Valladolid 0, Barca 3, a.k.a. “Stand back, genius at work.”

No worries, Gerard. I got this.

The year 2008 might well stand as one of the best transfer summers that our beloved club has ever had. We grabbed Gerard Pique, Dani Alves and Seydou Keita, all in that same summer.

And at the time, people giggled as Del Nido rubbed his scaly fins together, saying that we were taken to the cleaners with the 14m for Keita and the 28m (and counting) for Alves. There were a lot of “What did we buy him for,” for the former, and “Boy, did we overpay” for the latter.

Only now, in the light of history and overwhelming success on the part of our club, do those transfer fees now seem a bargain, as both players have been crucial parts of our machine of victory. And today was no exception. Keita slid into the role of defensive midfielder and did an excellent job, and Alves just raised pure hell, with a hand in all three of our goals, one crappy little samba and a performance that earned the enmity of Valladolid’s home faithful.

So what the hell is this picture of Victor Valdes doing up here, right?

I have never, EVER had a more difficult time determining Man of the Match. Strong cases could be made for Keita, Alves, Puyol, Xavi and Valdes. And by a whisker, because I think that keeping goals out is a more crucial foundation than scoring them, it’s Valdes for me. But the debate in the comments section will be fascinating.

Even though Valladolid sit near bottom of the table, Guardiola rolled out his “we’re serious” lineup, with Valdes, Alves, Pique, Puyol, Abidal, Keita, Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Henry and Ibrahimovic. It might have been overkill for Valladolid, but Guardiola has other motives, I think. He wants his best lineup to play together as often as possible, in the run-in to the resumption of Champions League football. There are also some big matches in the Liga coming up, and what better way to get the machine in tune than to give it a nice run-out against a side that it should be able to take apart pretty easily.

Valladolid, however, didn’t get that script. They rolled out with the usual tactics against us, high pressure and a flooded midfield, and it worked a little bit only because we got off to our usual kinda sleepy start. We gradually began to work our way into the match, until an awful Pique giveaway led to an excellent Valdes save. And then came the two-minute stretch in which we put the match to bed. Keita broke up yet another Valladolid attack, then Pique played to Iniesta, who played to Xavi, who unleashed an inch-perfect backheel to Alves that sent us off to the races on a counter.

Think for a moment about how a keeper must feel as he sees running at him: Xavi, Messi, Alves, Henry and Ibrahimovic, with Keita and Iniesta waiting for any scraps that might fall from the bone. Tika-taka is one thing, as a good keeper can play the angles and at least have a shot. But on the break, forget it. So an inch-perfect cross from Alves found the (comparatively) unlikely danger man of that group, Xavi, who side volleyed it home.

It was 1-0, and Valladolid fans could be forgiven for thinking that it was undeservedly so. Well, they must have been crying in their beers when an Abidal interception again unleashed the hounds, with a lovely ball from Keita finding Alves, who did this crazy little bounce pass off the pitch to the head of Messi, whose glancing header fell perfectly to Alves in space.

Until the day that he dies, Dani Alves will say that he was shooting all along. I contend that it was a cross to Ibrahimovic, who was filling that back post like a locomotive to no avail, as Alves’ crosshot nestled into the far corner. His post-goal grin was a little sheepish, and just like that, in less than two minutes, really, the match was over, because Valladolid was already beginning to feel the price of the effort necessary to pressure us high, and chase the ball around.

And really, that was that. The rest of the match was rather unmemorable, as we knew that Valladolid couldn’t come back, and in their heart of hearts, Valladolid knew they couldn’t come back. Every time they tried, either Keita or Puyol were in place to say “Nope. Not today. Sorry.” But there were two moments that really stood out for me in the second half.

1. The third goal, which was really the product of bad control by Ibrahimovic, who couldn’t quite latch on to an Alves pass. So he got control and drifted laterally, having already spotted Messi, who was streaking in from midfield. He laid a millimeter-flawless ball in, which was roofed by Messi for the third goal that really made things well and truly hopeless for them.

2. If you have the match on DVR, or are watching a rebroadcast, pay particular attention at the 63-minute mark for a play that, for me, sums up why Xavi is irreplacable for us, more than any other player on the pitch. He takes the pass, works a one-touch with Alves and as he releases the ball, pauses to look up the pitch. It comes back from Alves and again, right before the ball comes back, he takes another snapshot of the rest of the pitch. He pops it back to Alves, slides forward just a bit to create space, gets the ball back and is bracketed by three defenders. He takes a hit, moves back a bit, never losing complete control of the ball, and side-foots a flawless pass to Ibrahimovic.

I commented on this during the liveblog, and it was even more dazzling on the T-and-V. If I were a fan of any player, it would be Xavi. All day and all night.

Team: 7. A nice, solid performance. They weren’t working at the highest level, but the beauty was there, and you can see us hitting stride. Every time an error was made, somebody was there to back things up.

Guardiola: 8. Leapt from the bench as if on fire when things seemed a little funky with the lads, and got things under control on the pitch. His frantic instruction for the defense to Abidal tightened things up at the back, and after those two goals, he relaxed quite a bit.

Valdes: 9. Some funky clearances kept him from perfection, but what a match, including that last save of a ball that took a crazy bounce off a very slick pitch. A lot of keepers spill that one, and with a Valladolid player right in his face, he had to be perfect. And that save off the free kick will have people saying “They hit it right at him,” but he was unsighted, and pulled off a crazy reflex save. Hell of a match, buttressed by precisely the kind of more static saves that people (like my dumb ass) say makes him not the best choice for World Cup duty. And the way he came off the line when Puyol and Milito were caught out by a pass? Wow.

Alves: 10. He was astounding today, with a hand in all three goals, firestarting and excellent defense. His offense is getting better, but the improvements in his defending this season are impressing me more, because it makes him less of a liability at the back. Before, it was “Well, we might have to cover for Dani, so get ready.” Now, he’s holding things down, even in 1-v-1 situations.

Pique: 4. Pretty crappy today, as he put us in danger time and again with passes directly to Valladolid attackers, or wayward headers.

Puyol: 9. Clearly, he and the ball were magnetized today, as every time something potentially dangerous got as far as our part of the pitch, there he was. Magnificent, Captain-quality match from a guy with an injured back? Are you kidding me?

Abidal: 7. Came down from his immense performance against Sevilla, but still a very good match full of timely interventions and interceptions.

Keita: 8. Worked like a dog out there, and played the destroyer DM role for us, where he just broke up attacks, played as the omnipresent passing outlet and made smart, direct passes to our midfielders. I know that there were some worries about him in the DM role for us, but he did an excellent job today, even finding the energy to do the box-to-box thing. And keep in mind that he just finished with ACN duty for Mali.

Xavi: 8. Some uncharacteristically loose possession, but what a match from our midfield general. He is so elegant, and so smart with the ball that it’s easy to take what he does for granted. We never, ever should. When he took that foul, and took a bit to get up, my heart was in my throat. We can play without anybody else. But not Xavi.

Iniesta: 8. I loved his match today, because he filled his joint wrecking ball role alongside Xavi. Those two work so well together, and Iniesta reined in his runs quite a bit, knowing that midfield control was going to win this match the way that Valladolid was attacking us. We’ve seemed a bit loose in midfield control these past few matches, and the return to Iniesta of his best (for my money) role is part of the reason we had the midfield so locked down today.

