y event happened. It was magic, the stuff of real-life legend, which makes it even cooler than the folklore tales of a giant lumberjack.

Except, as with legends, exes and great meals, people always lay on an extra layer of rose-colored paint.

The reality of the Treble season was lots of doubt, so much so that the phrase “In Pep We Trust,” punctuation moving from question mark to exclamation point, came to be coined by less-querrulous supporters. The club whomped on folks and was celebrated, even as nobody really believed it was going to win a whole lot of much of anything until the 2-6 hammering of RM that put paid to notions that they were going to be able to catch that remarkable team. Then came the Champions League and everything else, and the legend grew, to the point that it is now impossible for any subsequent lumberjacks to even go near a tree without the capacity to suffer fools.

Yes, fools.

Martino, in the post-match press conference, defended his decision to substitute Alex Song from idiots who somehow conflate the “wrong” player with a failure of some sort. And for Iniesta, no less! For shame! First Barça are outpossessed, and now this? Really? Martino said he would do it again, a contention that he had to make because of the Legend of Pep Guardiola.

In that Legend, these wondrous little people would keep a ball the whole match, and won every match 327-0. And it was wonderful. And the world cheered.

In fact, the team was at times erratic, and so capricious was Guardiola with his tactics and lineups that it became a pre-match guessing game, as he shifted players to match up with teams and potential situations. One of his favorite players was Seydou Keita, a player who, like Song, culers have a difficult time with. Because myth has even made Keita into a brilliant midfielder, a favorite of the Man of Legend, who was brilliant. Therefore …

Let’s be clear: Guardiola was a delight of a coach who did wonderful things for the club that I love so much. And it isn’t his fault that people have made his tenure into a Bunyanesque myth. Much respect for what he did.

Hey, wait ... didn't I suck a while ago?
Hey, wait … didn’t I suck a while ago?

And if Guardiola was still coaching this club, or asked truly what he thought, I rather imagine that he would call those culers, pundits and other tongue-waggers, fools.

Euler and I were chatting about this myth on Twitter, and he phrased it in a rather elegant way:

To me the heart of the issue is that there was no single “Guardiola model.” People are creating cultural countermemories now. Guardiola’s gift to Barca was to enact a framework of principles that were coupled w/ a drive to experiment, adapt & change.

Every season he enacted a major experiment in the model. There was no 1 stable “way to play.” People are extracting a kind of caricature & calling that history. But then that happens so often in creative endeavors. Guardiola was a genius. But he didn’t erect a prison. He built cathedrals. And like so many cathedrals they were never designed to be finished. … It’s equally important to accurately remember what he did do. He set the framework for what Barca should be. But those were tools to use. Not pillars of a temple.

And yet, the Myth demands that Martino be questioned. Fabio Capello said that “Tata deals with the same as myself when I took over from the legendary Arrigo Sacchi, who had won everything, at Milan” Except in our case, Martino is dealing with a Myth.

Further, UNlike Guardiola, who had two trophyless seasons as the crumbling foundation for the trust he acquired, Martino has a Legend. It’s like people have forgotten that in Guardiola’s last season, the club won the Copa. They have apparently eliminated Vilanova from history, like last year never happened. As with Vilanova, Martino is taking over from Guardiola. If another coach, not of Legend won only a Copa, culers would be calling for his head. But through those rosy spectacles, it’s still Treble time, not time for Guardiola to leave.

Leaving as suddenly as he did just rooted the Legend even more deeply. People blamed Rosell and board disputes, questioned everything except the simple, cold reality that maybe, just maybe, as it was when Guardiola sold Ronaldinho, just that time.

Vilanova came in and improved upon the previous season, winning La Liga with a record points total while battling cancer. But that wasn’t good enough, because of the Legend. Instead, it was “Stupid 100 points record cost us Thiago. He lost 7-0 to Bayern. He should have rotated more.” Because Legend makes people forget that Guardiola’s starting lineups became as predictable as the tika taka style that opponents figured out.

In came Martino, who is doing everything that Guardiola did: tactical variance based on match situations, spot-on substitutions, juggling lineups in a way that makes him unpredictable, and more, including … real rotation. And a player isn’t sitting on the bench. He isn’t even in the squad. Martino is doing everything right, including having just ended a recent record of futility against RM, including avenging last season’s 1-3 loss. He should be getting accolades, as rose petals keep his loafers from striking the pavement.

Instead he is being second-guessed by fools, because of a Legend. One almost imagines that Martino will win a Treble, and people will say “Well, he didn’t win it in the right way, so he still sucks.”

I rather imagine that he doesn’t care, which makes him the perfect man for the job. It’s easy to suffer fools when you don’t really care what they say, as you sit atop the Liga and your Champions League group. You understand legend, and you say things like, when you and the club came across a rebroadcast of the Manita of Legend, “I’d love to play like that …”

And you understand that in a world of teams who have reconfigured themselves to stop exactly what it is that we did as if by rote, playing like that just isn’t that easy in the here and now. As people measure a coach against a Myth, they would do well to remember that, even though they won’t, because Myth finds everything wanting.

I can only speculate that Myth is at the core of the Disgruntled Culer. Everything was so much more magical back then, all Coldplay, “Gladiator” motivational videos and skinny ties. And eleventeen trophies every year. Remember? “Why can’t we play like that again?” The chagrin is too deep for the doubters to realize that we are playing like that again, as Martino innovates with lineup selection and tactics, just as Guardiola did.

Looking back at the 1993 season manita that the Cruijff team laid on RM, and you see times where Barça had a packed midfield and 9 behind the ball, a lone attacker waiting for the long pass to set him loose. You would also see an attack that looked very much like today’s Barça, with short, controlling passes that probed for an opening. There was even (shudder!) a long ball over the top for the third goal. 1+2=3. So does 1-4, or 1.5×2. You can divide 18 by 6, as well.

And in the many ways to get to three points, it seems that all of them these days are inadequate, because of a Myth. It’s a shame, because people, in the blind, Sisyphean quest to make reality live up to myth, are depriving themselves of the singular joy of watching a football team develop into, potentially, something extraordinary.

The land of men

Today, unbidden, Ander Herrera admitted that he took a dive, and apologized. On live TV. Said Herrera, “We moan about the refs, but I tried to con him there. I’m sorry.”

In another manly move, Elche, after a racist incident during a match in which Allan Nyom of Granada, a black player, kicked the ball into the stands at the abusers and refused to continue until the ref acknowledged the abuse, owned up to the incident, and apologized. Yes, Spain’s anti-violence commission is investigating the incident.

For me, this is a tiny, baby step in the right direction. Elche is easy. When monkey chants of the sort I could clearly hear directed at Marcelo on my BeIN Classic feed in the 85th minute (others with different feeds didn’t hear such things, such as the one from Sky Sports), happen in a situation that forces a ref to take notice, and that same committee has to deal with a big club, what then? Some are skeptical, cynical and say that it’s easy to take on Elche. And they are right. All we can do is hope that officials don’t chicken out as the CSKA/Manchester City ref did, and take matters on full bore.

