Categorized | Analysis, Thoughts, Transfers

A case for the defense, aka “Not just any old defender, but almost”

Iniesta only comes up to here on me. No. Really.

Iniesta only comes up to here on me. No. Really.

The most fascinating debate of this summer and its transfer window, has been the debate raging about our two centerback signings, Jeremy Mathieu and Thomas Vermaelen. A respondent on Twitter said to me that Vermaelen was fine, but that he was expecting a “spectacular” signing.

So of course, precisely because I am guilty of thinking too much, I started thinking about Barça, defense and conceding goals. Then I started looking around at goals that the team conceded, and came to a rather surprising conclusion: if the system is working, it pretty much doesn’t matter WHO is playing at CB. Stick a dead dog or a squirrel out there, and off ya go.

The reasons why this is so are fairly obvious: the elegant possession game that the team plays minimized opponent possession. No possession, no chances, no goals. Couple that with an effective press and your keeper had better have excellent powers of concentration, for the 1 or 2 times per match that he might actually have to do something.

Also in that situation, your CBs will essentially be, as Pique and Puyol mostly did during the glory seasons, scooping up stray balls and feeding them back into the attack.

Jailbreak!

What’s even more interesting is that the two most dangerous situations for a Barça defense, counterattacks or set pieces, again make absolute defender quality not as important as many culers are making out. Let’s start with a counterattack.

Not sure how many of you watch Ligue 1, but PSG on Friday opened its season against Reims, a team that will at best, finish mid-table in a weak league. It was a 2-2 draw. Not only that, but the two goals that Reims scored weren’t beauties of spectacular football, but rather attacks that took advantage of poor defending.

PSG has, in its back line as the two CB starters, a pair who our club was willing to spend 50m and 40m+ for, Thiago Silva and Marcos Marquinhos. The goals came because the PSG system broke down and an opponent was able to capably take advantage of it, rendering overall player quality almost irrelevant. Unless your keeper is absurd a goal was coming, and the CBs being out of position only enhanced that possibility.

So it goes with a counter goal scored against Barça. The CBs are pushed up, while Alba and Alves are out for snacks. The right counterattack means that the midfield is instantly broached, yielding a jailbreak, that counter in which a defender is left wondering who the hell to mark. It was the kind of break that the team rarely saw during its glory years, because the press worked well enough to slow a team down, allowing Puyol or Abidal to more calmly deal with matters.

Take away the press and the midfield defense and everybody is scrambling. Goals are going to come. If PSG, with arguably the two most desirable CBs in the world right now gave up not one, but TWO goals in that kind of a situation, who could Barça buy that would preclude goals being scored? I’ll give you a hint: his last name starts with “no,” and ends with “body.”

In a world standing still …

Set pieces are the other complexity in which Barça’s stanky ol’ defense found itself caught out time and again last season, right? Thirty-seven percent of total conceded goals came this way. As the now national coach of the Argentina NT, Gerardo Martino says, “We’re short.” So yes, taller players are going to jump over shorter ones. On set pieces, most of the battle is simply having someone to get in the way, preferably someone tall. Yes, there are various marking schemes, but it doesn’t matter how well designed a marking scheme is, if a 6-footer is jumping against a 5’8″ opponent.

This season, every player that the club bought — Bravo, Mathieu, Ter Stegen, Vermaelen, Rakitic — is 6′ or taller. I would bet my house that this wasn’t a coincidence. Add those players to the likes of Busquets and Pique and suddenly, you’re facing set pieces with not only a keeper more active in his area, but Pique, Mathieu, Busquets and Rakitic. That is a wall. Does the absolute quality of those players matter, when all they are going to do is mark the flight of the ball, and jump with an opponent?

You must be at least this tall to play this position.

You must be at least this tall to play this position.

Nope. And by absolute quality, I mean does that task demand the absolute best player? The job description starts with, “Are you 6 feet tall?” “Yep.” “Okay. You make the cut.” As the old American basketball scouting adage goes, “You can’t coach height.”

So what do we need?

Barça spent EUR 81m for Luis Suarez, a fellow widely considered to be the best striker in the game right now, when he isn’t making a meal of a challenge (Bwahahahahaha! You knew I would, so don’t even …). Attackers, the best ones, are always expensive. Why? It’s much harder to score a goal than to stop one. You need touch, vision, pace, ball control and the ability to immediately assess a situation and make the right decision. Atop all that, you need the talent to be able to control the ball and place it exactly where it needs to be.

Compare that to a defender, who pretty much has to have the ability to get in the way. The Chicago Bulls won NBA championships with centers like Will Perdue, Bill Cartwright and Luc Longley as their starting centers, players whose principal attributes were that each was as big as many medium-sized buildings. “Just get out there, and get in the way. Spread your arms! Perfect.”

Lionel Messi is usually (yes, usually) stopped by defenders who, were you to plot their quality scales on a graph, aren’t even good enough to carry his luggage. But they are really good at getting in the way, which means doing just enough to upset any one of the 47 things that have to happen for a goal to be scored.

So let’s start with the two most basic requirements for the job of a defender these days: height, to be able to battle set pieces, and being a sentient being, one composed of matter sufficiently solid to allow him to get in the way of an attacker.

Kinda makes you wonder what took so long to find a couple of CBs, doesn’t it?

defense

Skilled defenders

The value of a skilled defender is huge. He has to be able to read an attacker’s intention. He has to have quick feet even if he isn’t actually fast, to deal with a tricky attacker. He has to be able to judge a tackle, so that he gets the ball and not the man, thus ceding a dangerous set piece. In the professional ranks, that pretty much describes lots and lots of defenders. This is why teams don’t sell CBs all that much. Even good ones, never mind “spectacular” ones. And like attackers, there are defenders of greater and lesser quality. Who wouldn’t take a Pique over a Senderos? But Senderos has many requirements of that whole defender business nailed down tight.

So when the Barça braintrust sat down to consider a list of defenders, once they couldn’t get the absolute one that they wanted, there was a whole world of defenders out there. Mathieu is a quality defender who adds height, strength, tackling ability and a much-needed depth to our back line. He is good at reading play, and is very much a quality defender.

Thomas Vermaelen has height, quickness, tackling ability and can leap, all essential tasks when you are part of a Barça back line which if the system is working properly, won’t face many opponent chances from open play. Most of the real attacks will come from set pieces, where it becomes “Hey, you. Beanpole. Jump when the ball comes near you, and hit it with your head.”

In many ways, Vermaelen is overqualified for that job. But because being a Barça defender also includes things such as attack starting, passing from the back and bringing the ball up to the midfield where the talented Sprites can do their thing, an extra level of quality is required. Vermaelen more than has that requisite level of quality, as does Mathieu.

They don’t have to be great, they have to be good enough to provide effective depth, when the desired targets who might be great, aren’t available. You could even argue that, despite buttheads like me who in moments of weakness suggested that they would rather spend 22m on Mandzukic and 60m on Benatia, it isn’t necessary to spend crazy sums for a defender, particularly a center back. You need a guy who is tall, has quick feet and is adept at getting in the way. Then your technical staff looks at who’s available, how much the club has to spend, and what a particular player is worth, based on the template of requirements.

Which means what?

This is all a very roundabout way of saying that in effect, Barça, in purchasing two quality players in Mathieu and Vermaelen, are ahead of the game. The club has two more CBs than it had at the same time last season, a Puyol being bathed in the mythical waters of the River Styx notwithstanding, and both those CBs have quality. Not absolute quality, no, but more than enough quality to get the job done. Last year, a universally acknowledged disaster, the team conceded 18 fewer goals than the season before, when it won La Liga with a record-setting points total. (Which makes a point probably about defense winning championships, eh? Especially as the team scored 10 fewer goals last season.) And that was with a distracted royal tower, a kid and a midget as CBs.

Imagine what might happen with four, count ‘em, four functional CBs.

I, for one, can’t wait to find out.

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137 Responses to “A case for the defense, aka “Not just any old defender, but almost””

  1. teddy says:

    What is this, I don’t even. We actually signed two player that stand as tall as the crest?

    On a serious note, this is a very welcomed signing. No matter how the culer despise it, we will definitely have less heart attack further in the season when we are deciding who plays the centreback when the squad is depleted,

    A) Can Adriano plays there? Busi, Busi definitely able to play there, or Song. Arsenal says he can.
    B) Mathieu or Vermaelen, hmm.

