Atletico 1, Barça 0 (2-1 agg.), aka “That fist to the face … who put that there?”

atmlead

Well doesn’t THIS feel weird, this feeling of coming home on a big match day from wherever you watched, with that empty feeling, that difficult-to-describe sensation of having watched your team lose.

Seems like just yesterday that we were capering about in glee through throats made hoarse from screaming as we swept the Classics, beating RM in their house.

But today, the best team from the capitol city, without two of its best players, beat us. And today, in another bit of empty-feeling weirdness, our team didn’t have any answers. Make no mistake, however … Barça didn’t lose today. It was beaten by an opponent with a better plan, its own naivete and institutional failure.

For consecutive seasons in a Champions League, a superior TEAM whipped our asses. Again, we won the statistical battles. More possession, Xavi was perfect on his passing day. And perhaps these things will console as our players head home, knowing that the only way they will be watching any more Champions League matches this season is as a spectator. But I doubt it, because this is a team that, like all other teams, wants to win.

Yet unlike all other teams, it is a team that is accustomed to winning, something that happens as if by rote. Something always happens … a moment of genius, a late goal, a brilliant move that creates a penalty … something that pulls the irons out of the fire. It happens so often because this club is gifted with a collection of phenomenal players, individual geniuses who can single-handedly stand a match on its head. Culers shout in exultation as opponent supporters sigh in resignation as they make it happen yet again.

Today, Atletico Madrid balled up its fist of a team and got in our faces. They didn’t win any statistical wars even as they outplayed us in every facet of the match. It was only Pinto’s crossbar, then Pinto himself that kept the scoreline of this match from reflecting its reality. It was 1-0 on the day and 2-1 on aggregate but could easily have been 4-0 or worse.

It wasn’t even that our team didn’t have the answers, as much as Atleti were asking all the questions, making all the demands. They went over the top of our voracious midfield, reducing Busquets to a spectator. They made our defense do something that it isn’t good at, being a traditional defense. They ran more, sweated more, hustled more, won every 50/50 challenge as their black-clad coach, crucifix dangling from a silver chain as if the antithesis of his demonic mien, exhorted the rabid crowd and his players.

And we looked shellshocked, finally reduced to mimicry, playing long balls and hoofing crosses into the box that were calmly headed away from our outsized players. Finally, when there wasn’t any time left for miracles, for someone to make something magical happen yet again, it was over, and Barça was beaten.

atmgoal

Last season, it was easy to point to the blizzard of injuries, illnesses and general upheaval as some consolation in the aftermath of the destruction at the hands of Bayern Munich. This season, our team was fit and on form. Its best player was fully healthy. Its latest, expensive acquisition was fit and ready and its most creative player, also the best player in the game right now, was in form. It was time.

That reality should, for any thinking culer, make this beating a lot more difficult to swallow. The only explanation now is that on this day, our collection of some of the best individuals in the world, weren’t good enough to beat a team that stuck to what it does. They don’t have the best players, but they have the hardest workers, and they have a plan.

The folly of naivete

Tata Martino tried a formation that the team had run before, with Messi on the right wing. After the match, he said that the objective wasn’t as much to get Messi to participate in a team effort as the hope was to set up 1v1 situations for him on the right. People at the presser were stunned, many of us were stunned as we read that quote. The general reaction was, “Is that a real quote?”

People can argue all they want about Pep Guardiola’s greatest accomplishment. For me, it was to get talented individuals to play as a team. Tika taka worked because when the system is properly implemented, there is always an open man. Tika taka can’t work if the idea is to tika taka the ball to Messi. Then it just becomes individuals playing for one player, and that won’t work. People talk of loss of style and The Way. But at present, this team doesn’t HAVE a style. And that is a problem.

Yesterday, it was no coincidence that the best scoring opportunities came as a consequence of team play, rather than individual brilliance. Solo magic is the icing on the cake, not the point. As team play dissolved into a series of Quixotic quests, it all played right into Simeone’s hands, and he knew they had the match won, because an individual will NEVER beat a team.

The ball moves to players, but the ball is always the point.

Martino’s tactical naivete manifests itself in the vain hope that an individual is going to make a difference against a devoted, hard-working team. Messi isn’t that good. No player alive has ever been that good. It’s an impossibility. Graham Hunter, in his excellent match review, suggests that Messi’s ineffectiveness might have had its roots in an early-career pout when asked to play on the right wing.

Lord, how I hope that isn’t the case, because the coach and ostensible leader of the team lacks the power to resolve that complexity.

Simeone seemed to know that when you put Barça under stress, its players revert. There is so much individual talent that those attackers think, “I can do this …” and do what they do, rather than doing what the team needs. So Iniesta runs into three players. Then Neymar runs into three players. Messi runs into three players. Alves runs and crosses. It’s what they all do when left on their own, when trying to do that one thing that they think will win the match for their team, when the most effective thing they can do is tamp down that urge, and move the ball to the open man.

There is always a space for an open man to run into, when the ball is moving. At its core, THAT is tika taka. The system, if you want to call it that, manifesting itself yesterday was an impostor, played by a team that used to play tika taka. And the result was a beating, by a better and more complete — albeit less talented — TEAM.

It is no coincidence that our most individually talented team is so successful against our most hated rival, RM. They don’t really play a system, don’t really play as a team in the way that Atleti does, so there are always spaces and gaps to be exploited by Messi, Neymar, Sanchez, Iniesta. It’s logical. They have to kick and foul because they, too, have a collection of talented individuals trying to do their thing.

For example, look at the goal Iniesta scored in the away Classic. Bale knew he was there, could have marked him but seemed to say, “A defender will deal with that. I have magic to create.” So he didn’t mark Iniesta. Against Atleti, Iniesta was marked into ineffectiveness, and ultimately subbed out.

What made, and will make Atleti extremely difficult for any team to defeat is that Simeone has, as Guardiola did before him, gotten talented individuals to subsume their talent and ambition toward a team goal.

