This Is A Call For Patience

It was a terrible day in Barcelona when Pep Guardiola signed his contract as Barcelona manager.

Wait, what?! Yeah that was severely exaggerated, I admit.

Before you shoot my head off, here is what I have to say:

Pep signed in 2008 and gave the world the impression that coaches can handle a group of players and directly lead them to glory. Mourinho gave people the same impression with Inter. Let’s go back to Pep.

He gave the team a few years of memorable football and success. As Barcelona fans, we will never forget him and the glory he has brought us. But life in FC Barcelona existed before Pep and will exist after Pep. And the illusion that Pep created should be forever erased from people’s minds. This is what I always say: Pep was the exception, NEVER the rule.

So what is the rule, anyway?

The rule is coaches won’t succeed from the very beginning and any coach in the world says that. He WON’T implement his style of play perfectly from the very beginning. His players WON’T understand every single detail he wants. He’ll seem clueless in some stages. That’s called starting a team from scratch and trying to make it your own.

Luis Enrique’s Barca is a perfect example on that.

  • Here you have a group of talented players that were part of arguably the best team in history and these players themselves have improved in certain aspects of the game and deteriorated in others.
  • You also have a set of newcomers from the summer transfers.
  • You have a coach who is inexperienced yet is knowledgeable regarding the team’s style of play.
  • You have a conflict in the style of play itself between players like Xavi-Busquets and one of your newcomers, Rakitic(who didn’t exactly play the ‘Xavi way’ back in Sevilla)
  • You have an entirely new defensive line and goalkeeper.You simply lack communication and chemistry.

And this is where other coaches come into the picture.

First up, Mr. Simeone:

simeone-640-atletico

 

Simeone joined in the end of 2011. Atletico Madrid weren’t considered title contenders back then. Months passed and Atleti suddenly became Europe’s second best team and league champions running up against the two football giants: Barcelona and Real Madrid.
Simeone had less talented players than Barcelona and Real Madrid that’s for sure. What made his team who they were was the sense of unity and chemistry between the players. It took time, but they got there.

Next up, is the great Klopp.

article-0-198BA596000005DC-544_634x407

Similarly, Klopp took the club to a sixth place finish in his first season in charge, and a fifth place finish in the season after that, before leading the club to successive Bundesliga titles and a Champions League final. Klopp didn’t have players with massive price tags. But over the years he implemented his ideas. His players GRADUALLY learnt them. By 2013, Dortmund were playing the most beautiful and most effective football in Europe. Well, here is a fact, Klopp joined in 2008.

Mourinho, although not exactly a great example on unity, can also be used to describe a transformation over time:

1291074025_1article-2328074-19E6CDFE000005DC-338_634x525

Mourinho had a team packed with talent. Yet, the special one was crushed in a famous 5-0 defeat in the Camp Nou. Mourinho took his time and created a force. This force went on to defeat Barcelona in the Camp Nou and claim the league title. From being crushed 5-0 to making Barcelona look absolutely clueless(under PEP and Tito), we can surely say that Mourinho learned from his mistakes and worked to correct them.

All these coaches had some things in common:

  • They all looked tactically defeated in their beginning stages.
  • The players did not connect the dots the way the coach wanted them to.
  • They all eventually succeeded in one way or another(Although I know Mourinho’s Real Madrid is a bad example here).

    Well, in defense of the special one(and I don’t do that a lot), he did fail in his first year with Chelsea once he returned but look where he is now in the premier league…And the examples of coaches who suffered at first then succeeded are countless. I am sure you have some in mind.

    I always say: Being Barcelona’s coach is the toughest job in sports. You are the face Barca fans see after they wake up from a wonderful dream.

Enough about coaches!
What about the players? There is this misconception that players automatically find their perfect spot in any team they’re in and automatically blend in.

Players need to adapt to their environment even beyond football. So how can I expect, for example, Rakitic to excel from his first few months? Players who directly adapt are very lucky but not everyone is lucky. Some face difficulties and should gradually overcome these difficulties. Actually Rakitic is doing better than many(including myself) predicted. How can I expect Rakitic to be automatically used to how Lionel Messi functions? How can I expect Suarez, Messi and Neymar to click from the very beginning when they all have different approaches yet are all talented?
And HERE is the point. It is rarely ever about talent if you don’t have *again* communication and chemistry.

These players should get to talk. These players should get to understand each other.These players should develop player telepathy and it’s not developed over a few months.
*Player telepathy is a concept I made up(I don’t know if it exists) to describe what players feel when they are extremely and amusingly on the same wavelength. Xavi and Iniesta are a great example.
Which foot do you prefer to receive the ball on? Are you good in the air? If so, can I depend on you to receive certain tough passes? How fast are you? If I ask you to physically battle a player for the ball with my pass, will you do it or should I avoid passing for now? And these endless small details define a player and a whole team.

It is terrible to treat players like chess pieces. They have minds and they need to adapt to an environment, a style of play, and players they did not know before. This is never easy.

So there you have it:

A new coach, a new team formed of newcomers and players so deeply related to a previous style of play.
Van Gaal said in the beginning of the season: “Buying new players is easy. Making them play the way we should be playing is the tough part.”

