RM 2, Barça 1, aka “The inexorable inevitability of defeat”


Someone who knew once said to me, “You have to do 100 things exactly right to win a bicycle race. Do 99 of them exactly right, and you finish second.” Margins are like that in athletic endeavor.

You push, you shove, you train as hard as you can, doing efforts and intervals until you actually vomit. You wipe your mouth, rinse it out with Gatorade and get back on the bicycle as soon as you stop seeing double.

You do this because you want, more than anything else, to win. Every athlete wants to win. Winning is the absolute best thing that can be experienced. Once you get it, it’s like the most addictive drug. People lie, cheat, dope in an effort to keep doing it. As the saying goes, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”

For athletes, this is true. That FC Barcelona, our amazing football club, has been able to win and keep winning for so long, is an astounding accomplishment. It is one that, when I sit here in front of this keyboard, I really can’t even begin to fathom.

Today, the football team capped a week of poor results, falling to its third loss in a row, knocked out of Champions League, potentially losing the Liga championship and the Copa del Rey. It seemed so weird and sudden, how a team that used to score goals just for fun, suddenly couldn’t even muster a single, stinkin’ goal against a side we used to beat like a gong, another side hovering just above the relegation zone and our eternal rival.

One goal. A thin, thin margin between the falling over the edge and grabbing a handhold to lift yourself to success. Winning.

If you take that 100 things that a single bicycle racer has to do to win a race, add a ball, 10 other players and 11 opponents, and make the effort to run the math equations that can attempt to explain the crazy alchemy that makes a team win a football match, your brain will probably burst. Yet in a run that began in 2008, Barça has worked that alchemy time and again, in ways remarkable, bizarre, unlikely and inevitable. It has won so much that when it hasn’t won, things seem weird, like the world is out of whack.

In a game in which speed, strength and power define its parameters, a group of small, comparatively weak players did things with a football that made even jaded chroniclers of the game oooh and aaaah. Best of all, its instruments of destruction were home grown, Catalan soldiers mostly, marching to war with a senyera enbroidered on their blaugrana suits of armor.

People kicked at them, fouled them, played unfairly and still, they won. They won so much that people stopped thinking about how amazing, how improbable winning is. Winning stopped being a remarkable thing of wonder, and became an expectation. “They didn’t win. Why not? Whose fault was this aberration?”

There are people who follow this club, who came to it during the Treble season. All they know is winning, probably unable to wrap their minds around a crazy day in 2001 (not really THAT long ago) when Rivaldo scored the goal that ensured Barça would finish in 4th place in La Liga, and qualify for European football.

Close. Crazy close

The 87-point Liga of the treble season didn’t happen. It was eleventythousand points that season, when not a single match was in doubt. Oh, I remember it well. And the Chelsea match has become the stuff of legend rather than the contentious alley fight that it was, salvaged only by an absurd goal from a player who admits that he just hit it and hoped. In the Champions League final, legend needed Ronaldo to scuff shots, misses that bewildered all until an unlikely goal against the run of play, after United were finished having at our makeshift (no CBs then, either) back line.

Recent culers only know winning, and wizened culers came to embrace winning. Time flies when you’re winning, so it only seemed like it happened suddenly, this failure business. But in fact if you look at it over the arc of the excellence that has defined this football club, the signs have been coming fast, heavy and impossible to ignore.

People blame a volcano for that Inter Milan defeat, rather than a team that defended like shite in Italy. People blame cruel fate for the Chelsea defeat, rather than the lapses in concentration that turn sure goals into astonishing misses. It was those injuries that brought our team down to size against Bayern Munich.

And then, this season, our team lost to a better team as hairline cracks became rips became fissures in the fabric that allowed this team to continue winning.


When Pep Guardiola took over Barça, it was after two silverless seasons in which the team was inventing ways to lose almost as if on a dare. Mentally, the edge was dulled and when Guardiola came in to say “Run you bastards, run!” the running was easy because there was a goal at the end of it all: winning.

The players didn’t really know what they were doing until suddenly, there was a pile of trophies in the living room. At the time it was happening culers couldn’t really wrap their minds around it because even during the wonder years of Ronaldinho, the kind of magic we were witnessing just didn’t happen. It was so unbelievable that it seemed just a blink that a season beginning with failure morphed into the Year of Six Cups.

Your run of the mill juggernaut football team gets 2, maybe 3 years at the top. It doesn’t, for six years make the Champions League, the tournament that gathers the best footballing sides in Europe, seem like the Gamper Tournament or something.

A loss comes, and people are shocked, and angry. “Whose fault was that?” It’s usually an unfavored player or coach of course. Later, another loss comes and again, culpability is the object. Nobody looks at the mentality of winning, the batshit crazy, microns-thin edge that a winning team has to be on to keep doing what it does.

You just can’t stay wound that tightly, for that long. Inevitably, and you don’t even know it, the edge dulls. You think you are still the same, because you don’t know any different. You are hitting the ball the same way. A stab deflection becomes a foot in the way becomes an easily blocked shot becomes an interception that leads to a break against you.

“We’re doing what we’re doing,” even when you aren’t. Not quite. And it’s hard to understand because nothing has changed. It all feels the same, and the players haven’t changed, so what the hell? We’ll just play a little harder next time. And you do. You focus for a match or two and the results are there, and everyone breathes a sigh of relief that expectations are again being met.

And we resume the task of forgetting to remember how truly remarkable winning is. And hell, that’s a match, never mind a championship. That is so improbable that you feel faint when you start trying to think about what could have happened to bring about such an event. It happened for Barça, time and time again, as the team became a legend that it never was. We play our matches in a vacuum of dudgeon when we lose. ‘How did this happen,” as the other team is terrible, instead of fine athletes who want to win every bit as much as we do.

So what DOES happen?

Teams stop winning because to continue winning all the time is humanly impossible. Excitement becomes anticipation becomes expectation becomes overconfidence. And suddenly, you are losing matches and nobody understands why.

“You gonna tell me that a team of Messi, Iniesta, Neymar, Sanchez, Xavi, etc, etc can’t score one stinkin’ goal against Granada?”

No, not in the state that our players are now in.

These seasons of wonder have extracted an absurd psychic toll: injuries, cancer, more injuries, coaching changes, player sales during huffy nocturnal meetings, court cases, thing after thing after thing, all serving to break down the stuff that making winning possible. A right back gets his ears bobbed. Pop stars visit the team’s practice sessions as the focus erodes. The team gets attention, its superstar coach gets attention. The press clippings pile up and the players allow themselves just a glimpse at them, then a look, then a nice, hard read. And they think “Man, are we that good?” And the winning continues even as the complacency begins. Players are human. They can’t help it.

Then it’s too late.

On more than one occasion, people have commented that “Neymar is the only one trying to win out there,” but maybe the thing is that Neymar is the newest player, so his brain isn’t fried. New players reset the circuit breaker. So Neymar hasn’t been through the grinder of paranoia and expectation, that this will be the match. Or maybe this one will be the high-wire crossing where we put a foot wrong, and plummet to defeat.

You get your car back from a tune-up and you think, “Boy, this feels like a new car!” When Guardiola shipped out Deco and Ronaldinho, then made a slew of squad additions, it was a psychic tune-up. Brains were freshened by an infusion of new blood, players who pressed, prodded and shamed incumbents into running as hard as they did. Then those new players became old players, and the process stops. A player here or there is added, but it isn’t enough to change the group dynamics, bring back that edge.

And that’s where we are.

Earlier this season and today during the match, practice was the thing. “They aren’t practicing hard enough, so the edge is dull.” Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe the coach of this group knows that they just don’t have that kind of stuff in them, that maybe running, tackling and playing rugby is about all that his charges are capable of, because their brains are fried from winning and worrying.



What’s wrong with Messi?

It’s the question on everyone’s lips, even if they aren’t saying it aloud. His national team coach said recently that his mind isn’t in a good place, that he is mentally tired. This is a player who took an 8-week training break in the middle of season, ostensibly to heal a hamstring. Eight. Weeks. When he returned, it was “Oh, boy … look out. He’s fit and healthy now. You guys are in trouble!”

But that didn’t happen, and the questions began. “He’s walking, what the hell?” “It has been 12 seconds since he scored a goal. What’s going on?”

Could it be the soul-crushing pressure of having everything riding on you for club and country? You are The Man for everybody, two sets of absurdly demanding audiences, culers and Argentina football fans. And both groups believe that winning is a legacy. then you have all the other stuff, friendlies, charity matches, Super thises and thats, internationals and then club football. It’s so much.

Add to this the burden of the extraordinary becoming expected. 91 goals? Are you kidding me? And people ask what is wrong with Messi, when maybe very little is wrong with Messi, that he is finding a sustainable mortal level through no fault of his own, as the brain just breaks down under pressure that is an order of magnitude heavier on him than it is on the whole rest of the club. It used to be that everyone around Messi wasn’t up to his standard, the churls. Now Barça has become Argentina. It’s all his fault. Edge? What edge?

Maybe. Or maybe not.

All the answers

In the past three matches, all losses, it seems the opponent has had all the answers. But is it because the questions aren’t being asked as quickly as they used to. And that’s that.

Are the players trying? It sure seems like they aren’t as opponents zoom past them. The want is gone, which is never, ever true because no matter how bummed you are that the club lost, imagine being the players.

And then suddenly supporters have all the answers. X or Y player out, W or Z player will do it. Make the change, you crappy coach! It’s his fault. I can’t wait for him to leave our club.

It’s easy to heap blame on a coach who doesn’t deserve the crap he has gotten, rather than asking what the deal is. Why is this happening, part of everything all at once?