Meanwhile, unlike CSKA who denied that anything took place despite assertions from players and an official complaint filed by City, Elche owned up to the nastiness. “The club expresses its total rejection of the racist behavior of a very small sector of the stands.”

Indeed. At present, Spain lags far behind England in how such matters are dealt with. Here’s hoping that this incident is a step along the right path.

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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.

129 Comments

  1. October 28, 2013

    Thanks again for the beautiful writeup Kxevin,
    Its amusing how much the world undervalue the work being carried out by Tata Martino. The guy and his team is undefeated in Europe and Leage, still gets accused for not being true to the Barca Style. Half the headlines suggests Ancellotti looses it with his selections and not how Tata won it with his!

    Having said that, what do you think of the Teams performance in the second half? Was it intentional to give the ball away so easily (while agreeing our opponent is as talented as we are) to conserve energy or did Real really figured our game by then and reacted? Martino accepted that he was loosing the control and hence introduced Song for Iniesta and Alexis for Fabregas. But is that a worrying sign still? We are not able to cope up with physically superior/technically good (Dortmond, Bayern, Real. Chelsea) with this personnel. So for Tata to stamp his style, what should change in the team?

    • I doubt Tata introduced Song for Iniesta and Alexis for Fabregas to regain control. It was done with different reasons. The Sanchez substitution came exactly as a reaction to something happened some minutes before. We had a brilliant counter attack move with Messi sprinting forward drawing defenders, then tried to play Cesc through, who wasn’t quick enough. Martino saw that and reacted immediately and right too. He brought in Alexis who is more quick and was also fresh. I think the Song substitution was done to defend the scoreline as he was hoping to seal the match earlier. It was also a very wise decision as we needed someone to absolve the pressure a bit too. I also would have like him to take off Neymar for Pedro or Tello at the same moment.

      I think in the second half Messi satrted to play in more of a center position and we were having two guys(Messi and Cesc) almost overlapping each other. That could ahve been avoided as it put our formation a bit out of shape and introduced a lot of chaos. I also thought the players were a bit complacent in second half, especially midfield.

      • DianaKristinne
        October 29, 2013

        I don’t think they were complacent in the least. They were tired. All their shirts were soaked wet at the end of the match. There was no complacency. Just fighting like dogs and working like lumberjacks.

  2. October 29, 2013

    Great Article. And to comment Kxevin about your post on the previous article, i have been one of those converted to this blog since the offside days when you and Isaiah started this amazing site. I have gone “absent” in recent times as i have felt that no longer are the contributors providing stimulating debate about the club i love, but mere opinions on what they think. Not that this is a bad thing, but just something that is different from what i came to love about the writing and debating from the beginning. I found myself passing over the majority of comments only to look at what you, or nzm, or euler or isaiah etc. were saying in the comments, and began to go missing from even my tactical understanding or input on recent events. I feel deeply saddened by the words you have expressed, as they are very real and true to the times. These days the internet is used for opinion based arguments instead of factual based debates and discussions, and when you pointed this out the other day it hit me like a wall of bricks why i stopped commenting long ago. And i thank you for pointing this out and hope that everyone contributing to this space understands the words and point Kevin was trying to make. This space was created for the love of the game, to help those of us who don’t quite have the understanding that others do, to learn and begin to understand this club and sport on a deeper level than we ever thought possible. That is why i came to love this space in the beginning. I was almost addicted to this space, constantly learning from people who knew more and understood things in a way i could only even imagine. And then i began to make sense of what everyone was saying and contributing and began to contribute myself to a place where i felt i was getting a real education about a true passion of mine so that it became logic and reason attached to my emotions and love for this club. That gave me something more than i could ever have hoped for, and now thanks to the creation of this space, i will always be grateful for the education i have been given. But with the changing of the times, i have lost great interest in this space as a contributor as i am one who likes to learn and understand through debate and reasoning over just opinions and emotions. And i feel that element of education was lost some time ago, but i still visit the site to see the words of those i have come to admire and respect that have given me a deeper understanding and love for this game and club, and for that i will always be grateful to this space. So i hope those who genuinely care about what this space was created for, help to make that a reality again, because after reading the blunt truth from Kevin, i have become deeply saddened by one of the few spaces on the internet i used to come to for an escape into the world that i deeply love, everything Barca.

  3. lala10
    October 29, 2013

    At one point or another we all may have frustrations about things. Being what it is opinions may differ. If we are respectul about our arguments and counter arguments i see no problem. After all debating is arguing in a civil rationale manner. I think that largely the last write up largely elicited contentious comments about Mascherano. One person said this and the other said that but all in a reasonable and fair manner. Where we don’t agree let’s agree to disagree. We perecive differently. What is clear to someone may not be so clear to another one and differences of opinion should should not elevate anyone above others.

    Unfortunately i chanced upon this blog a little bit later so don’t know about the atmosphere that prevailed here before but largely this is a blog where perspective and boundaries are kept and observed though with some little aberrations here and there. In that regard i must say that i am a little concerned about the tone of this article. I fear it may not set the right tone for debating. I understand the frustrations and bear with the sacrifices but it had be better if we were a little bit lighter.

    Thanks

  4. lea_terzi
    October 29, 2013

    Thanks Kevin for an excellent article, these things cannot be repeated enough. And thanks Ethan for reminding me of how this space used to be when I was only a lurker discovering the beautiful game and the wonders of Barça football.

    I actually came here today to confess… a small act of cheating. I started following Roma during Luis Enrique’s brief stint there, and became engrossed in their project. Sometimes its potential shone brightly due to the mesh of tradition and youth, one-club men and investing in new talent. At times they were a train wreck. Their fans (a great sample represented by chiesaditotti.com) are a complete opposite of Cules: not at all academic or rational, but full of passion, foul-mouthed, hear-on-their sleeve type of football fanatics. Same can be said of their team. This summer started for them in the most dispiriting manner, with a loss to bitter rivals Lazio in the Cup final, sale of two very talented young players, fan favourites billed as the future of the club. New coach, new system, five new starters, sounds like a recipe for disaster?

    Roma has now won its first 9 league games, including the derby and some tough away fixtures to contenders without their captain and talisman Totti, scored 23 goals (Barca scored 28 in its first 9), conceded 1 (!!!), looked fantastic, and are on course for the first Scudetto since 2001, or at the very least first CL finish since 2010.

    Now, you’re probably wondering why I’m extolling the virtues of Roma on a Barcelona football blog. Well, actually, we are having a pretty similar season to them. Devastating loss to Bayern and shaky against Madrid last season, lost Thiago during the summer, brought in new coach untried in the league, exciting young talent in Neymar, and lost Messi to injury for a few games. Unbeaten, free-scoring from all positions, tactically adept, improved in defense, still getting better, with exciting mix of club legends, internationals and youngsters playing for each other and hitting form… Could be said of us and them.

