Categorized | Analysis, La Liga, Messi, Neymar, Thoughts

The malleability of absolution, aka “If one is responsible, then everyone is”

"D-oh!"

“D-oh!”

So. Barça ended a 3-match losing skid with something that wasn’t as much a comeback as a bit of common sense rearing its head.

“Hey, what say we stop hitting the ball directly AT the keeper.”

Messi scored a goal so all is right in the culer world again, but for me something more interesting happened — not for the first time, but for the first time a confluence of happy events conspired — two players who are objects of scorn had the temerity to have very good matches. Song and Mascherano.

For me yesterday’s match was different because I didn’t watch it live, instead choosing to take advantage of a picture-postcard Chicago day to log 60 miles on the bicycle. This gave me the rather extreme pleasure of being able to watch the match, and scroll through my social mad-ia timeline as things transpired and quite frankly, laugh.

The sound of silence

Quips are often made about the sound of crickets denoting the absence of sound, but in fact they are loud little critters, who more correctly have a knack of filling IN the silence at times when it is most still. “What a lovely night. So quiet, so still. Listen …”

Cricket! Cricket!

So perhaps the sound of silence is the best way to describe the “room” as unfavored players have good matches, which makes it no less heelarious. Song was quite good yesterday, whereupon we heard … nothing. Then late in the match, he unleashed a beauty of a pass that dropped right onto Tello’s boot, and I was able to look at my Twitter timeline to see that one person commented on it. One.

And I got to thinking about errors and absolution, bouquets, silence and brickbats and a comment that got this post rolling.

songath

When ciaran returned to these pages it’s a safe bet that being inspirational wasn’t part of the plan. And yet the comment in Levon’s previous post crystallized a lot of what I have been thinking about players and how they are discussed:

I like your comment but can’t agree with all of it.

For the same reasons you like Masch, Alexis & Alves and want to cut them slack you don’t see the need to do the same to Cesc. He puts as much effort in as any player in our squad, has made himself the fittest he has been in his career and covers more ground on average than Iniesta does. He can’t make himself a faster player, just like Mascherano can’t make himself a taller one.

As for not adding anything from a sporting standpoint, I disagree. He is out of form, and generally doesn’t play well against incredibly fit, physical teams but he still gets lots of goals and assists in a sport that is won by goals, not possession.

Playing to his strengths, like we did in the first half of the season, made us a better team and we abandoned it. He can’t be blamed for that just like we couldn’t blame Messi if we became a route one team and asked him to win aerial balls.

And there it is, the malleability of absolution. When things aren’t going well, it’s generally unfavored players who get stick. In looking at the arc of that scorn, since everyone has their own unfavorite, what is usually evident is that pretty much everyone is a culprit except for, usually, a chosen few.

The blame game

You see this most often when the team concedes a goal. “Whose fault was it!?” One of my favorite writers on the game, Richard Whittall, penned something and analyzed a goal with this question in mind: what REALLY happened?

As he notes, mistakes were made, but let’s not forget that the player who scored the goal is pretty damned good. Look at the Bale goal that sealed the Copa victory for RM. “Pinto could have done more.” “Mascherano could have done more.” “Where was Alves?” “Why didn’t Bartra just take the yellow and put him on his butt?”

But in the blizzard of butterfly wing flapping things that have to happen to score a goal, Bale just pulled one out of his butt. Neutrals fell off their chairs. Culers said “Our defense sucks.” The versatility of a worldview. “Why doesn’t Pedro play more often! He is a textbook clinical finisher.” Until he isn’t. Then he is, and everything is right again. Whew!

"Hit it over there! Over there!"

“Hit it over there! Over there!”

The board is another example. I don’t like them even as I acknowledge that they have done many good things to help their view of the sound fiscal future of this club. They aren’t responsible for everything from bathtub ring to trench mouth, even as only a blinkered maniac wouldn’t concede that the board has made significant, verging-on-shameful errors as regards the sporting side and club governance in general. “Our squad is fine.” Sure, if everybody stays fit, if that squad plays one match per week with no mental stresses. Otherwise, the squad is NOT fine.

That said, that our high-priced team couldn’t put even one goal past Granada or Valladolid isn’t the fault of the board, even as the board created the conditions that led to mentally fried players out there shambling about.

You stink! Not him. YOU!

As ciaran points out above, we can’t beat on Fabregas then give other folks a pass. Fabregas gets slagged for falling short on the attacking end of things, but without knowing what his mission on the pitch is we can’t really assess whether he is failing. It is evident that he does tons of donkey work, necessary while Iniesta is off sprinkling fairy dust and Xavi is trying not to be a turnstile when we cede possession.

But Fabregas is an unfavored player. He cost too much, always tanks from mid-season on and doesn’t show up against big teams, goes the narrative. And then there is Messi. “Don’t you question Messi. He has done so much for us in the past.”

History is past. He has also been good to extraordinary at times this season. Few give Xavi a pass for what he has done in the past. “He’s past it, has to go.” “If that old man had retired, we would still have Thiago!”

Neymar injures his foot for 4 weeks and some think it’s a plot to prepare for the World Cup and screw Barça. Messi took 8 weeks to heal a hamstring. Other players form is discussed, and whether they should start in matches. Not Messi, which makes sense, or does it? Because of his talent and match-changing potential, you HAVE to start Messi. The wonder of the past defines potential of the present. But Messi is, arguably, just as mentally and physically busted as the rest of the team. Anyone who blames Messi is wrong. Completely.

But by the same token to absolve Messi of any examination is equally erroneous. He walks, at times stands there. Some very respected journalists including Graham Hunter suggested that maybe, just maybe, the reason for Messi’s desultory effort against Atleti in the CL was that he was pouting. A few of us noticed. Probably others as well. But can’t say anything, because … well … look at what he has done for us in the past. True or false, there wasn’t even discussion.

“How DARE you question Messi, you ingrate?! You’re either for us, or against us!” But asking questions doesn’t mean a lack of support, or that you value the player any less. You can’t blame Messi any more than you can blame anyone else for anything in this everything all at once season. But you can ask questions, even as you acknowledge that no coach alive is going to sit Messi. Why? Look at yesterday’s free kick.

messiath

Either, or, neither, never

The board screwed up. “Song was purchased instead of a CB. Damn him!” But in the absence of Keita, the value of a similar type of player is of value. “He isn’t Keita.” That isn’t the point. So you buy that player AND a CB. Ditto for Neymar. Instead the failings of the board lead to supporters defining a player as the alternative. Song is defined as a crappy CB, even though he is no more a crappy CB than Busquets. Both are midfielders being played out of position.

It was said that Song COULD play CB, which is different from “Song IS our CB.” People will raise questions about Song’s quality of play, which isn’t the issue here. We as supporters have to step back and take an objective look at things. Would the team purchase a player whose NT coach and most recent professional coach believe is best in attack, and say “Voila! Our new CB!”

That would make the people who did that so stupid it’s a wonder they are capable of walking erect. There is other stuff that makes up the picture, then as now.

Other factors

Iniesta has been brilliant this season as he has adapted to the new role that Martino wants him to play, usually as that shuttle between midfield and the attackers. He has even added a bit of goalscoring danger that is more than welcome, since a player who has the ball in as many danger spots as he does really should be banging in some goals.

But there is a general absence of goals from our midfield. In the Treble season, Xavi had 9 goals. The year we last won the CL, Xavi had 14 in all competitions. This season, he has 4. Iniesta has 3 this season, in all competitions.

What this means for me is that the two players who have the ball the MOST, are the ones least likely to score. That is something else to look at this season, when we are looking for reasons things are the way they are. Is it happenstance, or another sign of a busted system, a Way that needs a rethink in a season where tika taka has most been like catenaccio. Why Martino chose to make that adaptation is in his head, and in the heads of the players to whom he imparted that information.

Some speculate that verticalidad wasn’t sustainable over the course of a season. Others say that he threw up his hands in the face of all the “That isn’t our Way” talk and said “Here’s your Way. Now choke on it.” As with most things, the truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

This season has been a collection of chickens coming home to roost, from neglect of the sporting project by a board distracted by other things to a blizzard of external complexities that rip at the fabric of this team’s cohesiveness. But I look at the collection of talent on our roster, see how long they have played together, how the way Barça plays has been instilled in them almost since birth and I wonder … as a blasphemer, I wonder. Because it seems to me that even coached by a gibbering chimpanzee, this team should be able to knock a goal or two past Valladolid and Granada.

And then I wonder what else is going on. “The board didn’t buy a CB.” Okay. So does that explain why they couldn’t score against two teams in the bottom of the table? Look at the chances that were missed in the first half against Athletic. Pedro scuffed some weak shots at the keeper. Messi spurned a couple. Sanchez probably hit the bar on a dare. “I BET you can’t miss from 6 feet away!” “Hmph! Bet I can!” Certainly concentration is some of it. So is doubt, which makes a player start wondering how he is going to fail rather than how he is going to succeed, that snakebit, “What NOW” feeling.

I wrote in a previous piece that an employee isn’t going to give of his best for a management that he thinks doesn’t have his best interests at heart. It’s also clear that our players are, again as I previously noted, mentally hammered.

So in the rush to judgment that finds only unfavored things and people culpable, I suggest a different tack, that it is everything, a collection of crap dragging a team of excellent players down. Because if it is this player or that player, this coach or that coach then it is also the totems, the sacred players who nobody wants to criticize. We can’t have it both ways.

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223 Responses to “The malleability of absolution, aka “If one is responsible, then everyone is””

  1. ciaran says:

    I should copy and paste your whole comment here ____
    Well said and thank you.

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      evry1 is talking abt flashy strikers….
      i think Bony can b solution …he can b easily persuaded and wud cost less..

      he can b perfect cf /striker .gud physique ..ability to take header…

      dis can b bargain…

      ur thaughts…??

  2. Inamess says:

    Great post Kxevin! The question of who is a good prospect for CB for Barcelona is easily simplified. Do we need a CB? Of course. But let’s remember all the CBs that didn’t work out: Chygrynskiy, Milito, Ceceres, to name a few.
    The problem with getting a partner for Pique in the aftermath of Pujol’s injury issues is just as problematic as getting a striker to play with Messi. Mascherano has many of Pujol’s qualities but is still a project in the making and his lack of height is now being exploited this year more than ever. Identifying a problem and fixing the problem are two different things. There is only one Pujol, so his replacement has to bring different assets to the team.
    Thiago Silva was quixotically sought because he had a different skill set that was probably compatible with the way we play. Any other CB purchase carries an element of risk. Is paying $35 million for Hummels the answer? Maybe. But just as easily he can turn out to be too slow or not good enough with his feet to play out of the back. Would Marquinhos have been a good signing? Well certainly not for this year and even in a few years he might have been no more reliable than Barta.