Messi: 5. Messi makes a run, ignoring both Ibrahimovic and Henry, who were both onside and open, and Ray Hudson is lauding Messi for almost making it, and being “slippery as an eel covered in Vaseline.” And there’s the problem. Someone should say “You should have passed the ball.” Again in the second half, he shot instead of squaring to a wide-open Keita for the tap-in, particularly after Keita made the defensive play to start the break, then busted his lungs to be in position to take the square ball. Instead, Messi opted for a shot that didn’t have a chance in hell of going in. Had some good moments, and scored a goal, but he seems to be regressing a bit.

Henry: 6. Unforgivable laziness in chasing an Alves cross. You can’t stop running, thinking that “The defender is going to get it anyway.” Bullshit. Now, the discipline in maintaining his width on the left, the interplay with Ibrahimovic and constant playing of defense earned him a better rating than I’m sure many think he deserved. Ray Ray was slagging him for being poor. For me, seeing him running alongside a Valladolid attacker, helping to harass the ball loose, has just as much value in our attack as his runs along the wing and into the box. Deserved a goal on that volleyed blast off an Alves cross, but the keeper was outstanding.

Ibrahimovic: 5. His game is almost complete, except for scoring goals, which is the reason we bought his big ass. His link-up play is exceptional, as is his passing. And he runs a lot. I know that people rip him for being lazy, but watch the match again to see how much he runs. I didn’t realize it. But his first touch is still off, and he’s making some questionable decisions with the ball. Luckily, we can afford to carry him for a bit. But soon, we’re going to need him. Bad.


Milito: 6. Nice, solid performance, and he works well with Puyol at the back. Yes, that furry tandem were caught square (and bailed out by Valdes), but for me, he might have played Marquez into the nether regions of the bench.

Txigrinski: 4. Bad. Just bad. Passes to the wrong people, and with insufficient weight. I know that he needs time, but come on, dude. You were better when you first arrived.

Krkic: 3. Is nonexistent worse that being bad? Good question. He was chasing the ball and the match in his late substitute role, to no avail. Maybe with more time he would have been less ineffectually anonymous.

–In the “Holy crap, Batman!” file, there’s a story building steam that Stuttgart is thinking about ripping up the Hleb loan agreement and sending him back to us before the window closes. Apparently, however, the Stuttgart coach likes him and his potential a lot, and wants to keep him. Stay tuned for that one.

And as usual, a bit of joy:

Yo. Fix the hair, Little Orphan Gabi.
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Written by:

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.


  1. January 24, 2010

    i agree with henry.
    but don’t really agree with his rating.
    he did more work defensively than offensively these days lol.
    henry and ibra should both get a 5.
    ibra’s 1st touch is out of the world(sarcasm lol)
    his passes were also off.
    when chiggy came on, it looked as if we were playing 4-4-2.
    am i right?
    ibra–bojan up front with messi in the middle.
    or was abidal pushed to the middle? i was kinda confused

  2. BA
    January 24, 2010

    long post inc.

    firstly: was the part you’re talking about with Xavi over on the near touchline? if so, it sticks in my brain because i saw that and reveled in it. my roommate thought we had scored because i was shouting YES, YES! BEAUTIFUL!

    Dani takes MOTM for me, and i’ll repost what i said in the earlier thread as to why: he scored 1, assisted 1, and provided the ball behind the ball for the 3rd. Dani had a huge hand in all our goals today and was a major passing outlet down the right that Valladolid, covering hard all over the rest of their tiny pitch (seriously, the pitches my 5th graders play on look bigger than that), just couldn’t handle. he was essentially the driving force behind our offense today which, as your ratings indicate, was pretty sub-par and brings me to my next point:

    Henry was utterly woeful, and there’s no way he should be rated higher than Messi. did Messi involve himself in the link-up play? no, not really. was he pretty anonymous for most of the game? yes. but when he got his chance he PUT IT IN THE NET, something Henry just isn’t doing. working hard, helping your wing-back, making runs is all well and good (and in keeping with the Pep philosophy) but a striker’s job first and foremost and above all else is to CREATE GOALS. Henry just didn’t do anything approaching that this game, nor has he really all season; which isn’t to say he hasn’t had good games, just that this wasn’t one of them.

    final thought: Pep has recognized that teams, exemplified by Villareal’s match against us earlier this month, are going way out of their way to pressure us high up the pitch and harry our passing out of the back, be that through Pique and the center-backs or if XavIniesta drop deep to receive it. therefore, we’re starting to ease more and more into playing on the counterattack and you can see it coming together as each game with this high pressure goes by. in a few weeks we’ll be well-versed in an area of the game we’ve haven’t really had to develop before, and we certainly have the sheer quality to make this high pressure as deadly as our suffocating possession game in time, but it’s really exciting to see it develop on the pitch.

    incidentally, i’d be really interested in a Hector write-up on that subject and what our best options for breaking quickly out of back and from set pieces are, and how we’ve been using it to date.

  3. Dave
    January 24, 2010

    Was it just me, or did Abidal looked pissed at something today? I didn’t see the second half so I don’tknow if this carried through the whole match, but every time the ball went out of play on the near side he looked kind of angry (often throwing his arms up in the air), like he was getting down on himself for something. Not sure if it was his own play, or what, but I gotta watch this match again and see if I can figure out what was up with him.

    • BA
      January 24, 2010

      because Henry wasn’t supporting him very well, he kept pushing up instead of dropping back and getting open. and Valldolid were really putting weight on that left side for whatever reason; good news is this left the right open for Dani to dominate. go back and watch how many times Henry and Abidal linked up down the left, it couldn’t be more than a handful.

      • January 24, 2010

        and he got a few bad balls that he could not control that resulted in counter attack or run out of play.
        the defense today really made some dangerous passes horizontally.

  4. BA
    January 24, 2010

    oh yeah, and Chysgrynskiy came on and immediately was shit. i worry that we may have Hlebbed ourselves again.

    • January 24, 2010

      yeah me too haha
      i was pissing im pants eventhough we were 3-0 up.
      he made at least 3 mistakes that dude.
      i think it’s time to give milito, muniesa and fontas the nod over him

      • majatt
        January 24, 2010

        I say give him a season, much like henry and keita to really step up. He is learning spanish/catalan and Guardiola has faith in him so I think he may need time.

        • Jnice
          January 24, 2010

          He already speaks Spanish and does interviews in Spanish which I think shows his professionalism and willingness to learn. He just has to show his development on the pitch.

          • January 25, 2010

            i’d rather give muniesa and fontas or bartra a chance over chiggy and marquez.

  5. jnelson
    January 24, 2010

    Awesome review. I think that the mistake Messi made by not squaring to Keita was not that bad. Keita was very far behind in the beginning and I doubt Messi could have seen him if he was looking; however, he never looked, and THAT is the problem. Oh, and Valdes was my MOTM as well. What a brilliant display. I think the minor imperfections today were COMPLETELY overshadowed by his excellent saves. The opposition keepers have definitely stepped up and are playing the games of their lives, but so has Valdes.

    • andrew M
      January 24, 2010

      agreed about the messi-keita thing. when i watched the replay of that its apparent that messi did not see seydou and also there was a man between them.

  6. cliveee
    January 24, 2010

    Respect to Kxevin for being a fan of Henry but at the same time highly critical of his performance and umm, everything he did on the pitch basically. Still enjoying his bicycle volley which still leaves me in awe of his class. I mean, should we expect a 32 year-old player to blast the goal that way? I think Ibrahimovic be doing that in his usual Taekwondo style or Karate, or Bruce Lee’s style.