Time is all what is needed to create a functioning team. We are blessed with the ability of purchasing the services of any player we wish to have. That does not mean we will succeed from the beginning. That does not mean the coach will implement his full ideas from the start. This surely doesn’t mean the players suddenly become connected together efficiently once they put on the same shirt because that’s never the case.

Finally, this is not to defend Luis Enrique. Luis Enrique could end up failing badly here. This is to defend any coach in the world who first arrives to a team(specially a team WHO HAS BEEN LIVING OFF A DREAM, I’m sorry I didn’t mean to shout) and suffers setbacks. This is to defend every player in the world who doesn’t automatically & magically fit into his team from the very beginning.

This is a call for patience.

 

 

 

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90 Comments

  1. deerwithwings
    November 10, 2014

    Wait? Why would I be rational when I could come up with my own formation and post it to Twitter and then complain again?

    The problem isn’t 2009 though, it’s the fact that most fans play too much FIFA and have forgotten what following a sports team is actually like. I wouldn’t be surprised if 50 years from now we watch people playing video games instead of human beings.

    Great article.

  2. georgjorge
    November 10, 2014

    I like your style of writing as well as the message behind this article. Great second piece on here.

    • Barca Chief
      November 11, 2014

      thanks a lot!

  3. Peter
    November 10, 2014

    Okay, so MARCA and AS both reported Cruyff’s view on Real and Barcelona’s coaches in front of the microphones of La Gazzeta delo Sport:

    “Ancelotti has worked in four or five different countries, knows his languages and is older, makes you see things better and direct better.”

    About Luis Enrique:
    “It’s just eleven games. In the first seven or eight Barcelona reached the heavens, now it’s fallen. New coach and players, they need to settle down. You can’t judge Luis Enrique after ten weeks. Still, he should get a move on, use the experience gained so far and get going”

    MD waited for a while until they could be sure Cruyff actually did say that… Heads are probably exploding in the offices at SPORT.

    The only thing needed right now is for Pique to score a goal in the qualifier/friendly with La Roja, the urge patience and support for Luis Enrique. 😀

  4. ooga aga
    November 10, 2014

    Molt gracies Barca Chief. 7 new players and a new coach, new formations…and league opponents who are more than ever parked in their bus…something that not even Pep dealt with at the outset…

    The way things are now, not even Pep would win people over…his first league match, a 1-0 loss to NUMANCIA. then a 1-1 tie against RACING SANTANDER. His record at this point of the season was about the same as Luis Enrique’s. This is why it is simply too early to say some of the negative things being said in this forum.

    I’m gonna enjoy this season to the fullest. The parts I dont enjoy wont take away from the parts I do enjoy. This is how I approach things…if others want to beat up on the team they “support,” I suppose that is their right…

  5. bhed
    November 10, 2014

    This is reply to a question from Jim about Pique from a discussion in the last post (Hectored!), reposted for his convenience:

    Well now that you put it like that…

    Seriously, I’ve been a Pique believer (a Piliever?) for some time, and while I’d have to go back and re-watch games that are no longer on my DVR in order to give you specific examples, without being too specific, I’ve just gotten the sense that he’s been off.

    I’m not quite in the “sell him!” camp yet, and he still shows some great CB instincts, but he’s been too inconsistent to give the kind of assurance he did when he was paired with Puyol.

    At the moment, I’d have to say I’d go with an even rotation of Mathieu, Pique, and Bartra, with Masch battling it out with Busquets at DM. I wouldn’t be surprised if Mathieu has a drop-off in form next year (he’s no spring chicken), but if given minutes, I think Bartra could step up a notch. If Pique could even be at 80 or 90% of his best, I think we’d be OK.

    Again, I’m more worried about our fullbacks than our centerbacks.

    • Jim
      November 10, 2014

      🙂

      Go back and look at the comments in the game posts – nah, don’t bother. If Pique had sold any goals it would have been all over them, given the current climate. If he’d done any of the things I mentioned Masche had been involved in he’d have been run out of town !

      Anyway, I think you’re right. Not so much personnel although that’s an issue at RB – I think Alba will end up a pretty useful LB – but more their use. With our current front three I don’t think the advanced FBs all the time is the answer. We can break buses pretty well as long as Xavi / Iniesta can provide the control around their box and Messi doesn’t have to keep coming deep. Once we’ve established that, the FBs can arrive later in the move rather than being a fixture at present.

      Anyway, off to watch my recording of Revista which won’t make for pretty listening, I’m thinking.

      Btw, nice to have you on board, chief. Sensible call for time for LE. I’m kinda with Cruyff. Doesn’t matter up to now but from here on we kinda need to at least see some direction, even if the details will take time.

    • Jim
      November 10, 2014

      Nah, Revista was a damp squib. They had Calderon in the studio and it was a bit sycophantic.

  6. bhed
    November 10, 2014

    Oh, and nice post Chief!

    Agree with the patience thing, but blogs being blogs, and fans being fans, I’ve kind of embraced the pessimism, the debates it’s engendering, and I’m looking forward to the sheepish mea-culpas (including my own) that are bound to follow if the ship is righted.