That is a battle that Tata Martino lost before he even had a chance to start fighting it. When he said that he was here to help the team regain something that it had lost, his naivete, all of our naivete perhaps, was in thinking that a man without ultimate power ever could. Meanwhile, Barça is surrounded, on and off the pitch.

atmmessi

The aftermath

The match ended, and the long knives came out as people took after unfavored players. Fabregas was bad, Mascherano was bad, Alba didn’t do this, somebody else didn’t do that. Martino is in over his head and made a lousy match selection. For me, these were nothing more than psychic salve that people are slathering over reality — we don’t have the horses to play against a top-flight world that has figured out how to stuff tika-taka. You play physical football, you flood the midfield, and you press and work like a dog. You isolate a great team into talented individuals, who can then be stopped individually.

Teams of anything but top caliber players can’t pull it off, because the quality our team brings to the table is such that if you tire, if you let up even for a second, something magical will happen. But a top team with a plan and a mission has again exposed a system that is past its time.

Blame? Excoriation? I can’t be angry at these players who have brought me so much indescribable joy. It’s impossible for me. I can’t single anyone out for particular scorn, saying that if only this player or that player had done this. Messi ran 6.5km today. So what. He has had matches before where he has probably run as little, but scored a hat trick.

As Buddhists are fond of saying, whatever you did, you did your best. Today, our team’s best was left in the shade by another team’s best. We couldn’t play because we weren’t allowed to play. Iniesta had loose control and was misplacing passes. Seemed odd, until you realized that no matter what he did or where he did it, he had an Atleti player or two up his butt. And there were two more charging the passing lane that he thought he had. It really was an astonishing display that for me, was vastly more impressive than the Bayern hiding.

And when your team is outplayed as completely as ours was today, all that you can do is congratulate them, and wish them luck in the next round.

More significantly, I can’t be mad at this team because I am too busy being mad at the people who are truly culpable for today’s situation: our board.

Leadership void

atmmartino

Leadership is a top-heavy thing. When it comes to coaching a team that has already done it all, you need leadership of the kind that comes from your bosses making it abundantly clear that the power rests in you.

Joan Laporta was a cigar-smoking, cava-soaked party boy who wanted precious little more than to celebrate victories. Spend a little more? Sure! When he brought in Pep Guardiola, his leadership was such that it was clear as crystal that Guardiola was the boss, fully supported by his board. If you didn’t like it, you had to deal with Guardiola. He shipped out Deco and Ronaldinho right away, a cornerstone and an icon. And the team understood.

Tata Martino came in to replace an incumbent coach who took ill. The board flew him in, all rumpled and seersucker jacketed, to coach a collection of players who were considered the best team in the world. It was imperative of that board to make absolutely certain that Martino had every bit of the power and control that it was clear Guardiola had.

He didn’t know the squad, but he knew enough to know, even as he was saying that Puyol was one of our important signings, that it was bullshit. He’s watched matches, he watched the team practice and knew what it needed.

Nothing happened in the summer, nothing happened in the winter and there he was, looking almost like a man worried about being asked back.

Someone on Twitter compared him to Frank Rijkaard, and I had to quibble, because you can’t lose a locker room that you never had.

There were so many rumblings about player discontent that in the smoke=fire theory, a conflagration was roaring in the background. He tried changes, and certain players spoke out, saying “We have our way.”

A coach with full power would have said, “Fine, and I have my way. When you get your team, you can have your way. Meanwhile, watch my way from the bench.”

So even as people want to fire and pillory Martino for not being up to the job, we don’t really know if he is or not. We know that he can take an inadequate squad and keep them in three competitions until late in the season, a squad that is still in the running for a domestic double. We know that he must have ideas about what he wants to do. We know that he struggles with making the right changes when he is limited by the personnel on hand.

We know all of this, even as we see him struggle to react in a timely, correct fashion and we know exactly some of what is at the root of his struggles. Power and control.

“Put in Sanchez and pull Fabregas, you fool,” culers screamed. He did that, and Atleti kept on doing what it was doing. He pulled an ineffective Iniesta, and people carped about that. And you wonder if he wanted to pull Messi instead of Iniesta, you wonder if he wanted to make deeper, broader changes but felt like he didn’t have the real authority. Yes it’s speculation, because we don’t know. Only he does. So we sit and natter about possibilities.

But in the leadership that should have been provided by a group busy chasing giant baubles, a coach flounders in that void. They have their stadium mandate. They also have the looming wreckage of a priceless collection of talent, home-grown geniuses that is being squandered through inaction, through ignoring a squad that has needed an overhaul for too long, and now that a potential FIFA ban is looming, that overhaul might be delayed even longer.

I can’t be angry at the players, because all of my rage, righteous, spluttering and red-eyed, is directed at the men running this club. We voted for them. Even if you didn’t vote it was just as good as voting for them, and this is what we get: marketing, shiny things and a team going to waste.

Desire? If you work at a firm where the bosses don’t value the employees, don’t give them everything that they need to be successful, how hard are you going to blast away once you figure that out? Discouragement is subtle in the way that it erodes the quality of effort. Messi said that this board deserves a team that matches the quality of its players. I fully agree with him.

No, the board didn’t fail to execute, didn’t get its butt kicked on the pitch. But it created the conditions in which the things we are seeing that resulted in that beating, could thrive.

Execution

atmneymar

I have to keep coming back to that legendary Mike Tyson quote, “Everybody has a plan, until they get punched in the mouth.”

On paper, Fabregas as the false 9, feeding a rampaging Messi and Neymar can work. It should work. It gets Messi out of the center box, creates operating space. Yet when the match starts, you have to execute that plan, and it’s pretty hard to execute when you are being punched in the face.

Some say Messi made it easy for him, and was by far our worst player on the pitch. Maybe. Or was it that as our most dangerous player, he got the most attention? Depends on interpretation. But no matter the plan, the players have to execute.

Did Barça create chances? Absolutely. Messi squandered a couple, as did Xavi. But mostly it was Atletico playing as if they had 14 men instead of 11, and if all else failed, there was Courtois. Fait accompli.

A fundamental part of execution is being allowed to execute. Supporters act as though matches are being played in a vacuum, that players are trying to miss passes, or get shots stooped by the keeper. But the opponent has something to do with that. Barça has, for the past 5 seasons, had a system of play, one that has come to be known as tika taka, that has conquered all. Pit, pat, pass, goal. Reams of verbiage flowed to celebrate our tiny geniuses, but then something inevitable happened: opponents got tired of that crap.

