How do you answer time, aka “The problems of inaction”

clasini

Andres Iniesta has made me cry.

I’m probably not alone in that admission and the reasons vary, in the ways that pieces of art come along to remind us of our most noble capabilities as well as our abject frailty.

He is a beautiful man with a good heart, a player who looks exactly as he must — slight, pale, almost subliminal — to be what he is. At his best he doesn’t seem fettered by temporal constraints, preferring the aesthetic of a hummingbird. He seems timeless, an avatar of beauty and a reminder that at its absolute apogee, athletics is art.

The heartbreaking thing of course is that like Barça, even as we want to freeze That Iniesta as a cherished amber reminder of beauty indescribable, time passes. Athletes age. The man who moved like a ghost with a football glued to his feet is now, like many parts of the team that he so symbolizes, on the wrong side of an unrelenting standard.

Sport craves nostalgia. It wants us to go back in time, when our heroes were fit and flying, when the outcome of a match is never in doubt. The tenuousness of now is dangerous, which in part explains the fondness of sport for history, rankings, reverse time travel. Its supporters need that, for if Iniesta is old, if Xavi is lesser, if Puyol is retired, then what about us? Sport, and the veteran players its devotees cherish, resists time because it must, as we must.

So perhaps it’s time to wonder about the larger changes, the nasty necessity of keeping a team powerful, and ask, in a symbolic way, “What of Iniesta?”

Ruthless or heartless?

Bill Belichik, head coach of the American football New England Patriots, must have a heart of stone. It doesn’t matter what you have done for the team, or how beloved you are. If he decides you are done, that’s it. They had a beloved wide receiver, Wes Welker, who did it for that team, time and again. Tough catches, big plays, key touchdowns, concussions. When Belichik was done with him, that was it. Welker was discarded without a look back.

World football, in particular European club football, is fascinating in that it defies athletic logic. It reveres its elders, wants to keep them. Respect. In American football, athletes who retire from a club are rare. They usually, battered and broken, decide after trying to hang on to one team too many, that’s it.

Bill Belichik (and probably Jose Mourinho) would have found new homes for Xavi and Iniesta years ago, their lingering quality notwithstanding, because a team has to move on. The Thiago departure is often laid at the feet of Cesc Fabregas, rather than the icons who forced Fabregas to play roles outside his comfort zone, the almost single-named Xaviniesta. Like a passing hydra, pam, pam, pam, they tapped teams into submission.

eibxav

But in the here and now, as culers scream about Krooses and Iscos lost, it’s worth asking the cost of those opportunities, and how comfortable would everyone have been with selling Iniesta two years ago, during the difficult contract negotiations. We recall the rancor, the rage at the club as it made one of its jewels dangle, the unfathomability of doing anything except renewing Iniesta.

And yet, what if the club had decided that age and salary coupled with a potential transfer fee forced the decision to sell, to go for an Isco or a Reus, a fit Gundogan of a fuller commitment to Thiago Alcantara. What if Xavi was surreptitiously shopped around? In asking a team to progress and remain powerful, these are questions that the people who run it have to deal with. Supporters don’t really matter, except as potentially disgruntled voices in the wilderness.

New England Patriot supporters understand how Belichik is. They understand that no matter how much they like a player, they will come and go. Imagine what might have happened in Barça land two seasons ago, had the club announced the transfers in of Isco, a new role for Thiago and Fabregas and the sales of Xavi and Iniesta. Might we have been nodding sagely at the now-present signs that Iniesta is past it?

Catching up to the uncatchable

In the now of a world made stark and bitter with doubt, the impossible has become the accessible. No need to kick Iniesta any longer as he wrestles with what most assert to be form complexities. “He always starts slow.” Meanwhile, the “What if it isn’t form,” is this thing that sparks in moments of weakness.

“The inevitable Xavi,” so perfectly described by Ray Hudson, is now a man stranded by forces who have figured out that the most effective way to break a triangle is to remove one of its points. Iniesta turns in search of the “Pam, pam!” symphonic grace of No. 6, and there is yet another defender.

Iniesta isn’t ageless or timeless, but instead a man seemingly searching for something lost, as is his team. Does it happen so fast, we wonder, without fully grasping that 5 years is, for many players, a career. It’s the time it takes to surge, peak and begin to decline, the tine it takes for mortality to do what it does.

“What’s wrong with Barça?”

Nothing and everything, like the answer to an equation embedded in the binary bits of an old, damaged hard drive. It looks like a normal hard drive, but inside those 1s and 0s aren’t connecting as they should, as they used to. There is nothing wrong with Barça in the sense of reality. We age, become less than we were, teams as people.

This is true even as an impossible moment has become a baseline for the quest for answers, solutions to the dilemma of why a great team isn’t any longer, questions and quests that become increasingly shrill and fraught. Like most answers to difficult questions, it begins with a full, unblinking look and even fuller honesty.

After that look, there are decisions. Hard ones. Unthinkable ones. Weird “What ifs” that make us cling to the past, seeking solace in the answers to questions we already know the answer to.

“Oh, that Manita. What happened to this team,” even as we all know. “Enrique is tactically over his head, and what’s up with his substitutions.” The ingredients for the cake are the same, but the salt is tangy, the yeast doesn’t rise as quickly and the flour has a bit of a sour tinge to it. That cake ain’t gonna bake up the same.

So what, then?

What’s funny about this Barça is that the answers are always in places we never think to look. Blaming Enrique for a slack midfield doesn’t look at fullbacks or attackers who move less. Asking why it’s easy to get at Enrique’s defense and slagging tactics looks there instead of the midfield. The lost keys that you are certain are in a jacket pocket, might be laying in a neighbor’s driveway.

“Rakitic isn’t what he should be.” No, because Alves isn’t what he was. So in a system that has to get width from somewhere Alves becomes the adventurer, Rakitic the defender and Busquets the finger set to be jammed in that dike of myth. In football dominoes, frailties are a collapsing collection of conundrums, all unsolvable. But what if Dani Alves had been sold that difficult contract summer? How would the team look? How would it be performing?

rsoalves

Alves moves, Rakitic covers, Xavi moves, the base is loose so Messi is starved of possession and moves to get the ball, Neymar follows Messi and suddenly, nobody is where they are supposed to be. “Enrique is stupid. Look at Messi in the midfield to get the ball.” It’s obvious when you look at it, when you realize that gods become mortal, and if you’re a coach, what do you do? No, this isn’t to absolve Enrique of blame. The objective is to take a macro view in the hypothetical of one man’s fevered brain.

Boards and presidents who wish to retain popularity understand the difficulty of turnover. “They would kill us if we sold X player.” And they would. But that same group then struggles to understand why the team isn’t better, why the cake doesn’t taste the same, in that desire to have it and eat it, as well. Don’t sell him, but build things around him so that we can’t see the decline that is occurring, because it has to.