  7. agar2515
    November 10, 2014

    Lately it feels like People here have, become so borderline obsessed with railing against the “cynical cules” that its nearly impossible to get out a critical word without being lumped in with those of the ” twitterverse” or being snarled at for being irrational or accused of constructing your own uninformed narratives.
    Like Chief says maybe it’s just possible to have a middle ground when discussing things. Acknowledge issues while recognizing that it’s only November.

    • November 10, 2014

      No. That isn’t it at all. There have even been posts that have been critical of the team and the way it is playing.

      The question I have is why can’t both exist? Nobody, and I mean nobody is saying that people can’t be critical of the team. Critical types label people who call for patience as silly, blinded Pollyannas. And those Pollyannas are every bit as sensitive and defensive as the people who assert that doom awaits.

      What I want it reasoned, rational analysis about where the team is, based on this particular template. Not Guardiola, who probably couldn’t even live up to his own legend … not the past. The past is dead. This is now, and in the here and now we have the squad we have, and probably will have for the next two windows. So let’s discuss that, and ways to make it better.

      Labels make everyone defensive. “Why can’t we criticize the team,” is as invalid a question “As why are you all so negative?” Neither query helps discussion, which is why we’re all here. Of all the things I would like most to end, it is the labels and accusations. Let’s just ALL discuss Barça.

    • agar2515
      November 10, 2014

      I totally agree Kevin and should have been more specific. I am referring to the comments on the posts NOT the blog posts themselves, which have all been quite fair positively and negatively.

    • deerwithwings
      November 10, 2014

      I think it’s because a majority of internet is telling me that we are doomed.

      I am also really sick of reading about XYZ formation in the comment section of every Barça/Football except this one.

      I’m fine with criticism, I just think a loss for FCB is blown WAY out of proportion.

      This is just where I am coming from though.

    • agar2515
      November 10, 2014

      Ah, fair point. I stay off places like totalbarca and twitter now tbh haha

    • deerwithwings
      November 11, 2014

      Yeah, I think the negativity here is pretty tame, and it also functions to create dialogue. I am also a super super cynic, especially politically so I am all on board.

      I avoid any other comment section about sports, but even the Guardian (a newspaper that I love) is full of trolls and doomsayers. Other websites The commentary especially) seem directed towards teenagers, and I really think that a lot of people respond the way they do because of an abuse of video games.

      I just wish FIFA would come out with a game that mimics running most governments more justly and without corruption. Maybe we’d get rid of the status quo.

    • November 10, 2014

      Thanks, agar2515. I think that as with everything, the truth is somewhere in the middle. I never let myself predict that I said the team wouldn’t win major silver this season, which probably tempers my views and expectations.

      I love this comments space, frankly, because it is a far, far cry from others that I visit. Even when we get outside the bounds of respect by this place’s standard, it’s still a really good space compared to others.

      The best part is that we can keep it that way.

  8. November 10, 2014

    Meanwhile, Pep Guardiola has said that he will not be returning to coach Barça, in an interview today.

    I rather like that. First he said that Enrique will succeed, then that he will not be returning to coach the club again. Boy, my timeline on Twitter was like spurned lovers, heading for the nearest ledge …

    • G6O
      November 10, 2014

      Well, it does make sense. I am not aware of any coach who has replicated his previous success in a second stint with the same club, and he knows not to make such mistakes (as evidence by how he jumped ship at the right time).

      Yet the elections are in 2016 and coincidentally that’s also when his contract with Bayern ends…

    • bhed
      November 11, 2014

      If only!

    • Ryan
      November 11, 2014

      “I am not aware of any coach who has replicated his previous success in a second stint with the same club.”

      A certain eye-poking coach who is now in his second term at Chelsea is well on track to do just that…

    • deerwithwings
      November 10, 2014

      I was attempting to translate that when I discovered it has an English button in the top right. Much better then my pigeon Catalan I’m sure.

    • Ttemple
      November 10, 2014

      Yea, thank you, deerwithwings. Just read the English version, which seems to me a little sloppy, but anyway.

      It reveals that some players are not following the dietary modules. And that there might be a friction between the medical and sporting staff. If that has a shard of verity, then things might be getting rusty.

    • deerwithwings
      November 11, 2014

      That article seems a bit insane though.

      Why can’t players eat sushi? Why can’t they go out for dinner? I mean, I don’t think Neymar should go to a John Legend concert, but that’s only a matter of taste =)

    • Peter
      November 11, 2014

      If that’s the source that Lee Roden used…

      This article reveals four things:

      1. Neymar went to a concert
      2. The team went to celebrate Adriano’s birthday in a Nipponese restaurant
      3. Rakitic and Mathieu eat Sushi
      4. Carles Villarubi is one director that voted against the appeal of Laporta’s case.

      All that could probbaly be learned from Neymar’s Instagram page and the list of after-game food that surfaced, as well as the interview in which Villarubi declared he was one of those who voted against lodging the appeal.

      The rest of the article is fishing for answers, presented as revelations. That’s not even worthy to be called reporting, it’s slimy, despicable doodling.

