Sporting Gijon 0, Barca 1, a.k.a. “Subtle dominance”

What just happened??!!

So, JMo is right: That was rather a pessimistic liveblog during that second half, and for good reason, right? We couldn’t put the ball in the net, and Sporting Hee-hone was playing with pluck and determination, pressing hard and playing for the equalizer that was going to screw up all of our Saturday.




I should just run the LB and not even watch the match, because we pretty much kicked the crap out of Gijon, making a mockery out of our loan dude, Botia, saying that they would win 2-1. The possession stats were even more lopsided than they were on paper, as we were the only side with meaningful possession. Their one shot that had a chance at goal, when somehow an attacker got between Puyol and Marguez to flick a shot that was never going to trouble Valdes. Not the way he’s been playing of late.

Watching on the T and V, I was thinking that Sporting were lucky not to get a high-quality, Barca-style pasting in their own backyard, as we left goals a-beggin’. Pedro! left two, Messi left one and we were just off on a couple of passes, leaving me to think that perspective is everything. So I’d like to amend my liveblog comments to, “Them boys is lucky it wasn’t 6 or 7-0, yo.”

Or something like that.

Guardiola rolled out with an interesting, but not all that unexpected starting XI, of Valdes, Puyol, Marquez, Pique, Abidal, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Pedro! Ibrahimovic. The surprise was a starting role for Pedro! at left wing, a spot whose prevous occupant was one much-maligned Frenchman. And P! did pretty much what he always does: score a decisive goal. But he also made a liar out of my first half comment, in which I noted that he wasn’t playing that well, but still manages to notch goals.

And truth to tell, it was one hell of a spectacular goal, as Iniesta, who must have borrowed the Chameleon Eyes glasses from Xavi for the first half, laced a ball into space for Pedro! that the little hellion ran onto and, eschewing the blansishments of a dashing Ibrahimovic, popped it past the keeper on the near side. Yes, it was a hell of a shot, but that pass was absurd, a typical bit of Barca panache that we were showing a lot of, when we weren’t busy missing the ministrations of our Metrozilian on the right side.

Yes, Captain Caveman is our hero and all that jazz, but he ain’t no Alves, and our attack showed. The good thing was that it made Messi decide to pass more, and he was near-missing folks left and right. Had Ibrahimovic actually managed to stay onside, he probably would have had a couple of goals. Yes, he was making delightful link-up plays, deft passes and other bits of coolness. He even played defense on a Gijon set piece or two, including one ninja-style clearance.

Now put the damn ball in the net, dude. No. Seriously. Put. The. Ball. In. The. Net.

So now that that’s off my chest, Gijon started the match with what has become the Barca Formula: High pressure, flood the midfield so that Xavi can’t do his thing, and put pressure on us. But this time, the difference was that Iniesta was on. Spot on. With pinpoint pass after pass that, were it not for the translucent glow emitted by his forehead, would have made you think those balls were coming from Xavi.

And once that happened, Gijon didn’t have a chance, because as Xavi had his constant accompaniment, Ghostface had acres of open space in which to play, leading Hee-Hone to result to what I have dubbed Iniestabuse, as a defender comes charging in, too late, diving at a ball that is gone in the blink of an eye. The result is a foul, usually a card, and a wadded-up thing that looks like a white piece of paper with red and blue writing on it. And off we go.

Iniesta’s force field is still up, which explains why he didn’t have a goal after an astouding bit of high-speed interplay between he, Messi and Xavi. That, and a lightning-quick Gijon keeper who saw how that story was about to end and said to himself, “Stop the pale dude!” Our triangles were working with effectiveness, when Busquets wasn’t off doing his colt unbound thing, and Gijon were chasing the ball that they only got when Puyol or Xavi were carelessly throwing it away (yes, Xavi …. more than once).

Then it started to rain in the second half, and what looked like a lovely field turned into a divot-dealing miasma. And we owned that pitch, bombarding their keeper with shot after shot, and balls that who knows how in the hell they didn’t go in. And suddenly, it was rolling into the 80th minute, and then came the time that tried our liveblogging souls. Abidal gave up a free kick that we dealt with. Then we gave up another one. Then Puyol gave one up that, after it passed harmlessly by Valdes, saw the end of a match that wasn’t as close as the score indicated.

Jim is right. We played very well, and almost completely controlled this match. They were about as likely to score as I am to announce my candidacy for FCB president. And we keep our 5-point Liga lead, since that Other Spanish Team decided that Saturday would be the day to smash their record of futility at the Riazor, home of Superrolloverlikedogs Depor.

And off we go.

Team: 7. A dominant display that looked less so through a Web feed, coupled with the paranoid, hence pessimistic eyes of demented cules. Everybody was helping each other, and the defense in layers was impressive.

Guardiola: 8. I don’t know how, but he knew that Marquez was due to not suck, and that this would be the match to start Pedro!. We questioned his late, late substitution pattern, but given how the team was playing, it made sense. Why introduce a potentially upsetting factor into that mixture, since they weren’t really working all that hard.

Valdes: 10. And this is a problem, because he didn’t have all that much to do. Four things, as a matter of fact. But any of those four things, not performed perfectly, could have caused a complexity. But he didn’t do that much, in the overall match context. I’m still wrestling with that one, frankly.

