PSG 3, Barça 2, aka “Okay. So what happened?

Image courtesy FC Barcelona
Image courtesy FC Barcelona

The away Champions League leg to Paris St-Germain was like the baseball pitcher who has a perfect game going. Then he walks a guy. Next guy gets a hit. Next guy hits a home run and suddenly, it’s all gone.

Barça rolled into Paris on the heels of a single draw as the “negative” result, and no goals conceded. This was to be the match, the team’s first match against a grownup, where we would see what this group was really capable of, and a number of things happened.

— Barça conceded
— Barça lost
— Barça was easily controlled at times
— Barça committed absurd defending mistakes that would be a shame for Barça B, never mind the first team.
— PSG played its collective tails off in an excellent display.
— Barça didn’t

Seems simple, right?

PSG started this match determined to wrest control of it from Barça on the defensive end. So every pass past midfield was contested, a man-marking PSG pressing hard as the back line moved in unison to always keep the last attacker offside.

Barça cooperated with languid play, just knocking the ball around, giving PSG confidence, not playing at all like the intense, committed group of fiends who laid waste to Granada. Instead they seemed to be feeling PSG out, even as the more-than-worthy opponent was interested in no such thing. As possession began to turn and PSG started pressing, it was interesting to note how the press that was so effective against Granada was simple ball chasing vs PSG, no real logic or systematic approach, but rather running around. It was only the first of many things that would go wrong.

A harbinger came early on, when Busquets dwelled on ball and lost it, setting an early tone as loose pass after loose pass gifted PSG with possession. Yes, they were pressing well but more crucially, Barça was slack in movement and approach to the match, playing almost as if expecting PSG to wait around until they were ready to hit the gas, which was silly at best, suicidal at worst because PSG was playing at its most dangerous: as a team.

PSG earned its first set piece at 6′, and look at the marking. At the time the ball is struck, every attacker is accounted for, and the result is an easy clearance, followed by a shot from the outside blocked by Busquets and barca was off on the break, that was killed via a crap Pedro pass.

psgset1

The real trouble began as a silly, silly mistake. Dani Alves stupidly tried to dribble out of the back and was closed down by 2 PSG players, finally ceding an even more stupid handball that led to the second PSG set piece. He also got a yellow early, a cardinal sin for a defender. Worse still is that Alves had a number of passing options. PSG scored on the attendant set piece, but let’s have a look at what happened.

psggoal1

David Luiz is given way too much space, but who the hell is marking who? Further, as Luiz was the most forward man, should there not have also been shielding on the ball side? The absence of such a thing meant the set piece was basically a pass to Luiz, who already had position on his marker. Yes indeed, he got in front of Mascherano, but is the goal his fault? Interesting question if you have a look at all the Barça players who are out of position, watching play.

A lot of discussion ensued on Twitter about the ways that PSG attacked Barça, and the things that they did to defensively stymie the attack. It was all very interesting, but I still come back to a notion I had some time ago, which is that Barça, like the honey badger, doesn’t give a crap.

It is a system that works on passing and player movement. In American football, the heyday of the New England Patriots featured an offense where the first X number of plays were scripted out, as in “This is what we are going to run, irrespective of what the opponent does.” Similarly when Barça’s system is working, the opponent doesn’t matter. Passing and space utilization are what they are, and the result should, logically, be what it is. Now let’s look at the answering goal scored by Barça.

At 10:49, Mascherano starts the play around midfield. At 10:56 the ball is in the back of net. It was all movement of the ball and players, of a sort that not only rendered PSG helpless, but didn’t really concern itself with PSG. The passing and movement were the thing. So from Mascherano it was a one touch from Iniesta to Neymar, who controlled and pinged to Messi who played a one touch to Iniesta, then moved for for the one touch return ball from from Iniesta, before stroking the one touch shot past the PSG keeper.

It was an exquisite goal, and also one of the only times that Barça moved the ball as it was supposed to. PSG had no answer because again, Barça football doesn’t care who the opponent is. You force the PSG defense to move rather than stand there, watching the inexorable ball movement. The rest is just angles and physics.

Then the laxity returned, almost as if that goal was too easy, so much so that the team got bored. Notice how at 12:25 Busquets is again caught dwelling on the ball, and gets stripped. Question is why? He has an open man facing him in Mathieu, but seems to try to play to Alba for some unfathomable reason, then falls over. Luckily Cavani wasn’t interested in doing much with the shot, which he didn’t even get on target from the edge of the box.

From that point on, Barça got stupid in possession. Long diagonals, and look at the spacing here, which was all too typical. Pedro marked by Maxwell, Messi sandwiched, Neymar marked by Lucas, with Matuidi rushing to remove the diagonal angle. So Alves plays it back, and the slowpoke action begins again.

psgdef1

Then when PSG pressed forward in an aggressive fashion, the Barça forwards obliged by moving to midfield to pick up the ball, thus helping PSG defend. Further complicating matters is that the press, such as it was, let PSG play its way out of the back almost every time. Almost every time any pressure was applied, a turnover resulted, but it was almost as if Barça wasn’t all that interested. This allowed PSG to grow into the match, looking the better team for large chunks of it as Barça struggled with what to do against an opponent who managed space by simply closing down angles.

Another wake-up call happened, as Messi and Neymar collaborated for an excellent chance as Messi made a run and, fronted by FIVE PSG defenders, paused. Neymar saw it all happening, and makes the run behind the defense. Messi’s lob pass is a little too firm, or that would have been 1-2. Again, movement off the ball came to take advantage of how PSG was defending.

Then came the second PSG goal, which made me wonder what the hell Alba was thinking as he tried to dribble past Lucas, who calmly picked his pocket and started the PSG break. On the ensuing set piece the ball is in the air, and the defense has no idea who to mark. The corner is played far post to take advantage of a defense set up wrong.

psgrak

The ball is in the air, and everybody just kinda runs around. Ter Stegen errs by coming out for the punch and misses. Rakitic was defending three men, and at sea as to which one to pick. But he’s playing the ball instead of putting a body on a man, so it doesn’t even matter. You could see Mascherano lecturing after that goal, for good reason. And he wasn’t lecturing Ter Stegen, who is the popular culprit for that second concession.

But there are 5 defenders loose, not guarding anyone. Ter Stegen’s error? Okay, sure. If you come out for the ball as a keeper, you damned well better get it, and he rather completely misjudged it. Rakitic? Okay. Ball watching is a cardinal sin. But the system broke down yet again in a way that it did not during that first PSG set piece. hats off to PSG for an excellent set piece, but my word that was schoolboy defending, and even schoolboys would be insulted by that depiction.

On their third, Pastore played a quick diagonal to Van Der Wiel as he saw Alba standing there, wondering whether he will be able to find xocolata in Paris (no, Jordi). Alba turned and chased once it was clear that doom was imminent, but too late. Meanwhile EVERY Barça defender is ball watching, so nobody sees Matuidi, who only has to decide whether to run in front of or behind Alves, who was late in picking up the run.

psggoal3

Ter Stegen didn’t have a chance, and note that Mascherano’s instant reaction is to gesticulate to Alba.