Culers fight, snark and snarl about the Answers. Because they’re right there. Can’t you see? But when you ask what a coach can do, what are the moves that he makes, everything comes back to a similar problem of a key player on the wrong side of time. How heartless should a big football club be in pursuing excellence?

Backward to the future

This year, Barça is playing fast and aggressive, or at least trying to. But at times, for unfathomable reasons, players revert to the past. Busquets stops the ball, and side passes to Xavi. The outlet pass isn’t made to a streaking attacker. La pausa is a thing of beauty, properly applied. But sometimes, slowing play kills an attack.

Barça plays attacking, possession football, as differentiated from tika-taka, which was a tactic within the overall dictum of possession football. And it worked, for a while, but beginning with Guardiola, Barça coaches began to realize that the days of lovely triangles inexorably rondoing their way toward the opponent goal were numbered.

Guardiola wanted to play faster. Vilanova tried to play faster and more vertical, beginning an evolution that was disrupted by his illness. Martino tried to play faster and more vertical for many reasons, but in a situation known only to him and a few others, backed off of his revolution.

But the way opponents attacked Barça, of necessity, forced an evolution in the way the team played as fast wingers and physical midfield pressure created imbalances that our players didn’t have the pace or physicality to solve. Standard thinking is that Bayern was the first team to find Barça out, but I dispute that mostly because Bayern beat up on a mess of a Barça side. Atleti last season was much more emblematic of the kind of “new” attack that the team faces, and PSG this season. Lucas raised hell because Barça has no answer for him. Atleti single-handedly kept Barça from Liga and Champions League success because Barça has no answer for a fist.

Physicality became an issue as the team evolved into a collection of diminutive specialists. One of the more fascinating things about that Treble side and something lost to the sands of time as people discuss the wonders of Guardiola and that attack, is how good AND physical that team was. Eto’o and Henry were up front for strength and pressing. With Alves, Pique, Puyol and Abidal, that back line could outrun, out position and out fight you. Add Keita and Toure Yaya to that mix, and there was fire behind the flair. That group was fast, powerful, strong and technically gifted.

If you look at how the team evolved over time, all the meat was stripped from the bone. Players like Abidal, Keita and Yaya went away, replaced by the likes of Alba and Busquets. So when it came time for fight, the team was undermanned and capable of being bullied, not only on set pieces. Diversity of scoring attack became Messi. What happened was the things that were celebrated are also millstones. We celebrate Messi runs at a defense instead of thinking “Hey, what if he didn’t have to, what if he didn’t need to score 50 goals a season?”

atmmessi

In the here and now, a player such as Blaise Matuidi can stomp the terra with impunity. Against PSG away and Rayo Vallecano, we saw the midfield overrun. Because Rayo couldn’t generate the same kind of pressure up the flanks as PSG could, the match wasn’t as complex as it potentially could have been. But watching it does raise some interesting questions about who the best potential midfield might be and further, should the team have midfields for different opponents?

If a team is, for example, going to sit back, you will need players good on the dribble and capable of picking out a pass. The arguments for Xavi and Iniesta are clear, as the threat of a counter or aggressive midfield pressing approach will verge on nonexistent. But would a better midfield against PSG, particularly in the Messi as 10 context, might have been Rakitic/Busquets/Mascherano?

Some are noting that Rakitic isn’t playing the same kinds of through balls that he was at Sevilla, or getting as involved in the attack. It’s because he’s busy covering space for Alves, so that Busquets doesn’t once again have a gaping maw to cover in midfield.

Also worth noting is the contribution of the fullbacks to how the team plays overall. Alves and Alba were both problems in that PSG match, problems that cry out for a solution. As Alves bombs forward, the right side of the team has to compensate for an FB that is a defensive player in name alone. So the argument is raised for Pedro, who can track back and Rakitic, who becomes more DM than AM as he drifts over to protect the Alves space.

Meanwhile for a very different reason, Busquets is saying “Not this again,” as he tries to fill acres of space by his lonesome, which further contributes to the midfield being overrun as Xavi and/or Iniesta are behind the counter, chasing. Last season, Fabregas in the midfield presented the same set of complexities, a slow AM getting caught out. This season, the additions of Rakitic and Rafinha should add some muscle and pace to the midfield, which brings us back to the Iniesta question, which is very different from the Xavi question.

For some time, people like me have been asserting that the most logical Xavi replacement type is already in the squad in the person of Iniesta. In hindsight that talk seems rather short sighted as we just automatically assumed that Barça would be able to keep playing in the same way for time immemorial, as compliant opponents did our tactical bidding. Well, Bayern Munich said “Screw that noise,” and other opponents have followed suit to the point where the team is likely to see one of two options: two banks of 5 behind the ball, or from better teams, a physical, forward press and attacks up the wings.

In the former case, Luis Suarez was supposed to assist that bus complexity, in those innocent days when getting a quality 9 was the answer. As for the latter, it’s worth asking about available personnel and preferred personnel. It’s also worth asking whether the struggles of Iniesta are simply down to form.

Fullbacks in full

Remember the nostalgia of Jordi Alba being a problem? As our diminutive LB has taken off like a rocket, the difficulties shift to the right.

Because Alves is Alves, you have to play Pedro to cover even though his attacking form is crap, and you lose the full capabilities of Rakitic because he has to function more as a DM than AM. I suspect that in Enrique’s ideal world, Cuadrado would come in and Montoya or Douglas would work because then what your RB needs to do is not let anyone get behind him, and not screw up, essentially. When the Cuadrado deal didn’t happen, nobody was happier than Alves … not even Fiorentina.

But the problem at RB persists, as the way that Alves plays still creates an imbalance, which is even more true now as he doesn’t have that Energizer Bunny pace any longer. Is the answer Adriano, who has yet to have a bad outing at RB? Is Douglas going to blossom? And what of Montoya, who is on the way out, even as rumors that the club will block a sale linger.

No sympathy for old men

How different might the Barça XI look in the hands of an aggressive, fearless sporting department backed by an equally fearless board? It’s interesting to consider, isn’t it? You can think of name and possibilities, but let’s use just a few of them in a heartless XI: Bravo, Cuadrado, Marquinhos, Bartra, Alba, Mascherano, Thiago, Isco, Messi, Neymar, Suarez.

Fabregas and Kroos are on the bench, Sergi Roberto is somewhere else, as is Pique and Pedro. Sanchez is still with the club, because its coach has made it clear that he is an integral part of things, and part of getting Messi more quality rest and rotation will be featuring Sanchez in a role better suited to his qualities.

The 3-4-3 is, rather than an aberration a tactical reality as Barça has changed form from a collection of icons in both players and thought, to something rather different. The adherence to triangles and trappings of the recent past becomes something more dynamic.

