Talkin’ bout a crisis…


Three months ago there was all this optimism. With Luis Enrique as our new coach, those little bastards will run, run, run.

Two months ago there was all this optimism. Messi’s back (back!) and we haven’t seen him play like this for years.

One month ago there was all this optimism. We’re undefeated and Claudio Bravo’s unconceded*.

A fortnight ago there was all this optimism. Luis Suarez is set to play and we will go to the Bernabeu with the best attack ever.


Where did it go?
Where did it go?

It has been replaced with negativity. Ain’t that a surprise, have you only been a culer since yesterday? In the City of Counts two consecutive losses means crisis, and crisis talk goes something like this:

Lucho doesn’t know what he’s doing. Messi just stands around with his thumb up his butt, Neymar doesn’t track back and neither of them can play with Suarez who obviously doesn’t fit. Rakitic can’t run our offense and Xavi can’t defend. Besides, it’s getting cold outside. If Iniesta is old but not as old as Xavi then why does Busquets play like their grandfather? Mascherano is too short for a defender, Matthieu too pale and Jordi Alba too fast – did you see how he ran past the ball? Totally inefficient. Oh, and let’s not forget that Dani Alves is guilty. Of everything. Put Pedro in goal, he might have short arms but he’s gritty and plays like he wants it and at least he won’t play as a forward because he sucks.


Take a deep breath. In. Out. Another one. Calm. Down.


Let’s talk about the match against Celta De Vigo first. Culers are like, we had no midfield but I’m like, if you create 10 good scoring chances and give up only two, who cares about a friggin’ midfield? Control is the word on everybody’s lips and a lovely word it is, but I’ve seen us control a whole lot of games over the last five years in which we gave our opponents two chances to score, even at our apex with a young Xaviniesta and Puyol and Abidal lording the back line. In this beautiful game four balls on the crossbar, a couple of very fine saves and a goal line clearance frequently leads to your team remaining scoreless. It really sucks when it happens, but it will happen from time to time and more often than not missing many opportunities at one end comes with an added doodoo bonus of your opponents taking advantage of their one and only chance. In this particular match, control was not an issue.


Should we be worried? What we should be doing is change our evil ways and combat global warming so that 75 years from now a future generation won’t have to build a new Barça stadium in Girona, but that’s a topic for another time and another blog about indeed, a very serious (and real) crisis. As for the crisis at hand, there are things I like about our team and things I don’t like and, unlike most of Barcelona right now, I’ll talk about both.


It is too early – way too early – for the “Luis Enrique doesn’t know what he’s doing” talk. The idea of a man who’s had such a long career as Lucho during which he played pretty much every position bar goalkeeper can be as clueless as some like to make him out to be is laughable. He might very well not be the Messiah, but then messiahs don’t come around all that often. As it stands, I’ve seen two bad matches so far this season, one of which we lost**. I’ve also seen some pretty good ones. I’ve seen things I like (he seems to run a meritocracy) and things I don’t (he doesn’t rest Messi). I still think he is the right coach at the right time out of the options that were available to us.

I don’t like that I’m stopping to like the transfer that I didn’t like at first but then started to like after the first month. For those who can’t follow, I’m talking about Rakitic. I’m not even all that bothered by his imprecise passing (just a bit bothered), because this was a fully noticeable fact even during his honeymoon period with us when he took home all the plaudits. Besides, next to Xavi and Iniesta everybody is a bad passer and there are things Rakitic gives us that the aforementioned won’t. More worrisome is that he has played without confidence ever since the PSG game, making not only bad passes but bad decisions as well. Disappointingly I don’t like too much either what I have seen so far from his partner in crime last Saturday, a player I was looking forward to like a whole lot, Rafinha, but I do like that their coach defended the pair by saying that they did what they had to do in order for the team to create chances. It’s worth repeating that the team created chances by the truckload.

I like what Luis Suarez brings to the team. I don’t like the impatience that surrounds him, as already there are voices saying that Messi, Ney and Lucho can’t play together. I’ll admit to having been concerned about this also, especially when the deal was just announced, but to be honest the signs are encouraging. It’s normal that it will take our forwards time to gel and it looks like they will. I like how they switched positions sometimes and it will be exciting to see how they develop a feel for each others’ movements.

I like that Mascherano’s our best defender right now – good for him – but I really don’t like that Mascherano’s our best defender right now – bad for us. I think I’d like Masche in midfield a lot better. I like how Mathieu gets the ball but like less what he does after he gets it. I like that Piqué is not a guaranteed starter but I would like it even more if he fights his way back into the line-up.

I really don’t like that Dani Alves and Sergio Busquets lacked the grit to prevent a very preventable goal. I won’t blame Mascherano here, because getting mad at Masche for losing an aerial duel is like blaming a hyena for not being more like a lion. Speaking of Busquets (who I like) he could lose his spot one of these days and speaking of Dani (who I also like) I never understood why the hell we didn’t buy Cuadrado but that’s like in the past so yeah, we’re screwed. I like that we finally have a coach who sees that Montoya is not good enough but I would have liked it even more if he were. I also wonder if Douglas will ever be liked.

There’s a whole lot more I like and dislike, but far am I from wanting to take up too much of your valuable time. Let me just say that I like love watching this team play and I don’t like the overreaction when we lose a game or don’t play well for 90 minutes.


People forget, mainly because by now we are used to it, that draws are the new losses and losses are the end of the world. Blame the unprecedented success of our 2008-09 season that drove M*drid over the edge and made Flo spend more money on players than Berlusconi on underaged hookers. Okay, bad example, and anyway I would not change our 2008-09 season for anything in the world, but I did enjoy the games more before, say 2010ish, than after, if only because it was okay to lose points every now and then. Watching sports was never supposed to be a “relaxing” experience to begin with, but a feeling of doom and dread because after two months into the season we are two points behind the leaders should not be what it’s about.


Take a deep breath. In. Out. Another one.


Let’s enjoy the season.








* I know “unconceded” is not a word, but it should be and damnit, if I were a professional sports writer I would turn it into one.

** RM away was pretty dire, and the goalless draw against Málaga was dreadful stuff.

Categorized as Barcelona

By Levon

Culé since way before football boots were of the neon yellow and lizard green variety, Levon is a deep thinker with increasingly shallow thoughts. He lives in Barcelona with his gorgeous wife and daughter. The lucky bastard...


  1. great piece Lev and great to see something else from you. for what it’s worth siempre he pensado (since the offside) that your ability to express yourself in english, which is not your first language, was and is amazing. gracias

    1. Hahaha, since for all intents and purposes English is my 1st language (you can ask my mom who winces when I speak my mother tongue), I’m not entirely sure that’s a compliment!

  2. Levon i think the result could and should have been different. But that would have masked a lot of issues. As it is the defeat has opened bare some of the issues affecting the team.

    The reaction maybe over the top but are very very justifiable. Lets see how he sorts them out.

    Thanks for the uplifting post.

  3. As our trophies box became more and more empty as seasons progressed, The most common word we kept hearing was ‘evolving’….. “The team has to evolve”… “The team Has to find a new template”.

    When guardiola came, He created a system where it’s core was in it’s midfield, A style of play that revolved around them, And to no surprise as that midfield trio started declining, The team followed after them.

    Yet here where it gets more complicated…… Two of the players that composed that midfield, Are simply irreplaceable, They’re one in a few generations kind of players, It doesn’t matter how much money your throw at the transfer market, No one is as good as they used to be.
    Look at pep now, He has the best midfield roster in the world right now, Yet almost anyone can guarantee you that he can never repeat the success he had with xavi and iniesta.

    Here were LE enters the picture, Since we can’t replace xavi and iniesta, And as a result it’s no longer possible to continue being dependent on our midfield as the core of our style, His idea is for us to become less dependent on it, But we have to depend on something……Now enters those 3.


    At first glance, They seem like a luxury trio, A good extra bonus, But they’re much more than that, They’re our new template, Our new core, Just like Xavi/Iniesta/Bus were all those years, When LE arrived he already had messi and neymar, Only one piece was missing, And now it’s complete.

    Our midfielders are now stationed more wide, They’re tasked with things like pressuring, Covering the full backs, Making the life easier for the front forwards, Years back, Yes they’ll will try to hold on to the ball and control the game as much as they can, But it can never be like old times, Yet Levon got it exactly right:

    ” if you create 10 good scoring chances and give up only two, who cares about a friggin’ midfield?”

    The prospect that awaits our jaw dropping front three, Makes me drool, Exciting future awaits FCB.

    1. because, as we JUST saw against Celta, if you don’t have a midfield (or a defense that can defend), having the best front 3 on the planet isn’t going to help you. the idea that we’re going to take what has been for a decade our greatest strength (our midfield) and turn it into what amounts to just runners for a great front 3 is idiotic. that just isn’t the way football works at the highest level in 2014.

    2. You do realize that LE approached the celta vigo match just like every other match we had this season (except the clasico), Including the formation, The zones each player occupied, Their movements, Even most of the line-up was the same.