    And yet, while the Roma blog is a mess of tears, laughter and euphoria, Cules are cautious, critical and expecting disaster at every turn. It’s all a matter of perspective. We cannot roll back the years and land in 2008 (or 2004) again, but I hope we can turn the page, shake the burden of impossibly high expectations, look to the present with pleasure and to the future with optimism again.

    • October 29, 2013

      ^^This!

      We need to get back to the late 08/09 optimism about our team again, because they deserve that!

      It must be hell reading negativity about what they’re not doing or doing, simply because it’s someone’s perception of what’s happening, without knowing all the facts.

      • Humphrey Bogart
        October 29, 2013

        that would be the natural thing to do and i would love it to be that way in my case. What is holding me back to have this euphoria of new day depsite new talent or new manager is the feeling that we are so much inhibited by the incompetence of the board that you can not really looking forward to the way of martino because it is so much obstructed by failures from the board. Let’s say we would have the Dortmund guys (board, sporting director, marketing departement) in charge, i think that euphoria would be now through the roof, because you just knew they would do the right thing, in particular with regards to sporting decisions

  5. DianaKristinne
    October 29, 2013

    Thank you, Kxevin. Amazing work once again.

    Pep is a God for most culers and his decisions were always wise and unquestionable. When Song was introduced on Saturday there were many cries of outrage at the idea of Barcelona playing with 2 DMs. When Pep did the same thing, in countless games with Keita. Was Keita introduced as a CF or a “creative number 10”? No. But Pep did it so it could not have been wrong and surely withing the bounds of “The Barça Way”.

    I have become extremely tired with culers complaints at this team and every player on its roster (except Messi who is also a God and can do no wrong) and the insane questioning of Martino’s every decision. “But why is Alexis not in the match squad? But why is Bartra not playing? But why is Song coming in? But why? But why? But why?” Because he is the coach. And he sees these players almost every day. Not on TV or on his computer. Real life interaction. He watches them in training and he talks to them. We do not know them as well as he does. Also, we do not know what his game plan for a certain match is. So far, he has given fully comprehensible and logical reasons for his decisions. But still, with every game, questions arise. Given the fact that so far his decisions seem to be the right ones, he has my full trust.

    Those quotes from Euler are pure gold and should be read by every Barça fan.

    Again, thank you for this piece.

    • October 29, 2013

      Totally agree.

      Martino is the one to call the selection based upon ALL the knowledge and info that he has about each player at any given time.

      We can wonder, bitch, moan and complain all that we like about player omissions/inclusions, but he has the knowledge!

      Only time that I’ve been hesitant about his team selection was against Osasuna. I felt that he had not grasped how difficult El Sadar can be, but with important games to follow that game, he was playing a balancing act. I’m sure that he won’t forget the El Sadar lesson in a hurry!

  6. October 29, 2013

    So pleased that you got an article out of Euler’s tweets, Kevin. Pure gold.

    So glad that the Keita subs came up. Pep did that so Keita added steel to the midfield. When Keita came on, the whole game settled down.

    Saw many comments echoing that when Song came on, the dynamic of the game also changed and settled down.

    Same effect; different player; different coach; same untrusting culers.

    • lea_terzi
      October 29, 2013

      Every team we are competing with has a physical, energy player to shore up the midfield in the squad. Our rivals over at the capital start Khedira in every match, ffs. Pep had Keita close out most matches in his last season. Song is much better technically, has a gaudy passing success rate, and actually excelled as a playmaker at Arsenal, no matter what Martino says. Can’t see what the fuss is all about (apart from the fact that Song is actually too young and too good to warm our bench).

      • October 29, 2013

        Song is unfortunately suffering from his few and “poor” performances at the beginning of last season when he was played out of position at CB.

        We all comment about how difficult it is for most new players coming into Barca and playing well from the onset – in their natural positions, let alone being played out of position.

        Some people are still blinded by their anti-Song bias and refuse to see when he does well. Just like Masch or any of our team. Strangely, it’s worse for the foreign players than it is for the La Masia players. 🙂

        As for Martino’s comment, it was more about this particular game when he brought in Song as an extra DM rather than for his attacking game. He was responding to a journalist who was rather “incredulous” that Martino would introduce a defensive player!

        I also worry that Song is too good for our bench.

        • DianaKristinne
          October 29, 2013

          Song is a very good player. And he has proven that when playing. Sure, he’s not as good as Busquets in that DM position, but then again, no one can be.

        • October 29, 2013

          Any DM signing for Barcelona while Busquets is only 24 years old knows what he is getting into…

  7. October 29, 2013

    Today, unbidden, Ander Herrera admitted that he took a dive, and apologized. On live TV. Said Herrera, “We moan about the refs, but I tried to con him there. I’m sorry.”

    I have an issue with this.

    So Herrera said sorry which is fine.

    But what if the penalty had been awarded for his dive? What would we be calling him then?

    Would he have apologised? Rushed to the ref and told him then and there that he had dived?

    When does a cheating move stop being a cheating move? As soon as the perpetrator apologises?

  8. Jim
    October 29, 2013

    Okay, now I really have seen everything. Mourinho on the list for FIFA coach of the year and no Tito ??? Is this not based on last season?

    • XaviFCB
      October 29, 2013

      Joke of a list, Simeone and Tito weren’t on it but Mourinho and Wenger were…

    • October 29, 2013

      Never mind Tito (although I certainly *do* mind), where is Diego Simeone? The man has done wonders with Atletico Madrid!

      What a joke.

  9. mom4
    October 29, 2013

    <i)"And some things that should not have been forgotten were lost. History became legend. Legend became myth"

    The chants? I don’t think there is an easy answer but I don’t think that it is necessarily fair for a whole club to pay/be answerable for the actions of a few(?)morons. Fines/empty stadiums may cause peer pressure on the morons to shut the heck up. It could also cause violence in the stands and confrontations between the real fans and the morons. Nothing is truly changed by trying to legislate morality. What we really need is to try to change hearts. Dunno.

    • Jim
      October 29, 2013

      Needs to be a summit on this and how we have consistent standards across at least Europe. Bring the national associations into the decision making process then they can’t complain afterwards. For all we decry the EPL for me they have gone a long way towards tackling it just by taking difficult decisions. The problem with FIFA and UEFA is that I’m never convinced the top officials care about much other than re-election.

      On a side note, it also strikes me as odd and wrong that the Scottish FA are under investigation because the Croatian fans set off a flare at Hampden in the recent international. We have a very tight travel club in terms of getting tickets for Scotland’s away games ( and tbh the Tartan army tend to self police on most occasions) so I don’t see why other associations can’t take the rap for their own fans at away games.

  10. October 29, 2013

    i don’t think this blog detoriatedin terms of contributions made by everyday members, if anything, it inproved immensely. I’ve been a member for close to 3 years now and many a times when i dont comment or share my thoughts is because somebody else beats me to it and i’m satisfied by the replies gotten. for a barca fan to just switch off and not comment about arguments put forward by a certain post because of percieved “low analytical skill” by commenters is just a wrong accusation. in that, we are a community of different minds, my thoughts cannot conform to ur taste in diction or stretch to ur height of expectation, thats why for every comment there’s a reply button underneath.