    I don’t recall any 10 for Dani from you either. I am glad to see him got his deserved one.

    REALLY love Keita’s destruction in his own way. You don’t even notice it right away, it happens so quickly and he releases the ball IMMEDIATELY after he won it back. Imagine he was forming an invisible protection wall before the defense line and shielded everything around his range, that’s how I like it… I love Yaya for his authority he stamps in his zone with his presence, and you literally feel the pressure from that big dude. But Keiteee’s style is also efficient as well as delightful. Love his attack as well, there was one corner in which I saw Keita bombed into the box with great speed. It could have been another header more powerful than a shot were it not for the defender to head it out at the last second.

    Well said about Xavi’s greatness as well. We take him for granted match in and match out! What he does is simply irreplaceable! It is not quite invisible actually, but it looks all too easy for him to do it as he does it with ease match in and match out! shame for the internet quality replay which I couldn’t even see where he looked on the 63rd minute’s play. but dude, he did those with complete easeeeeeeee, and then the ball rolled slowly on the feet of Ibrahimovic. Master class. *Standing ovation to him*

  7. majatt
    January 24, 2010

    I get that Messi should pass more, I do but this is a catch 22, Ibra could have tried to cut back and take the shot but instead he passed to Messi. Good choice? Yes but IF he did score then there wouldn’t be a discussion about his lack of goals.

    Conversely I see in Messi a little bit of Eto’o…”I want to score that goal”. He needs to strike a balance but how many seasons has he been the top scorer in the league? It’s new ground to some extent and I think its a healthy part of his development. Later in the season I can see him passing more sensibly…unless he and villa keep very close in the pichichi race all the way through.

    • andrew M
      January 24, 2010

      some say it is one of the last things messi has to win in spain. the pichichi, and that is why he is gunning for that this year

  8. johnhyboi
    January 24, 2010

    I love your reviews Kev and I understand it’s only a blog, but I am calling bullshit on your Messi comments, as of late at least, it is borderline yellow journalism (in reference to his supposed digression) . I know that we hold him to huge, and frankly unattainable standards, but come on, to say he is digressing is a bit much. We have an aging striker playing on the left wing who has scored two count em’ two goals this season, and a new number 9 who seems to be taking a little longer to become a fluid player in our system than expected.

    Some may call it selfish when Messi goes one on one and does not pass, but so far I don’t think it is negatively affecting the team (cough cough undefeated first half cough cough). Kobe Bryant is in the same position with the Lakers, and when reporters asked him about making the decision to shoot or distribute he said ‘I gotta eat first’, which is exactly what Leo should be doing. Until it starts costing us points, I have no issue with Leo hogging the ball a bit.

    Remember last year Messi had a rejuvenated Titi and an on fire Eto’o to dish the ball off to, this season Frenchy is non existent and cleaning up messes around goal is not really Ibra’s style. Messi also has 6 assists in 12 league games this season, which is on pace to surpass his total of 12 in 27 games all last season in the league.

    We also have to consider that Leo is dropping back further than ever to get the ball these days, and (maybe per Pep’s instructions) is looking to get off his shot first. Name me another player on our team that you would want with the ball at his feet 20 yards from goal.

    I think that once BANGS comes around, and we can pluck either Douglas Costa of Luis Suarez (not likely, he signed an extension today)to play left wing, our lil’ Argentine will be more than happy to once again be a facilitator.

    • ashu
      January 24, 2010

      Agreed with the Messi comments. Messi is not a midfielder. The day he stops making those solo runs, he stops being as effective. The beauty of Messi’s solo runs, and their tactical importance is not a matter of debate, is it ? Yes, he ignored Keita when he should not have, but all forwards have to be selfish. We do not want another Ineista who is so unwilling to shoot.

  9. johnhyboi
    January 24, 2010

    By the way it has been 35 days since Cristiano has scored a goal for E.E. It has only been 14 days since El Captain scored for what we all know to be the greatest club on earth…hehehe

  10. Jnice
    January 24, 2010

    Nice review, Kxevin.

    Like I said in the previous post, the space Valladolid were giving Dani was ridiculous and he made them pay.

    Oh and I say this almost everyday, but Pep is the freshest manager in the game.

  11. January 24, 2010

    now its time for getafe to show us some love and kick madrid to dust….
    btw this might just be the season we break another record…go undefeated through the league…i guess thats the only achievement left…

    • andrew M
      January 24, 2010

      beat atletico madrid? why would we hope for that? if you meant real, they have malaga tonight

      • andrew M
        January 24, 2010

        sorry my reply didnt really make sense. i meant that getafe is playing atletico tonight and real is playing malaga

  12. johnhyboi
    January 24, 2010

    Rambling on….

    We don’t play a top 7 team in the league for the next 49 days, that’s March 14 when we will play Valencia at home
    Real Madrid have Sevilla, Deportivo and Villarreal in that same time.
    Stuttgart Football Club is currently tearing up Germany, the same way my grandma would tear up a Lil Wayne song. They are sitting pretty in 11th place and have goal difference of -4. Someone got HLEBED
    We all love Yaya, but if today was proof that Kieta can play the defensive midfield, some interesting options could arise. We all know Wenger covets the Yaya so tell me if this could work

    Yaya + 15 million + Bojan on loan for a year for the Cesc Pistol. I’m down.

    It is obvious that Pep wants Busi to own that role, and with Kieta being able to to fill in at all three of our midfield positions, this is a lot more reasonable than once thought.

    How great would it be if ESPN hired Ray Hudson to do the play by play for the world cup this summer.

    • BA
      January 24, 2010

      i am not down. for the foreseeable future Yaya > Fabregas, he brings more to the team. plus, Cesc doesn’t eat fried Humvees for breakfast and can’t melt your brain just by glaring at you.

      • Vj
        January 24, 2010

        Plus, its nice to have someone like the yaya when busi has one of those days like he did against EE..

        • January 25, 2010

          or it’s nice to have yaya(the best DM in the world) but not play him and instead play biscuits. what a luxury we have haha
          best team in the world!

    • January 24, 2010

      True, but Getafe, Atletico (if they show up) and Racing are all going to be tricky matches. I agree that if we continue our recent run of play we could do some damage in that stretch, but I think that we inspire sides to a degree that lets us throw table position out of the window when we come to town. And we’re on the road to Atletico.

      I don’t want Fabregas. Period. I like what he does, but I think that any deal for him will be bad business. Can he possibly do 50m worth of good for the side? Really?

      –I think that like Dick Vitale, Ray Ray would galvanize opinion, which is a nice way of saying that more than half the people would want to boil him in oil.

      Speaking of, did anyone catch the call on the Riise goal against Juventus yesterday? Man, that dude was annoying, with the high-pitched squeal of surprise/delight.

      • Alexinho
        January 26, 2010

        Well. As for that Fabregas bit, Kev, can Ibra do 60m + Eto’o (ahem, + Hleb) worth of good for the side? Really?

        If Ibra can do that, I assure you Fab can.

    • andrew M
      January 24, 2010

      fabregas would struggle for a place in the first team, think of the spanish NT. xaviniesta have those roles owned. and i must agree too yaya>cesc.

      also i have some resentment towards fabregas for leaving and then why the hell should we give them two good players PLUS? cash for someone to warm our bench?

    • Alexinho
      January 25, 2010

      What an interesting idea…

      This match may be the one that leads to Yaya’s sale in the summer. If he’s an option at DM, and assuming Guardiola wants to work Busquets into the team as he improves, which I am not in a place to doubt, than just like that, Yaya is third-string.

