Opinions and narratives, aka the “Gotcha!” syndrome

repent

Two negative results. This is what we know.

Where many differ is not only in how those negative results happen, but what they mean. It’s at this time that the difference between opinions, assessments and narratives become most fascinating.

On social media during the match, I Tweeted that “Messi held the ball too long there.”

Someone responded that others also did at other times during the match, and WTF?! That person also suggested that my reaction to a moment was “Criticizing for the sake of criticizing.” And because I love language and how it’s used, here’s something short delving into semantic differences.

If you have an opinion or an assessment, that’s different from a narrative.

Assessment: Bravo got caught out by that header.
Opinion: I don’t think the club should have bought Bravo in the summer.
Narrative: Did you see Bravo’s positioning on that header? Told you the club shouldn’t have bought him.

As accusations of malleability and being a fair-weather culer fly, and various people running around with various prophesies of doom, I just want to take a peek at evaluating Barça and how we should be careful not to mix up assessment, opinion and narrative.

I said it, therefore it is

“Pique sucks” is a conundrum because it is all three things all at once. It’s an assessment of a moment in time. It’s also an opinion. It’s also a narrative. Where the last makes itself evident is when Pique has a good match and one of three things happen, based on where someone sits.

— “He got lucky, but he still sucks.”
— “He played very well today.”
— “Baaaah. Guess he wasn’t up late playing poker last night. Eff him.”

The last one, the narrative, is most dangerous when it comes to a club and players because it defines everything. Pique gets injured, it’s because he’s a playboy married to a pop star. He doesn’t defend a header properly, it’s because he has a poker website. Picks up a yellow, and he shouldn’t be starting.

Narratives don’t allow for situational malleability, so even an excellent performance is viewed with disdain. “He wasn’t terrible today, but he will be again. Just you wait.”

When you bring a narrative to a team it can color a lot, from views of transfers to how a board is running the club. Narratives aren’t interested in reality or the possibility of change. Instead, they shift themselves to incorporate, then consume any and all results.

The thing narratives love most is to be able to say “I told you so.” That is their real danger.

In and of the moment

“Man, what a tackle by Pique!” That is the purest form of assessment there is, a reaction to something that happened. It has nothing to do with an opinion of the player, or a narrative related to his overall presence at the club.

What’s interesting is that we sometimes find assessments that allow opinion to creep in, as in “Pique is crap, but that was a hell of a tackle.”

How does a narrative look at an excellent tackle? “If his positioning was right, he wouldn’t have had to dive in. Unfocused playboy. He could have picked up a yellow. Get him off the pitch!”

It’s easy to confuse assessments with opinion, but the thing I ask myself when parsing the two is what does the statement react to? Then it becomes easy.

“Everything has been crap since Guardiola left.” Opinion and narrative, but let’s spin that one out a bit.

Last year, the team came 5 goals short of being able to make a run for the Treble: 1 vs Atleti in league; 2 vs Atleti in Champions League; 2 vs RM in Copa.

That statement sits as a piece of objective reality. Put the strainer to it and it becomes interesting.

Assessment: “Man, they came really close to major silver last season.”
Opinion: “In light of all that happened last season, the team did a good job but fell short.”
Narrative: “Martino wasn’t good enough, just like I told you. I miss Pep!”

An assessment doesn’t care what happened before. An opinion acknowledges the passage of time and tries to form a global estimation based on objective and subjective evaluations. A narrative doesn’t care. “Everything has been crap since Guardiola left,” so nothing good can happen. Ever. Wins are luck, temporal things based on “luck and individual excellence, but the system is crap and will be crap. I told you so.”

Nobody should have any use for narrative. The inflexibility of a narrative makes those who carry them around easy to spot. But it’s also important to not confuse an assessment with an opinion.

“Celta outworked Barça, and got an excellent result,” is an assessment.

“There are systemic difficulties related to the personnel that Barça have and how they are used, that had an effect on the result vs Celta,” is an opinion. Assessments are to be discarded as the momentary reactions they are. Opinions can change in the face of reality. “I thought the club shouldn’t have signed Bravo, but he’s been really good this season.”

Moreover, an assessment can’t be optimistic or pessimistic. It simply is. An opinion can be optimistic or pessimistic, but allows for change. Change doesn’t mean that someone lacks the courage of their convictions. It means that they have looked at the situation and decided that things are not in fact what they thought. It’s a grownup quality, and something to be lauded.

As we look at things that people write, whether comments in this space or social media utterances, it’s worth applying a filter to it, and basing our reaction to the statement on that filter.

By Kxevin

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

105 comments

  1. great post Kevin, and a little over 24hrs till we are flooded With a whole host of new things to pour over.

    For me this insistence on narrative exists so prevalently within our fan base because, to put it bluntly,we have yet to find any semblance of a “sexy” winning identity
    Since Pep left. It is easier for many people to quickly nestle into their personal narratives to explain failings rather than attempt to take the long, hard road at dissecting what is wrong. Also, the transfer ban has added another layer of desperation since in the past much of the negative talk would be tempered with hypothetical ” savior” new signings.