That’s just one possibility.

rm enrique

Barça has many problems right now, all of them rooted in inaction, from actual inaction to a desire for inaction as people don’t want precious things touched. The consequence is that this Barça, the team seemingly being run by an inflexible tactical waif, has a host of personnel problems. These difficulties, assuming nothing magical happens with the CAS appeal, will exist for the next two transfer windows.

Promotions loom, but those players will take time. Even as some salivate at the notion of Samper at the base, and Adama in that theoretical Cuadrado role, both are young players who will take time to adapt. Deulofeu can return to activate wing play on the right, and Denis Suarez can return to bring some mobility and attacking flair to the midfield.

A lot of things can happen. But in the here and now, Barça is a team trapped between worlds, a limbo epitomized in many ways by the situation of the man who used to be one of its brightest stars. Iniesta is almost there but not fully there, because of time. Barça is almost there but not fully there because of inaction, a lack of risk that resulted in a lack of access to some players, and other players getting tired of waiting. Couple all of that with the decision to bring on a coach who might not be the right man for the job even as he is the perfect man for the job in terms of heritage and political necessity, and it really shouldn’t shock anyone that Barça is where it is.

What else could possibly have happened?

atmbusi

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Written by:

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

78 Comments

  1. Mapple
    December 14, 2014

    Very well written Kxevin, I totally agree with you. That was one of the reasons Pep left as board wasn’t interested in selling star players.

    But thats the past, As there are rumors that Montoya will be leaving in january and Dani Alves leaving after this season with transfer ban looming over head it seems difficult that barca will be able to solve problems in near future.

  2. Leo1978
    December 14, 2014

    Great read, once again. As I have said before, the problem is, as paradox as it may sound, that we were too successful with Pep Guardiola. If we had won only 8 instead of 14 titles, drastic (and necessary!) changes would be easier to make now.

    And things don’t get any better if you have a board that is incapable of taking care of it’s football team.

  3. lala10
    December 14, 2014

    The key missing ingredient has been a lack of direction from the board. That lack of knowledge and continuity has let us down. For me it starts with letting Thiago go. There has been a recent trend that says Barca produce a great midfielder every four years. That Thiago was cut loose and we missed out on Modric. Again there appeared to be little appreciation of the dynamics. Following year we let Isco go to EE.

    Also the assertion that moving for these players meant jettisoning legends does not necessarily follow. Barca has/had one of the thinnest squads that doling out minutes should not have been an issue. To make it worse Modric/Isco often sat on the bench in their first seasons.

    Barca simply stopped improving the squad as past glories were assumed to continue.

    That there is sentiment in football is true but it needs to be mixed with pragmatism and rotation of the older players. Ferguson was so good at mixing the two whereas Wenger’s ruthlessness has often been his downfall. Too often he has found himself in situations where Experience is needed and all he has is callow youth.

  4. Doug
    December 14, 2014

    I”m sure that if Barcelona chose to sell/trade Iniesta, there would be plenty of takers. I think his demise has been somewhat exaggerated on this board.

  5. mr.undercover
    December 14, 2014

    Alarm bells are ringing, the team seems lost without any defined system, as it mentioned above, if we are to get back to our old selves we have to get rid of our old guards and move on, xavi had pass his prime, iniesta? Not sure,and alves is leaving, with the transfer ban still lingering we appearently dont have any alternatives but to stick with him, rakitic is usually been played out of position,enrique seems clueless, most of our matches are won by individual brilliance,dont know wether the team can execute what enrique wants from them, however our delima realy lies in midfield, the system that enrique is using doesnt suit the set of playrs he got in his desposal, and again i dont know why we still relly on our fb’s to provide width???? Its useless since alba and alves cant take advantage of it.

  6. Jim
    December 14, 2014

    With the negativity around it might be interesting to get people to stick their thoughts on a post in terms of how far we will get in both league and CL. Then we can look at them all at the end of the season. Btw, if anyone puts down second in LA Liga and semis of the CL they’ll be hard pressed to call LE a failure in his first season.

    I’ve no problem with a team deciding that the time has come to reshape itself and if we’d done that at the start of the season fair enough, although I’d have said it was premature in Xavi’s case. However, It’ll come as no surprise to Kxevin at least that I’m wondering if the premise of this piece is actually that Xavi is somehow playing because of earlier triumphs or more accurately that he is is there for any other reason than that he has been our best midfielder all season. ( do you think he should be holding down a place, Kxevin ?) As was said for Montoya, does anyone seriously think Xavi would be playing if LE didn’t think he was best for that position? This is the manager who told him he would be a bit part player at the start of the season but has since learned what he offers. Nobody is over running our midfield. We are not losing goals because somehow the midfield isn’t up to it. We are not losing goals because of the number of shots at our goal or teams cutting us to pieces : we are still losing goals because of individual errors. Boredom quite frankly prevents me from explaining yet again what went wrong for Ibra’s goal.

    The same goes for Iniesta. Questions about him being past it are completely disrespectful at his age. I’m as worried as anyone by his current form but he has earned a bit of patience from us instead of announcing his demise prematurely. Or is being more than a club only relative to a logo on a jersey and something to be observed by the board ? They have acted correctly in my view stating that Xavi has earned the right to decide his own future and he will go at the start of the season but continual sniping ( not talking about this article here ) about an inadequate midfield when nobody is presenting any actual evidence to back it up is wearying.

    We aren’t doing these players a favour by playing them. At least in Xavi’s case he did us a favour by not leaving and fighting for his place. It was a short fight.

    Sorry for the rant. Still hacked off at only getting highlights last night.
    We are a kick in the teeth away from having a solid defence that doesn’t lose goals and a front three scoring for fun. Can we at least hold fire until we are either out of the CL or can’t win the league?

    • December 14, 2014

      Jim, as fond as I know you are of Xavi, the premise of this piece has pretty much zero to do with him or anyone else. It is simply to ask a few questions, such as where are we? How did we get here? Could anything have been done differently to prevent us being where we are?

      I thought that much was clear, and the piece was carefully written in a way that would preclude any wagon circling around certain players, because the point is not Xavi or Iniesta, the point is Barça. As you know, I could give a mouldy damn about any player. The club matters to me. Players come and go.

      But the larger picture of where are we and how did we get here is an intriguing one.

      Is Iniesta past it? Dunno. Time will tell, but if nobody asks the question, if people treat everything about this club that we love and support like potential moments of blasphemy, for which a thunderbolt will hurtle down to cast us into eternal damnation, then why discuss anything at all?

      This piece addressed everything from defense notions to ideas that people have about an allegedly inadequate back line. I know that you usually read more carefully, so I’m not sure what’s up, but I hope that the only thing that you got from this piece wasn’t “He’s being disrespectful to Xavi and Iniesta.”

      If that’s the case, then I have failed, and might as well delete it and try again.