Puyol: 5. Yes, Guardiola praised him. That was to make him feel better. He was throwing bad passes around, getting beaten and losing balls. When he tried to do an Alves, the ball made like a lunar module. Bummer.

Marquez: 6. Dude was pretty damned effective, with a number of timely interceptions and sound positional play. He still has an unfortunate tendency to lope when everyone else is running. Now, part of what made him look better was that the ball was so rarely in our end, but he’ll take it.

Pique: 7. Starting to play out of the funk he was in, and donning the Piquenbauer cape again. Were it not for Abidal, he would have been our best defender.

Abidal: 9. But this dude was just crazy. For me, the single best argument for Abidal was when he got caught up the pitch and, with the Gijon attacker off to the races, Abidal just ran him down, passed him and broke up the play. Craziness. Our French Greyhound is in fine form right now. With him healthy, our defense is a lotta lotta lot better.

Busquets: 7. Fine match from our DM, with a number of strong tackles, nice passes, and good help defense. He was more of a destroyer today rather than a creator, but that was what was needed. Between he and Abidal, Gijon rarely got close enough to trouble Valdes.

Xavi: 7. Boy, did he play his way out of that funky first half, including a jaw-dropping sequence of passes in the second half, where on three consecutive attacks, he delivered an inch-perfect ball. Guess he took his Chameleon Eyes specs back.

Iniesta: 8. An extraordinarily typical match from the man who belongs at Xavi’s side. When he’s playing as he was, you can vex Xavi all you like. The other dude will kill you. When he has the telepathic sense of exactly when to stop his runs, as he did yesterday, he’s otherworldly. Xavi uses that spin to create his space, Iniesta uses that little, 5 or 6-step forward run to paralyze and bamboozle.

Messi: 6. I liked his match a lot, particularly the early passing. But he really, really, really should have fed Xavi instead of opting for the shot from the acute angle. Xavi isn’t the kind of guy to throw up his arms, or gesticulate. But if Messi squares that ball to Xavi, it’s 2-0, easy peasy.

Pedro!: 7. I know, I know …. “You hate Pedro. He scored the winning goal, and deserves better than a 7. You suck!” Whatevs. I still see signs of the situational deficiencies that P! has. He doesn’t quite have that great player’s sense of where the ball is going to be. You see it on plays where he’s chasing the ball like a crazy man. But the dude scores goals, and crucial ones. You hardly ever see P! piling goals on a 5 or 6-0 pasting. He was even playing defense in spots yesterday, and creating the same kinds of crosses to nobody that a certain Frenchman does.

Ibrahimovic: 5. Ah, the 63 million Euro question. What the hell is wrong with our Big Swede? What if my answer was nothing? He’s doing everything right, crashing the goal, working the give-and-gos and creating space for himself with touches in the midfield that force defenders to account for his presence out there. The goals will come. I’m more worried about the fact that he can’t seem to keep himself the hell onside. He has to develop a better rapport with his midfielders. I’ll have to look up the offside stats between he and Eto’o, but I bet you Ibra is pretty far ahead.


Krkic: incomplete. The Kid really was a time-wasting sub this time.

In Other News

–Just when I was going to have my “Free Keirrison” t-shits made up, he has a deal with Fiorentina, thanks to Adrian Mutu and his …. erm …. complexities. Suddenly, with their striker suspended from all games pending the resolution of this drug thang, Fiorentina suddenly had a spot open. Keirrison is signed on a two-year deal, with a purchase option if he impresses.

I’m not sure how I feel about that one, but I think that he’s going to be the One That Got Away, I think.

–What do Sandro Rosell and Alfons Godall have in common? They both have pledged to spend way to goddamn much dosh for Cesc Fabregas this summer. Um, yay? Or something.

–Messi is still pichichi by one goal over David Villa.

And just because this is a cool-ass picture:

This is my ball, now that I have taken it from you.
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Written by:

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


  1. Spencer
    January 31, 2010

    You criticize Ibra for doing everything right except goal scoring, and Pedro for doing not a whole lot right except goal scoring.

    So what’s better? What Pedro does or what Ibra does?

    My answer: whoever scores more goals in a football match wins, so give me a scrappy goal over beautiful play with nothing to show for it.

    In fact Kxevin, I don’t think you give players enough credit (in their ratings) for scoring goals. Even if Messi plays poorly, if he scores 2 goals, he was huge. It’s as much about coming up big when (and sometimes, only when) we need it, as it is about playing great the whole game, but not getting done what needs to be done.

    • Kxevin
      January 31, 2010

      Well, Pedro did more of his job, and the most important part of it, than Ibrahimovic did. Pedro: scored the winning (and only) goal, played defense, contributed to possession control, passed and created and made runs that really should have resulted in more goals for him.

      Ibrahimovic: Played a bit of defense, made some little passes and flicks, half of which didn’t work, made some runs that should have scored for him had he been quicker off the mark, and didn’t score a goal.

      Yes, you can score goals and have an average game overall. Barca players aren’t field goal kickers who come on to do one thing. Maybe if they do the rest of their job, the one or two goals that they score aren’t as crucial, because we have a bigger lead.