    I would prefer to be in situation B myself.

  2. bhed says:

    Couldn’t respond to Kxevin from last post before this one went up, so this is responding to a request for clarification on my last comment.

    On holiday, and on my phone, but to respond extremely briefly –

    Suarez – don’t care how many goals he scores (although get back to me later on that) – bad move for the organization and too expensive.
    Wanted one more year at least for Alexis. Saw Pedro more as dead weight than Sanchez.
    Matthieu – meh, could be worse, but a bit old. Vermaleen – couldn’t play with Arsenal – nuff said.
    Definitely need a new right back. Dani’s done and I don’t see how anyone can rate Montoya. Could have been a good opportunity for new blood there that could have made a difference.
    Did I mention we didn’t need to spend over $100 mil on a forward?
    Deloufeo – maybe, but I fear brought back too early.

    Pardon the terse reply, but you said you wanted to know why I thought it was a disappointing summer, and like I said, I’m on holiday. Just this punter’s opinion, but there you have it.

  3. agar2515 says:

    You are very correct in your assessment of defending been more than just about plugging in the ” best” possible players.

    That being said, as down as people get about signings, I’ve noticed the opposite has begun to be occur at times, with people getting overly defensive and using every sort of argument imaginable to rip apart someone’s negative opinion on a signing.

    Ex. I recently had someone try to convince me that Vermaelen > Benatia using stats. Really? I am not going to buy anyone quoting stats, etc. at me to try to convince that these two center back signings are the best we could have possibly landed.

    There do exist better positional players out there then those that we end up signing for Barcelona. There’s no shame in admitting it and no need to become somewhat deluded as a result of being overtly passionate for the club. In addition, not being in favor of a club move doesn’t automatically make someone a ” typical cynical cule”

    This whole summer transfer window has been exhausting. The ” disaster” of last season has people on edge I think. Nearly every signing has had people shouting back and forth over the positives and negatives, often rather irrationally in one way or another. Basically, This season needs to start already.

    Btw in my above feelings I am NOT pointing out/ referring to anyone here in this space/ blog specifically. I’m talking about the twittersphere and other sites I peruse from time to time. If I had a problem with anyone here I would say it, I don’t at all, I always look forward to reading the thoughts of everyone here.

    :) cheers everyone

    • Peter says:

      I will bite, since that’s “using statistics to prove an argument, any argument.” I believe that Vermaelen vs Benatia is a case of “When he plays, he plays better”.

      If you look at it from defensive PoV, that statement certainly isn’t far off the mark. His per-90 minutes defensive stats are impressive. Benatia tackles more and has more interceptions and blocks per game, but his aerial capability is less – despite him being both bigger and stronger – and this is what was Barcelona’s lacking.
      These are, of course, “per 90 minutes” stats, since Vermaelen played a total of 788 minutes, whereas Benatia played 2857.

      Here’s a comparison of the two, with David Luiz, Bartra and Pique added for good measure:
      http://bit.ly/1kT1HgG

      A case for Benatia is that his is consistent performance, whereas Vermaelen was injured often and also left on the bench due to Mertetowers and Koscielny forming a better defensive pair.

      A case for Vermaelen is that of the 9 games in which he played the majority of the game(at least 46 minutes), two of those games were against Chelsea, two against Manchester City, one against Manchester United and one against Everton. In the away Chelsea and the away City games, in which Arsenal were dismantled, he was subbed on due to an injury to Koscielny and didn’t do much. However, in the home Chelsea, home City and the away United and away Everton games, he was the best player of Arsenal on the pitch – and he was man of the match against United and Chelsea.

      In the cons, from the 9 mentioned games, 4 were defeats, three were draws, and only two wins(both vs West Ham).

      In essence, you could spin it either way. :D

      • ciaran says:

        I don’t think you can say that you could spin it either way when comparing Vermaelen to Benatia. Vermaelen two to three seasons ago was amongst the best defenders in the world and at that stage his purchase would have been fantastic. Now, he is a question mark and gamble but one that is worth taking in my estimation.

        People belittle Benatia which is crazy. Whoever he plays for next season is going to be lucky to have him. I like Roma so I hope he stays there now but he is an immense defender, both physically and tactically.

        You can use stats to tell whatever story you like but watching Arsenal get dismantled in practically every big match last season doesn’t instill much confidence in any of their defensive players.

        • Peter says:

          That was my point, ciaran – You can use stats to tell whatever story you like

          I don’t belittle Benatia. I do not think he is really that supermegaawesome for what Barcelona needs. That is different. You may want to read again Kxevin’s post for a more elaborate and eloquent explanation.

          Barcelona’s defence did not suck. What sucked was set pieces and corners defence, as well as aerial presence in the opposition box. Vermaelen and Mathieu both have the qualities for that. Does Barcelona need to pay the additional premium for “leadership”, “making the rest of the defence better”, lots of tackles and the associated yellow cards? Here’s where opinions start to differ.

          • ciaran says:

            Barcelona’s attack did not suck… we spent over €80m on Suarez.
            You say that when he plays, he plays better but I can’t agree. Benatia was THE central figure in Roma being possibly the best team in Europe defensively. Vermaelen WAS a great defender and may become one again.

            It’s true that our defense did not suck but it failed in big matches last season. My preference was to have a player who you could say is a guaranteed starter and those who have watched Benatia over the past couple of seasons would agree that he would be a guaranteed starter.

            You also say that his aerial ability is less but this is based on statistics covering two different leagues and very different models of football. Roma played very similarly to Barca last season with a very high line and more reliant on interceptions than last ditch defending. In the matches you quote Vermaelen’s stats on, Arsenal spent most of the matches defending.

            It’s like where people compare Modric and Rakitic and say that Modric is a better passer because he passes more in a different area of the pitch but has no where near the same assists levels.

            Lucho clearly wants a lot of competition more than definitive starters and there’s obviously a reason for it. The fact that we bought other players that are not Benatia doesn’t mean that they are better than him nor that they are better for us than he would be.

            What I am most pleased about this summer is that we didn’t spend €40m+ on Marquinhos, someone unproven and more of a name than a footballer. That isn’t what Benatia would have been but the ship has sailed so we’ll have to just see how it goes.

          • Peter says:

            Barcelona had the lowest Liga goal difference since 2007-08.
            Barcelona failed to score in six domestic games this season. In the period 2008-2013, that is five seasons, Barcelona failed to score in nine games total. In the 2012-13 season, that number was zero, the highest had been in 2011-12 with three.

            So yeah. Barcelona sold Sanchez for 42 million, and got Suarez for 81 million.

            Again, “failed in big matches”? Failed how? The only game that Barcelona’s defence really failed, and I mean failed big time in a big game, was against Atletico at Vicente Calderon – when it was playing with Bartra and Mascherano and Pinto.
            Which were the other big games in which the defence failed?

            Real Madrid home – the defence held firm for 90 minutes. The only goal came from a counter in injury time.
            Atletico away – the defence held
            Manchester City away – the defence stopped the most potent attack in Europe at that point to a screeching halt.
            Manchester City home – one goal, by Kompany, from a corner
            Real Madrid away – two goals from open play, one from a penalty outside of the box. Watch both goals, hell watch all goal-scoring opportunities, and tell me whether they would’ve been goal-scoring opportunities if Mascherano had been taller and jumpier.
            Atletico home – wonder goal by Adrian.
            Atletico away – total eclipse of the guard.
            Real at Mestalla – Real playing on the counter vs Pinto, Mascherano and injured Bartra.
            Atletico home – one goal. From corner.

            My personal opinion is that Benatia is too expensive for what Barcelona needs. Especially when you take into account that the only European experience the man has, after being touted as the best defender since King Leonidas, has been in the Guinness Cup in the USA.

            Anyway, I think one reason why Benatia is at “sell to the highest bidder” Roma is because of David Luiz’s performance at the World Cup after his transfer to PSG.

          • Jim says:

            Leaving aside the merits of the individual I’m not sure how you could regard Roma as being the best defense in a Europe, Ciaran. Surely it depends on the quality if the league you play in and whether or not you are playing CL ? You just have to look at a Italian teams’ performances in the CL to see its a much diminished league in European terms.