      One example: in the article it’s stated that it was heard that Dani Alves is going out as if it’s a fact. All we have are journalists using soundbites from pressers. Using this as the founding stone, the writer then asks what’s the role of Douglas, if he’s the supposed change of Dani Alves, then why isn’t he changing Alves, and presents it as the supposed lack of communication between Luis Enrique and Zubi.

      As for the medical staff being opposed to signing Vermaelen, they don’t have a say. They are presented with a player, who undergoes a medical, the staff shows the results and their professional opinion, and the director of transfer and the coach have the final say.
      It’s normal that the medical staff tells them the player is injured and that probably he won’t be available immediately. What we don’t know, what nobody apart from the people directly involved knows, is whether the decision was made precisely in view of the fact that Barcelona may be unable to sign players until January 2016, so Vermaelen is used when he’s absolutely confirmedly recovered and fit, whether that takes place in two weeks or six months.

    • BA
      November 11, 2014

      i’d love for someone to do some in-depth reporting on the links between our sporting office/agency connections and Arsenal’s that causes us to sign so many underwhelming players from them. surely that has to be the reason for all the Hlebs, Songs, and Vermaelens we take off their hands season after season.

    • November 11, 2014

      I’d also suggest that the Premiership shows players in a light that doesn’t exist in our reality.

      Hleb: Excellent before his injury, then the team hit the gas, he didn’t learn Spanish and got left behind.

      Song: Kicking ass at West Ham in his natural position, which he rarely played at Barça, but showed very well when he did.

      Vermaelen: Trains individually like a mo-fo.

      Even Fabregas, who is setting things alight at Chelsea now that he is being used in a way more suitable for his talents, didn’t exactly light it up at Barça. So many reasons, most of them having to do with playing space and player usage.

    • Peter
      November 11, 2014

      Song and Vermaelen, plus apparently a knowledgeable fitness and medical staff and Arsene Wenger would probably be kicking ass in the Premier right now.

      One example of what we´re talking about:

      Theo Walcott, 25, suffered a torn ACL on the 4th of January 2014. Initially the injury was called a sprained ankle by Wenger. The next day he was ruled out for 6 months with a torn ACL. He came from the bench for his first appearance since the injury on the 1st of November. That’s 10 months, or 66% more recovery time than initially estimated.

      Victor Valdés, nearly 33, torn ACL on the 26th of March in the 32nd minute of the Celta game. It was known before the second half had begun that he had a torn ACL, ruling him out for seven to nine months depending on progression. On the 23rd of October he was invited by Man United to finish his recovery with them. Mata revealed yesternight that Valdés is training with the reserves of United. Valdés tweeted the other day that he’s feeling awesome and that only little time is left until he’s completely recovered. If he returns to fitness before the 26th of November, it will be eight months since his injury. Eight months, aged almost 33.

      BA, if players underwhelm at Barcelona, it can be traced to two main reasons:
      1. Player does not adapt to his surroundings and the system
      2. Barcelona misuses the player.

      Song was a bit of both. When Martino used him as a forward-going midfielder, Song was much better. You know why? Because that’s his position first, and second, because unlike the pint-sized geniuses like Xavi and Iniesta, Song shrugged off bullying opposition. He kept the ball.
      Now he works great in West Ham, because he has more space to work with(who parks the bus to stop West Ham? 😀 ) and because he’s not shoehorned in a position not familiar for him. He was signed as a Keita replacement, but ended up being used as sometimes as a replacement of Busquets, sometimes of Mascherano/Puyol. Which was a mistake.

    • Peter
      November 11, 2014

      *Sprained knee.

    • kosby
      November 11, 2014

      Yup and I think that confirms what we have been thinking off late. I was wondering why this might be happening – Rakitic did not suddenly forget to play his natural game, which obviously means he’s being instructed to play in a certain manner. What’s interesting is that the article rightly pointed out how Mascherano was the real midfielder during the game. Its wonderful because it seems like LE has been devising a way to utilise sMasche’s qualities as a DM in his defender’s position. Which when he gets it right, is like killing 2 birds with 1 stone. Also for this to happen, Mascherano needs to be closer to the half way line, which means the “actual” midfielders – Rakitic/Rafinha etc need to occupy the opposition players to avoid them overloading Masch. I’d like to wait and see how Rakitic’s role evolves in future. But thats the thing isnt it – patience 🙂

    • November 11, 2014

      The interesting thing is that when Rakitic debuted, we all declared him to the manor born. Then everything changed.

    • kosby
      November 11, 2014

      Then everything ‘was’ changed – by the coach. Wonder if Suarez’s entry forced that. Or does it have anything to do with the nature of opposition’s play. LE wanted to make us unpredictable. Guess he’s succeeding eh..

  9. November 11, 2014

    Oh. A Telegraph story noted that Ronaldo calls Messi “motherf*****” in private, which made me laugh so hard I thought I was going to rupture something.

    • bhed
      November 11, 2014

      Can you really blame him? As much of a preening tw*t as he is, he has worked extraordinarily hard throughout his career, and to be constantly and publicly bested year after year, on the pitch, and in public opinion, must be maddeningly frustrating. I think it would take an extraordinarily magnanimous person to rise above it.

      Still, eff him.