Apologies for the crap image quality, snapped by cameraphone off my TV set, but I wanted to get the exact right images for illustration.

So, what’s good?

Simply put, poor performances, average to poor overall team play and still Barça was stunningly close to netting the equalizer, the best chance coming when Marquinhos blocked an Alba shot almost at the doorstep. That’s a pretty darned good football team there, once the hand wringing and garment rending is done. Because just in case anyone is checking, PSG kinda doesn’t suck.

–The Messi and Neymar interplay is also good, as those two are developing a bond that means danger for opponents.
— This is the seventh match of a young season, featuring a new coach, completely new staff and a squad that a third of which is new. If you aren’t impressed, you should be.
–The technical errors are easily correctable, even as the wandering focus isn’t. PSG kicked ass, but Barça also presented its butt to be kicked.

So, what’s bad?

Whoo, baby! Fullback play, Iniesta, Busquets, Pedro, the tendency of the team to go on psychic walkabout, Rakitic’s tendency against an aggressive opponent to pick up fouls, Alba’s positioning, which was easily capitalized on by a player as fast as he is, how easily Barça was funneled into playing the way PSG wanted, as space was compressed to isolate attackers time and again, forcing them to try to beat 2-3 defenders off the dribble. Even the most football illiterate person can tell you that strategy isn’t going to come with a high success percentage.

But most noticeable was the lack of discipline from a team for whom discipline had been, until that match, a hallmark. Even when the control wasn’t there, the discipline to regain control was. The Barça that played PSG was too sloppy, too loose with the ball, too fond of making the wrong decision with the ball.

What’s next?

The future. It’s clear even to me, a tactical fledgling, that Barça is an incomplete team, playing a system for which it doesn’t quite have the right personnel for yet. A Cannibal is the most noticeable change coming, as a player who will occupy that gaping maw of space that is left when Messi is withdrawn. You could see how the danger factor rose when Munir entered the match because suddenly there was someone running around, drawing the attention of defenders rather than allowing them to sit in wait for when Neymar or Messi decided to try dancing past them.

— Reconsideration. Fullback play is a problem from a standpoint of positional discipline against top European sides. It’s worth recalling at this point that the two CBs purchased by Barça this summer can both play LB. Coincidence? Almost certainly not. Might we see a back line of Alves/Pique/Mathieu/Vermalen? Quite possibly, as Enrique decides to gain width from Iniesta and Neymar, since Suarez will now be running around in the center and Messi roaming as width on the right comes from Alves, who will now have a place for those crosses.

— Mascherano goes home. When he moved up the pitch last night, it was an excellent move. Calm and assured with the ball against the physical play of PSG, you began to wonder if on form, he shouldn’t be starting over Busquets.

— Mathieu. It’s getting increasingly difficult to find reasons to slag him, even as some keep trying.

But we lost!

Yesh, so what? The objective of Champions League group play is to get out of the group. Then you can worry about placement. Certainly, Barça would love to finish first in the group as you get the second-place folks from the other groups but you know what? When this team is on, there isn’t a team in European football that worries me. At present, Barça sit one point behind PSG in the group standings. Win out and win the group, assuming that PSG doesn’t stumble at some point, as they did by drawing to Ajax.

The loss really isn’t that big a deal, as I just don’t see any possible scenario that might result in Barça not getting out of the group. There are two matches against Ajax, one each against PSG and APOEL. two home and two away. Thankfully Ajax is the home match after the international break.

Yes, the team lost. It dumped an error-prone match against an opponent who played about as well as it could. Only a fool would suggest that everything is rosy or that gloom beckons, mostly because we don’t yet know what this team is capable of and how it will look once the full complement of personnel comes on line.

I do know that we are going to have a lot of fun this season, because the potential of this group is immense.

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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.

102 Comments

  1. agar2515
    October 2, 2014

    #1 thing for me was how we will
    Struggle with teams with attackers and fullbacks able to attack us down the wings, with pace or otherwise. We couldn’t handle Maxwell And Van Der Wiel, really? Muat rectify that because of Dani and Jordi need to actually, constantly , defend its going to be a tough night. Would love to see Mathieu at LB for some Tough matches.

    Another thing I read a lot on Twitter was how the positional competitions
    Must extend to DM. Sergio has begun the year a tad rough and who wouldnt want to see Masche bossing and tearing apart the mid in big games ( like his WC performances) , especially in away legs.

    You’re going to be referring to Suarez as ” Canibal” all year? Lol harsh…
    Attack looks like it’s just feeling itself out until he returns. This and Pedro needs to sit , there is no excuse anymore , we should be extolling his full emergence into his prime, not rehashing the same sole positive of ” well he works hard all game…”

    • Jafri
      October 2, 2014

      …tearing apart the mid in big games ( like his WC performances)

      Freudian slip? :p Let’s not mention Masch tearing anything apart in World Cup games 🙂

    • October 2, 2014

      Argentina played too much defensive and thats the reason why Masche stood out. In an attacking team like Barca, he wont have to tear apart anything like WC 🙂

    • October 2, 2014

      No, I might alternate. blitzen likes “Bitey,” which is also fun. “The Cannibal of Liverpool” was lovely and literary, but a bit long.

      And to be clear, my stance on that signing has not changed an iota, even as you would be foolish not to recognize the potential gains as regards the sporting aspect.

    • TITO
      October 2, 2014

      Jaws wont be bad.

  2. lala10
    October 2, 2014

    want to also highlight something you noted of Rak moving to Dani’s side and leaving a gap in midfield. I was asking myself: where is Pedro. It was so prominent in the first half.

    Also i feel the article is very balanced and cuts to the core of the failings. No frills. My small quibble is the failure to note Xavi’s role and how he changed the match

    • October 2, 2014

      Xavi really didn’t affect all that much. More surprising to me was how little the interplay was between he and Iniesta. Munir had a bigger effect than Xavi, for me.

    • lala10
      October 2, 2014

      I beg to differ. Barcelona for me will not win a top class match when the contest is decided on lung power and physicality. We benefited from having the play slow down. Immediatelty after Xavi came on the texture of the changed. Prior to his entrance we had no control. We scored beautiful goals but lacked that something. The pressure we created in the last 30 mins was due to the fact that we recycled the ball in their half bar the occasional counters.

      Put Munir in the first half and the match will most likely have petered out the same. Start Xavi over Raktic/ Ini and i bet you the flow would have been different.

      I was laughing @ myself at how the old man is still useful. We need him a while yet, the key is to play him in a few games and bring him out for the big games. Its imperative he starts the Classico

    • October 2, 2014

      I dont know how I missed your earlier comment. I agree with you. We got some sort of control in this match only on the arrival of Xavi. A fully rested Xavi for big matches is definitely a good option. And he is like he wants to prove himself again.

    • Jim
      October 2, 2014

      Agreed. Difference in control was immense, despite moving to three at the back and the ball started switching seemlessly from left to right and forward to the wings as soon as was practical. After that, well, any cursory look at the CL highlights will tell you that it’s not that hard to avoid your cross being blocked by the first defender.