      As an Arsenal fan, this idea blows my mind. Yaya is physical enough to fit right in in the Premiership, and God knows Arsenal always need a player to step into the latest injury victim. But in that position? Alex Song is almost as automatically in the starting XI as Fabregas or van Persie, and for my money is a bigger loss when he’s gone than when Fabregas is. Bojan might even be useful. At his age, he’d be joining a team he’d feel very comfortable in. On the other hand, I don’t think he has the physicality, and he would probably be the last forward on the depth chart. Wenger will not go for it.

      As a Barcelona fan, I’d love to see Fabregas come over, because he’s playing better this year than he’s ever played. I cannot agree with the idea that Yaya>Fab (sorry BA), I only believe that our midfield needs a guy like Yaya and doesn’t really need a guy like Fabregas. Still, the man is phenomenal, and if he is really a player that has his prime ahead of him, I pray that he comes over (as a Barca fan. As an Arsenal fan, I’d be very much sullen, since he is basically Senor Arsenal). Wow, could he make Barca even better, there is absolutely no doubt about that for me…the way he’s been playing this season, you can’t help but believe any team would become better with him there. Those who aren’t watch should be.

      Not sure about the deal, all things told, but it certainly piques my interest. I love the Yaya as well. In any case it will never go down.

  13. Liza
    January 24, 2010

    I found it pretty interesting that none of our front three seemed to play particularly well in this game. It was like they were several gears slower than everyone else. I have to say though– to label Messi as regressing seems a bit of an overreaction. He has had a slow start to the year, but it’s nothing to get dramatic about. I just hope he finds his form again for our Champion’s League games. There’s still a bit to go, but I’m very excited about the CL this year.

    Really, today’s attack was all about how ON Xavi and Alves were. Whereas our front three seemed to be taking it easy, those two refused to do so. They were continual threats, and if the rest of our attack had been as focused, this would have been a serious thrashing.

    • andrew M
      January 24, 2010

      yeah, how is messi regressing if he scored 6 goals in the last 3 games, and is current pichichi in an undefeated team with more assists so far than last season?

  14. jnelson
    January 24, 2010

    I think its overreacting to say Messi has even had a slow start to the season. 15 goals in 19 Liga games? He is on pace for 30, and that is right around tops in a year. Yes, he had 40 last year, but in ALL competitions. The only difference between him this year and last year is Ibra. New connections and a new challenger within the squad.

    BTW I though Iniesta was giving away possession left and right in the first half minus the plays contributing to goals. Yes, he came into his own in the second half, but I think he has much to do with our slow starts to matches, as well as Pique.

  15. waleed
    January 24, 2010

    I don’t like Messi more than Henry or any of our lads,and I stopped looking at your ratings as it’s obvious that there are no criteria supporting the numbers, but regarding your remarks.. you cant just count what “YOU THINK” are mistakes for one player while you count what YOU THINK are good plays for another. Messi is Messi and he has been playing this way since we knew him, he is no Xavi no Iniesta, no Henry, and we have to live with it,he is the best footballer on the planet for playing this way, you may not like it, but you cant expect him to play as you think he should, and bash him for not living up to your expectations.

    • Hector
      January 24, 2010

      No need to takes things so seriously, dude. Half the fun of the Kevin ratings is disagreeing with them. OF COURSE they are subjective. What football ratings aren’t? Stats aren’t worth diddly in analyzing individual player performances on a game by game basis.

      We learn more when we disagree in a constructive manner because we get exposed to new points of views and broaden our perspectives. That’s part of why these reviews are popular. If we follow what you are saying then we should just all shut up and enjoy Barca because we can’t “think” anything about anything.

    • Phil
      January 24, 2010

      I’m not sure how one would create an opinion based rating without using an opinion. Like Hector said, these are all in fun 😀

      • andrew M
        January 24, 2010

        what if each reader did a rating and then we crunched out an average rating for each player? might that work?

  16. Jim
    January 24, 2010

    Some pretty interesting comments and I thought an excellent review, Kxevin. I hadn’t thought about those three purchases and what they have added. For us, to buy someone who will make it into our side we are going to have to pay top whack.

    I probably do think Messi’s rating is a little low but I am confused about his “new” role. His cutting in certainly seems to have created space for Alves ( which he hasn’t always used profitably this season) but it does mean some charges into hopeless situations. With regard to the dribbling I think with all dribblers their feet work quicker than their brain and the decision of what to do at that speed is largely instinct. Not sure he can change it.

    No doubt nothing is coming off for Henry just now. That bicycle kick deserved a goal and what a lift that would have been to his confidence. for me, as I’ve said before, I’d like to see him cutting in more decisively and letting rip with his right foot. He packs a wallop in it and would get goals I’m sure. He also needs to do that to prevent the run to the byeline becoming too predicatable. Still feel that we need him in order to do anything at the top level at the end of this season. I’m sorry but Bojan adds nothing and Pedro doesn’t at the moment have the link up play for me although it may come.

    Good point about Pep playing the main men to get the feeling back in the team. I just hope he realises that a big part of that was (and is) Yaya. For me, despite the plaudits for Keita, and I do admire his tackling and work rate, his close passing isn’t going to be up to it against teams who attack us and press harder than last night. The times he struggled were when in possession but under pressure. To me that is one of Yaya’s strengths.

    You have to feel sorry for Chiggy. He just can’t do anything right at the moment. Can someone remind me what his strengths were when we signed him? I see a very slow ( and we have enough of them) traditional defender who can only tackle with one foot and who seems to have the Caceres mentality of having to pass back to keeper when there is anyone around. To be fair, I have seen his longer passing better than it was last night so won’t hold that against him.

  17. Hector
    January 24, 2010

    – Alves personified what it meant to play defense by playing offense. Valladolid was scared shitless of that side of the pitch. He was among the best at breaking the high pressure by attacking and getting vertical. His overlaps with Messi were very well done.

    – Abidal was his solid self but gave away possession a few more times than usual. He gave Henry support but for some reasons their overlapping runs were not nearly as well coordinated as those on the other side of the pitch. Also, he seemed a little hesitant to get vertical like Alves frequently did to break the high pressure. I am not sure if it was indecision on his part or if it was Henry’s positioning/support when those opportunities presented themselves.

    – Iniesta went from “menos a mas” (less to more). He started out uncharacteristically giving away possession while mixing in some great dribbles here and there but settled down and gave some awesome crossfield passes to break the high pressure as the game went on.

    – Keita did an excellent job destroying play but was understandably a little shaky in his playing the ball out from the back responsibilities in which he had a few bad turnovers. Overall definitely not bad for somebody who had not played as a D-Mid in about 2 years. Maybe its just me, but it was weird seeing a left footed pivot 😀 . For some reason, I couldn’t remember one 😀 .

    – Messi’s work rate was excellent. His pressure and the turnovers he forced created quite a few opportunities. The missed pass for a tap in to Keita was not forgivable but otherwise he was our most effective offensive player. The gameplan was apparently to stick him closer to the wing today and he and Alves did their vintage super hero duo thing. I definitely honestly think he did a bit better than Henry yesterday. His work rate (which lately had been slagging a bit) was right up there, his runs were there, he helped his fullback out in both offense and defense, and he got and created chances. Nothing out of this world by his standard but solid.