    Tito ( God rest his soul), Tata, and now Enrique are all living in the shadow of what has become a mythical footballing era. Yes Pep
    Did his fair share of tinkering and lost a game or two, but even at the end of his last CL run we went down using a “pure” identity that he had cultivated since his tenure began.
    Now?
    Tito tried his best to keep the model but suffered from lack of sorely needed personnel. Tata never won over the supporters ( and players?) or press and was always a ” caretaker” like you’ve said Kevin.
    Enrique? Well We don’t know what his endgame is yet really. We are already seeing how whatever system he ideally wants to implement is lacking certain personnel ( a Cuadrado for instance). At the same
    Time, supporters don’t seem too impressed with his tactical on the fly adjustments.
    It’s still too soon for any doomsday saying, It’s only November after all, but there are certain things that were (to me) disconcerting in the summer that are coming up already :
    -no trustworthy RB heir
    -No Xavi heir
    -No new player that we can use to fundamentally change the system if/when decide to move on from an era that requires a ” prime” Xavi to succeed. Iniesta had the creativity but doesn’t have the work rate anymore and Rakatić has the engine but doesn’t have that next level creativity. Hope Rafinha pans out…
    -Why can’t TV get/stay healthy
    – Why no Bartra trust
    Etc.

    Post was longer than I intended, I shall console myself this evening with the Bild report today that said Reus wants only us and will wait till 2016. How great he would
    Be in the mid right now? Creativity, engine, and ability to score.

    God willing. Let’s go get ’em tomorrow.

  2. Those of us with strong opinions, okay, that’s pretty much each and every one of us, will at times tread that line between opinion and narrative (the line can sometimes be finer that those fine examples in the article). Another thing that happens is that one gets accused of a narrative when one’s opinion (or even assessment) can easily be matched to an already widespread narrative that’s “out there” and particularly if it’s a narrative that goes against the opinion (or narrative) of the accuser.

    Anyway, I love this post (that’s both an assessment and an opinion)

    1. Don’t know but I’d also be pretty hacked off if I thought the end was nigh ….

      Interesting topic for a post Kxevin. Not sure it’s as cut and dried at times as you suggest buti enjoyed the article as usual … Or am I straying into narrative there ? ( cheap joke – waste of time :). )

    2. While everyone celebrated the happy days, those folk spent their time doing the signs and placards. Wouldn’t you look angry if you realized you could’ve celebrated instead of predicting the doom? After all, it’s not like your prophecies will be appreciated for a long time, right? 😛

  3. interesting article. Like Lev says the nuances are so fine. Objective assessment is nigh impossible because of the nature of the game. What we see we inteprete differently. What someone thought was an assessment may be construed as an opinion because the other person sees it differently. The only objective assessment may be used by the use of facts. Player X ran Y km, made Z interceptions. Again because of the nuances of the game that may be contested by offering a qualitative angle.

    Narratives??? Ahh those are something else.

  4. Wow! Just had a chance to listen to the Revista that Hilal talked about at the end of the last thread.

    Ballague didn’t mince his words and wasn’t making the usual caveats about reliability of info/ sources etc. Main points for those who don’t get Sky were

    He got all this (according to him) from inside the dressing room. Gripes seemed to be

    Not giving the right messages to the players ( seemed to be largely connected to playing through Messi this one. He promised Messi they would play through him but the hoofing the ball up the park ( my words) ) isn’t what Messi likes or is used to – the passing then finding an extra gear around the box being Messi’s preferred option. Acc to Guillem that’s why he has looked disconnected in certain games. The others seem to be that LE :

    Is not looking after the details
    Is not preparing the games well
    Is not talking to the players
    Players are openly debating among themselves what they think he wants because they’re not sure how he wants them to play game to game. They are only picking up clues from the lineup

    If that is true ( I know, it’s Guillem ) then things are worse than certainly I thought. I’ve not been able to pick out what he wants but I assumed it was because the system was bedding in and at least he would have made it clear to the players. Whatever, if Ballague is saying this then it’s all round Barcelona and LE needs to sort it now. I have to say that for me it has a ring of truth in that we know the players only find out who is playing an hour before the match. That has to change. I was also reading something from one of the Roma players about him that nobody knew week to week who was playing and even if you were playing well you were rotated out regularly. I’m also uneasy about this. Rotation is to give those who need it a rest. It can work against you if you start losing the confidence of knowing what one of your team mates is going to do and playing more safely. Never mind my old soapbox about needing a CB partnership which can grow through regular playing time. We are now in a situation where just about the only certainties are the front three ?

    Graham Hunter, the most sensible one in the “bar”, who to me has come back to a decent game in the last few weeks after a spell where I thought he was trying to play the sage a bit much, quite rightly made the simple comment that before he can sort it LE needs to be clear in his own mind what style he wants to play and stick to it.

    Anyway, worth a viewing. And don’t shoot me. I’m only the messenger !

    1. Happy you watched it Jim! It took me a bit by surprise to be honest. I am just not sure whether or not to believe what Balague says. He claims to be getting information directly from the dressing room but would the players really talk to him that openly knowing full well he is going to be chatting about it on Sky, not to mention the fact that he writes for a Madrid based paper (is it AS? I forget which one).

      His comments also seemed to take Mendietta by surprise and he actually knows LE and how he works so I am tempted to believe him a little more than Balague, who is probably just trying to capitalise on the current uncertainty around LE.