    That said, i’d like to say martino is ticking all the right boxes, i guess thats the general opinion now, but one other attribute he has in resemblance to pep that has gone unnoticed since is takeover, is that he is media friendly, he likes to discuss things with indepth analysis and doesnt always go with the obvious answers. i read somewhere that he said he’s not as involved with the team as he would like, thus paving the way for person-to-person relationship which to me is the only ingredient missing to muster another monstrous delicacy like pep’s…or more.

    after the game in that moment where cameras flash in euphoria looking for post match headlines to grab i saw a Masche and Song friendly but heated conversation(atleast heated enough for the both of them to partially snub busi) and i reckon its because maybe song didnt foul crybaby to foil the counter that led to the madrid goal. its a positive for me coz players are calling eachothers fault and pointing correctional fingers at each other.

    as for Tito not being shortlisted i think maybe its because he was gone for a large portion of last season, i know many will argue that his being gone and still winning the league further cements his position in the list, buh i see reason with mou-mou’s induction, in that, as kxevin so masterfully pointed out many non-barca football fans cant differentiate between tito’s team and guardiola’s and his not being around for long to fully claim control thwarted his chances. visca barca

    • Jim
      October 29, 2013

      I could see that thinking for Tito although personally I found his achievement last year to be second to none. How many of us would/ could spare a thought for our day job in his situation? There was no doubt in my mind that the team was going somewhere under him, I could see what he was looking for and was looking forward to how he coped with the business end.

      I’m not so sure what Mou’s claim to be on the list could conceivably be. Never in the league race and fortunate to go as far as they did in the CL.

        • October 29, 2013

          Let’s hope Mou wins it. It would lead to hilarious questions after his acceptance speech.

  11. XaviFCB
    October 29, 2013

    And Eden hazard is on the list of best players on Europa but Reus, Gündogan, Busquets all weren’t on it. What did they smoke??

    • Puppet
      October 29, 2013

      Right? Hazard has skill, but as far as attacking play-makers go, he isn’t even the best on his team. I rate Mata and Oscar well above him, and anyway, they both had more of an impact last season at Chelsea as far as I saw, and would be more deserved of a spot on the shortlist. Of course, I’d say the players you listed are already more deserving than the three of them. Heck, even Goetze deserves a shout.

  12. October 29, 2013

    Great post. A lot of culers’ treatment of Tito (and now Martino) has been reminding me of how Real Madrid fans treated Capello after he won the league (or, heck Del Bosque a few years prior). And if that doesn’t set off an warning sounds, I don’t know what should.

    This is the kind of crap we used to make fun of them for. The unreasonable expectations. The new-coach-each-year-itis. The sense of entitlement to ALL the trophies. The obsession with the Champions League. The inability to enjoy even a victory over our main rival. Etc. etc. Now all of it describes us. And that bothers me.

    • Puppet
      October 29, 2013

      Huh, good point. The sense of entitlement and pessimism has been a constant topic on this blog, so at least its being addressed. Hopefully that can spur some cules to actively be more optimistic, or at least constructive with their criticism.

      On that note, can’t wait for the Celta game! Celta haven’t been very good from what I’ve seen this season, but the fairly deep Barca connection should make for a fun game. Rafinha, Fontas, and Nolito are apparently ready to take us on 🙂

  13. October 29, 2013

    Funny thing, that, I thought Martino was widely admired by culers? Am I out of touch? Have I been ignoring my twitter account too much?

    • Jim
      October 29, 2013

      I’ve not really seen any criticism of Martino or Tito here. However high expectations always come with the territory with Barca. Don’t have / don’t want a Twitter account so I can’t speak for there but just maybe it’s more negative over there ?

      🙂

      • October 29, 2013

        That’s definitely possible, Jim. I definitely agree with Kevin that there is a tendency among culés to view everything Pep did in a positive light. In part he deserves this because of his incredibly success and the style we played with. But it’s not like we never played badly, or never won in a sleep-inducing fashion.

        • Jim
          October 29, 2013

          Yeah, absolutely. it’s the sort of situation where it’s important not to jump to either extreme. I think for me the disappointment was that Pep didn’t stay to see how he coped with the changes in the ways teams played us.

          Btw, colour me a slightly concerned Cule if Puyol doesn’t start again tonight. There must have been a huge temptation for Tata to start him at home against RM for all sorts of reasons.

    • Serena Andre
      October 29, 2013

      He is generally admired. Until the starting line up comes out. Then all hell breaks loose and the questioning starts. Why isn’t Montoya playing? Why isn’t Sergi Roberto playing? Why isn’t bla bla bla… It’s always the same story. Complaining and some more complaining. And god forbid if the team doesn’t play perfectly for the whole 90 minutes. It gets tiring. And depressing. People don’t seem to know how to enjoy themselves any more.
      Football is supposed to be fun.

      • October 29, 2013

        Really? In thirty-five years of watching football (granted, I was a baby for two of those years) I have never gotten bored with questioning line-ups and discussing coach decisions, lol.

        I am not sure why it would bother you when commenter X states the case for player Y to start or if commenter A is not happy with coach B. It never bothers me in the slightest, even when I think commenter C is absolutely crazy for expressing opinion XYZ.

        Then again, you are not alone, there are others who feel the way you do. I’m not sure what the solution is. I compare BFB to other blogs and I quite like our comment section. It should not be a place where people are afraid to state their opinion, or (respectfully!) disagree with the opinion of others.

        • Serena Andre
          October 29, 2013

          I think you misunderstood me. I don’t mind debating lineups and coach decisions. I love that, and it will probably never bore me. That’s not what I was referring to.

          There’s a difference between debating lineups and whining about them. For example, when Tata was trying to integrate Neymar into the team slowly, most people on my TL would just not stop complaining about it.

          And another example, we all wanted to see Montoya get a start. And every time the lineups came out and he wasn’t in the starting XI, the inevitable “Why isn’t Montoya playing” would be repeated on my TL a billion times. And then he got a start. And he was having a really bad match, almost scored an own goal. During halftime comments changed to “Why did he start Montoya, he’s terrible, take him off”.

          Do you see what I mean? I’m having a hard time explaining this.

          • Jim
            October 30, 2013

            I think what you’re describing though is human nature. Stress over our team’s performance manifests itself in thinking there is an easy answer to any problem and we’re not taking it. Truth for me is that Neymar needed a slow intro just in case he found it difficult to adjust to. The different demands. Now he has shown signs that he understands how la Liga operates and his place in that he has become a starter. Montoya is a different story for me. I think he could go either way. I don’t think he is so blessed with talent he is a must keep. He is a should keep at the moment because we don’t have many options for his position.

            It’s not hard surely to either read these comments and ignore or respond politely to them pointing out your view. If we’re going to have a place where anyone can comment then we will have a huge spectrum of views. I’m struggling to remember the last time someone on here was really rude on a personal level to anyone without the community intervening and pointing it out to them. On the few occasions I notice something a bit off, before I can explain why I think so someone or one of the mods has already pointed it out politely. How many places on the Internet could say that ? One of the accusations levelled against some of our supporters is that they don’t value what they have. I’m not sure the same isn’t true of this space.