    • Jim
      December 14, 2014

      Ok, Kxevin, if you say so. Not trying to pick fault with this article in particular. I agree that there is an issue around how we use our midfield but felt that the article was majoring on the idea that support for Xavi was bound up with nostalgia which I would contest. The larger picture is as you say, indeed an interesting one as everyone seemed to be more than happy last year at the Rakitic and Rafinha arrivals.

  7. Jim
    December 14, 2014

    Relevant to the above comments. From Barcastuff:

    Only Barcelona (7) have conceded fewer Liga goals this season than Atletico Madrid (12) #fcblive [via @WhoScored]

  8. agar2515
    December 14, 2014

    Great article Kevin, spot on. Hits some of the “tactical points” I would have mentioned in response to your question on the other article.

    Stop hamstringing Ivan, No more Alves, no more Busi isolated, no more 433 Period. At least give the 343 a real run of games (with Bartra as RB and I guess Pedro where we wish Cuadrado to me)…

    I can’t recall a game against top opposition where we won with the 433 and afterward I said ” Damn, tactics, system, really clicking”, another reason why people seem to always be saying it’s “individual brilliance” that has been winning us games.

    Re Xavi Jim: Kevin’s Bill B analogy is spot on. He doesn’t need to see players wholly past it to jettison them for the future of the team. Sure Xavi as performed well this year but then what? That’s why Kevin called him a “lame duck” , we know he’s on the way out. That we are at a point where we have to rely on him is, as Kevin stated, a clear indictment on the failures of this sporting project.

    When the rumor surfaced again (after we had signed Rakatic) I wanted Kroos so badly, Xavi could still play a bit part. But no, we were told ” We believe in Sergi ROberto ” (hahahahahahah) and now who do we have who on the bench to take the reigns?

    As far as ” predicting the finish”, this squad still has enough talent to beat many teams in the world, so a UCL semi-run and runnerup in the league isn’t too far fetched. For this would NOT automatically= LE knows what he’s doing.
    Tata won the Supercup, came in 2nd place in La Liga, Came in at the semis…

    I don’t think this team beats Bayern, Madrid, Chelsea ( bus+counters+they have the wing speed to trouble us) or Atletico ( Im taking Simeone over LE all day, sorry). That still leaves room for a pretty solid run in competitions. Unless something goes horribly wrong.

    • Jim
      December 14, 2014

      There’ll be plenty games this season where LE can try out alternatives but for the important games you need your best eleven and right now he’s in it. I was going to quote from Barcastuff but it’s telling me the account has been suspended . Don’t know what that’s about.

      Anyway, it was Xavi saying his body is telling him he doesn’t have a lot of football left to play and can’t get up for every three days. You have to love the guy. At his age, and this year he has been the top passer, top runner in distance covered a couple of times and I would argue on occasions the best presser. Despite an increased workload under LE he has crashed the box more often than I can remember. He won’t let us down and when he can’t do it he’ll go. We are so blessed to have a generation who care more about the club than themselves in Puyol him and Iniesta.

    • agar2515
      December 14, 2014

      I have nothing but love and respect for Xavi and acknowledging reality and a lack of planning hurting us in the present doesn’t diminish what he’s done in the past.

  9. December 14, 2014

    The question of whether we should have sold either of Xavi or Iniesta for me is a simple one. This is not American Football and FC Barcelona aren’t the New England Patriots. Iniesta and Xavi have been with the club since childhood and have given us an amount of titles that fans of any other club (and Belichik) can only dream of. They have earned the right to retire with the club, as has Messi when the time comes.

    It’s a shame that the club was well prepared for the well foreseeable fact that Xaviniesta weren’t going to rule the world forever. What happened? One midfielder was too impatient (Thiago) and the other didn’t work out the way all of us envisioned (Cesc). Such is life.

    • agar2515
      December 14, 2014

      Well yea the cultures of both sports are wholly different but for me the crux of Kevin’s argument still stands: operating without “loyalty” or emotional attachment to players may have been to our benefit.

      Also, Bill B has appeared in 5 superbowls, won 3 and was one fluke helmet catch away from FOUR and a perfect season. Add to that him
      Having won 11 division titles ( including 5 in a row) and he very much has had the success we’ve had in his own sport. He’s not dreaming of anything.

    • deerwithwings
      December 14, 2014

      Woah! Woah! Woah!

      Brady is still our QB if I am not mistaken =).

      I would actually venture to say that the turnover rate for players in European football is much higher than the United States. I actually rate the average “American” sports fan a bit higher than the the average football one. There are too many idiotic arguments in football in the press, i.e., Messi or Rondaldo, etc. Fans loved FCB from Wednesday till Saturday, and now we are terrible. In other words, I agree with the spirit of your comment, but Belichik is the Ferguson of the NFL.

    • Davour
      December 15, 2014

      I guess the question posed simply regards the price of us being “more than a club”. Had our key players not been La Masia graduates (think Deco, Ronaldinho, etc.), perhaps loyalties had not been as solid. Considering a midfield we realistically could have had with, say, Kroos and Isco, is of course tempting. Surely there was a middle way available, not dumping Xaviniesta on the street. Acquiring both players mentioned would certainly have been possible (Isco would have the patience to wait one season for his chance, as he did at EE, and Kroos would come this season). How it would’ve worked out? Who knows. Roos might not have done better than Rakitic, but Isco is a real opportunity lost.

      Still, I agree that the main reason was perhaps not Xavi and Iniesta, but rather the failure of Cesc (on both management and player, this). He was a the successor.

      That we still rely on Xavi is -whatever the immense, if fading, qualities of the man and his comeback spirit – a sign of weakness. This was not the plan.

  10. December 14, 2014

    So, it appears that @barcastuff has been suspended from Twitter. People are melting down, etc. Rumor is that it was for posting streaming match links, which they do every matchday.

    Usually what happens is you essentially say you’re sorry and promise to never, ever ever ever do it again, and get reinstated.

    For those who remember Pep from the old fcbtransfers website, and when that site moved to Twitter, it goes without saying that the current @barcastuff is a shadow of its former self, but still a useful resource from time to time.

    We’ll see what happens.

    • Jim
      December 14, 2014

      Thanks. It’s still pretty much a daily go to for me.

    • IamXavi6
      December 14, 2014

      It’s a daily for me as well so thanks for that Kevin.

  11. Tata2
    December 14, 2014

    What if Tata was given a second chance this season? At least we wouldn’t have had to wait till next season to win any silverware but no, people don’t like him because of his long balls and his habit of not giving the young players minutes. Oh! and add losing the possession bragging rights to Rayo to the mix. For a manager without experience to hand Ancellotti his ass twice in three meetings and to come 5 goals short of winning a treble with a broken team (Puyol was our signing in defence) says a lot about him. If there’s anyone that deserved a second chance, then it was him. LE has now lost double the points Tata did at this stage last season after having ‘stellar spells’ at Roma and at Celta. Any average manager can come this far with this caliber of players and Tata definitely wasn’t average. He tried solving the midfield crises in big games by playing four mids and not by asking Xavi to be an ass coverer at RB

  12. Tata2
    December 14, 2014

    What am essentially saying is that Tata would have known what to do with this team after 4/5 months in.