      • agar2515 says:

        Dammit Peter lol

        • agar2515 says:

          ( ^as in “ooooh no you didnnnnn’t :-X” I said I wouldn’t get into it, and I’m not. As usual ciaran said it all for me ^_^)

          • Peter says:

            This isn’t really my view. I was just trying to illustrate why someone could argue that “Vermaelen is better than Benatia” and what direction his musings would take.

            You can actually pick and choose stats to convince yourself of a view, and it would even be plausible. But, as the saying goes, the map is not the territory. Stats are not the performance, and everything has to be watched in context. And that context needs to be the correct context.

            Ciaran is quite right in a lot that he says, mind you. It’s mostly a difference of opinion and views.

  4. PrinceYuvi says:

    Brilliant post, kx. Thanks for churning out these articles even in holiday season.
    This’d help my sanity.
    About Verm, people keep saying His positioning sucks.
    I’ve no idea if that’s true.

  5. mr.undercover says:

    That’s the kind of a post that I have bieng waiting so long, excellent article kevin, varmaelen and mathieu aren’t a big names but if they can do more than enough am hapily satisfy with it,

  6. PrinceYuvi says:

    Zubi did built a competent squad in a flash though. Darn you cheapskate Rosell.

    1. Midfield pressing, mobility, strength – done

    2. Tallish, Mobile forward with High work rate – done

    3. Set piece defending & Aerial strength – done

    4. Ability to score via Set pieces – done

    5. Getting rid of dead weight – done

    6. Building a strong bench – done

    7. Left footed defenders – done

    8. Not losing tons of money whilst doing all this – done

  7. mr.undercover says:

    In twitter culers are more excited about varmaelen GF than his arrival, seriously hillarious and immaeture,

  8. ciaran says:

    So Vermaelen is all signed up and added to Mathieu, Pique and Bartra giving us the 4 central defenders that we craved.

    I haven’t hidden the fact that I expected and wanted more quality in this particular area but the most important thing from this summer for me from the very start was that we had a smaller quality gap between our starters and our subs.

    We now have genuine options in goal, defense and midfield. I fully expect ter Stegen to start when league time rolls around but Bravo and Masip certainly have enough quality that injury wouldn’t destroy our season like happened this past one. No, I’m not solely blaming Pinto for failing to win trophies but we certainly would have conceded less had Valdes stayed healthy increasing our chances.

    ter Stegen/Bravo/Masip

    Montoya/Alves, Pique/Bartra, Mathieu/Vermaelen, Alba/Adriano

    Rakitic/Xavi, Busquets/Mascherano, Iniesta/Sergi

    Suarez/Deulofeu, Messi/Rafinha, Neymar/Pedro

    There isn’t the same instant dropoff in quality of the past couple of seasons; 23 players capable of starting most matches. We also have B team players like Patric, Grimaldo, Samper, Halilovic, Adama & Munir capable of playing minutes.

    One thing is for sure, we have a lot bigger squad than last year and lot more versatility. The unproductive members of the squad – Afellay (just joined Olympiakos), JDS, Cuenca, Tello, Puyol, Oier & Pinto have all left. Song is looking for a new home also.

    When we make a substitution, it’s not going to be a waste of time and we won’t have players on the bench there simply to make up numbers. People are going to be left out of match day squads for genuine tactical reasons rather than that being the excuse.

    Also important to note – Bravo, Vermaelen, Mathieu, Rakitic, Masch & Suarez have all captained different teams along with our current group of captains. It’s a squad filled with the right mentality. Hard workers, physically strong and tall players have been added to our stellar technical attributes.

    It’s very easy to be optimistic after the best transfer window in our history. Individually some better players could have arrived in defense but depth rather than a small but tactically versatile group is better in the long term. Our youth system continues to produce incredible talent and we still have the best player in history backed by Neymar and Suarez.

  9. ciaran says:

    Zubi said in the press conference in reference to Dani Alves: “At the moment we have received no offers for Dani Alves. He is a player in our squad and he is training very well.”

    Not exactly declaring him nontransferable. He didn’t rule out additions and suggested some sales (assuming Alex Song).

    In potentially related news, Bayern Munich’s right back Rafinha tore his left ankle ligaments so will miss the early part of the season. It would be interesting to see Dani line up for Pep once again as he was one of Pep’s most effective players during his spell here. If we can sign Cuadrado then I’d be happy for Dani to move on.

  10. Kxevin says:

    Apparently the real Vermaelen numbers are 10m up front, 5m in performance incentives and 3.8m for a Champions League.

  11. Gogah says:

    So..
    Finally, those elusive, much sought after Center back purchases have arrived. Where does that leave us? Personally, I think in a very good spot indeed. All I want to say to Cules is that firstly, ‘Know that you don’t know, until you know’. A lot of the parameters with which each signing was criticized would have easily been thrown about even if a Puyol, Abidal, Mascherano were to be signed now. Second, BELIEVE that Vermaelen and Mathieu, too may fall in the ‘successful signings’ bracket like Keita, Alves, Abidal, Mascherano. Guys like Bravo and Ter Stegen could certainly use SUPPORT and patience from fans as they will inevitably make mistakes along the way, taking over from the ‘best ever’ Valdes.

    I think we shouldn’t judge this summer’s activity, which has been excellent by all accounts, by the failings of the board in the past few seasons. It almost felt a bit like the club lazed in the unprecedented success and waited to see the team fail really badly for validation to rejuvenate the squad. Leaving that inexcusable part of the board aside, this summer Zubi did pull a few rabbits out of the hat. 15M + Rakitic for Cesc is one of them.

    Competition is the key word again. There is serious quality depth. And there are no automatic starters in the way we saw tiresome and unimaginative lineup selections in the past 2 years. The B Team is stacked too and we have a boss who will be allowed to be a boss. I’d like to think there are some signings that you intuitively ‘know’ will work and my intuition has generally served me well uptil now. The only one that didn’t was with Chygrynskiy. But he was an unfortunate victim of many forces and was simply not given any time. Let’s hope the guys we have bought now will have better luck on that front.

    This club could really use a break after all the crap it has endured which has been as astonishing as the unprecedented sporting success. Tough decisions have been taken,(selling cesc, alexis, buying suarez) and common sense has mostly prevailed (bullet dodged on potential 45+ on luiz, marquinhos, silva etc). We now have a squad, that is not just equipped with the right sporting tools, but with the right hunger and mentality too. I don’t know, but I think..

    We are back.

  12. Gekko64 says:

    In the meanwhile Piquè thinks he’s 6 years old and has fun with stink bombs. Just goes to show how he doesn’t care what he does. Hopefully some bench time will have him running again.

  13. Kxevin says:

    I wonder, if Vermaelen were as crap as everyone allege, would Arsenal even care where he went. They were fairly clear in their desires to NOT let him go to a rival, and set an in effect unmeetable price to ensure that didn’t happen.

    For crap players, you’re just glad to have them gone. “Yesh, we don’t care where he goes. Can’t hurt us anyhow.”

    Also interesting is the backhand that Vermaelen threw at Arsenal’s medical staff. Fabregas missed 63 games over 3 years at Arsenal. He missed 7 games over 3 years with us. Stuff happens, players are rushed back, there are different methodologies of treatment.

    We have a lot to wait and see about, particularly with Vermaelen.

    • agar2515 says:

      I don’t think people here think he’s “crap” per se (perhaps you’re referring to the twitter world which I can definitely empathize with then)… just that he comes with some caveats. Like I said above, there’s no shame in admitting he’s not on of the BEST CB’s out there (but like we’ve also said, we don’t need the best at every position in the back). Wenger also finally doesn’t HAVE to sell to the highest bidder, but let’s be real our nanas are probably better than Smalling, Evans, and co. at the back haha.

    • Peter says:

      Quite a few comments around the sites that I look up(bleachers, goal.com, plus the ever-present MD and MARCA) have nothing but scorn for the facilities of Arsenal.