            On a side note what you describe about Twitter is one of my beefs with it. I had a look a couple of years ago but quickly decided it wasn’t for me. I like the chance to look at folks’ comments at length, even if I don’t agree. It gives me a good feeling of where they are coming from and how to respond. I spend my life trying to get the kids at school to clarify their thinking and support what they say with evidence or reasons and then along comes texting and Twitter.

            Oh well, nobody said teaching would be easy …

  14. PrinceYuvi
    October 29, 2013

    Ney nominated for B’dr.
    Does that mean we have to pay extra 6.5 M for him ?

    • DianaKristinne
      October 29, 2013

      I think he has to be in the Top 3 candidates for us to pay that bonus. And I recall it being 2M.

  15. Humphrey Bogart
    October 29, 2013

    You are right to criticise some parts of the fanbase for over the top criticism in particular with regards to the “Pep Area”. But if you follow closely the media you will see that it is also a narrative heavenly driven by the Media. Even respected writers chipped in (like Sid Lowe, Phill Ball) heavily to critic the barca performance that in the end i had to check back the result to be sure that we had actually won the game.

    This is what, well respected Sueddeutsche Zeitung, had to say:

    Von Martino erwartet man, dass er das mittlerweile etwas routinemäßig abgespulte Barça-System auffrischt, ihm eine Dosis Unberechenbarkeit injiziert. Gelungen ist das noch nicht. Er lässt zwar rotieren, wechselt auch mal Lionel Messi aus, trägt den Seinen mehr Vertikalität und eine schnellere Schussabgabe auf. Revolutionäres ist aber nicht passiert. Noch immer spielt Barcelona viel mehr seitwärts als vorwärts.

    The expectation for Martino is to fresh up the Barcelona system which has become routine lately, to fresh it up with a dose of unpredictability. This has failed so far. He uses rotation, subs off Messi sometimes, puts more emphasis on verticality and faster goal attempts. Something revolutionary has not happened so far though. Mostly Barcelona is still playing more sideways than in attack.

    To make it clear, that is the top paper in germany, echoing thought that many well established journalists did as well.
    That does not mean i subsribe to that, not at all, but of course it can get sometimes a little bit confusing if the same game is interpreted by different people on a such large continum

  16. dl
    October 29, 2013

    I appreciate the site, and the outlet it provides for passionate discussion of the game and barca. I happened to have enjoyed the clasico very much, not only because we won. I saw a team that was experimenting with a much more fluid and unpredictable way of playing, and I was extremely impressed with the selflessness of Messi. After last season with his ridiculous goal count, I was a bit worried that he might have been on the road towards diva-hood. But this season, so far, looks to have put that to rest. He has not lost his simple, joyful approach and his understanding that the team wins, not him. At least that has been my reading of this. Great group of kids, from what I can tell through the television. However, I find I have to continually remind myself that I (we) have to a greater or lesser degree a tendency to forget that our heroes all, in the end, have feet of clay. They are just folks. This goes for the recently departed Pep, also (or perhaps especially?).

    Tata, from what I can tell so far, looks like a very smart choice. Importantly, I think his 10-20 (don’t know how much older he is than Pep) year head start is critical. He seems to me much ‘wiser’, maybe more mature is a better word. For all the bile that barca’s management attracts here, I think it is worth pointing out that they were the ones who made this very important decision. This, to me, is the flip side of remembering that our heroes have feet of clay — that our favorite villians (EE or Mou, anyone?) are equally a mixed bag.

    Some may read the Guardian regularly, and there is an occasional column from Russell Brand there that you may have come across. Once or twice he has written about football (seems he’s a South Ham supporter) — here’s an excerpt that I think is good:

    “Football fans always query and second-guess the decisions of managers but I always return to the baseline certainty that they must know more than us. They must. The alternative is too terrifying; that mad, flawed, myopic boors are running our clubs. So if Theo Walcott isn’t being played through the middle at Arsenal that can’t be because it’s never occurred to Arsène Wenger. Or if Matt Jarvis seems too deep to make an impact that can’t be because Sam Allardyce has never considered the alternatives at West Ham.”

    • October 29, 2013

      One can assume that managers know more than us because of their experience in the game and because of working with the players day in day out, but

      1) it does not always make them right.
      2) the “manager knows more than us” adage effectively kills much of the debate we can have, effectively shooting down any opinion contrary to the manager’s decisions. That would be a shame, now, wouldn’t it?

    • Jim
      October 29, 2013

      I think it’ll be West Ham. Yeah, he’s actually a better writer than I thought he’d be. I had him down as a pretty shallow comic. It’s worth a read. I’d be interested on Kxevin’s take on him. I came across him through the article he wrote on the death of former British PM Margaret Thatcher. Again, worth a read but maybe only if you’re British “et d’un certain age “.

      http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/apr/09/russell-brand-margaret-thatcher

      • dl
        October 30, 2013

        I enjoyed that one especially… I hesitated to post it as it is clearly ‘off topic’.

        • Jim
          October 30, 2013

          If something’s interesting, especially a good piece of writing, I’m sure there’s space here for it 🙂

  17. barca96
    October 29, 2013

    I’m not sure how to copy a YouTube link so please go on YouTube and search Soccer AM Team mates with Gerard Piqué .

    It’s a really nice interview. Pretty funny answers to questions such as; slowest player and worst music. Enjoy.

  18. nia
    October 29, 2013

    Hi fellow cule’s, I’m back. After spending 5 days in hospital and having to endure the agony of being in pain and not being able to watch the clasico on Saturday, I’m glad to be back home recovering. You know that you are a true cule when the first thing that comes to your mind after surgey is finding out the score line instead of asking for morphine, lol. I’m glad for the win, huge turn around from last season when Ozil and Mou had our number. What a goal from ‘Lexus’ as well, made my day.

    Good write up as well Kxevin, well appreciated.

  19. dl
    October 29, 2013

    Levon says: “2) the “manager knows more than us” adage effectively kills much of the debate we can have, effectively shooting down any opinion contrary to the manager’s decisions. That would be a shame, now, wouldn’t it?”

    I think it only means that the manager knows more than we do, not that the manager is infallible. He (no she-s, eh?) has more information at his disposal than we do when weighing options.
    We do, however, get to evaluate how they turn out, and offer opinions and theories and chew over the progress of the project, which is of course great fun!

  20. rocherto
    October 29, 2013

    I still remember when Pep was first appointed for the job. I had my doubts. I’m sure I said it before but when he got rid of Zambrotta, Deco and Ronaldinho I was Shocked. Heck we lost our first match to a newly promoted team! I actually had more faith in Martino when he took the job than when Pep took the job, just my opinion. I think that has a lot to do with this team as a whole right now. I think its the team itself that is the myth and I’m just glad to be able to witness the myth… Grow.