In devising a simple way to disarm tika taka, physical pressing by fast, fit players came into vogue. Suddenly, tika taka was flawed, and being found out. Still, the team was winning enough, still in all of the big competitions. So stand back and watch the wizards do their thing.

But tika taka places a premium on execution. Because it is easier to destroy than to create, 22 passes had to happen to result in a glorious, oh-so-logical goal. Yet only one foul, or foot in a passing lane had to happen, to reduce that magic to an “Ooooh! Almost!” There will always be another chance, until there isn’t.

There are no more chances until next Champions League.

Meanwhile, Rome burns

This team has wants, and needs. But the board also has wants. Because they are in control, their wants supersede those of the team’s. “Our players are good enough, now how about that new stadium, eh?” Transfers that should have been made, were sacrificed at the altar of austerity.

We have sponsorships, we have a shirt sponsor, the nou Nou will have a surname sponsor. Debt is dwindling, and our accountants are thrilled as is the board. “Look what we done for y’all! Record profits!”

You math whizzes can calculate what Xavi, Busquets, Valdes, Messi, Iniesta, Pedro, Puyol would cost on the open market. Fabregas was close to 40m, and he isn’t of the quality of our home-grown murderers’ row, a group that deserves every possible opportunity to succeed. Delay the stadium, and buy a CB or three. The future can wait as regards a building, because in terms of the rarer building material that is a once in a lifetime player, the future is now. Right now.

Possibly now, that right-now future is gone along with an opportunity. Xavi is all but done. Don’t let anyone fool you. With the right team additions, he could have had another brilliant season instead of having to hear the buzz that he’s past it.

They did the right thing for the wrong reasons in acquiring Neymar, who has been at times a boon for Messi, even as they still haven’t played well together in a way that even scratches the surface of the potential offered by two such magical attacking players. For like the nou Nou, Neymar is a bauble, as important as a new stadium even as his presence was less capable of being delayed.

Now, in the ashes of another Champions League ass-whipping, we are beginning to understand the cost of that focus on other things. Relating those things to the future of the club nownownownow! is, to my view, as big a boondoggle as their “more Catalan than thou” Senyera waving that seduced people into voting for the least-weak among the weak. In a field of “Meh,” the “Not bad” came to the fore.

They had a plan, and they executed it. That plan, seemingly, included amortizing risk … that brilliant players can be brilliant for a while longer, while we hoard money and get our monument ready. The risk failed, and for that there is culpability.

Not now. The new stadium is necessary and essential for this club’s successful future. The previous board figured it could wait, that buying players so that this team could keep winning was important, is my speculation based in the actions that it took. An athlete’s half-life is limited, and the time is almost always now.

Guardiola wanted transfers. Vilanova wanted transfers. And (don’t kid yourself) Martino wanted transfers. The first could have put his foot down. The second was distracted. The third is, functionally, caretaker to a bunch of talented millionaires, bereft of the authority from a fully supportive board that is sawing away at “For the Love of Money” while a team goes to ruin.

So what now?

Now, the Copa and Liga are still in play, a domestic double that given the state of our squad, would be one hell of a feat. To do it we are going to have to beat RM, who must be sick and tired of losing to us by now, and run the table in Liga up to and including beating Atleti in the last match of the season.

Everybody has ideas about who they would sell, fire or trade for a goat. Right now that doesn’t interest me because I have some mojo to burn, some voodoo to work, some chits to call in from the Footy Gods.

But most importantly, I have a team to support.

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68 Responses to “Atletico 1, Barça 0 (2-1 agg.), aka “That fist to the face … who put that there?””

  1. fotobirajesh says:

    Brilliant Kevin, brilliant. For me this is your best.
    For the first time after the match I could laugh out reading this – Bale knew he was there, could have marked him but seemed to say, “A defender will deal with that. I have magic to create.”

    Atleti had a plan which they executed. After reading about Tata missing team lunch to watch Atleti videos, I feel quite sorry for the team. Very clear, we didnt had a plan and if at all there was any it was to ask teams potent threat to remain on the edge and to not get involved if possible.

    There were times yesterday when I wondered, how the hell can these group of players look so far away from their real self. Anybody think, may be they were demotivated by the fact that their coach didnt have any clue to do what?
    This team was spoon fed by Pep, remember, about the subtle details in the approaching game.
    Plus, they might not be happy with all what is happening around the club too.

    I didnt see Bayern – MU. But read Michael Cox who says Pep made incredible decisions yday.

    I hope we win the Copa. I am not sure about the liga, as you know its Atleti again at the end.

  2. Levon says:

    Amazing. I don’t think I have ever agreed with you as much as while reading this review.

    • IamXavi6 says:

      I absolutely agree with ALL you have said. Im with Lev, agree on all points you have raised.

      And just to put here what I said in last blog to comment on your statement:
      “More significantly, I can’t be mad at this team because I am too busy being mad at the people who are truly culpable for today’s situation: our board”


      Nothing to say but congrats to Atleti who were clearly the better side and were good value to go through.

      As above, don’t hang this in Tito. This is solely on the Board and their transfers that have finally caught up with us. We clearly didn’t learn much from the Bayern game after all.

      I hope Atleti go on and win the CL now.

      Time to focus on the league and realise we were outclassed and to accept and lose with grace…sometimes you just arn’t good enough.

      • barca96 says:

        Rosell, Zubiza and co. weren’t on the pitch nor selecting the players and tactics. Our squad as it is is good enough to beat Atletico. The players could’ve played better and the manager could’ve made better choices.

        • IamXavi6 says:

          True enough, but they ultimately have a major say in what resources are available to grace the pitch.

          As Noted in the post:

          The board didn’t fail to execute, didn’t get its butt kicked on the pitch. But it created the conditions in which the things we are seeing that resulted in that beating, could thrive.

          • barca96 says:

            True, the board is accountable for that but the current players that we have is good enough to handle Atletico. Many here said that we are the best if not a top 3 team.

  3. IamXavi6 says:

    Oh, and for everyone throwing out the mandatory “sell Messi” lines..how spoilt you all are to hang shit on the onw guy who has time and again got the result on the board for this team against all odds. Yes, Leo isnt untouchable and deserves to be scrutinised as required but to SELL? These are not the fans we need ar this club.