      And when you look at the injury list, it makes you wonder what are they doing at the Emirates for recovery, have them play hurling?*

      Arsenal’s title hopes were dragged to a nameless shed and smothered with a pillow basically at the turn of the year, but even before that there were numerous injuries:

      Olivier Giroud: knee injury, ankle injury, illness
      Mesut Ozil: Thigh injury in March, one month, shoulder injury before that
      Arteta: missed the first four games to thigh injury
      Aaron Ramsay: out for fourteen weeks due to a thigh injury. Initially predicted for 6 weeks, suffered two setbacks.
      Jack Wilshere:Out for six weeks due to a hairline fracture in his foot(Agger tackle)
      Theo Walcott: ACL tear. Wenger didn’t think it was anything serious until the next day, when the medics told him it’s a ligament tear; lost the World Cup
      Podolski: off the pitch for almost four months due to suffering a complete detachment of thigh muscle. Arsenal medics initially said 3 weeks.
      Vermaelen: Multiple knee injuries and calf injuries.
      Koscielny: laceration of the leg.
      Rosicky: Hamstring injury and a broken nose in January
      Oxlade-Chamberlain: knee injury, MCL injury, three pelvis injuries.

      The complete list is here:
      http://www.physioroom.com/news/english_premier_league/clubs/1/arsenal_injuries.html

      You will notice a horrifying concentration of injuries in the week ending on matchday 1 of the season(a total of 10 injuries) and the turn of the year(from the 26th of December to the 4th of January there were 11 injuries and three illnesses).

      * – Irish sport played with bats on grass, described in a movie as “a cross between hockey and murder”

      • barca96 says:

        :lol: @ hurling. But isn’t this similar to lacrosse?

        • Peter says:

          Yes, except that instead of lacrosse sticks with nets, and more protective gear, Hurling is played with something more akin to wooden axes, which are reinforced with metal strips(according to ancient Irish law, just the king’s son hurley could have a bronze strip, all others’ had to be copper), in order not to break that fast from the impact of the wooden ball, other hurley sticks and other players’ limbs. ;)

  14. PrinceYuvi says:

    These Ciaran Peter debates are stuff of legends.
    Wondrous commentors you both.

  15. agar2515 says:

    @BarcaChief: MD: Barcelona don’t rule out that they will still try to sign Dortmund’s Piszczek this month.

  16. mr.undercover says:

    Ciaran and peter’s debate realy makes me enjoy reading their comments,they always did it in a respective and sensible way, you can’t say anything but listen to them when they talk, #respect

    • ciaran says:

      Me and Peter agree on quite a bit. The debate from my point of view is more about what I felt we should have done from the start of the window than Vermaelen’s signing yesterday.
      Once Mathieu was signed for €20m I wouldn’t have signed Benatia due to his age/price unless we had plans to sell Adriano.

      Once we had Pique, Bartra and Mathieu then only adding depth is necessary as you can’t have 4 top class centrebacks and hope to keep them happy. Let’s say Pique gets his groove back and you’ve signed Benatia, Mathieu & Bartra won’t get a game and you have wasted €20m and a good talent.

      To quickly reply to Jim from above, I said that Roma were possibly the best team in Europe defensively. Roma conceded 1 goal in their opening 10 matches in Serie A. They conceded less goals than all except for Bayern, Juventus & PSG across all of the major leagues. Of those teams, they have easily the worst team and the worst individual players yet conceded 25 goals in the league including 4 v Catania when Benatia was injured and didn’t start. If they hadn’t conceded those then they would have had the best defense in Europe so it’s not that much of a stretch.

      • Kxevin says:

        I know the dead horse is begging for mercy, but …

        What is up with Benatia?

        There is lots of money flying around the market, but no action. Chelsea rumored to be in for him, City rumored to have him as the Mangala Plan B, United said to be looking for a defender, and nothing. I wonder if he wants to leave at this time.

        Roma has a knack for finding defender talent that is difficult to argue with. They had Marquinhos for a year, then turned him around for big money. If the Benatia rumors pan out, that will happen again. Good on them.

        I think, to ciaran’s question about Pique getting his groove back, there are plenty of matches to be played as Barça will be in 3 competitions again this season. I also don’t see everyone staying fit all season, so I don’t imagine that Enrique will have too tough a time finding matches for everyone.

        I just think that you have to have 4 CBs these days. Think about what having options might have prevented in that Copa final, where a gimpy Bartra was rushed back to deputy for a broken Pique? This season, the option in that situation would be to use Mathieu and Vermaelen. I like the options.

        I also don’t think, team continuity aside, that the same players should play all the time. That’s the sure way to squad psychological burnout and fatigue-based injuries. Guardiola liked a short rotation, while Vilanova and Martino had short ones out of necessity.

        But I can’t think of the last time a Barça coach could potentially field two completely different XIs, and have either one with a shot of winning most matches for the club. And I like it.

  17. PrinceYuvi says:

    Hey, The Pique-Benatia story vanished. Who got the Vanishing spray ?

  18. Lord Eddard Stark a.k.a. Brichimbrodvoken, the vulnerable one! says:

    A couple of thoughts on the defense and midfield.

    – While Verm is a decent capture and may prove to be useful in providing cover at the back, the main reason I was hoping for Barca to splash the cash on a high profile CB signing was to give the necessary competition to Pique. Because as it stands, when fit, Pique is most likely still the undisputed starter at the center of defense.

    – Our midfield has the following players: Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets, Song, Mascherano, Rafinha, Rakitic and Sergi Roberto. That’s Eight players plus folks like Samper and Halilovic from the B-team who will be looking for minutes. I think we need to certainly offload one of them. Either a permanent sale of A.Song or a loan of Sergi Roberto.

  19. Kxevin says:

    MD today suggesting that with Xavi staying, Sergi Roberto might be loaned, which wouldn’t be a bad thing for him. Regular playing time, and the chance to develop.

  20. Peter says:

    Here’s a blast from the past, meaning last summer(6th of June, 2013):

    From Barcastuff: Barcelona is working on 3 centre back options now. One is Mathieu. The other two are not clear, possibly Inigo Martinez and Vermaelen.[md]

    More news: Vermaelen has started recovery sessions. Hopefully he will be available soon. The good thing is that with Pique, Bartra and Mathieu, and even Mascherano in the squad, Vermaelen can be babied into full recovery before he’s really needed. I still want to strangle Arsenal’s physios, it’s been close to two months since that injury took place. And I’m actually a bit scared for Sanchez now that I think about it. Wenger has signed a new fitness coach, but old habits die hard. He was probably furious to have the title slip from his grasp due to an avalanche of injuries. Hopefully he’ll get wiser this season and fight for getting out of the Champions League group finals and then mounting an assault on the Premier League(the FA Cup and the Football league can be abandoned, that’s too many competitions in too short a timeschedule).

    • Kxevin says:

      In other news (and I hope y’all are sitting down), Mangala went to Citeh for a sum between EUR 52-54m. He is now the most expensive CB in history.

      — Team Austerity, since Rosell took office, has spent north of 326m on transfers. Somewhere, Laporta is smiling … smugly.

      • Hilal says:

        Reports in England are that Mangala was signed for £32M, which is well below what PSG paid for Luiz.

        http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/28280454

        • Kxevin says:

          Don’t think those totals are factoring in the third-party payments, which put it around 42-44m GBP. Astonishing. That is a crazy, crazy transfer fee for a player who is unproven.

          • Peter says:

            Like they say in my country, “The crazy is not the one eating the pie, but the one that lets him”. City just won the EPL, reached the Last 16 of the Champions League and won one more domestic competition. With international TV rights included, the average EPL team would be getting around 95 million Euro per season. This is what allows City to spend that much.

            And it’s crazy, but actually City have behaved this silly season. They had spent a total of 18 million GBP and had recovered 12 of those, so they could spend the rest of their UEFA-allowed 60 million Euro limit on Mangala.

            And here’s the million Euro question:
            Why Mangala, and not Benatia? Lower price? Non-EU player quota? Familiarity with European competition?

            Mangala played against Atletico, Zenit and Austria Wien in the Champions League, and then against Napoli and Sevilla(where in the home leg he scored the goal). He’s not really unproven. :)

          • ciaran says:

            Both Mangala and Benatia are french nationals, Benatia plays for Morocco but was born in France.

  21. 86ed says:

    It seems Mangala went to City for 40m. Benatia to leave Roma, rumour are, for Chelsea for around the same price.

    40m seems to be the magic number for quality defenders, unless you’re PSG and David Luiz, a notorious and hilariously bad piece of business for the Parisians.