    What seems clear in hindsight was that our wonder years under Pep were solidified by a defense consisting of experienced yet somewhat unsung players like Pujol , Abidal and Valdes who developed their defensive instincts and talents over many years or after playing together for several seasons with the club. One of the reasons we customarily won games 5-0 was that we rarely conceded a goal first and when the game opened up after we scored, our opponents were at our mercy.

    Getting the right new CBs for the club is going to be a matter of good judgment, luck, and patience. David Luiz could be the right guy. But who knows, that person might in the end actually be a more seasoned Mark Barta after some more poor signings.

    • I think Iñigo Martínez could be a decent signing. Also I heard somewhere that we are looking to get Abidal back! Any truth in that?

    • ciaran says:

      The stories out of Spain today are all about Aymeric Laporte of Athletic Bilbao who played a solid match against us the other day including dispossessing Messi one-on-one at the end of the game.

      He looks a good prospect but Athletic are one of the hardest negotiators in world football and if they say €36million then they will get fairly close to that figure. €36million for a 19yr old? I wouldn’t take that gamble.

      Hummels is my favourite and in terms of quality there is certainly no question as to whether he is good enough but only whether his partnership with Pique would be fruitful. To me, great players can always play together.

      As I’ve said multiple times, the free transfer of Mateo Musacchio is the most obvious transfer that we could make. He is the captain of a very good Villarreal team, is defensively strong and physical. It is a no brainer.

      David Luiz is the biggest risk. Jose Mourinho, who in fairness knows his defenders, only sees fit to play Luiz in front of the defense. He makes a lot of mistakes for a ‘world class’ defender.
      Maybe his ability to play in defense and midfield is a bonus but there is always a risk in mistaking versatility and depth.

      I, for one, think that Bartra could turn out to be a great defender but all of the best teams have a lot of defenders because they get suspended and injured more than players in any other position. Pique, Bartra & two more are necessary and unfortunately for Mascherano I don’t think his height can be exposed for yet another season.

      • Kxevin says:

        Yep. I’d spend 30m on Luiz before I spent 36m on a 19-year-old. Luiz is at times a maniac, but his skill set is more suited to his being a Barça CB than a Premiership CB, particularly for Mourinho.

        With Hummels, I have never bought into the “two like players” theory. You get the best available player, and Hummels is certainly on that list.

        If Musacchio is available on a free, that would seem to be to be a no-brainer, but what do I know. We need Pique, Bartra and two others. Then Mascherano can become part of the midfield rotation (imagine a press with him as part of it!).

        • Kxevin says:

          On the other hand, I do hope we get Iñigo Martínez, so every time he gets subbed off or leaves the pitch, I can type “Out ya go, Iñigo!”

          (Ba-boom TISH! Thank you! I’ll be here all week! Don’t forget to tip your waitress!)

        • barca96 says:

          I actually think that the 2 CB’s should complement each other but it’s not supposed to be an obsession that we must find someone that can complement Pique.

          What if Pique gets injured or out of form again?

          I would buy Musacchio but knowing our Zubi/Tito history, we would probably go after a star player.

          1 established CB and 1 experienced CB is good enough for me. If we only get 1, we can always have sMasch at the back again.

          How about “In you go, Inigo!”?

  3. Bharath says:

    Hey, long time lurker here, posting for the first time.First of all, I have to say, you guys do an incredible job here, the quality of discussion available is unmatched.

    To me, its clear that the board has made some un-excusable errors, but at least it seems to have realized that it has to act now.The most important thing now is to give Tata complete authority regarding transfer decisions, if he wants someone, go all out to get him. He needs to be given a chance to mold the team in his image, only then can we adequately judge him.

  4. Levon says:

    Great article as always, Kxevin, but you and I both know that NOBODY would dare Alexis that he can’t miss from 6 yards!

    • barca96 says:

      :lol: last season alone he missed a handful like that.

      But anybody can miss from 6 yeards. Julio Cruz, from the Inter team that beat us, missed 1 inch from the goal line. The ball somehow curved up and over the bar. I’ll never forget that. Lev, if you were still in Holland in 99-2000, for sure you must’ve seen or heard that.

  5. Ultraculé says:

    What an irony.
    Just like how there are favorites and unfavored players in the team for Culers as the writer correctly notes, and how the same yardstick is not applied to those scapegoats, I would say the same exists in this space as well. Yes, everybody knows it, but nobody will talk about it. Hell, there will be even some eloquent reply to this post that will make this comment sound like hogwash. There are favorites in BFB and their comments will always be given extra consideration than others. The others may very often raise very good points, but those will be ignored completely and one little sentence will be taken by a favored commenter and argued against with great eloquence. This happens all the time here just like how Song’s great through balls and Masche’s match winning tackles are greeted with the sound of crickets by some. It is the way it is and I accept it. I just thought that this comment was also extremely relevant to this post.

  6. DennyCrane says:

    Great stuff, as usual. The only part I want to add something to is this one:

    “Because it seems to me that even coached by a gibbering chimpanzee, this team should be able to knock a goal or two past Valladolid and Granada […] Pedro scuffed some weak shots at the keeper. Messi spurned a couple. Sanchez probably hit the bar on a dare.”

    The question what makes a player hit or miss could be debated for hours. One could analyze every single situation starting with the position the player was in, the angle to the goal and how that angle was narrowed when the keeper comes out. One could go further and ask whether the player received the ball on his ‘strong’ foot and whether the ball was bouncing or if it was rollin flat when he received it. From this point on, one could ask if the player should have used a different technique to shoot it or if he should have passed it to someone in a better position than him – or of he schould just walk the ball in.

    I feel confident that by analyzing these situations, one can in theory pinpoint the reason for a hit or miss on one of the above. But this reasoning doesn’t explain even half of it: Why do players suddenly forget their technique, or slip and stumble ? Why does every great striker go through a period in his career where he wouldn’t hit an oil rig ? Why is the same player suddenly on a roll a few weeks later and hits even the improbable shots ?
    The only answer for this I can come up with is the lack of the final ounce of determination to do it – now. The final bit that makes you win the aerial duel, win the ball back or that makes you be one step faster than your opponent. The bit that makes you beat the defender instead of being blocked. The bit that makes you hit.
    Give me an all-star team of the greatest players of all time and I guarentee you that they won’t put one past Tasmania Berlin if they lack it.

    What’s more, this final ounce can’t be instilled from the outside. Every player (or any other athelete for that matter – be it amateur or pro) has to find that for himself. As strange as that may sound and you can feel free to call me crazy for it – scoring is no end in itself, not even in football. The motivation has to come from the inside: Be it because you feel ashamed when you lose, be it because you just want that bonus when you score. Be it because your girlfriend asked you to do it. It doesn’t matter. But the player requires something – anything.

    • Kxevin says:

      That “ounce” as you describe it, is at the root of all athletics. It’s funny, in my cycling discipline, I am a sprinter. So I can go reallyREALLY fast for about 20 seconds, then I need a sandwich and a nap. I would ride longer races for the laps, and the fitness.

      One night at the track, some guy was being a prick, and taking fictional bets on what lap I was going to drop in a 50-lap race. I got so angry that I finished the race, stomped over him and screamed “Who had 50, you f***head?!”

      That ounce. It makes pros and weekend warriors push and push, digging for that little something extra. And it is completely psychological, which makes it impossible to diagnose and “treat.” Everything feels the same, but it isn’t.

      One of those happened last night, in the NBA Playoffs. Kevin Durant wanted his team to win, and found that extra “ounce.”

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yE8k3FTBOoQ

  7. Kxevin says:

    Wow! Look at this B team minutes stat. The Babies only got 72 minutes this season of first team playing time:

    http://www.weloba.cat/article/informe-nomes-72-minuts-per-als-jugadors-del-filial

    • ciaran says:

      That really is a disappointing statistic.
      The B team have had their own struggles in part of the season but that goes to show the lack of faith Tata had in the youth.

      Cristian Tello has not gotten more than 20 minutes in a league match since January, and that was the game after he got a hattrick v Levante. He got 3 minutes in all competitions in April, 32 in March and 34 in February.
      How is he supposed to progress?

      Montoya didn’t get a single minute in February. Got a full match against Granada in which he played very well and not seen since.

      Bartra got virtually no game time in this first half of the season and then was thrown in at the deep end with Puyol & Pique both out.

      Sergi Roberto hasn’t gotten a minute this month and got less than 5 minutes in 4 of his last 6 games for us. He has started 1 league game all season.

      4 youth products who are supposed to form part of the future of this club have gotten virtually no game time with the first team squad and we all are complaining that the first team look tired.

      I am glad that the likes of Rafinha and Deulofeu went on loan instead of rotting in our stands.

      The talk of Luis Enrique taking over would at least address this issue.

      • Kxevin says:

        What’s interesting is that the mods have been having a conversation about this, and I did a little digging. The stat from Guardiola’s last year to Vilanova’s year, minutes dropped by more than half.

        (Just did a cut/paste here)

        Also in looking at the lists of B teamers who got time last season, Deulofeu and Rafinha are on loan, Sergi Roberto was promoted, Planas wouldn’t have a real shot at fitting in around Alba and Adriano.

        In the year previous, again (note that the amount of B team time was halved from Guardiola’s last year to Vilanova’s), Tello was promoted, as were Bartra, Montoya and Dos Santos and the aformentioned Sergi Roberto. Muniesa went to Stoke, Rafinha and Deulofeu on loan and Riverola got cut loose.

        This makes me wonder about the ultimate quality of the B players. In pre-season, Martino used Adama, Dongou, Bagnack and a few others. Then that tailed off as the season began and got heated.

        So I just caution against saying “Martino doesn’t want to use B players.” It strikes me that there are a great many factors, not least of which is Eusebio and the B team’s close-pitched battle (less so now) in a very tight Segunda.

        B doesn’t have to win, but it does have to stay up. It strikes me that next season, when many players are closer to ready, the time should increase dramatically.

        • barca96 says:

          I’ve mentioned my disappointments with Tata regarding his lack of use of the young’uns. As per Levons previous article, Tata doesn’t even attend their matches.

          • blitzen says:

            Neither Pep nor Tito made a habit of attending Barça B games either, so I wouldn’t hold that against Tata. They did both habitually call up B players just to give them the experience of traveling with the first team, though, whether or not they ultimately made the squad. That is something Tata has not done.

          • barca96 says:

            Another thing, Pep and Tito used to call up a lot of youngsters to participate in training. I don’t see it happening that often with Tata based from the reports that I read.

        • ciaran says:

          I’m not even saying that the B team players have to be playing but he isn’t even playing the young first team players.

          With Barta, Pique & Puyol all out, he chose to play Busquets in defense instead of calling up a B teamer.

          • kosby says:

            So this might be the unpopular voice here but would you play a B teamer in a crunch game (all last 10 matches have been crunch games for us) especially when he hasnt been playing with the first team the entire season ? Do we remember what happened with Bartra last season when he played against Bayern in the CLs ? If it were me I’d probably have made the same decision.