    – Its good to see Henry and Ibra getting more time together. They both need to score some goals pronto but eventually they will come. When Henry got his scissor kick block I thought “the poor guy can’t buy a goal lately”. A large part of what is missing is chemistry between those two guys.

    – Xavi is greatness.

    – Pique wasn’t so bad in my viewing. Then again I could not record it so Kevin probably saw some things I did not. Puyol was at his best.

    – Chiggy only had a cameo and by then we were putting the game to sleep and the objective seemed to be “don’t concede”. As opposed to Hleb, the guy is putting in an effort. My next article will hopefully shed some light on how difficult and demanding being a CB for Barca is. In terms of cerebral processing its almost like buying a Shaktar center-mid who doesn’t even know Spanish and having him play the Xavi role except that a mistake often results in us giving away a goal and it is magnified for all to see. As long as I see effort and professionalism, I’m willing to give him some time.

    • January 24, 2010

      Damn you Hector! Fernando the king Redondo” 😀 Alright he wasnt just a DM, but still…

      Di Rossi is another one.

      • Vj
        January 24, 2010

        Fernando Redondo indeed.. Boy, was he good.. I kinda cheered for the Galacticos when they took apart United.. That goal he created was awesome..

        • January 25, 2010

          ohhh yes..
          the next day at training ground we all tried that move!
          stupid move to ac milan!same with rivaldo.and ronnie(not so lately)

  18. poipoi
    January 24, 2010

    I totally agree on valdes MOTM, he could have missed one at any time and the game changes completely. Alves could be MOTM too but VV was really good. Keita was good there and can get beeter I think if he plays more games but of course Yaya is better compared to anyone. I don’t buy those rumours about him leaving, he knows he’s in one of the best teams ever a great club and a great city. And the club should have that kind of DM in consideration. Ask busi if it is easy to play there 😉

    I’ll look closer on Ibra but he should score more often with those kind of teammates he has… passes from alves abi yaya busi xavi iniesta henry messi p!. He is tall and fast, and has great touch, shot and “remate” so the problem has to do with his positioning. I was watching romario videos the other day and he just moved when he had to, that modaf***** … but oh man how did he search for those laudrup passes. HEAVEN

    • January 24, 2010

      Good point about Romario. Ibrahimovic does seem to spend a lot of time in the “wrong” position: on the wrong side of a defender, just to the off side of a pass, etc, etc.

      But if we recall Henry’s first season, and Abidal’s first season, it starts to make sense. It takes time to work into a side such as this, and perhaps we were seduced by Ibrahimovic’s fast start. Now that the club has picked up its overall game, he’s lagging a bit. I expect that he’ll catch up.

      I watch his head during play, and he doesn’t seem to watch the ball as intently as other players. Eto’o was watching the ball like a dog watches a steak, so he always seemed to know where it was going to end up. It’s the tactical awareness that Pedro! is developing. Ibrahimovic seems to have it sometimes, then sometimes not. Weird.

      • poipoi
        January 24, 2010

        The dude has SO much potential in that body and that touch! I wanna see the greatest version of Ibra in Barça.

  19. Hector
    January 24, 2010

    Holy schnikies! I am going to need to some serious repentence for forgetting about Redondo. Touche, Ramzi. Touche. 😀

    It was just WEIRD 😀 . I honestly could not remember a left footed pivot while watching the game and it blew my mind. It seemed so NOT natural 😀 . “No Keita! No! Turn the other wa… oh, yeah…you’re a lefty. Sorry” I was seriously perturbed.

  20. Mher
    January 24, 2010

    Yo Kevin, i’ve hardly been commenting here lately, but i just came in to say that as a former Valdes basher, i totally swallow every word i said during silly season. The weather got to me. This fucking performance sealed the deal. This dude deserves a place on the National side over Casillas at this time. I never thought I would say anything remotely close to that.

  21. Vj
    January 24, 2010

    In the ‘Ouch! That hurt’ news, Filipe Luis broke his ankle while scoring and is out for the season.. The only good thing to come out of all that is Madrid might not swoop him up..

  22. Hector
    January 24, 2010

    Nesta out for the Milan Derby as per Sky. Bad news for Milan if it is so.

  23. Kxevin
    January 24, 2010

    So much happens when a guy hops on a bicycle to beat his legs with baseball bats for a while:

    @BA: Yes! Exactly. That play was so perfect, so sublime that I just screamed in delight.

    Re the Henry question: Is he a striker, or a winger? Or a second striker? If he’s a striker, his job is indeed to put the balls in the net. But I don’t view that as his role these days. As with most wingers, he plays an all-pitch game: defense, offense, passing, possession, controlling passes, scoring goals whenever possible. He did all of that except the last yesterday.

    The Messi question: Sorry, I know that Messi is made of Teflon and untouchable, but he wasn’t that good yesterday. And you can’t excuse his selfish runs by saying “Well, that’s Messi.” No, it isn’t. The player who understands when and how to make those runs, and kills with a perfect pass OR a devastating shot. That’s Messi. Or at least that’s the Messi that I love to see in the colors.

    @waleed: You only think there aren’t criteria because you don’t agree with them. That’s valid. But there are, and they have been explained time and again. My job is not to affirm anyone’s view of any player with the ratings. My job is to evaluate their performance and effect on the match. Period. If you don’t agree, that’s fine. Explain your view, rather than just calling me a jackass. You’ll get farther in proving your point that way.

    @johnhyboi: Welcome. I haven’t seen your handle before. Nice to “hear” a new voice. “Yellow journalism” is rather a stretch, don’t you think? When was Messi’s last truly good, complete, Messi-like match? Think about it. To ask if he is regressing is a valid question. Then we discuss it, right, in the spirit of this space.

    As for Messi and being selfish, how long does it take for someone to get ignored enough times where they just stop making the runs? Keita killed himself to be in position for that tap-in. As someone else noted, Messi didn’t even look. And just as people call bullshit on my assessment, I call bullshit on that. Keita started the play, made the run, and deserved the reward.

    I don’t buy the “Messi has always been like that,” because he hasn’t been. From his debut with the side to growing into the team leader that he now is, he is at his best when he is at his most threatening. As long as he is putting his head down and running at 4-5 defenders, he’s easy to defend, because he isn’t going to pass the ball. Ask yourself if that makes us a better, or worse side?

  24. auld super
    January 24, 2010

    Bojan back to his worst again. Forget about Cesc 50-60 million for a guy to warm the bench is too much and there’ll be another Cese Iniesta Xavi or Pedro coming off the production line any day now.

  25. Jim
    January 24, 2010

    I know what you mean, Kxevin, but can’t agree entirely. Some of Messi’s best goals since he joined the first team have been scored by putting his head down and running at four or five defenders and without them we would have struggled. You can’t ever have 100% success in dribbling. I don’t see Messi as a greedy player – I genuinely think he didn’t see Keita. The time to worry is when he sees a pass and ignores it for his own glory – a la Ronaldo.

    His work rate is excellent and its obvious he cares deeply about the club. I did, though, prefer it when he stuck to the wing as he didn’t have so many to beat in such a tight space. I don’t think his future lies in running at the middle of a defense. Part of it must be that neither Ibra nor Henry are making the diagonal runs where he could slip it through to them. That was where Eto’o excelled. However, that may come with time.

  26. Kxevin
    January 24, 2010

    Ouch. 6 months out for Filipe Luis. Tough break. He was headed for the big time, and really should have been wearing Blaugrana this season.