      When Messi scores two goals and doesn’t get a 14, it’s because he had a weak game overall. It makes perfect sense. It’s like people who watch him make a run into 5 defenders and say “Oooh, almost,” and those who say “If you’re covered by 5 defenders, somebody’s open. Pass the ball.”

      To some, goals are everything. Not to me. I give goals the weight that they deserve, as part of someone’s overall rating. When Messi scores, passes, plays defense and contributes to our possession game, he gets a much higher rating than if he just shows up, makes a few runs and scores a couple of goals. And this is as it should be, in my world.

      But soon, when I step back a bit from this blog and its demands (and nigh-incessant abuse), you can e-mail Isaiah and volunteer to do reviews and ratings. I’m sure he’ll welcome the help. I hope that others will, as well.

      • January 31, 2010

        i totally agree with you man..
        for those reasons mentioned by you is the same reason why i appreciate henry.
        he may not give us the goals but a lot of other things that pedro can’t do yet.but pedro has been showing signs in the match that he tracks back and defend as well.and cross too to the middle of the box where a striker should be waiting but of course our striker is not there

      • Kurt
        February 2, 2010

        I agree with you as well Kxevin. I can look at the stats and see who scored. Obviously, if someone scores, they did something right. But the ratings are much more interesting and worthwhile (especially for those of us who had to miss the match) when they actually reflect a player’s overall performance.

        I’ve seen games in which Messi was invisible for 85 minutes, and then scored a mediocre goal at the end. I’ve also seen games in which he was an absolute terror to the opposing team–passing, defending, dribbling, running–and finished with a brilliant goal. I want to see the difference in quality revealed in his rating…not just a catch-all grade that says, “yeah, he scored. That’s his job.”

  2. Bill
    January 31, 2010

    In defense of us livebloggers, you had to be watching the game to feel it slipping away. We had chance after chance, miss after miss, and everything we tried just wasnt working. Towards the end when chances dried up and sporting started coming out, we started making poor passes and didnt look as dangerous. In retrospect, it wasn’t close, but at the time, you had the feeling that something unlucky just might happen. If we go up 2-0, nobody is worried. But at 1-0, anything can happen, hence the pessimism.

    I liked that big bird was trying to create openings for himself and presenting viable options for supply. He actually managed to look somewhat dangerous on a few occasions. But like Kxevin said, he has to learn how to time his runs right because those offsides are unnecessary turnovers. Xavi and co might hesitate to pass to him thinking it will be an offside whenever he tries to break away because he is not positioning himself well. Let momentum from an onside position break the trap, and not your 2 steps behind the defenders dude! Those are easier for linesmen.Pedro! help him.

    Busquets played decent, didn’t do anything crazy, but I still don’t trust his positioning. Like Big bird, he moves according to the play but doesn’t pause for a second to take stock of his surroundings. I watch how Xavi, Iniesta and even Yaya look around when the play is somewhere else, and then I watch Busquets, the guy is mesmerised and charmed by the rhythmical play, like a cobra charmed out of its basket by a flute in India. Never takes stock. Not a big deal today, but it will hurt the team at some point.

    Cuddly toy needs to be given 20-30 min runs in the team to build his comfort and experience. We did that with Messi when he first started, we should do that with him. 5 mins is just not enough to give him game time experience. He played a great game the other day, and then what, he was benched, never to be heard of again? Seriously, the team is damaging this guy.

    • Kxevin
      January 31, 2010

      True, Bill. Frankly, I was surprised, given the difference in what I was watching on TV, vs the Web feed.

    • January 31, 2010

      haha he doesn’t just get charmed, he even wants to try it out some moves.fortunately for us he didn’t try anything funny lately.i was hoping yaya would at least make a cameo appearance in the match.sigh

    • Jnice
      February 1, 2010

      For a couple of those Ibra runs, though, he was clearly onside, but call offside, which happens at least twice a game. I don’t know whats wrong with the linesmen.

  3. kallo
    January 31, 2010

    Look why dont you just come out and say you dislike messi. i`ve read every argument you made about why you consistently rate him average at best. But this time you fell short on your justification. First of all, the incident your referring, about messi ignoring xavi and shooting from a tight angle is incorrect. Because it was puyol who was in the middle and not xavi. Now i dont know if you play football or not, but i will say this its unfair to expect from someone(even messi) to look up and square the ball in that situation. thats why you didn’t see anyone complain to messi about it. Its something everyone who ever played a football match knows. The play developed so quickly that if he didnt get that shot away when did the chance would`ve been wasted. The only thing i can blame messi for in that moment is that he didnt shoot hard and precise. because then there would maybe have been a rebound for someone to tuck away. Like i said, you used to be better at masking your dislike for leo, maybe you were tired when wrote that.

    • Kxevin
      January 31, 2010

      If is was Puyol (and I will watch the moment again), it was Puyol. Messi still should have squared the ball. The world’s best player is supposed to have the situational awareness to make those split-second decisions. Xavi isn’t the world’s best player, right, and he takes constant snapshots of the field, so that he understands what to do with the ball. It’s an expectation of players in our system. If the choice is glory or goal, square the ball.

      And the last match, when Keita ran his ass off and didn’t get the pass from Messi, he threw up his arms in exasperation.