    • November 11, 2014

      You can just see him as he gets his hair gel applied, asking, “So what did that motherf****** do toDAY?!”

      Absolutely hilarious, if true. Hell, it’s even funnier if it’s true.

    • barca96
      November 11, 2014

      But damn. The guy has been picking up so many awards lately. I can’t remember Messi picking up so many awards during his peak. Actually some these awards must be new as I never heard of them during Messi’s era. Or maybe they weren’t made so public back then. Ronaldo has more media exposure.

    • Peter
      November 11, 2014

      Last year he picked “MVP of La Liga”. This year he didn’t, since the award wasn’t presented, and well, he was awarded best goal, best player and best forward, so it wasn’t necessary to conjure an award.

  10. November 11, 2014

    Oh. Neymar has one more goal already this season than he had all of last season.

    • Dar_vincy
      November 12, 2014

      I’m also quite elated with his goal scoring form, Kexvin, as do we all. Quite unfortunate that our unsavory form atm disguises that impressive feat. Alot of it surely has to do with his acculturation with the system and also his understanding with Messi. Suarez shouldn’t have a problem in replicating that too.

  11. barca96
    November 11, 2014

    Barca Chief came out of nowhere 🙂
    http://youtu.be/QbOfC3iREYs

    I’m sorry. Just had to. It’s so hilarious.

  12. Gogah
    November 12, 2014

    Yo BFBers. Old and New.
    I used to be a regular here until a couple years back.
    some Interesting life developments have now steered my path towards a new country. And a new City. Yes, you guessed it.
    I am moving to Barcelona!
    It’s all a bit surreal and I am trying to keep my feet on the ground.
    Would be awesome to get in touch with some of the family members in BCN – Lev, NZM, Culetoon and any others I might have missed out.
    Cheerio and Visca!

    • November 12, 2014

      You lucky bugger! What a city! Send an email to team@barcelonafootballblog.com to give Lev and nzm a heads up. They are busy being absentee landlords, but will love to get that news.

      Congratulations, again.

    • Gogah
      November 13, 2014

      Gràcies

  13. Jim
    November 12, 2014

    Hey, some good news !

    From Barcastuff: Barcelona and Eric Abidal have a deal on his return when he retires. He will become sports director of the club’s football schools. [md]

    A promise kept …….

    • Jim
      November 12, 2014

      … And another interesting snippet from the same source quoting Tata as saying he’s going to play Messi on the right wing again. You know, it’s a given our front three will interchange at will but for me, with Suarez a real penalty box player, I don’t think that’s a bad starting position for Messi. Stops him having to drop so deep to get the ball in the first place and won’t have three around him the moment he gets the ball. Gets my vote.

    • November 12, 2014

      The nice part of me says promise kept, and hooray for Abidal. The mean part of me says you shouldn’t have kicked him out in the first place, and having him and Puyol in the front office isn’t going to save your hides.

      So there ya go. The Two Sides of Me.

      — To Jim’s point about Messi on RW, you know what? I have been watching some Treble season matches, and Guardiola played Messi on the right wing a LOT. He only stopped when the attacking quality diminished and Messi needed to score more.

    • Peter
      November 12, 2014

      And which of your sides would react if Abi collapsed on the field after trying to chase down Bale in the CdR final for example? I’m not trying to be confrontational, this is reality:

      Abidal was the starting CB for 26 matches in Ligue 1, but without the pressure of the Champions League, and he was outclassed in every defensive statistic by Ricardo Carvalho(who is shorter and older), who played one thousand minutes more. As a matter of fact, when I make a comparison between Abi, Carvalho, Mascherano and Pique’s 2013/14 season, Abi wins in only one category – percentage of won aerial duels – and even Masche wins more aerial duels on average.

      From the 15th of February Abidal played a total of three games – 26th of February, 6th of April, 26th of April.
      And that’s in Ligue 1, not La Liga.

      Blasphemy, I know. But the same “fans” who howl that Mathieu is old and that Barcelona needs young fit defenders of guarantee, not old and finished (Mathieu) or permanently injured (Vermaelen), how would they react at 34 year-old Abidal(he is 35 now)? My guess is they would’ve been screaming at the inhuman board and director of football for trying to squeeze the last bit of a once-great player and endangering his health.

      Zubi is bashed for saying “our signing is Puyol.”

      “Our signings are Puyol and Abidal.”
      Does it sound better now?

      I will go back to burning in hell now.

    • November 12, 2014

      The club handled that situation wrong. Plain and simple. Could Abidal have played as a sub? Dunno. Would he have taken a pay cut to be with the club that he loves and been productive in spot situations? Dunno. Would he have been more useful than the likes of Dos Santos, Afellay and Cuenca, assuming that pay cut? Well since he was ambulatory, yes.

      There is no need to overstate to make a point. Nobody is going to burn in hell for not thinking that the club messed up in how it cut Abidal loose. Nor is there a need to suggest that people who say Mathieu is old are not real fans by judicious use of quotes.

      We should be able to debate this stuff without all of that.

