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.
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.