      But to some, Messi is blameless, and perfect. He runs into 5 defenders and loses the ball while other attackers are sitting there, waving their arms, and the asshole is the person who dares to suggest that he made an error by not passing the ball, right?

      Even if I did play the game, I couldn’t play it at Messi’s level. So the “you don’t play football” argument positively reeks with bullshit. If you don’t like my rating of Messi, that’s fine. But don’t spout nonsense at me in an attempt to justify your opinion that I don’t like Messi. If you read this blog enough, you’d know by now my view on individual players, likes and dislikes, and how they relate to the team overall team context. If you haven’t, do your research, then come at me like an adult, instead of a petulant child.

      • kallo
        January 31, 2010

        Ok first of all i did not call you any names in my post, so i dont see why you feel its necessary to call me names. And i didnt say that messi is blameless. Maybe we have different opinions on what messis level is supposed be (yours leaning towards superhuman) and mine a great player. If you expect messi to make the right choice every moment, and have superhuman awareness in every situation then, i feel sorry for you, because i can guarantee you that you will be disappointed every time. And about the not playing football part that wasn’t a dig at you, even though you clearly have perceived at so.I was merely trying to point out to you, that in those kinds of situation everybody get tunnel vision at least once in their live and go for goal, and that you would be familiar with that if you played the game on a competitive level.

        And i have read your explanations on why you rate messi lower than others. You seem to have this idea that, just because messi won the best player award, he is supposed to be perfect at all times and be superhuman. Messi didnt win those awards for being perfect in every game, but for being consistent and decisive.

        Now im completely convinced that if either iniesta or xavi scored as many goals as messi that one them would have won the awards.

        And for the record im going to take you up on your kind advice not read this blog in the future. because you are right, this is a free world(well, atleast the internet)and if you dont like something then leave it. good luck to you in your future endeavors

        • kallo
          February 1, 2010

          sorry i forgot to address your point about xavi being able to better awareness. im sure that if rewatch the valladolid you will find than one moment where xavi ignores a much better positioned messi and goes for goal. Now im not slating xavi or anyone for that. But your ratings dont reflect that most of the time.

          • Kxevin
            February 1, 2010

            First off, apologies for getting hot under the collar. It’s one of the reasons I’m stepping back a bit. I used to be able to take the heat, so to speak. I’m losing that ability, so I need to reconsider being in the kitchen.

            I think it’s a far call to expect infallibility from our lads. But yes, I hold Messi to a higher standard. Not superhuman, but certainly one that befits his “best in the world” status. I expect Ronaldo to pass up teammates for shots, not Messi.

            And for the record, I think that Messi is a spectacular player. But he’s still learning the game. He, like any other player, gets seduced by the “oohs,” “aaahs” and “molt bes” of the crowd. But he has the potential to be a scorer like Eto’o and a passer like Xavi. Some matches, he does that. And those matches set his individual standard.

            To further explain: The view of the shot’s angle that he had took the runner into his range of view. There’s no way that it couldn’t, since we’ve all seen him make those telepathic passes to people seemingly out of his view. And no, that wasn’t the only incident that contributed to his rating. He just didn’t have that great of a match. It was, for him, average.

            I don’t review a match until I watch it twice, looking for precisely the things that people say I don’t look for (which is kind of funny, when you think about it). Overall, we aren’t making the kinds of passes that we should be making this year. Whether that’s because people aren’t making the right runs, or people are feeling that they need to do it themselves is a question for someone else to answer. I have my own opinions, which is that everyone is feeling the pressure of last season, and thinks that they can do it themselves. It’s no coincidence that our two best matches as a team (both that I was lucky enough to see live) were Inter and EE. The quality of the opponent was sufficiently high that our players felt like they couldn’t do it themselves.

            I can’t begin to imagine what kind of pressure they must be feeling with every single match that they roll out for.

  4. BA
    January 31, 2010

    an excellent write-up and i agree with everything you said.

    … but now i don’t know what to do. i’m confused. i’m starting to question my purpose here.

    don’t make a habit of this. next game i expect a far more contentious and inflammatory review, complete with 18’s for Henry and 0’s for Iniesta and Xavi…. and call Bojan’s mother something.

    • Kxevin
      February 1, 2010

      Sorry, BA. 😀 I can’t believe I screwed up like that. I’m just sorry that it took so long.

      In all seriousness, I pride myself on getting reviews up the same day of the match. Life, work and bicycle training are just getting brutal and take me away from this blog more than I would like. And I hate letting down the side, so to speak. I think of one of my favorite sayings, which is “Don’t take yourself seriously, but do what you do seriously.”

      I take what I do for this blog, very, very, seriously, even as I can laugh about it, mostly because it’s huge fun to be able to combine two of the things I love: writing and Barca. I’m really proud of what Isaiah has put together here, and thrilled to be able to contribute.

  5. Soto
    January 31, 2010

    Watching the game at a bar with other Barcelona fans, I never felt that the game was “slipping away” from Barcelona. But there was a definitely feeling that we should have had a few goals more and that it was not clear why we couldn’t finish.