    • barca96
      December 14, 2014

      And Lucho would prabably know too after 5 months. He needs to get it right by February/March when the cruch time begins.

  13. Tata2
    December 14, 2014

    Fantasy

    • IamXavi6
      December 15, 2014

      Just like what you suggest about Martino! he was a disgrace!

  14. Tata2
    December 15, 2014

    Whether Martino was a disgrace or not depends on how you want to see things and I respect that.

  15. Fabian4Barca
    December 15, 2014

    It frustrates me to watch our team play so clueless against yet another team refusing to actually play football. Okay, Getafe were well within their rights to play such a disgraceful anti-football. But you have to wonder: with so many smart players in our team, how do they not realize that what they are trying to do just doesn’t work? How do they not see a recurring pattern in all these matches with the same problem? Or – if they do know the problem – why is it not their top priority to work out a solution together?

    I know, just another culé with this “am I the only one who understands football” attitude. Certainly it is much more complicated than that.

    Are you sure that with different players we can suddenly break such defensive walls? And if so, why can’t our current players do whatever it is that new players could do?

  16. December 15, 2014

    Am not sure if all the disappointment is because we didnt win the match or because we are four points behind EE.
    This was another parked and floored bus, and I too think, Messi coming in as a sub around 60 minutes would have been a better idea. LE seemed to give rest to Masche, could have done that to Messi too.
    some of my concerns with LE are the following:
    – to have more than 20 different lineups in 20+ games is really not good in football. Players take time to gel and that really is not happening for us. Jim has well explained this, for the defensive partners in one of his comments.
    – bringing in players like Munir who cant even hold the ball against a single adult player is nearly embarassing
    – it would be nice he tries out his new experiments in games against smaller teams than against EE or PSG. I have a feeling Getafe got Barca lined up exactly as they wanted, and their bus plan worket out brilliantly
    – he has to convey his line ups much earlier to the squad.

    LE definitely seem to have recognised some mistakes. In the beginning it seemed Xavi would play very little, but now he reckon how inevitable Xavi is. I for one, thinks, Xavi would play with us next season too, especially if the ban is there.

    EPL lovers also might want to see how difficult Suarez is finding it in Liga. he cannot even dribble past 1 player, as of now.

    I am hoping, all this change by Jan/Feb and as long as we can have a good revenge on EE in the return classico and reach semis in CL, I will be quite happy.

    • barca96
      December 15, 2014

      Agreed on all points.

      I mentioned in the previous post too about Munir. I thought Rahinha would’ve been a better difference maker. Could it possible that the team behind Munir is the reason why he is still in the 1st team?

      It looks like Messi just won’t get a rest. The man need to create spark from the middle and finish it. How can you expect it to play 90min each match? I hope this trend won’t go on until Feb/Mar. He will be burnt out by then if the doesn’t get an occasional rest.

      It takes a lot of balls to try out new formation in big matches but it would be wiser to try out in an easier match where you can correct mistakes. Was the 3-4-3 vs PSG because of Alves’ or what he really had in mind?

  17. Lord Eddard Stark a.k.a. Brichimbrodvoken, the vulnerable one!
    December 15, 2014

    I had only one wish.
    out of the 7 teams, i had only asked to dodge one, for various reasons.
    but no. it has to always be the same team. the same unmistakable pattern. we face off against a team that can kick us out, while EE gets a cakewalk to the semis. the same thing every year. I dont believe for one instant that this stupid draw is completely random.

    BS.

    • December 15, 2014

      I was really hoping Man City get some one like Porto and here they are against us again. This is one team I would like to see further,, sh…t

    • barca96
      December 15, 2014

      Why are you scared to draw Man City? They are good but we can definitely beat them, again. Madrid, Chelsea and Bayern are definitely no-no’s for me.

  18. December 15, 2014

    so once again it’s City. How does RM end getting the easiest of draw?

  19. lala10
    December 15, 2014

    It beggars belief truly. Arsenal at least got a reprieve. Have been in the same boat as us.

  20. TITO
    December 15, 2014

    Ok, now that is more than weird.
    If someone can give a damn and just take a look at the draws in the last several years and see how the hell do they always get the easiest one.
    And yes, Schalke is easy.

    • barca96
      December 15, 2014

      I wouldn’t be surprised if Ronaldo scores a handful of goals in this tie.

  21. December 15, 2014

    I like the City draw. It isn’t cake, but defo winnable. I also don’t believe in conspiracies. The PSG/Chelsea ties won’t be as interesting as many suspect. Chelsea strong as hell, and should stroll them comfortably.

    Our second (home) leg vs City comes 4 days before the home Classic, which is cool. Would be excellent to advance in Europe, then beat RM at home in the same week. That was my last CL/Classic live combo pack, where I watched us beat Inter/Eto’o and RM, both at the Camp.

    • Jim
      December 15, 2014

      I was falling asleep by Mattch of the Day but do I remember Kompany pulling up with a recurrence of a hammy?

    • Jim
      December 15, 2014

      Yeah, thought so. He’s got a recurrence of his previous hammy problem although they are only talking about out till NY but then you have to start trusting it after that. Along with Aguero who will miss the next two months anyway. They’ve got a few problems. It’s not a bad tie for us. They can’t really defend with that squad, and there are still quite a few journeymen in it. My only worry with teams we have beaten is that they learn from it and feel they have nothing to lose. If they’re tense they are brittle. Still all about how we play and important not to throw away a goal and end up chasing.

    • December 15, 2014

      When it comes to CL or Copa draws, I definitely don’t believe in conspiracies either.

      It would have been interesting to continue our discussion about referees though, but for the constraints of space and time…

      I wanted Arsenal or Juve. Manchester City can be very dangerous for us, depending on which Man City show up.

    • lala10
      December 15, 2014

      No conspiracies. I guess its the fortune that continually falls to the other side that is disheartening. Life is hard and breaks are always welcome. To see your foe constantly favoured by the gods/draw makes our case bitter. What we cant rationalize we ascribe to other causes.
      At some point our luck will flick to other side i guess.

    • December 15, 2014

      This season winning the Champions or the domestic league will have added importance due to next year CL rules.

      Getting an EPL club as an adversary has certain advantages when you think about it.

      1. EPL teams don’t get winter breaks.
      2. EPL teams have to play on rain-soaked pitches

      This, combined with the fact that the League Cup and FA Cup are played in late December and January could potentially leave them with quite a few players either injured or recovering.

    • December 15, 2014

      To elaborate: Between the 14th of December and 9th of January PSG will play a single game, this Saturday. Four weeks in which PSG will play one team at home and then recover and train for the next three weeks.