            And not playing youngsters during the season ? as Kxevin mentioned minutes need to be deserved and not given out. It seems that there were enough players in the first team that with rotation if someone was unavailable, there would be another that could take his place…

            For a while now Ive been thinking that the first team players seem more mentally exhausted than physically – part of the conversation that was going on in a different comment was about that extra ounce..so win everything there;s to win for 5 years and see if there is any extra ounce thats left to give. To put it bluntly Tello has been crap this season..

            And this is the hard part – it seems like its time to make changes to the first team but not sweeping changes, moreover the changes shouldn’t reduce the quality/competitive nature of our squad…but I’d definitely wait till the season is over

        • Inamess says:

          B team players didn’t get an opportunity because the truth is our team is just no nearly as good. Under Pep we could afford to put in a an up and coming player because there were games that we were good enough to have a 95% chance of winning even with a prospect in the team. So putting Sergio Roberto, Cuenca, or Afellay in was no problem.

          With our team now with its aging players and identity crisis we don’t have the luxury of putting in Tello or Roberto because our team is now vulnerable to lose to any team in La Liga particularly on the road. I dare to say that even Thiago would not have gotten that many minutes this year though he is probably one of the top ten midfielders in all of football.

          As an exercise in alternative reality fiction let us suppose that instead of getting Fabergas and Neymar, we just played Thiago and Tello more. Is it possible that we would have been in the same position today, worse, or even better. Certainly we would have more money and we would be more true to our roots. I am not saying the Fabergas an Neymar signings were bad, just that they came with tremendous costs both financially and to the detriment of the La Masia system.

          • barca96 says:

            @kosby

            I myself wouldn’t put any B teamers in a crunch match but Tata had opportunities to play them more in the Copa matches especially in 2nd leg.

            Bartra last season was Tito’s fault. He didn’t want to give Bartra any playing time earlier in the season so how can you expect the kid to go toe to toe with Bayern?

            I do agree that Tello has been crap but you gotta give them chances and their confidence will grow.

            I do acknowledge that the quality of young players now and then is quite huge. Thiago > Roberto. Pedro > Tello. Busquets > anyone :)

  8. barca96 says:

    an employee isn’t going to give of his best for a management that he thinks doesn’t have his best interests at heart

    Can’t the same be said about the effect Tata the manager gives on his players? Messi (out of position lately at RW), Alexis and Pedro (constantly overlooked) for their misses last Sunday or in general?

    Montoya (hardly makes the bench), Bartra (constantly playing only if Pique or Smasch can’t make the squad), Iniesta (behind Cesc in the 1st half of the season),etc.

    • Kxevin says:

      Not for me, because a coach is deploying his players in a way that the coach thinks will give the team the best chance to win. It is his strategy, and it is up to the players to implement that strategy.

      • barca96 says:

        But if the coach/manager doesn’t give them the confidence in this case with Pedro and Alexis, doesn’t your line apply to manager>players as well as it does board>manager?

        • Kxevin says:

          No, it doesn’t. A manager plays the players he feels that he needs to. That is his job, part of fielding a squad that will win the team matches. If Sanchez or Pedro don’t have confidence, there isn’t a thing a manager can do for them.

    • Inamess says:

      Just to echo my comments above. Matino’s job this year was not to develop the La Masia system. He was brought in as a stopgap to do the best he could with a team that was in its weakest state since 2007. He did the best he could given his outsider status, easy going manner, and lack of reputation as a top European football manager. When things started to go downhill in the second part of the season, he didn’t have the authority to keep the players in line and it was inevitable that he players would think they know better and revert to a style that had brought them unprecedented success for all those years.
      A stronger, more confrontational manager a la José Mourinho would have benched Xavi for a few games, but that would have only made our season far worse. Mourinho is a selfish, driven, creative-destructive individual who would rather ruin a team than lose his authority.
      In the end Tata did only what he could do.

  9. Sangoku says:

    I think it takes lots of guts to play the youth squad players, especially in the second half of the season.

    With the amount of astounding pressure that Tata has had to deal with, I really can’t blame him for not wanting to take risks. He gets crap flung at him for winning 4-0 but losing possession in one match. What he could have done better was bring them on as substitutes when the results were more or less in the bag. But frankly, I don’t think we’ve had a lot of these matches this year.

    I can’t even imagine what Martino would have to deal with if we play these squad players and suffer a loss. The media would go even more hysterical. Plus, the criticism and pressure would affect the players.

    Pep gave lots of minutes to the youth but in a time where we had that terrific dynamic and opponents hadn’t figured us out. I think it’s safe to say that Pep did not suffer the same pressure of his successors.

  10. simple_barcafan says:

    ooh..And Moyes just got fired…

    • ciaran says:

      They seemed to just be waiting until it was mathematically impossible for them to qualify for the champions league to fire him as I’d imagine there would be a much lower exit clause in that case.
      He was never the guy for that job but was left a very poor squad and his purchases were terrible.

      It makes you wonder, assuming that they don’t qualify for European football as it currently looks, should we take a run at either De Gea or Van Persie. De Gea is a very good goalkeeper. Van Persie at his age isn’t going to wait around for this Utd team to get back into the reckoning for titles.

      • simple_barcafan says:

        Rumors are that it is just a one year pay-off since they didn’t qualify..

        Anyway, bought the topic up since even our coach seems to be on the way out, if we believe MD or Sport..

        • Kxevin says:

          The other thing is that they overperformed under Ferguson. Look at the number of late comebacks and 1-goal victories they pulled out in his last season. Whether they overperformed under Ferguson or underperformed under Moyes (or played to expectation) would be interesting to explore.

          Without question, like us, United were in need of a significant overhaul that never came. The iconic manager left, and all of a sudden, the quality that can get a replacement over the hump wasn’t there. Plus, Van Persie started breaking again, and Rooney had his complexities. Suddenly, bang … 7th place.

          • G6O says:

            This will be a very interesting case to watch in terms of the commercialization and development of the game over the last two decades

            So far, pretty much every club that fell off from the group of truly elite clubs has never been able to get back in it on its own. A few clubs have entered it but it has been through billions being poured in from outside sources.

            Yes, Bayern missed the CL just before their current cycle of dominance started, but they were always in very good financial health and could easily afford to rebuild, which they did quite successfully. Yes, Dortmund nearly dissolved and then last year they were in the CL final, but in all likelihood this will not last too long as the team they build through the youth system is poached by wealthier clubs and they fail to replace them with equal quality. And Atletico might reach the final this year but the same fate awaits them too.

            Juventus, Milan, Inter, Arsenal, Liverpool – they never managed to be serious factors again and might not be any time soon; even if Juventus have a strong squad now and Liverpool will likely win the title this year, they’re still not quite on the same level as the top teams and they do not look like seriously threatening to win the CL any time soon.

            So given that United have a lot of debt, will miss the CL, and are in a much more competitive league than Bayern were 7 years ago, i.e. there is quite a serious possibility this is not a one-off but they will in fact miss the CL next season too, I would be very afraid of the future if I were a United fan.

  11. Kxevin says:

    To repeat an earlier request, when there are problems, the mods will deal with them. Responding just means that responses clutter up the space when the offending comments are deleted.

    Thanks for understanding, and apologies to anyone whose replies got caught up in the cleanup. No offense meant.

  12. Kxevin says:

    Interesting response by the United Supporters Group to the firing of David Moyes. Articulate, calm and spot on:

    http://action.joinmust.org/index.php/blog/entry/282/

  13. Jim says:

    And Atletico meet Jose’s bus ……..

    • Inamess says:

      Athletico is awesome to watch in action. Any Barcelona fan who isn’t fully supporting this team to win the Champions League is either bitter or not a fan of the sport.

      • Jim says:

        Actually there is no way I’d support them to win it. Despite any misgivings I might have about some of Pep’s actions his team plays the right way. Don’t like the style of any of the other three for different reasons.

        • G6O says:

          Even though there are many elements of anti-football in Atletico’s style, it is actually better for the game that they win than if Bayern repeat (even if Bayern play anything but anti-football).

          The continued concentration of wealth in a few clubs will kill the game if not broken somehow, thus any time someone outside of the usual suspects has a chance to win, they should be cheered on

    • Inamess says:

      Athletico is awesome to watch in action. Any Barcelona fan who isn’t fully supporting this team to win the Champions League is either bitter or not a fan of this sport.

  14. psalmuel says:

    Anyone watching? I mean, who brought a better bus with deflated tyres? Simeone or Mou?

    • Jim says:

      Atletico are playing the Barca role but aren’t making much of an impression at the moment. They’re moving the ball well up to the final third but there they are running out of ideas and throwing in long cross balls against Chelsea isn’t the answer.

      Just shows it’s not easy (and that a big nine isn’t an answer) but I have to say I hope they do it.

      • Kxevin says:

        I always marvel when people think there is an easy answer for beating a bus. If there was, the tactic would have died eons ago.

        • Jim says:

          Yeah, Atletico aren’t slow at moving the ball forward either but are still facing at least six defenders each time so that’s not a great answer either.

        • It’s not that a traditional 9 will solve all our problems, but I for one think it does create a few more variables in our offense.

        • Chiu says:

          agree! it remind me again about our home leg SF againts Chelsea that ended 2-2. We were leading 2-0 within 30 minutes againnts parked bus chelsea, before that Ramires goal. ATM now hv experienced how difficult it was to score goals vs the bus; and hey we scored two in that home leg.

          I could say, we’re still the much better team in the case of breaking the bus; compare to other big teams.

      • Inamess says:

        A bus is a great tactic as long as you are not vulnerable to corners from the opposition and don’t mind a draw. I think that is why Real resorted to it in the Copa. They lost twice in a row using their usual tactics so why not do what everyone else has been doing against us.

  15. psalmuel says:

    Who’s watching? Who parked a better bus? Simeone or Mou?

  16. psalmuel says:

    Atleast now, the nay-sayers and neutrals will give us credit for even creating better chances and even winning considering the fact that 98% of our games in a season are against parked buses

  17. Jim says:

    You have to say AM’s fans are brilliant. Mind you their team can’t break a bus and are just throwing hopeless long balls into the area. Sounds like the end of an era ……

  18. KEVINO17 says:

    Jose shows how we should have played it in the second leg against Atletico (at least for the first 30 minutes). Sit back, absorb the pressure and counter-attack. Instead, we tried to play it out from the back and were incredibly lucky to concede just one. Simeone couldn’t believe his luck. I know our philosophy is to play out from the back, but sometimes you’ve got to bow against the wind.

  19. 86ed says:

    Does anyone else also have the impression that today’s Atletico-Chelsea demonstrates our folly? Granted, Mou-Mou is by nature a reactionary and has better defensive means at his disposal, yet still I’m reminded of the 2011 CL semifinal vs Real. In that game we held the ball in our own half for minutes on end until we drew them onto a fatal mistake. The same could and maybe should have been done vs Aleti.

    Food for thought anyway.