      I tell you what though, if it is true, even a little true, then we have a very serious problem on our hands! My concern is that Balague’s narrative seems to coincide with what is actually happening, ie as time goes by, the players are less and less convinced by him and this is showing on the pitch. That said I can’t imagine LE being the type to cave into players who don’t buy into his system.

      Lets see how the team play tonight and the way LE gets them lined up. One really good performance from the team and a lot of these questions will be answered, but if we keep going downhill Balague may just be right.

    2. Snake oil salesmen is a fitting description to someone like Guillem.

      Now there is no need point at the obvious, Like never trust anyone who claims being knowledgeable of ‘secret info’ (*Wink Wink*) without providing any evidence for that claim, But there is something that is worth pointing at in his words.

      Guillem structured his ‘story’ in a way where he can never be wrong, There is only two possible future scenarios for our team, Either they continue with these wobbly results, And in that case all of his ‘internal conflict’ info will seem to make sense.
      Or the team returns to their winning way, Which is the most likely scenario, And Guillem can say that Enrique must have started to look after details. preparing his games well, Got his cards right..etc,etc.
      And both cases, He is infallible, And without having to provide any evidence about anything.

      So you know what i think, I think Guillem should go to hell.

  5. Truth be told,
    Luis Enrique has never inspired confidence in me and I never really understood the strong urge among many supporters to boot out Tata Martino and bring in Lucho. What is it that he did either in Rome or Vigo, which has made people leap out of their seats to trust him to lead one of the world’s most important clubs? I don’t get it.
    And this isn’t in hindsight. I am only visiting this blog after a couple of weeks because of the sadness that has overcome me following our latest losses. Again, as one author here said, it isn’t that we lost, it was the way we lost. Atleast Tata had a plan. Can anyone imagine what he could have done with the signings that were made this season. I have never seen Barca play this badly / unimaginatively / passively against EE.

    1. Hopefully it’ll be 3rd time lucky for us in the sense that he’ll finally learn from his mistakes.

      Out with Alves. Mascherano to the mid. Rest Busi. Bartra and Montoya in.

  6. Long term there is a great need for LE to impose a coherent style. Whatever he introduces he has to be strong about. No sitting on the fence. He was hired to do a job as he knows how. Let him do just that.

    1. Cruijff said something the other day which I believe is very pertinent to both this comment and the various discussions on this blog these last days.

      “M*drid learned to play like us.”

      This should show us that yes, it is possible for a team to incorporate various aspects of different styles. Whether our team can, remains to be seen.

      Despite the obvious structural weaknesses in our squad, I believe we can.

  7. I kept on saying even during the preseason that Enrique inspires zero confidence in me and I still maintain that stand up till now. Barca is not Celta Vigo for God sake. This club is bigger than him, he will do well at a mid table team but not barca. And it doesn’t matter if we win 100-0 today, I don’t have confidence in him. You could keep on consoling yourselves that he needs time and I hope he proves me wrong with time but I don’t see him offering anything to this team and us. I stopped watching barca matches frequently as a result and even when we were winning, I wasn’t convinced. I didn’t know Tata but I had some confidence in him cos of his experience and he really showed what he would have done with the backing of the press and players and the signing of players by the board, but then he didn’t any of those and was kicked out in favour of the clueless Enrique cos he was an ex-barca player. Gone are the days when I got depressed over a draw or loss, I am numb to such occurrences

    1. Feel good to be right? Even better to tell others you were right?

      The season is mmm….about 20% over? Im gonna wait and see, and support the team with all my heart in the meantime. I agree that we arent at our best…but even if we were, someone would find something to complain about.

      I hope we show some intensity today, either way….big game. If we win then LE will have achieved something Tata couldnt…winning in Amsterdam. Im sure it will be ignored, if so…. 😉

    2. They’re gonna come at us so we need to be as up for it as they are and able to hold the ball while it’s going on. Looking forward to it and heartened by LE’s comments about staying true to our possession style but becoming a little more unpredictable. Gets my vote.

    3. If you haven’t read that Graham Hunter piece I linked to above, Tata2, you should. He makes some excellent point in a complete and unflinching way. And points about the whole team, not just Enrique.

  8. Folks, ooga aga is on the road and in NYC. going to Nevada Smiths for the game. anyone else attend matches here?

  9. Tata Martino, on his season at the abyss:

    “At Barça, I moved away from what I am. I was too focused on respecting history and organization, which is logical too.”

  10. here we go folks.

    ter stegen
    alves bartra masch alba
    busquets xavi rakitic
    suarez messi neymar

    1. Bartra over Pique. Defense is shorter than usual haha. Douglas on the bench over Montoya, God knows what that is about. Hopefully we’ll see some Rafinha.

  11. I know many don’t like Tiki-taka, but that first half was pretty much the opposite of it, insofar as half the time the players themselves didn’t seem to have any idea where their passes were going. Never seen Barca that disorganized (in defense + midfield) in a very long time. Only fitting that the goal was a rather random affair as well…

  12. The team need to push up without the ball a bit. They have created this huge pitch for Ajax to exploit.

  13. Ter Stegen is…wow. Great passing, awesome really considering the pressure ajax are putting on us.

  14. I think our fullbacks should watch alaba and marcelo(cant believe am mentioning him)and learn how they cross,they never blow crosses out of proportion,almost perfect.Alves has been awful and bad at crosses for some time now

  15. Not sure what is going on with the system to be honest but Ter Stegen is pretty freakin ridiculous at ball distribution. Some of his passes were just insane and under pressure as well!!!