And we sit in judgment of these athletes. “X or Y is terrible, he isn’t Barça quality, and should be sold.” “Fire the coach.” Yet above, beyond and aside from the institutional malaise brought about by a passel of prats more focused on a monument than the sporting project, our champions are mentally hammered, and not getting any better. The fresh brains and legs necessary to revive the sporting project, provide options for a coach, hasn’t happened. And humanity does what it does. Excuses? Blame. No and never. Nobody needs an excuse for being human.

Players never, ever want to lose but sometimes, increasingly as the mental load increases, they just can’t. The circuit breaker trips. Then a team that is cohesive, hard working and fully committed, gets a result. Then it happens again. And again. And the judgments begin.

Tata this, Fabregas that, Song the other, Pique, Mascherano, Alves, Alba, Pinto, it all depends on how someone feels about a certain player. Cowards gather to hurl insults at the players, Alves and Neymar face racist chanting at the airport, it’s all so horrible that something so beautiful as winning has come down to vile recriminations and anger.

Winning all the time is impossible, even for a group that will go down in history as one of the greatest teams ever assembled. Does the rage stem from the misplaced faith? Disappointment? Who knows why supporters rage against the athletes who strive for success on the collective behalf, but it is so in every sport, even as people who are more intelligent than we are explain to us how absurd our expectations are, that logically, winning is mathematically incalculable.

But loving a team isn’t math. It’s … emotion, and belief, and rage when that belief is misplaced, lashing out at the people who we think brought us this misery. “I want them GONE!”

And yet, ultimately, that something is the humanity that makes bodies falter and psychology slip, that allows that imperceptible diminution of effort that is truly nobody’s fault. It just happens. And if you think you are upset over the team now winning, you feel only a fraction. Think about how the players must feel.

As Iniesta Tweeted, “Sad for the loss and not bringing the cup home. We were motivated to give you some joy. Now more than ever, proud of everyone.”


By Kxevin

In my fantasy life, I’m a Barca-crazed contributor over at Barcelona Football Blog. In my real life, I’m a full-time journalist at the Chicago Tribune, based in Chicago, Illinois.


  1. Great post Kxevin. We can’t always win, hell the way we are winning since 2008 is almost inhuman. It’s the worst feeling for us as a fan, imagine how they feel. Don’t shove around stuffs like they are getting paid millions to do what they do, because at the end of the days, they are still human, they deserved more respect.

    Regarding the way team plays, it is interesting to note that for two seasons now, the team playing style has taken 90 degree turns at the start of new year. What changes? What actually happened in that period? Tito gets the team going, with only one draw against Madrid, in the first half of last season. And I think we all remembered how Tata’s keen to bring Bagnack to our Asia’s preseason as well, and with his gut to sub Messi earlier in the season.

    Not trying to blame a specific person for this, but to get a decent explanation. The resemblance of pattern is uncanny.

  2. Kxevin as always well said. I have to say that I do remember the seasons with no silverware. Those were the seasons that I first started following this club (for reasons other than silverware ect…) this club has history… Well we all know the story.
    Be proud of this team. Love this team. Believe..

    “But loving a team isn’t math. It’s … emotion, and belief, and rage when that belief is misplaced, lashing out at the people who we think brought us this misery. “I want them GONE!”

    Thank You

  3. I think people are able to deal with losing, it’s HOW they have been LOSING, they look so disinterested, so neutered and tame in possession , so bereft of ideas.This season cannot end fast enough. 20k signatures for a vote of no confidence, sacking our useless coach, and kicking out dead wood while injecting new blood into the squad.

  4. As Pique once said, tiki-taka is no longer the winning way. I agreed back then. Even more so now. Last night, we had 67% possession with only 4 shots on target. What good is it? I’m sure anyone here would have preferred M*adrid’s direct and efficient 33%. They had more shots on target too.

    1. why do people always criticize Tiki Taka when we lose? how many games did we win playing Tiki Taka this season? it’s not a matter of Tiki Taka not being a winning way anymore …

    2. Count me out of that proposition. How efficient would Madrid have been if we’d sat back in defence like them. They tried to take us on this season and suffered so they’ve gone back to their shell. Wouldn’t be my choice of team to follow.

  5. If u feel u can do a better job y don’t u go out there & do it then, instead of nagging yap yap yap. Ppl with egos, like me, our egos r huge but there’s something we do that we hide, its philanthropy anonymously, a helping hand to the hopeless without seeking recognition for it. did any1 see Ronaldo’s gesture? Yeah, thats right. Egotists r the most misunderstood ppl. Visca Barca! To all the true fans of this club. I wont say Cules/Culers, that word has become common

  6. Been a big fan of this club from 1992, and maybe being a 10 yr old i just loved seeing them on the tele during champions league, with their colours etc. good times those.
    As of now, the team look in doldrums. Why?? Lets see..
    Graham hunter in one of his posts recently remarked that the first time he saw messi playing for Barcelona, he wasn’t overly impressed. Many years later when he interviewed the captain of that team, when he first saw messi, he was told that messi would sometimes do that when he didn’t agree with the coach’s plans etc, i.e. be disinterested, no heart in the game. I would not have believed that but for another performance which was definitely below normal from him. Well, so what?? Hasn’t he done enough for us? He has!! But why such a disinterested look and body language? Doesn’t he realise that even though he may not be a “talker” he’s still a silent leader.
    I’m not sure whats up with him? But honestly, im dying to know. Why so disinterested?
    The other thing of course is the speed of passing. And mostly off the ball movements. The players just seem to huddle near the edge of the D without any real cut and thrust. No zipping movement. Thats a major lacking point. I remember 2008, and I remember a friend of mine who said, Barca whether good or bad has the same template of playing. Its just that when we aren’t in form, the passes go more sideways and there’s less off the ball movement.
    I know, u guys already know most of this but I would really want to know if someone else spotted anything else.
    Tata, I loved him as a coach. Didn’t loose a single big match till last week, but now 3 on a trot!! phew..
    Does that imply something? Is the dressing room still with him? Is Messi still with him? Are ppl buying into his ideas? I hope he gets another season on his own terms. Cos I felt he did most things right, was smart and mostly tried to do little things which got us this far!!
    So any of u here, from Barcelona, Plz tell me if u know anything?
    And finally thanks to u Kxevin, Peter, Soccermom, and all u wonderful ppl here doing absolutely brilliant work here.And Kxevin u specially. After last night we needed a post like this. And if some of us have lived through 1999 to 2005 period, this is still luxury.
    “True supporters come out when things r looking bleak”!! And hence to work today I wore my Barca t shirt!!
    PS: I have been a silent follower for many months now. Had to say something today!!

  7. I’v been saying it all the time. Its not normal to do wat they did for 7 yrs. U get fed up of all the success, almost nauseas. Its boring. Wats the challenge. Been there done that, got the sweater, got the winners medal, rinse repeat if desired, repeat cause of desire, then desire dies & there’s no more repeats. Its like Michael’s haydays with Ferarri. … I prefer this club in it was getting less attention. Now we hav all these fans because of winning every thing. This club was the embodiment of how I see things, especially when it had no shirt sponsor. I do things differently. I found a club that did the same. Was always the only 1 with an old dull Barca shirt, with only a Nike swoosh & the FCB badge, stripes, thats it. Nothing too fancy, everybody else is United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal, few Madrid fans here & there only because of the del Bosque era – so respect to them, they know their team. I prefered FCB with less supporters than the other big clubs. Was unique. All these bandwagon jumpers can go. Didnt like them jumping on board in the first place. We’l return the poor little Catalans we once were & then shitt starts from there again, renewed & refreshed.

    1. Yes and we r the same!! Even i preferred them with no shirt sponsors. Even i wear the 1899-1999 jersey still. And screw that, my father dedicated his phd thesis to an obscure brilliant physicist who died while fighting for the catalans in the spanish civil war!!
      U r not the only one hurting. But ur the only one blabbering, telling us about ur personality.
      We dont care about ur personality. And one person cannot have THE ONLY OPINION. PPl r entitled to theirs. So stop this nonsense.
      And of course we’ll be back. no doubt. This aint a terminal decline!! Its a blip.. And with the right attitude it’ll be sorted.

    2. Stuff happens, people repeat stuff, cut/paste goes wacky. It happens. No personal stuff, please. Others have discussed their personality before, and how it affects how they see the club. Remember that English isn’t a first language for many in this space, and there are degrees of eloquence and facility with it.


  8. My phone … Makes me sound like some lonely loser. Not that I care. This club is confused over its identity. Promote from within. I would’v prefered Garcia took over, expected Roura to b promoted. That promote from within policy flew out after the novelty wore off with Tito assigned as head coach. They wanna bring in Klopp. Germans r the way to go now because of last yr’s Bayern humiliation? Right… This club has become common in the way it thinks just like the rest of europe’s big boys. Ppl prosper when they r themselves. They’v lost their identity thru the board… I don’t care about losing, true Barca fans r use to it. The identity’s gone to sh…

  9. People have high expectations because players themselves set those expectations.
    It’s probably once in 50 years that a remarkable bunch players get assembled in one team in one time, and we are/were lucky that it was our team.
    That’s why we expect more from them, because we know they can. They have the talent, the experience, the intelligence, everything that they need in order to achieve greatness.
    And it is a problem to realize that maybe the end has come to this generation of players. This is where it ends. At least to me.
    When we judge them game in game out, that doesn’t take away the appreciation we have for the team and the joy they brought to us in the last decade. But, i have and always will criticize them or the coach or the board when i feel that something is not going the way it should. Player by player, name by name or a team as a whole.
    We’ll see how they react during the weekend. Will they still think that is possible to win the league and give it all, or will they think that everything is over and will bring the season to an end by just playing the games.