    • Inamess says:

      Great point. I was also thinking of our semi-final against Real. I think Mou thinks that Champions League’s are won with defense and that in a tie with a opponent that is formidable, the victor will be the one that does not concede a goal in a moment of lapse judgment or vulnerability on a counter. Lucky for us, Mou played a psychopath in midfield in that first game in Madrid that got sent off.

      It will be interesting to see the return leg at Chelsea. Both managers will do their best not to concede a goal, but if Atletico score an away goal first it would be devastating.

  20. Kxevin says:

    A reliable source, Gianluca DiMarzio, reporting that Sanchez has agreed terms with Juventus. Club won’t sell unless they can get a replacement, or are fully convinced by Deulofeu.

    Rumored price is in the 20-25m range, roughly what we paid for him.

    “Not Barça quality,” “Goal mouth bottler,” etc. Highest work rate on the team, gave it up for the shirt every time he played. Hope rumor turns out to not happen, but as I said, DiMarzio is a good source.

    • Inamess says:

      Yikes. I would hate to see Sanchez go. If he leaves then it just reinforces the message that a transfer to Barca is a career destroyer. He is a 25 year old striker who has done everything to integrate himself into this team. He brings a dynamism that not one else on the team has. To be honest, I would much rather Pedro go than him.

      If he demands a transfer, I don’t blame him. But I wouldn’t mind seeing the club fight to keep him or demand a higher fee for his transfer. I don’t claim to know all the ins and outs of transfer fees but I don’t see why he’s not worth just as much as player like Lucas Moura. If he leaves, count him as more collateral damage of a hellacious period that hasn’t let up since our 3-1 loss at Sociedad.

      • Levon says:

        You’re right, we can’t blame him for wanting to go to Juve. We can blame somebody else, though (see last article).

        If Barça let him go for the rumored 20-25M I will be very disappointed. Then again, what this board does and doesn’t do generally leaves me disappointed nowadays.

  21. Ultraculé says:

    Lexus’ sale will be a colossal mistake tantamount to the Eto’o sale deal. Anyway, if he is to go, I just cannot understand why the hell 40M Euros should not be a minimum asking price in today’s market for a player of his quality, age and stats. My grandma has better business acumen than our club, it must be said.

  22. Jim says:

    Hmmm, he starts to impress me a bit more with potential captain qualities.

    From Barcastuff: Pique: “Martino isn’t to blame for anything this season. He joined at the last minute, worked hard and has a good relation with all players”

    However, more worrying from Spain’s point of view is that despite us being assured it wasn’t as serious as feared and he was very close to a come back he says he couldn’t even run when he tried to test for the Copa final. Does that smack of op required ? Thought it was a crack in pelvic bone of some sort?

    • Kxevin says:

      Did you see where he said it took him an hour to crawl to the bathroom that day? Pretty sure he will be okay for the WC, though (World Cup, vs water closet, hehehehe).

      And Pique’s thoughts about Martino are captain material, and more right than wrong.

  23. Mano says:

    Another long time lurker here, you guys are doing a very good job, keep it up!.

  24. psalmuel says:

    With reference to the chelsea park-a-bus tactic, over time, I think our method of pass-move-pass-till there’s a gap remains the closest thing to a solution to it. Lumping balls forward or long range efforts are not always efficient. Remember we play parked buses 98% of the time in a season and we score about 99% times in those games.

    • Kxevin says:

      So this means that culers can return to ripping ZubiZa, arguing about which high-priced player we should sign right now, and whatever player(s) we actually sign not being good enough, not being “Barça quality.”

      A normal summer, in other words.

      I suspect that the two cases in which FIFA was found to be misguided tamped their ardor a bit. Many have been saying all along that a deal was already struck where the club would accept a delayed ban, possibly of less severity, and proceed with summer signings.

      Good news, however you slice it.

    • Peter says:

      Too early to start feeling optimistic, but good news nonetheless.
      I really think Tata should stay and be given authority in the dressing room and be given resources.

      I also have to say that Song’s performance against Athletic made me start thinking whether he would be ready to stay and get more minutes, whereas the creative midfielders get rotated more. Even so, If I had to choose between him and Mascherano(here’s wildly hoping there will be more than one CB signed, so that Mascherano can return to the DM spot in rotation with Busquets) I’d choose Masche.

      We can only hope, of course, but say keep Song and Mascherano, sign two CBs, get Rafinha back – and you have three DMs, a full set of CBs to be rotated, and a full set of creative midfielders(Xavi, Cesc, Iniesta, Rafinha, Dos Santos/Sergi Roberto) to choose from. Rotation and hunger would make the midfielders fight for spots and all be assured minutes and both physical and mental freshness. Of course, that means at least one of Dos Santos and Sergi Roberto gets loaned/sold to say Everton, together with Tello, Cuenca and Affelay. And yes, with Pedro, Messi, Sanchez and Neymar fighting for positions there may be even some time for B players.

      And no, I don’t think Barcelona need further reinforcements up front. A squad that has two CBs and either Busquets and Song/Mascherano on the field will mean more than adequate presence on during corners(since the other guys also need to guard Messi, Pedro and especially Mighty Mite Sanchez). Still, if there is some tall-ish winger available, I wouldn’t mind. :D

      A cule can be allowed to dream, please? :D

      • Kxevin says:

        Oh, Peter. I will have you know that many people on Twitter have made it clear that I was seeing things when I saw Song have a very good match. And Martino? Even with Pique saying that he shouldn’t be blamed, that is because Pique is terrible, and would have been sold without the succor of Martino.

        See, this is the value of social mad-ia, to set your mind straight when you start having crazy notions.

        Yesterday, MD “reported” that the club wants Martino to stay, but that the ship has already sailed, or some such. But I agree with you. If he could be given full power by the board, can’t think of a better coach available right now.

        • Peter says:

          Oh well, the exhaustion of bike races and screaming at people probably accounts for your hallucinations. :P In my case it was work exhaustion reinforced by Estrella Damm. :D

          Seriously though, Song has his deficiencies, but the main reason he’s not liked is because he has to fill Busquets’ shoes. That’s like subbing for Ian Thorpe and complaining that the guy can’t swim as fast. Nobody can! – but that reaction falls on dead/f ears.

          In any case, If Tata is given the luxury of staying and preparing for the next season, I’d like to see all these three on the team. With a rested Xavi Song and Busquets can anchor and muscle the midfield into submission and simultaneously provide both offensive and defensive aerial capability. Song and Mascherano can anchor the midfield and make bullies like the Atletico MF gang think twice before barging into any of the smaller guys, with the added benefit of Masche’s four years of defensive duties. As for say Busquets and Mascherano playing together, Tata could make Del Bosque’s 2010 Spain weep with envy. It’s wonderful versatility, even though it’s also an admission that fixating on small technical players left Barcelona with a dearth of alternatives.

          It will also be almost impossible to achieve because Busquets, Song and Mascherano all want to play as much as possible, and there are only ten outfield players. Accommodating two DMs, even though one of them in a more advanced position, would mean only one and a half spots(occasional LW) for the likes of Iniesta, Fabregas and Rafinha, and that means more direct play and more running and more wringing of hands over the unknown exact location of “Barça style”. Still, if it can be accommodated, I´d want Tata to stay and have all three of them. If he’s allowed to put his foot down and rotate the players, and if these players are guaranteed to be given the possibility to show their worth, I’m sure it can work.

          While he had a more-or-less fit set of fresh men, Tata was leading the league, held back Atletico, won the Clasico(two times) and made the groomed-for-triumph proud English sky-blue slayers of Bayern look for the nearest pub. He did that with no knowledge of European football, no pre-season and while he still had problems finding his way around the stadium’s corridors.

          What can that guy do with the proper resources, experience and authority? I’d say that the cult of Sant Pep doesn’t want to find out and wants the heresy nipped in the bud.

          • Ultraculé says:

            Good comment and agree on all counts.
            Tata must be given a season with the players he wants and the authority he needs. There is simply nobody out there that is available who can do better.

            Common sense.

          • Kxevin says:

            Ultracule, by all accounts that wish won’t happen. And frankly I can’t blame Martino for wanting to be rid of all this crap. Too often, the way this club’s supporters treat its players and coaches verges on shameful.

            You won? Didn’t win the right way. You drew? You suck. Yoh lost? End of an era. Sell everyone!

            It has to wear you down to a psychological nubbin.

            Peter. Truth.

          • barca96 says:

            When was the last time you watched the Olympics Peter? 2000? :lol:

          • Peter says:

            I meant to write Phelps, but got carried away with Song having “big shoes to fill” and Ian Thorpe’s Size 17 feet. :D

  25. Peter says:

    It may be early to start feeling optimistic, but some good news – for now at least:

    http://www.fifa.com/aboutfifa/organisation/news/newsid=2322794/index.html

  26. KEVINO17 says:

    Delofeu to replace Sanchez. Wow. If any of this is true, Barca really has lost its way. Still, from his perspective, leaving is a no-brainer. He’ll be the boss at Juventus. At Barca he doesn’t even know who’s going to coach next year. Can’t afford to waste any more of his career.

  27. Kxevin says:

    So who else laughed their butts off at seeing the bleating and moaning about how Chelsea played yesterday? I watched the match and thought, “That’s what Barça sees EVERY match in European football.”

    But my cranky view is that because people like Atleti and want to see them succeed, but are tired of us winning all the time, it becomes a travesty against them, and sound tactics, stirring defending, etc, etc, against us.

    Fact of the matter is that Mourinho did what he had to do to give his team the best shot at winning the tie. And Simeone got a taste of what it felt like to be Barça. Wouldn’t shock me to see it go down to penalties.

    • Peter says:

      Mourinho wouldn’t want to go to penalties with Cech injured, but watching last night both teams trying to summon the courage, mental strength and guts in order to pass the center line, I wouldn’t be surprised if it went down like that.

      I wonder what people thought, that Atletico would suddenly start attacking or that Mourinho would start attacking? Heh.

      • Levon says:

        Well, you are assuming that Cech is a better penalty stopper than Schwarzer. However, that assumption would be wrong.

        • Levon says:

          (apologies, Peter, I did not mean this to sound rude!)

        • Peter says:

          I have to admit I have no knowledge of his actual penalty-stopping abilities, but it’s also about mental state. I think Mourinho wouldn’t want to face penalties, but not having his starting shot-stopper would weigh in his mind as well.

          It didn’t sound rude at all :) It sounds more knowledgeable, and I’d like to find out more. So Schwarzer is not worse than Cech at penalties?

          • Levon says:

            Well, penalty stopping is the one skill where we should not make any assumptions to begin with, so I asked a Chelsea supporter and he told me Schwarzer was better.

            Then I checked on whoscored.com. Cech does not have this skill as a strength or weakness. Schwarzer is noted to be “very strong” at stopping penalties.

            I guess we could research even further and see how many penalties each has saved versus how many they have let in, but uhmmm, nah. Either way Cech is a huge loss for Chelsea and so is Terry. I found it funny that the Calderón was chanting Courtois, Courtois when Cech was down.