      Xavi also has an amazing ability to calm my nerves. When he came on you just knew the end to end kamikaze stuff was over. In terms of the match as a whole it’s still part of LE’s learning process so he deserves a lot of slack for results such as this. However, as I said before we are starting to frame the questions and he needs to show his understanding of players and system is developing.

    • October 2, 2014

      So Jim, are people weighting the psychological effect of Xavi as much as the pitch effect? He is certainly playing better than Iniesta and frankly, would be ahead of the latter on my team sheet right now.

      But I clapped louder for the introduction of Munir, as he was what was needed more than Xavi, I think.

    • Jim
      October 2, 2014

      I’d agree that Munir was a good introduction, Kxevin. He brings a more dangerous aspect to our attack than Pedro, atm. For me, Xavi is both a literal and psychological aid to the team. Certainly for now. If I’m honest I’ve not been able to suss out what the structure of our midfield is so far this season. We have played some good games but Rakitic isn’t playing as Central or as advanced a role as I thought he might, Iniesta tbh looks confused and at times like last night Busi looks as if he is moonlighting with at least two jobs at once. That needs sorted.

      I’m clear where I stand with Xavi. He was shamelessly overplayed for the last three/ four seasons and at his age that is no longer an option. However, I also thought last season’s turning on Xavi as the major problem in our team was completely off the mark and quite disgraceful actually. We lost breakaway goals because we didn’t have our defence plus DM in front of them, not because the mids couldn’t keep up with a fast break. Not even Rakitic could do that last night. Last season’s problem was chasing games with static forwards after giving up soft goals.

      What is the answer this season? I’m not sure but if we are facing buses every week to me we need to be confident we can recycle and recycle without losing the ball to a turnover and that means Xavi, played once a week and even then subbed off if a game is won or maybe brought on after 60. That brings its own problem of what we do after this season when he will be gone. Iniesta has been disappointing so far, and you know I’m one of his biggest fans. I think, as I said, he is confused about his role. I think both he and Rakitic are playing so wide they can’t link up and Ini can’t do the Xavi always there at both sides of the field as required role while this happens. I’m not slagging Rakitic as I see a great player there – maybe as someone said the deification is a little early – but he can run pass and tackle and also plays with his head up. I suppose Im saying its up to LE to solve.

      Personally I’d still rather the FBs took it in turns to attack and came up a lot later. ATM, they are just filling the space to early. This would allow the more advanced Xavi we saw at the weekend. Together with better forward movement and Suarez’s ability to sniff out unlikely goals ( he’ll be a totally different sort of forward – much like Villa and able to play with back to goal) I think we’re a better looking team. I also wouldn’t be averse to playing two of Busi/ Rakitic/ Masche in front of the defence and playing both Iniesta and Xavi with one of the forwards dropping out. . They have too much to offer to never play them together especially when holding the ball is important.

    • October 2, 2014

      Excellent answer, Jim. I find that people are too fast to turn on players in general. Alves was done, now we need him, now he’s done again. It goes match by match.

      The biggest problem with transition defending last season was overall team speed. Now that this major issue has been addressed, I am much more comfortable with using a slower mid. And frankly, Xavi is playing a LOT better than Iniesta right now.

      Because Rakitic spends so much time covering Alves’ ass, it’s difficult to know what his true role is, and we might not find that out until Suarez comes on line, when I suspect things will change, attack-wise. This might even result in seeing more Douglas or Montoya, because you suddenly won’t have that necessity of creating width via FB all the time, with three true attackers up front.

      At this point, my preferred lineup, assuming Vermaelen isn’t full-on stank, would be:

      Ter Stegen
      Alves Pique Mathieu Vermaelen
      Rakitic Mascherano Xavi/Rafinha
      Messi
      Suarez Neymar

  3. Fabian4Barca
    October 2, 2014

    Thanks for giving me something to read that helps me digest this game.

    I like to explain collective failures to myself with what I learned from systems theory. If a single element of a system fails, it is most likely balanced by other elements. But as soon as a critical number of elements are down, it starts a feedback loop that makes every element look bad. If you only see the result, it’s impossible to tell where it started. So I am really excited to read where people see the cause of the system failure.

    Oh, and if I think about the epic number of elements that need to be tuned perfectly in order for the system to outperform all other systems… how can any team ever win the Champions League?

  4. October 2, 2014

    Messi’s lob pass is a little too firm, or that would have been 1-2. — cant agree with that. We all thought it was perfect ball for a light chip over the goalie, but Neymar arrive a bit late, he was a bit slow in the same way for a couple of other balls too.

    The Messi and Neymar interplay is also good, as those two are developing a bond that means danger for opponents. — this bond is currently , slightly a one way traffic. When Neymar also start to recognise when to pass and make the good one twos, it will become a great bond. We saw a few times this season, Neymar trying to make wall pass for Messi, but the ball went somewhere.

    • October 2, 2014

      The pass plays the player. For that pass to be right, Neymar, who moved exactly when he should have to stay onside, wouldn’t have had to reach for it. It’s split-second stuff that is magical when it works.

      The perfect place to put that pass would have been where Neymar could reach it, but just out of the reach of the charging keeper. Ball got to Neymar’s foot in same spot as PSG keeper.

    • October 2, 2014

      Ball got to Neymar’s foot in same spot as PSG keeper — thats the point here. Wherever Messi’s ball lands in the 6 yard box, Neymar and Sirigu would be sprinting for it. Neither Messi nor Neymar will presume that the goalie would stay at his line. They both know the goalie will make a move. See, Neymar still gets the touch on it, but by then Sirigu is too close to him for him to have it perfectly chipped or to control it for a second touch. 1/10th of a second earlier, Neymar would have got a moment more to perfect the chip.

      But from the few past matches, we have seen often Neymar’s first touch is not that perfect on such moments. But when allowed time and space he rectifies the issue. Boy will learn and improve, which am sure about.

    • October 2, 2014

      “Ball got to Neymar’s foot in the same spot as PSG keeper” is exactly right. It needed to be about a foot in front of the PSG keeper. Then Neymar doesn’t have to reach for it, trying a flick off his toes instead of having full control of the shot to be able to one-touch it around or over the keeper.

      In the ideal world, you want that ball to drop right on the attacker’s foot, no control required. It’s a crazy, audacious high-wire act that even as close as it got was extraordinary.

      But it’s okay to say that Messi overcooked a pass by a smidge. Really it is.

  5. October 2, 2014

    First thing, a mere hours after landing, Enrique had the team on thd pitch working on set pieces.

    • kosby
      October 2, 2014

      hahaha..love it !

  6. lala10
    October 2, 2014

    for that lob everything is perfect xcept Neymar’s boot size. If he is a foot taller then its in the back of the net. Not his fault really. But the ball is as perfect as it will get given the space they have

  7. October 2, 2014

    I think that I agree with the review. Except this:

    “Messi’s lob pass is a little too firm, or that
    would have been 1-2.”

    That pass was perfect. Neymar couldn’t read it in that split second, and arrived a little late. Ibrahimovic scored one or two from those Messi lob-passes whilst he played for us.
    But it’s interesting Messi and Neymar are forging that tandem. It’s Interesting.