    Great read as always Kxevin

    Don’t always comment but, much love to everybody, believe it or not we are still witnessing history. Enjoy all of it folks 🙂

  21. TITO
    October 29, 2013

    So, nobody is talking about Celta game???

    • georgjorge
      October 29, 2013

      Bit painful to watch in the first half…lots of misunderstandings, loose passes and mistakes. Messi doesn’t seem to enjoy the game much either. Of course, after the Clásico and without either Xavi or Iniesta I’m not all that disappointed…

    • tutomate
      October 29, 2013

      May be wishful thinking on my part but seems to me that they are playing the way they are on purpose. Like if they have instructions not to hang on the ball for too long. To create as many scoring chances as possible as fast as possible. Valdes booting it from the back with long balls with no pressure seems to be a dead give away to me.

  22. Jim
    October 29, 2013

    Interesting team selection for sure …

  23. Jim
    October 29, 2013

    Shame for Adriano – again.

    Suppose we’re one up and can’t expect much after the Clasico effort. Still don’t want to throw any of that lead away tonight against a team that hasn’t won at home all season.

    • G6O
      October 29, 2013

      That’s actually a serious problem now – Alba is a long way from coming back and that means playing Montoya on the left in all games until Adriano comes back…

      • Jim
        October 29, 2013

        Puyol or Masch could play there I suppose.

  24. simple_barcafan
    October 29, 2013

    The blog is wonderful..no need to chide anyone…what is happening is normal human behavior…when a child who is average at studies gets A’s in all his subjects, his following years will be judged compared with that great year..same with empires, dynasties etc..its a cycle…expectations were low before Pep. He set the high standards and now we have bigger dreams…once the team declines, Culers will eventually reset their expectations and the cycle continues.,

    We all love legends. If there is none, we try to create one..Not everything needs to be logical. The aura of Pep was he created a great team and added a touch of romanticism which pulls the strings of our heart..In Rome, the greatest gladiators were not the ones who killed the most, but ones who swayed the Roman mob..

    Very good Post by Kxevin..Excellent points by Euler..

  25. Jim
    October 29, 2013

    I’d be happy seeing Messi come off now. He had a hard night in the Clasico. Not sayin he’d be happy to come off, mind…

    • IamXavi6
      October 29, 2013

      Agreed.

      Cesc also playing like a boss today.

      BTW whoever mentioned to stop using ‘Culers’ I have to second this. I cringe when I see it written. ‘Cules’ please all day every day 🙂

      • mom4
        October 29, 2013

        Culers is Catalan. Cules is Castellano. Our team is from Catalunya.

        • October 30, 2013

          Plug “culer” into Google translate, select catalan–>English, and guess what comes up? “Barça”. LOL!

    • G6O
      October 29, 2013

      He is really pissed about not scoring. That should have been a pass to Pedro

  26. IamXavi6
    October 29, 2013

    Question for all:

    Is this the first time we are seeinga Leo Messi ‘crisis’ since he burst on the scene 6 years ago.

    And by crisis I mean, not banging away goals for fun etc. Media beatup and critics aside (he’s only been a guru for what, 5 years now, how dare he have a few months off form!)

    How best to handle the Messi ‘funk’? and what is the cause of this for phenomenon?

    • stefan2k
      October 29, 2013

      1 and a half assist, countless runs and some great shots… I think we are far away from any crisis. Too bad for Adriano :/ he had a good run

    • lea_terzi
      October 29, 2013

      What? 12 goals, 5 assists in 13 games is a crisis? Even for Barca, this is a bit over the top.

      • G6O
        October 29, 2013

        It’s less than a goal a game.

        Last year before the injury he was scoring almost 1.5 goals a game in La Liga. It’s clearly a drop 😉

        • lea_terzi
          October 29, 2013

          Leo is hungry. I can feel a hattrick or two coming 🙂

          • DianaKristinne
            October 30, 2013

            He was a bit obsessed with scoring last night. Had 10 shots (including the blocked ones)… I guess he’ll score against Espanyol unless Casilla has a monster game.

    • mom4
      October 29, 2013

      This is a funk? Did you see what he did out there?

    • Serena Andre
      October 29, 2013

      Messi funk? Did we watch the same match? Goals aren’t everything. Messi was ridiculous tonight. If not for the linesman who invented an imaginary offside, and Yoel, he could’ve easily bagged a brace.

  27. Jim
    October 29, 2013

    For me, he’s back. Leaving aside a couple of slack passes which could have put him away ( and I know he should have passed a couple of times ) In the last few games and most of this he was playing within himself. However, tonight as he became desperate for a goal we saw two or three genuine sprints and a couple of full power shots. That shows he is confident he is over the injury.

    From now on, they’d better look out.

    • G6O
      October 29, 2013

      He still looked slow and the shots did not go in. And they usually do – in a game like this at his best he gets a hat-trick 4 times out of 5.

      It’s not a crisis but he is clearly not 100%.

      • ciaran
        October 29, 2013

        Not 100%… Yet.
        He had an average first half but was great in the second.
        He created goals and other chances but you could tell that he wanted to score.
        Yoel made 5 or 6 saves from Messi and a few could have easily flown in

  28. dl
    October 29, 2013

    Yeah, he looked like he was itching for a goal.
    However, I think it is an overall plus for the team that he passes and creates more than he scores. I think we’ve got a number of real threats that teams had begun taking a little too lightly, and if we can make everyone focus on them more, it creates a more balanced team. The only way that can realistically happen is if he doesn’t score as much.

    • PrinceYuvi
      October 29, 2013

      OR If other guys step up & score instead.

  29. PrinceYuvi
    October 29, 2013

    It’s a shame I didn’t get to watch today’s game as Tata apparently played Double pivot out there. Wow )
    3-0 is pretty good result for ‘Inconsistent’ Barca I think.
    Better catch the Replay.
    No pistachio shirt today sadly, Tata wore a Wenger’esque cocoon.

  30. IamXavi6
    October 29, 2013

    My post about it was having a dig at the media and other people saying he is ‘below par’ (hence my comments in brackets about it)

    I couldn’t agree more with what everyone else said about his performance today. We’re spoilt with what Leo has done.

  31. IamXavi6
    October 29, 2013

    Credit to Luis Enrique for having the gall to allow Celta to go toe-to-toe with Barca. Really like what he is trying to attempt to have Celta adhere to and perform like.

    This from Dermot Ledwith –
    “Another of Enrique’s idiosyncrasies has been to erect scaffolding at the club’s training ground that he calls a “technical observations station” from which he views the movement of his players from above. His methods appear to be slowly paying some dividends”

  32. October 29, 2013

    Messi had a great second half, and had Iniesta or Xavi been playing he would have scored for sure. A lot of those one twos were a bit off, but Song’s defensive performance outweighs that aspect. I was on the fence with him last year, but he is a great ball stopper. I still miss Keita though.

    Anyway, I was happier to see Cesc get a brace as well as create the first goal. Easily the man of the match.

    Any news on Adriano?