      So pointing your finger only at celta , While choosing to ignore the fact that we went on an 8 runs with no zero goals conceded and 22 goals scored, With the SAME exact system we played against celta, Means you’re only trying to force your own narratives, I try to look at this objectively, Look at the whole picture, Since the start of the season.

      The midfielders are still integral to our system, They just took a back-seat from previous years with pep, Because his possession based system dependent heavily on positional play that was provided by a two legendary players at their peak, And another one who hasn’t been himself for some quite now.

      Currently our midfield players are too rigid in their movement around the pitch, As time progress they will become more fluid, And know exactly where to move and position themselves during attack transition, And most importantly in our case now, Is defensive transition.

    3. ”if you create 10 good scoring chances and give up only two, who cares about a friggin’ midfield?”

      I should note that this quote pertains to our last match, not to the season as a whole.

    4. That’s a very interesting perspective. I don’t know if it will keep me a Barcelona supporter – I’m hopelessly in love with what passed as tiki-taka in the Guardiola era – but it might make for success and spectacular games. But would Enrique have the backing to push his agenda through even without initial success?

      And thanks for the article Levon, I think that many here have gone overboard in their criticism. Many things are not quite right, but many things have been pretty nice for the past months, so we’ll see how it goes.

  4. You’re right. It was 10-2 in good goal scoring opportunities. And I prefer that to the endless passing of the ball across the pitch with 2 shots on goal in 90 min that we saw so many times in the last years. But we have to look deeper than that. We have to look at all the space we granted Celta in our half of the pitch, that didn’t result in chances for them, because they are, with all due respect, only Celta, and not Real Madrid, or Atletico, or Bayern, or Dortmund, or Chelsea, etc.

    There’s yet no reason to believe that Luis Enrique will not fix our defensive problems, but the fact remains, that with defensive performances like in the last weeks (lets not forget the clear chances we served Eibar on a silver platter!) we’re not going to win anything this year.

    People always rave about the wonderful attacking football of Pep’s Barça and also Rijkaard’s Barça, but there was a tactical stability that enabled all this. You have to be organised. That’s the basis for everything. And right now, we’re not organised. You could almost say, it’s chaos. Sometimes on Saturday it looked like 2nd league scottish football.

    1. Excuse me, I’m the only one allowed to make disparaging remarks about Scottish football around here 🙂

      I’m with you in a sense. I look at the last few games and a lot of the goals we are conceding are actually quite easily preventable. Despite folks having a go at Dani the chance wouldn’t have developed had it been Pique or Mathieu instead of Masche going for the ball. I’m not blaming Masche for losing the duel but I am blaming whoever put him there and Pique in the stand because it has cost us dearly over the seasons.

      However, we are now stopping a lot more good chances from developing, at least partly by having numbers back although there were a few lapses in the Celta game. Look back at the first half of the Clasico. We dealt with a lot before it became dangerous and kept one of the best attacks in Europe completely subdued due to good defending and midfield control of the ball. This defence is improving and I believe LE will eventually sort it unless he keeps Masche in the backline in which case I’ll be writing my usual lost goal analysis at the end of the season as we tumble out of contention.

    2. No doubt Barça would greatly benefit from a fully focused Piqué, who does get unfair flack from time to time. LE has said at least on one occasion that he likes Masche more as a central defender.

      Also, Jim, I’m afraid we watched a different Clasico. At no time did I feel we kept RM subdued during the first half – in fact I think we were just as lucky not to concede an earlier equalizer as M*drid were that Casillas was on top of his game for the save on Messi.

    3. Happy to hear about any chances they created, Lev, but I just didn’t see it. I’ve gone over in an earlier post our first half chances, particularly after the first twenty when even RM reckoned we were better and am waiting to hear what they created in that period. If someone posts the chances they had in that period or the saves Bravo had to make fine but they’re not there, trust me….

    4. They hit the post just a few minutes after we scored, and then that was immediately followed up by an almost uncontested shot off the rebound, which should have been a goal too.

      I count that as a very good chance.

      And almost every attack of theirs was stopped by some piece of last-ditch not by the kind of solid defensive structure that stops attacks from ever getting to that point. Remember the old truth that the best defender is the one whose shorts have no grass stains on them at the end of the game. That was most definitely not the case in that game. You can say that Madrid are much better than what they were back in the days when we were in complete control. That is true. And that is the problem – we’re not as good as we used to be, at least in relative terms (but it’s the relative terms that matter). I don’t see why we have to be in denial about it

  5. Yeah very good article, but before this season I was hoping that FCB will sign one good young midfielder who has the calibre or potential to be at Iniesta level. Looking at the possible alternatives SUSO is the best choice. If I were a FCB manager I would have gone with suso in midfield and three trio upfront.
    Talking about defense FCB need one really good centre back. I was hoping mangala will eventually land but it is of no use talking about those things right now.
    It is for sure that front three will click but to be able to survive in champions league defense is of big concern. But we can go far as far as front three clicks. The only mantra will be ‘ if opposition scores three we have to score 4 the same way Liverpool did last year in their premier league campaign.

  6. I don’t know why people have this crazy idea that Barca is an attack oriented team. I never consider that. We may be one of the most defensive oriented team in history. The only difference is that we defend beautifully. The reason why we throw up endless number of pasess is that “that’s how we defended”. And even in Guardiola time we did the same. I remember Guardiola saying that he freaks out when we don’t have the ball, or something like that. Let’s get it clear we don’t have a team which is good at absorbing wave after wave of attack, we will crumble., So we keep the ball. We are one of the most defensive team in history, we just defend beautifully. We need to get that clear in mind.

    Now why we are struggling now compared to Guardiola days? Answer is more complex but in simple terms can be attributed to two basic things – a refusal to respect the opponents. Guardiola’s Barca made every opponent take not of us and respect us. They tried to counter us with many ways – pressing us badly(what Mourinho tried with RM and lost), parking the bus(was the most successful strategy at our peak). But the best strategy was implemented by Sevilla may not be successful all the time but that is the template for our downfall. They simply crowded the midfield. That allowed our midfield to be closed easily, which saw us passing the ball back to defense. Something very familiar nowadays?

    Those who criticize Xavi for passing the ball back too often to the defense is actually crazy. They simply are noticing the effect but not the problem. If Xavi is not passing the ball forward it means one thing – he can’t see a second pass from that player. That’s the problem. Xavi only passes when he can see a second pass and that’s our problem mostly. Which basically means there are so few players in Blaugrana shirt in front of him. No manager in recent time tried to get the initiative back in midfield maybe Martino did for sometime.

    For some reason the 4-3-3 with a false-9 has been a fixation. Can’t blame? It got associated with the Legend of Barca. The false-9 was an innovation to draw the defenders out, but has been clearly seen through by opponents. Nowadays no good defenders track Messi’s run into midfield, instead they use zonal defending where the midfield take the task of tracking his run. This is made possible by out crowding our midfield most of the times.

    It’s time we start to respect the fact that our opponents has started to adapt very much to our game. Also we need to respect that fact that we need to get the control back in midfield. For that we need to get simply the man advantage in midfield. May be a double pivot with Xavi and Busquets won’t be a bad idea. Or better shift to a three man defense and a five man midfield or a four man midfield. Whatever we need to rectify our midfield scenario.

    1. Could not agree more. For me the basic starting point is the midfield. Forget the defence, forget the attack. Dominate midfield and you are halfway there. This situation where we concede the midfield is not sustainable. Until we change the players. One has to look at Arsenal to see the issues we are likely to have against the better teams. Xavi is constantly derided and thought of as a sideways player, too cautious and unadventurous in his passing.

      That simply has not been true.Xavi has always played with the brain. Not instinctively playing has been the hallmark of our play. One also has to look at Arsenal again to glean the effects of playing purely on instinct. We have to acknowledge that the opponent has evolved and has made our usual game somewhat moot. But does that invalidate the whole point of our game? I don’t know.

      We either have to ship out the whole lot or go back to basics. We do not have the players ala Bayern or Real to play on the counter attack. Lastly i think it may be instructive to see how the previously derided Man U played against Chelsea and City. Despite their yet to gel midfield and team they performed well against expectations. Also interesting is how LVG pushed the defence and denied space to their opponents. Our team with their quality and experience should do better.

    2. I think that one of the key issues is as more and more teams have gotten a handle on how to play us, we had to make ourselves more unpredictable.

      With a player like Neymar (and now, Suarez) it is worth it for some games to give up some of that midfield control in order to get the ball upfield a bit faster.

      It’s not so much the option of either playing a more direct game or playing short triangles to create space but to find an in between, a mixture of both or to build a squad who can flat out do both.

      Quite obviously there’s a trade off to ceding midfield control, but if in a game against Celta we create five times more opportunities than we give up, I can only conclude that Luis Enrique sent the correct line-up with the right gameplan out on the pitch.

      The errors that lost our match, the lack of finishing as well as the conceded goal, were down to a lack of concentration.

    3. The problem with such a strategy would be that we may end up without plan A. To be honest that’s what been happening with us in last couple of years. In our search for a Plan B, we are not currently sure what our plan A is! So its essential we play agaibst Celtic in a way that’s gonna define Enrique’s team.