    The strongest impression I had during the game was how amazing Abidal was playing. Last year I barely noticed him, but on Saturday he was a man on fire — in the good way. I have really enjoyed watching the development of some of the lesser known and/or young players on the Barcelona squad, from Keita to Pedro! to Abidal. Let’s hope this continues for awhile.

  6. jnelson1731
    January 31, 2010

    One important thing…we FINALLY STARTED MAKING IMPORTANT PROFESSIONAL FOULS!!! About time…I don’t understand why it was Messi, P!, and Abidal though, but hey!

  7. Lou
    January 31, 2010

    Nice review Kxevin!

    Sadly I had to miss the game because of work. I’m actually kind of fond of Sporting, their crazy fans and Preciado’s amazing moustache, so a part of me is kind of glad they didn’t lose 6-1 again. (I liked them last season too but holding Madrid to a 0-0 draw definitely gave them bonus points in my book).

    Great to hear that Marquez had a good game. It’s so nice to see so many players (Marquez, Milito, Henry) are starting to get back into form.

    About the late substitutions: I understand the point that changing the team dynamic near the end is a risk, but fresh legs against the tiring Sporting defense could have lead to a second goal. Also, we aren’t playing two games a week now, which is great for keeping Xavi from keeling over with exhaustion, but it makes it hard to keep the squad players match fit, especially if they aren’t getting minutes as subs.

    Finally, can someone tell me how Botia played?

    • Kxevin
      February 1, 2010

      Botia was very good, and one of the better Gijon defenders. A few of their guys made last-ditch saves, but Botia seemed more than up to the task. I’ll be very curious to see how he does in our context, which is to say, without four of the best attackers in the world running at him.

  8. stephen
    January 31, 2010

    Im very split in this match, we played well, out attack was “off” without Alves, but we had the ball the entire match, we had some stupid give-aways, other teams wont allow those to be misses like Gijon did.
    Ibrah, goals will come. I think Messi, and Pedro are being a little selfish of late, everyone wants the spot light but i think Guardiola will come to notice this.

    HENRY, we missed his crosses!! Pedro did well what he had to do, but Henry draws marks, opens space for the Giant Swede, AND crosses, without Alves i think henry mightve made the difference.

  9. Ivax
    February 1, 2010

    Hmm… funny rating.

    Valdes 10?!? but 10 is like some awesome saved which he did not… more like 8
    Puyol 5?!? He did very well defend which is very important, but not much attack… so 7

    Messi got 6? lol. last 4 matches (la liga) 6 goals, few assists and got 8-6-5-6 ratings?!? Henry got 6-8-6 (last his matches) and 0 goal?

    • Eklavya
      February 1, 2010

      That’s how does the ratings. Whenever someone plays OK, not bad, but now good enough to catch the eye (most of the times Keita, when he isn’t scoring) they just give the guy a 6.

      Its not like that here, you have to frequent this place more often and read more reviews if you want to understand how the ratings work, I took me a while too.

      Although I do admit, I was a wee bit surprised with the Valdes rating, more used to his getting a 6 or 7 when he does almost nothing except a few saves (85% percent to the times).

  10. Tim
    February 1, 2010

    You missed a rating.

    Phil Schoen: 0 Just shut the hell up, please.

    • jnelson
      February 1, 2010

      HAHA! That is a rating everyone can agree with.

      • Tyler
        February 1, 2010

        wait, are we still doing the love/hate forum. because i need to change mind to PHIL SCHOEN, landon donavan = pedro??? the man should not be allowed to broadcast.

  11. vicsoc8
    February 1, 2010

    Before I spout my nonsensical input about the game, I want to make a comment about this blog.

    Kxevin – keep fighting the good fight. I noticed both in the liveblog and in the comments that people are claiming you play favorites etc. I know we’ve disagreed about things in the past and hope I haven’t made it personal. Just a note for everyone who is here – Kxevin puts in a lot of hard work. If you disagree that’s fine, but argue points and don’t make it personal.

    As for the weight of goals compared to overall play in the ratings: everyone values different aspects of the game differently. Some people put more emphasis on defending, some put more emphasis on attacking moves, etc. I would contend that while Kxevin tries very hard to be objective, it is impossible to ever be truly objective. But again – if you disagree make arguments why instead of claiming Kxevin doesn’t like players or that he’s never played the game.

    Basically – instead of ripping down someone else’s position, build up your own position.

  12. vicsoc8
    February 1, 2010

    Begin nonsensical input:

    In games like this I always think theoretically Maxwell should start. We lose Alves’ marauding, and so Maxwell should be out there doing it. Theoretically. Then I watch Abidal consistently dominate and I think “Maxwell is the new Sylvinho. He won’t play unless Abidal can’t.”

    Pedro’s general play still lacks something. I can’t quite put my finger on it. But if he keeps scoring crucial goals he can keep starting in my book.

    Not to say “I told you so,” but thanks to Marquez for stepping up after I defended him. Our success has made us too impatient. Players have bad patches, but we shouldn’t be calling for their heads after a couple mistakes.

    Ibrahimovic completely changes how our offense works. I wish Bojan could step up and play more like Eto’o so we could have two different offensive options.