  22. ciaran says:

    In fairness the transfer market is broken. If you look at it, James was an overpriced €45m signing last summer with almost no pedigree then has a good world cup and is now one of the most expensive players in history.
    Luis Suarez must be considered the most expensive transfer in history with his age / years to amortise his fee.
    David Luiz for €50m.

    FIFA need to address this issue because it’s crazy. I would suggest that transfer fees should be calculated based on the salary of the player. Something like a multiplier based on the amount of salary and years left on the contract. This along with a salary cap to control the movement of players in order to make the game less predictable.

    Bill Gates could come along and buy Notts Forest, sponsor them with a huge marketing fund. They could buy whoever they want and no one could do anything about it. Forest are probably a bad example because they actually have history unlike City and Chelsea but you get the idea. Anzhi is probably the example to think about and we know how that ended.

    • Peter says:

      This is why the FFP rules are in force, so that clubs spend their own money instead of whatever daddy gives them.

      If the FFP regulations are enforced, they actually do represent a nice salary cap. If the club wants to spend more on salaries, they it has to generate more money from club-related revenue. This is why Barcelona found a new shirt-sleeve sponsor, because it gives the club 10 million per year, of which 7 million can be spent on salaries.

      This is one reason why Monaco gift-wrapped James, they got no less than 30 million profit from just one year of performance, and now they can break out the sticks and whack the hands that try to reach for Falcao. The participation in the Champions will give them a serious financial shot(just for reaching the group stage they get 8.6 million Euro, plus 1 million for each victory, and 500 000 for each draw, plus the media pool, especially if they manage to escape the group of death).

      • G6O says:

        The FFP do not really solve the problem when you have clubs generating more than 500 million in revenue a year. They can actually afford to buy players for crazy sums of money. And this is just as bad for the game as the sugar daddy model is, in fact if we ban rich owners from building teams like Chelsea/City/PSG, the situation would be even worse than it is now because we would have even fewer serious contenders for trophies as this is the only way to become a top club. If you build from the bottom, you get picked apart as soon as you achieve some success (see what happened to Dortmund and Atletico the last two seasons) without having the financial muscle to resist.

        Yes, this concentration of money and talent in just a few clubs has produced the best squads and the best football in history, but long-terms it will be detrimental for the development of the game. It will take much more draconian measures to fix things, such as real salary caps, limited squad sizes (which already exists but is widely circumvented by sending players on loans) and perhaps even eliminating transfers altogether and replacing them with trades of equal value in terms of salaries.

        • Peter says:

          Loaning players could be curtailed by requiring the clubs to loan only players developed at the club or by limiting the loan period to say two years – if after two years the player does not return to the club to the first team, he becomes a free agent, or by limiting the squad+loaned players to a certain number.

          Besides, FFP regulations doen’t really stop a rich owner from owning a club or making it powerful – they just stop him from participation in European competitions. If Peter Lim decides to sign the absolute best talents of Europe and put them in Valencia, nobody can stop him – as long as he does not appear in European competitions.

          However, the real reason why Real and Barcelona are above the rest is because they are global clubs. They were famous clubs even before that, but in the past twenty years or so their rivalry has become iconic, and their global appeal, and consecutively, value, has shot through the roof like a homesick angel. Maybe fuelled by cultural and political rivalry, but both Barcelona and Real fought with one another to become the better one, and immersed in that 5 000 meter sprint, both clubs became economic titans. While Arsenal paid lip service to its global audience and were thinking of beating Tottenham and maybe beating United, Barcelona were thinking of finding ways to beat Real, Arsenal, United, Atletico, Valencia, Chelsea, Bayern, Milan, Juventus and also Tottenham in the friendly.
          Barcelona and to an extent Real think in long-term, and began doing so long ago. Two examples:
          Santiago Bernabeu decided to create the biggest stadium in Spain for a club that at the time had the power and appeal of Levante. However, he realized that the stadium was situated on the main street of Madrid, realized the long-term benefits, and set about creating the most powerful club possible.

          The second example is Barcelona’s La Masia, created to both distil local talent as well as create it, in an attempt to find a cheaper alternative of transfers, a source of potential revenue and in a way acknowledging that sometimes it’s easier to build it yourself than look long and hard for what you need, pay premium or compromise. Barcelona’s view is relatively long-term, in that it looks for players and teaches them, assuming the costs and the possibility of failure. Why? Because, as it’s written on the wall, “With effort and sacrifice, you can also make it.” It takes time, it takes effort and sacrifice, but it can be done.

          That isn’t my example, however. It’s setting the example. Barcelona’s behaviour is not the norm. Big powerful clubs in the EPL for example don’t do that. They need results and need them yesterday before breakfast. Barcelona signed Denis Suarez from the Manchester City reserves. For two million, after City had paid close to one million. Lots of people were hating on the inept board for spending that money on an unproven youngster, while the regular City supporters shrugged. “1 million profit for a reserve Spanish kid? Where do we sign?” One year later, in about nineteen hours from now Suarez will step onto the pitch of Cardiff City Stadium to fight for the UEFA Supercup against Real Madrid.

  23. barca96 says:

    As long as Bartra is a 3rd choice CB (which means that he is the first back up to any of Pique-Matthieu) I’m fine.

    I found this article on Busi, written by a gentleman by the name of Luke. Could this be Luke from BFB who used to write here?

    http://www.mynewshub.co/stories/sergio-busquets-a-talent-unnoticed

  24. Cruyff is starting to annoy the hell out of me. His recent comments about thr inability for our front three to gel are just petulant. What gives? He ought to bury the hatchet with this personal spat with the Rosell faction. In my mind, the board has had its best transfer window in years.

    • PrinceYuvi says:

      Actually his recent comments were much sensible than the last year’s

      • Jamal103 says:

        Didn’t find his comments petulant at all. The harshest thing he said was “They’ve (Barca) spent a lot of money, which always brings a lot of scrutiny, and we’ll have to see how it goes” which is true.

        As for his adulation of Kroos and James, I don’t agree with it but time will show that two new faces in a NEW league, will find it more difficult that one old face in a new team-Rakitic.

        I’ve always found James,at least, to be good on the ball but overrated. He was on the ground crying for the majority of the Brazil game as that was the first time in the World Cup, a team had focused on stopping him. That’ll be almost every game in the league.

        • From espn: “…Calling them “fantastic players,” he added: “I don’t know if the team won’t end up unbalanced.”

          It’s one thing for an analyst, reporter, or fan to question the board’s doings, but for such a public figure and part of the club, it is anything but helpful. He is just stirring the pot in my opinion.

    • PrinceYuvi says:

      If Cruyff said a thousand words, media must publish the most scandalous phrase out of all that.
      It’s a norm.
      Besides, He’s brilliant & it’s good to have a non-hater outsider’s view.

  25. DumbOx says:

    The Board did its job to sign the players the Club needs for this season. Great job? Meh. I’m not actually the type of Club supporter who will never be happy or content with signings; in fact, I get excited with new additions. I’m one of those who believe that fresh blood gives competition and subverts complacency.

    However, I think what this Board has done so far is a little short-sighted, considering they have that transfer ban looming like Damocles’ sword on their heads. My suspicion is that the Board already knew about the ban and were ready to spend 150M+ plus in acquisitions to brace themselves with repercussions from the transfer ban.

    Are these the players the Club is likely to keep. What if they didn’t work out and the ban is in place? If the ban is temporarily lifted and may very well take into effect next season, shouldn’t the Board persevered to sign those that we really think will fit withoin our system and playing style.

    Are these newly -signed players (i.e. the injured Vermealen) really what new coach Enrique want or are they just second string choices that the Zubi or the board can sign. It seems to me that they (the Board) would rather sign someone for the sake of signing than patiently negotiate a player we really wanted. It doesn’t help though that we’re FC Barcelona, so other Clubs will give us a real tough time on the negotiating table. We need a really tough and slick negotiator for the Club. This Board and Zubi’s reputation in terms of doing business precedes them.

  26. Jamal103 says:

    Denis Suarez was so composed against Madrid in the Supercup tie today.

  27. 86ed says:

    Kroos is one hell of a signing for Real. Quite a coup to sign him now when he hasn’t even hit the peak of his abilities. Not a foot wrong the whole game.

    I still think they’d be silly to let Khedira go, but what do I know.