  4. barcadan says:

    Your words are a balm on our wounds Kxevin. And learning to lose is what makes the sport a philosophic endeavor. Learning to recognize a superior opponent is what makes it art. Some of us need to look back on our initial reactions after this deflating loss and think about that.

  5. Let’s see Barca created chances? Yes, they did but those were pretty much half decent chances, the ones we usually miss even when we are on top. There is a narrative that we are too much dependent on Messi. For me we does not fully realize what he can do to destabilize opposition. If we ever to break tight defenses, that can only be done via Messi. Like we over run Milan at Camp Nou last season. The key is to help Messi find some space. That should be how we align themselves. As Koke said before the match there is so much than goals to Messi’s game. But we only see the goals it seems. The statement that they doesn’t want to run everything thru Messi is the most ridiculous one. You have a player like that run everything through him, but make sure you provide solution from people or team closing him. That’s what we need to realize.

    Messi is not the problem for our helplessness against compact defense, he is actually the solution. Only if we provide him the space to make his magic work, and that too he doesn’t need too much space.

  6. flyzowee says:

    As everyone has said this is a great review and almost all points are rock solid and undebatable.

    The only question that I and so many other cules are asking is whether this is finally THE result that shocks our board into making the additions necessary for us to elevate our game further. You can understand the doubt because so many of us thought the Bayern game would do it but here we are.

  7. Nick says:

    The drive Atleti had was incredible. Simeone probably promised to kill if someone dared not to give it their all. As for us, I have serious doubts about any trophies this season. The “deixarem la pell” attitude is nowhere to be seen. Would be delighted to be proven wrong.

  8. FCBblaug says:

    I agree with this article.
    My observation
    1. Our team can no longer play the same way as it did against real big teams. Real teams not just a collection of individuals, not RM because they are a collection of individuals as kevin pointed. Atletico has very spirited players and a very spirited coach. They play as a team, something that we no longer do. Bayern did the same last season
    2. Too much complacency and too many prima donnas in one team. Messi and alves standout for me. Alves feels like he can do whatever he likes without being questioned. He can show up or not, and then blast the fans for not being supportive. Messi decides when to run, and when to walk around. For a winger/false nine or whatever he played last night, he made too little movement. 6.8 km? Only 1.5 km less than Pinto. The guy has won everything and has been overexalted to the point where he believes he can just show up, walk around, be served by a hardworking neymar and score a tap in, and grab the headlines. Man i miss that messi who used to fight for the team. Not this prima donna messi who we are going to raise his salary, so that he becomes top earner or whatever. How can he help us by being static? We are a pass and move team, not pass and wait for a tap in or penalty. He should be thankful he was offered a lot of space between the lines by the COLLECTION OF INDIVIDUALS (man city and madrid), but not every team is gonna do that.
    You would notice that our players who have never won the UCL were the ones who gave the best fight, i am talking about alba, and , neymar
    3. We need more and even more physicality in pur team. We cant and we dont win any duels, any 50-50 challenge was atletico’s, every aerial duel was theirs. We need to employ physicality, since we have lost our essense due to age of players, and opponent adaptation.
    I have seen some of our matches vs chelsea some seasons in the past where chelsea would run our small players like xavi, deco, and giuly rampant, and then in the second leg, rijkaard would use players like edmilson, van bommel and larsson and we’d fare better.
    We have created our own problem by losing physical players for more small, weak players. I really dont want to see how we will be next season with transfer ban, because other teams will strengthen and we will have an even older, weaker squad
    4. Tata martino was clueless, he didnt prepare the team well. He is trying very hard to fit a misfit in cesc, to our game plan and it is not helping. Cesc is slow, not physical and poor in general. If the guy finds it well in him, he should just rescind the contract, at one point i feel he is being too harshly judged because he lacks a variable squad that Zubizarretta claims we have, but on the otherhand, he is clueless and not that big of a motivator.
    I would warmly welcome roberto martinez, a very intelligent coach. He is the kind of guy i would give my transfer kitty for him to buy the players he pleases!
    5. A summer clearout if we get the ban suspended and my suggestions for next season
    I believe the following players should go
    Sold: mascherano to napoli. His height problems will still haunt us in DM as well, we are short of a tall man when he plays, and he is not a barca type DM anyways, Song, cesc fabregas, alexis sanchez, tello, dos santos, cuenca, bojan, afellay, cuenca,oier
    Loaned to gain experience before an imminent return: sergi roberto, montoya,
    Promoted: masip, dennis suarez, samper, rafinha return
    Bought: ter stegen, keylor navas, benatia, balanta,de sciglio as the defensive RB so that alba becomes our attacking fullback full time, bruno soriano as busquets backup, vidal as our physical CM and gundogan to replace cesc fabregas, oscar cardozo as CF for variation and tactical flexibility

    No need to play 4-3-3 false nine if, the CBs are not even interested in following the false nine to midfield, they just hand him over to the DMs and focus on other things. Last season messi was handed over to schweinsteiger, this time he was handed to tiago mendez, and they did very well

    Formationwise 4-3-1-2
    De sciglio-benatia-pique-alba
    Rafinha-busquets-vidal
    ———-iniesta—————
    ——-messi—neymar——
    With the following options availbale from the bench:
    1. Tobe able to replace messi/neymar when they are underperforming with cardozo as our striker. Or start the striker to rest any of the two, or to use pedro especially in small matches where he thrives. Enough with this messi untouchable thing. If he needs to be subbed or benched so be it. Barca comes first, then his individual glory later
    2. We can replace any of the mids with xavi or gundogan from the bench
    3. When we need to attack on both wings FBs we can introduce alves

    Why did i choose thus formation
    1. It has balance in defense! Alba is very attacking but doesnt ignore his defensive duties, de sciglio is very defensively sound and can slot in as an extra CB
    2. Bisquets has help in defending because both rafinha and vidal have very high defensive work rates, they are excellent at pressing and they have pace and some sort of height,
    3. This frees messi and iniesta and neymar to do their thing in attack
    4. We have very hungry players, rafinha and vidal are goal scoring threat from midfield as well.
    Mind you, vidal has almost 20 goals thisseason, and averages 4.5 tackles a game

    Comments, suggestions will be appreciated

    • erMESSIdi says:

      My friend…

      So, you criticize Martino and then you propose a list of 10 signings for the new coach…a bit of contradiction isn’t it? Meanwhile Martino, took his new squad and didn’t have the possibility to have even a single signing requested from him. Is there a similar precedent in Europe top teams? Even more, this season have happened so many ‘things’ (in and off the pitch) that can’t be counted…

      Martino has his ‘faults’ for sure but I doubt that anyone would have done better than him this season (in CL I mean, since the Liga and Cup are still open).