  28. Kxevin says:

    Folks, I have done some spring cleaning, so to speak. But again, it’s worth the reminder that when we have to clean the place, some comments get caught up in the cleaning. Nothing meant by it.

    The best response, despite what a commenter might say, is none. We’ll get to it, trust me. I got a few heads-up via Twitter that some tidying was required. It might not be as rapidly as it should be, but believe me when I say this, that our space will be kept as it should be, with everyone’s help.

    Thanks again for your contributions and comments.

  29. Valdemar II says:

    Chelsea ‘tactics’ yesterday, it was a parody, six center backs haha. And 0-0 is not even a good result for them, the approach does not make sense unless you consider Atletico a much stronger team (fair, but how many Englishmen admit this?). If Chelsea plays football in the next leg, they will concede. If not, they get to be pinned by AM for 120 minutes with no away goals scored, good luck!

    We’re allowed to transfer summer? Very good. Unfortunately we do not have a coach for next season, who would pick the right players for his system. Are we to play our trademark football? Then we need fresh legs for the press, the acute deficiency is in MF. In any case selling Sanchez makes little sense, how are you going to get a better player for 25M? Welcome Rafinha home, Stegen is already bought, if the club tugs at some young CB with an expiring contract we could have a much stronger squad, almost for free. Then go spend the 100M that’s left, next season could be so good.

    Wishing for some Bavarian fireworks tonight!

  30. PrinceYuvi says:

    Great news. )

  31. ciaran says:

    So we have €120million, a good squad already and a potential ban looming over our heads for the following two transfer windows.
    Assuming that Bartomeu won’t call elections, this is realistically the only real chance to sign players before the elections. His last chance to leave a positive legacy.

    We will be spending money this summer… big money in my opinion.
    It is generally accepted that we want to sign 2 GKs, 2CBs, 1 midfielder & 1 forward. The list of players linked with us is longer that the waiting list for season tickets.

    I know a lot of people here would like for Tata to be given a second season but I really can’t see it. He had a couple of months of being a breath of fresh air but learned little and changed less. He reverted into his shell and now is no where near the personality needed to manage this situation.

    Whoever it is that takes over next season I hope they are given more control than Tata was. Frank de Boer and Luis Enrique know more about this club and what it’s like to play for the club. They both also have a good record of using young players.

    • Levon says:

      Frank de Boer will not come to Barcelona at this moment. Way too smart for that.

      Van Gaal would be a good choice but he is very likely taking the best job in the world right now, Man Utd.

      I agree that it will be difficult for Tata to remain, but other than the above mentioned LvG I can’t really see any alternatives. Scolari would be horrible. Maybe Lucho could work. Am I overlooking anyone?

      • Kxevin says:

        I would like to see Martino given a second season mostly for the sake of continuity. It’s been CHAOS the past couple of seasons. It would be nice to have a coach who won’t have to play “getting to know you” again this summer.

        Plus any coach who doesn’t have the full backing of the board in any and ALL decisions, up to and including how he chooses to use Messi, will be just as screwed as Martino was.

        The other advantage is that Martino, who now knows the squad, can sit down with the staff and say “These folks should be on our list, for the football we need to play to win.” IF a new manager is going to come in, as with Bayern/Guardiola, it needs to already have happened or be far enough along where a few texts about possible player signings can happen.

        MD is saying Valverde or Enrique, and that the club would like to keep Martino but that ship has sailed.

  32. PrinceYuvi says:

    Màtyàs Tajti, 16 yr old hungarian ‘magician’ – New addition to Barça Babies.

  33. Peter says:

    I still have faith in the coach and board.

    Tata is known to be a man of his word and has said more than once that he will fulfil his contract. The board have time and again spoken that they consider Tata their man.

    Now we’ve seen Puyol, Pique, Mascherano and Iniesta iirc all coming to his defence.

    Apart from the signing of Neymar, which I’d grant you was expensive, even though it means a huge financial boost at the same time as a very expensive player´s(Villa) was removed from the salary costs and another player was sold, this board has sought to do the pragmatic thing. So it’s my sincere hope that they will acknowledge the storm Tata had to work through and convince him to stay even if he wants out.

    The fans want moar players and moar money spent and I expect to see the board oblige them in order to continue to govern. If the season ends well enough, if the club actually fights until the end, I think it would be reason enough to settle on Tata instead of going with a total stranger(yeah, Luis Enrique and Valverde are both strangers to the entorno, the focus and the whining). It will be prudent, it will be pragmatic, but above all, it would be wise.

    • Kxevin says:

      If you really think about it, the club doesn’t NEED to go crazy, which means it can spend big on the right players. A CM is a need, but Rafinha is coming home, with Suarez/Samper in the pipeline. Buying a pair of CBs also gains a mid in the form of Mascherano.

      Don’t do anything stupid sales-wise in attack, and we’re in excellent shape there, and you can even afford to let Deulofeu simmer for another season at Everton, while giving some long, serious looks at Adama in pre-season on the moneymaking tours.

      Two CBs change everything, for me. And keeping Martino.

      It’s funny, people are too busy ripping on ZubiZa to really look at the list of transfers, but it really is impressive. Without a doubt, the transfers that have NOT been made make my blood boil, but the transfers that have been made, now and for the future, have been good.

      This window, there won’t be a president who thinks he knows better, or a stadium we are scrimping and saving for. We have to buy for two windows, and now is the time for ZubiZa to show exactly what kind of sporting director he in fact is. People always talk about how terrible he is, but nobody has names of people who would be better, or who could hit the ground running.

      Just another example of a narrative gone berserk for me.

  34. sandesh says:

    I personally feel that Tata is a very good coach and unless we can get someone much better than him (not sure who it would be given Guardiola is going to be at Bayern for a while and Klopp wants to stay in Dortmund), I would give him one more year, but this time with carte blanche. You cannot judge a man without seeing what he can do when he is allowed to do what he wants to do. Unlike Moyes at United, I have not seen anything from Tata that suggests he is totally inept or does not understand tactics.

    I am really worried about the Sanchez rumors. I watch Deulofeu every week at Everton and he is not at a level yet where he can become a starter at Barca. He does not have the positional discipline that Sanchez does, and still makes many bad decisions while attacking. He needs at least one more year. Unless we have plans to get Reus, who I believe is the only other wing player that would be better than Sanchez, I cannot fathom why we would sell Sanchez.

    The team should buy two CBs, one of whom is more comfortable with a high line and one who is more comfortable defending deep. Then we can have four CBs including Pique and Bartra. We should then have Mascherano play as a CB in games against teams that are less efficient at counterattacking and as a double pivot CDM alongside Busquets in games against the best counterattacking teams. I would not sell Song and start playing him in CM, which is what his position actually is. We will get Rafinha back as well, so the midfield will be fine.

    As for the number 9, I believe that we are not going to win the CL again with Messi as a False 9. It is a template that teams have prepared dossiers after dossiers on at this point. We need to evolve. In the hardest games, we ought to play either Sanchez (or Reus if we can get him) as a striker and play Messi right behind. The template comes from our game against Milan where Villa was positioned in a similar role.

    Finally, this is perhaps the most thought provoking of all team blogs I have seen, which means massive props to the people who run it.

  35. ciaran says:

    From Bartomeu’s comments that we have 5 league games left and need to support the manager and now isn’t the right time to communicate decision made would suggest that Tata is already gone.

    I’m also not convinced that Mascherano’s playing style suits our midfield. I don’t think he is physical enough or quick enough with his feet. It’s just an opinion but sacrificing height in defense for a taller defender to just replace the height in midfield with that same lack of height is completely pointless.

    We need to add height at right full back, centre back and potentially in midfield.

    I also think that we need to alter the system to get the best out of Messi in the majority of bigger matches. Statistically he is still scoring goals but a lot of those are from set pieces. I still believe that the best way to do that is to make the wide forwards play more centrally and let the full backs give us width.

    Letting Alexis leave would be a mistake. A giant mistake. I think we have to sign another forward but as I’ve said before I’d let Pedro leave before I would Alexis.

    On Alex Song, I think that ship has sailed too. He is too good a footballer to have to accept this situation where he barely gets a game considering that he would be a guaranteed starter at most Champions League clubs. I see Man Utd trying to sign him even though I like him. Let’s not forget that he was Arsenal’s leading assist maker before joining our bench.

    Dani Alves’ behaviour this season has not been good enough for a player of his calibre. Videos before CL matches, comments about fans left, right and centre and inconsistent performances tell me he should be sold. Montoya can be trusted for consistent performances and if given a run in the team may prove to be good enough. Another right back who is physically taller and stronger would be nice too.

    • Kxevin says:

      I also think we need pace in midfield. Busquets is brilliant, but he’s slow. There is so much talent out there in so many places, that to be able to predict players and likely candidates would be impossible. But barring an Abidal type for LB, who erased any multitude of sins by mids, a quick, sure-tackling defensive presence in midfield needs to be added.

      It’s funny because the narrative now is that Song is poor, but he hasn’t been, except in moments, and that could be said of many a player on the roster. But we tend to buy players based on their quality, without thinking of how they are going to fit into our system.

      Sanchez is another example. At Udinese, which played like Chile, he was magical. At Barça, a team with a much more deliberate style to suit the tenured players, he had many complexities because suddenly instead of getting the ball and yelling, “Let’s get ‘em!” he had to stop, think and work within a system that made zero compromises toward trying to incorporate his skill set.

      Song is the same way, a player whose use for us is different from the way he might best be used. Fabregas is another one. And don’t get me started on making Neymar play tika taka.

      I hope in this transfer window, which is the value of having a coach with a shard of tenure, is that players are purchased with an eye toward our system and the needs of the current team.

      But we’ll see.

      • ciaran says:

        I think that the team needs to be build around the solid core that we have but that work needs to be done to reduce the drop off in quality outside our XI and to diversify our options tactically.

        Pique, Alba, Busquets, Iniesta, Cesc, Neymar, Messi & Alexis with Bartra, Montoya, Pedro & Rafinha all as backup.

        ter Stegen can be added to that list and looks solid for the future. He has concentration problems which is the only concern but he is the right type of keeper.

        • Kxevin says:

          Exactly. That dropoff after the XI is the problem. Fixing that will be expensive. The dead weight has to go.

          • ciaran says:

            Then it all comes down to who is dead weight. It depends who you ask doesn’t it. I’ve read articles about Messi being past his best.

            For me, in the ideal starting XI for next summer we need only 3 first teamers. GK, RB & CB.
            I would argue that we need another starting XI-quality defender and another forward with different characteristics.

            Out of our squad only Neymar and Adriano shoot from distance. If we had a forward who could let fly from 25 yards or a midfielder who could it would be a benefit. When Deco used to get the ball in midfield a couple of defenders used to close him down because he was capable of scoring from distance which opened up passing lanes. When Xavi, Iniesta or Cesc get the ball the first reaction from a defender is to cover a through ball.