  33. IamXavi6
    October 29, 2013

    Martino stated it was precautionary; and his thigh injury will be assessed in the next 48hours.

    On track record though I’d say Adriano is in trouble 🙁

  34. ooga aga
    October 29, 2013

    The corresponding fixture last year barca tied 2-2 — vigo scored first, we went up 2-1, and then they scored at the end to tie it. i was there and the galicians cheered loudly when abidal came out of the tunnel. great crowd that sang loud, and lots of kids. and since the weather in vigo is very similar to seattle, i felt at home. all that said, happy we (barca) didnt drop points this time around!

    it was a midfield trio ‘inedito’ (never used before) and we still win 3-0. happy with that. not our most brilliant match, but not all of em can be…

    • Jim
      October 30, 2013

      I still find it amazing that they booed Cesc off and applauded Iniesta on. What is going on with Spanish fans? Where’s the hate ? 🙂

      • DianaKristinne
        October 30, 2013

        I think it was about Cesc’s celebration for his first goal in front of the home crowd.

  35. morph73
    October 30, 2013

    I couldn’t see the entire match, just 75 mins of the match before I dozed off, as the match had started at 2:30 AM (IST). But from what I saw following are some of my viewpoints about Barca’s game:
    1. Alexis is gaining confidence with every match he is playing. His off the ball runs were good, including the one when he scored.
    2. Pedro had a nice game but unlucky couldn’t get a goal. His runs were brilliant and as usual he was running all around the pitch. Also loved the fact that he, Alexis and Messi were interchanging positions.
    3. Song had a very good game from my perspective. There were some lapses in the first half but overall I think he had a good game considering the tactical fouls & tackles, the forward runs and the passing game he had.
    4. Messi had a very nice game overall, its just that he forgot to wear his scoring boots. That crazy ball control and dribble in the 12 yards was something that amazed me 😀
    5. I might be wrong on this but from my perspective the pressing in the game was missing or wasn’t up to the level that I am used to seeing from Barca.
    6. There were lapses in passing in the first half and the lapses in defending as a whole, in both the halves, was something that I was really concerned about.

    I hope that points 5 & 6 was just a one off or a tactical switch that Tata is trying out, to improvise our game, and players kind of struggled with that.
    I hope that Adriano’s injury is not too severe and he returns soon.

    In the end I think it was a good match, the 75 mins that I saw, and we got the 3 points that we wanted.

    Visca El Barca

    • October 30, 2013

      I watch at the same time too. But I can never doze off during a Barca game. The problem is it takes quite long for me to get back to sleep after the match. Just keep on thinking about the match, and this infact affects my sleep. 3/4 years before it was difficult only when we lose, now it happens irrespective of the result.. getting old may be..

      • DianaKristinne
        October 30, 2013

        Finished just before 1 AM in my timezone. Feel asleep at about 3. I also find it hard to “shutdown” my mind right after a game.

        • October 30, 2013

          Thank you, that is reassuring, for my wife too. I was starting to get worried, as I love sleeping.

          • morph73
            October 31, 2013

            Sadly I had to be in office the next day at 9:00 and I tried to stay awake as long as possible but just couldn’t make it till the final minutes 🙁

  36. October 30, 2013

    Nice post Kevin and another win at Vigo.

    A curious thing is happening with our team under Tata and this is relevant especially since this post is about Pep and expectations.
    Take yesterday’s game for example, there were moments where Barca were not Barca or atleast the Barca of previous years. So many wayward passes compared to the quality and consideration of our passing under Pep. Each step was measured and there were no speculative moves.

    I used to always feel that under Pep, the real feeling of superiority against other teams were overwhelming. During those years Barca would have to lose the match themselves for the other team to win. That was the gap. Of course there were many matches we did not win, but were certainly superior in terms of every stat and prettiness. To sum up, if there was anything at all missing in some games, it was only the result.

    Under Tata, the opposite seems to be happening. We are getting the results. Its pretty great and I’m not complaining. But this is Barca and we don’t care only about the results. Now please dont assume I’m suggesting there aren’t breathtaking moments of play, yes of course there are. But fewer and far between. I am yet to see us play a game like the first of the season – Levante. But that we did then, makes me optimistic that we’ll see those kinds of games too.

    Since this post is about Pep and Tata, in a way, I thought it fit to mention my thoughts. Truth is I don’t know exactly how I feel about this injection of pragmatism into the club. As a supporter I am ecstatic that we are winning so consistently. As a patron of the arts, I must admit that Pep has spoiled the shit out of the game for me with those 4 mind boggling years. But then I knew that then too. ok.

    • georgjorge
      October 30, 2013

      I agree with a lot of what you said. Of course, I’m not a real fan in the sense that I won’t be supporting this club forever no matter how they play – I’m here for the beautiful football, for the Iniesta dribbles, the Messi runs, the Xavi passes, the Busquets sense of when to be where on the pitch, and the beauty that results from the combination of all that. I wouldn’t stay up late at night to watch “my” team play some mediocre or ugly football. So my perspective might differ from that of a Barcelona fan.

      I’m unsure (and excited) about where Martino will be leading the team. The Clasico win, which was called pragmatic by a lot of people on here, still was beautiful football to me. And – in a slight twist of what Kxevin said – there are not only different ways of playing successful football but also different ways of playing beautiful football.

      • dl
        October 30, 2013

        I agree with this. I happened to watch barca once a few years ago, and immediately recognized it was something special. Until then I didn’t watch much football at all (other than the world cups). When the magic period of barca and its current players passes, I may well not watch them much — in this sense I am not a ‘true’ fan of barca. Rather I would call myself a fan of magic and beauty, whereever it happens to occur.

  37. Jim
    October 30, 2013

    This gets my vote. From Barcastuff :

    Cesc: “There have been moments with a lot of attacks from both. That didn’t benefit us. We need more control. We were tired at the end.”

    No problem with this display after the Clasico. I was worried first half that I couldn’t figure out who was doing what in the midfield till I realised they were basically looking for route one. Again, no problem with that for this game. Could’ve been a banana skin so well done to those who played. Another 90 minutes from Puyol which was great ( and tbh needed , given some of his aberrations ! ) if he can come through half a dozen matches like this without problems that is perhaps the single biggest boost we could get this season, imo.

  38. bhed
    October 30, 2013

    For some reason, my DVR didn’t start recording until the 40th minute, so basically I only saw the second half. Apparently, according to Phil and Ray Ray, I didn’t miss much. At least for the 2nd half, however, I saw a ruthless and dangerous attacking display. Some thoughts…

    Song was wonderful, in attack and defense. It was like he was 2 different players – Busi and Xavi in one. He was everywhere on the pitch, breaking up Celta’s attacks, and then finding spaces on the pitch contributing sublime passes to the forwards. I had to rewind one of the moves where he was part of a 4 man one-touch ballet in the box with Messi, just to make sure it was him. Was this a true double pivote? it was hard for me to see exactly the role he was playing because he was everywhere.