    1. Marc is awesome!, His laser accurate passes are the first thing that caught the eyes, He’s also stone cold calm.
      Unfortunately for him, His young age and lack of experience compared to bravo is just too big of a wall at the current time, Yet he should count himself lucky that LE is letting him participate in CL.

      We certainly found a keeper (pun intended), And a very special one at that.

  16. what kind of stupid passes are they trading out there,rakitic doesnt think fast at all

  17. why is it that we never get our signing right? bang bang at their old clubs,but when they come here they are afraid to hold a gun

  18. It didn’t look very good until their man was sent off, to be honest. Feels nice though.

  19. second half we also had the courage to play it out from the back. Fewer long balls, better movement in the middle.

    Dont know if anyone else noticed. The guys seemed as if they ignored Dani’s runs a bit. Ball was shifted more there when Messi camped there. Suarez will come good no doubt about that. The man is a freak. To play after so long a time out is insane.

    Only worrying tit bit was Messi. If he doesn’t create chances who will? Food for thought.

    Anyway nice second half display. Imposed ourselves a bit more. Another thing is Ter Stergen. In 16 years of watching the game i have never seen a keeper with his distribution, moreso the calmness in goal. The man looks so so disinterested. You just feel secure watching him play. At some point he is going to be absolutely top class.

    1. I was really impressed by Ter Stegen too. Zubi hit the jackpot there. But with this risky style of play he will eventually make mistakes. I just hope people will cut him some slack and treat him better than VV..

  20. Lets wait until EE comes to town again. Why the hell is Bartra not getting enough game time? he seem better than Pique and up to the level of Mathieu too. I’d rather a back line of Bartra and Macherano/ .Mathieu in a big game than Pique

    1. “Lets wait until EE comes to town again.”
      Really? Why not just play two games a season to determine bragging rights and ignore the other 70 or so?
      We failed the test against Madrid but we’ve qualified from our CL group and are right up there in the league. We have to focus on the matches against the other 18 teams in the league otherwise the next match against them will be meaningless, then you can go wild with negativity if that pleases you…

    2. But the “Let’s wait until EE comes to town again” always sets up the hurdle. Beat RM, and it’s “wait until Atleti.” Beat them, and it’s “wait until Bayern. We’ve seen it before. It’s just how some people deal with things. There is always something worse.

      I haven’t seen the match yet, but from what I understand Ter Stegen was excellent, and there was more control and command in the second half. Now two more matches to win the group. Here’s hoping they can do it.

  21. Enrique said that contrary to rumor, Pique is NOT being punished. Reading between the lines, it means that he isn’t good enough to get into the side right now. On his last two performances, that’s fair,

    Note also that Douglas was on the bench and Montoya in the stands. Despite the Douglas hate permeating social media, you have to ask …

    It reminds me of the Juan Mata/Jose Mourinho stuff, and how Mourinho was this evil man for not playing Mata, holding him back, etc, etc. Then Mata was sold, and proceeded to be the same kind of player that Mourinho didn’t like to use.

    If Montoya isn’t playing, there’s a reason.

  22. The season began, and we were yet to concede and were kicking ass (against the minnows).Then we went to France and PSG handed our asses to us. We down played the defeat to school boy defending and LE assured everyone that such issues were dealt with and we continued kicking ass(against minnows). Then we went to the capital and still got our asses handed to us and became objects of ridicule. Surprisingly, our asses were so handed to us that even our very own optimist here who always sees the brighter side of things, lost faith and had to vent his frustration. You don’t earn your place as best team in the world by beating minnows and having your asses handed to you by your supposedly equals. But then it doesn’t matter, am just being a pessimistic cule.

    1. Whoa. Who’s the optimist? Not me, I trust. I think that’s a misnomer. I do tend to be the one who says, “Folks need to calm down, and here’s why.” But I don’t believe in panic, or needless pessimism.

      We didn’t become objects of ridicule. That PSG loss was the least distressing of the 3 losses this season, even as the defending mistakes were absurd. RM and Celta each used the same template (unlike the PSG one) to disrupt and ultimately defeat us, which is again worthy of note.

      Just as Graham Hunter pointed out in that piece of his, the difficulty isn’t that “everything is going to hell,” but that folks aren’t doing what the hell they are supposed to do. Could there have been different/better transfers? Sure, in theory. But Retrospect is a game that you always win, right?

      Reality is this team rolls out a front three of Messi, Suarez and Neymar, and has two of the best DMs in the world on call. That’s in addition to Xavi, Iniesta, etc. That group shouldn’t be getting outplayed by Celta, and again as Graham Hunter noted, if they had been playing up to standard, they wouldn’t have.

      It’s easy to see doom everywhere, if you look hard enough. More difficult, for me, is to look at the entire picture and endeavor to examine just who shares culpability. It’s never one person. It isn’t Enrique any more than it’s ZubiZa or the board. It’s Iniesta being crap, it’s Xavi being out of place against certain opponents, its Busquets being out of his depth at certain times, Alves not being himself so a guy who should be an AM is instead functioning as an RB.

      It’s a lot of things, all at once. That is very important to note. It’s easy to make it one thing if you want to make it one thing. But reality is it is rarely just one thing.