    • ciaran says:

      Kroos is a very good player but he isn’t the player that they needed by a long shot, that goes for James Rodriguez too.
      Kroos is too similar to Modric and not strong enough defensively. They don’t need both, certainly not when the big games come around.
      James is just filling the role of Di Maria or Isco. Di Maria is the better player regardless of the world cup.

      If they signed someone like Vidal I would be concerned but when they get attacked by the really good teams their gooey core will be badly exposed. Their fullbacks are no better than ours, their centrebacks are decent but inconsistent and their midfield has no defensive solidity.

      • 86ed says:

        I’d argue he is precisely the player they need. He’s precise, clearheaded, not afraid to take shots, willing to let others have the limelight as he pulls the strings; very experienced at 24 year old. We praised Xavi and Iniesta for the same virtues.

        Rodriguez I’d agree with. He is certainly not what they needed, not at the price of losing di Maria.

  28. agar2515 says:

    Haven’t been posting because I’ve been on a hunger strike until the Suarez ban verdict is rendered this week. Hope everyone is well. Can barely type… must soldier on :-)

  29. Kxevin says:

    There’s more about Kroos’ performance than Suarez. How was he? I was seeing good things about how Suarez played on Twitter, but didn’t watch the match.

    And because he was facing off against the RM “A” team, I am particularly curious to know how he did.

    • norden says:

      Nice artile, thanks for sharing.

      I wonder if a guy like Maldini would be considered world class today. People would probably say he’s too slow and not good on the ball.

  30. Kxevin says:

    In advance of the Luis Suarez decision, which will come tomorrow, some interesting things have happened:

    — In addition to the invisible spray used to mark set piece locations during the World Cup, the Liga will be experimenting with this product: http://www.petsmart.com/dog/deterrent/top-paw-bitter-no-chew-spray-zid36-13690/cat-36-catid-100129

    — The club Instagram account posted a picture of Suarez’s No. 9 shirt.

    — @BarçaChief on Twitter did a bit of research, and in every case of a CAS arbitration, the involved parties found out a day before the official announcement. So the club would, if that trend holds, have found out today, as would have Suarez.

    Official decision will be announced tomorrow, btw.

  31. Kxevin says:

    Dortmund won the German Cup 2-0 over Bayern, and Javi Martinez, the man who can’t catch a break, has apparently suffered a torn ACL in the match.

    People in the know about Roma were previously saying that Benatia would probably move next summer, not this one. Wonder if that will change now?

    • 86ed says:

      Martinez was the signing of the 2012-13 season, but Guardiola’s arrival has brought him ill luck. His coach hasn’t helped him either by playing him out of position.

  32. PrinceYuvi says:

    Man utd are having a hopeless transfer window so far.
    Building a strong squad from the scratch is no mean feat. I can hardly believe what we pulled off.

    • Jamal103 says:

      I think an acquisition of either Di Maria or Vidal will make their transfer window a successful one. Their preseason form was amazing.

      And yes our strengthening of key areas this windows has been nothing short of a miracle. Buying Ter Stegen alone has made so optimistic about the future.

      • PrinceYuvi says:

        Surely they’ll buy somebody in the last week at very inflated prices.
        No preseason for newly acquired players & before they know what’s going on, LVG will pull down his pants.
        Ha.
        Hope Song ends up there, he can bench Cleverley, Fletcher all cloudy day long.

  33. 86ed says:

    Well, at least Suarez can train with his teammates. Perhaps CAS made the safest decision possible for them.

  34. Kxevin says:

    I like the decision very much. It fixes the most objectionable part of the ban, the “football related activities” part, while also making it clear that the sanction itself as related to matches was a just one.

  35. Jim says:

    Seems about right for me. Not all bad. He can get and stay fit and won’t burnout this season. Puts the other forwards on notice for the first couple of months as well knowing he’ll be arriving soon.

    What happens about practice games in training? Didn’t see the full judgement.

    • Hilal says:

      Seems like he can participate fully in training, he can even take part in club friendlies as I believe the ban only applies to competitive matches. HE could in theory play on Monday in the Gamper but I doubt he will. Maybe he will be presented though.

  36. TITO says:

    I was hoping that the ban will be reduced at least for a month, so he can catch up with the playing time from the beginning of October.
    Not bad, but could have gone better.

  37. Kxevin says:

    So because the Gamper is a friendly, Suarez could play that match.

  38. Jamal103 says:

    So any opinions as to whether Suarez should play the classico?

  39. Kxevin says:

    Meanwhile, who in the hell is Douglas Pereira Dos Santos? I reckon the club just feels weird without having a Dos Santos on the roster.

  40. kenny says:

    Deulofeu loaned to sevilla. Didn’t see anything in the friendlies that would convince me that he would be competing for a spot up front. Also, apparently it was Luis Enrique that asked him to be loaned out. He’s young and needs more experiemce. Hopefully this loan will do him better.

  41. TITO says:

    If he doesn’t learn this season, he will never learn.

  42. ciaran says:

    I like the idea of Deulofeu going on loan to Sevilla. Everton was good competition and he improved his physicality greatly but week in week out starting matches is the best thing for him. He could become a great footballer with the right move and this looks perfect to me.
    It’s also a possibility that if he does go out on loan than we might buy Cuadrado and use him in a forward position for the early part of the season seeing as Dani is staying.

  43. Hilal says:

    Loaning out Deulofeu is the best move, both for the club and the player. I also think that it indicates we are going to get Cuadrado. I cannot see us relying on 4 attackers for 3 positions next season, that would be a very risky move especially considering the games that Suarez will miss. Cuadrado is perfect for either a wing back position in a formation with 3 at the back or as a more natural winger with Alves as a RB. Makes perfect sense to sign him. I just hope the club is willing to spend what it takes to get him.

    • 86ed says:

      50m, the sum the Della Valle family are allegedly asking, is a considerable sum for a player like Cuadrado, who’s never played in the CL before.

      Don’t get me wrong. He was quite impressive in the World Cup (I do not know how he covered that much ground), and I would take him over Alves in a heartbeat, but the board isn’t likely to spend more money anymore; at least not the amount Fiore requires.

      It’s more likely Cuadrado signs for Bayern (who after Martinez’s injury, may be looking for a signing)or Man Utd.

      • agar2515 says:

        Yea Deulofeu sure went from ” The kid for the future, come home today!” To ” kthxbai go on loan” pretty fast. I’m sure the reasons are valid and, like with Suarez, he’ll get more playing time to show his worth, but I’m starting to worry about our squad depth up front (not too too much, there’s ways the B teamers).
        On another note, who is Douglas Costa? Honestly have never heard of him. People think maybe he’s a plot to get Fiorentina to lower Cuadrado’s price? Who knows

        • Peter says:

          I hadn’t heard of him either, and apparently there’s another RB rumoured to be the Plan B of the Plan B(Douglas).

          Since I don’t know him, I wonder: Dani Alves available, Montoya looking for minutes(apparently not very convincing), maybe that Douglas is a future investment?

          I was watching yesterday some games from the past season, and a focused Dani Alves is scary. Watch the two legs vs City, the Camp Nou vs Real and the Camp Nou vs Athletic. Seriously, if he remains focused(more rotation and less exhaustion, physical and mental) and he’s worth his money – plus you may say his crosses are aimless, but it was his crossing which equalized the game vs Villareal :P

          • fotobirajesh says:

            Agree with you on Alves. Brilliant player when he wants, like Pique or Banega.
            However, for getting that Villareal cross right, Alves wastes enormous amount of other mindless crosses.

      • Hilal says:

        50M is what they want, doesn’t mean its what they will get. Udinese wanted 50M for Sanchez too, they didn’t get it. Lets not forget the player has a say in where he goes, if it was just about money he would have signed for Utd already. He wants to come to Barca and more importantly LE wants him at Barca. He seems to be the last piece of the puzzle for LE and I think he can be had for 40M Eur. Is he worth that much? Only time will tell but right now for me the most important thing is giving the coach what he wants. If Cuadrado is what he wants then dammit, give him Cuadrado.

      • Kxevin says:

        Agree. The move, in the cases of both he and Suarez, make perfect sense. And they get to stay in the Liga, where the club can keep an eye on them.

        Neither one was going to fully develop while scrounging for minutes at Barça. Sevilla is a quality side with an excellent coach.