    4. Exactly. Atletico are a counter attacking team and make no apologies for it. When they dont win we dont hear their need for Plan B. So are EE. And largely they stick to what they know.

      In the end if we dabble into many styles we will master none. The players are caught in between and are sometiimes confused.

      Not to mention the need to realign the whole youth set up.

  7. Guardiola said that without the ball we are shit.I am sorry but i remember 2005-6 season we were a very good team with and without the ball and the main reason was ten kate the tactical mind behind rijkard.We had players like oleguer edmilson no world class but when u have a great tactical mind u dont need eleven top players on the field.So my point is that pep is a good coach but against counterattacking teams he will always have problems thats why i want a coach who can teach the team to play with different ways.My only choice is antonio conte yes i know now he has another job but maybe in future.

  8. Without acknowledging the damage of 4 years of neglect of the sporting project, which brings up the board, a topic that most culers just don’t give a crap about, any discussion of this team’s complexities is impossible to resolve.

    Martino was a caretaker, a name they plugged in while waiting for the REAL dude, Enrique. Now all of a sudden, after a couple of bad results, Enrique doesn’t have a clue. The shutouts and easy wins were one Enrique, the one that is apparently invalidated by the last two results in this game of “What have you done for me lately?”

    A crap board, sporting neglect and the ghosts of Guardiola stalking the halls, and people wonder about the root of discontent. What culers want is for it to be 2009 again but you know what? The rest of the world has caught up. It caught up to Guardiola when he was at Barça, never mind his successors.

    Complicating matters is that we have the players for a style of play that has been invalidated by progress. But those players are iconic, so nobody ever considers for an instant the idea of doing anything with those players. Coaches come and go, and what persists? The notion that things are a mess when it comes to certain types of opponent. Which means what? That maybe, just maybe, players have a little something to do with it.

    “We want change!” “No, not that change!” And culers become like villagers with torches and pitchforks, dashing hither and yon in search of the monster, while the mad scientist who created him sits in the corner, giggling.

    Martino didn’t miss scoring chances, nor did Enrique. Enrique didn’t trot when he should have run. There is so much blame ladled onto a coach. Now comes an AS(s) story, citing senior locker room figures who are unnamed, that the team is losing faith in Enrique, and doesn’t really know how he wants them to play.

    Atop this, there was apparently a meeting about the state of the team, according to MD, between Enrique and ZubiZa. But as we all know, ZubiZa is a blithering idiot, so maybe they were talking about the weather while ZubiZa struggled with the answer to 2+2=?

    Complicating matters for Enrique is that his Barça roots and intensity of coaching methods mean that people foolishly drew Guardiola parallels. “Look! He works like a madman, just like Guardiola!” “Look! He is working so hard he’s wearing out the training pitch!”

    Two bad results and the long knives come out. That didn’t take long at all. So when we look down our noses at RM supporters and their coach travails, etc, probably a good idea to have a mirror nearby.

    An absurd buzz in building that Enrique could be out by January. Why, I have zero idea. Any new sporting project requires time. Further, firing Enrique would be the board admitting that they were wrong, which ain’t gonna happen. Meanwhile, they sit back and do feck all to support the coach they hired, so that they have an out if Enrique doesn’t succeed. Because Job One is saving their own asses, which means a winning football project.

    Meanwhile someone smart like Laporta understands this, and appeals to folks with his holy trinity of Guardiola, Cruijff, UNICEF, hearkening back to a magical time.

    It’s all so predictable, really.

    1. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

      When I wrote the other day that Rosell and Bartomeu have been an embarrassment, Jim replied he wasn’t sure what Bartomeu did wrong? I never got to respond, but they are two faces on a double-headed coin. I don’t see how you can separate the vice-president from the ex-president when they, and most of their team, are behind an ever-growing list of wrongs ever since they took hold of the club.

    2. Not having the decency to resign along with his president or at least call early elections. He let Rosell slide back into the darkness but it’s the same team, the same snake pit. Their general incompetence is also worrisome. You have not noticed that every battle they fight, they lose? The transfer ban, the Suarez ban, the Laporta case. Need I go on?

    3. To be fair there’s not a lot of that is his fault. The first is your opinion. He’s entitled to carry on, not sure that the next bit isn’t just invective against him, the transfer ban wasn’t due to anything on his watch in charge , he didn’t bite anyone for goodness’ sake, it was Suarez and the Laporta case where I agree on balance they should let it go for the good of the club. However, after reading Peter’s explanation even that’s a closer run thing for me.

    4. The thing I don’t understand is how you separate the two. Rosell was not alone, he basically resigned to take the heat of off them. They are the same people making the same decisions. It’s not about Bartomeu either. It’s about the junta that’s in place.

  9. To paint Enrique as a victim is surely to miss it. Enrique needs time, needed it and bought it with results. To understand the mayhem is to understand that at present there appears to be no tactical direction or if there is one it does not appear too convincing. Enrique is in no way a good or bad Barca coach because we really dont know. What we do know however is that his team has been sub par since he took over. However he had been winning and that quelled all debate about how the team progressed. The time he bought has unfortunately expired. Were the team losing but playing cohesively this furore would have been measured. So amidst all the gloom fans, media and all critics justifiably ask; to what end? I believe its not too much of an ask.

    Secondly if a manager is brought in to manage a side which many agree already had a nucleus in place its reasonable to expect the manager to continue with the set style of play. Moreso if their roots are in Barca. This team needs evolution or so they believed. We were happy for him to drive them hard because as it is 9/10 of the matches we play are foregone conclusions. So the expectation was/is that he will drive us in that one tenth. So again reasonable expectations.

    Lastly i wish to say that as fans we generally are biased in favour of our colours. Rarely do we see and then accept the plain to see. Because the team is in some way an extension of our selves we defend the indefensible and dont see the rot in front of our own eyes. But on this occassion seem to have dropped the scales off our eyes. Its alarming. Its not that we should not lose but that on the journey a credible map is required inorder to instil confidence

    1. I don’t think that anyone is painting Enrique as a victim. But I also think that the overreaction to what he’s done to date is precisely that. I understand that success makes people less patient. But people are panicking. The early wins and clean sheets were indeed characterized by control, and it was lovely in that the outcomes were really never in doubt.

      That changed, and “Why” is a fair ask, an ask that shouldn’t absolve anyone, from manager to players. But the questions are being asked only of Enrique. Meanwhile, the core of the squad is the same, and aging. So what of that? Good question. What of finishing chances? Another good question. What of the concentration and effort required to implement a successful system? Yet another good question.

      What we know is that the pressing. cohesive Barça that started the season doesn’t exist any longer. The question is why.

      Meanwhile, Iniesta is off. Busquets is off. Messi is off. Alves is off. Xavi is 35 years old. So the core of all of that success, the players that form the template around which it was based, are off. Enrique didn’t do that.

      If people don’t look at the totality of what is happening before aiming arrows of criticism on a macro level, I think that any conclusions drawn are flawed.

    2. Agree with most of this, including the need to start preparing for the future but especially why did a great start turn into trouble in the last game and a half ? Pressing is part but so is cohesion.

    3. Effort levels to start. The players aren’t playing as hard. The press isn’t happening. Play has become entirely too easy for opponents. So yes, cohesion in part of it.

      I have said before that Barça doesn’t have the same margin for error that it did because its players are declining. As I noted in the Celta match review, there were complexities with the tactical approach. But implementation is also a problem.

      I think it’s a lot of things, all at once.

  10. If by style of play you mean passing the ball and midfield control, Kxevin, I can’t agree it has in any way been invalidated. I happen to think that the only two parts missing were a competent defence with numbers back and a forward line that can interchange and make space for themselves and their own chances when space is tight. As you have often pointed out ( correctly) we were within a whisker in three trophies. As recently as the Clasico first half we saw the importance of keeping the ball against top teams. We will never be a hoof it up the park team and I for one am glad. That means LE has to somehow come up with a system which allows the control, gives physical support in midfield where needed and improves the daftness currently losing us goals in defence.

    I’d have liked it to be done for Tata but that’s another matter. Neglect of the sporting project for me is an exaggeration as we already had a barrow load of great players to which the board have added Neymar and Suarez two of the best in the world. Add to that buying, by all accounts, one of the best mids around, bringing back one of our promising youngsters who many here ( not me) think is ready for prime time, and bolstering the backline with one, possibly two, CBs and I don’t see much neglect, other than possibly RB but come on at least try something like Bartra there or encourage Dani to control his forays a bit better . What I’m not seeing at the moment is LE’s ability to mould this into a team and system but that might come. However, we’re all kidding ourselves if we think he’s going to be allowed a very poor season and then another year. Might not be right, but doesn’t work that way. Tbh, long before then he might walk. Not sure, as he says, he takes criticism well.

    As we’ve said already his lineup for midweek will tell us which way he’s going to lean.

    1. If you look, Jim, at how teams are attacking us, it’s with a fist, and not only in the physical approach to things — but also in the unified sense of the word. Atleti showed the template, the way forward for one of of two ways to attack Barça. The other way is the Bayern/PSG way, where you attack the wings and use the midfield to build.