    Also like that Enrique got the team practising how to defend dead balls. Way to go.

  8. October 2, 2014

    It’s funny, I reckon the bottom line from yesterday is that our goals were unstoppable. I rather imagine Blanc said to his defense, “Good match! If it takes goals like that to beat you, I can’t complain.”

    But all 3 PSG goals were preventable, which will make Enrique livid. There is the whole “what if it was a better team” stuff, but Granada or Villarreal would have scored those same set piece goals, with that kind of absurd marking. The season has, heretofore, been characterized by everyone doing their jobs. Yesterday’s match was far from it.

    So amid all of the overreaction, tactical this and that, “poor defense,” and “Barça can’t defend set pieces,” the idea was to provide a counterpoint.

    Barça does NOT have a poor defense, and Barça CAN defend set pieces. They defended the first one against PSG almost perfectly. Do that two more times and that match is very different. If Ibrahimovic plays, PSG probably lose. That was their best team performance of the season, by far, as well as their best overall performance.

    I guess another way to look at it is PSG played their best match of the season, Barça played one of its worst and it still took a key Marquinhos intervention to have things not end in a draw.

    Unlike many, I am very happy with this team and how it is progressing.

    • Fabian4Barca
      October 2, 2014

      I’m also happy with the team, even if it really made me suffer. But this match is probably not going to be crucial for our qualification. So yeah, I hope they can learn a lesson and make the progress that you are seeing.

  9. kosby
    October 2, 2014

    Nice analysis Kxevin. The pictures are a real help as well. I sometimes wonder who is faster among Alba and Mathieu and whether it was worth playing Mathieu at LB when Alba was struggling with Moura’s pace although that would have destabilized the defense a bit. Maybe its an alternative if Vermaulen is fit again.

    But what was most refreshing was to see us play against a team that actually came out to play. We got to know more about this team we have which isn’t perfect but still gives us so much joy.

  10. ciaran
    October 2, 2014

    … And my lasting memory from that match will be Neymar’s ridiculous finish.
    It was stupendous.

    • October 2, 2014

      I can’t decide if Neymar’s finish is more remarkable, or the interplay and movement on that first goal, which seemed about 2x speed.

    • October 2, 2014

      They were both world class. Our mistakes at the back cost us the game.

    • ciaran
      October 2, 2014

      See, at different times throughout the past 4-5 years we’ve seen a few goals with such incredible interplay whereas the only goal I can think of that came close to Neymar’s finish in terms of calmness and control was one that Ronaldinho scored way back when.
      The ball came over from the right wing and the whole defense was scrabbling over to cover Ronaldinho’s inevitable blast but as the whole defense went to the near post Ronaldinho rolled it in the far post wrong-footing the lot of them.

      When the ball came over from Dani’s looping cross the other night, Neymar dropped back when Messi and the defenders went to head the ball. The ball bounced, too high for normal chest control but Neymar managed it, shaped his body and caressed the ball into the only place in the goal as to navigate the sea of bodies and went off celebrating.

      There’s no one else playing that scores that goal. There are a few that may have scored A GOAL from that position but he is the only one who scores THAT goal. The calmness in front of goal that he is showing this season is a thing of beauty. The first time finish from the rebound v Granada was incredibly composed, as have practically all the goals he has gotten this season.

      How many times do we see a striker snatch at a great chance and hit it straight at a keeper or at a defenders’ shin guards? His ability to pick a spot under pressure is dumbfounding in how simple he makes it look.

    • October 2, 2014

      Exactly right, ciaran. It still surprises me that people have issues with him. I see a brilliant player who is rapidly improving and growing into his role. The deal was funky, but that’s in the past. The stated fee of 57m (I still think that “total cost of the operation” is bollocks) is a bargain.

      I just think that great players see the game differently. Time functions differently for those players.

      Interestingly, Messi said today that Neymar has the quality to become “the best in the world.” We’ll see about that but for now, I’m just going to enjoy him and our other magicians.

    • Jim
      October 3, 2014

      Yeah, you can’t teach class, technique at that level and most importantly the mindset that sees such a possibility. He’s doing well. I think I still want to see him bulk up slightly and he’s not quite as quick as I thought but attitude is a lot better than I feared.

      Just in answer to Kxevin below about balls lost – is there another list of how often our defenders lost the man they were marking ? 🙂

    • October 3, 2014

      Making the presumption that this is about Mascherano, Jim, your favorite CB would be low on that list as well.

      But it’s all in how you watch a player and what you expect from that viewing. I watch that first PSG goal and think, “How in the hell was the defense marking on that set piece?” Others look at the first PSG goal and say “Mascherano isn’t a CB! See?”

      Not sure which is right or wrong, but if Barça marks that second set piece like the first, Luiz has two men to beat instead of one. Rare is the defender that is going to come out on top of that one-on-one duel, in the situation Mascherano was in. If you add to that equation Luiz able to hold him off with the forearm, forget about it.

      I get that folks don’t dig Mascherano as a CB. I get the “he’s short,” “he loses aerial duels” and the eternal one, “positioning.”

      And I keep wondering why I don’t see what others see (or more correctly, don’t see) in Mascherano. I also keep wondering why Guardiola, Vilanova, Martino and now Enrique don’t see that same thing that I miss, and continue to deem him not only acceptable at CB, but preferable.

      Any position is a list of tradeoffs. Yes, we would love for Iniesta to have Pogba’s physicality and pace. We would love for Messi to have Ronaldo’s leaping ability. But you take the player that you have, and weigh his attributes against his deficiencies, then make up a starting lineup.

      For the fourth coach running, Mascherano is a fixture in that lineup. This means that either they think the liabilities that he has are outweighed by the strengths that he brings to the table, or he has incriminating pictures of coaches doing unspeakable things with marsupials. I suspect it’s the former, more than the latter.

      He will continue to divide opinion for as long as he is with the club, I suspect.

    • Jim
      October 3, 2014

      Your presumption as usual is spot on, Kxevin. We’ll not agree on him as you say. My take on the first goal is the obvious one that whether someone should have been there or not he was the one goal side of Luiz and he took himself out of the game ( once again) by trying to put a foot in unbalancing himself and falling back creating the gap for Luiz to score. There was no problem if he had stayed tight goal side with Luiz back to goal. Yes, Dani was foolish to handball it for the award but no more so than Rakitic who needlessly gave away the first free kick which we defended well.

      Your own picture of the second goal illustrates my point perfectly. Mascherano was marking Marquinhos at the corner ( not a great idea to start with). If you then roll on and freeze where you did, Marquinhos is standing unmarked at the back post beside the scorer with Masche yards away and he had the gall to wave his arms at the rest of the defence ? Not saying that goal was down to him but he needed to do much better than a rerun of the goal he cost us against AM at the end of last season.

      Tbh, that’s one of the questions I have about LE. He seems, as you say, to want Masche in the side for commendable reasons as he is a real competitor but if he can look in detail at the first two goals and not realise there’s a problem there it’ll be a long season. Lest it be thought that Mascherano did me wrong in a previous life for which I’m hounding him in this, Im still genuinely curious to see if we can harness his talents in a more natural setting in front of the defence.