      In the same period Chelsea will play six games:

      1. FL Cup away vs Derby 16th of December
      2. PL tie away vs Stoke 22th of December
      3. PL tie home vs West Ham 26th of December
      4. PL tie away vs Southampton 28th of December
      5. PL tie away vs Tottenham 1st of January
      6. FA Cup home vs Watford 4th of January

    • December 15, 2014

      Maybe I’m unaware but can you elaborate on these new CL rules?

    • December 15, 2014

      It’s a proposed change, which will be decided at the start of the year, but the what concerns us most is that the top-pot seeding will require to be the current CL title holder or domestic champion of the top seven leagues, with the second pot for the second-placed, etc.

      Potentially that could mean a group with Bayern, PSG, Atletico and United for example.

  22. Jim
    December 15, 2014

    Wow ! Hunter had a real go at LE on Revista tonight. Backing up what Ballague has been saying for weeks about throwing away the “automismos” by putting out a different lineup every week. Said that a problem was that he brooked no criticism at all. Finished off by saying that partnerships and understanding between sets of players is vital ( Yay, go Graham ! ) and that ” he’s adding to the problem. In fact, he’s right now the principal problem”.

    Not my words – don’t shoot me. In the take it or leave it stakes, Ballague also claimed that the reason for the confusion in the three at the back was they’d only practised it for twenty minutes. If true, ( and despite the fact he’s been right about a few things recently that’s a huge if) that would be a disgrace.

    Interesting stuff either way.

    • Jim
      December 15, 2014

      In the interests of balance, Hunter also said he thought the team were within a couple of changes/ a couple of good weeks of establishing confidence and rhythm.

    • TITO
      December 15, 2014

      It’s practically the same thing as everybody is saying, and do think that is the main issue. It’s been 3 months and LE should know by now who are the first 12-13 players on the sheet for every game.
      Kind of foolish to think that LE doesn’t know this and he still insist on his rotation idea for every single game.
      But who knows…

    • agar2515
      December 15, 2014

      Yup, and it does not reflect well ( Im assuming this is true because Hunter knows his stuff). I also heard that the team was notified about 343 an hour before the match. It all reeks of someone in over his head at the moment in time.
      I say that because maybe he turns it around? OR we see us losing a 2nd clasico AT HOME(and most likely the league as well) and getting knocked out of the UCL in the same week.

      Beware the Ides of March Lucho.

    • we are dooomed
      December 15, 2014

      Sounds like armchair analysis by Hunter and Ballague. Guardiola keeps tinkering so much more it’s not even funny. Not only starting XI, he completely changes systems to the extend that it’s not recognizable anymore what Bayern’s shape is. But when Guardiola does it he’s a tactical genius of course. I don’t even see too much tinkering by Lucho, even though he doesn’t repeat the same starting lineup it’s more or less all the same. In the past 2 months with Iniesta injured it’s been Neymar, Messi, Suarez upfront and Busquets, Xavi, Rakitic in midfield, sometimes Mascherano in midfield instead of Rakitic in tougher games. That’s supposed to confuse the team? Actually the most rotations have been applied to the backline yet Barca has 10 clean sheets in 15 La Liga games so that can’t be an issue.

      The main issue is much more obvious. Suarez has still not found his feet, Busquets is playing subpar and Iniesta hasn’t found any form this season. Rakitic could also do more. Rest of the team is functioning, particularly the defense, the goalkeeper and Messi and Neymar. If players are off form they are off form, only time can fix that.

    • Jim
      December 15, 2014

      Well, tbf, the one hour before wouldn’t tally with what Ballague said about practising it at training for only twenty minutes but I do have trouble getting my head round why a perfectionist like LE is supposed to be would leave such things to the last minute or only tell them the team an hour before. That won’t go down well with the players even if they choose to keep silent about it. Still, for me he has until the turn of the year to show that he is starting to make some decisions about what his best team is and letting them gell.

      However, we need to keep the BS detectors on full power while it’s still only journalists telling us this from ” sources” and while it runs contrary to even the most basic common sense.

    • December 15, 2014

      I have a lot more respect for Hunter than Balague, but it boggles the mind for any journo to suggest that a coach of Enrique’s quality would have had his charges practice something for only 20 minutes. I find it fundamentally illogical.

      You need only look at Bartra’s comments from his presser, where he said that they have been working with him as the RB (presumably also incorporating 3 at the back) in recent practices.

      Why does everyone seek the absolute worst about this team? It’s discouraging. Deeply and profoundly. It’s a battle that many who preach calmness and objectivity get truly weary of waging.

      How stupid do people think our coach is? If you approach the setup with just a modicum of objectivity and logic, most of the conspiracy theories fall short.

      Enrique doesn’t give a shit about the press, and he isn’t at all kind to them. Might that arm’s length stance have something to do with all of the speculation? Possibly.

      As for different lineups, so what? The proof is in the pudding, and that pot doesn’t get stirred until the meat of the season, in March and April. My only issue with Enrique’s rotations is that Messi isn’t part of them, as he should be.

      If a journo or someone said and Enrique was see screwing a llama, people would say “A-HA!” and cite it as evidence that he is unfit for the job.

      Meanwhile, Barça has won its Champions League group, is on pace to go far in the Copa and only four points behind an RM side that is winning at a historic level. Now, I know that looking at results is silly, when there are so many other brickbats lying about with which to lambast a coach, but it’s kinda worth saying.

      This Barça team dismantled PSG and chests were puffed out. Getafe takes advantage of a tired team on a rainy day, playing on a cabbage patch, and despite the chances that Barça had to score, a VAST improvement over the desultory Malaga scoreless draw, people still don’t want to give this team any credit, whiplashing hither and yon in search of something, ANYTHING to give succor to the notion that Barça is a bad football team and its coach is over his head.

      It just doesn’t hold up in calm analysis.

      Sevilla, Valencia, PSG were all teams that were supposed to catch us out, expose for the real relegation side that we are, and every hurdle was cleared with varying degrees of style. I understand that being a culer is like the men who walk around with sandwich boards saying “The End is Nigh!” But this is as bad as it has ever been.

      Is this what a lack of victory parades and being able to crow about how good our team is does to its supporters? Really?

      Is the team struggling with various things? Yep. It’s supposed to, with 8 new transfers, a new coaching staff and a new way of playing. I would be shocked if it didn’t.

      I suppose I could caution time and patience, and assessing things later, but what fun would that be? It’s easier to presume, apparently, that everybody connected with the club, from Bartomeu to ZubiZa to Enrique, is incompetent. I will never understand the solace that folks find in misery, but rock on.

      I’d suggest that when the team does well, people shouldn’t cheer, in anticipation of the next time that it doesn’t do well. Can’t leaven unhappiness with any joy, now, can we?