  10. Oh yes, we DO need a captain with BALLS who will shout at the others when they are disinterested, confused, tired…

  11. For me, this club needs so much, but it starts with the board. The board has to either do the right things, or get out. Those right things start by showing that it cares about the team and its sporting project.

    Today, people are blaming Messi. It isn’t one thing. It’s everything. It’s 7 years of high-wire football, everything. A new coach, even Guardiola, would have the same problems if things aren’t repaired from the top.

    Guardiola wanted to hit the psychic reset button, and had a chance to when things were still able to be salvaged. Vilanova wanted to give it a go, but it was already getting late. They were able to squeeze out enough to snag the Liga, but the signs were there. Martino walks in, looks at the equivalent of a 4-plug extension cord with 16 things plugged into it and says, “Uh, this thing is about to blow! Let me try some stuff.” It worked for a time, then it all blew.

    Martino made errors. All coaches do, even Guardiola. Folks should go back and look at how he was criticized for selection, tactics, etc, not only in this space. Players made errors. Everybody screwed up at some point this season. But to regain the essence of what this team is about, starts with elections, or a board that gives a damn about this once in a lifetime group of players.

    Then you get a fully empowered coach, not some caretaker with his finger in the dike, and that coach can do what he sees he needs to do instead of trying to placate and get the best out of mentally fried players. Then those players see that the right things are happening, and they get with the program.

    With Rijkaard, it was as simple as a new coach, then empowering that coach. That worked for a time. As time marched on, something more needed to happen, but we got the wrong board at the wrong time. That sped things up. Now we have this, and it’s a full-on mess.

    I hope that I will be flying to Barcelona to vote for a new president this summer. I have signed a petition, publicized that effort and done what I could. Now it’s up to others, and that’s another story. The story here is that this team is fried. And there is no easy way to get it UN fried. No right transfer, no right coach. Not right now, with the state the club is in.

    These players did their best, fought their hardest even when they lost. Problem is that some days, your best isn’t good enough for so many reasons. No excuses, just reality.

  12. We play Bilbao this wkend & we’r weakened, mentally, lethargic, physically. Those Basque demons r even fitter than Atletico… (Edited for content.)

  13. Ah Kxevin, that goal takes me back to the final day of a monumentally great week in Barcelona. Sonar festival followed up with tickets in the 2nd tier behind that very goal for my 2nd Barca game at Camp Nou. 1st pitch invasion for 20+ yrs. Still have the goal recorded on a VHS tape somewhere after capturing it on my Handycam, must remember to get it onto a digital format…
    I digress. Confidence is fragile and ours is shattered. Injuries, scandal, board, taxes, stadium plans, FIFA have finally, and rather unsurprisingly, taken their toll. The 3 losses have had a familiar feel to them, high percentage of possession, everyone looking to each other for the elusive piece of individual moment of brilliance (and it not arriving, bar the ridiculous nutmeg by Neymar last week – which resulted in nothing), slightly confusing tactics (and selections, and lack of substitutions)and an inability to keep clean sheets.
    It’s almost like a reverse “rope a dope” plan from our opponents. They score first and then we’re left to pass ourselves to death, we won’t/can’t score.
    We’d probably all feel better if we were sure that the 120m “war chest” was going to be spent in the summer, and it may yet be, but for the moment we’ll have to console ourselves with a few more games watching this particular version of Barca and hoping that we see:
    – Some proper minutes for the stars of the B team
    – Alexis getting a starting berth
    – Abandonment of the 4 man mid
    – a swansong from Puyi

    oh, and if there’s any magic dust left, EE dropping some points before the end of the season.
    With my team (Scotland) not qualifying yet again for the WCF I don’t even have that to look fwd to. Roll on La Liga 2014/15!
    Visca Barca

    1. “As I have said for one, two, three months now, I don’t feel that my future has changed because of all that we lost, and nor do I think it would be different if we had won.”
      Read more: http://www.totalbarca.com/2014/interviews/martino-its-a-really-tough-blow/#ixzz2z90wln2a

      This confirms what has been said for a while that Tata has given up on the team since the new year. He tried papering over the cracks but he soon found out that the ship was inevitably going to sink and he cannot be blamed.
      I wish this man would be given another chance under his terms and allowed the freedom to choose/kick out whoever he sees fit.

  14. somebody, anybody, please explain to me the logic of benching your 2nd and 3rd leading scorers overall (pedro and alexis) for the business end of the season…and playing, who some consider, the 2nd and 3rd best players in the world (neymar and iniesta) out of position. i totally baffled..can anyone share some logic? to take away the ability for iniesta to set up the offense and play his through balls, and for neymar to cut in from the left side or send ground crosses from inside the box is absurd to me. i am not trying to belittle tata..i just cannot at all understand the logic, and i think im usually pretty knowledgeable on football issues..

    keeping alexis off the field has really made me sad…he was in sparkling form earlier in the year. always playing with immense heart. he looked like a different player..like he was on the cusp of becoming a football monster…and he played about the equivalent of one half in the last three games that we lost.. the arguement is that with him on the field we lose possesion? losing goals doesnt matter? well, we are champions possession. yipee..personally, i wouldnt mind never seeing our forward line that we lined up with today ever again.

  15. I’m sure he will be fielded against Bilbao, when more or less it’s not important what we do, unless the others lose some points.
    Tata must answer that question, IF it was his decision.
    What made him bench Alexis and even Pedro in the most important games of the season.

    1. Because it worked against Man City. But yeah, I’m not really impressed with his management lately… really seems like he lost the leadership of the team.

  16. I am disappointed in Tata because at the start of the season it looked like he had a) the strength to bench players for tactical or rest reasons and b) the tactical know how to adapt or game to have more attacking options.

    The game v Rayo when we had 49% possession and won 4-0 seems to have been long forgotten.

    You don’t need to have 70% possession to control a match and you don’t need to have 70% to create chances. I don’t believe that we have to abandon tiki taka to win matches but we sure as hell need to know how to create chances when we have possession and need to know how to defend for the 30% of the time when we don’t.

    As I stated in the previous post, an evolution to our playing style is vital to aby future success. We have become the most predictable team in the world and very beatable by great teams. Atletico, Real, Bayern, PSG, Milan and Chelsea all have beaten us in the last couple of seasons by making life hard for us offensively and waiting for us to give up incredible chances on the break.
    The chances we concede because of our football style are far more dangerous than the chances we create and bar the individual genius of a number of our players we wouldn’t have scored in the majority of big matches.

    How we don’t concede more goals is due to individuals brilliance again like Alba’s amazing block on Isco last night.

    For me, our defenders need to be able to defend first and more foremost. Puyol didn’t have great ball control when he started for us, still doesn’t but boy can he defend.

    1. A)

      this. the problem with Martino’s tactics may not even be Martino’s tactics per se, but rather than Martino the man has succumbed to the political pressures of managing this club; which we all know are extreme. perhaps as a result he’s grown increasingly cautious in the way in which he sets out the team, and covers his ass by selecting Neymar (the big signing) and Cesc (the administration’s favorite) despite the fact that everyone and their dog can see such a system isn’t working. on form Alexis and Pedro should be starting, and when a manager moves away from the players who are playing the best to adapt his tactics he’d better get it right; but Martino plainly isn’t. if that’s the case i hope even more than he’s gone in the summer, replaced by someone with more weight and decisiveness. Frank de Boer is looking better and better: Dutch, successful former player, no-nonsense, is about to win the 4th league title in a row with Ajax, close to Cruyff….

      sub-point: Alba’s block on Isco was immense but he had to, once again, come from the left fullback position into an area where the right-sided center-back should have been in order to make it. this kind of shuffling is a symptom of our defensive players not knowing where they are supposed to be and why our defense looks out to sea every time the ball is in our area for more than 3 seconds at a time.

  17. http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2032523-barcelonas-delicate-ecosystem-has-made-accommodating-neymar-difficult Read this post by Jonathan wilson. BTW I want to just speak about football. Superstars in general do not want to do donkey work. I’m not criticizing TATA Martino, but for all his coaching experience, Biesla’s student etc etc.. plays Neymar on the right(Dani ALves is more of a RM and Neymar doesn’t track back well( At times, he shows he wants to track back, but just exaggerates the foul in that event, most of the times) and uses Iniesta on the wing. Iniesta is deadly in the middle and nicks the possession from the opposition and has an eye for brilliant pass. It’s a no surprise that we have scored goals when Iniesta is in the middle and Neymar on the left. With simple things like this, we would have won the league this year.

    The problem with TATA is he has to deal with stars like Neymar, Fabregas, Iniesta and Messi. We all saw how he didn’t have b**s to tell “Iniesta lost too many balls so he was subbed “. Instead he said, “May be I was wrong to take Iniesta off” in the aftermath of Atleti game(1-0 Second leg) . With all due respect, we need a manager who is the REAL BOSS and of course everyone knows about our defense. We were so good with 3 midfielders, 3 strikers. Inclusion of cesc fabregas, wanting of plan B,C in the past has deprived us of some trophies. In 2011-12, plan A was more than enough to win the league, but pep went for too many plans.

    Now the opposite is true. When plan b,c is required we are keeping useless possession (PLAN A)(Xavi and the catalan fans have much to do with this ) . God bless us next season _/\_

    1. Not a fan of that Wilson piece. It’s essential argument is against changes because they will mess up the Barça template. It was the same argument raised against Ibrahimovic. I rather think it’s time for the template to change. You wonder if Ronaldinho would “fit the template” these days.