    • October 3, 2014

      But Jim, I have to ask why you don’t note the roles of the other players, or the systemic complexities involved in defending one set piece perfectly, then defending the other in ways that, frankly, leave a lot to be desired. There’s plenty of culpability to go around, for me.

      It’s like the people who say that Ter Stegen erred on the Verrati header. Well yeah, he did. But how the hell did Rakitic end up by himself, surrounded by 3 PSG players? Something got messed up on both set pieces.

      The thing about culpability is that it’s malleable. If someone dislikes Alves, it’s his fault. If they aren’t fans of Mascherano, it’s his fault. If they want Bravo over Ter Stegen, that second goal is his fault.

      I look at those goals and say “What the hell,” from a systemic viewpoint. I would wager that if you dropped that ball right at Luiz’s feet AND let him hold off the defender with an arm, I’m hard pressed to think of a CB that can stop that goal. So I start looking at the entire system.

      With the second goal, Mascherano is marking Marquinhos and moves away from him. But again, what is everybody else doing? It’s like a confederacy of dunces. No wonder Enrique had a team talk and go-over on set pieces and just what the heck the players are supposed to do. It looked like they forgot everything.

    • Jim
      October 3, 2014

      I did pass comment on the previous article about the second goal, Kxevin where I suggested Rakitic maybe wrongly moved forward partly because Mathieu left his position and moved forward, as well as passing due reprimand to the keeper for a howler. I also said there was no one person to blame for it. Didn’t see the need to repeat it here.

      For the first I’ve got it squarely down to Masche. The rest were trying to hold the offside line but he went with Luiz effectively playing him on. Maybe right in that he might not have been off anyway, maybe wrongly but once he went it’s down to him alone to deal with it which he didn’t.

      I don’t agree with your assertion that almost everything is “systemic”. The second goal is, however, a good example of one that was. LE had a three man zonal with man marking for the rest and you could argue that quite a few got it wrong although if you’re using 9 men to mark six and you still leave one unmarked I’d suggest it’s the manager who needs to rethink.However, most ( apart from TS) were still, even loosely, marking their man at the end. Even Rakitic nearly prevented it. However, Masche is WAY out of position. I can cut the GK and Rakitic, maybe even Mathieu a bit of slack if needed as they are new but Masche has been playing there for years and is still making schoolboy errors. And that’s without thinking about the damage you’re inviting in the first place having Masche try to mark either Luiz or Marquinhos at set pieces.

      I don’t think its making the facts fit my narrative about Mascherano, it’s what I see. In comments to the last post I raised questions about the play of Alves, Alba, Iniesta and Rakitic and praised the finishing of Neymar and Messi as well as the introduction of Munir. I’m sad enough to re watch all the goals we concede ( and score !) several times like yourself each match just because as you say many goals are multi layered and not clear at a first viewing.

  11. PrinceYuvi
    October 2, 2014

    Full blown analysis ?
    Awesome. Thanks.
    This must have broke your One hour rule though.

    • October 3, 2014

      Nope. Under by a comfy margin.

    • PrinceYuvi
      October 3, 2014

      Impressive 🙂

  12. 86ed
    October 2, 2014

    Urgh. What a frustrating match. We had to perform wonders to score two, while PSG scored two quite easily. Their second was embarrassing. Like Kevin said, the Bs should concede that, never mind the A Team.

    I hope Enrique learned his lessons. 1. Not to play Alba and Alves together against the top teams. 2. Not to play with 3/4th of our defence below 1.75m; especially not against physical opponents (which are most teams in Europe, today). 3. Not to play the 4-3-3 in Europe. 4. To keep it tight–remember, a draw in the CL is better than a loss.

    I thought a different set of players would have got the job done–
    Mathieu, Bartra, Pique, Alves
    Mascherano, Busquets
    Neymar, Messi, Pedro
    Munir
    –but that’s moot. No shame in losing to PSG. But the amateurish mistakes in D are unforgivable. Those have to be fixed if silverware is to be won, and there’s no way around it. Atletico would never commit such mistakes in the tough games.

    • Gekko64
      October 3, 2014

      they’ve won three CL in the last 10 years with that 4-3-3, just sayin.

    • Gekko64
      October 3, 2014

      Also, that 4-2-3-1 you cite would never work, ever. the team would be split in half without proper midfielders.

    • 86ed
      October 3, 2014

      What worked in the past may not work now. The 4-3-3 has been found found in the last three years it is now the era of the solid midfield block defending the D.

      As I said, it’s moot. Barca will never change, much to its disadvantage but change it must, in tactics, strategy, and philosophy, if it is to thrive in Europe.

  13. barca96
    October 2, 2014

    Lev and others, check this hilarious skit out on van Gaal;
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cEVUaZlyk1Y

    ps. check out on youtube for his infamous kung fu kick while he was a at Ajax. Stuff of legends.

    • Peter
      October 3, 2014

      Not really funny if you support Ludogoretz.

  14. Peter
    October 3, 2014

    On Wednesday I had this remarkable feeling I hadn’t felt for years: a mix of pride, grief, sense of injustice and inevitability.

    Watching as Ludogoretz struggled and defended against the most expensive team in history, I suddenly realized how other, smaller teams may see Barcelona. I hope they don’t because I don’t think Barcelona gets so much ref help against modest teams, but after Ronaldo scored that second penalty, I knew it couldn’t really end in any other way. It’s bad marketing to have the Crowned Champions with UEFA’s Player of the Year, Ballon de Lloro and Golden Boot run the clock against the debutantes with an annual budget equal to the monthly salary of Ronaldo.

    Ludogoretz should’ve had two points at this stage, taken a total of four from Real Madrid and Liverpool. It took four penalties(one invented in favor of Real and Liverpool each, one real for Real and one not called in favor of Ludogoretz) in order to save the face of the European “Legends”. Those two points would’ve meant one million Euro for the Bulgarian team. For Real, Liverpool or Barcelona that’s peanuts, but for a team that makes Eibar’s modest stadium look like Wembley it’s a lot.

    I don’t support Ludogoretz, right now I don’t even know which teams are in the First Division in Bulgaria. What I do know is that there were more than 30 000 supporting fans, a lot of whom went to see the great Real Madrid, but left with a bitter taste, because they saw injustice. They aren’t traveling supporters of Ludogoretz, they were Bulgarians who went to support a Bulgarian team against the giants of Europe.

    Yesterday my Madridista colleagues didn’t want to meet my eye at work. The best one could come up with was “Ludogoretz should qualify for the knock-out rounds.”

    • October 3, 2014

      That is the grim reality of Champions League football in an allegedly impartial world that isn’t. When people gin up UEFAlona conspiracy theories, I giggle at them. Big team vs small team is a different matter altogether. Even if the bias isn’t overt and even conscious, you wonder if Ronaldo gets that penalty call against PSG or Barça.

      All the big teams have gotten boosts at times, including Barça, and supporters of the smaller teams sometimes just shrug and say, “That’s life.” But it isn’t right.