      We can be better. I know that we can.

      I remember when it was a charming game trying to predict Guardiola’s lineups. Everyone thought it was great fun. How times change.

  23. agar2515
    December 15, 2014

    I’m sorry, I’m with Hunter on anything he reports. He adores barca and has proven reliable for YEARS. I know it’s hard to imagine this early that LE might not be up to it, but Not everyone is going to be a Pep. Maybe just maybe people are looking rationally at performances and reports from legit sources and are then making conclusions. Not everyone is lying gleefully in wait ready to light their torches.

    Valencia we scraped a victory at the end and PSG was some bad Lucas finishing away from more goals ( and we still look clueless anytime a cross comes in). Many people would agree PSG was the best performance against “top” opposition this season, and there were STILL issues. I never buy ” the team was tired” , ever, especially with the disparity in talent. It’s a lame excuse imo.
    For me Pep tinkering does not = Lucho tinkering, not even close.

    • December 15, 2014

      I expect nothing less. But what will happen when Hunter has something positive to say, that might go against the “He’s stupid, everything sucks” that’s ongoing right now.

      In many ways, I crave real, actual adversity … fighting to stay in a European spot, not assuming every match should be a manita, the kind of stuff that supporters of the other 20 teams in the Liga go through.

      Culer land needs some humility, some understanding of how wonderful this long stretch of excellence, including this current team, is. Possibly in no other universe can people take an XI of Bravo, Alves, Pique, Mathieu, Alba, Busquets, Rakitic, Xavi, Messi, Neymar and Suarez and still find so much to be unhappy about.

      Yes, excellence. A team can be very good, even excellent, and not win championships. The beauty is in the game, the victories, the effort, the celebrating the gladiators that go to war for this club every week.

      There were quotes from Puyol today, that he can’t do anything, any sport, without pain. He has just reached a point where everyday life tasks aren’t accompanied by pain. It’s the kind of sacrifice that humbles me to my core. Even when they don’t do what we expect them to do, they worked their asses off, they gave it up for the colors.

      That isn’t a free pass, but rather an acknowledgement of how exceptional this group of players is. I will never stop saying, never tire of saying that they deserve better from their supporters, even as I understand why they won’t get that.

      And make no mistake, it isn’t just about Enrique, because Enrique doesn’t play the matches. It’s about Xavi, and Messi, and Rakitic, and Alba, and Pique, and Mathieu, all of the XI who came up short, who couldn’t get it done against a team that turned in an extraordinary performance.

      That’s my view. I get that people don’t understand it, that they need Enrique and this team to be poor, because if it eventually comes good, what about all this bile? Will that become “I knew it all along,” or “They just scraped it. They got lucky, and still aren’t very good.”

      I don’t get it, and never will.

    • agar2515
      December 15, 2014

      If Hunter comes out with positive reports and I will give those just as much credence, I for one am not someone that wants everyone to fail so I can be vindicated in my apprehensions with the squad.also, for me at least, I don’t expect to win every game 5-0 but a lot of my frustration and annoyance all circles back to the failure of the sporting project to adequately prepare for a future. Many people think things could and should be different, that we should be in a more certain spot then we currently are. I think that’s where a lot of the sensible frustrations are coming from,I don’t think people who actually love this club or sincerely actively rooting for it to fail (unless it’s in order to force a purging of the current board, a sentiment I’ve read more than once).

  24. December 15, 2014

    Love this Kevin. Reminds me of some thoughts I had almost 2 years ago during the midst of the Valdes craziness. It’s almost always short-term easy to not do anything with favorite players.

    • agar2515
      December 15, 2014

      Maybe if he didnt end with the just as irrational, condescending sentiment of
      “They’re a work in progress and matches like this will happen while progress is being made. Any fan that can’t accept that should either get a grip or go and support another team. Goodness knows Bayern Munich could do with more fans.”

      I can’t stand this type of attitude

  25. kosby
    December 15, 2014

    So keeping my own views apart from this – I appreciate the effort Kxevin puts in to dissipate the gloom that sometimes clouds perceptions. I also love how passionate our fans are. All of us have our own point of view of looking at things and they vary wildly but its amazing how all of us just want our club to do well. And we have an entire spectrum of emotions as fans and Im just thankful and proud to be a fan of such a club. Ronaldinho got me here and ever since Ive been hooked and booked. We’re not winning every game we play and thats ok because to watch our club play football is amazing, frustrating, heartbreaking and rewarding all at the same time. To everyone out there supporting our club in their own way – thank you, you guys make this club what it is and this blog what it is. Here’s hoping that at the end of the season we just look back and say – ‘man what a ride that was’.

  26. agar2515
    December 15, 2014

    Just to get it off my chest, one reason I get so irked when people who equate criticism to being a “spoiled culer” or feel they have to remind us that “winning is rare “, is that it assumes most people have only been fans since the eruption of 2008.
    As if we were all seduced at the same time by the same wonderful tap-tapping siren, and have all now become so spoiled that we bombard her with arrows every time her voice falters and cracks.As if there haven’t been fans that have been there for the low’s as well as the highs, this club is more than only a couple decades old/endrant.

  27. luisthebeast
    December 15, 2014

    It s funny that people said suarez cant do what he did in EPL because la liga is more difficult.EPL is the best and the most fair championship in the world.Sunderland can beat chelsea at home and it s ok.In spain the same is a big surprise.I love EPL i love their fans their stadiums the passion and the football they play.Luis suarez was the leader of the biggest club in england and almost took them to glory.He is the best striker in the world.BY FAR

  28. luisthebeast
    December 15, 2014

    If a draw away at hetafe is a failure lets agree that la liga is a big joke and lets watch other leagues.Bayern play every week against teams with joke defense and people say oh what a team!!!The problem is that our enemy is a team who spend billions and in most games they have a penalty before the game start.We deserved every liga the last 6 years and we lost 2 thanks to officials.We deserved the CL in 2010 and 2012 and we lost thanks to officials the first and bad luck the second.I am full of trophies lets build a new team.

  29. luisthebeast
    December 15, 2014

    And dont forget the clear penalty in neymar at clasico.Then the score would be 0-2 and now we would be the leaders.Despite our problems we are the best team the last decade and i am proud of those players whatever will happen this season.And we will build a new team from la masia not buying like others “big”teams.

  30. Neel
    December 16, 2014

    Hi All,
    I have been a silent reader since 2008, I guess. I am from Bombay, India and been in UK for the last few months. I have been fortunate enough to be signed by a West Kent Sunday League team in Southborough. Manchester City against Barca is not the best news I could have had in the recent time. However, the upside for me is that now I have a genuine chance of catching up my Barca against a good side live in stadium. Is there any Man City fans or Barca fans who could help me with a ticket to the Man City-Barca match at Manchester. It would just be smashing if I can watch the game with a Barca fan in the away team seating. I would be indebted.
    indranil.chakravorty@gmail.com

    • December 17, 2014

      Welcome, Neel. And congratulations on the new gig. You might be the first working, professional footballer that we have ever had comment here.