      Both rely on being more physical and aggressive than Barça is used to or comfortable with. The two available solutions for that are to move the ball faster, or employ different players. At present. Barça is doing neither.

      Neglect for me can be seen, in part, with still having to rely on Xavi, as much as I admire and respect what he can do and has done for Barça. There have been market opportunities missed as well. Guardiola wanted changes. So did Vilanova and Martino. If a team doesn’t evolve or change, generally distressing things happen. Barça hasn’t evolved, nor does it seem to be willing to change.

      We’ll see what time brings.

    2. I agree with Kxevin here. Missing those market opportunities (for multiple seasons) makes the opportunity cost that much more extreme. Results will be what they will be. This team may be filled with great players but it’s been dead on it’s feet for a while, idealogically speaking.

    3. What exactly were we expecting from the last two seasons? A record La Liga win and going out to an exceptional side in the CL final when no team has ever defended it successfully followed by a totally tragedy filled season with a new coach where we went deep in all three comps and came within inches of winning something. I’m still not seeing this divine right to win one of the big two each year and why falling at the last hurdle is complete failure rather than just a good effort to be built on. That’s hardly dead on its feet. If we chuck out our midfield how far do you really think Masche, Rakitic and Rahinha will take us this season ? Honestly ?

    4. I expect progression with the discipline to stick to the framework of the ethos of the club. I really think we over-value winning and losing as a benchmark of success. I will never forget what Euler said last season about CL matchup ( with Atletico. The ending is what struck me. Two different systems playing at a high level. The game is always changing. Is our perception of it doing the same?

      The board keeps making the same bet year after year: Messi and Co. will do just enough on the field so they can make a profit/build a Nou Nou/write their own legacy. From a big picture business POV, it’s limited but it makes some sense. From an on the ground, day to day POV it stinks. I said “dead on its feet” in reference to the simple fact this team has needed to adapt for multiple seasons now and it hasn’t.

      I’ll give you credit for the various twists in the plot year by year and the team overcoming adversity. On the pitch, the players have done the best they can. The managers have made the most of what they’ve had to work with.

      It’s 2014. Why are there no organizing MFs that can also press? Why isn’t there a R footed CB that can play in a back three? Dani Alves’ contract expires summer 2015; what player or profile of a player can replace him? Those are questions that should have been thought about and answered years prior. Lucho wasn’t the first to ask for players with different profiles.

      Can you tell me, honestly, that Tito, Tata and now Lucho (might as well even throw in Pep) didn’t think that the team needed to evolve?

      Everything starts at the top. If you decide as an organization to focus on the bottom line, ie profit/austerity, that becomes it’s own trophy. It’s why Arsene Wenger can say qualifying for the CL is the equivalent to winning a trophy. This board’s focus is not on the sporting side of the business.

      When a board, a manager and a team are on the same page it’s a beautiful thing to watch. We all know that.

    5. You can’t just pretend that the expensive transfers of Zlatan, Villa, Chiggy, Mascherano, Sanchez, Fabregas, Alba, Song, Neymar, Bravo, Suarez, Ter Stegen, Mathieu and Vermalaen didn’t happen, though. We have also done a fair bit of business in the bubbling under stakes with Suarez and Halilovic as far as I can see. As for the organising , pressing MF isn’t that meant to be Rakitic and Rafinha ? That seemed to be the prevalent view on this blog anyway.

      I would argue that everyone apart from Tata had a fair crack of the whip. Not sure where the not spending money came from. Remember, at the same time various fans including many here had a list of youngsters who were going to be the next big thing. You could argue that they strengthened the wrong positions if you want but not that money hasn’t been spent.

      The rest is really just your viewpoint of how and why the board have done things which is fine but it shouldn’t just pass as fact despite how often it’s repeated here. I know nothing about the club politics but I know enough to know ( if I can channel Rumsfeld for a minute) that if everybody in Barcelona held the view espoused so often here the current board would be an ex board but that hasn’t happened so we must each draw our own conclusions.

    6. What about all those years where it was painfully obvious that a CB was needed, and they kept on trotting out Puyol as the new signing? Yeah, we got Mathieu and Verm, but those were two overdue purchases in *2014* to bolster a position of need that was crying out for reinforcements since 2010-2011. And I still wouldn’t say our CB corps has been bolstered enough. I, for one, don’t particularly have high hopes for Vermalen at this point.

      As for the organising , pressing MF isn’t that meant to be Rakitic and Rafinha?

      Neither of those two players have shown the capability to be an organizer. It’s why people rued missing out on Kroos & Koke in the offseason (Kroos was such a bargain deal), why losing out on Thiago hurt (I’m not reopening the can of worms in regards to his departure, but the fact is that we were already painfully thin at the orchestrating CM position and him leaving did not help), etc etc. At this point, the only player I can think of at Barça that can orchestrate other than Xavi is Samper. Sadly, the kid may have to be thrown into the fire this season. To rely on a youngster in such a crucial position at the highest level of European football smacks of poor planning. And the fact that the board, who had plenty of time to plan for the decline of Xavi, couldn’t spot the fact that an orchestrator was needed (not to assume the Xavi role, because who can? But to at least orchestrate and link play) is pretty sad.

    7. My major point was not about money. Or bankrolling top players to come into the team.

      Tottenham spends money. QPR spends money. Stoke City spends money.

      At the elite level, you have to spend money wisely and have a plan. Juan Cuadrado. Marquinhos. Benatia. Kroos. Those are players most elite teams can use. Money wasn’t the reason, or sole reason why they didn’t pursue them. Lucho asked for players, did the board at least get him players that fit that profile?

      No. Not completely. Lucho’s gameplan for the season was shot before the season even started.

      Transfers, in general, are all relative. They need to fit into a framework. I like what Kxevin said about the Bill Belichick POV. It’s not warm and fuzzy but for 10+ years his team, much to the behest of a lot of fans, is a perennial contender. I’m not saying certain players need to go or stay. Yet. That’s another conversation entirely.

      FC Barcelona is a big business. That business is managed by a board. The #1 reason that business is *visible* is the sporting project. The board is neglecting the sporting project. They spend money on it, yes. Spending money is not enough.

      It’s like resolving to be healthier but not changing your diet. You’re going to look great at times. Your workouts can be invigorating. You will, however, break down at some point. The fuel that you are giving your body will dictate the ceiling of your health or your athletic performance.

      It’s painful such a great group of players being picked off by other elite teams because of a lack of preparation. It has nothing to do with the players or managers. It’s all about the board and their focus on other parts of the business.

    8. I do agree with the Xavi pert of your definition of neglect, Kxevin. That also includes for me neglect of Xavi in that he was made to play far too much over the last two seasons. We should have been thinking ahead and using Iniesta to get used to the role. Only playing it once a blue moon he hasn’t really adapted well to it but I feel he could.

      Im not sure AM has any great lesson to teach us attacking wise at all. I forget now but what was it, three goals in four matches ? I do remember the once in a lifetime long ranger and, though it pains me to remind you, Masche’s ring a Rosie dance at the corner with particular emphasis on the “all fall down” bit. What they were/are is a great team all over the park but one Id be confident of beating with our current forward line.

      Bayern are a different case and yes we would do well to learn from them although even so their most devastating players against us as you say were the wingers. This is why, for this season, I would get the defending of set pieces right, move Masche forward along with Busi into midfield and give Xavi a more advanced role with less onus on tracking everywhere. If we can’t defend against any attack with seven players we should be playing Sunday league. That still gives Xavi ( or Iniesta) as he’d have to take over after this season a chance to control the passing as they do well behind the most mobile forward line we’ve had since the days …. If Xavi can’t start finding them on a regular basis I’d be more than surprised.

    9. The current problem, Is the defensive transition, It’s been a hit and miss, The midfield players fail sometimes to take the proper shape when being attacked, Not only that creates holes that can be exploited, But also reduce the effectiveness of the pressure they put, These problems get amplified when playing against top tier teams, Since their skilled players can take more advantages in the imperfection in our defensive transition.
      To our misfortune, Sergio, The player that is most key to our defense, Hasn’t been himself for sometime now, And that has manifested in almost every game he played in, Again becoming more amplified against the likes of PSG and RM.

      Pressuring isn’t a magical technique also, it’s a very welcomed come back, But it also has it’s downsides, There is a limited window of only few seconds where it’s actually productive to run toward the ball holder, Because they leave their zones and run after the ball, The now unoccupied space can be exploited if he fails to eventually reclaim the ball.

      All i know is that it’ll take until the players fully absorb and apply what is asked of them, How much time, I don’t know, All i know is that in la liga you can’t afford losing too many points.

  11. Overreactions? Of course. Yet, I think it is fair to mention some worrying signs, evident from the games lost this season. Like a system that does not seem to improve with time, or the (seeming) lack of urgency the teams displays when being behind in a game.

    I’m nor sure it’s fair to juxtapose this with the optimism of the early days – as it’s this very optimism that has now been disappointed, causing a stronger reaction…

    Firing LE? Absurd, of course. He is allowed a learning curve (which Martino was not granted). He has now tried a few different approaches, and should soon enough begin to find a good balance.