      The problem with Martino is that he didn’t have the full mandate from the board to do whatever in the heck he needed to do. And that was that.

    1. Now that is rough. At least Tello might get a game now. Alexis & Pedro should be able to play out the rest of the season.

      If both the Madrid sides drop points and we win out our games then we can still win the league but it feels lost already.

  18. Apparently, Alba and Neymar are both injured…as in out for the season). And Bartra aggravated his injury. I don’t have all the details so maybe someone else can fill us all in?

    Out of the frying pan…

  19. Comprehensive read kxevin, buh i have to admit to just scrolling by without delving in as i would any other of your posts…and the follow up comments i also skipped by. Seeing now how mentally exhausted i am to read such a lovely piece from a great writer, makes me realize how hellish it would be for millionaires to keep to routine, because its one tirey task. Push, shove, work hard, tiki taka, score, assist, must be routine in the minds of the squad, easy to remember easy to forget, easy to motivate easy to demoralize, early to bed early to wake, routine, routine and some more routine. Must be mightily boring. However three losses in a row doesnt quite argue in the favour of this post, i just think some matches fail to motivate players than others.

    Seeing that the team was down, tata could have rested a messi and neymar front two that has yet to clique this season. Defensivelym academy players are always readily available for selection as shape should be stressed over reputation…getting knocked out of the UCL does leave a stagnant clog in the mental state of key players and the only way to curtail that was a proper physical rest which was lagging at the copa finals….we can take umbrage iin the fact that the worst is over and every blind eye to our frailty(ies) has been lifted. For the first time this season i am pointing accusational fingers at tata for having an XI of tired players play the whole big matches from a forthnight ago till date…

    Too exhausted for follow ups.. Viscabarca

  20. Until Barcelona gets a manager who can bench Messi, it wont have a real manager, and it wont get a manager who can bench Messi. Full stop.

  21. In a way it’s nice to see the team lose – well, not really, but it’s nice to see them not always win so victories have more meaning.

    Really sucks to see our team dismantled this way, though. Too much quality out, cheaper knockoffs in – sorry Neymar (this is a joke in case people miss it) – but you still expect the same results. Nope.

    Anyway, anims Barca fans. Maybe a bit more failure will inspire change. Seems to be the only way things get done.

  22. This idea of mental fatigue is the most believable one. These players have each accumulated lifetimes of stress, rocking half a liga was a decent enough accomplishment this season for them. Midfield is really missing Keita/Thiago, squad players to unburden the XI stars, lets not mention the CB situation. Also, I now believe there is value in shaking the XI up, selling a starter or two in a window for big money, bring in fresh blood and legs, like the other top clubs do, even if it does not improve the XI on paper. We are cursed with the gift of the most talented generation of players ever, so it is of course more difficult in this case. Yet I am… hopeful for next season, the big bad board just has to do a -decent- job summer.

  23. Glad you decided to address the real issue, Which is the big picture, The team as a whole, Instead of choosing to single out players or the coach, A take on things that is rare to see, Hats off to you kevin.

    What were’re seeing is just a natural progression, A decay, And like you put it, An inevitability, Barca now is like an aged warrior, Covered in scars, Wounds, Broken bones, Physically and mentally tired, He still has all the heart when he tries to swing his sword, But his body says “NO!, Your heart is not enough anymore, You’re just not the same anymore”.

    It’s obvious that our team needs a new template, In terms of play style and tactics, And for this to happen there has to be:
    1) A clear vision of what our team should look like in the future, Something martino should have by now after spending almost a season with the squad.
    2)For the people in charge of our club to make the necessary changes in order to fulfill that vision of the coach, I’ll avoid taking cheap shots at them, And reserve my judgment for them later, And hope that they prove us wrong.

    As for Tata himself, I really hope he doesn’t leave, Even though the catalan press already had him permanently marked, 4 coaches in 4 seasons is the perfect way to waste such a golden generation, And the sole benefits will be those laughing back at the capital, I still remember what i wrote in this blog soon after tata was first hired, I said we could win treble, Double, Single or none in his first season, Yet it shouldn’t be the thing that decides weather he stays or not, Coaches are brought to build a project, Not for a quick way to grab a trophy or two.

    1. Thank you and everyone for the kind words. For me, it’s pretty simple: This team couldn’t score a single goal against Valladolid or Granada. That is a precipitous drop from the 7-0 that the team handed Levante, which as many will recall, sparked comments about the appalling suckage of La Liga, and shame on Barça for being so good that it is going to stomp people like that.

      Hell, this team was so good that it won a match 4-0 and had the temerity to lose the possession stats battle, and people had kittens. Mind you, the same people scoff when the team has 75% possession against Granada, and loses 0-1. Does possession matter or not?

      Watching early season matches, and the dynamic, attacking group was a delight to watch. Was this what Tito Vilanova was striving for? These guys thumped 6 past Celtic, of all teams!

      And then something happened. All the talk about losing our way, not playing the Barça Way, and frankly, Tata Martino punked out. Play slowed down, something resembling tika-taka (a tactic, not a Way) reared its head and scorelines went down as possession went up.

      Many asked the question about whether possession actually matters, if you have the ball 70% of the time, but don’t score? It was a valid question, but the team was alive in all three major competitions, so only a few looked closely at the value of possession as a statistic.

      Now that Hell Week is over, everybody is questioning everything. When Neymar was deciding a Classic by scoring a goal and assisting on the other, it wasn’t “Neymar is the problem.” Then, it was “Hey, whoa, a legitimate attacking threat to assist Messi, and take that incessant pressure off him.”

      If you look at the list of players whose “fault” something or other this season has been, you get the whole gala XI except for Iniesta. That, to me, points to team win, team loss. Individuals only rarely decide a match. If the keeper passes the ball directly to an opposition attacker who blasts it past him, okay. But those are rarities.

      Now, in adversity, people go after the players they dislike. It’s his fault. Why? Well … because. Graham Hunter has an article saying that selling Neymar is the way forward. Jonathan Wilson is saying that Neymar doesn’t fit the Barça template. People are snarking after him for changing his Twitter profile background in relation to a Nike World Cup promotion campaign, calling him disloyal.

      Neymar is injured for 4 weeks, essentially the rest of the season, and people are saying it’s part of his plan to slack off and diss the team.

      Knowing how to lose is part of the deal, not just knowing how to win. Knowing how to win is easy. If you lose and turn on the players, that isn’t knowing how to win. That’s knowing how to blame. And that ain’t cool.

      Martino is between a rock and a hard place. When he punked out, that was it for him. No way he gets the players back. Good luck to him in his next endeavor.

    2. Possession as a defensive tactic vs possession as an offensive tactic is the big question for our tiki taka.

      Using 4 midfielders as a control tactic against opposition that you are afraid of hurting you is pointless in my opinion as there is never a match where the opposition will not create a chance.
      I am ok with 4 midfielders if one of them is Messi as it would allow for more forward options.

      Messi in behind two central strikers could be the evolution that this club needs.

    3. I have been saying that for a while that argentina is a good model to follow for how to solve the “messi problem”
      If i remember correctly it is using a sort of lopsided 4-3-1-2 with di maria acting as a central winger and messi as the number 10 behind the two strikers

    4. Good thoughts. I will be curious to see how the team evolves, and under what coach. I do know this: all of that publicity and ooohing over the clearly abnormal Messi goal totals has created a monster for the player, the club and whoever coaches Barça.

      Messi is an absolute phenom, a true once in a lifetime player who can destabilize a match in many ways. I would hate to see him reduced to a dude who is expected to put the ball in the net, or something is wrong. He’s too good for that. Recall when he kept turning Tello loose for goals.

    5. Our possession stat in that 7-0 match was 78%, In the following matches against Malaga and Valencia it was 74% and 64% respectively, Even a while after the rayo vallecano fuss, We had possession stats of 58%, 57% and 55% against granada, Real betis and RM respectively, So there is no evidence that there was a change in the approach from the coach, Or that he puked out.

      Yet i understand why you must think something must have changed, Well the way i look at it, It’s not that something has changed, as much as something slowly started revealing itself, Bear with me for a minute

      The team already had deficiencies in relation to the way they play opposition that had adapted to our style of play and the squad that lacked solutions, Fresh legs at the start of the season, Only one match a week, coupled with the extra motivation after the bayern humiliation and the arrival of a new coach, All helped to obscure those already present issues.

      When the real stress test started in the middle of season, The factors that helped covering the cracks started to fade, before that when ever the team faced opponents they have a hard time against they tried to compensate for it by more movement and effort (A quick fix), But there is no squad, or rotation in the world, That can sustain this for a whole season, If you have a flawed template and deficiencies, It’s gonna start showing.

      The signs were present from the beginning but we chose to ignore it and i was guilty as much as everyone else of this, The two draws in the super cup, Some ‘lucky’ wins and close calls in the first half of la liga (Getafe, sevilla, Malaga, Espanyol), …etc.

    6. Well, there is no question that results hid a lot of the squad deficiencies, but I don’t think that anyone was deluding themselves. More than a few of us said that we didn’t expect any silver this season, for many of those reasons.

      But I also think (and will have to start re-watching this season) that the team began to play differently, after all the talk of betrayal of the system by Martino, etc, etc. blablablabla.

      It’s important to differentiate tika-taka from possession football. Bayern play possession football, while Barça/Spain play tika-taka. In many ways, as ciaran points out, tika-taka is bus parking with the ball at times. Possession football is more at the root of the Barça “way.” Tika-taka adapted as a reaction to stresses placed on the team by opponents and counterattacks.

      Guardiola, Vilanova and (I would bet) Martino wanted changes that would address those shortcomings. Didn’t happen. Now things are well and truly a mess.