    Finally I wish Pep had subbed earlier. I understand the argument of that if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. At the same time it shows a lack of faith in our subs to be unwilling to bring someone on earlier. I still think we needed a bit more energy, and who brings more energy than a player playing for their place in the team? But then again I have 0 trophies, Pep has 6.

  13. February 1, 2010

    “the 63 million Euro question”

    It is only me who is getting sick of this question?
    And It wasnt even 36 millions.

    • stephen
      February 1, 2010

      Is everyone going to pick on Kxevin on his post today?

      • February 1, 2010

        And I dont pick on anyone. Never been interested in that.
        It has nothing to do with Kxevin. If you followed his opinion about Ibra since we signed him you can clearly conclusion what I mean (I am not even sure if he was serious or a bt sarcastic there).

        Yet, if you want more clearifying, read the comment session on TheOffside blog. I am talking about a general trend in this matter.

        • Kxevin
          February 1, 2010

          Read the entire segment before reacting, or having any illnesses. I’ll even re-post it:

          Ibrahimovic: 5. Ah, the 63 million Euro question. What the hell is wrong with our Big Swede? What if my answer was nothing? He’s doing everything right, crashing the goal, working the give-and-gos and creating space for himself with touches in the midfield that force defenders to account for his presence out there. The goals will come. I’m more worried about the fact that he can’t seem to keep himself the hell onside. He has to develop a better rapport with his midfielders. I’ll have to look up the offside stats between he and Eto’o, but I bet you Ibra is pretty far ahead.

          The dollar amount was pulled out of the sky. Actually, the transfer fee was 69 million. Whether you decide that Eto’o was makeweight, and the real dollar amount was x or y, or we paid part of it in hot dogs or Barca Xips, is to me, immaterial. It is the 3rd highest transfer fee in the history of the game, btw.

          Finally, I was for the Ibrahimovic signing, and I’m still for it. He is, for my money, the most talented striker in the world. He will learn to play in our system, and be extraordinary when he does. Draw whatever inferences you like from anything else that I’ve written in the past.

          • February 1, 2010

            “Finally, I was for the Ibrahimovic signing, and I’m still for it”

            I said:

            “If you followed his opinion about Ibra since we signed him you can clearly conclusion what I mean”


            “What if my answer was nothing?”

            I said:

            “I am not even sure if he was serious or a bt sarcastic there”


            “Read the entire segment before reacting, or having any illnesses.”


          • February 1, 2010

            The transfer fee was 46 M plus getting ride of a financial liability of 10 M for the following year (At least). Barcelona board -and the related media- had interest in blowing the transfer out of contest (to show we can also buy big). RM related media welcomed and promoted that so they ease up the critics toward RM signing, and Inter got the credit of making a smart business deal.

            In no reasoning Ibra transfer value will reach the 69 M. Or else, anyone is welcomed to give a numerical demonstration.

  14. JMo
    February 1, 2010

    Kxevin, thanks for the reference. I think?

    Perhaps it was the subtle dominance mixed with our pessimism, or maybe I was feeling a bit cheery from no reason, but it did seem rather dark in that LB, like we needed some of these guys working it…

    anyway. I enjoyed the match despite looking like a disinterested, lack luster version of ourselves, and I’m glad to finally see Ibra wind up that shot of his and start reigning in fire and brimstone upon the ole onion bag.

  15. February 1, 2010

    First up, great review Kxevin. Keep fighting the good fight like vicsoc8 said.

    We all tend to expect a lot more from Messi and that’s only because he has raised the bar for himself. Your ratings are pretty accurate IMO because they are player based. For eg. Abidal gets a 10 because he played as well as he possibly could. Did he get that 10 because he kept galloping down the left flank in true Alves fashion and repeatedly addind a new option in offense like our awesome RB does most of the time? NO and that’s because it’s not expected of him. Hence the rating. Same story with Messi and primarily his passing vision which makes him different from a one dimensional Ronaldo.

    PS. Offtopic, Edmilson has got to be the worst player of the Rijkaard era!

    • poipoi
      February 1, 2010

      I have no idea about why you posted that but: Edmilson the worst indeed!! omg FCB is soo great, we even won a CL with him deco and van vommel on the pitch 😉

  16. vogy
    February 1, 2010

    Good review Kxevin

    I totally agree with you on puyol, he was off in this game and seemed lost at times out there.
    Good to see marquez playing OK but I still feel he’s not good enough for our high standard team.
    I feel sorry for Iniesta, I wanted that goal for him so much. Looking forward to the Getafe match now, think Ibra gonna kill it!

  17. Lumi
    February 1, 2010

    If Wavi is God, then Iniesta is Jesus. And Messi is the Holy Ghost

  18. fanofbarca
    February 1, 2010

    I’m new to this comment thing but have been following it for quite some time mostly agreeing on the ratings. But this time I beg to disagree on the Puyol 5 rating. Admittedly he did no great job in the attack but then we know he’s no Dani Alves, He did very well in defence though which is also very important. His passes were mostly OK too. He has back problems which may account for his passive role in the attack. Also according to Sports he on Pep’s orders orchestrated Marques’ performance which he did very well, again acc. to Sports. Finally, how is it possible to get inside guardiola’s head?