    Ultimately, as Kxevin points out, this is mostly due to the neglect of the board. The transition to a new approach/strategy/team has not been allowed to materialize, hampered (or hidden) by history. Let’s see if LE can initiate this (as he began to do), or if the damage is too severe to fix in a season or two.

    And I can’t help but to feel at 4-2-3-1 system would be more appropriate with the current personell…

    1. From an outsiders point of view, albeit one that watches every Barca game he can, I totally agree on the double pivot 4231 lineup to accomodate this team. The defense picks itself, Jordi, Jeremy, Gerard and Dani, with Masche and Busi just in front (or Xavi as an alternative). If/when Jordi and/or Dani decide to bomb up the wings, they can use one of the pivot players to help start their run, then the other pivot drops into the centre, pushing either Pique or Mathieu out to the fullback spot to ensure those diagonal through balls don’t punish the flanks.
      Atacking Mids are pretty interchangeable, with Ney, Leo, Pedro, Rakitic, Iniesta, Rafinha, Suarez, Munir all able to play anywhere in those 3 behind the striker, which once again could be any of those players, barring Rak, Ini and Raf.
      Ideally, you’d see something like:
      Subs: Ter Stegen, Bartra, Adriano, Xavi, Iniesta, Pedro, Munir

      Thats a damn impressive lineup…

  12. But jim why we must have the control??Barca before guardiola had many great teams and some of them were not possesion maniacs.Please can we move on from tiki taka??We can play the game that madrid or dormund play,and better.I remember the 96-97 team of sir bobby robson and it was a joy to watch.

    1. Because in a nutshell it’s always better to have the ball than not. Ask any side, including RM. Why do you think Ancellotti is trying to improve their passing in midfield and has made those purchases ? Any team would give their right arm to have our ability to control a game. After that, and only after that, it’s becomes what do you do with it and does it always have to be a slow build up? I agree we need to look at developing the ability to break more quickly just to be more unpredictable if nothing else.

      However, the last game wasn’t an example of fast transitions created by midfield swiftly moving the ball forward. It was a forward line creating chances for themselves almost as a self contained unit. Which is genuinely great and one of the last pieces we needed but now isn’t the time to throw away our other strength right when we have a potentially very dynamic front line.

  13. Lucho’s future midfield is Rafinha and Rakitic. No wonder we looked disorganized, the two have hardly played together. Rafinha has hardly played at all due to injuries. Busquets is not fit and given his mileage, may not be fit the rest of the year, so Mascherano will be playing more as DM, especially if Lucho settles on Pique and Bartra/Mathieu as the CB pairing.

    Suarez of course is very, very new to the mix. We were essentially playing with a new team versus Celta but it is the team I see Lucho playing as the preferred eleven the rest of the year. Or the developmental eleven if one considers next year as the real goal.

    So we were disorganized, no surprise, but that can be fixed with time. The good thing is despite the disorganization we created all those chances. Again, no surprise, arguably the best forward lineup in history is supposed to create chances. That will get even better with time.

    I also like the fact, that now we can bring Xavi and Pedro off the bench. Two intelligent veterans.

    The Celta game was a hiccup due to a new team, but our team of the near future.

  14. so what are we saying? That a revolution is needed? I have stated countless times that if thats the case we need to do just that. This season we haven’t a single complete match so control has to be aligned with menace. We have played more than 12 matches and we have not one complete match. None.

    Thats why i feel the reaction is over the top. Win against Celta and the cracks are papered but they will still have been there latent and waiting to erupt.

    Players bear part of the burden but when the issues are clealry tactical that even an amatuer like a thousand miles can see them it becomes a bit hard to defend. Frankly though it may it sound ridiculous at this early stage the last two games have been like watching Man U of Moyes.

    Apparently Man U are having their worst season since 1986 but their club are not in such an uproar. We are comparable in most aspects to them but though progress has been slow their fans seem to feel its tangible.

    1. So fire Enrique and start over with another coach everyone likes, and then what? “He’s taking too long to make everything perfect. New name out!”

      The questions are what are the expectations and what is defining those expectations?

      Control, tactical sense, winning all take time. But people aren’t willing to give that time, which means you might as well have “Take a number” coaching slots. “It’s December. You’re up.”

      I went back to look at previous comments from previous match posts. Nowhere has there been the kind of “Enrique hasn’t a clue” talk that there is now. So either he looked like he had a clue, people were waiting for further evidence or folks are overreacting.

      Not even the PSG loss brought the kind of talk that is going on right now. So my question becomes, whether it is the third loss that is causing this consternation, or a confluence of factors unsolvable by this man and his staff, leading this collection of players?

      Or were people just laying in the long grass, waiting to say “A-HA!”

      A couple of Guardiola quotes were floating around today. One was to the effect of you can’t win all the time, and to expect such a thing is folly. The other is to trust the coach and the players, and you will be okay.

      Both are true.

    2. I haven’t heard anybody talking about firing LE, thank God, although a particularly enlightened soul round these here parts keeps telling me we should put Neymar in Barça B for a season so that he can learn our system…

  15. It’s not advocating that he is fired. Far from it. Its about realising where we are and how we can move as a team and as fans to have an appreciation and adjust our expectations accordingly.

    If the team positively improves the better. LE needs time and plenty of it but to get that he will need two allies. Results and good play. Play badly and get results and he is safe to do whatever he has in mind. Play well but lose and he wont have so much time. I also think you undersestimate we cules Kxevin.

    Of the many Barca fans i have i have known i think the majority of them have prided our team on the football it plays. We may tend to be overly dramatic but our fandom has not really been all about results

  16. I still like the Bill Belichik worldview. Players are things to be moved around and discarded as their usefulness wanes. When I look at the New England Patriots, and how they manage to stay at or near the top for year after year, it’s interesting. He only cares about results. There doesn’t seem to be much humanity in his personnel decisions, nor should there be.

    When people ask me why I’m not a fan of players, I always say club over players, but it’s more than that. Players come and go, and players SHOULD come and go. The core of the Barça system has aged and grown less effective over time, at the same time, which is astonishing when you think about it.

    1. I would dare say that you are looking at it as an American Kxevin. The British who are culturally more similar look at things that way too hence all the firing/hiring of coaches and all the player moves in the PL. Spain is a bit different. There is more emotion involved. More history. Life is not just about winning. Its about living.

      I agree that the core aged at the same but that was also why they were so great. Many players at their peak or close to their peak at the same time.

    2. Interesting, fedway. I was thinking more like an agnostic from that fan perspective, but I can see your point.

      I just wonder if a truly involved, committed board would have let all of them get to the same state. Surely someone said “Hey, have you guys noticed …”

    3. Just a sidebar here, but there is no more history of sports in Europe than in America. Moreover, this is an English speaking forum, so the majority of people commenting here are not Spanish/Catalan even if they speak either language. I find Kxevin’s remark spot on actually, and would take it one step further: that “winning” is considered a right for many football fans, where in the states, specifically the NFL, it is considered an achievement. To continue with the Patriots narrative, they smacked the crap out of the Broncos yesterday, but no one in their right mind would say that Manning isn’t a contender. I’ll go even further: Tom Brady lost his first two games this year, and now the Patriots lead the AFC. We need time to let this team gel.

    4. I should have prefaced that comment with, I think most of what you’ve been saying Fedaway! Especially the last post on the other thread!

      I just know that the Boston Red Sox have been around longer than F.C.B. Not everything in Europe is ‘old.’ The USA, as a nationstate, is older than Germany, Italy & Belgium for example.

    5. My sympathy in football is always for the battling players who don’t make it rather than the super-stars who do (and make a lot of money). The superstars can’t complain when they become surplus to requirements. It’s a cruel game. And their demise is an opportunity for someone else.

  17. Great discussion, guys. This gets to the heart of where we go as a team. Of course, LE deserves the time to take team where he wants but we can keep giving him suggestions 🙂

    I’m reminded in some of the comments of my days as a lower level player in Scotland. I know, what do we know about football – lets get that out of the road !

    For about ten years in our league the best player in my opinion was a midfielder ( spookily called Lionel) who I had chased about the pitches of my area. He didn’t talk much, even having a pint after a match, but he was someone that we all respected. We used to joke when we found out who was playing in midfield against Lionel who was about ten years older than the rest of us. I remember when I turned thirty their side was top of the league and ours was second and there was a crunch match early December. Our manager gave us the pre match talk ( never very inspiring, or to be honest, insightful ) but bottom line was that once again I’d drawn the short straw of marking Lionel. My task was apparently to catch him about knee level early in the match because he was now over forty and one hard challenge would see him off which we needed as they had gathered the pick of the local youngsters for their side that year. . Well, that wasn’t gonna happen but I did resolve that he wasn’t getting a kick of the ball. And it worked, for about twenty minutes, at the end of which I was having to regularly stick my cartilages back in as Lionel twisted and turned and refused to let go till he was ready. You can see where I’m going with this …

    Anyway, Lionel didn’t score but completely controlled the game, spreading the ball about to such an extent that I was removed from action with twenty minutes to go ( and I was the captain ! ) and two youngsters had the pleasure of then watching him score one and lay on one in the last twenty. At the end I went up to shake hands and he asked why I had been removed. I replied ruefully that it might have had more than a little to do with him, whereupon in the only conversation we ever had he replied. ” That’s because they don’t know what’s important. Those youngsters they brought on were easy. They should value you more.” I thanked him and to my surprise he added that it had been fun playing against me but we wouldn’t meet again as he was retiring. I tried to dissuade him, saying he had been and still was, the best player I had played against. He replied ” yes, but the new guys coming into the team don’t know that and they’re starting to play round me.”