      Oddly, just a CB would have been as deficient as just buying Neymar was. As part of that adaptation, both were required.

    7. So A deteriorating system +Incompetent board + Aging xavi and the only replacement within squad waved bye bye earlier this season +A coach that is pretty much helpless to make any changes just because he is not from “the system” and does not speak catalan .. Well does that look like enough to explain this situation ?

      Tata is most definitely not going to stay a minute longer after this season and nothing left to do but cheer this team on for the remaining 5 games and end this miserable trophy less nightmare but there remains questions:
      Who is the man ? who is the one to solve all those problems and can he work with the incompetent bunch running this club ? Can he deal with xavi/iniesta/messi/pique and those untouchables in the dressing room ? Is the next season going to be similar to this ( or god forbid worse)?
      I have too many questions ….

    8. Since I hadn’t done it previously, allow me to thank you for the post now. 🙂 Your objectivity and way with words provide a much-needed perspective.

      Now, to step in my devil’s advocate shoes, it could’ve been simply this – Martino was made realize that despite the rotation, the team is playing too many games and isn’t fit enough to continue in this high-intensity manner.

      I don’t believe 100% what I am saying either, but there must be an explanation why the team started strong and then, well, pardon the expression, petered out. It may be that the physios that Tata brought and the change of position of Brau lowered the intensity of conditioning.

      The fact is that the core of this team didn’t stop. I kept my reservations at the time(well, I didn’t know this blog existed back in the summer so I could not voice them), but what happened after the end of last season was that Busquets, Cesc, Iniesta, Xavi, Alba, Pedro, Pique and Valdes went to Brazil for the Confederations Cup, where they met Alves and Neymar. Messi travelled the globe three times on his Messi and Friends tour(and IIRC Masche was with him as well). Then there was the trip to Palestine, and then the European tour and then the Asia tour. And then the season started in the sweltering heat of Spanish August, and Martino had the players run.

      Hindsight is 20/20, but even then I was a bit afraid. These guys hadn’t had a breather. When Barcelona and Bayern met in Munchen back in July, Pep had been training and conditioning his team for a month already. When Graham Hunter’s book’s second revised edition came in the autumn, including the view of the 2012-2013 season, he talked about something interesting, a common theme if you will: During the 2011-2012 season the team for the first time embarked on a hastily-put-together American tour instead of shutting themselves in Scarborough or somewhere and training. The crazy schedule of the Club World Cup robbed the already winded team of a much-deserved breather. We all remember the result of that year, and Pep himself was saying back in the 2011 autumn that Real Madrid are better physically. The year of Tito the team went nowhere – but the lack of rotation(and Tito’s cancer) meant Bayern in the semis.

      The fact is that just like other decisions in the aftermath of the 2012-2013 season, the board has to be blamed for deciding to go on a (very profitable, it has to be admitted) tour with players who had just finished a very hard season topped with a torturous Confeds Cup. Again, hindsight is 20/20. Of course, it may be that the board needed the money for the “hidden” clauses of Neymar’s contract. Also, it will be argued by some that the board didn’t want the team to win La Liga, because it would mean team/staff bonuses in the high teens of millions, money that won’t be spent now. I don’t agree with that notion, because the monetary “reward” is much lower than the instability and potential falling of the board.

      There was an interview with Klopp some time ago, in which he spoke about his first managerial stint with his club Mainz 05. He talked about taking the team to a lake in the Swedish wilderness(might be mistaken about the country but pretty sure it was a Scandinavian one) where he had them camp out Survivor style, since he had vowed that if his players aren’t the best technically, they would be the most fit. Klopp’s gegenpressing needs absolutely fit players(and his tactic is somewhat similar to Pep’s Barcelona wolfpack pressing). I remember the end of the Camp Nou Clasico – Xavi and Messi were soaked and breathless(Ronaldo wasn’t) after so much running.

      So this is my theory – It wasn’t “this isn’t Barça’s Way”, but “We are in no condition to play like this every three days – and we’ll have to play every three days from September to May.” Did Martino bow down due to player pressure? We can’t know for sure, but Mascherano, Iniesta, Xavi, Puyol, they all have stated again and again they are with Tata Martino. Why? Because he’s weak and malleable? Or because he chose to put down his approach and forego his authority(and be faced with criticism and poisonous articles about lily-livered foreigners) so that the team can reach the end of the season? Maybe he’s just convenient for the players(no pressure) and the board(no demands for spending) and that’s why he’s allowed to continue, which seems to be the prevalent opinion among the culerada?

      Anyway, I will end this comment with a list of what has happened to Barcelona this season in terms of injuries and off-pitch problems:

      Tito Vilanova resignation due to cance relapse(second)
      Neymar anemia
      Neymar “transfer scandal”
      Messi “Tax fraud” trial
      “Messi and (drug dealer)friends”
      Barcelona lost The Way
      Media attacks from everywhere(“Abidal not paid” scandal, “Rosell criminal sentence in Brazil”, “Case Neymar”, “Case Hallilovic”)
      Messi injury and absence(two times)
      Puyol injury
      Dos Santos ACL tear
      Neymar injury
      Failed vote of no confidence
      “Tax fraud” trial against President Sandro Rosell
      President resignation
      “Tax fraud” trial against FC Barcelona(and associated media shitstorm)
      Alba injury
      Alba injury relapse
      Barcelona B injury epidemic.
      Valdes injury on international duty
      Tata Martino’s father deceased
      Isaac Cuenca injury relapse
      Iniesta’s wife loses child
      Puyol injury
      Pique injury
      FIFA ban and associated white media shitstorm
      Pique second injury
      Valdes ACL rupture
      Alba second injury
      Bartra injury
      Neymar second injury

      I’m certain I’m missing something. Anyway, how the F*ck are we still not reduced to nervous breakdowns???

    9. Oh yes, the Entorno and more specifically Sport. I knew I had forgotten something. But the spoiled “culers” also count.

  24. @ nick.. Tiki taka is no longer the way? Its not tiki taka, its tiki taka’ing without the other fundamentals that completed the system. U cant just hav 1 component. Tiki taka worked at its best because the 10% of the ball that we didnt hav in times gone by, was chased down with a 5 second limit — thats intensity, thats pressing – & overall – thats wat brings everything else together. Thats total football. Thats Cruyff, & thats Barca.

    1. @SemperFi: Note how your comment(s) have been edited. This space has rules, spoken and unspoken. First and foremost is respect. That means no name-calling of anyone in or out of this space. We can discuss things in an informed, reasonable fashion. We can also disagree, but we have to do so as people who respect each other.

      Words such as “stupid” and “retarded” will not fly in this space. This isn’t a message board.

  25. [I’l edit my own piece Kxevin, if u don’t mind…] @ Nick. Tiki taka is not the winning way anymor? Thats exactly wat the naysayers & doomsayers want fans, & more even, the team to believ, because they that r not Barca fans, hated being passed to death. If u believ that tiki taka, should tata, then (edited). Madrid went back into their shells. We had possession albeit tame, & lacks, but it still forced those white stripped (edited) into their own half. Imagine a tiki taka done the right way – pace, off ball movement, decoy runs, running running & running, pressing, staying compact, along with the tiki taka? We’d roll back the yrs then. Its not tiki taka, its tiki taka’ing without the other fundamentals that completed the system. U cant just hav 1 component. Tiki taka worked at its best because the 10% of the ball that we didnt hav in times gone by, was chased down with a 5 second limit — thats intensity, thats pressing – & overall – thats wat brings everything else together. Thats total football. Thats Cruyff, & thats Barca. Thank u very much…

    1. I agree that we are witnessing a Greek Tragedy, but it seems this play has been written only after the events are concluded and the story seems inevitable. Was Valdes’ and Pique’s injuries inevitable. You have to be a superstitious fool to think that. The truth is that we went into the most important games of the season with a goalie and central back line that were comparable with many La Liga sides that are facing relegation.
      The problem, of course, is that Barcelona do not have the depth to compensate for such freak injuries that sometimes happen. If we had the depth of other top clubs then a slightly less able player could have stepped in without much fuss.
      In the end we could have bought Javi Martinez or Thiago Silva for 40 million but Barcelona have been burned by center back purchases before and those options at the time seemed too costly, though now they seem well worth it.
      Another obvious remedy is go for a dominating striker. That way we have more of a chance to score against a bus, particularly if we can take corners like other teams do and actually have a chance to score. No wait we tried thatwith Ibra and got burned too.
      The lessons of this season are clear now, but the Greek Tragedy is only written in hindsight.

  26. Everybody has said everything already. But I just want to add my extreme disappointment at the inability of Tata Martino to learn from his mistakes. We will never know if he made his choices only to please the board / prove a point already knowing he is going to leave.

    But in the past 5 matches, we have lost 3 and won just one, effectively eliminating us from all the three competitions. In all those matches only the 1 game that we won had Alexis Sanchez starting. In all other games he has been repeatedly benched.
    WHY? This is a guy who is on great form, works for the team and has been scoring too. Whats not to like? Insanity is defined as doing the same things over and over again and expecting a different result. Why the F has tata persisted on the same personnel in spite of us suffering unfavorable results? I just don’t get it. If anybody has any theories, please do enlighten.

    1. I don’t have an answer for you, but this is one of the rare times I agree with you. Tata’s stubbornness has been disastrous for the team and personally disappointing for me, as I have found a lot of his recent decisions unfathomable. He has stuck with a front line of Neymar-Messi-Cesc (with slight tweaks in position) for the last several games despite clear indications that it doesn’t work. Result–three devastating losses in a row, games we could not afford to lose, which has effectively ruined the season. Starting Alexis over Cesc or Neymar (or Messi for that matter) could have made the difference. We will never know for sure, of course, but inflexibility & stubbornness are terrible traits in a coach.