      For me, and it’s a very personal thing, but I think that the story and career of Abidal made him “mes que un player,” so to speak. Did he want to play more than he would have with us? Maybe, and perhaps that was why he left. I just know that you don’t leave a player who became iconic, weeping at a presser while you pat yourselves on the back about how well you think you’re treating him.

      I am happy that he is returning to Barça, even as I don’t think that he ever should have left.

    • Jim
      November 12, 2014

      Despite not always being as big a fan of Abidal as some here I think for me the important thing is that Abidal felt he wanted to come back. He was an important player for us and had he felt he had been really badly treated I doubt if he would have returned. Anyway, let’s not dwell. This story has a happy ending. 🙂

    • Peter
      November 12, 2014

      Apologies, Kevin, I’ve had too many MD/Sport comments today.

      We agree actually. I do think a way should’ve been found for him to stay, although I don’t think he would’ve agreed on a pay cut. A way should’ve been found, even though I understand the decision made.

      I overstate, because this was my fear. I have seen too many strong, healthy footballers suddenly collapse on the pitch and my heart was in my throat every time I saw Abidal play. Joy and fear.

      Again, I have to make the point, the reason for this comparison were the comments I read today. If you value your sanity, stay away from anything below the line that separates the comments from the article.

      Anyway, I agree absolutely that Abidal was more than a player, which is why I think I will burn in hell for comparing him to Ricardo Carvalho, Pique and Mascherano, because you can’t quantify heart, dedication and devotion. How do you quantify a block-pass made with your face because you were already on the ground? How do you quantify camaraderie and the small gestures that make all the difference (like the image on the right side of the blog)?

    • November 12, 2014

      I’m glad that the club did the right thing in leaving a door open for him. And given his stated love for the club and the city, there was probably never a question of him not walking through it.

      Like most players, I’m sure you want to to absolutely certain before you hang it up, as Puyol was.

      As Jim said, happy ending, and no worries, Peter. It’s funny, I don’t read comments anywhere except here. They are usually a mess, and quickly dissolve into personal attacks and flame wars.

  14. November 12, 2014

    What a truly wonderful post BarcaChief. Thank you.

    I probably shouldn’t be surprised because I have been a Barca fan long enough to know what the general fanbase are like, but I am that so little patience is being shown. Of course it is going to take time for the team to understand what the coach wants and for the new players to bed into the team. I was always expecting this season to be a transition year where if we win anything it is a bonus. What I am looking for and what I would like to see is some indication by the end of the year that things are starting to click. That would be enough for me this year, because given time and patience this crop of players can win anything and everything. Sure, there are a few positions that could in an ideal world be strengthened but no team is perfect (even the 2009 teams wasn’t perfect).

    In a way I like that LE is sticking to his guns, he has a plan, it has not come to fruition yet but I would rather he sticks with it, whatever it is, than gives in like Tata seemed to do last year. Lots of people talking about the amazing job Ancelotti is doing at RM and how we should have signed a coach with the same experience, but those people seem to forget that when he started at RM they looked disjointed and all over the place. They were winning games due to individual brilliance as opposed to team cohesion and now look at them. These things take time.

    The last 3 years we have always started the season really well and then dropped off when it came to crunch time from March onwards, maybe this season will be the opposite 🙂

  15. Tata2
    November 12, 2014

    still don’t understand why Fabregas left but he would have been the best bet in this direct style of play we are aspiring for. He use to make that pass whenever he saw the opportunity unlike Iniesta who would dwell on it till the chance was gone. with him gone the burden of making those passes now falls solely on messi

    • November 12, 2014

      We still do not know if LE wants to be very direct. He has always spoke about control actually.
      But, I am still sad, we dont have Fabregas now. With our midfield only assisting one goal so far, he would have been enormous. His anarchy would have been perfect in our present control less midfield.

    • Peter
      November 12, 2014

      Fabregas left because a part of his family is in London, he would get a higher salary, a system more suited to his quality and manner of play and supporters who actually appreciate him instead of screaming from the rooftops that he’s worse than useless and try to blame him for everything from Iniesta´s bad form to global warming, with a nice side-dish of “you drove Thiago away, you useless snail!”.

    • November 12, 2014

      What is important to note is that the piece is Hunter’s opinion. When I bring a piece to people, I usually say “interesting,” or this is something worth reading, because nobody really knows.

      It’s like when Cruijff said that Enrique needs time, etc, etc, and responses from people who have a negative view of Enrique will say “Well, what else would he say?” When Guardiola said that Enrique will succeed, many of the same people said “He isn’t going to bash Enrique.”

      None of them realized that neither person had to say that. Cruijff could have said something a lot less committal: “He has a difficult job on his hands,” or “I wish him luck with his challenges.” Same with Guardiola. Instead, both came out to deliberately say positive things.

      The statements are, as with all opinions, neither here nor there. But they are quite capable of assuming whatever mantle someone chooses. If you think Enrique is doing a pretty good job or needs more time, you say, “A-ha!” If you think that Enrique sucks, you’re going to say, “Hmph! What else would they say?”

      So it goes with articles. People should treat EVERYTHING with the skepticism with which they treat my posts. Because that’s important. Question everything.

    • November 12, 2014

      That is absolutely hilarious, and pretty accurate. Thanks for sharing it.