    • Kxevin
      February 1, 2010

      That may well be, fanofbarca, but I don’t think that part of Guardiola’s orders were to lose balls, get beaten for pace and spray bad passes around.

      And not to keep beating a dead horse, but nobody gave Henry a whit of slack for his various injuries. We now know that he couldn’t even straighten his leg. Can’t imagine what an impediment that must have been for him. Yet, he only has two goals, and is washed up. Get him gone.

      What works for one, works for all. If we are going to cut Puyol slack because of a back problem, Henry should get slack for his various maladies, and Marquez should get slack for still coming back from a serious knee injury.

      But if you’re on the pitch, you’re there to contribute fully, without any grading on a curve, right?

  19. fanofbarca
    February 1, 2010

    Forgot to say my Puyol rating would be a 7.

  20. yogi
    February 1, 2010

    Good review.

    For me, i felt Messi had a fine match though we always expect bit more from him.

    Overall, we should have scored more but thats how it goes. One worrying thing has been that we are not that fast out of block this year. Last year, quite a few times, we had wrapped the match in first 30-40 minutes. This is not happening.

    I did wonder couple of times in this match about what if it was Etoo instead of Ibra. But that’s just fans nature i guess.

    We still have to find good balance with Ibra and it cannot be same as it was with Etoo. I hope we find it before CL returns.Stuttgart are on up in Bundesliga.

  21. February 1, 2010

    Lots of good points:

    –jnelson1371 is right about the professional fouls. Abidal has been making them for a number of matches now. Same for Busquets. Sometimes, putting somebody on their butt is not only a good option, but it sends a clear message. I like the trend.

    –I’d be more bummed about us not scoring the goals if we weren’t doing 99% of the stuff right, leading up to the miss. If Messi’s shot curves a bit more, or there aren’t last-minute interventions by Gijon defenders, or Ibrahimovic and Pedro! didn’t do their Keystone Kops thing …. Those will start going in.

    –To Ivax’s point, I note that the Valdes rating is one that I wrestled with. Then I think about how many keepers spill or fumble the balls that he dealt with, right? And I still wonder: If someone only has four things to do for the entire match and they perform them perfectly, did they not have a perfect match? I’d love to hear thoughts on that one, because I keep arguing with myself about it.

    –Expectations. Yes, different players have different standards. That’s life. If I held my direct reports to my writing/editing standard, they’d never measure up. Busquets, when passing, will have a different standard than Xavi. That goes without saying. But every numerical rating that I post with a review has an argument for it. So to say that Messi got X number, while Henry got y number and he only has two goals, is like presenting a 2×4 as evidence that a house is poorly built. You don’t know until you visit the house. And continuing with the house analogy, a 30,000 pre-fab home will have a different construction standard than a 4,000,000 brick mansion. It just goes without saying. So the builder has to explain those standards, so that they are out there.

    –Finally, don’t worry about beating up on me. I put the words out there, which means that I’ve signed up for both bouquets and brickbats. The reality of the different ways of individual disagreement mean that not everyone is going to rely on the scientific method of refuting a point. I once had an e-mailer, after a negative movie review that I wrote, say “You must be the kind of p—- who leaves the shower to take a piss.” Whatever, dude.

    But I get paid, and paid very well to take that kind of heat in my day job. Here, my payment comes in the pleasure of being able to write about Barca. That’s a pretty good deal. But I wouldn’t be as honest as I usually am if I didn’t say that of late, after reviews, I don’t load up the site with a bit of trepidation. Everyone’s Abuse-O-Meter gets pegged from time to time.

    My view is that it’s the fault of the person taking it, not the person dishing it out. If that individual, in this case me, can’t take the heat, they should get out of the kitchen, or at least step back from the stove, right?

    More importantly, life is pressing. My debate, for example, was how to work in the two match viewings that go with every review, then writing the post, with the necessities of real life: seeing my wife, seeing friends, getting up at 6 a.m. to train and work. That balance is getting crazy, and it happens to most every blogger. We have a great team here, so the quality of the site and its content won’t change an iota. I’m confident in saying that.

    • Carles P
      February 1, 2010

      Hey Kxev,

      Gotta say that the amount of effor that you and Isaiah put into your content here at the site is very impressive, and although not everyone here agree’s with your analysis, we can- and do- keep coming back for more… and more… and more. I think that is the biggest compliment of all.

      I, for one, have always enjoyed everyone’s work here and at the old Offside blog. I learned a lot from EVERYONE here, and I hope that if you do step away for a bit, it wont be for too long.

  22. Tyler
    February 1, 2010


    I have begun to distance myself from the liveblog because there was a lot of games I did watch on there that seemed horrible while it happened. But when I began to look back at highlights I realized that sometimes the liveblog community gets a little too in the moment. Which in everyone’s defense is kind of what that is set up for, immediate reactions as your watching with fans.

    But, Kxevin is right. I watched the match by myself on my tv at home, and there was no doubt in my mind that we were practically dominating the whole game. What we were particularly good this time around was keeping possession and fighting for it when we lost the ball. I see players more rested now, which gives them the ability to go after the ball when we lose it, and expend that extra energy in maintaining possession. Cuz like Pep said, “we’re shit without the ball” The passes were precise, the long strings of tiki taka were showing up even in that horrible weather. Yes we missed a few chances, but our defense was stifling and there was no way outside of a freak play or bad misplay we were letting that game slip out of our hands.