            The other thing to consider is the opportunity cost of occupying a squad position in our situation. Keeping 6 forwards happy isn’t easy, or 6 midfielders for that matter… just ask Thiago.

          • Kxevin says:

            I reckon what I mean is players who aren’t playing, and won’t play. So Tello, Afellay, Cuenca, Dos Santos, Sergi Roberto.

      • kosby says:

        For me it eventually comes down to whether or not FC Barcelona as a club is willing to accept and stick to a philosophy/system. As I see it, we have two options:
        1. Reinforce high pressing, pass and move at a high speed
        2. Mix and match. Depending on the opponent, either go with the previous tactic or let the other team have more of the ball, sit back a little, and incorporate fast transitions.

        Problem is, our squad seems to have certain players that do not have the nature to fit into one of the above two options..

        I am going to try and list down these players and in no way do I claim that this list is perfect…

        1. Neymar – needs space to run into, extremely potent in system 2
        2. Messi – plays both systems well
        3. Alexis – better in system 2
        4. Pedro – can play system 1 well but scores more in system 2
        5. Tello – system 2

        6. Iniesta – system 1 but this season has shown the adjustment to play system2
        7. Xavi – system 1, offers amazing control but seems to have lost the penetration
        8. Fabregas – brilliant in system 2
        9. Busquets – brilliant in system 1, but could be deadlier in system 2 as shown in first half of this season
        10. Song – system 2

        I dont understand defenders enough so someone else can probably fill these in better..
        11. Alba – often gets caught out when he forages in the opposition half
        12. Alves – gets hapless when we have sterile possession and tries sending in crosses which are probably more ineffective
        13. Pique – awesome when motivated
        14 – Masche – has defensive lapses, amazing as a “destroyer” if that makes sense
        15. Adriano – capable of scoring with thundering strikes, well enough as a left back

        As we all know Tata played more of the system 2 in the initial stages of the season which gave us several goals but apparently we were less in control. There seemed to have been a conflict in the manager’s preferred style and what the fans(some of them)/media hype wanted to see.

        I think we need to stick to one approach (whether system1 or system2 or maybe something else) and build our squad based on that system.

        If it were me I’d go with system 2 for the next couple of seasons and buy defenders accordingly. Eventually there will come a time when the current Juvenile team will be the first team and maybe we can revert back to system1 as appropriate.

        I wonder what role the fans/media played in Tata changing his way of playing after the first half.

        • PrinceYuvi says:

          ^Great comment. People know their stuff.

        • Inamess says:

          I really like kosby’s analysis of each player’s strengths in a deliberate tiki-taka vs a more open, quicker direct style that gives us a better chance to get the ball to our strikers in space. As has been said numerous times on this forum, our current team can no longer win playing the tiki-taka style perfected under Guardiola because:

          1) teams are more savvy about how to stop it, and our players can no longer work together to break a bus.
          2) The essential piece of our tiki-taka style (Xavi) is close to retirement.
          3) Most of our best players are now severely restricted by it.

          I know that there is no chance that Martino is going to stay, but I think the best thing for the team would have been to give him one more year to implement the system he was trying for in the first part of the season. Secondly, I like to see a massive appreciation day given to Xavi and have him move on. I would definitely go see him if he came to the Red Bulls to play with Henri.

          I don’t care if we don’t win any trophies next year. I just want to see the team play with a style that is more suited to our talented young players who can all play together for the next five seasons: Messi, Sanchez, Neymar, Fabergas, Barta, Pique, Busquet, Alba, maybe Song, plus whomever the club feels is best to bring in to fit the new style. The Guardiola days were wonderful, but its time to move on before we start looking like an inept parady of our former selves.

        • Kd says:

          Fantastic Kosby!!
          This is superb

  36. Valdemar II says:

    Last couple of comments are very good. I feel like the puzzle has been solved.

  37. Levon says:

    I agree with Kevin that we don’t need to go crazy in the transfer window. 2 CBs and a CF (unless we sell any of Pedro/Alexis/Masche who we would then need to replace)

    No MF is needed if we move Masch up a line. I would like one experienced CB and one young buck (I would be very happy with Luiz and Balanta). As for CF, get Mandzukic, who is looking at a serious lack of playing time at Bayern next season.

    All together this could be done for 80M.

    Man, do I wish I was our sporting director!

  38. simple_barcafan says:

    I think we do need a CF to give us some kind of variety, even though a lot of people think a striker will not fit into our system. A real CF will provide us the variety and the opportunity for the coach to alter tactics when facing teams defending deep. Remember the innumerable crosses that our wing backs resort to when we face a parked bus? That is what happens when players run out of ideas and decide to cross the ball into the penalty area hoping some one (anyone) would head it into the goal, while fans wonder and tear their hair in despair wondering “WHY DANI WHY??, why the useless crosses.

    Fans are throwing names of high quality strikers. But, I am not sure which world class striker would decide to join us, knowing that his playing time might be severely limited. But I hope we might get some one like Larsson, who could be an impact sub, willing to play in the team, good at heading..The one player I think fits the bill is Klose. I am not sure if people have considered him. His contract ends this summer I think. He is a team player, good at heading crosses and seems to be humble and gets along with his team mates.

  39. Messiah10 says:

    Incredible dialogue going on in this thread. I desperately hope the Alexis rumors are not true. He would be a devastating loss for our offense and pressing game. He has the heart of a lion and gives his all for the cause. I really hope it isn’t true. Great news about the ban being suspended. Of course the accusations of FIFA favoritism and “if it were an English club we’d have had worse” statements are flying on other sites. Pathetic. Like everyone else I see the need for 2 CB’s, 1 CM, I also would like a true #9. If Alexis stays, maybe he could help persuade Vidal, a life long Barca fan, to coming over. That is if Juve are willing to part, which is unlikely. Vidal’s teammate, Pogba, has been continuously linked w/PSG. Word is that Juve are going to sell him. Maybe we could swoop in for the right price. He’s a great talent and has pace, technique, & maturity. I rate him highly. He also has height which is an added bonus. I honestly wouldn’t mind Luiz from Chelski. I think he’d fit perfectly within our system. He has the athleticism & pace that will compliment Pique. He is prone to really rash tackles and mistakes, but I believe it’s more of the system he’s been put in and the positions he’s had to switch to in order to get time. I’ll keep a close eye on him this World Cup because I think he’ll have a great one. Who could we get as a true striker? Who’s out there available? Word is that Falcao will be available. Thoughts? What about Costa? I seriously doubt he’d be sold to us of all clubs and I’m not certain he’s a good fit in our system. Suarez? That’d be a dream. Kun Aguero? Another Dream. Thanks for the article Kxevin. Brilliant.

  40. Jim says:

    Well, well, well. Last night our offence looked a little better against buses and tonight so far Bayern’s defence making ours look like world beaters. Hmmm…..

  41. Kxevin says:

    RM/Bayern, and I am torn. As it is impossible for both teams to lose being only slightly more possible than a giant pit to hell opening up to swallow both teams … it would be only slightly less nauseating if Bayern advanced.

    How does the saying go about “the enemy of my enemy,” or some such?

  42. Jim says:

    Should have been three by now. They’ll regret this.

  43. Valdemar II says:

    EE with less than 25% possession at home :D.

  44. ooga aga says:

    honestly

    1. cant have mourinho win
    2. cant have real madril win
    3. cant have BM win — i want Barca to be the first to win back-to-back UCLs!
    4. that leaves atletico. cant find a reason to not support them, and i love their story. please please advance!

  45. psalmuel says:

    For a second I thought bayern were home cos of the way EE is parking the bus

  46. Jim says:

    This second half is going to be interesting for me. We’ve slagged Tata for not coming up with a solution to the bus. Can Pep ?

  47. Mano says:

    The point about changing our approach: IMO
    we must absolutely return to the high pressing game because without winning the ball higher up the pitch we cannot hope to out score opposition which we so marvelously in our hey days..if xavi and fabri can’t press then give them a golden watch and say thank you…put the emotions aside and be ruthless as seen at the start of 2008 season
    And secondly our transition play should be a lot more fast because let’s face it we face parked buses day in day out xavi is a big culprit in this respect but then he needs people making runs ahead of him as well this is where sanchez and pedro help , but martino’s insistence on playing fabri robs us of the diagonal through ball on inside of the full back so I think we should persist with three forwards rather than two.

    • Jim says:

      Don’t know if you watched last night but you got a great example there of the problem. Atletico break as fast as anyone but they still faced five or six defenders every time. If someone parks the bus they leave numbers back. Yes we can, and maybe should press better but. aM last night and so far BM tonight are showing you how hard it is.

      We’re actually the best at breaking a bus in the world, imo. It’s just that the others seldom face one.

  48. Jim says:

    Better and better. Ballon D’Or candidate lst year, Ribery, removed because he’s hardly touched the ball the whole night. I’m starting to enjoy the parallels – despite the fact we’re out.

    • Kxevin says:

      I will still be happy when RM is made to rue those missed chances at the Allianz.

      • Jim says:

        Yeah, my attempt to dislike Bayern stumbled a bit as I watched Pep’s frustration at the bus and I ended up hoping they’d score. It should be different in Germany but you’d have to fancy RM to score which means Bayern need three. A big ask against a bus.

        I thought they illustrated quite well tonight the importance of having someone in the middle to occupy the CBs (Bayern were a bit static there) and pull them about but also wide players who can take on and beat a defender while hitting the byeline. I thought Robben did it well and Ribery looked out of his depth.

        • Kxevin says:

          Ribery pretty much always looks out of his depth in big matches. Les Bleus has trained me for that. I think he is talented, but massively overrated.

          • Levon says:

            Robben has more individual quality, while Ribery more of a team player. Although my fellow Dutchman has left his selfish ways at home since last years semis, and he has performed admirably in big games since then. It is the main reason I thought Ribery’s talk about deserving the ballon d’or were aa bit off.

            Also, all the comments in twitter that Robben should have passed more tonight stunned me. Yesteryear ‘s shadows in the membrane manifesting themselves?

          • Kxevin says:

            When Robben is on a run or near/in the box, asking him to pass is asking him to deny his instinct. Ain’t gonna happen.

          • barca96 says:

            Ribery pretty much always looks out of his depth in big matches

            Doesn’t Barca vs Bayern count as a big match to you? Ribery ripped our defense apart just last year.

          • Levon says:

            Actually he passes a lot more when around the box than a couple of years ago. I am as surprised as anyone that he ever made that transition.

            Sometimes he gets criticized for shooting even when it is the correct play, though. People write “Robben thinks he’s Messi”. Well, he obviously ain’t, but he’s no slouch, either!

  49. Valdemar II says:

    Bayern’s press wasn’t on in this game? They had some nice movement up front, but did not deserve a result. Sucks that the three teams left in the CL are all anti-football…

  50. simple_barcafan says:

    Pep’s first defeat in the Bernabeu?