      We see it in all sports. In American basketball, LeBron James gets calls that lesser players don’t get. In baseball, superstars get a smaller strike zone, just as superstar pitchers get a bigger strike zone. A foul on Messi isn’t a foul on Bendtner, etc, etc.

      I know that it’s part of the game, but I wish it wasn’t.

    • Fabian4Barca
      October 3, 2014

      Kxevin, I absolutely agree with you on all points.

      And I can’t blame the refs. It’s in our instincts, it’s a subconscious thing. We tend to treat beautiful people better and assume that they are nice, smart and trustworthy – even if we have no such information. So if Ronaldo falls and in this doubtful situation with very little information the ref only has split seconds to make a decision, there must be some part of his brain telling him: “if the world class footballer Ronaldo falls in a game against this unknown side, it must be a genuine foul”.

      This can only be prevented by taking decisions away from a single person with little information – and given to a jury with more information such as instant replays from different angles. And as much I suffer when injustice happens to a team that I like – I am not convinced that I would want to remove this part of the game.

    • October 3, 2014

      Hmph. Nobody treats ME better, and assumes that I am nice, smart and trustworthy. What are you saying here, eh? (Insert emoticon here.)

      I just wonder if the “neutral” judging can happen while the ref is being swarmed and yelled at by both teams. You have a ref who has one job: watching the match. At the instant a questionable call happens of a certain type, he simply rewinds the feed, and voila. If it’s clear you change the call. If not, play continues.

      I don’t think it would involve stopping or impeding the match in any way. When a player does down, there is, in ever instance, more than enough time to watch the play again.

      People make errors. It’s human. The complexity arises when those errors have a built-in bias that favors the “pretty people,” i.e. the big teams or superstar players.

    • Jim
      October 3, 2014

      I’ve always been surprised referees don’t go the opposite way with Ronaldo, tbh. If it were me I’d go out of my way to ensure that nothing less than a death certificate would get him a penalty until he changed his ways. ( suspicion of contrary Scottish nature coming to the fore here ? )

  15. October 3, 2014

    Ah. The Messi quote about Neymar was: “I think that with his quality and fitness, he will become the best in the world.”

    Interesting.

    • Peter
      October 3, 2014

      Against the recommendation of the prosecutor, whose view the judge has decided is “subjective”, and in accordance with the opposition of the Attorney of the State, I might add.

      No wonder Messi is appealing the decision. In any normal state the accused is innocent until proven guilty. But we’re talking about Espanistan. Messi is the greatest sports tax payer in the history of Spain, while another supposedly big tax payer uses the lowered taxes of his native island, which he visits only when he has to open a monument or a museum to himself. Spain just decided to pay 1 350 000 000 Euro to Florentino Perez because of a failed gas project. The money has to come from somewhere.

      In my book, when the main accuser in the case can’t see anything irregular, the judge can go over his head for two reasons – external stimulus or in order to make a name for himself. And both are equally despicable.

    • Jim
      October 4, 2014

      From the Spanish establishment’s point of view I’m not sure they’d be wise to let this continue. It could well become part of the Catalan independence push. Not that all Catalans could care less about Messi but as we saw here in Scotland the Nats seize anything and everything as evidence of abuse by the bigger power and push it for all its worth. At the moment, Spain needs everything as quiet and improving as it can manage, especially if there is a referendum, a thumping majority and they have to say it doesn’t count. This could get interesting, especially if the Messi’s are content to pick up the why me when your own people are telling you there isn’t a problem thread.

  16. barca96
    October 4, 2014

    Cracking match at the Mestalla. Valencia up by 3 by the 13th minute by Atletico pulled one back.

    • ciaran
      October 4, 2014

      By cracking match I’m guessing you mean exciting but the football being played is shocking. I haven’t looked at the passing stats but I’m guessing that the successful passes percentage is very low.
      Both teams are giving the ball away very often and there’s little come to speak of. It’s kind of like watching an EPL match.

    • ciaran
      October 4, 2014

      *Little control to speak of. Stupid phone

    • barca96
      October 4, 2014

      Yeah pretty cracking as in EPL style 🙂 full out match

  17. barca96
    October 4, 2014

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Montoya and Bartra decide to leave in the summer. I understand that youngsters should gradually be eased in but these Montoya and Bartra are not young anymore. They’re at an age where they need to be playing week in week out.

    To make matters worse, it’s not like they have world beaters keeping them out in the case of Alves and Mascherano (at DM).

    It is really hard for an outfield player to play well when they only play once in a while. There’s no rhythm yet they did admirably well whenever they get a chance. I really don’t believe that they are not performing well in training. Match selection is not based 100% from training. If that’s the case, we would be seeing a lot of changes in the line up every match. Not every player can give 100% at very training.

    The manager chooses players who he is confident with, who is experienced, who he prefers. With the last one, not every player, even Messi can give 100% for every training, then what, is Lucho going to bench him for Munir? Of course he will go with the tried and tested.

    Many are saying that the season is still young and that they will get time but I wish Lucho would take a risk and give more game time to Montoya and Bartra. We’re still early in the season, we can afford to take little risks now and not later on in the business end of the season when there are players who are injured. Better give these players who are young and hungry playing time now.

    Alves is going to leave so groom Montoya now. Even if Montoya does take over the RB spot next season, it’ll look like a new player in the team as Montoya hardly played this season.

    Alves isn’t playing good week in week out so why not try something else?

    Bartra is in a more difficult position as Masherano. Matthieu and Pique are actually doing well. Still, Bartra should’ve been given more minutes there based on his past playing time and the CB position should be fought between Matthieu, Pique and Bartra, not Mascherano. Somebody needs to show Lucho the tapes of last season’s matches and see how the opposition always exploited Mascherano.

    • georgjorge
      October 4, 2014

      I think that Mascherano and Alves are better than you’re giving them credit for, but I agree that the situation is dire for Montoya and Bartra. I don’t think that it only has to do with Lucho being afraid of risk though – he has started Munir over Pedro (national team player and club veteran) and Rafinha over Xavi (team legend) already, as well as benching Pique, so I don’t think he’s afraid to try something new. So I’m puzzled by why Bartra doesn’t get to play more (not so much with Montoya who is solid defensively but really doesn’t cut it in offense so far).

      On the other hand, the transfer ban really is exciting news for the young players. Just imagine if Pique decided to return to the Premier League again, it would be a great opportunity for Bartra as no other replacement could come in. So maybe that will keep them with the club for another season…?

    • October 4, 2014

      Anyone who wants to leave should get out. If they don’t want to fight for a spot at the best club in the world, preferring to play every day for Levante or Valencia or somewhere, rock on. Don’t let the door hit you in the ass.

      Playing time is earned, and the coaches give it. If you aren’t playing, it’s because you haven’t earned the privilege to play. I love how supporters know more than the coaching staff. Coach after coach at club and NT level keeps picking Mascherano, despite all of his deficiencies. In midfield, he makes rash challenges, is a poor passer, slides too early, etc, etc. At CB he is too short, has positioning problems, loses aerial balls, etc.