  27. Jim
    January 24, 2010

    I’m no Bojan fan, Auld, but let’s be fair. He came on in 83 minutes, for goodness’ sake. You can’t do a lot in that time.

    • Kxevin
      January 24, 2010

      Agreed. His talent is immense. Right now, he’s erratic. Guardiola is showing patience in giving him time to become what so many of us hope that he can. If he does, it’s one hell of a free transfer.

      Nasty rumor is that Citeh is nosing around him. Have to think that’s just a rumor, though.

  28. Jim
    January 24, 2010

    The other rumour flying around today is that we’re after Vidic and Man U are lining up Giorgio Chiellini of Juventus as a replacement. This is Fergie getting rid of someone as they reach their sell by date.

  29. vicsoc8
    January 24, 2010

    First of all a word for Filipe Luis. He’s a fantastic player and I was devastated when I found out he wouldn’t be playing for us this season. (although I must say, we’d be in for a selection headache at LB if we had bought him).

    A word on our LW – I thought Henry was poor yesterday. He works hard, but he just wasn’t making the right runs or doing anything productive with the ball most of the time. I wish Bojan would get more time – why not put him in at 60 minutes or so? On that note it will be interesting to see what happens this summer. A new LW undoubtedly means similar roles for Pedro and Bojan next year.

    The most important thing I took from this game is that Pep is a fantastic coach. Teams that play us are constantly trying new tactics – from bus parking to midfield pressure to whatever and more. Pep has the team constantly morphing and changing tactics and overcoming each new tactic used against us. Point in case – Valladolid clogs the midfield, we dominate the vast corridor you leave open on the right wing with Dani Alves.

    It reminds me of trying to squeeze goo with your fist. A team tries to hold the goo (us) and we squeeze out one way. Another team tries to block that exit and we squeeze out a new way that opened. It really is remarkable.

  30. auld super
    January 24, 2010

    I actually think Bojan could do with 6 months where he could get a consistent run in a team and try to fulfill all this potential that I keep hearing about but rarely see. Believe me I’d love to see the guy succeed.

  31. Jim
    January 24, 2010

    Yaay, 10 minutes till the Milan derby! Getting ESPN free for a weekend on Sky in the UK. Fergie at the game.

    Go Ronnie !!!!

  32. Hector
    January 24, 2010

    Fontas, Botia, and Muniesa are waiting in the wings while Pique and Chyg-hopefully-soon-to-again-be-nasty are both 22 and Milito is looking to be rounding back into a competent contributor. I think we’ll be good in the centerback department. If Juve sells Chiellini then the pitchforks will come out in Turin. I can’t see it.

    Regarding Messi, its an interesting case. Its definitely easy to lose sight of how young he still is. On one hand, I can’t blame Kevin for holding Messi up to his “best player in the world” billing. On the other hand, I find it interesting to look at how many different roles he has filled in during the last 3 years and speculate about what he is being ordered to do right now.

    With Rijkaard, he was more of a traditional winger. It was his job to dribble and take people on but he was also less efficient if not more entertaining because he operated farther away from the opposing area. In 07-08, with Ronny injured/pouting he put in what IMO was his best season passing wise despite technically having had more assists last season and missing a few months to injury. He was a much purer playmaker because injuries to our guys and Xavi being played deep by Rijkaard meant that he had to. With Pep, he has in turn been a traditional forward, a winger, a false 9, and even a center midfielder depending on what the orders have been.

    Instead of putting Kevin on blast for demanding more from him, think of it as a compliment. According to the not so reliable wikipedia stats, Messi has 22 goals and 8 assists in half a season but Kevin sill thinks he can do better. That’s somebody having faith in a player if I’ve ever seen it. However, IS Messi being asked to be a playmaker right now? He is at this time or most on form goal scorer/poacher by far. We’ve never thought of him or evaluated him on the same basis as an Eto’o for instance. Should we be doing so right now? We’ve got playmakers up the wazzoo right now. What’s a little rarer currently with Ibra and Henry’s current poor form is finishing. Messi is providing it in spades right now. He is not Ronny in his prime right now but with Iniesta, Xavi, and Ibra playing in the same area, do we need somebody like that right now or a Samu-ish “selfish” forward?

    PS I still blame him for missing the tap in for Keita. No excuse on that one.

  33. Jim
    January 24, 2010

    Milan 1-0 down but Schneider sent off for dissent !!!

  34. poipoi
    January 24, 2010

    btw… I don’t think xavi is underrated for the fans at all. One day he will be the FCB player with more games in his back beating two beasts like Migueli and Puyol. All those games with the greatest progression to an unbeliebable level, step by step and overcoming a hard injury. He is a legend already but he’ll be a one of those that are long time remembered. People don’t want to tell him to his face but when he retires people are gonna exagerate when they talk about him… if that is possible 😉

    • Flippy
      January 24, 2010

      He’s way past Puyol in games played 😀

      • poipoi
        January 25, 2010

        I mean puyol will be second after him when they are both done.

  35. andrew M
    January 24, 2010

    casillas being battered by malaga

    ronaldo getting so frustrated he is just trying to shoot from anywhere pissing people off, particularly kaka.

    ivory coast 1-1 algeria

    (lets go yaya!!! playing as attacking midfielder with gervinho)

  36. jordi
    January 24, 2010

    alright, its only fair, why isnt Welington kicking the madridistas and punching them?

  37. poipoi
    January 24, 2010

    thong boy got a red!!! lol… I wanna see what happened!!!

    • Flippy
      January 24, 2010

      It can’t be too far away when Madrid goes bursts into chaos, right?

    • Anti-Madrid
      January 24, 2010

      Hi, this is what happened !


      Ronald rocks !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  38. eklavya
    January 24, 2010

    Nesta didn’t play.
    Inter got 2 reds.
    Ronaldinho missed a penalty in the very end
    And so Milan lost 2-0.

    Man, I was wishing for some crazyness. It happended … in a different way than I’d thought.

  39. Helge
    January 24, 2010

    For how many games will CR be suspended? If it’s for two or more games, I don’t care about his 2 goals today 🙂
    But somehow I feel since he plays for the EE he will only get banned for one match…

    • Kari
      January 24, 2010

      -Thong Boy sent off? I’m watching the game when it comes on again 😛 . Why’d he get sent off? Was it a sarcastic applauding towards the ref a la Sneijder*? He’s done it before.

      *Stupid, albeit funny, move by Sneijder.

      • Blow-Granite
        January 24, 2010

        Got sent off for elbowing in the face. The ref was standing right there.

  40. Helge
    January 24, 2010

    Ivory Coast is out, and they deserve it. Unless they don’t get a better coach (why not Guus Hiddink?), they will fail at the WC 🙁

    • Jnice
      January 24, 2010

      Ivory Coast out… Yaya coming home. YES. And Ghana won. Fantastic.

    • andrew M
      January 25, 2010

      ivory coast looks so lazy out there and like they had no strategy despite having so many big-name players. sometimes it looked like yaya was the only one trying. but algeria played like freaks last night, they wanted this so badly. although they did play act a lot.

      dont forget thought that Kolo’s goal in extra time that was ruled offside was clearly not offside. they got robbed in my opinion. plus, why the hell could they not just keep the algerians out for 2 minutes of extra time? geez, its like at some points they were just throwing the game away! considering ghana laid a complaint with fifa that angola was pressurising ghana to throw the game, i wouldnt be surprised if money was involved.

  41. Jim
    January 24, 2010

    Good news about Yaya.

    Has to be said R80 was very poor – as were the whole Milan team.