        Have seen some snarling about keeping Pedro/Sergi Roberto and loaning those two, but I disagree. The development of Suarez and Deulofeu more important to the club, but both players are also expendable, given the talent the club has coming up in the likes of Munir and Adama.

        The buzz, when Deulofeu came back was that if he didn’t impress, he would go back on loan. It explains why he didn’t get a squad number, rather than him waiting for Song to leave.

        Many are reading Cuadrado movement into the Deulofeu loan as well, but I don’t think so. If a player isn’t good enough, he isn’t good enough.

    • Peter says:

      Consider this if you will:

      The asking price of Cuadrado is double the rumoured release clause of Reus.
      The asking price of Cuadrado is the rumoured release clause of Reus plus the fee of Verthongen.

      Even if Deulofeu is loaned to Sevilla(both Catalan newspapers agree on that), that leaves Messi, Pedro, Neymar, Munir, Adama, Dongou and even Rafinha available for what will be games against the following opponents:

      Elche home
      Villareal, away
      Athletic, home
      Levante, away
      Malaga, away
      Granada, home
      Rayo Vallecano away
      Eibar home

      And the three opponents in the Champions League in the first three games(to be found out on the 28th of August)

      • Hilal says:

        Good point and if Cuadrado was just going to be used as an attacker then I would certainly look at it differently, however he can be a long term replacement for Alves who can also fill in for one of the forwards when the need arises. I think when you look at it that way, makes sense. Sure he’s expensive, but so was Alves.

        • Peter says:

          The question is, how much of a long-term replacemen for Alves can he be, when he’s a winger, and according to practically everybody says he can track back to help, but he’s a winger, not a right wingback. He’d have to learn to defend as a back, not bear his defensive load as a winger helping his right-back. When people tell you “Defensively he’s worse than Dani Alves”, you know that’s something.

          I admit I don’t know the guy, haven’t followed him and all I saw was during the World Cup, but from what I saw, he’s a winger, not the English-style winger(that’s basically the wide midfielder), but the wide striker that is the Spanish/Latin America winger.

          Anyway, we’ll see, but personally I don’t see Barcelona forking over 50 million for him, especially when Dani Alves is still in the squad, and freeing him would mean at best half his salary is saved, but that would still mean 55+ million total operation cost, plus Cuadrado’s salary(and a player whose transfer is 50 million would demand a substantial salary, plus signing bonus, not to mention 2.5 million agent’s fee).

          I may very well turn out to be wrong, but personally I don’t see how it will be done. I say again, Barcelona were offering up to 43 million for Marquinhos, who was the prime target for the majority of the summer, so 50 million for Cuadrado is too much. For that price Fiorentina can keep him, as far as I am concerned.

      • ciaran says:

        In likelihood, Rafinha will be used almost exclusively up front in terms of starting matches. He was never used in a central midfield role for Celta and with the depth at midfield here there is even less of a chance that Lucho will deploy him there for us.
        I really like Rafinha on the right of a front three but he is no where near his potential just yet.

        If Lucho plans to loan out Deulofeu then we have the big three along with Pedro and Rafinha for minutes upfront. It’s not bad at all. But if Lucho is insistent on signing Cuadrado then a year of acclimatising without the defensive duties could be fantastic for him. We could try him out against weaker opposition at right back and also allow better rotation up front if we were to get any injuries.

      • 86ed says:

        You think Munir, Adama, and Dongou will see much play-time? I see no evidence that they will. How much did they play altogether during the summer exhibition games?

        I feel we here put rather too much emphasis on the B-team players altogether, as if they’ll save our asses when we need them. Last year, we hardly even used the full A-team roster in the first place (Montoya played intermittently, and Roberto hardly kicked the ball at all) never mind the B-team. The previous year under Villanova: idem, despite winning the league in record time.

        I think if any of the B-team players were really any good, we would have loaned them out to other Primera Liga teams already, like we did with Denis Suarez this, or Rafinha this last, year. (Incidentally, I think we brought him back too early. He should have stayed at Celta, or better yet, loaned to Everton or Sevilla.)

        As it is, I really do doubt any of the players from the B will get more than a handful of minutes’ worth of playing time with the first team. I hope I’m wrong, obviously.

        • Peter says:

          My point is that Barcelona does have options in attack – and even without Suarez, who can train with the team from tomorrow morning 9:30, Barcelona have options in order to play against said teams. The B-teamers aren’t there to save the asses of the first team, but to provide reserves.

          Personally I think the likes of Munir, Adama, Rafinha and Dongou are more than adequate for first team action against tough but not superb opponents, especially when surrounded with quality players. It is a gamble, I admit, but it’s a calculated gamble. Deulofeu needs to evolve, because currently he’s too individualistic, he needs to start working with a team – and mind you, in Sevilla he will be working with Suarez.

          Personally, I have to say I felt bad, very bad, when I saw Sevilla play in the Supercup. This is a team, a proud team, which had to sell Rakitic and Alberto Moreno, and give back M’Bia. As a supporter of a team which gets 140 million Euro from a 750 million total contract, it pains me to see quality squads decimated due to lack of funds. So in a way I see Suarez and Deulofeu going to Sevilla as some way of “giving back to the community”. Yeah, even though Barcelona will hopefully get them back once Sevilla makes men out of them. It still helps Sevilla recover some of its strength at no transfer fee. Or so I’d like to believe.

  44. 86ed says:

    It’s official. Deulofeu to Sevilla on loan. Great move. He’ll play with D. Suarez, potentially even in the Europa League, which is vital.

  45. Tom says:

    Mixed feelings about deulofeu to Sevilla. I thought his time at Everton was frustrating because he wasn’t getting the starts his play justified. Hopefully at Sevilla he’ll be getting plenty of minutes in which case I’ll be plenty happy with the move, as long as we don’t start to feel the lack of attacking depth early in the season. I don’t buy that he wasn’t good enough to be getting minutes for the first team though, for me he looked better than Pedro in the friendlies. I think it comes down to an attitude/personality issue for Lucho, who doesn’t seem to feel he’s a hard enough worker. Hopefully his time at Sevilla goes well…

    • Oliver says:

      Lucho specifically called out Deulofeu’s defense last week, said he was happy with the offense but the defense wasn’t there. We all know about Pedro’s work rate defending.

      Sounds like LE has specific ideas about how we will be recovering the ball this year, and he didn’t trust Deulofeu to implement them, at least not yet. Hopefully the youngster understands what he has to work on at Sevilla.

  46. TITO says:

    I take back my words for Delofeu.
    He actually wont cost us any points or games this season.
    Unless he scores against us and they end up wining a game. :D

  47. andrecito says:

    Well, I have to admit, Munir has already surpassed Deulofeu on my players i look forward to watch list. And I’m still trying to figure out what has happened to Dongou.. no preaseason minutes..not good enough for a loan out to a la liga team? I have a feeling we are going to be seeing lot of Iniesta on our front line during the first part of the season.

  48. Kxevin says:

    So. Douglas.

    — Sport says done deal for 7m, possibly 12 with incentives.
    — MD hasn’t said feck all about anyone named Douglas, apparently ever.
    — Some say it’s a ruse to put pressure on Fiorentina.
    — Others, like me, say then why choose a crap player to do that?
    — Latest rumor is that there has in fact been no Douglas signing.

    Traffic, the same folks that brought us Keirrison and Henrique, own 40% of his rights, for whatever that’s worth.

    • Hilal says:

      Uhhh, wtf. Has anyone actually seen this guy play? Never even heard of him. You have to think this is crap right? How can they go from Cuadrado to some guy nobody has ever heard of?

    • 86ed says:

      It’s too strange to be a ruse. Fiore have the cards in this one and can sell to whomever they want at a price eh deem suitable. It may be wiser to let this go.

      I have never heard of this Douglas, but at 7m he might come with no pressure whatever.

      I’d rather we called it a day and saved the money, honestly.

  49. 86ed says:

    So how does everyone think Enrique will do as our coach? I’ve been so caught up in the transfer madness that the fact we have a new coach has been not much more than an afterthought.

    Personally I’m starting to become more worried the closer the season is to starting. He has a poor record at the senior level (30Ws, 15Ds, and 31Ls in 76 league games) between Roma and Celta. He’s a big gamble. Sometimes they work (Guardiola), but most times gambles fail.

    Meanwhile Real have the best team since the 50s (certainly the most expensive), and have one hell of a good coach.