      Meanwhile coach after coach after coach says “Yeah, whatever.”

      Bartra and Montoya should earn their time, or they should leave. But if they leave it will be because they weren’t good enough, not because they were wronged in some way.

    • georgjorge
      October 4, 2014

      Thanks for your answer. While I agree that the coaches know more than us, assuming that because of that whatever decision the coaches take is the right one kind of kills the purpose of much debate in sports. Coaches and their staff are not superhuman, they have emotional attachments, prejudices etc. just like everyone else as well. Stating that any given eleven a coach puts out there is the right one just because he was the one that put it out there seems too easy for me. I also seem to remember that in former times when you still did ratings, you also rated the coaches for their lineup, and frequently criticized them for playing or not playing certain players. Would you still do that nowadays?

      I think it’s still interesting to ask why someone who is consistently putting in good showings like Bartra is seeing so little playing time from a coach who is known to be in favor of young and little-known players. Note that I didn’t play the “Lucho is treating him unfairly!” card. I’m just puzzled by him not playing more. And he hasn’t been rejected by many coaches either, he just started playing well under Tata.

    • October 4, 2014

      Good question on the reviews, georgjorge. I would, because we have the body of work to go on that is that day’s result. Coaches do get XIs wrong for a number of reasons, even as that doesn’t reflect on their initial evaluation of a player, I think. Mascherano might have a poor match, which doesn’t mean that he shouldn’t be in front of Bartra in the pecking order, in other words.

      I really like the way Bartra plays. And I think that it speaks more to the quality of the players in front of him than to his own quality.

      Mascherano also, I think, brings something else to the table, that intangible “spine,” for lack of a better word, that a coach wants out there. Recall when Maradona said that his XI is Mascherano and 10 other guys.

      I suspect that as the season progresses, Bartra and Montoya will play more, because of rotation. Bartra is also playing better right now. And remember that we haven’t started the Copa yet. Once those matches come online, there should be plenty of playing time for everyone.

  18. ciaran
    October 4, 2014

    Lineup
    Bravo
    Alves Pique Bartra Mathieu
    Xavi Sergio Iniesta
    Munir Messi Neymar

    I like it.

    • georgjorge
      October 4, 2014

      Xavi Sergio Iniesta – like in olden times…

  19. ciaran
    October 4, 2014

    Brilliant save from Bravo

  20. G6O
    October 4, 2014

    So much space and yet we can’t take advantage of it 🙁

  21. ciaran
    October 4, 2014

    Our passing isn’t really in gear so far this match. We’ve been slow to release through balls and the weight of pass is off.

    In the positive side, Bravo broke the record for not conceding at the start of the season. Congrats to him and our defense.

  22. ciaran
    October 4, 2014

    What a difference some individual quality can make…

  23. Valdemar II
    October 4, 2014

    Rayo is giving us acres as if we were M*drid.

    • barca96
      October 4, 2014

      Haha I was thinking the same thing. I like Rayo as they play a high line and attacking football but Paco should know that that tactic won’t work against us, even more against pacey Madrid.

      Btw I hope nzm is watching the match, Baptistao is back.

  24. ciaran
    October 4, 2014

    Munir should have just squared that for Neymar to roll into an empty net. Experience will teach him to put the team before the individual.

    • G6O
      October 4, 2014

      It looked like a foul though. But even without that he would have likely been dispossessed by the defender on his back.

    • ciaran
      October 4, 2014

      When his ball control let him down with a relatively poor first touch he should have passed it to Neymar. Yes, he could have gotten a penalty but a pass was the correct move to ensure a goal.

    • barca96
      October 4, 2014

      Hopefully the reason he didn’t square is because we were already 2-0 up. Hopefully this will be the 2nd time and the last as he did this before too.

      It was a foul though. A couple bad calls in the match. A few poor offside calls and Pique got lucky once.

      Neymar needs to improve on his passing.

      I’m surprised that Matthieu is playing so far up even further than Alves. I thought he was supposed to be the defensive wing back.

      Love the CB partnership of Pique and Bartra. They can be a rock duo at the back.

  25. barca96
    October 4, 2014

    😆 Paco is going all out. It’s going to be a goal fest.

  26. barca96
    October 4, 2014

    Xavi and Iniesta are both having a really poor match. What’s going on with them?

  27. ciaran
    October 4, 2014

    I don’t know what is up with Iniesta but he’s in a funk. 77% pass success tonight must be some kind of career low.

  28. georgjorge
    October 4, 2014

    Wow – our offense lost focus pretty hard in the second half, but 2-0 against nine men with hard matches coming up its understandable. And I hope Bartra really gets more trust after this performance – winning headers, stopping defenders, making key through passes…

  29. G6O
    October 4, 2014

    A good win but in the grand tradition of cules being impossible to satisfy, I should point out that it was a bit frustrating to watch, especially in the second half – so much space and we did so little with it due to sloppy ball control and passing, being late to release the final ball and giving an overall impression that we are not very interested in the game anymore. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Messi miss so many sitters

  30. ciaran
    October 4, 2014

    Poor match but 3 more points and another clean sheet so it’s not all bad. Some players really need to find some form though.

    • Peter
      October 4, 2014

      Aye, that Messi fella, he was shooting as if the goal is the one from American football. I think that record might actually be taking a toll on him. The sooner he surpasses it, the better.

      Madrid’s faithful already talking about a shameful robbery and how Barcelona wins only playing against 10 and 9 men. 😀

    • barca96
      October 4, 2014

      I was hoping he would score more goals and break the record before el Clasico. I don’t want him to think about the record during the Clasico.

    • pslio
      October 4, 2014

      Don’t think it’s that record at all. It has practically no time limit and no one else close in competition (unlike CL record). No, I think it’s the court case. In fact I was pleasantly surprised to see his form in the first half, thinking maybe he’s learned to ‘compartmentalize’. Alas.

    • Rami
      October 4, 2014

      Poor match?, You and i must’ve watched two different matches.
      The team should’ve put more effort at stopping rayo from creating chances, And we could’ve been a tiny bit more sharp in front of the goal, But it still was a good match from us, Rayo deserve their own credit, They weren’t a walkover.
      None of the players had a bad performance.

  31. barca96
    October 4, 2014

    The passing of the midfielders and forwards were all poor. Is it te pitch? I couldn’t watch the match on HD so it’s hard to tell but the ball didn’t wobble or anything so I doubt it’s the pitch. Perhaps Lucho worked them too hard. But Iniesta…

  32. lala10
    October 4, 2014

    iniesta is in desperate need of some form. He has been off off pace. A bit worried with EE coming

    • October 4, 2014

      Everybody was worried about RM last season, and the team won home and away. The side is much, much stronger this year. Believe.

  33. October 4, 2014

    If Barça wins 0-10 at a difficult away ground, folks would still find nits to pick, but here’s the thing:

    — The team had a very difficult away match midweek. Look at what happened to Atleti today, to suss out the effects of a tough midweek match then rolling into a difficult away ground against a fired-up opponent.

    — Barça didn’t play all that well, but the hasn’t played a full-on match yet all season. It’s early days, and a THIRD of the roster is new, as well as the entire coaching staff. What do people expect? Miracles?