    Sky News – Robinho says he’s played last game for Man City and is returning to Santos. Relief . . ..

    • Vj
      January 25, 2010

      Still at 35%.. Hate to say I told you so.. 😀

  42. Kxevin
    January 24, 2010

    –That Thong Boy sending off was kinda dubious, but given his propensity for getting calls for nonsense, it could be argued that it’s also karmic retribution.

    A few words on my Messi expectations, which seem to have some knickers in a bunch. I know the statistics, I know that he’s popping in goals, I know that he’s bouncing around the pitch, playing whatever position is required of him. He would bleed for the colors.

    My simple contention is that he could be, and should be better as regards playing a more complete game. ANY criticism of Messi doesn’t mean that someone thinks that he sucks, or isn’t measuring up. And again, I always like to use the “What if,” as in “What if Ibrahimovic or Henry had taken that shot from that crazy angle, instead of sliding it to Keita for the tap-in?” What would people be saying then?

    Messi has the excellence to have the situational awareness to understand the match, and what’s going on. He didn’t need another goal. Keita deserved a reward. Perhaps he is being asked to score goals. Dunno. But great players understand when an assist is just as good as scoring a goal yourself, and situational awareness demands a choice: I’m facing two defenders and the keeper, from a difficult angle, or hey, look, Keita is all by himself, and the keeper would never get over there in time.

    Messi isn’t an automaton who says “My. Mission. Is. To. Score. Goals. Must. Not. Pass.” He understands the game. You’re the greatest player in the world, so make the correct decision.

    –I’m bummed for The Yaya, but the ACN is essentially a vanity tournament. The WC slots for Africa are already decided. So get him on a plane, and let’s get rolling.

    –Ronaldinho renaissance, eh? Not from what I saw. He looked like the sluggish, step-behind player that I was glad we sold. Seems like the biggest problem for Milan is that they don’t have pace. And can someone please, please explain to me what Beckham does for a side? I just don’t get that one.

    • Kari
      January 24, 2010

      Cross the ball and look real puuurdy, perhaps? 😀

      Well, Milan has Pato–who has more pace that the backline + midfield have put together. Which, essentially, is the problem, but then again, it was for a while. Too bad he’s injured

      Milan are just too static -whether it’s up front or the backline. The backline had Nesta to position the heck out of them, and get their act together. They lost him to injury. The forward line had no-one to begin with. Sigh. Must be depressing to be a Milan fan. Although, Inter decided to play this match, having been cr*ptasic in the last few matches, I think that Milan might stage a comeback. You don’t necessarily NEED to win the head-to-head, i.e EE coming back from a 12 point deficit, but obviously it matters, i.e subsequent 2-6 thrashing.

      Re: Messi situation: Do I sense a bit of Thong Boy-esque behaviour, in indulging in the hatred (in this case critism) of the fans from you, Kxevin? You were just asking for it 😀 .

    • andrew M
      January 25, 2010

      the ACN is not a “vanity” tournament. that is quite insulting to african football. to many, including the millions on the african continent, this tournament is the most important thing they will ever play in or watch in world football because since sepp blatter limits the amount of african teams allowed to participate in the WC, this is as close to winning something big as many of these teams will ever come.

      perhaps its seems that way in america where i believe they dont even broadcast the tournament, or europe where they are spoiled by champions league and incredible club competitions, but in africa this competition is very important. i sat last night on the edge of my seat for more than two hours watching yaya and the ivorians go at it. and toinight is egypt vs cameroon. should be a cracker.

  43. Kxevin
    January 24, 2010

    So next weekend, EE face Notallthatsuper Depor at the Riazor, where they haven’t won since the dawn of man, without Higuain or Thong Boy. That same weekend, we line up against Gijon. It isn’t unreasonable to have the expectations to be able to extend our lead at the top of the table, but we have to take care of business.

    At this point, all we have to do is what we’ve been doing: Win matches. The 5-point lead gives us a bit of a cushion, but a screwup and a loss at their house and suddenly, we’re looking up, wondering what happened.

    But I like the direction in which our overall play is going.

    And yes, I have to admit that painful as it was to witness, that Copa loss is looking to be a pretty good thing.

  44. Kxevin
    January 24, 2010

    In other good news, Guardiola officially said no on Friday to the Robinho transfer, which explains the Santos business. Can’t even think they’re all that excited about getting him, though he will bring some excitement. But he’s heading home with his tail between his legs, a poster boy for the All-Potential team.

  45. Kxevin
    January 24, 2010

    Finally (whew!) Alfons Godall will announce his official candidacy on Monday. On the down side, this means that there is no continuity candidate, since he and Jaume Ferrer were negotiating to work that out.

    Speculation is that if both run, it makes the job of Rosell easier.

    It’s also worth noting for those who want a most excellent site for following the elections, that Pep of fcbtransfers fame, is lavishing the same level of effort and quality on a site devoted to the elections:

    We will comment on things from time to time, but he is doing a remarkable job, one that is, frankly, better than both Sport and EMD are doing.

    • January 25, 2010

      thanks for the kind words, kxevin. exciting weeks and months ahead… starting tonight with godall presenting his candidacy. main question there: will vice-president joan boix be on the picture?

      ps. not having to sell papers can help in doing a nice job.

      pps. and sometimes, although you can’t offer them a lot in terms of media exposure or votes, people sympathize that much with your small little quality-drivven thingie that they offer you some little exclusive. just like that. and without even seeing your light blue-grey puppy eyes…

  46. Kxevin
    January 24, 2010

    And I stand corrected: Thong Boy broke that dude’s nose on the second elbow swing. Probably wasn’t deliberate, but still, injuries like that aren’t looked at with much kindness, even at the elbow of the Most Expensive Player on the Planet.

    I don’t know what the suspension demands would be for such a thing, though it certainly depends on the referee’s match report.

  47. Kari
    January 24, 2010

    In other news, Sol Campbell plays his first game for Arsenal since CL final against us. How crazy would it be if Henry goes back to the Gunners instead of his expected move to the MLS? That’d be interesting, albiet very, very unlikely.

    -Reports from England are saying Puyi and Xavi vetoed the Robinho move. He’d ruin the team spirit and all that. Plus Citeh were interested in getting CT in return.

    -Well, despite his 3 (I think you should have go with the N/A again, Kxevin), I’m really loving Bojan’s commitment. He hasn’t been complaining to the press for his lack of playing time, unlike a certain Stuttgart outcast *cough HLEB cough*, or the fact he was bench in, arguably, his own competition (CDR), or the fact that Pedro! starts more games than him and takes his sub role when he doesn’t.

    Plus, all these transfer rumours surrounding him as well. Loans, swap deals, being a bargaining tool for another transfer for a player that wasn’t half as patient and deserted us…. Despite the fact he’d be a starter anywhere else (seriously). Despite the fact he’s 19 and dying for a starting berth. Despite all that, he consistantly reiterates his desire to stay with us and how much he’s learning in training and his 6-min cambios

    Just awesomeness. I hope he gets what he deserves. His patience is just amazing. 😀

    • Kxevin
      January 24, 2010

      More importantly, I hope we get what we deserve as a club, which is a reward for the immense patience that has been shown to Krkic. As I said, he has the potential to be a killer “transfer,” if he can just make it happen.

      And I generally think that NA or incomplete is something of a copout. So unless someone is a time-killer sub, they get a rating. Guardiola occasionally does those, but not often.