  16. November 12, 2014

    Oh hey, guess what? Rafinha is broken again. Pulled from the Brazil U-21 squad because of a hamstring twinge. Will need 7-10 days of recovery.

    And Vermaelen is still training by himself. He must be getting pretty lonely by now. Rumor is that his debut could come in December, in the Copa.

    • fedway
      November 12, 2014

      That’s not good news on Rafinha since I bet Lucho was counting on him to provide the youthful athleticism on the midfield, especially with his plan for the midfielders to play more defensively. However, as has been pointed out a Rafinha, Rakitic AM/CM combo might lack creativity. Perhaps this is where Denis Suarez comes in the picture but not until next year.

    • fedway
      November 12, 2014

      For the first time in years, I think we have a deeper squad than Madrid. They have had their share of injuries too but they really have not played with as much rotation as we have. At some point later in the season, you would hope that their lack of depth catches up with them and their players start getting more injuries, or lose form.

    • kosby
      November 12, 2014

      yup – I was thinking the same. They’ve been playing almost the same set of players in every game. Hopefully they just burn out by the end. My only concern is that we said the same about AM last year and they still ended up winning it.

    • Peter
      November 12, 2014

      Atletico lost the final precisely because they were burned out. After the turn of the hour they broke down, started cramping… For the third goal of Real there were more players of Real in the box of Atletico than Atletico players – because the rest physically could not track back.

      Not to mention that Barcelona won La Liga and was robbed of La Liga.

    • November 12, 2014

      You could see Koke telling everyone to get the ball out and get forward, but they just couldn’t.

      I will disagree with Peter’s call that Barça got robbed. The team didn’t score in 7 matches last season. Scoring in even two of those, all else being equal, means Barça wins the Liga.

    • Peter
      November 12, 2014

      Well, Messi’s goal was giving La Liga to Barcelona and the fact is that Atletico was already showing signs of exhaustion. Maybe I am looking at it through nostalgia-colored glasses, but I remember Atletico went forward for the first minutes of the second half, scored and then just stood back and tried to conserve their strength.

      If Mateu Lahoz hadn’t illegally disallowed that goal, Atletico would’ve had to go forward once again, and I don’t think they would’ve been able to do it once again. Not against a Barcelona that could see victory, not at Camp Nou which would’ve run its throats sore to support the team.

    • kosby
      November 12, 2014

      You’re right, AM did lose CL because they were exhausted but they won the Liga, when almost everyone was of the opinion that they are more suited to lose the league because of its length etc. Also I agree that we should’ve been awarded the Messi goal – but sadly history always ignores the subtext doesn’t it.

      Coming to EE, its interesting how they aren’t bogged down by their style/way of playing etc etc. As much as I hate to say this they were the best counter attacking team (okay maybe 2nd best only because of Dortmund) for the last couple of seasons. And they were content with that. This year they’re playing more possession based football and I don’t hear any complaints from anyone. I wonder why its just Barca that has traditions bogging them down.

      Also, I wonder if our depth is just an illusion. There is no denying that there is a huge loss of creativity when we resort to our bench – Montoya, Douglas (unknown quantity), Sergi Roberto, Pedro. They are all good players in their own right but I wonder if we would bring any of them on in case we’re losing a match. Then again not sure many teams are afforded that luxury either, except say Bayern..

    • BA
      November 12, 2014

      this despite the fact that our midfield has only contributed 1 assist in the league this season? to Madrid’s 17?

      yes, Messi’s assists have been up; but that makes us LESS deep, not more.

    • fedway
      November 12, 2014

      BA, I don’t know what your definition of depth is. Mine and most people, depth means the quantity and quality of squad and backup players that you can use for normal rotation to avoid burnout, to back fill for injuries, and for tactical flexibility. I don’t know what you are talking about when you seem to equate depth to assists from midfielders. Huh?

    • Peter
      November 12, 2014

      The problem is that Real Madrid’s squad is practically stacked. The only player of so-so quality I can think of is Nacho and maybe Coentrao and Arbeloa. But on the other hand, most of these players are young and have lots of stamina.

      It’s true that they have a shallower squad and it may turn to bite them badly, which is one reason I am glad Xavi left La Roja. If Busquets could leave it as well it would’ve been awesome, so that he can concentrate on recovering his form. Oh well…

  17. barca96
    November 12, 2014

    Why doesn’t Puyol become a defensive coach? It feels really weird not to have him around on the ground. He could really be useful for the defenders especially the young’uns like Bartra and Montoya.

    Btw, Liverpoor reignited their interest in Montoya. I wouldn’t blame him if he wants to leave. He’s been frozen out just like that.

    • November 12, 2014

      Montoya isn’t good enough, or he would be playing. If he wants to leave, he should. If he was good enough, we wouldn’t have to keep relying on an aging, increasingly ineffective Alves.

      The idea that productive players are somehow not played out of spite or some other unfathomable reason is one that doesn’t track for me. If a player is good enough, there’s no reason he wouldn’t play, early and often.

      People wondered by Bartra didn’t play more. Pique’s dip in form and the Mathieu injury opened a door for Bartra, presenting him an opportunity that he is trying to seize. Hats off to him.