    I’ll say again, be careful what you wish for. We’ll know when somebody has the ability to replace Xavi but it’s not now. We need to use him, sparingly, but positively. Try others out, try different systems but don’t ruin a season by assuming that the most important attribute is physicality. Has never, and will never, be the case because as Pep Correctly observed nobody moves quicker than the ball.

    1. So THAT is the root of your Xavi respect and admiration. Interesting.

      I have never played football. My life history is tennis and bicycle racing until discovering Barça, falling hard and then The Offside Barça. From there I have been trying to learn as much as I can from anyone and anywhere that I can.

      People like Euler and Michael Cox blow me away with their ability to “see” into a football match. I’m but an egg in that regard, but am learning.

      To your last point about Xavi, the player of 2-3 years ago would have been fine now. I think it isn’t as much the notion of a Xavi as Xavi himself, who is 35 and just not the player he once was.

    2. It probably is. Been there, done the wheezing chasing him . . .

      My point over the last few posts though is that we can have both. Xavi hadn’t died and gone to footballing heaven. He runs more than just about anyone when he’s on the pitch acc yo the stats. What he can’t do is run quickly but never could so what he’s lost is the ability to tear around the field in a defensive role. For me that’s using your Ferrari to go for the morning papers.

      Beef up the midfield with two DMs for the big games but keep either Xavi or Iniesta in front of them to join the lines and create space in front of their box for the passes where we need to.

  18. This here is my Tweet of the Day, from @Ursus_Arctos59:

    Don’t need to see Robben’s Google Hangout. Know he will be pounding the left arrow for 45 minutes, before falling to the floor.

  19. The mileage on our players’ bodies is huge so the wear and is also high. If i am not mistaken Guardiola had about 300 and odd something matches for Barca over 11 years and Busquets has almost the same number of games in half the time.

    Even then i believe Ini, Busi and Messi can carry us a little bit more. If Xavi is 34 now it means that when Guardiola came he was around 28. For about 4 years he absolutely lorded it. So in that sense part of our team is still alive. Add Pique at 27 and its not too bad.

  20. The way I see it, the main question now is are we at a watershed moment in terms of footballing philosophy or not. Because we might well be.

    The Barca philosophy has always been about prioritizing technical excellence. The question is is that going to be as successful a philosophy as it has been so far into the indefinite future?

    A lot has been written about how in the early 00s there was no place in the game for players like the midfielders we usually produce – Guardiola retired early in part because of that, and even Xavi and Iniesta played semi-regularly for us, and a midfield as slow and physically unimposing as Busquets-Xavi-Iniesta would have been unthinkable. And then we know what happened. But it happened because:

    1) We were much better technically than everyone else in midfield
    2) The defensive and physical deficiencies of the midfield were masked by the work done by the forwards and by our ability to keep the ball all the time.

    A lot has changed since then, mostly in direct response to our dominance:

    1) Teams have midfields that are much better technically than the destroyers that used to dominate a decade ago. So that gap has narrowed, and almost disappeared with respect to a few teams.
    2) The gap in physicality has opened up even more (even if we tried to address it this offseason)
    3) Our forwards do not work as hard as they used to and the cohesiveness of the pressing has disappeared ever since Pep left (one man pressing is one man out of position as the old saying goes)
    4) Out “holy trinity” midfield has declined and what we are replacing it with is not at the same technical level (further exacerbating problem #1)

    So our problems are due to a combination of these four factors, but it is quite difficult to parse the relative contributions. If it is primarily 3) and 4) that are the source, measures such as either benching (or even selling) the spoiled superstars who don’t track back, or bringing a coach with the kind of fiery personality that can force them to put in the necessary work, plus sticking to the core values that have defined our midfield for a quarter of a century, will eventually bring success back.

    But if it’s 1) and 2), i.e. we don’t have the same technical advantage anymore while we suffer even more from lack of athleticism, we might be having an existential crisis here. As I said in the previous thread, the midfielders I see in the youth system are all in the same mold as Xavi and Iniesta, which on its own is great. But even if they eventually reach the same level of technical excellence as them, will they be able to control a game when facing the current RM team or some of the German teams with their extremely fast-paced game? It remains to be seen, but it’s something to seriously worry about.

    1. Very nicely put. I would like to add that we also had 3) Puyol, Abidal and Dani Alves in their prime.

      When you think about it the whole team was just amazing, not just the midfield and not just the forward line. We might never build another team like that. No one might, and who knows what would have happened were it not for a volcano, we might have threepeated the CL.

      Anyway, I disagree that we are at a watershed moment of our philosophy. Imagine we would get a player like Yaya Toure and make him an integral part of our midfield. That could be considered breaking our ethos, right? But he was part of our midfield for some good seasons, and a lot of us didn’t want to see him go.

      We can adapt, but our base will always remain because our base is the Masía.

  21. “if everybody in Barcelona held the view espoused so often here the current board would be an ex board but that hasn’t happened so we must each draw our own conclusions.”

    Jim, I’ll answer down here for clarity. There are many people in this city with a deep knowledge of football. However, over the last 8 months or so it has become painfully clear to me that there are many, many, many more who do not know what the hell they’re talking about. Opinions range from Alexis can’t play at all to Neymar should practice with the B-team for a year to Sergi Roberto should star because his hair is cute. These were not things said in jest, either. And I’m talking about socis.

    Just yesterday I bought a SPORT and on the back page editorial a journalist made the case that it was ridiculous that Suarez started out on the right because he is a pure 9 who likes to be in the penalty area as much as possible. Well, I thought, our own Kari just wrote a lovely piece not too long ago on how he started a lot of games on the right in what was probably his best season ever, the last season in Liverpool, and Luis Suarez himself has repeatedly stated he likes to create space to maneuver in. If journalists of the best-selling daily are clueless, imagine their readers with jobs who have no time to dedicate themselves to watching as much football as the opinion makers.

    As for the political side, I’ve heard a lot of socis who said they don’t care either way because they’re all crooks. I just go to the game but I don’t follow the club. Those that do follow the club might read Mundo Deportivo, whose director might just as well send out his journos to the Camp Nou offices daily to perform fellatio on Bartomeu and co. I mean, if in a report – not an oped, but a report – you write “Bartomeu, with the integrity and pragmatism that is so characteristic of him, ….” Well, I’ve seen similar things written by state sponsored press in semi-dictatorial countries.

    I’m just saying, I like your views and how you express them and also a person like Peter who has at times come out in support of the current board often brings up valid points is very much appreciated, but as an outsider looking in, to say, from Scotland to Catalunya, it would be a mistake to think that just because “the people in Barcelona” think this board is doing a swell job it is doing just that. I think the people in Barcelona are about to wake up, or at least I hope so anyway.

    EDIT: I just want to reiterate there are also many people who have a vast knowledge of the game here. When I expressed my surprise that they were the ‘minority’ so to speak, they laugh and yes, generally speaking the culers here are… (I won’t repeat what I’ve been told).

    1. Did I just write I hoped people would wake up? SPORT, who slowly but surely seem to be positioning themselves against the current board, have published a survey in which 92% of the voters (about 9300) agree that the current junta should call for elections.

    2. Actually SPORT have been anti-board for a long time. This is the self-titled “newspaper of the fans of Barcelona” and its grumbling started at least as early as last year when Tata was appointed, because Tata was appointed, and not Lucho. Now of course Luis Enrique has been appointed, so it’s the cheapskate board who didn’t give Lucho resources or support. Sorry, Lev, but Sport is The Sun of Spanish sports media. I even rate AS higher. Just for argument’s sake, “Do you approve of Zubi’s management?” is 94% “No!”, 80% think the new signings suck, etc. It was Sport that started the whole “Betrayal of the style” when Barcelona beat Rayo 0-4.

      MD may be the mouthpiece of the board, but at least it has real journalists working in it.
      P.S. I managed to vote three times for elections and once against.

    3. Let’s not forget the poll where they asked what was the reason for the low attendance in camp nou, The highest picked choice went for “The recent style of play”…….oh yeah, Try wrapping your heads around that.
      But we have to admit, SPORT polls have been useful in one thing, That in showing us the kind of mentality their regular readers have.

      I give no credence to most sport newspapers in spain, But SPORT is a special kind of cesspool, It’s like a prototype of everything that is wrong with sport journalism globally.

    4. I don’t think I’ve ever said that SPORT is the shining beacon of journalism, but I don’t think they’re better or worse than Mundo Deportivo in that regard. I am surprised that anyone could rate them lower than a daily which resorted to photoshopping a player out of an image to prove a non-existent offside (AS). Anyway, I’m not saying that a SPORT survey is the be all and end all. It is but one (albeit) flawed that people are not backing the board as much as the board would like.