      • FCBblaug says:

        I mean those are random thoughts of what could be done.
        Yes, martino might have done better with new players, but he doesnt look like a motivator to me, not does he look able to prepare tactics for an opponents.
        Signings because of the weaknesses i see that need to be addressed, again not all of those need to be made either! But we need to add the following elements
        1. Height in defence
        2. Pressing, height and physicality in midfield
        3.variations in attacks!

        I mean we shouldnt do all the above, but a few from there would prove useful

    • barca96 says:

      After reloading the page, scrolled, I scrolled up and saw the word de Sciglio and I already suspected you haha. Good to see you.

  9. Peter says:

    It’s never middle ground for Barcelona.

    A couple of weeks ago after the Clasico there were comments in the Guardian “make no mistake, with the addition of a single world-class defender this team can become invincible again.”
    Cue today culers shouting Messi be sold.

    Unfortunately I cannot write this any smaller so that it can be hidden:
    Kxevin, I agree entirely with your post. Entirely.

    I have known it for a long time ago, and I accepted it. This board was gambling on the continued brilliance of the team. I agree with the goal, because a Barcelona in poor financial situation cannot have a continued success on the pitch after the current generation of players are gone.

    One thing I’d like to point out, which probably has been singled out before:
    Barcelona’s success on the pitch has gone down with the continued disappearance of physical players on the team – physical in both stature and/or manner of play.
    In 2010-11, the last time the team won the Champions League, the team had Abidal, Puyol, Pique and Keita.
    In 2009 it had all those plus Yaya Toure, Henry and Eto’o(to name a few). Maybe there’s a lesson to be learned here.

    What matters now is how the club will proceed from here. If the board(to which I continue to trust with financial prudence and frugality) manages to survive until transfer window, I expect them(both in terms of “predict” and “demand”) to recognise that they have to rebuild the team in order to continue to govern – and do it.

    For me Neymar’s addition practically makes it impossible for Tello, Affelay and Cuenca to remain. Alexis and my namesake all provide the same qualities as those three – and do it better. So what remains, if he can be found, would be strong striker who knows his job is to occupy a portion of the defence and be a target man for corners, set pieces or when he can just has to bruise past the opponent’s defence to score.
    I hate to say it, but if someone from midfield needs to go, it’s Song. He’s a good squad player, but what Barcelona need is someone to help Busquets rotate and in big games stomp all over the midfield and mark opposing CF out of the match. And that man for me is Mascherano. Also, recall Rafinha so that Xavi doesn’t have to play more than one game per week and rest him both physically and mentally.
    What that means is that the defence needs two CBs of the triple F variety(Fast and Furious and Fysical). One of them left-footed. Bartra has shown that he has what it takes. Pique for me has improved from his “Shakiro” phase.

    Yes, it’s not one world-class defender. But if this board wants to continue to govern, it has to show that even though not voted in, it has legitimacy, beyond the statutes of the club.

    That legitimacy can be earned by doing what must be done. And what must be done is for this board to put its money where its mouth is and show it will not let financial frugality stand in the way of continued on-pitch success. Also, give free reign to the coach.

    P.S. Since I try to be objective, I have to remind all critics of the current board that the board is not certain to be in place until 2016. A vote of no confidence can bring them down. What the referendum showed is that the socis want a modern sport complex. Confidence in the board is something else.

  10. fotobirajesh says:

    BFB,
    a friend called me to say, when he click on my nickname here on BFB , it is going to some online casino page.
    I am sorry, I dont know how this happened. I have changed this on the profile, but seems it is still the same.

  11. kosby says:

    So clearly we got the tactics wrong, which means this falls on the manager’s doorstep. But at the start of the season, the manager wanted us to play differently, less control, more verticality, more goals scored, more goals conceded, less possession. More space for Messi/Neymar/Alexis/Pedro. And then something happened. Apparently players did not like the change in how they play. Even though it was required that our “way of playing” changes to keep up with the opposition tactics, the players thought “nope, we know to play one way and that is how we’ll play”. And then Tata was like “hmm, well the team should be playing this way, but they arent trained to play like this, moreover they dont want to play like this…how do I get the best out of them ? I could make them play the way they want and ensure they are fully invested in this vision or I could get some other players that actually suit the vision. Oh but since I cant get any other players, maybe I’ll stick to getting the maximum out of these players by playing the way they want to”.

    That is how I imagine Tata was thinking. Ofcourse we cant prove it either way…

    Athletico are a team that causes chaos, they want to break up your game and they are very good at doing that. Our exact opposite. Either we stick to building from the back and up our level or we play them at their own game, give them the ball lose possession and hit them on the break. I think a team like Dortmund would have been an ideal opponent to beat them, too bad they were eliminated by EE. The way I see it Athletico are favorites for this competition if their players arent injured.

    • Peter says:

      Personally I don’t see Atleti as favourites, unless they pull a Chelsea, but the best of pulling a Chelsea are, well, Chelsea – and Courtois can’t play against Chelsea. Real Madrid have the men to break through the defense of Atletico – if they have the tenacity. Bayern are the same. None of those three teams will let themselves be pushed about by Atletico’s midfield or defense.

  12. Rami says:

    Instead of choosing the route of ‘finger pointing’ to justify an unwanted result, I’ll try to take the sensible route.