    1. oh god so many rumours about messi leaving barca and offers from the likes of psg and man city. AS even went out of its way to say that Barca are actually considering selling messi. I just dont see it happening but crazy things always happen in football.
      I dont want to get the “know its value when it’s gone” sort of feeling.

    2. Couldn’t see it happening. For the €200 million you’d get for selling him, there isn’t enough places on the first XI for the players to buy to get a benefit.
      You buy 5 players for €40m each and sit them on the bench?
      You buy 4 players for €50m each and try to accommodate them in your first XI?

      I don’t think so.

  27. So according to Sport, Bartomeu wants to sign 6/7 players including 2 GKs, 2CBs, 1 FullBack, 1 CM & 1 ST.
    Sounds promising but we’ve see this before.

    They also report that the first signing is going to be Messi’s renewal which is also a good sign. Maybe with a good world cup he might be re-energized for next year.

    It sounds funny but one of the hardest spots to fill will be Alex Song’s. To get a midfielder willing to spend some of the big matches on the bench but still ready to play when called upon.
    Do you try to sign someone with similar skills to Busquets or someone to play alongside him?

    1. It’s rather amusing really. They’re talking about bringing in players. I suspect the big question will who be who wants to head for the exit doors. Song is absolutely world class. Yet he will be desperate to leave. Ridiculous. Alexis could be the main man in just about any team in Europe. He’s been treated very shabbily. Surely, he’s had enough of being a “soldier” as Tata called him. Ditto Pedro.
      And don’t forget, these guys have no idea who’ll be the coach next year. They won’t be too keen on listening to b… about how it will be better next year.

    2. that sounds great, but as you said we’ve heard it before.

      i think we already have Song’s replacement: Javier Mascherano. a midfield he’s anchoring would both free Busquets from many of his defensive duties and let him get into more advanced positions as well as shore up our inevitably new center-backs options. i think we forget sometimes that Masch *is* a holding midfielder, and there’s no reason why he can’t play in that position for us once we have an adequate CB situation.

  28. I was waiting for the Athletico match, hoping to see a 3 man midfield. It seemed obvious, even for me. When that did not happen, I knew it was not going to be easy. Even then, I waited hoping to ‘escape’ with nicked goal or something. A big win was out of question but we were nevertheless favorites. What I didn’t expect was the team surrendering to the surprise that Athletico gave us with their attacking stance. We did not have an answer. None. It could have been humiliating if not for the goal post! Half time in, I was expecting a fight back like in the first leg. None again.

    I have only one explanation for the ‘naivety’ shown by the coach of the most technical football team in the world: Punked (credit to Kxevin above). Someone inside the club ‘ordered’ Tata Martino to start Cesc or something to that effect. Irony is that it could have been totally different if two things happened. One, Alexis starting. Two, continuing the fighting spirit that the team showed in first leg. Of all the big-picture short comings that we face, we could very well have been in contention for major silver if small things like this – which were totally doable- were taken care of.

    Some will say this is for the long-term good and we will only start again and go higher. I don’t think so. we could have totally skipped the falling down part and continued winning, albeit a bit less, while transitioning. The coach was either foolish or was restricted. Restricted seems the answer since Tata Martino proved his tactical capabilities well in the first half of the season. What is really the failure of Tata Matino, in may opinion is that he was not able to inspire the team to fight harder. Or maybe he simply lost the team in December.

    Anyways, I went into a slumber after that defeat and did not read anything related to Barca until today. I just deal with this shit like that. I disconnect and wait till I am strong enough to came back.

    To the World Cup then. Hoping what we all feared is true – Messi is indeed waiting to peak!

    1. Tata Martino never lost the team. He never had them. They tolerated him for a while. But he was never in control.
      Frankly, I strongly suspect that Barca will basically remain a pilotless ship until Messi (and maybe Xavi) are sold. The fundamental question is whether their talents are worth it.
      I bet Tata can’t wait to get out. Don’t blame him.
      Does anyone think a top coach like Klopp would think about going to Barca. Nope, he’s too smart.

    2. Oh, and after moving Messi on I would build a new team around Neymar (should be at least three or four seasons before he gets too big for his boots).

    3. Lol. No offense, but you just don’t buy or sell Lionel Messi. He stays if he wants. No one in their right mind even thinks about it. A half-good Messi is better than a couple of Agueros or whoever (as we’ve been seeing for two years now). To be frank, he may be the best thing that happened to Barca, or even world football. Hell, me and many people like me started watching Barca for Messi and then fell for the team’s style. To this day, I tend to skip matches if I know that Messi isn’t playing.

      But then, the challenge is to get him interested in being the leader. For that, you need to convince him in more ways than money. This Board doesn’t cut it in those terms. At least that is what I am led to believe.

    4. Messi is a genius. He may well be the greatest footballer who has ever walked the planet. But that does not mean the good he does (such as it is these days) is worth the problems he causes. I really don’t think it is a coincidence that as his power in the team has grown the team’s performance has diminished. It’s an 11-man game. And if 1 player (no matter how great) makes it hard for the whole team to function coherently, and in fact suppresses the talents of other players (e.g. Alexis), it’s time to cash in.
      Just my view, which means nothing.

    5. Messi isn’t the problem. Messi being played the way he is has turned out to be a problem. We have put him right in the heart of the opponent’s defence ( two banks of four at a conservative estimate ) with his back to goal. There hasn’t ever been a player who has had to face that in world football that I can remember.

      Messi’s strength is running at defenders. It doesn’t seem like a stretch of anyone’s imagination to realise that we need to occupy the two CBs more than we have been doing. They barely have to move to play against us. Watch the two banks of players. Other than shuffle across in front of us they don’t get pulled out of position. So you put someone in there who can play back to goal, has quick and accurate feet for short one twos, knows when to move off defenders and if presented with a chance can finish it. Doesn’t have to be big. Yeah, someone like David Villa Against Milan….. who promptly went back to the bench. Not advocating bringing him back but for the last two years that’s where he should have been playing. That gives the CBs something to pull them about which is where Messi thrives, imo.

      For the rest, if Song is world class he wouldn’t be content to sit on the bench and wouldn’t have come to us knowing that and I remain unconvinced regarding Alexis but that’s another matter.

    6. The problem with this logic is that the teams we have been losing against do nnot have Messi. We do.

      The only way a player who plays no defense can outweigh the problems he creates by doing that is if he scores a lot of goals created by himself, i.e. of the kind where he dribbles past four defender and scores. He used to do that, but if you go from strolling around when the other team has the ball to strolling around when we have the ball (and as a result not being in good positions to receive it) to walking and not running even when you have it, it becomes impossible to do that. And unsurprisingly he has stopped doing it. So do the positives still outweigh the negatives? No, because the negatives increased while the positives disappeared. Unless things change, we should indeed cash in.

      Of course, none of us know the real situation as we are posting these things from thousands of kilometers away. But there have to be people in the club who know enough to be able to evaluate what the future holds and hopefully they will make the correct decisions based on that information.

    7. Sorry G60 I’m not sure exactly what you’re saying. My argument was that if you put Messi in the middle of our attack he has nowhere to run to, thereby effectively de-skilling him. Not sure why it matters that the other teams don’t have Messi.

      With regard to the lack of defending I’m pretty much old school in that losing a ball at the edge of their penalty area should never result in a goal of itself, regardless of whether we are pressing or not. In fact Tata had improved this quite a bit until basically the last week or so and all the breakaway goals were preventable, imo, in the sense that we had players back.

      However, the Messi situation isn’t ideal. If he has lost interest for some reason (v unlikely imo) we don’t sell him, we try to find a way to rekindle his interest. If it’s orders from the coach we can change that. The most worrying scenario is if it’s medical. In a way though I come back to my main point which is a bit like what some are saying about Xavi. He can only hit a great through ball if one is on. Messi can only create by getting into a situation where he can run at them. I wouldn’t agree he walks when we have the ball. He is trying to lose the defenders and will sprint at top speed if he sees there is a chance of a good ball coming in to him.

    8. However, the Messi situation isn’t ideal. If he has lost interest for some reason (v unlikely imo) we don’t sell him, we try to find a way to rekindle his interest. If it’s orders from the coach we can change that. The most worrying scenario is if it’s medical. In a way though I come back to my main point which is a bit like what some are saying about Xavi. He can only hit a great through ball if one is on. Messi can only create by getting into a situation where he can run at them. I wouldn’t agree he walks when we have the ball. He is trying to lose the defenders and will sprint at top speed if he sees there is a chance of a good ball coming in to him.

      I am also very worried it might be medical – that could be the beginning of terminal decline, which is the worst-case option. But it’s also possible that he has indeed developed the primadona syndrome, and unless someone can give him a serious awakening to the reality of world football around 2014, that would the beginning of terminal decline too.

      I do not agree with all you say though – it is absolutely true that in the system we started with in these games, he was deprived of options, But it is also true that he was walking with the ball and not getting himself in good positions to receive it. The situations in which he simply stands just a meter in front of the defenders in no space to do anything and without doing anything to position himself better, and the ones in which he gets the ball and instead of trying to destabilize the defense by getting past players he does not do anything proactive with it have been countless.

    1. Pep ain’t coming back unless he can bench Messi, and he can’t, so he won’t be coming back.

    2. Not as coach. Guardiola doesn’t strike me as a man who goes backward. Might he someday return as president or as a board member? That I could see.

      It is looking increasingly doubtful that Laporta is going to stand, which effectively eliminates the “juggernaut” candidate. We’ll see.