      Today, neutral observers said that Messi scored two goals, but wasn’t very good overall. Dunno, will have to watch the match to suss that out. But again, everything is part of everything else. It’s easy to say “They don’t know what they’re doing.” But even if you send our XI out there with little more than a pat on the butt and a “Go get ’em, lads,” they should be able to get at least a goal against Celta Vigo, their defensive prowess notwithstanding.

    2. You will have to decide after you watch the game. Not stratospheric Messi but pressed in the first. With better finishing Alba scores from his through ball in the first half or squares to Neymar for a tap in. Created another chance for Suarez in the second half. Basically was our sole source of menace going forward

      Only worry is Dani Alves. Father time seem to have truly caught up with him. He runs is desirous but its not been easy for him. Loses a lot of balls on both ends now. If Adriano was not made of glass

    3. The only plus point is that this is happening so early in the season that LE will have time to adapt. If he does that we will peak exactly at the right time for the season. But there is a catch, for a change the league looks extremely tight with a host of teams inspired by Atletico refusing to simply going down. So the margin of error also could be very less. Not to forget the need to win against PSG at home.

    4. I didn’t watch the majority of the ass-handing by PSG, but I distinctly remember seeing the whole PSG team stuck deep in its half, with Barcelona still managing to thread through that stacked defense, otherwise Marquinhos wouldn’t be screaming his tonsils out for the desperate goalline clearance he made to keep an equalizer.

    5. That was towards the end of the game. Before that it was real bad – PSG had the ball for long stretches, and even scored a goal after exchanging more than 20 passes

  23. Xavi (11 195 metres) was the Barcelona player who ran most tonight #fcblive [via @fcbarcelona_cat]

    1. Thanks for the tag but no need. He quite often is.

      When you’re constantly running to alter angles to allow a pass to you the mileage piles up, unlike the forwards who are quite often walking and waiting and the defence who have little to do when we’re attacking. I thought he was great last night. I also thought Busi showed a welcome return to form against a pretty mobile and technically able midfield who pressed well. Now a nice rest for Xavi at the weekend and let’s see how the alternatives are.

  24. LE has to trust his players. They may have aged/ dipped in performance but they are still the best passers out there. Second half they simply passed the ball. Ajax applied the press and it was like so what? They just found more angles. They have to do that more. As the first half showed hoofing it up does not serve us well at all.

  25. How’s this for a narrative – that definition of the difference between assessment, opinion, and narrative is arbitrary and totally subjective, and only serves to further your own narrative.

    Here’s another “narrative” – Alvez was painful to watch today, particularly his defending, which consisted of poor clearances that gave the ball to our opponents in dangerous areas, or having his man blow by him without much trouble, or not bothering to mark his man at all. Oh, and his offense was pretty terrible as well with too many needless giveaways. Wait, if it’s true does it then qualify as an assessment? How about if I remove the adjectives?

    Bartra continues to impress. But what about the narrative where the coaches obviously know more than we do, so if he’s not playing it’s because he’s actually terrible, and we aren’t qualified to opine otherwise?

    Rakitic was ok, but I’ll happily own the narrative that his final passes in front of the opponents’ goal consistently leave much to be desired. Still, he does defend better than either Xavi or Iniesta.

    But what do I know? I’m just one of “those” fans who doesn’t really understand what I’m watching twice a week, with some unexplained grudge against certain players. Or is that also a dangerous narrative? Nah, I’m definitely a clueless and biased bandwagon jumper – that’s just an obvious and inescapable assessment.

  26. Kexvin, could please repost that Hunter link. The one up there kinda redirected me to another article.Thanks.

  27. Suarez will start scoring those. Right now he needs to adapt to new teammates, and needs to develop understanding, as they need with him. Last night there were at least a handful of plays where I think an on-form Suarez who has played with Messi for a while will have clicked, and clicked for goals. Patience.

    Another point of Suarez. He’s developing a Pedro-like defensive work ethic, and he is being incorporated in the set-piece defending as well. He still looks a bit lost in the system, but that’s understandable. The man’s a fighter.

    According to Squawka Ter Stegen had a 83% pass completion rate. Four misplaced “passes”, the shortest of which was over 40 meters. The play that ends in the free kick which leads to the first goal starts with a diagonal throw-out by ter Stegen to Neymar, and time and again there were long kicks, some under pressure, which invariably found their target.
    Look at the pass in the 44th minute: ter Stegen dummies an on-rushing Ajax player, delivers a pinpoint 45-m pass to Busquets, the only player in that zone who is free. Busquets passes it to Xavi, then takes the time to raise his hand and thank ter Stegen for the fine pass. He may be young, but his quality is unquestionable – and this one is on Zubi alone.

  28. The man is pure delight. Head and shoulders above every keeper in passing. He doesn’t make the easy passes. Also helped by the fact he came to Barca where the emphasis is on passing.

    Another who was great was David De Gea. Sadly the EPL has somehow reduced that aspect of his game. For the crispness of his passes MATS is Busquets and Pirlo combined.

  29. What is most important about all of this post and comment space business is this:

    Nobody’s opinion is any more or less valid than anyone else’s. It’s why this space is set up the way that it is, so that everything is seen and is capable of being read in the same way. Length doesn’t impart validity, nor does vehemence or aggression.