  51. simple_barcafan says:

    Ironically, Pep is facing a similar(well, almost..) situation as Tata in Bayern. Taking over a team that had a different philosophy and which was hugely successful and fans expecting him to continue with the trophies.

    Pep chose to introduce “tika-taka” into Bayern.( I still don’t agree with the notion that it is tika-take. The Barca 08-09, with pressing and telepathic passing in tight spaces, now that is tika-taka, but that is a different matter altogether) There was initial resistance, as fans started wondering why the hell would you change a working formation. But he did and it worked. the fans were happy. Now, results are not going his way, and grumblings about Pep and his tactics.*cough*similarity with Tata’s situation? *cough*..

    Lets see if Pep persists with his methods or gives in to pressure and reverts (like Tata) to Jupp’s formation. If only Tata has stood firm on his tactics. If only the board had supported him and his tactics, like BM did for Pep and his new tactics.. If only..

  52. Inamess says:

    I haven’t watch Bayern that much this year, but what I saw today from Bayern did not look like Tiki Taka. It just seemed to be possession based-offensively minded football. Whether it ends up working for Bayern and Pep in the end is for us to see. If it doesn’t then the conclusion that could be drawn is that it is just not a great system to win the Champions League.

    As a club, Barcelona has been forced to play tiki taka because it was the only style that suited our players. Even though we were one of the best teams ever, let’s not forget the times we were defeated or almost defeated in the Champions League by significantly inferior opponents who played a defensive style and looked to hit back on the counter: Inter Milan in 2010, Chelsea in 2012, and Milan in 2013.

    Why a strong defense will usually trump a strong offense in Champions League ties I’ll leave for those more school in football tactics. One of the reasons I suppose is the quality of defense at the top level and the leeway teams are given to play very physically and not get penalized for it. Barcelona’s critics were right in that we sometimes did get calls in our favor against physical teams, but now with the team’s decline those calls are not going to happen anymore. We are out of favor and FIFA/UEFA don’t really see the success of the club or its style in their interest because we will no longer generate the interest and fan base that we once had until we can fix our problems and reinvent ourselves.

    • Peter says:

      Here’s my theory on why defensive football works in the Champions League, but more importantly in the elimination stage:

      Not conceding goals gives better rewards than scoring goals: If you don’t concede goals and score one, you win. If you don’t concede and don’t score, you go to penalties, and that’s down to chance. That’s basically how Chelsea won their Champions League and if things repeat themselves in the second leg, it will go down to penalties as well.

  53. KEVINO17 says:

    If anything, today’s game showed the limitations of a traditional CF when trying to break down the bus. Mandzukic is fairly tall and good in the air. But if the centre-backs form a tight shell and don’t give him much oxygen, it’s very hard for him to get a good clean header on target.

    • Levon says:

      Especially when one of the best teams in the world goes out and plays this tactic. For me it is unfathomable that you would have half a billion euros worth of players park the bus in your own house. If we would do that the handkerchiefs would come out sooner than you can say snot boogie. I can only think that Pep’s Barça has damaged the merengue’s collective psyche so hard that they accept their team to play like that.

      • Peter says:

        Not just the merengue psyche, Lev.

        PSG last season, Milan both last and this, Bayern, Chelsea, Arsenal, Real Madrid, Atletico… take any top team in Europe or any team that considers itself top. They have all tried to fight Barcelona and have left with their asses gift-wrapped. Then they played defensively and in quite a few cases won. Fans like good football, but they prefer to see their team winning.

        Barcelona’s aficionados/hinchas(the word supporter doesn’t really fit) are the only fans that when faced with the dilemma of good football or winning choose “Both or I’ll throw a tantrum!”.

        • Kxevin says:

          And yet the “Barça need a 9 to bus break” myth persists. Costa and Mandzukic, both different types of 9 but still definitely 9s, came up against a parked bus and failed.

          Then it’s “but with Messi running around …”

          It’s still a bus, and when world class defenders park a bus, you are pretty much reduced to luck, or a stunning moment of individual brilliance to crack things, like the Iniesta goal vs Chelsea.

          At some point, or maybe not, the idea that Barça “needs” a 9 to compete against buses will die. Barça needs its players to move the ball AND their asses as quickly as possible, to find gaps. On form there is no team on the planet better equipped to break buses than us.

          • Peter says:

            Well Mourinho certainly has found a way to break a bus for the moment – hit it with a bigger bus. :D

        • Levon says:

          @Peter
          Well, the point about the merengues is that it used to be that culers weren’t the only ones throwing tantrums over bad football, regardless of trophies. Just ask Capello.

          @Kxevin
          You are right of course, a 9 does not necessarily break buses. But I wonder what Barça would look like with a 9 supported by Messi at 10.

          • Peter says:

            Up until the 2008-2009 season Real had the luxury to berate their team if it didn’t win by playing beautifully. After that the stormtroopers had two behavior-changing experiences, namely the 2-6 and “The handful”. These two made them go from “win beautifully, damn your coiffed hair!!!” to “just win, dammit! I don’t care how, just win!!!”

            Barcelona’s fans’ case is one of too much honey for too long. When they have it, it doesn’t taste as sweet as it used to. When it’s gone, it’s a full-blown withdrawal syndrome.

          • Kxevin says:

            Oh, Peter, a very elegant way of putting it. So, so right. A win isn’t just a win any longer, is it?

          • Levon says:

            My point exactly. We broke them.

  54. barca96 says:

    If Sanchez or Pedro don’t have confidence, there isn’t a thing a manager can do for them.

    Of course the manager needs to try and help give the players confidence. The manager is the reason why the players can have a drop in confidence.

    You’ve been watching football long enough to know that confidence is important especially for forwards.

    If the forwards continue getting overlooked even though their performance and stats says otherwise, their confidence will drop and their goal scoring instinct will drop.

    • Kxevin says:

      You approach your game with a presumption of professionalism, and as a professional. You work hard in practice, you prepare for the match and you keep yourself ready to play, when and where the coach needs you. Period.

      A high-level pro athlete has confidence. If he has an ego, if anything not playing should sharpen his focus through ire. “I’ll show them.”

      The efforts to make managers responsible for the failings of players doesn’t wash with me. Mourinho is excellent in that regard. He says, “If you WANT to play for me, you will.” The Mata situation was funny. It was “evil Mou damaging a delicate flower.” No. Mourinho said as coach, I will play who gives me the best chance of success in that particular match, or based on what I want. Mata wasn’t, so he didn’t play. Simple.

      Sanchez and Pedro are professionals. They should understand by now that you don’t always play, even when you are on form. They aren’t children in a game of kickabout.

      • barca96 says:

        The thing is both Pedro and Alexis played better than Neymar but they were continuously overlooked for Neymar. That will shatter their confidence slowly but surely. They’re humans, they will feel it and their productivity will drop.

        • Kxevin says:

          Actually, you mean “Pedro and Alexis played better than Messi.” Because on form, this is true, particularly on the defensive end of the pitch.

          But they don’t start over Messi for the same reason they don’t start over Neymar: the coach opts for the possibility of individual brilliance over their hard-working devotion to the collective.

          If they are going to be discouraged and lose confidence because a better player starts ahead of them, they should request a transfer to a team where that isn’t a possibility.

  55. Levon says:

    Have to agree with barca96. Some players thrive on the confidence their managers give them, and forwards especially need to feel that it’s okay for them to miss every now and then.

    Then again, Lexus went out to the media and called himself a jugadorazo when last season he was missing sitters, squatters, layers, hangers…

  56. SemperFi786 says:

    Tiki taka – quick pinball action, 1 touch slick passes.
    Possession football ala this Bayern – 2 touch – receive, pass – it holds up play because of the extra touch & defenders get more time to adjust. Its too slow advancing forward compared to 1 touch ping pong. Add to that, Real’s back was the most solid I’v seen them last night. I’v been saying forever that u cant teach the tiki taka system & it just gets grasped & suddenly there’s a new Barca. Even when I never saw 1 Bayern match under Pep, I refused to believ it. Masia teaches the system to kids for a reason; so that its 2nd nature to them by the time they’r allegable to play for the 1st team. With all the problems this season, Barca still plays the best football. U don’t just replicate somethin in a matter of months at another team that takes yrs to develop at ur old 1. Anybody can play possession football. But possession/tiki-taka is a different beast altogether. Bayern doesnt get pressed relentlessly, or face up to a bus like u find with wat happens to Barca every wk in la Liga. Always thought that it’d b interesting to see how they deal with it when it comes around. A lot of smaller liga teams hav picked up on the pressing style left by Pep after he left, & used it against Barca, & only them. It was easier for Pep to make little tweaks when he was here, becaus of the understanding. He was 1 of them, they were 1 with him. & he kept them moving the ball so quickly that u hardly noticed any differences in certain approaches, shape etc. They could almost move like ghosts because of the pace & intricacy of their play. Teams got caught/found wanting in their rapid movement & suddenly found a player pop up in an area like a puff of smoke – ping! – goal.
    Atletico is the most together team out of all thats left in this CL. They should win it. There’s a Barca air about them. They’r a fantastic group. Sore losers will hate to see RM achieve their obsession & make the decima. Atleti’s my favourite to scoop this season’s CL. If either Bayern or RM do it, then its just as significant for them as for Atleti. For it’l b a back-to-back for Bayern, that elusive 10th for RM, & that first for Atletico. If either Bayern or RM win it, so b it. Just don’t want that ultra defensive Chelsea to win it. They had insane luck in 2012. Don’t wanna see a repeat

    • Inamess says:

      I completely agree. Barcelona played tiki taka as a matter of necessity. It was the only way they could win or compete against a Real team that year after year spent ridiculous money to bring the best players in the world to their team. At the same time we had just the right players to do it who were trained for years to play just this way. The only other team that also had to play this way is the Japanese national women’s team.

      Bayern didn’t need to play Pep’s way to win another Champions League. They could still win it, but if they don’t then their will be a huge backlash against Pep. It may not be fair, but that’s how ruthless and unforgiving fans are these days.

  57. Peter says:

    So apparently the wrap-up from the Champions first leg is this:

    Chelsea giving whatever it takes in order not to pass the center circle.

    Atletico facing a bus of their own and don’t really like it.

    Reigning champions’ defense not facing better than Barcelona when playing attacking football and being hit on the counter. Own medicine no taste good. :P

    Europe’s richest club, Europe’s most expensive squad plays defensively in its own stadium, gets less than 30% possession.

    The general talk is that while Atletico can get away with playing defensively and looking for the break due to their limited means, the rest of the teams have disappointed. Faced with the alternative, people are already missing the presence of Barcelona and its “boring football”, because they have seen what real boring football looks like. :D

    • Inamess says:

      That just about sums it up and not just on this forum. The new joke on the internet is that in the next Athleti-Chelsea match both teams will park the bus in their own area and the ball will remain untouched in the center for 90 minutes. Kind of like trench warfare. The only good news is that while WWI lasted for years, the Champions League will be over in a few weeks.