    • fotobirajesh says:

      I would keep my hopes on the lower side of the scale, as he didnt impress at all with Roma and Celta (I saw only few matches of both teams, but).

      Now that Kroos is with Madrid, I am also starting to think, they have a hell of a team. They were missing someone like him all these years, that now they will also be able to keep possession in big games. Just have to wait and see, what Madrid attack will do, if teams really start to do good bus’ against them. So far we didnt see that, even Galatasaray was attacking them.

  50. TITO says:

    There are these strong rumors that Reus is near his move to AM!?!?
    I mean, wtf?!!?
    Not that i don’t wont them to get strong, quite the opposite, just that Reus is a player i definitely want to see in our shirt.
    And if the rumors are true, the negotiated price is 25 mill euros. A bargain.

  51. barca96 says:

    I’m glad Deulofeu is going out on loan again. Never liked him at all and doubt I will in the future too. I’ve been complaining about the same thing about him ever since he was in the B-team.

    Last season I said that he should stay out on loan again and I was still calm that he is still with the team because I figured Lucho wants to assess him during pre-season but I was just so confident that Deulofeu isn’t ready. And when he still hasn’t gotten a designated number many predicted that it is because of Song and I almost fell for it.

    Although I must admit that he did reasonable well at B-team and at youth tournaments but he just can’t cut it at the senior level. I have a feeling that he’s in the same bracket as Bojan.

    They don’t have what it takes to play in the senior level. The moves that they pull off against youngster can’t be done against adults. I guess adults don’t fall for their style of play I guess.

    I don’t think it’s just about his defending that made Lucho send him off on a loan again. It’s just his overall play. He hasn’s matured at all.

    Now I hope he will work his ass off and not fall into Bojan, Quaresma group of players who can’t cut it at the senior level.

  52. barca96 says:

    Even though Suarez gets to train with the team now which is great news but I doubt that he will be match ready for the Clasico. Therefore I think the team should prepare for the match without him. Playing in an actual match is totally different than playing in a practice match. The tempo amongst many things are different. He would be a few paces off if he plays in el Clasico. He would be a liability.

    Just let him slowly get into match fitness and let others who are better prepared to play in el Clasico.

  53. barca96 says:

    But now that Deulofeu is gone surely the board has somebody signed up. But is it Cuardrad or Reus? I prefer the latter but perhaps Cuardrado will get the nod simply because he can play in multiple positions, most importantly, he can play RB when Alves leaves. I would prefer Montoya to be the first choice RB and Cuardrado the back up.

  54. Hilal says:

    Wow so Reus to Athletico. That would be quite the signing for them. Have to admit I would have liked to see him in a Barca shirt one day, but I guess that is being greedy considering we already have Messi, Neymar and Suarez! Good for Athletico, I hope they continue to go from strength to strength. A more competitive league can only serve to make us stronger.

    Plus, the only thing I enjoy more than watching us beat Real is watching Athletico beat Real :)

    • Kxevin says:

      Atleti has had a very smart window, and are still under 30m net in spending. The big two have gotten stronger, but so have they. Also nice to see that the Lim/Valencia deal is finally approved. Now they have stable ownership and are out from under their debts, so they can start building a program.

      Things are looking up in La Liga, for sure.

    • Peter says:

      The only Spanish paper still having the article is MD, but they stress it’s according to “Terra”. Personally I’ve never heard of that paper.

      Not even goal.com has bothered to include it even as a rumour, and that’s saying something.
      Anyway, Reus would have Mandzukic, Griezmann and Jimenez to fight with for one of the two spots. How likely do you think that is?

  55. 86ed says:

    Smart move to sign two ‘keepers. Ter Stegen out for 3 weeks. With the useless international break in early September, he won’t be able to play until at least mid next month.

  56. Kxevin says:

    The Reus to Atleti stuff is still just coming from a single source, so I wouldn’t place too much in it ATM. I have forgotten now which Cadena, SER or Cope, was way ahead of everyone on the Guardiola and Thiago to Bayern news, but it was one of them. If it was COPE, the ones pumping the Reus to Atleti stuff, then it has a bit more weight.

    But as of right now, nobody in Germany is taking it at all seriously, and the price, for a player under contract until 2017 and whose coach and club president said isn’t going anywhere, is rather low.

  57. agar2515 says:

    Yea, 25-30 mil? And they want to pay half now and half in January or something? BVB have made it clear they have no want or need to sell. Especially when they could hold onto him for another year and STILL get the same amount next summer. Maybe some people view A. Madrid as wizards or something, and no deal seems impossible for them. He might still go there for all we know but certainly not this summer and I laugh at that price.

    If he was available for the quoted price you’d have some clubs offering at LEAST an additional 20mil on top of that, half of Europe wants him. Idk how people really believed this… it was probably just one journo or source that wanted to start a frenzy.

    • Peter says:

      Lots of people believe this because it makes Barcelona’s transfer window seem like sh*t, and people want to believe this, because otherwise their yapping about the ineptitude of Zubizarreta would look like the tantrums of a particularly spoiled five-year old with a sugar addiction, and it takes a man of integrity to admit he has put his foot where his mouth is.

      I am not talking about people here, mostly about the zombies populating the MD/Sport/Goal.com sites. I swear, they sometimes make the twitterverse seem like a symposium of world’s best minds discussing current events with wit, humor and amicability.

      • Kxevin says:

        Same with the Douglas business, which I still don’t and won’t believe until dude is at the Camp Nou, grinning in front of the crest.

        Fact of the matter is that every significant weakness of the club has been addressed in this transfer window. But nothing is as persistent as the persistence of a narrative.

        ZubiZa apparently didn’t do business before because the people holding the purse strings were busy copping pennies for their monument. Once that was approved and a potential transfer ban loomed, along with no silver, the purse strings loosened and the club made a series of excellent transfers, from Halilovic to (yes, indeed him) Claudio Bravo.

        I loathe this board, and would like nothing more than to see all of them sent packing. But fact of the matter is that the club has had an excellent transfer summer. I don’t see the Cuadrado deal happening unless Fiorentina relents on their fee demands, but you never know.

        Also Alves is staying, which pretty much also rules out Cuadrado.

        • barca96 says:

          Kxevin, so you suspect Cuardrado will be bought to play RB? I doubt it since he’s hardly played RB. I wouldn’t mind to try him at RB because our RB, Alves spends more time attacking. THe difference is that Alves can defend if he wants to, I am not sure about Cuardrado.

          Btw, I had this issue last month or 2 months ago both on Opera on iPhone and on my laptop. I need to reload the page a couple of times before I can scroll down. The first time will always be static. Can’t scroll down.

          • Kxevin says:

            No idea. But Fiorentina is sticking to its 50m valuation for the player, so I can’t see a deal being done.

            The Alves/Cuadrado situation isn’t positional, but financial. Alves’ salary costs the club, when all is said and done, about 14m per. Hard to afford him and Cuadrado, even if you get some relief from a Song departure.

            Tactically, I have absolutely no idea what Enrique would be thinking, though I would wonder if Pedro would be a way to partially implement any notions that he had in that regard.

            Cuadrado is NOT a 50m player, even in this crazy transfer market. And the longer Fiorentina sits on him, the lower his price goes. And if you make a player angry enough, he will resolve to leave on a free. Look at Valdes.

  58. Peter says:

    Here’s one reason why Barcelona bought Suarez and sold Alexis:P

    http://media2.fcbarcelona.com/media/asset_publics/resources/000/115/307/size_1000x562/pic_2014-08-15_ENTRENO_12-Optimized.v1408103723.JPG

    This is not meant to mock Lexus, mind you, just pointing out some physical differences which should help in both boxes and the numerous crosses of Dani Alves.

    • agar2515 says:

      This is literally the ONE positive thing I’ve read about this Douglas.If he was anywhere near what is contained in that Sao Paulo fans would be furious at his leaving,instead they (people who watch their club day in and day out) are rejoicing…something doesn’t smell right with that.

      • agar2515 says:

        For me, this isn’t near like the backlash to the (what were then proposed) Mathieu or Vermaelen signings, or a case of “cynical cules”. Despite their caveats, those two had quite a handful of backers/supporters. No one rates this guy, like, AT ALL.

  59. Levon says:

    There’s a new post up, guys. Well, newish…

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