    There shouldn’t be the disgruntled vehemence that I see in some comments, because it is ALL opinion and conjecture. It doesn’t, and shouldn’t matter that anyone feels the same as anyone else, as long as YOU feel the way that you do and are willing to express it. This isn’t the debate team at school, and nobody is being scored.

    And to bhed, you have your feelings, and that is fine. I have mine, others have theirs. Yes, there are narratives that exist. But to accuse me of having one in order to somehow impart weight to your comment doesn’t hold water, nor is it right. Just express your opinion. If you think Alves is past it, that’s fine. Say that. Why attack me for simply having the same thing that you have, which is an opinion?

    It doesn’t matter if anyone agrees or disagrees with ANYONE.

    People have asked about this space incorporating a comment approval system as other spaces have, so that more liked comments move up and less liked ones move down. We never have, and never will, because that isn’t the point. The point is equality. FOR ALL COMMENTS.

    If people reply to one comment over another, it is because they saw something in the comment that elicited a response. It doesn’t mean any one comment somehow “counts” more than any other. So there is no need for any sort of disgruntlement, or snarling sarcasm. It isn’t a race. Comments are supposed to do what posts do, which is spark debate and exchange of ideas.

    Twitter debates go on endlessly, because the each side wants to “convince” the other, when the only thing that anyone convinces anyone of is that they are never, EVER going to change their mind. It’s what makes them so pointless.

    Here, we aren’t limited by 140 characters, and we don’t need to attack anyone else’s opinion to make ours more valid. It defeats the purpose of commenting here and the way the space is set up, which is that EVERYONE’S opinions are equally valid.

    So the biggest rating system becomes respect, and that isn’t something that anyone can control except the original commenter. I mention respect a lot here, even as I hope for the day when I never have to again. Just as every opinion is valid, so is every comment and post, and everything should be treated as such.

    There is NEVER an occasion or cause for ridicule, sarcasm or any kind of personal attacks or accusations. Ever. Because that isn’t respectful, but also because there is no point. Truly.

    1. True, I chose sarcasm (and no small amount of snark) to point out what I saw as the hypocrisy of that post – that essentially some opinions are more “dangerous” (your words, not mine), and some “simply are” (implying objectivity), based on a completely arbitrary criteria. Apparently the sarcasm overshadowed my main point – that one man’s “narrative” is another man’s “assessment”.

      If language is one of your loves, behavioral neuropsychology and perception are one of mine. It seems to me that what you see as a frame/filter that distorts peoples’ interpretations of their observations, is just as likely to be your own frame/filter influencing your interpretation of others’ observations. Humans being humans, and neurological imperatives being what they are, it’s probably both. We impose patterns and meaning on what we perceive – that’s as true as the the fact that the heart pumps blood, protestations of objectivity notwithstanding.

      I will admit that my own frame/filter for interpreting your comments has lately become that you tend to critique the opinions of other fans as much as, or more than, you do the players, coaches, or the administration of the club (not to say you don’t critique them as well). You can say that that in no way belittles others’ opinions, but again, I don’t see it that way. Much as you (I think) see yourself as a defender of unfairly maligned players, I’m starting to see myself as a defender of unfairly maligned fans’ opinions.

      So, sorry for the earlier snark, but I think I had (have) a valid point.

    2. Hear, hear Bhed, shame in here it too often feels like you either have to call out someone/have a negative opposing view or be one of the handful or so people who have the time to write theses about something in order to get a response. Ex. I enjoyed the first post on this page, but look at that, not a single response. It’s very cliquey, same people only give attention to the same people.
      At least there’s no more racism.

    3. It isn’t cliquey. Not at all. Nor should it be. Some comments get responses, others don’t. It’s just the way of things.

      Calling someone out is like screaming for attention. You get it, but to what end?

      Sometimes, a comment is well said. So you read it, enjoy it and leave it. The constant need for affirmation and confirmation of one’s existence belies the interpersonal quality of the internet. Say it, and leave it. That should be sufficient.

      Dreamteam, if you enjoyed the first comment on the page, why didn’t YOU say something, rather than amplifying this particular comment?

      This comments space is organic. Nobody controls it, or dominates it, or shapes the way that it moves. The only thing that governs it is respect. When those boundaries are transgressed, a mod will step in to either delete or edit content. No cliques, no cool kids. Just a bunch of Barça supporters talking about the team they follow.

      And bhed, I don’t critique the comments of others, unless they are noteworthy in a way that makes them worthy of the attentions of a moderator. The notion that I am some sort of “supporter policeman” who tells people how they should support the club is nonsense. I have opinions. So do others. Everybody airs them, and that’s that.

      The mistake people make is in thinking that anybody’s opinion is worth more than anyone else’s. It’s ALL nonsense, in the sense that it affects anything at all.

    4. “The mistake people make is in thinking that anybody’s opinion is worth more than anyone else’s”, when no one has said anything of the sort. That’s not a critique? Which people are making that mistake exactly?

    5. It is a general observation, bhed, that speaks to the idea that certain commenters are somehow “cooler” than others, or that anyone else’s comments have more or less weight.

      Everything is “weightless,” so to speak.

  30. There was apparently an RAC1 report that Thomas Vermaelen will have surgery, the club has decided, to fix an ongoing problem.