    All we need is our Swede to relax. You can tell he’s anxious and as soon as he gets the ball the first thing he’s thinking about is breaking that huge honking duck that’s following him around. it will come, I know it will.

    • Tyler
      February 1, 2010

      oh and iniesta was just ridiculous out there. its great to see him performing near his top level again!

  23. El Tel
    February 1, 2010

    Kxevin, on a completely unrelated point. As one who worships your prose, please allow me a middle-aged fart’s prosaic pedantry. The objects of the preposition “between” take, well, the objective case. So it’s “between Eto’o and him,” just like “between you and me.” And, oh, you rock.

  24. JMo
    February 1, 2010

    Pique gets a 7??


    After numerous passes directly to the Gijon. This isn’t grading based on intent. Its based on execution.



    I was thinking more of a 5 or 6. You’re the boss Kev.

  25. Helge
    February 1, 2010

    by the way, it’s kind a funny to see how the players that Real Madrid and Barca wanted to get rid of develope in the German Bundesliga:

    Aliaksandr Hleb has been substituted after another disappointing, nearly horrendous performance whereas Arjen Robben is the new and entitled superstar of German club football 🙂
    Nevertheless, Stuttgart’s run is kind a impressive, since they’ve appointed a new coach they have won 5 and drawn 1 match. The draw came in the 90th minute after the keeper Lehmann got a red card, and the wins were against teams like Wolfsburg, Hoffenheim or Dortmund (who didn’t lose a match since playday 7). I don’t want to say that we have to fear them, but we should better take them very serious and I would now prefer Olympiakos or even Fiorentina (their development is the complete opposite to Stuttgart’s recently…) to play against.

  26. auld super
    February 1, 2010

    Yes of course Ibra will come good he’s too damn talented not to. On this Kerrison deal I’ll never understand why we tie up 15m euros in a guy and decide to loan him out for up to 2 more years. Whats that about ? And it’s not the first time and won’t be the last either.The next president whoever he is would want to sort out this stupid and careless spending before he does anything else. On the game it was pretty dull in fairness and I know we won but we’ll have to up it dramatically as madrid seem to be getting it together a bit as we saw Saturday night.

  27. lovelymofo
    February 1, 2010

    I thought your review was pretty spot on this time around Kxevin. My favorite part of the match, which you point out, was Iniesta taking on Xavi’s role when it was needed. That pass to Pedro for the goal was fantastic.

    I’m not too worried about Ibra, I think he’s adjusting to the pace of the team now that we’re gelling. He’ll get there.

    Also Marca & As are making me laugh with their calls to get Guti into the Spanish National team, after one nifty little backheel. Who would he bump? I mean, I’m kind of fond of Guti, more for the material he inspires in Crackovia, but come on, if Valdes can’t find a spot on the national team, there’s no way in hell Guti would.

  28. Tutomate
    February 1, 2010

    Kxevin I wish you wouldn’t call Ibra the 63 million euro man because that’s not what we paid for him. We paid somewhere around 44m still a whole lot but it’s unnessesary to add Eto’o’s”’ contreversial evaluation because he is worth a lot more than 21m but was not worth a cent to Barça for the sole reason that his contract was about over and he wasn’t going anywhere else. Madridistas like to say 63m to make it seem like they didn’t do anything Barça wouldn’t do. So I think that from the stand point of our club’s checkbook we paid 44m.

  29. Jim
    February 1, 2010

    I hope when you say you’re taking a step back Kxevin, you mean you’re still going to post. Two of the things that always bring me here are the quality of both you and Isaiah’s writing and the quality of the discussion. It’s easy doing what we do, which is pick fault with one or two ratings ( and we’ve occasionally disagreed about a certain LB) but i can seldom fault your analysis of the game as a whole.

    It is also carried out with not a little humour and literary skill. I’m not saying this because you’re taking flack or taking a step back but because I assumed you knew that the behind the posts and the disagreements was the warmth that comes from belonging to the same family that you and Isaiah have encouraged to flourish. Maybe that hasn’t been as obvious as I assumed.

  30. Eklavya
    February 1, 2010

    Apparently Pep took out Ibrahimovich to dinner! We all know what the means right?


    Hat trick against Getafe anyone? 😀

    • Helge
      February 1, 2010

      Well, if you read carefully, the article says “recently”.

      Then they quote Ibra’s self-criticism from 14 days ago, and a few days later he took him to a local restaurant. I fear this has been BEFORE the Gijon match…
      I don’t want to destroy your hopes, but the way I read it I have to say the dinner didn’t have such a magic immediate effect on Ibra as it might have had on other players.

      A single goal against Getafe would be great, considering that we played 1-1 and 0-0 in our last two league home matches against them.

  31. Eklavya
    February 1, 2010

    On a side note, Inter signer McDonald Mariga, a dude from Kenya who played for Parma before. Interesting, it seems Inter are steady building a strong squad with a mix of youth and experience. Let’s see how things work out, with Mourinho in charge especially.

  32. Eklavya
    February 1, 2010

    *On a side note, Inter signed McDonald Mariga

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