    3. I get what you’re saying.
      But Why should a second stint be considered as going ‘backward’? He has constantly spoke of the ‘eureka moment’ in his profession as the primary motivation to do what he does and he enjoys it now as he enjoyed it back then, even as a player. I’ll tell you what… Pep strikes me as a clever man who will only look to up his stock. That he chose bayern wasn’t a surprise to me in the ‘safeness’ of that choice. He was certainly going to win and add to his CV. I think that if favourable conditions presented themselves to him at Barcelona, why should he not attempt a second stint. Yes, i know, he may never be able to match or exceed his achievements from his first stint and will be constantly compared. But then again, he may never do that with ANY team. The guy IS a Barca fan too right? I agree that he may coach a couple of other teams, perhaps in England and maybe a national side, before assuming bigger roles such as sporting director or president in Barcelona, and that these things are much more likely to happen.
      But strange things do happen, like Mourinho returning to his Chelsea where he feels ‘loved’ and all that. And one can hope that the still young Pep could return to managing this team before he moves on to larger things later in his charmed life. Of course the conditions for him to work properly need to be promising and we are faaar from that.
      If not Tata, then who? Frankie?

    4. @Kxevin Amidst this strange situation, that is of being a Barca fan right now, the article has been superbly penned. What strikes me most is that despite being a passionate fan, you have managed to passivate yourself from the situation and provide an objective account.

      What strike me the most is clear lack of leadership – both onfield and off it. “Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’” – now motivating an individual to set this “why” itself a herculean, imagine motivating 22 individuals to a collective “why”. And for Tata, this is going to be an almost impossible task after whats transpired.Hope is to find such a leader.

      **Another silent follower of this blog, who couldnt hold back the rant any longer. 🙂

    5. Pep left because he saw this group of players had peaked and he couldn’t motivate them any longer. He isn’t going to come back till this cycle is well and truly over… The old guard gone, maybe in four five years with Iniesta close to retiring, Messi possibly in a midfield role, without the chains of the past weighing them all down.

  29. EE plays bayern, AM plays chelski. These are both tough and exhausting games and this is to hope that it takes a toll on them and better our liga chances.

  30. All I have is 2 requests for the BfB team.

    1. You guys are absolutely amazing. Kxevin, I don’t comment much simply because I feel like i’ve been bit by the “contrarian bug” that infests the internet, and am unable to remain objective. You, though, have this unique ability to stay clear of the noise. I may not agree with everything you say, but your words are wonderfully refreshing. Please never stop.

    2. Can we please convince Euler to come out of retirement? I need to understand the current situation from a tactical standpoint, and considering he taught me all I understand about this game, I would love to read what he has to say.

    1. Euler is quite active on Twitter (though not much of late). his handle is @euleri, i believe.

  31. More crud is flying over the transom. AS is alleging that Sanchez and Martino had a row before the match, that Sanchez called Martino a “coward” when the lineup came out, and was so angry that he didn’t stay around to collect his losers medal.

    I didn’t watch the full ceremony, so I can’t say whether he was around or not.

    — MD, the mouthpiece, has a story on potential Martino replacements. It’s almost certain now that he is leaving. Another story in MD said that Martino decided months ago to use his out clause and leave the club.

    That Eric Coffin-Gould piece linked above is a stirring read, and not just because it precisely echoes my sentiments.

    1. Like most people I really feel sorry for Alexis. At the tail end of last season I predicted that he would be one of our most important players this season and everything was going well until he got dropped for every meaningful match. He has been a constant source of energy in our team and contributes a lot offensively and defensively.

      The stories linking Frank de Boer are really interesting. I’ll admit that I don’t watch the Dutch league at all but winning any league 4 years in a row is impressive. Add to that he plays attacking football and selects his team based on form not reputation, if asks looks bright. He obviously played for us back in the day and was a great ball playing defender himself so I would be happy with the appointment.

      Klopp’s Dortmund play some of the best football in Europe and considering what he has done with his injury crisis being 10 times worse than ours is almost a miracle. I watch loads of Dortmund matches and I’d also be happy for him to take over.

      No manager is going to agree to coming in until they know the situation with the transfer ban. The sooner we get that at least suspended the better.

      Clear out a few players and sign the right ones and we are back in business, it’s not like we don’t have incredible players already and have to completely overhaul everything like is being spoken about in the media.

    2. Just fired up WatchESPN and Ffed to the ceremony. No Sanchez. They had a medal left over, presumably for Sanchez, that was given to Montoya.

      Klopp scoffed at the rumors linking him to us, and don’t forget that he recently renewed with Dortmund until 2018.

      Frank De Boer also, earlier this season, reconfirmed his commitment to Ajax, at least for the foreseeable future.

      Now that we know we can bring back loanees, a FIFA ban isn’t that horrific. You do the following:

      Bring back Rafinha and Deulofeu
      Promote Denis Suarez (autopromote in his contract anyhow), look long and hard at Bagnack who isn’t ready, but maybe for Cup stuff, etc. Say prayers over the various broken and semi-broken limbs of Ie. You claim that Pinto is broken beyond repair, and buy a quality Liga keeper to fill in while Ter Stegen goes on loan for a season, until he can actually join Barça.

      On the first team, you commit to giving (and yes, I realize what I am typing here) Jonathan Dos Santos a chance. I have to say that I watch him, and see his quality. Not sure what the deal is there.

      The first team also has Afellay and Cuenca. There is also Tello. Obviously those rebuilding plans would have to go on hold for a season, and whoever the new coach was would have to roll the dice with the Copa, saving the veteran first-team players for the Liga and Champions League, but we could get it done. Roster would look like:

      Forwards: Messi, Tello, Pedro, Neymar, Sanchez, Deulofeu, Cuenca

      Midfielders: Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets, Song, Sergi Roberto, Denis Suarez, Afellay

      FBs: Alves, Adriano, Alba, Montoya

      CBs: Pique, Mascherano, Bartra, Bagnack, Ie, Ohmylordwerescrewed

      Keepers: ????, Oier.

    3. If Ter Stegen can’t come, the only options are renewing Pinto or promoting Masip. Personally I would take Masip over Oier any day of the week, he has been excellent the last couple of seasons.

    4. Word has it that Porto won’t let Ohmylordwerescrewed go for any fee less than 50M. You know how they are! You’re gonna hafta rethink your backline options, Kxevin.

    5. I think Ohmylordwerescrewed is overrated anyway.

      Eusebio has been playing Edgar Ie at RB for (parts of) his last few games, and he’s been doing a pretty good job. It would be great if we had a player who was able to play both CB/RB, sort of a reverse Abidal. I really hope the club sees his potential and keeps him.

    6. Alexis was totally right, good on the kid for standing up for himself. i understand his frustration, given his form this season, and i’d much sooner get rid of Martino than Alexis at this point. 100% behind Sanchez.

    7. Alexis’ agent had to come out on Twitter to defend him on something that he had not done. Where have we come with this???

      Anyway, it seems that journalist who make up fake stories to sell their papers 1 – Alexis Sanchez 0.

      It’s always the first one to come out wins the battle, manye people have already based their opinions on Alexis now that he’s not a team player, that he called Martino a ‘wimp’ etc. Although it’s true that he went straight to the dressing room after final whistle, everything else is basically made up. People still believe everything they hear or read…

    8. Alexis is surely pissed off at Martino, but Martino is helpless. He has to field Neymar based on his status and his price tag. 2 months prior, every match report related to Barça started with, ” Going with current form, Sanchez should’ve started ahead of Neymar”. But Sanchez reacted way too much.Is it the same way Lampard, Terry reacted towards AVB? Mr Sanchez should’ve understood how things work at Barça. Sanchez should tie a friendship band with Messi ASAP

    9. I would suggest that on form, Sanchez isn’t the one sitting. Messi is. But you can’t because of his potential. And Martino didn’t want to lose the midfield control battle, which means Fabregas.

      It was ultimately crappy and unsporting as hell, particularly given that the rest of the team stood on the pitch to watch RM receive their awards and celebrate, then go up to the podium and accept the second-place medals. Deserting the team because of a fit of pique is not cool. Last time we saw that was Toure Yaya, who was mentally already on the way out of Barcelona.

      If he stays with the club, it starts with an apology. We’ll see what kind of pride Martino has. He doesn’t make my bench if I am coaching, even with Neymar injured.

    10. Hopefully this will see Alexis leave. No point wasting his talent at Barca. He obviously now realises that. He doesn’t care if he’s benched. He just wants out.

    11. For me the best things that could happen right now:

      Tata stays and gets absolute authority over training regime, transfer needs and starting positions.
      FIFA appeal suspends the ban for a period of a month.
      Board and Zubi and his assistants get a case of bruised buttocks from too many times sitting down in a plane seat/negotiating table.
      The players not going to the World Cup get three weeks of holidays and then a month or more of hard work at closed doors. The players who do get to play in the World Cup get two to three weeks of rest, then join the pre-season conditioning.

      As of this moment the board is in the same state of Laporta in 2008. Laporta survived that, would Bartomeu and the rest survive it?

    12. He has to field Neymar based on his status and his price tag.

      And this is one of the reasons I was against buying Neymar. Nothing against the kid personally, but we just cannot afford to have a player that “has” to be played whether the coach wants him to or whether it is best for the team. We have already encountered that scenario with Messi on occasion.

      Anyway, it should have been Cesc benched for Alexis, not Neymar, in the CDR game, I think most of us probably agree on that.

    13. Alexis’ agent had to come out on Twitter to defend him on something that he had not done. Where have we come with this???