    1. why wasn’t this issue picked up in his medical? so instead of real CB cover, we purchased a 28-year-old CB (turns 29 in November) for £15m who has yet to play a competitive game for the club and who needs surgery and will be out til who knows when?

      that’s dreadful work by our transfer team.

    2. I was afraid of this. Purchasing Mathieu and Vermaelen for a combined 30-35 million, but only getting one and a half CB, given their ages and Vermaelen’s medical record. There is no reason to be unhappy with Mathieu, but for that price the club could have picked anyone…

    3. Let me put on my devil’s advocate coat…

      There.

      First, the club has paid 10 million Euro for Vermaelen as of right now. The rest are variables.

      Second, we do not know whether the report is true. Without going any further, RAC1 is responsible for the “PSG bad, Barça good!” quote by “Marquinhos”.

      Third, an injury that requires surgery can be received at any given moment, especially if the body tries to compensate for a weak area.

      Fourth, no medical test will show you “an injury will be picked in this area three months from now”. That usually is a power reserved to ouija boards, crystal balls and taro cards and the horoscope page in the newspaper.

      Fifth, there are injuries that can be cured by non-intervention means, especially tricky ones like pubalgias There are underlying weak spots that don´t show up on regular scans, but which are caused by incorrect healing and are just waiting for overexertion.

      Until I know more on the matter I refuse to pass judgement to anybody, be it transfer director, medics, coach, physios, etc.

      Yeah, the club is silent on the matter, as it should be.

    4. “Fourth, no medical test will show you “an injury will be picked in this area three months from now”. That usually is a power reserved to ouija boards, crystal balls and taro cards and the horoscope page in the newspaper.”

      HA! Love it!

    5. Here is a slight problem… look at his fitness status for the last two years… he played less and spend too much time on sidelines due to injury…. so Vermaelen having fitness issues doesn’t surprise me….

      The only question is did the management take that injury history in to account while signing him….

    6. I think they took that injury history into account.

      Keep in mind that Vermaelen spent time on the sidelines due to different injuries and setbacks. Seems distressing, but you should look at the injury history of Arsenal. Practically every player that enters the team will start getting different types of injuries, sometimes connected, other times not, but what’s staggering is the quantity of those.

      All this points out to wrong type of fitness and insufficient fitness at club level. From an article about the matter, it turns out that Arsenal condition their players for short-term fitness instead of building long-term. In essence, they are not prepared to last a whole season, but shorter blocks of matches, and when the inevitable happens and the player is injured, emphasis is placed on his immediate return instead of recovery.

      What this means is that the player will need time in order to change his fitness level and recover from his injuries and badly healed zones. However, one thing you can be sure about, the guy can use his head.

    1. Cool article. Thanks.

      Mishima’s “Sea of Fertility” tetralogy is one of the greatest pieces of literature written in the 20th century. It doesn’t really matter that he was a crazy reactionary, his insanity inspired wonderful fiction. I highly recommend these books!

  31. Wow.. thanks for posting that kxevin..great read, ive only gotten through the first part about hakuho. I live in japan and hakuho is kind of a god here.. totally untouchable. Its amazing to watch him.. he throws around 350 lb+ men like he would throw around us. The feeling of watching him is the same as watching messi, like you are watching a once in a lifetime event. And you only get to see him perform in intervals that at the longest might be a minute, at the least a couple seconds.. usually about 10 seconds.. if you have a chance definitely worth checking out on youtube.

    1. Chiyonofuji – that is all.

      Are there youtube clips of Hakuho? I haven’t been able to watch Sumo since I left Japan – when Takanohana was the man. I miss it.

  32. what an article. Worth a read. Reading about the yokozuna one has images of Messi. What a write up.

    If you could provide a link to the second part

  33. -Happy that Bartra got to start. Him and Matthieu should get a few games together so that they can form a partnership. So far it’s been to many changes.
    -Alves needs to sit. Enough is enough. He is ineffective on both ends.
    -Montoya needs game time
    -Our midfield still can’t dominate. Rakitic is still weak with the final pass.
    -Ter Stegen’s passing was awesome! Only 1 poor pass. Xavi must’ve been proud of him 🙂

    1. LE have Douglas in the squad and then brings in Adriano. Montoya is no where there. Really there must be something wrong.

      Midfield is a problem. Rakitic seems to have a lack of confidence for big games.

      Ter Stegen could play in midfield 🙂

  34. 1. Rakitic, Suarez, and LE need time. What Rakitic provides (forget the final pass!) is physicality and a fantastic long range shot! Give him time, he was a beast for Sevilla.

    2. Suarez is going to be great for us. Let’s consider Neymar this year compared to last year. Hopefully the board and coach are playing a long game and not a short one. As I plan on being a fan for life, I am willing to wait for results.

    3. Alba anyone? I mean, the ardilla has rabies! On Canal+ the announcer was going on and on about Jordi during that 10 minute Ajax onslaught.

    4. MATS will be one of the greatest Barça keepers ever. Thank you Zubi!

    5. Bartra made a great claim for the starting position today. I don’t know why people are complaining (not here) about Messi’s first goal. Bartra did a fantastic job to create that chance. That goal was an example of why the game against Celta is not the end of the world.

    6. Dani needs to go. And I would like LE to release a public statement about why Montoya isn’t playing. If there is a reason, I’d love to know. Dani was beat time and again in the first half.

    7. Busi had a great game. Xavi was immense.

    That was a great game!