    There is a reason why (statistically speaking) teams that have their 1st leg away from home have a higher chance of qualifying, It’s because if they happen to screw up, They can make up for it in their home, And this is where our biggest screw up happened, We failed to win in camp nou, No one can deny that our players put all their heart and effort in that game, But if you don’t take the initiative, You don’t take your chances, You leave yourself at the mercy of your opponent, And diego punished us.
    In calderon, A first 20 minutes that lacked any coherence and communication in the back-line flushed all the players plans of repenting their earlier mistake down the drain, There is a saying where where i live, “A mistake from the smart, Is worth a thousand”, Well we did two.

    We can reshuffle the line-up all day long but when facing the team with the best defense in Europe, You’ll always end up with just a few chances, And should always take them!, Always score that first goal, Always take the initiative, And we failed, And failed, And failed, And failed, And failed.

    On a more broad view, Our team lacks diversity in it’s squad, It’s just too homogeneous, Most of the players on the bench are there only to cover an injury or rotation, Instead of actually offering alternative options on the pitch, And for a club that wants to win it all, It’s something that has to change.

    • Kxevin says:

      You describe the fundamental complexity of having an XI stuffed with icons. Let’s take, for example, if Martino had indeed decided to sub Messi. Imagine the fallout and stress, even if it had worked. Because you just don’t sub out the best player in the world, no matter how he is playing, right?

      Further if you do, who do you sub him with? Our bench is chockablock with adequacy, save for a few examples, and nobody who can turn a match on its head (not that I think there was any answer for what Atleti was doing). Pedro? No. Sanchez? No.

      So it comes down to the Gala XI, and as you again note, they have to take their chances. That patently ABSURD Neymar play that led to Messi missing a chance on the doorstep. Gotta finish those. If that happens, it’s 1-1 at the half and the team is thinking it has life, instead of getting increasingly desperate as the match progressed.

      The most impressive thing about the Treble squad wasn’t the talent, but the diversity. From Iniesta to Keita, from Busquets to Toure Yaya.

      • G6O says:

        If that had gone in, I am quite sure we would have gone though and we would be now praising genius of the Neymar-Messi combo.

        And we would be all committing a grave error because once again individual brilliance would have masked the systematic deficiencies in the team. This was in fact the case against RM in the last Classico too – they went up by a goal twice because of our systemic problems, we answered with individual brilliance and eventually won it. But you can’t bet on that all the time – real strength means that you rely on miracle plays from your best players only when you are unlucky to find yourself in a difficult situation, not as your default plan…

  13. Ultraculé says:

    Really nicely written article. And I wholeheartedly agree with everything. Too disappointed and pissed to add anything more right now. maybe later. thanks for the post K.

  14. simple_barcafan says:

    Wonderful and a brilliant article Kxevin. Hats of to you. This must be one of the best match review articles for the game..I have to say, I agree with everything.

    With regards to Tata, you said there is this unknown about him not having the full power to do what he wants, he didn’t have total backing by the board, players (allegedly) not respecting his tactics etc. the But there is something to note here too.

    The difference between a good coach and a great coach is not only how well you utilize your players and their potential, but how much you can get them to respect you. That is possible only if you are willing and bold enough to follow and implement your tactics with out caring what others think or what the consequences might be. It might get you in trouble, you might be kicked out for not toeing the line. but..But, if your tactics are good enough and you are extremely confident about it, then players will follow you for they will know you are the boss. You can never be a great leader without having full belief in your system or if you keep listening to others. Pep had that. He shipped Eto’,Deco, Ronaldinho, Zlatan, Yaya (wow, that is quite a list! lol), because he was confident of his tactics and the players understood who was in charge.

    Players feed of the confidence of the coach. (Pep, Klopp, Mou, Simeone..). Tata is too passive, a media delight as Graham put it, a diplomatic guy, one who will not rock the boat too much, who will try to adjust his ways to fit the board wants rather than rattle the cage. I really can’t judge him cause if he has never been able to implement his system fully cause of external factors, then we don’t know how good he is.

    Yes, he had a lot of things against him. A sudden call up to be the coach of the best team of the world(at that time), no proper preseason, not being able to bring in his own players, a board which was more interested with financial matters than the sporting project, players who had won everything and had just lost a coach due to illness, the aura of Pep looming like a big shadow, the rabid Catalan/Spanish media (Again, quite a list..), but then you know all this when you sign the contract. Not all, but atleast have an idea. You know the only way you can change all this is come with a clear plan and IMPLEMENT it irrespective of, try to get the best out of the players which were provided (not the ones you want) and most importantly MOTIVATE the players to keep achieving and pushing the limits and to play as a team, to be able to have the flexibility to change your tactics, to innovate when you face a team that has neutralizes your gameplan four consecutive times. Has Tata succeeded in everything?

    I dunno…

    • LeoMessi says:

      Pep was able to shipped Eto’,Deco, Ronaldinho, Zlatan, Yaya because he had support of board. In Laporta reign he was the boss. but Tata does have any kind of power.

      You are right that Martino knew about the problems he gonna face. But same can be said about players too when Martino was signed that they knew he would wanna change style. Remember in First half of the season barca used to play more vertical less control less possession but players didn’t like it so he started playing with 4 CMs to gain more possession and control of game. Had he not listined to player we would have AVB chelsea scenario. Given the constrains, unfair criticism, limitations of squad or without backing from board or partial backing from players he has done a great job.

  15. Messiah10 says:

    Great review Kxevin. Thank you so much for posting a link to Graham Hunters column. Just read it and all I can say is, Wow. Remember the time when all was right with the world? When Pep had the support of the board, players, & supporters. It was magical. I wish I could go back in time to better soak in that atmosphere again. Maybe we’ll get there again someday. It won’ be in the near future though.

  16. Messiah10 says:

    If Atletico draw Chelski in the CL they will have to pay Chelski $6 million to have Courtious between the sticks! $3 million per game. Wow.

  17. TITO says:

    In the other news, Ronaldo will miss the Cup final. I guess that’s a good news for us.