      But I don’t know if you really want to put your private information out there, as you never know, even in this harmless space, who might do what with it. So with apologies, I edited your comment a bit to just include your e-mail.

      Good luck with the quest, and you might also try the official FCB site, for information about when the Camp Nou leg goes on sale to the public. The club will usually have a draw for members, then a general sale.

      Thanks again for the comment, and welcome.

  31. barca96
    December 16, 2014

    Pedro has his killer instinct back. But I said the same thing last week or 2 weeks ago then it disappeared. I hope he can be like this consistently. One touch BOOM!! That’s Pedro pre 2012.

    Montoya, solid solid defender. Clearly ouR best RB. Difference between him and Alves and Douglas is night and day.

    Bartra is our best CB. No gaffes, no weak clearances, no rash challenges, solid. He just needs a constant run of games.

    Rafinha should get more games too especially against Getafe instead of Munir.

  32. December 16, 2014

    Just as a general FYI, so that nobody has to ask what the deal is, I’m taking a break from commenting here. I will still be moderating, and will write as the mood hits me.

    From a very personal view, supporting this team and watching it is supposed to be fun. The unrelentingly negative atmosphere has made it less so for me. At first it was just in the Twitterverse, and folks could come here as an oasis, but that has ended.

    Personally, I don’t care if people think that supporting the club means going to the Camp Nou and throwing buckets of shit on the players. That is their choice. Despite the vehement assertions, NOBODY has told anyone that they are a “glory hunter” or unsupportive or any of the other things that those who want to believe bad things about the club claim they have been. I have no idea where that’s all coming from, but I leave them to it.

    I have to rediscover the fun of being a supporter of this club, and the joy of watching matches, seeing a team develop and taking delight in watching a project come together.

    I respect the different views that happen here, and I respect the right of anyone to support the team in any way they choose, from criticizing everything that it does, to thinking that everything is sunshine and roses, though it must be said that I doubt that persons exists.

    The constant, incessant battles, appeals for logic, etc have just worn me down. I need to find the joy in Barça again. I’m not sure how that is going to happen yet, but I have been invited to be part of a Barcelona-based website that is a very exciting thing. It will, at first, take the form of a weekly video blog, filed from Chicago. It should be fun, and interesting. I might or might not do some writing for the space. It depends on time and how things shake out with the video thing, etc. But it’s a fun project that is run by a crew of influential journalists from the region. It’s at fotlipou.com, if anyone is interested.

    At present, the content is all in Catalan, but I will be their first foray into Engligh-language stuff. It should be interesting, and should, I hope, be a nice way for me to rediscover the joy.

    It’s funny, the team won 8-1 today. Yes, it was a Segunda B side, but there were still passages of beautiful play, and some lovely goals. I was truly happy for the team and the players, and got a huge kick out of seeing Messi, sitting in the stands with Pique and Puyol, watching the subs kick ass.

    Enrique loved the way his team played, and so did I, quality of the opposition notwithstanding. It was with some trepidation that I came here, because I expected the usual “got lucky,” “Douglas is shit,” “Enrique clueless, can win against poor sides but not the big ones,” etc, etc. And I shouldn’t feel like that. So it’s time for a break.

    The other mods will be popping in from time to time as well, and the flow of content should remain pretty much as it was, pieces coming when someone has something that interests them, otherwise not.

    Nothing about this space will change, nor should it. I just need to step back for a while, for reasons I hope I have made clear.

    I want to thank everyone for their contributions to making this a busy, roiling comments section. It’s appreciated by me and the other mods, even if they aren’t writing or commenting as much as they would like. And to reiterate, nobody did anything “wrong.” This is all on me.

    Thanks to all, and keep up the good work.

    • CuleToon
      December 17, 2014

      .
      Didn’t know fotlipou.com existed until today! I reckon the site is fairly recent. It will be a pleasure to see your name among its rich list of contributors. Meet you at fotliupou, then!

      (The name of the site, «fotlipou» comes from the Catalan expression «Fot-li, Pou». Pou is Josep Maria Pou, the main broadcaster of Barça matches at RAC-1 —Godó group radio, Ugh!— and the difficult-to-translate «fot-li» means something like «go for it!». This expression has become very popular at RAC-1 Barça-related content in recent years).

    • Fabian4Barca
      December 17, 2014

      Your decision makes sense to me. I have commented a couple of times how the atmosphere has changed into something negative. The BFB community used to give me a good feeling even after a loss, but in recent times it usually dragged me down even after victories. You fought against this trend like a mad man. Thank you.

      Being a football fan should be about fun, about passion for the game and the club. If culés constantly measure the team against the very best season, they are bound to have a bad time. But if they can learn enjoying each won and/or beautifully played match again, the Barça fan websites are going to be great places again.

      I will be checking out your new project because I like the way you think and express yourself. I enjoy your texts even when I disagree.

    • December 17, 2014

      Kevin, I hope you re-discover the joy again and as soon as possible. Already bookmarked the site.

      Meanwhile, the rest of us will have to hold the fort till you return.

    • December 17, 2014

      Unfortunately I can understand this completely. The atmosphere here has just been getting more and more negative with less emphasis on productive and interesting debate and a lot more on just slagging off players, coaches, board members, etc. I have been following your write ups/comments since The Offside blog days and will continue to do so. Best of luck on your new project, will definitely check it out regularly.

    • barca96
      December 17, 2014

      Thank you for everything Kxevin. And good luck with your cycling. Btw there is a channel that does match reviews (audio). Maybe you could do something similar or join them.

  33. sudamabaraily
    December 17, 2014

    Thanks and all the best for your new project Kxevin….
    We will miss your insightful debate…
    Visca el barca

    • Dar_vincy
      December 17, 2014

      Your input in this space has been quite invaluable.
      Your consistent contributions would be missed.
      Above all, your decision would be respected.
      Good luck with the Fotlipou project.

  34. agar2515
    December 17, 2014

    For what it’s worth, none of what I said in regards to people throwing out ” gloryhunter” was referring to anyone in this space ( As always, I would have said so), it was in the twitter and blogosphere world.Best of luck Kevin.

  35. agar2515
    December 17, 2014

    With respect, Kevin didn’t say any sort of negativity was bad. Let’s stop pretending like this is the only team in sport who supporters don’t have critical things to say. Some act as if this place is a cesspool like Twitter, when it’s not like that at all some people really need a reality check I think.

    • December 17, 2014

      Even a spoonful of tar can screw up a barrel of honey.

      Most teams everywhere have a lot of critical things to say. Few teams’ supporters(I know of only one) actively look for faults, real or imaginary, in order to start heckling everybody who doesn’t fit their high standards.

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