    Alves, who I have written off countless times, was phenomenal. He was combining with Messi and playing one-touch passing like we used to see a few years ago. Pretty solid on defense as well. That chip pass to Messi in the center of the pitch from the sideline when boxed in by 2 (3?) CV players was sublime.

    Cesc – what more can I say? Aside from the goals, that bit of defensive work where he stripped the ball from the Celta player at the top of our box got a standing ovation from my couch. Easily MOTM.

    Barta – brilliant; Busi – brilliant; Sanchez – brilliant.

    Pedro was not bad – made some good contributions, but I can’t help but think with Neymar, it would have been closer to 7-0. Montoya looked a bit out of place, but got better as the half progressed. El Capitan didn’t look that sharp to me – he was much better in his debut, but hey, after the injury, I’d have been more surprised if he was able to repeat that performance.

    Messi…great work, should have had a couple (he DID seem a bit selfish towards the end). What’s concerned me most over the last 3 games has been his inability to accelerate past players as he usually does. Also, his longer range passing has been a bit off, though he often does try for risky, low-percentage passes from midfield. His acceleration seemed to be returning yesterday, and of course his short 1-2 passing was fantastic. I put this all down to not being fully healed – I pray it’s not due to age (he’s still only 26!). My question is – should he be resting his hamstring to get back to 100%, or can it heal if he’s playing twice a week?

    Thoughts?

    • October 30, 2013

      Only saw the 2nd half (will watch the 1st half tonight) but I think that Dani Alves has played really well the whole season and I agree with what you said about Puyol.

      • bhed
        October 30, 2013

        Really? (concerning Alves) I think his crossing and passing has left a lot to be desired, and he’s been a bit slow getting back on defense sometimes. He’s had some good performances to be sure, but I think the second half of yesterday’s game showed he’s still capable of performing at the highest level in all aspects of his game.

        • October 30, 2013

          Slow getting back on defense? A lot less so than previous seasons, but I think it is safe to say that this has more to do with the different tactical instructions he is receiving.

          As for his crosses, I suspect that if he played with a traditional target man or if he played for a team like (gulp) M*drid he would receive worldwide admiration for his accuracy.

          • Jim
            October 30, 2013

            I’m not a real fan of his crosses, Lev. I realise that often he must look up and see nobody in the box so not much he can do there but for me he always takes a fraction to long to get the pass off resulting in it being blocked by the first man far too often. It’s maybe shown up more by the sheer amount of times it is him who has to play the final ball because of the way our system works.

            I agree with you on the instructions though. I think Tata has looked at the both FBs up raiding scenario and decided it was bonkers. We definitely had more defenders back every time against RM on Saturday which was why CR7 didn’t get very far ( apart from their goal which only served to highlight the way forward). One counter one goal.

          • October 30, 2013

            Interestingly enough, I did not take his blocked crosses into account, although that is a matter of creating space for the cross rather than his accuracy?

          • bhed
            October 30, 2013

            I guess it’s a matter of degrees. I agree he’s improved over much of last season, but still a few too many giveaways and crosses to nowhere for me to declare “the return of the great Dani Alves” just yet.

            As far as defensive lapses, it’s a bit hard to judge since times where I thought he had screwed up, it turns out it was someone else who (possibly) screwed up! This is the other side of the detailed tactical analysis that has been remarked upon here lately – there are so many layers of (possible) tactical complexity, and so many other instances where “well, if this player had done that, then he wouldn’t have needed to …..etc, etc.” that it become impossible to say that anything was anyone’s fault! (Of course I’m being a bit cheeky – a more nuanced understanding of things is almost always better, but even cultural relativism has its limits)

            But my original point was (in the 2nd half) I think he had a marvelous performance, and if he can get to that level on a CONSISTENT basis again, then we won’t be debating him anymore, but rather celebrating him, and can turn our attention to more pressing matters, such as Masch as our starting CB, did Shakira “break” Pique, and can Tello ever be effective on the right side!

  39. October 30, 2013

    Cristiano Ronaldo: 8 league goals, 86 shots, 2 of the 8 goals via penalties.

    Alexis Sánchez: 6 league goals, 16 shots, 0 penalties

    • Serena Andre
      October 30, 2013

      If I’m not mistaken, 3 of Ronaldo’s goals were penalties. So in terms of goals from open play, Alexis actually has one more.

    • October 30, 2013

      That’s pretty funny. I wonder how CR and Bale are gonna share all the shots they take.

      • Jim
        October 30, 2013

        Hopefully A and E depts are prepared for the influx of fans from Row Z…

        • Jim
          October 30, 2013

          Just having a chuckle. This last conversation suddenly reminded me of the funniest football chant ever imo.

          You know how it goes: “When you’re sat in Row Z and the ball hits your head, that’s Zamora.”

  40. Jim
    October 30, 2013

    Yes , UEFA charges CSKA Moscow and orders partial closure of stadium for next CL match.

  41. lea_terzi
    October 30, 2013

    EE palying the lineup they should have started against us and demolishing Sevilla. Bale with a brace and chances for more. Somebody here was predicting a hattrick from him agains one of the minnows? This kind of highlights our tactical victory in shutting dow their midfield and attacking weapons, although Ancelotti sure helped out in the first half. Glad we don’t have to play them again for a while.

    • simple_barcafan
      October 30, 2013

      hold onto your horses..it is 3-2 (from 3-0)..Sevilla fighting back

      • lea_terzi
        October 30, 2013

        5-2 now, two more assists from Bale. We dodged a bullet there, really.

        • G6O
          October 30, 2013

          I would not be so concerned – it’s all about space. You give Bale and Ronaldo space to run into and you will get destroyed. No surprise there.

          We did not and won. So did Atletico. And so will Dortmund and Bayern if they meet them in the CL.

          This game does not change the fundamentals of the situation – they bought Bale to increase even further their counterattacking might. And they indeed did that, but that’s at the cost of making it even more difficult for them to play against good defensive teams that take the counter attack away from them, because Bale is and always be an overall limited footballer who thrives in space but is lost when facing two banks of four.

          There will be a few more of these games this season, it’s not something to be too worried about

          • October 31, 2013

            Well said, G60, although to call him a limited footballer might be pushing it a bit, imo. After all, every player is “limited” depending on how far you want to stretch that definition and every attacker prefers plenty space over two banks of four.

            I certainly agree that Sevilla committed suicide (although Villareal arguably outplayed them not so long ago without resorting to parking the bus)

  42. TITO
    October 30, 2013

    Crazy match, crazy decisions from the referee, and audacious diving from the man himself – Bale.

  43. K_legit in Oz
    October 30, 2013

    Cannot be a Bale match without one pathetic dive. Cheating twat.

    • October 31, 2013

      Doesn’t bother me in the slightest. If anything I find it hilarious that Neymar comes with a reputation for diving but has so far not once gone down without a foul being committed on him while the Brit is proving himself quite fond of deceiving the referee.

      • Jim
        October 31, 2013

        ….. and very good at it too so look out for quite a few match saving penalties with at least three of them proficient in the dark arts.

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