      Now, if you say that SPORT has been anti-board for a long time, I can only say that they’ve hid it very, very well as Rosell, Barto and co. have given an incredible amount of ammunition to their critics pretty much since they took over and SPORT has hardly taken a shot or two until very recently (criticizing the team or the technical director is not the same as criticizing the board).

    5. Camp Nou socis are a riot. I remember one snarking about how Henry should be pulled for Krkic. And that was second-year Henry, when he was tearing shit up.

      As for the Barça-centric dailies, if I wrapped a fish in either of them, I would double check the fish, because there would be a leak somewhere, for sure.

    6. Lev, it was a hyperbole mostly, but the thing is I’m used to AS. Take away the layer of muck plastered on every Barça-oriented article and the sleazy glorification of Real Madrid (in case you haven’t seen it, they had a poll whether this Real Madrid is equal/superior or not to Guardiola’s Barcelona), and it’s presentable sports writing.

      Sport seems like the Catalan version of AS, but it’s like it’s written “by the fans, for the fans”, the same very vocal majority of fans you you were told were (unrepeatable word).

    7. I wasn’t trying to pass judgement on whether the board is doing the right things or not, Lev. I also don’t know the feeling on the street in Barcelona. However, newspapers aren’t daft. It’s always dangerous for them to be out of line with their readership and I’m not seeing it reflected there or in attempts to remove the board through other methods. I don’t agree with everything they’ve done but on things like shirt sponsors, revamping the Camp Nou which, although it has character is showing its age and bringing talents like Suarez and Neymar I have no complaints. Both of those are here despite being offered a lot more by other clubs because they want to be. When the elections come that’s fine democracy will have its way and I’m not saying I’d be in favour of the current board but I don’t see much point in upsetting the applecart before then. They aren’t gonna resign and there isn’t enough sentiment among the socios to remove them.

      With regard to some of the socios in Barcelona being intellectually challenged Id say ain’t democracy a bugger? I vote no in the Scottish referendum being quite well appraised of the financial implications and he votes yes because he wants air passenger duty done away with so he can get cheaper flights ! And his vote counts the same as mine …

      With regard to the survey by the newspaper don’t get me started :). The last minute surge by the Nats here was down to a single poll that put them ahead conducted with a very small sample and largely in Glasgow which is a well known Nat stronghold. Now the Nats, who are refusing to accept the result ( let that be their character note ) are talking about 45% of Scotland wanting independence ( eh, wait a minute, you got 45% of those who voted. The 15% who didn’t vote are aligned to your cause why?) as it turned out for us there was a silent majority who said nothing till polling day so who knows with the socios? Btw, at the risk of starting a mutual admiration society I think your responses are always calm, well reasoned and worth reading. Just sayin’

    8. Haha, don’t get me started on politics.

      Unfortunately I don’t have as much time as I’d like to contribute to the blog, wether that be through articles or comments, but next time you take your missus to Barcelona let me know.

  22. But Lev it sure seems like we are on the verge of a revolution. It started with the appointment of Tata and this continual search for answers. It seems a revolution because the general emphasis has not been on strengthening our play but of highlighting its many weaknesses. The discourses has shifted to how inadequate a midfield of technicians with minor pace and power stands little chance.

    Though Rosell and Bartomeu are different they share certain philosophies. And they might as well have viewed Scolari and his template as bonafide which in itself is not a problem.

    Like i have said above Atletico play on the counter and are not apologetic about it. When they lose they dont question the style but application. So do Madrid and a whole host of other teams.

    The debate has not been about shoring our style up but rather of changing tack. When we discuss Xavi/ Ini/ Busi the focus is not on better players who can offer a lot more of the same but on who can do drastically different things. So yeah the feeling of revolution to me is up in the air.

    1. The revolution as you said will not happen, especially with Messi, Xavi and Iniesta in team. Not to mention the others like Busquets, Alves etc. The only possible way to have Barca change their whole style is to ship those three out. But here is a question – what makes you think a revolution is necessary? What we basically need is an evolution not a revolution. Getting back to basics is necessary now more than ever. Why Messi needs to be shipped? Cause he was the one of the pillar on which the last revolution was made.

      Now if it’s going to be a revolution, it has to be a huge change not in personal also in tactics. But that will need a total reset even at Youth academy.

      As far as I am concerned it is not the lack of revolution or alternative playing style which is affecting us, but a simple lack of common sense. Stop playing to the gallery. The decision to start with Saurez at Bernebeu is a classical example. Here was a player who never played with any of our players not even in National level but starts at one of the important match so far.

      The question to be answered is “Is Luis Enrique really in command?”

    2. I am not advocating revolution myself. What i like is inconsequential. What the board and coach want is paramount. I am only saying that a revolution seems likely and if it does come to pass certain players would have to go, including Messi. I can’t see him playing regularly in a counter attacking team that’s all.

    3. I don’t see how incorporating a more direct approach for certain games even remotely resembles turning into a counterattacking team.

    4. Is it possible to live in between the styles? Is it possible to dispense with the core of a team and play the same manner? Our problem is that we face almost the same approach against our team. Defend en masse and hit on the counter. So if we develop that aspect of our game against which will we employ that tactic? Where opportunities present themselves i am all for playing the ball quicker.

  23. reported that Xavi is leaving in January.
    This will probably mark the end of a generation, or a playing style.

    1. There’s simply no way Xavi will leave Barça in the winter. He’s still valued here, and even if not, he’s too culé to ditch us halfway through a season.

  24. I watch Sanchez play for Arsenal, and every time I do, I wonder if we could have saved 81m, or spent that money somewhere else.

    Is he as good as Suarez as a striker? Nope. But man, take him out of the phone booth on the right and look what he does. We got glimpses of it when Messi was injured and he and Neymar were having fun. But if he keeps up what he’s doing, his fee will seem a bargain to Wenger.

    1. And apparently Liverpool bid more than Arsenal, but the player wanted to go to Arsenal. Wenger must have been convincing. “I’ll give you the reins.”

      Barça has a history of hammering pegs into the wrong holes. Fabregas, Song, Sanchez to name a few high-profile folks. It’s no coincidence that all of them are doing well at their new teams, because those teams have set up a situation to capitalize on their skill sets, rather than saying “This is what we do. Now you go over there.”

      Obviously Barça isn’t going to change how it plays because of certain players, but I just don’t know how you can watch Sanchez do what he was doing, then say to him, “Okay, Messi’s back. Go stand over there on the right like you were before.”

      The matches in which Song played in front of Busquets, he was much better than when he was doing the whole DM or briefly (CB thing). The West Ham folks saw that and said “Sheeeit, we can deal with this.” And of course, Mourinho saw in Fabregas what our system made impossible.

      I like the ambition in buying Suarez. I just don’t know that he was the solution. I’d rather have kept Sanchez, took a pass on Suarez and bought say, Kroos and Cuadrado. No way Marcelo is going hog wild on Alves’ side if Sanchez is in the side. You also wouldn’t need to essentially play Rakitic at an FB at times.

    2. Yeah but why would Sanchez want to stay? Or Fabergas for that matter? Like you said we were telling exceptional players to limit their ability and style in order to fit our system or to be able to play alongside our existing players. For Sanchez to be really at his best he needs freedom, he was never going to get that at Barca, not with Messi in the side.

      I think had he wanted to stay we would have kept him, I do not think he wanted to stay. Same with Cesc, who made it clear he wanted to leave.

      Whether or not Suarez was the right buy only time will tell. What I know is that we needed another player to take the scoring burden off of Messi and if there is anyone who is capable it is Suarez.

    3. I think Sanchez was excellent even in the role he was asked to play and the reason he left was not because he wanted to be the man at Arsenal but because Tata parked him on the bench against Man City, Atletico (CL ties) and RM (league and Copa final) after a first half of the season in which he played his heart out and was arguably the best performer of our team.

    4. I know you believe that, Levon, but that particular situation is as easy as talking to the coach, who the players knew by then wasn’t going to be long-term anyhow. You don’t uproot your life and change clubs in a moment of ire.

      I think that Sanchez understands that he is most effective and at his best running up the center channel, often with the ball at his feet. And that was never going to happen at Barça, not only because the team’s style isn’t run and gun, but also because there is this Messi chap, playing in the same spot that Sanchez would love to be playing in.

      Sanchez was good in that wide right role. Rarely excellent. If you look at the goals he has been scoring for Arsenal, they’re the kinds of goals he was pretty much never going to score with us, because that’s the job of other players, or the ball is slowed down to play pit-a-pat and march inexorably toward the opponent goal.

  25. I hope the rumors of X or Y player being unhappy with, or not trusting Enrique isn’t true. Because I struggle to see how his project is going to work without full buy in.

    I have to say that I believe in the traditional notion of the coach as the Mister. He’s the boss. If you’re unhappy with something, fix your attitude. At some point if the guy in charge doesn’t get full buy-in, the project isn’t going to work, plain and simple.