      • Kari
        January 24, 2010

        What about “rest-giving” subs? Pep loves to do those. 😛

  48. January 24, 2010

    Wish I had time to opine more, but henry does not deserve a 6. Nope nope nope. There is a 300 pound french elephant in the room ’cause despite flashes of brilliance throughout the season, is these days seems limited to “tire out some people for Pedro.”

  49. Kari
    January 25, 2010

    I agree with Patrick–to some extent. While I love Henry’s D and I agree with Kxevin that it’s improtant–but that’s not what we bought him for.

    Remember when Ibra was dropping into the midfield when it was stifled, passing from there, trying to falicitate movement? Well, we lamasted him for doing it, because “if we wanted another midfielder, we would have bought one. Man up.” Actually, to quote you exactly Kxevin, “We didn’t buy you (Ibra) to be a playmaking midfielder. Get your (Ibra’s) ass in the box and raise some hell” He can’t really do that (the way we want him to) unless he has the ball, right? And if the ball’s not coming to him, he has to go and get it, right?

    So, I throw that right back at ‘cha Kxevin. If we wanted another defender, we would gave bought one–Felipe Luis to be exact (Gutted for him, btw. He was really tearing it up for Depor 🙁 ). Helping out on defense is all well and good, but the arguments “He’s softing the defense for Pedro! to strike”, “He’s playing good defense for us” can only go on for so long.

    Xavi drops deeper and plays defense. Iniesta also helps Abidal on defense. But above all, they’re rated for their midfield control, right? Their contribution to the offense and the quality of their service right? If Xavi/Iniesta’s passing/distribution is off, we focus on that–not how much work they’re doing to get the ball back. Not how many players mark them, right? Not how much work they do on defense, helping the likes of Keita/Busi/Yaya in the midfield–like Henry is getting credited for. His offensive contribution should be focussed on a little more.

    Bottom line, he’s meant to be a goalscorer or at least, a serious offensive threat, not ONLY softening defenses up for others and back tracking to get the ball. IF we wanted that, couldn’t we start Pedro! and he could soften up the defense for Henry? If Messi is being held at his WPOTY status, then Henry should be held in his 32 (?) million status. 2 goals really isn’t good enough.

    …I think that’s what Patrick means. 😀 Correct me if I’m wrong Patrick, or add what you meant…

    P.S 95% sure I’ll be Hectored …

    • Kxevin
      January 25, 2010

      I’d buy all that, except that Pedro! doesn’t do rhe same things that Henry does. The “tiring out the defense” bit didn’t come from me. It’s a derusive misnomer ginned up by someone who isn’t an admirer.

      I don’t think that anyone will argue that Henry has been mostly crap this season. And yes, we’re paying a lot for two goals. But as I wrote above, unlike Ibrahimovic, Henry’s job isn’t just to score goals. Not in his winger’s role. His job is to be an offensive threat, part-time playmaker, and whatever else is required in our ever-shifting attack.

      When was the last time you saw Xavi running alongside as opposing attacker uo the wing, because Abidal was caught up the pitch? When was the last time you saw Pedro! track back to make an attack-stopping sliding tackle? If we needed someone who just played offense on the wing and didn’t do anything else, we would have signed Robinho.

      Wr don’t have the Arsenal Henry, and people need to get their minds around that reality. Henry isn’t a striker in our system. And honestly, does anyone think that if Pedro! were ready to start, that he wouldn’t be in the lineup?

      The reason Pedro! gets the space that he does is that people don’t play him like Henry. Because P! isn’t going to kill you if you leave him alone on that wing. Yes, he can hurt you in other ways, and there are times when those was are deemed more valuable.

      But for now, Henry passes, creates, plays defense, occupies two defenders (don’t underestimate the value of that to our offense) and does a pretty thankless job. On Saturday, he did that job well enough to earn his rating. Anyone who doesn’t think so, go bavk and watch the match again, and tell me what he did earn.

      • ashu
        January 25, 2010

        Henry is not a striker in our system? Surely he is ? He plays up front. Barca have always played with 3 goalscorers up front. If one of them is not scoring goals for some reason, something is not in place

        • January 25, 2010

          Ibrahimovic is the striker in our system, just as Eto’o was last season. When Henry shifts to the center, he becomes the striker, and acquires a different set of expectations.

          • waleed
            January 25, 2010

            Henry is a winger, right, but so are Messi and Pedro, they score because they cut into the box taking advantage of the fact that Ibra is keeping at least two def. busy at any time, His age is not helping him that much, add to that, he and Ibra need to have more understanding,

      • nobody
        January 25, 2010

        So, winger’s role is to be an offensive threat, part-time playmaker, and whatever else is required in our ever-shifting attack”. What does Messi do then. He does all those jobs mentioned plus all those numbers of goals and assists, and still gets OK or average rating. People must have set up high-really really high expectation of him playing perfect every game week in week out.

        • January 25, 2010

          Not perfect, just to something that approaches his immense potential. Scoring goals does not, in and of itself, generate a high rating. Yes, he would have gained points for making that pass to the open Henry/Ibrahimovic (take your pick), or sliding the square ball over to Keita. And the score probably would have been 5-0.

          But that didn’t happen. As it turns out, they weren’t needed, because we were already up 3-0. But what if we were only up 1-0?

        • January 25, 2010

          Kari – Thanks! I had a lot to do yesterday and you somehow translated my incoherent babbling into a exactly the argument I didn’t have the time to make!

          “It’s a derusive misnomer ginned up by someone who isn’t an admirer.”
          Henry has always been one of my favorite footballers. I stopped watching EPL after he left. But despite that, I’m willing to admit when his form is not quite there. Right now, it isn’t. I hope he pulls a Ronaldinho and goes on a tear of form. But he isn’t creating and he isn’t finishing, and a think a symptom of this our recent preference to attack down the right flank. Do we blame the other 10 players? Pep? Or henry. It has to be one. We’ve run out of other excuse (National team duty / setting into season / injury / Iniesta not in playmaking role / Abidal not contributing to attack like alves)

          Because I generally respect your opinion, I’ll go back and watch the match again this weekend with an eye toward Henry. I’m usually not a big fan of numerical ratings, period – but I think it can be a lot easier to compare two players and say who had a better match. So I’ll compare him to Messi, see who comes out on top. Fair?

          • Kxevin
            January 25, 2010

            That’s fair, Patrick, only remember that he isn’t compared to Messi, he’s compared to his role within our system, and how well he filled it. And a 6 is only slightly above average.

  50. El Tel
    January 25, 2010

    Kudos, Kxevin, on the Del Nido “rubbing his scaly fins together” fish allegory. The guy does look like a cross between a grouper and an anglerfish. You may be starting a new great footballing tradition—the mocking of opposition ownership! Still, it’s pretty charming how those owners in Spain sit together and repress their glee when their clubs score. Can’t imagine US football or baseball owners sitting together at all.

  51. Tyler
    January 25, 2010

    I’m starting to see the pistons of our engine slowly but surely starting to fire in unison. Once Ibra gets out this funk, and Pique steps up his game a little, we might be unstoppable at that point. Hell, we’re unstoppable right now, but if we fine tune this thing, we’re going to be peaking at the time of the year that matters most.

    and I agree with you Kxevin, as disappointing as it was to get knocked out of Copa del Rey, the trade-off is we are looking more relaxed and less tired. you can see it in our passing and the energy level on the pitch. and personally, I’d rather be lifting that champions league trophy over a copa del rey trophy any day.

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