  18. osofc says:

    We can still play the tiki taka with the right players. First we need to gain height and physicall strength. Some players need to be sold, and some others need to understand that they might need to play a bit less. We need two CB two midfielders and at least on center forward. I think Mamadouh sahko. And balanta, in midfield Arturo Vidal and someone like Ramirez . Upfront we could sing Reus and another forward who wouldn’t mind being in bench sometimes like a benteke type of player. We could sold. Cesc. Mascherano . Afellay. Cuenca. Dos santos . And Alexis. Loan tello. And bring back rafinha and delofeu. Why because going back to that year when we won’t the sixth titles that team was balanced very well we had tall and ski full players like. Henry.pique ,puyol,busy,abidal,eto’o,toure, and small players like xavi , iniesta,alvez ,messi. And more so guardiola had from where to choose and change if he need it too. Maybe is time for messi to play behind a center forward to crate spaces for him. Oh what some people compliant is not about losing but the way u lose either martino or the new coach needs to talk to the players and be real with them they all have to run and fight for the team and they don’t want too then is time for them to go.

  19. osofc says:

    Oh one thing I hope it doesn’t happend is Chelsea vs atletico in the final hahah I can picture that game with both teams under their goal and the ball right in the middle of the pitch. Hahaha and none even trying to touch it.

  20. 86ed says:

    The seeds of what we see today were in retrospect sown in the summer of 2011. We did the league and CL double in awesome fashion, but the two signings from that period were not the wisest. Neither Sanchez nor Fàbregas were what the club needed. Hindsight is always 20/20 so I’ll give the Zubizarreta the benefit of the doubt. He had on his hands a winning team, a great coach, the best four players on any team… It would have taken a mad sort of genius to foresee the need to change the things by signing, instead, say a player like Martínez, strong on the ball and physically imposing; a younger version of Touré but with less pace.

    Compare that to Bayern, if you will. They won the Treble in ’13. What was their response? Did they rest on their laurels? Did they sign players they did not need? No. They signed the best coach in the world and added two of the best young talents around. More importantly they signed those players from direct competitors both domestically and internationally.

    Now a long period of transition awaits us. And with the FIFA ban looming it is bound to be a frustrating time. Maybe that’s not so bad a thing. For one, our expectations will be lowered.

  21. Kxevin says:

    Latest rumor, reported by Onda Cero and echoed by a couple of connected folks is that Klopp is coming, and bringing Reus with him. There are “reports” of a pre-agreement, or some such.

    Craziness, and it isn’t even summer yet.

  22. scribblez says:

    Great article Kxevin. The best post match analysis I have read so far in the internet. Thank you for posting it.

    It was such a depressing game yesterday. But the atmosphere at Calderon was terrific. Barca never got the chance to get into the game.

    I feel however the team is not on form. They were reaching the peak around the Osasuna/RM match and then Valdes injury somehow destabilized the team. Since the second half against Celta, the team hasn’t played well. The rhythm that was there, which made us feel us Barca is ready for anybody now, seems to be absent in the last few matches.

    We have to seriously regroup to get the intensity and confidence back for winning the Copa and Liga. This is a time when the team needs our support most.

    Almost all the journalists and most of the fans predicted that Barca is not good enough to win CL this year and everyone pundit predicted Athletico to go through. Yet they are outraged at the loss and willing to pelt stones at the team and the coach.

    I sincerely believed that this team could win it all this year. Didn’t happen. Sucks as hell. But hope we win the league and the Cup.

    At last, if Tata goes at the end of the season, hope he goes with his head held high – winning a trophy. I think he has done enough for that. For the people who think that a big name coach and couple of CBs will solve our problems – yeah right!!!

  23. KEVINO17 says:

    As mentioned above, I think the solution to the Messi problem is to bring him right back into the midfield and force him to play a more creative role. Tell him (and the world) the team doesn’t want his goals any more. Just wants him to dominate the midfield. At the moment, I think he feels that if he doesn’t score goals he’s failed. So he focuses just on that.

  24. PrinceYuvi says:

    A perfect article.
    Kudos kx !

    A Lopsided Squad can take you only so far.

    It’s no Rocket Science really.
    Other teams don’t have
    Messi, Iniesta or Busquets.

    But they do have a much better team than us.

    We’re doing us no favours by playing like this.

    Tata doesn’t want to play a Cesc at 9, but a Cavani.
    Just give the guy what he needs, it also what we need.

  25. barca96 says:

    I love Cruyff but when he takes shots at this board, I know it’s more for personal reasons and BS politics. And when I actually read the article, this part gave it away;

    Cruyff, who was joined by former president Joan Laporta, concluded by admitting that has no yet spoken with current president, Josep Maria Bartomeu, who has continually stressed that he wants to speak to Cruyff and mend the bridges.

    Look, I too don’t like the current board but to shift the blame to the board after a loss is not right. We were good most of the times this season, why was it fine and dandy then?

    We all know why we lost, it was all on the players first and Tata second. Don’t tell me that with the players at Tata’s disposal, he couldn’t have done better.

    What about Simeone? Our squad is full of the best players but Simeone is still able to squeeze the most of his less talented and much less paid players. Yet Simeone is able to push them to greater heights. In that aspect, Tata has his work cut out for him but yet he couldn’t prepare his players for this match.

    Simeone had 2 key players missing from their line up and Tata still insists on playing with the conservative 4 midfielders when we should’ve gone for the kill.

    In the first leg, at HOME in a CL tie, instead of going for goals, he went for a safe approach too. So it is not wrong to say that he lacks European experience or KO experience (I don’t really believe that because it’s the same everywhere).

    -wrong tactics
    1.crossing. been doing it all season long
    2.shoehorning Cesc into the side. he has failed against every big team and yet Tata hasn’t learned his lesson. Go back to what we’re best at, 4-3-3!
    3.it’s the 5th time we played Atletico and yet he hasn’t figured it out.

    Simeone has a much lesser budget and a smaller squad and lesser skilled players to begin with so I really don’t buy the “Tata didn’t get to buy his players” argument. Really poor excuse for me.

    The players should shoulder most of the blame but when the manager is choosing the wrong tactics and players, it is hard for the players to battle it out on the pitch.

    The players could’ve figured it out themselves I thought by reverting back to what they know best. Pass and move, pass and move. I guess they needed someone at the sidelines to tell them.

    But Tata was either clueless and/or doesn’t dare to shout instructions to the players. Please don’t tell me that the evil Rosell and co. is also to be blamed for that by telling Tata not dare to shout at the players.