    1. Spot on, Deerwithwings.
      Bartra deserves huge credit for Messi’s first goal.
      Could have given up on it.

  35. If there is ever any modicum of possibility that our coach is predisposed to tactical pliability and variability, I’d be more than gratified if he could experiment with a midfield truimverate of Rakitic, Busquests and Mascherano.
    With Iniesta out of action (and out of form somewhat), the presence of Rakitic as an attacking midfielder could probably reveal a more creative side of his game, mollify some of the creative burden that has been ferried so far by Messi and also enable him get in goal-scoring positions to utilise better his shooting prowess as opposed to the ‘ass-covering’ role for Alves he seems to be functioning more as.
    Busquests in a Xavi role should ensure possession is being recycled and distributed judiciously while also ensuring the recovery when forfeited. Of course, I’m alluding to the in-form one and not the one that blithely turns over possession and dithers on the ball in a manner in which you wonder if he still thinks he’s rollicking in a practice session or one of our moneygrubbing tours.
    Mascherano in a d.m role would provide the needed solidity and security that our midfield seems to lack at the moment especially with the way opponents seem to be perforating it with reckless abandon and withering proportion.

    1. Worth a try. With Mascherano in midfield, you can play Alba/Mathieu/Bartra/Adriano in the backline (let’s simply shuffle it until it’s less broken).

    2. I second that as our best back 4. Also Dar_vincy’s idea of an all DM midfield (or rather 2 DM + Rakitic) is intriguing, for the reasons he stated.

    3. I’m with you, Valdermar, Gekko and.Bhed on the choice of that back 4.
      Even though I’m not so sure it could withstand numerous attacking incursions for long in the Marquee fixtures.

    4. The thing is that Mascherano on the pitch already plays as a DM. And he plays as a CB. There is nobody else that offers that combination. And there is something else:

      Mascherano in midfield will require Xavi in midfield, and a solid defensive partnership from two frequent CBs. I don’t think Barcelona will start playing with three in defense, at least until Mathieu becomes comfortable as a left lateral or Bartra becomes comfortable as a right lateral, which would allow two creative midfielders for wide positions.

      In a 4-3-3 scheme with Alba and Alves/Adriano on the sides the only reasonable combination I can envision would be Xavi after having spent two weeks on the sidelines so that he’s absolutely on-form and Mascherano and on-form Busquets completing the trio – and that would require a Luis Suarez tracking back and helping the right back as much as possible.

      Then around the turn of the hour Luis Enrique could sub say Dani Alves for Rakitic or Iniesta, leaving Alba and the two CBs and start turning on the screws. Mascherano can be the main ball carrier and connection between the defense and the midfield. But that could be feasible only if the right CB is comfortable with covering the right wide side.

  36. By the by, for all those who are complaining about Rakitic’s lack of finesse with “the final pass,” re-watch the build-up to the second goal. Sure, he doesn’t have Iniesta’s laser, but he body checks one of the Ajax players to win the ball which sets up the rapid transition that creates the goal.

  37. You made some great points, Peter.
    I’m personally comfortable and to a large extent assured with Masch’s presence on the pitch-dm or cb- height disadvantage regardless.
    That line up of him operating fully as a dm was basically to see how those three would function well together, offensively and defensively in a marquee fixture.
    Also, I was hoping to we could exploit his dexterity in shielding the defence with his pace, defensive qualities, etc, seeing how relatively facile our midfield seems to be getting breached these days.
    Connectedly, his role as a dm could also see him perform that dual responsibilities of oscillating btw cb and dm you mentioned. Only that his movement is inverted this time.
    As you’ve rightly opined, I would be pleased if the coach would instruct Suarez- ditto Neymar- to track back to assist our fullbacks.

  38. Off topic, but nice writing on sumo and Japan. Hard to say who is the greatest, though. I was there for 12 years, and saw Kitanoumi at his peak (then retire) and also Chiyonofuji. Kitanoumi was utterly imperious, and generally simply toyed with Chiyonofuji, even though my favorite was the latter.
    Old timers there said it was a tough choice between Taiho and Kitanoumi as to who was better. Haven’t seen the youngster in the article yet so don’t have an opinion on him.
    The article brought back a lot of nice memories, though.

    1. Never got to see Kitanoumi. Chiyo was not so imperious, but the little guy with guile, heart, and outrageous technique – the okami (wolf). And super classy to boot. I was in Japan at the end of his career, and consider myself lucky to have seen him wrestle.

    2. Agree completely vis a vis Chiyonofuji — that’s what drew me to him. He had a real intelligence in his eye, and his technique was second to none. And what heart!!!

      I learned later that one of his important non-sumo teachers was Koichi Tohei (important student of the founder of Aikido), and when I heard that a lot of what I sensed about him fell into place.

      Really off topic now, but did you ever get to see Hokutenyu? He had all the physical gifts, but was missing the mind and heart. Only made it to Ozeki and I always hoped he would discover a deeper, more profound art, but it wasn’t to be.

      Those bashos where really fun. My favorites were the Osaka ones. Great atmosphere.

    3. Sorry for the continued off topic conversation, but to respond…

      Never heard of Hokutenyu, but I remember one Yokuzuna around ’90-91 who was perennially 2nd or 3rd at the big tournaments – I can’t remember his name though. I always felt bad for that guy.

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