    And when people don’t believe in the project, they trot instead of run, hesitate when they shouldn’t and suddenly, thin margins become gaping maws.

    Rijkaard lost the locker room thanks to certain individuals, and a Champions League-winning site morphed into a team that seemed to be trying to find ways to lose. Guardiola came in, put his foot down and got full buy in.

    We know already, thanks to Bartomeu quotes, that Enrique didn’t get the team he wanted. What we will never know is whether that meant players going, as well as players coming in.

    1. The players have spent enough time playing football to understand that it’s normal for things to occasionally go against your desires, That not every 90 minutes has to be amplified to the size of a universe, That you can’t look at everything at a magnifying glass and nit-pick every little thing, Some times a few matches are just a few drops in an ocean, But good luck teaching that to your average joe with a Twitter.

      I read all the players statements after the match, While many choose to dismiss them preemptively because it’s most likely diplomatic, They didn’t sound like that to me, The players seemed to be calm, And knew what was happening and what needs to be done.
      But most fans won’t pay attention to what is being said by the players themselves, Cause it’s all about forcing their own pre-determined narratives, That is tucked away and hidden until the appropriate time comes, Didn’t you yourself also notice how all these ‘Enrique doesn’t have a system, Blah blah blah’ just came out of the blue, And there was no sign of them when the team was doing what it was supposed to do and winning.

      Mascherano: “We should get up. Very important CL game coming up and not everything is bad, although some want to make it look like that.”

      Those ‘some’ he refereed to aren’t marca or AS, They your Domesday, Crisis everyday fans, The players haven’t got fed up with their coach, But with the reality they’re forced to live in, That with every loss, Every draw, The world has to fall apart.

      When the opposition players admit they got lucky, That their GK was exceptional, And they were at their best day, And then some cules covers his ears, Denies all of that, And insist on pointing fingers, That is the best evidence that i can give of those narratives.

    2. Your comment about certain criticisms being new is on point. I even went back and looked at old comments threads after match wins.

      There is a craving for immediacy to mate with the excitement attendant to getting a new, “right” coach. “Now we’re ready, without that caretaker running things!”

      One reason I think, for the delayed reaction as regards a system is that after X or Y number of matches, I think that people want to start to see evidence of something going on so it becomes a reaction to that craving.

      For me, that Celta match was as disjointed as I have seen a Barça side in recent memory. This piece breaks it down pretty well.

      I think that a lot of reaction is overreaction, just as it was in the wake of the 4-0 smackdown under Martino, where folks began talking about loss of The Way. It happens.

    3. Would take too much effort to track down, Levon, but something to the effect of Enrique asked for some players, many we got but some were impossible.

  26. Sanchez thrives in space. Don’t know if he would have got it here. But his pressing is absolutely out of this world. On any given day he will fight. He may fail but he always convinces you that its not because of a lack of desire. Brilliant forward in the right set up

  27. i loved this article levon..i could listen to your likes and dislikes all day..i tell you one thing..i didnt like was getting rid of alexis..what lala10 said above is spot you can throw away someone with such heart is beyond me he is like a mascherano. and the form he was in during the world cup and has continued to be in since then..the behind the scenes things that go on at our club..i try not to think really makes me sick..

    hmm..saw this about xavi on marca…

    “FC Tokyo are reportedly willing to offer the passmaster a salary of around 1 million yen (7m of euros) a year.”

    1 million yen actually equals 7,000 euros…i think a few of their facts not so straight..

  28. I watched 20 games of liverpool last season and suarez was in every game their best player.Pressing passing movement power fight.I watched sanchez against chelsea and ivanovic had him for breakfast please we are here people who we are watching a lot of games and when i will tell my opinion about a player that will happen after i watch him in a lot games.Suarez is the best player now and sanchez in top 30

  29. But yeah if u dont like him we can sell him to madrid and we can buy another forward like sanchez because here we dont want forwards to score goals but to press so our midfielders and defenders have a rest…

  30. i. are there any young creative MF that knows how to press coordinately ready to be promoted?
    ii. swift/fast possession Xalways= counter-attack/fast breaks
    speed vs [the pos of the ball & dist it travels, opposition’s relative
    pos..ok..enough of this..not interested in naming..
    iii. Still, consider the stats, the usual/basic most ppl do..
    a.the overall possession[esp.% in the attacking 3rd],
    b.relative #chances created..
    The most usual case is %possession spent in MF zone, which is related to # of MF zone players in most teams nowadays, and esp when ~ quality teams/~stragegy(possession-based teams, both packed MF zones with players

    But..the reality, the ball’s dest..[not my word’s let player [X]/[@] closer to the goal increases the chance[->ct.pb], ~ basis/principle applies, [@]’s ans is obvious..

    when % possession can be shifted from the mid-> the other end(as long as you are in the attacking 3rd), no need to be panic, drink some water[or imagine it] if you do..

    iv. unless sbdy wanna see ‘static things’ again, choose yourself, squirrels or penguins like last season’s 2nd half some of those matches,
    what are the outcome?

    v. A preset formation X= mean it can’t be changed or specific pos can be adjusted accordingly.. Naturally, co. will try to min their relative positions, but again relative% space determines that..
    Every human-made systems has its relative +ve/-ve, differ in the relative %, can players attack in an exceedingly crowded zone, relying on long pass most of the time considering the players’ skillset and relative passing accuracy(both skillset and other physical factors based)

    ‘Telepathy’/cohesion relies on together/training/time..

    2. >=1 player has done this, really harsh lessons..
    Naturally,most players are in a disadv/not familiar with their backs facing the opposition goal(no matter in the attacking/defending stage).
    That’s why those who have seen [security officers] in life/some movies preferably station their backs against the wall in dealing with some cases..

    But when sbdy anticipates to receive a ball in such state,
    1…if the area is out of own’s penalty area& no yellow card,
    2.consider your weakest pt./area related to your visual field/FOV
    try using one of your hand as a protector(avoid rash/brute force by your hand),
    3.consider where you’re going to move..
    4.if passing lanes&/angles are extremely limited,
    (prepare)& try turning around asap
    5.Concurrently( defending stage) , teamate shd asap (adjust)pos to receive a pass..Not here to single out any player who has committed this ~ important mistake as a few has done this..

    3. The mid has responsibility to support the forward,true,
    in reverse in tight matches/games, the reverse = T
    when the ‘MF’ e.g. is out#, outplayed, forwards/>=1 shd help them
    no such a rigid rule to a fixed formation like 4-3-1-2, or who will be the
    extra one(s) to help, all of the 3 forwards has the ability to playmake, dribble and score unless the whole team totally forgets what fluidity means, just think of water..(2)cohesion and min relative distance as space allows,meaning >=1 players has to follow co’s mvt both in attack(esp in through pass) & in defense->more associative plays,1-2s-3s.., tp.& spaces can be generated for goal scoring and more efficient pressing in defending.

    4. Don’t put all burden onto Messi, other forwards can share responsbility and energy in attack esp. when dribbling cannot be avoided and passing lanes/angles are extremely tighted, though an extra capable young creative MF(with potential) [promoted] is essential(if any)

    5. in really dire circumstance,e.g. last 10-15 min, try utilize an inverted FB further supporting the attack

    At least water is better than a brick.
    If the team revert to its static form,then choose btw water or a brick..
    But more adjustment has to be done. Actually, at least prev 3 managers has laid the framework, esp. the one who is resting peacefully..[who has worked really professionally). Not reckon he wants his work to be totally abandoned. continual Adj&consolidation to the existing template/mode/form is needed.Not all things are new, they have learned some of it but the app?!!

  31. Anyone seen this weeks Revista on Sky Sports? Pretty scathing stuff. I don’t normally put much faith in Balague but he seems convinced that LE has already lost the dressing room and that the players have no clue what he wants from them. Balague claims to be getting this directly from the players. I always take what he says with a pinch of salt, but if true, that is very worrying so early on in the season.

    1. Anything to make this more of a hyper-soap opera! I love the idea of a room full of millionaires complaining about this and that, but I just don’t buy it. Everyone seems to be a professional.

      20 different narratives explode for every facial gesture Messi makes.

  32. I’m sure everyone saw the Cruyff words related to Kroos?:
    “It’s a fact that Toni Kroos preferred joining Barcelona than Real Madrid.”
    Should’ve bought him and Rakatic, but of course people screamed to think of ” Masia” and our “youth”.
    What a shame, now Madrid does ball possession and circulation (NOT meaningless ball possession) better than we do. Imagine how saddened John must be at our floundering to find any sort of identity these past years. What a shame.

  33. ————-Bravo————-

    Ive been waiting to see this and feel very strongly about its abilities. Anyone think he’d ever go with a lineup like this?

    1. Sub Matthieu, Bravo and Suarez for Bartra, Ter Stegen and Pedro and you have the line-up for the Ajax game at Camp Nou.

      In my humble opinion it was the best game so far in this season for Iniesta, Mascherano and Rakitic. Ajax had to play from the back because the midfield pressed like insane and intercepted passes left and right, whereas the Bartra and Pique took care of the long balls. No wonder they all looked tired against Real.

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