  26. barca96 says:

    I love Cruyff but when he takes shots at this board, I know it’s more for personal reasons and BS politics. And when I actually read the article, this part gave it away;

    Cruyff, who was joined by former president Joan Laporta, concluded by admitting that has no yet spoken with current president, Josep Maria Bartomeu, who has continually stressed that he wants to speak to Cruyff and mend the bridges.

    Look, I too don’t like the current board but to shift the blame to the board after a loss is not right. We were good most of the times this season, why was it fine and dandy then?

    We all know why we lost, it was all on the players first and Tata second. Don’t tell me that with the players at Tata’s disposal, he couldn’t have done better.

    What about Simeone? Our squad is full of the best players but Simeone is still able to squeeze the most of his less talented and much less paid players. Yet Simeone is able to push them to greater heights. In that aspect, Tata has his work cut out for him but yet he couldn’t prepare his players for this match.

    Simeone had 2 key players missing from their line up and Tata still insists on playing with the conservative 4 midfielders when we should’ve gone for the kill.

    In the first leg, at HOME in a CL tie, instead of going for goals, he went for a safe approach too. So it is not wrong to say that he lacks European experience or KO experience (I don’t really believe that because it’s the same everywhere).

    -wrong tactics
    1.crossing. been doing it all season long
    2.shoehorning Cesc into the side. he has failed against every big team and yet Tata hasn’t learned his lesson. Go back to what we’re best at, 4-3-3!
    3.it’s the 5th time we played Atletico and yet he hasn’t figured it out.

    Simeone has a much lesser budget and a smaller squad and lesser skilled players to begin with so I really don’t buy the “Tata didn’t get to buy his players” argument. Really poor excuse for me.

    The players should shoulder most of the blame but when the manager is choosing the wrong tactics and players, it is hard for the players to battle it out on the pitch.

    The players could’ve figured it out themselves I thought by reverting back to what they know best. Pass and move, pass and move. I guess they needed someone at the sidelines to tell them.

    But Tata was either clueless and/or doesn’t dare to shout instructions to the players. Please don’t tell me that the evil Rosell and co. is also to be blamed for that by telling Tata not dare to shout at the players.

    • fotobirajesh says:

      At the end of the match I was sad, but didnt think I will blame Tata, I only have respect for him.
      I am afraid, it is changing, the more I think about this match.

      Did at any point of this match, it looked like we had a clear tactic of how to win – except for that weird aspect of sending all the balls to left wing, after ‘asking’ your best man to stay at the right wing.

      The news that he was still looking for ways to break Atletico during team lunch, has completed my worry that, Tata didnt had any clue as to how to break Atleti defence, inspite of having played them 5 times. I think I can now understand why the players looked so terrible, even Iniesta. Its leadership. They knew very clearly that their coach didnt had any idea, how to proceed.

      On one side, you have a coach who tells exactly what to do (I think that first 20 minutes of play by Atletic was scripted) and make his players put in 120%, inspite of missing two of his best. ON the other side, our coach says ‘all five games have been similar and he has no expectation of sixth being different’.

      The major difference turned out to be the first 20 minutes.

  27. barca96 says:

    In the beginning my “little” brother asked me why we were hoofing the ball from the back when Atletico was non stop attacking. Why didn’t the players slow down the play instead of hoofing the ball. They did the same when we played Madrid earlier in the season in which we won but I still didn’t like the tactic.

    That again, is a tactic employed by Tata. Don’t tell me no because when we beat Madrid, a lot lauded Tata for it. Same as putting Messi on the right.

  28. KEVINO17 says:

    Maybe the solution really is bringing in a genuine goal-scorer – traditional number nine to play in front of Messi so that Messi isn’t treated as responsible for providing all the goals. I really think that the whole mentality of Messi being treated as the principle goal-scorer is really destructive. It creates a “get it to Messi” mentality and puts too much pressure on him as well. He stops thinking about the rest of his game. Let him roam around the midfield as a fantasy player.

    • barca96 says:

      But we already have Iniesta and Cesc doing that and Messi can always drop deep as he usually does (but for some reason didn’t do at all last night).

    • fotobirajesh says:

      I really think that the whole mentality of Messi being treated as the principle goal-scorer is really destructive – Not sure friend, at least this season. We have been trying hard to prove that Messi is not our only goal scorer and Messidependencia is out. In this match, most balls were going to the left, when Messi was roaming in the right wing. How many times did we see ball exchanges between Messi and Alves? This was a big feature before, not in this match.

  29. barca96 says:

    Sid Lowe ‏@sidlowe Apr 9

    Tata Martino says all five games have been similar and he has no expectation of sixth being different. Erm, hang on, isn’t that his job?

  30. psalmuel says:

    One thing is sure, we need:
    1. Physicality and height in midfield,defence and even attack. Tired of seeing our midgets been bullied around already.
    2. We need our manager to be in charge and by this I mean, Xavi or whoever shouldn’t be the one calling the shots on tactics. I can’t see Lampard telling Mou, ‘We won’t play ur way’. If he does that, he will be omitted in the next match squad. This team is Martino’s, not Xavi’s. Secondly, I don’t see Messi sleep walking in a Mou or Simeone team.
    3. We need Messi in midfield an a true 9 in front.
    4. Why the hell do Ini, Ney and Messi want to dribble past a hundred defenders? When you have 3-4 defenders on you, then ideally, you have 3-4 of ur team mates open right?
    5. I think Cesc at false 9 is the dumbest tactic of the 21st century.

  31. Levon says:

    New post is up, guys.

  32. barca96 says:

    ROFL. Tommoman at his best;

    tommoman
    09 April 2014 9:59pm

    Recommend
    104
    There are many adjectives to describe Manchester United’s performance this evening.
    Passion.
    Desire.
    Hunger.
    Courage.
    Commitment.
    Alas they fail to convey the true greatness of this away day endeavour.
    But one word truly sums up the performance today.
    And I’m quite certain you’ll all be in agreement.
    Yes.
    COURAGE!!
    For many young men a night in the Reeperbahn is the rite of passage into manhood.
    Tonight David Moyes young charges entered the Allianz Arena as boys.
    They left the pitch as MEN.
    Bravo, Europe is proud of you.

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