  58. stefan2k says:

    Thanks for the wrap-up :D

    Although I wanted Atletico to win I couldn’t stop thinking ‘now you know what its like!’. Also thought that our matches against Chelsea in Peps last season were way better than what we saw on Tuesday.

  59. psalmuel says:

    Seems the park-a-bus tactic and hit on the counter is becoming a trend and is winning the war against attacking football(tiki-taka and possession football). Now its almost a question of who will park the bus and who will take the attacking onus. At the calderon it was Mou,’Señor Simeone after you please’ and at the santiago it was Carletto,’ Señor Pep after you please’. I see this tactic making grounds in the world cup and next season

    • barca96 says:

      I hope this World Cup will be an open affair especially since it’s in Brazil, home of beautiful football.

      Just watched some old World Cup commercials. Hopefully Nike will come up with a classic for Brazil.

  60. psalmuel says:

    I think the barca technical staff should embark on a research on how to break a bus

    • Peter says:

      There’s no need for researches, it’s simple and logical.

      Hit it with a tank.

    • Levon says:

      I think that instead of breaking it you should lure it out a little bit. Of course, our problem is that we have not handled extreme pressing all that well either.

      • blitzen says:

        And that’s the thing, isn’t it? Every bus can be broken down, given enough time. But when our opponents combine parking a bus with pressing hard for the ball, our midfielders don’t have time to formulate an attack. They end up passing backwards to regain control, and have to start all over. Atleti worked this strategy to perfection against us, and we had no answer for it.

        • Levon says:

          Sheeeeeet Atletico did not park the bus as much as drove it at us full speed and smashed it into the cross bar a couple of times…

        • G6O says:

          That’s true regarding that game – at our best (not necessarily the best of this squad, but in times past, certainly) this would have been suicidal strategy as we would have been able to get the ball past the press and into the space behind it. But that was with Valdes in goal, quicker midfielders, a 4-3-3 formation with quick wingers and an in-form Messi.

  61. Ultraculé says:

    Federico Fazio
    Eder Alvarez Balanta
    Mateo Musacchio
    Aymeric Laporte
    Jeremy Mathieu
    Eliaquim Mangala
    Mats Hummels
    David Luiz
    Santiago Vergini
    Mehdi Benatia

    Really really hope we get to see atleast two players from this list signing for Barcelona this summer. Imperative that the necessary signings (GK & 2 defenders) are done and dusted soon enough.

    • Kxevin says:

      Buzz is that we have a personal agreement with Hummels already. Forget about Mangala. Porto, and third-party stuff, plus he’s expensive, and already rumored to be done for City or Chelsea, I forget which.

      Laporte? We wouldn’t spend 40m for Javi Martinez, so I doubt we’ll spend 36 for Laporte. As we know. Athletic is as tough a negotiation as Porto. They would rather see a player leave on a free than not get their price. Crazy, but principled.

      Mathieu would make me verrrry happy. Could play CB and LB, has size and pace. I was on that bandwagon last season, when he and Rami were rumored to be coming as a tandem.

      Got the chance to watch Vergini a good bit in Sunderland matches, and um … hmmmm …

      Luiz has the stuff to play as a Barça CB, I think. Mourinho likes to play him in front of the defense for the very qualities that would make him a damn good Barça CB.

      From what I have seen of Balanta, the potential is immense. The price is also right, if you are going to go for an established European CB. Puyolesque.

      I haven’t seen enough of Benatia to be able to say anything cogent on him.

      It makes me woozy with rapture that Musacchio is available on a free. I see no reason that we haven’t already signed him, frankly.

      One part of me wants to go nuts in the market. The other part of me wants to grab one dude, then say to Ie and Bagnack, “There is one spot. You want it? Fight for it in preseason.”

      • Ultraculé says:

        I too would be quite happy with a Mathieu capture. He has impressed me every time I’ve seen him.
        Why have you left out Fazio? Do you not rate him? The guy’s a beast and fast and I think would fit in quite well just like all the other defenders we have bought from Sevilla – Alves, Adriano, and to an extent Keita.

        • Kxevin says:

          Haven’t seen enough of him to say. Lots of people like him, though. Basically we are going to be linked to every defender who isn’t Thiago Silva (and probably even him) this summer. Hopefully the team will make some moves early, rather than late, though with World Cup, it will either have to be early or late.

      • Kd says:

        Laporte looks fantastic and I agree that Musachhio should just be brought in, without any delay. Free transfer et al.
        And btw according to insidespanishfootball.com Laporte can play left back and a left centre back with equal aplomb. Why not pay some crazy money and get him. basically Musachio and Laporte together for a total of 36 mil and then of course Bagnack to fight them for the spot. Plus we have Pique and Bartra.

    • ciaran says:

      I’d love Hummels and Musacchio.

      Depending on the progress of Bartra, one to the central defenders we sign could end up being fourth choice so getting Musacchio on a free makes even more sense.

      Hummels as I have said many times is world class and fits our requirements perfectly. He made a few errors last season due to concentration but really stepped us this season again.

      If he can’t be signed then the only others I’d consider for an immediate starting place would be Benatia and Ezequiel Garay of Benfica. Benatia has more pace than most on that list and is good with the ball. Garay has developed into the player everyone thought he would before the Real Madrid move. The only negative about Garay is that some of the fee would go to Madrid.

      Fazio I would rate at the level of Musacchio but isn’t free. If for some reason Musacchio wouldn’t accept the transfer then I’d snap Fazio up but I wouldn’t rate him as an immediate starter ahead of the others.

      Balanta is only proven in Argentina and while that is a good indicator, it certainly isn’t the same as having European experience. Not for the money talked about in my opinion.

      Laporte… as Kxevin & I have both said, €36m for a youngster is too high.

      Mathieu is a good alternative to Musacchio again but not an immediate starter.

      Mangala too expensive and if you are looking for another excuse he is probably not good enough in possession.

      David Luiz is not my cup of tea, better footballer than defender and makes too many mistakes for me to consider him world class.

      Vergini has done nothing for Sunderland to make me think he has the quality to play for us.

  62. barca96 says:

    There is a Cadete A player by the name of Oriol Busquets. I hope he will be the kind of player with the mix of Oriol’s physique and Busquets’ brains.

  63. TITO says:

    What about this Ozil rumor? Do we need something like that or…?
    Our front line should look like this:
    Iniesta – Ney – Messi – Pedro – Alexis – ?
    If Alexis stays with us the next season.
    If not, than 2 forwards are a must.
    I would love us to sign someone of Lewandovski’s caliber. Can’t think of any.

  64. Kxevin says:

    Marca is rumoring that the board wants Martino to stay, and that ZubiZa has asked him to stay. Nothing in MD or Sport, though.

  65. Kxevin says:

    In my ideal world, here is how the transfer business works:

    — Coach assesses needs of his squad, based on who he has and how he would like to play

    — Coach goes to technical staff and says, “These guys would rock.”

    — Technical staff says “We’ll see what we can do.”

    — Negotiations, transfers, based on the needs of the coach.

    Instead we could, in theory, be making transfers without knowing who the coach is going to be, or how he is going to want to play. Sure, any coach would look at the collection of talent that we have, clap his hands together and exclaim “Oh, boy!”

    But if Martino is a lame-duck coach, then who is making the decisions on what players the team needs, and are they the right person (people)? I mean in theory I know who’s making the decisions, so the query is more rhetorical than anything else.

  66. Kxevin says:

    There was a Tweet that Tito Vilanova has been admitted to hospital, emergency room. Nothing more. So until we know that he hasn’t cut a finger in a household accident or sprained an ankle working out …

  67. Inamess says:

    Finally a 12 second match highlight for those who missed the Chelsea-Atletico match: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HS70xj1-m0M

  68. Kxevin says:

    What we know right now is that Tito Vilanova was admitted to hospital, and an emergency procedure was performed. This is confirmed.

    What is not known is what procedure, if it is related to his ongoing cancer battle or any prognosis.

  69. KEVINO17 says:

    If the bus-parkers continue to predominate in world football, FIFA will tweak the rules. However, they won’t do it in time for this generation of Barca players.
    Is the feeling that Tata wants to stay or wants to leave? Has he had enough?

  70. barca96 says:

    Goodbye Tito. Thank you for all those great years. Rest in peace.

    Source;
    http://www.fulltimedeportes.com/2014/04/fallece-tito-vilanova.html?m=1

  71. psalmuel says:

    EE footballblog going on and on about Ancelloti’s tactical genuis in the copa del rey and against bayern. That copa del rey was one neymar post away from ending into different hands. I am optimistic that once we have taken care of our defensive frailties and play our custom 4-3-3 with Messi in ‘annihilation mode’, their 4-4-2 with banks of 4 will look like sheeeet!

    • Valdemar II says:

      They deserved to win both games I suppose, superior in chances, but the tactics were nothing special, they reverted to the moaninho football of the past couple seasons, breaking the ‘gentlemens’ agreement’ of attacking football means they get chances for free against defensively frail teams. What has been unimpressive in our approach is the way we give the ball away when attacking, by some futile cross or misplaced pass. Perhaps it is selective memory, but didn’t we use to pass the ball around forever without losing it, when facing a defensive wall? That strategy worked, you don’t concede many chances and carefully pick your spot for a through ball.

      The future is bright, with just one signing past summer we were the best team in the world for half a season, imagine how good we could be with proper purchases.

  72. kosby says:

    Un-negotiable style

    Iniesta added that “we have gone through some very abnormal circumstances this season and it does grind you down … But once the season is over we’ll analyse things and talk about what we have to do … Our style is not be negotiated, but apart from that, Barça cannot close its doors to any players.”

    from – http://www.fcbarcelona.com/football/first-team/detail/article/iniesta-says-fc-barcelona-will-never-have-another-messi

    I’m not sure if I like this too much. Maybe its not just Xavi…

    • Peter says:

      Barcelona will continue to be an attacking team. that’s what Barca style is for me. Barcelona are a ball-playing team, but this is different from a possession-playing team.

      I still maintain, with proper rest and a proper pre-season and proper planning of the season, this team can both play possession, press and counter-press, defend en masse and counter-attack.

      That’s not counter-attack football or bus-parking football or defensive football. That is the football of Barcelona, otherwise known as

      Total Football

      • Kxevin says:

        Spot on, Peter. Tika taka is a tactic. Barça’s style is attacking football that flows from the midfield. So Iniesta is correct in that regard, even as Iniesta isn’t the coach, so in saying that any style is “not to be negotiated,” he is misguided.

  73. Jim says:

    Not entirely unexpected but the fact that I’ve been dreading checking this blog all day at work speaks volumes about the affection he engendered in me. Don’t know why – he was only with us as coach for a short while but always, always carried himself well and made me proud of the club. In a sense it’s good that we are out of everything so we and the players can take the time to appreciate his contribution properly.

  74. ooga aga says:

    descansa en paz tito gracias por todo

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