      Anyway, it seems that journalist who make up fake stories to sell their papers 1 – Alexis Sanchez 0.

      It’s always the first one to come out wins the battle, manye people have already based their opinions on Alexis now that he’s not a team player, that he called Martino a ‘wimp’ etc. Although it’s true that he went straight to the dressing room after final whistle, everything else is basically made up. People still believe everything they hear or read…

    14. Looking at the suggestions for replacement, I wonder if they are serious.

      Paco Jemez? Rayo’s coach? Okay, he’s took them out of the relegation zone, but they spent 20 weeks in that same relegation zone, which included twelve losses in a row.
      Frank de Boer’s two greatest achievements for getting the job seem to be beating Barcelona at Amsterdam Arena and being Dutch
      Luis Enrique was touted as the heir of Guardiola.
      Valverde’s men run like insane.

      What’s the common thing about all of them? Well, when have they faced a parked bus, except maybe when playing Betis? Have they had to play for weeks on end two times per week against top opponents and teams that don’t come out to win, but come out to try not to lose?

  32. I posted a comment by playmaker from the Guardian in a previous thread, I’ll post it again as the timing is so fitting;

    16 April 2014 11:29pm

    Alexis Sanchez really must stop pissing in
    Martino’s cornflakes

  33. The current state of affairs with the 1st team lay directly at the feet of the current board. I really hope there’s a referendum this summer to have new elections. How many years have we not brought in the the players and filled the positions we’ve needed? It may be even the last year of the Laporta reign that it began. However, I don’t think they are at fault because they couldn’t foresee Puyol breaking down and unable to play for seasons on end. We’ve had needs that have gone unattended for the better part of 4 years. We did not need Neymar this season. That $100 million could’ve brought in a few players of high caliber that strengthened the squad size and positions we needed strengthened. I’m glad we have him though. So, if we knew last Summer was the Neymar Summer then why not act the previous Jan. or Summer or the following Jan.? It’s almost willful negligence. We can’t win everything every year, but we can put the 1st team in a position to do so. Heck, their in a position to do so in spite of our Boards efforts or lack there of. Since the Wembley Final we have allowed other top clubs catch up to us and done nothing to improve upon our brilliance that day. Did we need Cesc? Song? I love this club, but am frustrated by the ineptitude in control of it. I’m also not sad Tata is leaving this Summer. I was holding back judgement of him as a coach and leader, but I can safely say he’s certainly not the latter and that’s what we need. It’s been mentioned above, but how can he continually leave out Alexis and Pedro in favor of Cesc and a 1st season, young, inexperienced Neymar? We also have not promoted from the B team which lies 6th in Segunda. On their roster are at least 3 CB’s who deserve a look. Gomez, Ie, & Bagnack could all play mins in the Copa Del Rey or even towards the end of the 7-0 drubbings we gave out. Tata has essentially quit on the team. That’s not the type of coach I want around. I feel for him in many ways, but the things he can control directly have been poorly managed.

  34. The problem with playing for Barca for the last few years is that playing with a parked bus against the team is very effective. Without tall, athletic players, we can not score on crosses or corners, so teams don’t mind conceding these.
    I could imagine that this causes tremendous frustration for all the players who on others teams would be dominating if allowed wide open play. Sanchez, Pedro, Neymar and Messi could all be thriving and scoring scores of goals on other teams who are allowed to play with space. Instead, I imagine the frustration of having to impotently play each game against a bus. It’s not playing football, but some other sport that isn’t much fun or rewarding. All these players world class skills are going to waste because they are not allowed to use them.
    I suppose Neymar, who has actually been excellent this year despite his injuries and adjustment in the team must be ruing the day he signed with Barca. He thought he would be another jewel in the juggernaut that destroyed Santos 4-0, but instead hasimplanted himself into a dysfunctional soap opera on a team that can’t use his talent as much as nearly every other big team.

    1. What team is better at breaking a ‘bus’? Recall BM (best team in history, hehe) vs 10 man Arsenal, they looked as toothless as we do on our worst day. ‘EE’ not too rarely fail when their opponents play a Chelsea game, I don’t think offensive corners/crosses are that large of a factor. It’s a flaw in the sport, too easy to defend. Teams will park it extra deep against us because we are the best team in open games, so yeah in worse team the players would get more space. Barcelona’s failures against 10 men defenses is due to lack of effort, move the 2011 side to today’s european football and it would still dominate IMO.

    2. Well, nobody is very good at breaking a bus. That’s why the tactic works. More interesting to me are the players people champion as the “answer,” and we see them in space, running free and doing magical stuff.

      Then those players come to us, are suffocated by the lack of space and we say of the same players who, a season previous we wanted to join the club, they are a failure because they don’t understand the Barça Way, can’t do this, or can’t do that.

      The essential nature of the need for adaptability couldn’t be more evident than in the Copa final. RM allowed us no space, playing for the first time as a committed TEAM, rather than a collection of individuals. This left much less space to exploit, less time on the ball, and the rest was history.

      Of the two ways to stop us, the bus and aggressive, time-robbing physicality, we have no answers and failed three times against both in the same week.

      In the excellent Allas clip that TITO posted above, the text lays out how Martino came in wanting to adapt and evolve, and it was working. There is also when it stopped working as the team devolved.

      Breaking a bus or overcoming aggressive, physical play is more than having a 9 to lump it into. Recall how effective that was(NOT) against Inter when we had Ibrahimovic. Breaking a bus, or giving it a good try, means ball and player movement of the type that creates spaces. Tika-taka is too deliberate to break a bus, which usually comes from one of two things: an absurd moment of individual play, or the opponent tiring.

      We used to be able to count on both. Now it seems that neither is happening. I have my reasons, but mostly it isn’t happening because everybody isn’t demanding of each other. It used to be an atmosphere of “I’m going to spank this crazy pass in. Can you control and make something of it?” That environment of matching greatness with like is gone.

      That’s only the start of the problem.

    3. Except we would have beaten Inter save for horrendous officiating!

      I wish we still had Ibra. Imagine him playing in those Atletico ties with Messi instead of Cesc.

      I really think the biggest issue the past two years has been moral. Yes we need defenders. Yes is a travesty that Alexis has been essentially benched. Yes we have become VERY slow. But, no one smiles anymore. I think Valdes’ injury really just killed the team this season. They broke down emotionally after that game.

    4. Yes I agree with the Valdes part. Look at the performances after that, the rhythm was lost.

      And btw, I forgot to mention, great piece Kxevin as always. Thank you.

    5. I also agree that in the end we lost our two most irreplaceable players. I am not, of course, arguing that Valdes and Pique are the best players on our team. But yes the most irreplaceable because their substitutes were so much worse than their replacements. Change Valdes to Pinto and we move from a world class keeper with excellent feet and ball skills to build from the back to a likable clown who skill wise is poorly matched with this team. Substitute Pique for Barta and the results are the same. Pique is a world class defender, who although he has his flaws is essential for the way this team play. Now instead you have a promising though vastly inexperienced defender who also happens to be nursing an injury.

      Could the Valdes and Pique injuries have been anticipated. Of course not. But at this time of the year they were essential for any hope of winning all three competitions. With their replacements our defense is comparable to a La Liga side facing relegation. We took our chances by not having adequate back ups and rolled a snake eyes.

    6. I think the Copa Del Rey final was really the culmination of the last three years, things coming back to a full circle.

      It seemed in the match Barcelona did all those things they are doing wrong in the past few years. In the first half of the season and in the big matches, we had a plan, which we lost somewhere along the way. The team truly devolved. I was surprised to see that suicidal high back line of two/three against RM which made us pay in the last season and was absent in the matches we won this season. I feel like Valdes injury was a destabilizing event to the resurgent form that was evident from he Osasuna matches. The team never truly recovered after the first half of Celta Vigo.

      We can analyze football all we want but something happened behind the scenes in the last three or four months that sealed our fate. Yes we were short on players, but still the way we were playing we wouldn’t have lost like this, three consecutive matches.

      There is no footballing reason that explains Messi chasing Aguero down in the first minute of the Man City match and Messi not even bothering in the AM away match.

      However, the irony of the season is ALEXIS. He was the truly breakout star of the season, performing like the player Barca thought they were buying. He was Martino’s best result and representative of the early good work. Even people were complaining in the presence of Messi (just coming back after his injury), why he was still the main man and was the one to get behind the defenses and break the offside trap.

      Well could you imagine at those days that ultimately Alexis would the one to insult Tata at the end of the season? This sums up everything – the mess this season has been. It is really sad.

    7. Kevin, I swear I hadn’t read your post before posting, but dude! It’s like you’re taking my thoughts and shaping them in more intricate and eloquent ways before I’ve had chance to utter them. 😀

    1. Yeah, he’s done his best to keep us in it but Simeone has rumbled him and taken him off 🙂

    2. You know, watching this game can’t help but notice the huge gaps in both defences. We would kill either if they played this way against us.

  35. 1-0 to Atletico, I wonder how many matches they’ve won with this scoreline this season. They have mastered it in the second half of the season certainly.

    What Simeone is getting out of this squad is amazing.

  36. I strongly suspect Alexis had words with Martino before the game, hence only three mins at the end, and Pedro coming on on the right

  37. Sanchez, through his agent, has denied that he had a row with Martino. Yes, he missed the second-place medals ceremony. His agent didn’t explain why.

    1. The story may be rubbish, but the fact that his agent has denied it means absolutely nothing. What else could he do? Room has to be created for parties to climb down (if it happened.

    2. If I was Alexis, I’d use the busting to pee excuse. Bet the story is true that he left in a fit of pique, but he didn’t call Martino a coward. That’s an embellishment.

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