      The last time I saw Montoya play this season, I thought to myself, “No wonder he isn’t playing more.”

    • bhed
      November 13, 2014

      Agreed, but if it’s a very close decision (say Bartra vs. Mathieu vs. Pique), there might be decisions made that aren’t entirely logical/sporting. Another bit of brain science – our decision making process runs through the amygdala (emotional center); we tend to use our rational brain (frontal cortex) to rationalize after the fact. There have been some interesting studies with brain injury cases that confirm this. Long story short, the experts don’t always make the best decisions.

  18. November 12, 2014

    So now TV3 is saying that ZubiZa ignored medicos and signed Vermaelen, that he was told the player needed surgery and overruled everyone. Which makes me wonder about this:

    http://www.fcbarcelona.com/football/first-team/detail/article/vermaelen-passes-medical-tests

    This club and the atmosphere surrounding it is nuts right now. As toxic as can be. A sporting director can’t just sign a player. The board has to okay it, unless the sporting director also has control the checkbook, which he doesn’t.

    This also assumes that Enrique would have absolutely zero input about the players who are going to be part of his squad, which would run contrary to everything we have learned about him so far.

    So you all can imagine why I would be a bit confused.

    • Peter
      November 12, 2014

      Hmmm, just a bit of googling and checking youtube, the whistleblower is a TV3 journalist responsible for the creation of the following facebook page:

      “I too hate Jordi Grau”. Apparently the guy has a tendency to ask dumb questions and be overly insistent.

      This is not an attempt at character assassination, the information may be legit, but I think it’s quite interesting that neither MARCA nor AS have gone with the article. They may be waiting for the morning edition, but still…

      MD is careful to point that the information is only according to Esport Club, they don’t give it legitimacy, just reporting what others have said.

    • November 12, 2014

      I see he’s also the guy who Tweeted in September that we had closed the signing of Reus for 5 years/35m.

    • Peter
      November 12, 2014

      This seems to be a parody twitter account, that’s why I didn’t include it. 😀

    • Peter
      November 12, 2014

      What’s even more surprising is this article by MARCA:

      http://www.marca.com/2014/11/12/futbol/equipos/barcelona/1415815209.html
      (for the non-spanish speaking)
      “Pique not playing games”
      Rejects completely leaving the club this year
      Knows that his benching is due to conduct and wants to reverse it
      Works silently

      That article would fit in Mundo Deportivo. Seeing it in MARCA is a bit like seeing Florentino Perez gettin off the Barcelona team bus with a bottle of Estrella Damm and a happy grin.

    • November 13, 2014

      Good lord …

    • November 13, 2014

      I’ve commented many times in this space that I don’t think Montoya is or will be a legitimate option to become a starting RB at Barça.

      Having said that, we can’t really afford to sell any right backs right now, because after next summer we might be left with Douglas.

      As an aside, I love using hyperbole in some of my own (increasingly sporadic) pieces. I do hope that when I do it’s clear I’m using hyperbole for hyperbole’s sake and they don’t reflect my usually more balanced opinion.

    • barca96
      November 13, 2014

      Some parts of the article was a bit too much. But seriously, Alves had been horrible on both ends. Montoya can’t get any worse from the appearances that I’ve seen him play for the past 3 seasons.

    • deerwithwings
      November 13, 2014

      Yeah, that website is ridiculous, and that article terrible.

      I agree with barca96 and Levon though. I understand the opinion that Montoya must not be good enough. Last year I totally understood why he didn’t get more time. However, we have only seen him in one game this year, so it’s hard to say. Anyway, RB is the position that worries me the most. If Montoya leaves, and Alves at the end of the year, we have Douglas (totally untested) and Adriano (injury prone). Montoya is not as good attacking, but I am never worries about him defensively. Moreover, I’d like to see a RB actually playing defense anyway. The RB lead attack does not work anymore.

    • November 13, 2014

      I thought he played well during last season’s loss at Granada, but that was the only game he played well in, imo.

      I agree with the call for a good defensive back, but he must be really good defensively, not just really good in comparison to his black hole oriented offense.

    • bhed
      November 13, 2014

      I only half disagree. He’s a bit hyperbolic on Alves (as I have been), but I don’t think he’s wrong. I wholly disagree on Montoya though. I don’t think I’m being biased (although who knows), but I just haven’t seen any good performances from him for the last season and a half. He hasn’t been a disaster, he just hasn’t been good – let’s say a bit below Sergio Roberto in terms of quality at his position. I maintain that he’d be a good backup for a mid-table team, and a good starter for a bottom table team, and that’s it (Liverpool’s scouts’ opinion notwithstanding). I know many disagree, but that’s what my not so knowledgeable eyes have seen.

      Still, with the possible transfer ban, there is no way we can let ANYBODY go, unless somehow we can get a better replacement. I’d love to see some of theses kids (Montoya, Roberto, and some of the babies who have made sporadic A team appearances) coached up, where they actually start to look better on the pitch rather than worse.

    • deerwithwings
      November 13, 2014

      Ha! Thanks for that.

    • bhed
      November 13, 2014

      Yup, it’s a funny old game.

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