    — They won today. And it was a tough match that was ultimately decided by some individual brilliance. Because sometimes, that works as well.

    As for the match itself, Pique was excellent, and Alba must have watched that Mathieu performance at LB and said “Holy crap!” Iniesta was awful, just as he has been, and was when Martino had the team’s foot on the gas last year. Recall that he found his form once Martino started listening to the whiners and began a more deliberate style of play.

    Messi’s couldn’t finish an ice cream cone today. But that’s okay. He will beat himself up for that, and he should. Because great players set their own unreachable standards.

    Neymar was kicking ass early, then went off the boil. Not sure what happened, whether he picked up a knock, or got tired.

    And lest I forget, every one of the transfers who were “crap,” “stupid Zubi,” etc, etc, has performed well this season. On social media, some were saying it was “criminal” that the club bought Bravo instead of picking up Ochoa on a free. Worth noting that Ochoa can’t even beat out Kameni at Malaga, and Kameni is FAR from Barça quality.

    The jury is still out on Douglas (who is being detested because he wasn’t Alves, just as Alves gets stick for being Alves, so I guess that’s fair) and Vermaelen, who has yet to play with the first team.

    • ciaran
      October 4, 2014

      Pointing out very obvious flaws is not nit picking, it’s just making observations.

      The team was very clearly well below par today. I know that you can point to Atletico and their tough match v Valencia but Rayo are no Valencia. Valencia are second in the league and are playing very well. Rayo basically committed suicide for the first 60 minutes by playing an unbelievably high line and giving our midfielders acres of space and amble time to give our forwards numerous one on one chances.

      If we were on form from midfield upwards then we probably would have scored at least 5+ goals not relying on individual talent.

      The back five looked very solid which is nice.

    • October 4, 2014

      ciaran, I’m fine with evaluating tactics, etc, but I just don’t see how anyone can be unhappy with the way this season has started and how the transfers are working out. The team is still working into shape, as well. It’s impossible to know what its future shape and form will be.

    • ciaran
      October 4, 2014

      Oh, it’s not being unhappy about the way the season had started at all because we are getting results without being at our best.
      It’s almost a 50-50 split on form but there are some very worrisome performances like Iniesta’s and more specifically ‘the artist formerly known as Pedro’.

    • Rami
      October 4, 2014

      As i was watching, I said to my self, is mathieu really that good at going forward, Or alba and adriano just suck that much…, Either case, They should get used to warming up the chair.

      Won’t bother pointing out the excellent saves from bravo, But i want to point out how much less nervous he was than with earlier games, Even as the game progressed, you can notice that his long balls became more accurate, And rayo are not the team that gives the GK an easy time picking up his passes, The GK spot is more intense than ever!.
      Good for us.

      As soon as we signed neymar, I knew it’ll take at least a season before we see his true abilities, And yet still managed to surprise me on his first season.
      But what we’re seeing from him now exceeds the ceiling i’ve placed for this 22 year old, Good years ahead for barca that’s for sure, And newspapers can make up all the numbers about his transfer fee, It’ll still be a bargain.

    • bhed
      October 4, 2014

      Jeez, when you review concerts, do you also use half your column inches critiquing the audience? I thought we were supposed to talk about the team. I guess the fans are an easier target. Hell, it’s not even like anyone here is really trolling or anything, just wringing their hands like EVERY single other fan on every single sports forum on the web.

  34. 86ed
    October 4, 2014

    I’m not sure why Rayo insist on playing such a suicidal high like against us. It would make sense if they had better players up the pitch, but they don’t. Perhaps their coach likes this way of football. I’m not advocating they pull an Iran or Chelsea on us, but a tad more pragmatism wouldn’t hurt them. It’d be a shame and a real loss for the league if Rayo are relegated; their fans are wonderful.

    I rather like the look of that back four. I feel more confident with them on the pitch than with Alba. It’s a solid unit, taller than our previous vintages, and not too different to the one that demolished Real 6-2 all those years ago. I think it should be starting the tough games.

    Quite enjoyed the game today, but Rayo, as I said, did not make it too hard in the first half.

    • Jafri
      October 4, 2014

      Maybe they wanted their 51% possession stat back?

    • Peter
      October 4, 2014

      Rayo doesn’t play such a suicidal high line just against Barcelona – they do it against practically everybody.

      This is one reason why Paco Jemez was short-listed for the spot that belongs now to Luis Enrique. The man has the almost impossible job of recreating his team every year, has a small stadium, a miniscule budget, and last season he started badly, but by the end of the season Rayo had smashed left and right and finished 12th. As a matter of fact Rayo and Celta had the best second parts of the season from the whole La Liga. Think about that – not Atletico, not Real, not Barcelona or the hardy Athletic, but lowly Rayo Vallecano.

      They don’t do it by defending with ten men behind the ball every time one of the big boys come around. They stick to creative football and attacking. Against Barcelona it doesn’t work, but this same team brought Atletico to a screeching halt on Opening Day and then defeated Athletic. That unconditional devotion to beautiful football and the Rayo fans make me sad whenever Barcelona gets to play them, because it’s like looking at a poor version of Barcelona, and Barcelona have to beat them.

      Even though I’m a but miffed that Messi didn’t score a hattrick as he could, I’m also glad that Rayo lost by a small margin.

  35. October 4, 2014

    1. What’s up with the Don? LE has a real problem: do you bench Iniesta or keep playing him to bring him up to match fitness. I mean, I love the guy, but I don’t even credit last spring that much. We are well into season 2 and a world cup of bad form.

    2. Messi can miss as many sitters as he wants if the score is 2-0.

    3. I like Mathieu a lot.

    4. Pedro?

    5. Neymar is a beast. I love how he is settling this year!

    6. I’ll echo LE: Who cares about the stats, a win is a win & all that matters is the trophy.

  36. pslio
    October 4, 2014

    I hope Messi doesn’t beat himself up too much. It’s not easy to play with the Spanish (in)justice system keeps kicking at your shin. It does seem more of a vendetta than pure money grabbing, for I’m sure the Messis would be willing to write as big a check as they like for the whole thing to go away. I was actually a bit worried after the commentators reminded us how he’s injured right after last year’s court appearance.

    Neymar puzzles me. With his quality I really expect better first touches and passes. But brilliant finishes though from today and against PSG.

    Don’t understand all the criticism on Munir either. He’s got more than a reasonable chance. I’d be more worried if he showed less thirst for goal or willingness to take responsibility for a shot. At any rate, that’s a clear red card and penalty. Interesting some posts above were talking about ref’s bias for the big clubs. I always felt, at least in la liga, the bias is against Barcelona (but not RM). It’s almost like the ref’s acting as a Robin Hood and trying to even up the odds for the minnows.

  37. October 4, 2014

    Rafinha got the medical green light this morning, then promptly reinjured his thigh. Out for an unspecified duration.

    • Jim
      October 4, 2014

      Same as TV ? Maybe time someone asked to see the medics credentials … Either that or they’re being worked too hard too quickly on their return.

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